Gamers let's dive head first in to the tale of the ReBirth trilogy, created by Konami for the now extinct Wiiware service on the Nintendo Wii's WiiShop channel. The series of games launched in 2008, starting with Gradius Rebirth, followed by Castlevania Rebirth and Contra Rebirth in 2009.
I downloaded all three of these titles, each averaging about £10. I was a big supporter of Wiiware and really encouraged the idea of developers contributing to the market with smaller ,shorter and relatively cheap games that were at least on par with the 16-bit Sega Megadrive or SNES era.
As consoles evolved, games had, and still continue, to become longer, much more complex, and time-consuming. Side-scrollers had basically become a thing of the past on mainstream consoles. This is changing somewhat now there are more indie game developers in the market, thankfully. However in the early 2000s, most of these smaller game developers were yet to exist.
I do believe that actually, despite some really enjoyable and well crafted Wiiware titles, that overall, the medium did not live up to its full potential. Far too many remote-waggling and silly party games existed in the library. I feel that Nintendo could have contributed to Wiiware a lot more too.
Why not produce a true Super Mario World sequel on the Wiiware shop to tide fans over until Super Mario Galaxy 2? It would have been simple to make, heck even fans make constant ROM hack versions online. Nintendo have said as much that they are afraid to produce a fully fledged F-Zero mainline game - so why did they not produce a Wiiware F-Zero game that basically looked like the popular SNES version, but with new tracks and cars? It would have been a very cheap endeavor and it would not only have given us a fresh take on a beloved SNES era game, but given Ninendo a gauge of interest in a potential bigger production. Nintendo dabbled in Wiiware with "NES Remix" 1 and 2, altering NES games - so why not do more with the SNES games?
That however is a whole other topic, but I am thankful that Konami made an effort in this case. While Contra as a series had been fairly quiet for a while, Castlevania had been mostly focused on its RPG style Metroidvania games. Konami also released Castlevania Lords of Shadow around this time period too. which personally, I am not a huge fan of. I like my Castlevania a bit more linear. I wanted to feel like I was playing a new version of Super Castlevania IV, or a new Contra 3. I got my wish with the ReBirth games. Now, let us take a look at the 3 Rebirth games.
First up, Gradius Rebirth. Now I will admit, I am not a huge Gradius fan. It is a series I have given very little attention to, and I am mostly aware of it due to the fact that you can play the first stage of one of the Gradius games as a mini game in "The Legend of the Mystical Ninja" for the SNES. However what I can say about Gradius Rebirth is that it is a solid and challenging game. By challenging I mean it is actually brutally hard in places.
Gradius Rebirth offers you a score mode on the main menu which hands you one life to get as far as you can. Highscores would go on to a leader board. Then you get the standard game mode with unlimited credits. You are able to select your ideal craft from a selection of 5 with their basic weaponry. Then you are launched into space to begin the adventure. Flying from left to right you will shoot enemies flying towards you while avoiding bullets and collecting power ups.
The first quarter of each stage begins with you flying through the vastness of space before smoothly transitioning into a new area, such as the insides of a spaceship or sand themed desert planet. The game consists of about 5 stages, with my favourite being the second, which is set in a classic shoot 'em up trope environment. The good old experiment ship full of pulsating pink brains, tubes with experiments floating inside them, barriers of flesh trying to trap you and floating alien bubbles. Topped off with a giant pinser clawed alien insect constructed of bones, pink slime and a big eye in the middle that is practically screaming "I am the weak spot!"
The game is constructed from varying remixed music and stages of past Gradius games, though it has some original bosses.Some stage salso have secret warp points that can allow you to skip an entire area and boss - but they are very difficult to locate. There is a very brief story, that is kind of placed into the game via text and images but it is nothing of real value, unless you are perhaps a hardcore Gradius fan who loves the series. And even then, I doubt you will care much, because this game and series is obviously about the fast paced, arcade shoot em up action - and the vibrant arcade styled music sure let's you know it.
Gradius Rebirth garnered mixed scores, averaging middle of the road to positive, due to a lack of multiplayer option, which would have been nice, and due to the issue of the game being very tough.
We then have Castlevania: The Adventure Rebirth. This game is essentially a remake of the 1989 Gameboy game 'Castlevania The Adventure'. At the time of Castlevania Rebirth's release I had not played the original Gameboy edition of this game, since having since done so, I can say that the ReBirth upgrade is vastly superior. I can also say that when I say this is a remake, I mean that it is a totally reimagined game, with enemies and stages appearing that didn't in the Gameboy game. It is very much its own game.
In Castlevania Rebirth you are given the choice of choosing between easy, normal and hard. In addition you can select to have classic jumping, or a modernised version. Simply put, with classic jumping you can not move direction mid-jump - much like the NES Castlevanias. Modern gives you the freedom to do so, emulating something like Super Castlevania IV.
As Christopher Belmont, 100 years before the original Caslevania game takes place, you set out on your quest to defeat Dracula. Your adventure will take you through 5 stages, the first being just outside of the castle walls, battling mud monsters and traversing traps while the full moon lit night sky casts rains down upon you. The first stage ending in a battle with a giant laser shooting eyeball. The first stage provides challenge without being overly complex, and introduces you to the idea that keys can be used to lock alternate routes, giving access to areas of the stage that eventually loop back up with the main path. This adds some replay value, as you can traverse a stage in at least 2 different ways. Some paths being easier than others, and in some cases allow you to skip mid-level bosses
Stage 2 will let you explore some water wheel filled caverns while the 3rd stage kicks it up a notch with spike and razor saw traps in a macabre bone decorated weapons armory. On the subject of weapons - all the usual sub weapons are available. Personally I found that the axe with its high throwing angle was extremely useful in this game. It also packs a punch. The whip also can be powered up with orbs that can be found, which provide the whip with a fiery projectile for a short time.
After battling a levitating haunted set of swords and shield for the 3rd stage's boss you swiftly move on to stage 4. That is one thing I do enjoy about this game. The game does not mess around between stages. Upon completing a stage you get a brief map screen (which can be skipped with the press of a button) and then you are right back into the action.
Stage 4 sees you in another section of the castle with colourful stained glass windows and big knights in armor attempting to impale you with their spears. This level introduces an annoying maze like scenario, requiring you to walk in doors in the correct order to progress to the eventual boss. The maze aspect honestly feels a bit of of place in this otherwise straight forward game - almost like artificial game lengthening. The 4th stage's boss is a giant stone golem and it is easily the biggest sprite in the game. The last stage sees Chris climbing to the top of the trap filled clock tower, which ends in a duel with Death himself. The battle is set to the stage of a blood red moon and deep purple night sky. Finally, the showdown battle with Dracula unfolds. This fight has 3 stages aka 3 Dracula transformations, if played on or above the normal difficulty.
The game received positive reviews, and the game can be completed within a hour with perseverance. This is not to say there will not be deaths along the way. The game gets much more difficult by the time you reach stage 5. The game's OST is a remix of various Castlevania games and follows the Sega Megadrive's style of fast arcade styled music rather than the more sombre and orchestrated nature of Super Castlevania IV's soundtrack.The sprites are clean, crisp and vibrant, and the game has completely original sprites. The game does not reuse any other assets from previous Castlevania games.
Finally we have Contra Rebirth. Unlike Castlevania Rebirth, this is a completely new game and not a remake of a previous Contra. There are 5 stages, however this game is shorter than Castlevania Rebirth, clocking in at about 25-30 minutes for an experienced player. Speedruns of times around 13 minutes exist. When you consider that Contra 3 The Alien Wars/ Super Probotector can also be completed within 15 minutes, this makes the game's lengths quite similar, except this was not £45 brand new. Obviously a new player will get much more longevity from their first playthrough.
At the options menu you are given the choice of easy, normal and hard - and you only get the real final boss if you compete in at least normal difficulty or higher. Upon completing the game on hard you will unlock "Nightmare Mode", enemies move a bit faster and when they die they will expel a burst of blue energy rings that act as projectiles. I have only ever completed Nightmare mode once, on co-op with a friend, and with cheats on. Ah yes! This game does have cooperative play, just like Contra 3. The game is fast paced, chaotic and the first stage is set on board of an exploding space ship full of falling wreckage, fire and aliens firing bullets at you. The enemy assortment is very vast ranging from humanoid type aliens to the down right bizarre brain like aliens that pulsate and look pretty disgusting. We also have enemies that are easily based on the power loader from Aliens.
The climax to the first stage sees you jumping from one piece of wreckage to another while entering the earth's atmosphere. The platforms will burn up and kill you if you stay on one for too long - but that is not all! The boss is also trying to kill you - a giant armored millipede like insect that can come at you from literally any angle on the screen. The first stage ends with a satisfying punch - this game is cartoony, over the top and it has absolutely no shame about it.Firing off bullets in to the big bad bug is really satisfying.
The second stage replicates the first stage of Contra 3 in a destroyed city. To me this is one of the weak points aesthetically. Compared to Contra 3's apocalyptic alien infested city full of detail and atmosphere. The graphics here seem very bland and lacking detail. The dark colour palette does not lend itself well to this particular installment in the series, especially after the bright popping colours of the first stage. It almost looks like a mobile game here - a total pale pastiche of Contra 3's first stage.Even the music which is from the first stage of Contra 3 here seems pretty basic in comparison to its Contra 3 counterpart that has a much more epic quality to it. The action is just as bonkers as stage one though.
Stage 3 ramps up the action to proportions unexplainable. Traversing from right to left, you jump and climb across varying trucks and - erm..purple camel like robots while fending off flying alien enemies. There is a mid-boss battle on this stage with bullet-hell like projectiles, and possibly the first part of the game that will really cause you to meet the game over screen. The stage is vibrant and crazy and Contra Rebirth feels like it is in better form when being its own crazy thing as opposed to emulating stages from a much more superior game in the series. The 4th stage changes things up for the first half by having you hang on to a flying mechanism that lowers you vertically down into the alien's base. Eventually it transitions back to traditional left to right action as you battle over lava filled pits and evade laser triggered traps. The final stage is once again imitating Contra 3's final stage in the alien base.
Unlike Contra 3 however were it felt climatic and like there was a sense of a huge surge of foreboding doom and gloom in no man's land while the world rests on you shoulders, this rendition feels care-free, vibrant and over the top. Cartoony. The cutscene before this stage even has one of the macho Contra characters - Lance Bean, dressed in drag (for real!) to infiltrate the alien base. It makes no sense at all, and the brief story that does exist in this game in the guise of text and image storyboards between stages is not to be taken seriously at all. Most likely intentionally. The focus is on he culling of space monsters and firing off them bad-boy weapons. Speaking of which, all the usual weapons are present. The laser, the spreader, the crusher, the homing missiles and all of them pack a serious wallop.
As I hinted at earlier - cheat codes do exist for this game. Simply input the famous Konami code on the title screen and you will have access to a debug mode, 99 lives and an array of other extras. You can also unlock 2 extra characters (this can be done by beating the game, as well). These characters are Plissken, a big blue anthropomorphic salamander and a small "female" robot called BR-W9 aka "Brownie".
In conclusion Castlevania Rebirth and Contra Rebirth are my favourite of the Rebirth trilogy. While Contra Rebirth is constant action and chaos, Castlevania Rebirth has an element of tact and care required at times - creating a nice balance between these two games. As an avid lover of Contra 3 and Castlevania IV I have played them to death and sometimes I want that nostalgic rush but with a slightly more fresh experience. That is where these 2 Rebirth titles come in. Although the quality and care behind them isn't to the degree of Castlevania IV and Contra 3 they still provide a great 30-40 minute retro session without me feeling like I am living completely in the past! Their short length also means that they are great for quick replays - providing you take the time to master them, of course!
As time has passed I am learning to appreciate these titles even more. Especially with Konami going down he drain in recent years. The Rebirth games, with their spirited colours and arcade styled high octane soundtracks are small hidden gems that are the definition of juicy games. Sit down,and tuck in for a brief yet satisfying experience. Also while neither of them are "essentials", they are nice expansions to their respective franchises.
Konami released the Castlevania Collection as well as the Contra collection in 2019 - but sadly both of these Wiiware titles were left off both compilations. They actually included the 1989 Castlevania Rebirth but not the vastly superior Rebirth remake. I am not sure if it is because there games were for Wiiware and so hard to emulate elsewhere (it is not simple to emulate Wiiware on PC, like most other game ROMS) or if there is some copyright issue with Nintendo. However, them not being included on the collections seems absolutely criminal, and only proceeds to hide these gems in the passage of time. With no Wiiware store active these games can no longer be acquired legitimately, and due to emulating them being a bit of a pain compared to regular ROMS, a lot of people will likely never have access to these titles again. This is something that makes me fear a digital only gaming world in he future. Games, art, history and music, for all the backing up on memory cards and USB devices we can do - there is still going to be media that gets lost without something tangible attached to it. Simply browsing Youtube comments for the games reveals a bunch of people who exclaim they never knew such games existed, or that they wish they could get access to them. So if you are one of those Contra,Gradius or Castlevania fans who missed out on these titles, I hope this article bought them to your attention.Let us hope that Nintendo brings some of these lost games to the Switch in the near future.
Silent Hill: Homecoming tends to be the forgotten game of the Silent Hill series. During recent live streams of Homecoming some of my viewers commented that they had never played it. Luckily there remains a core group of fans of Silent Hill: Homecoming, that have cemented its position alongside the likes of Silent Hill 2 and the original. Admittedly, Silent Hill: Homecoming is not as enthralling as Silent Hill 2 but perhaps that’s because Silent Hill 2 came out first? I guess you never forget those early loves and let’s face it, the creepy roads, apartment blocks, hospitals and schools of Silent Hill and Silent Hill 2 were difficult benchmarks to follow with the proceeding games. That is, until, Silent Hill: Homecoming released in 2008. Of course all of this is my opinion and if you’ve played Homecoming and dislike the game I suggest you stop reading now. If you are looking for an intriguing horror game that is reminiscent of the first two Silent Hill games; please read on. Silent Hill: Homecoming released on the PS3, Xbox 360 and PC.
Silent Hill: Homecoming sees our main guy, Alex return to his home town of Shepherds Glen. His brother and father are missing. Alex’s mother is present in body but seems to lack in maternal lust for Alex. Her catatonic like state and distress over her missing son pretty much sums up her role in Silent Hill: Homecoming. The general look of Shepherds Glen reminds me of Silent Hill and Silent Hill 2. It’s foggy, it’s empty, there’s zero draw distance, broken roads and enemies with legs for arms and arms for legs, patrol the streets. Alex’s main objective is to find out what happened to Josh. At various points in the game Alex witnesses apparitions of Josh running in to various buildings. As you can imagine these buildings are often overrun with enemies and puzzles. I had a lot of help on stream in order to solve the puzzles but if you play alone I would say that the puzzles are a lot simpler that Silent Hill and Silent Hill 2. Ultimately if you are familiar with those games there will not be too many surprises in Homecoming.
The Sony PSX is rarely mentioned in the gaming world and that could be for many reasons. One of the most notable reasons for this was its inherent failure rate and due to very low sales numbers in the Sony PSX life cycle, the machine was never released outside of Japan. Now you might ask ‘how could a console made by Sony, at a time when Sony consoles were dominating; fail?’ The Sony PSX was a console secondary to being a Digital Video Recorder (DVR). The hard drive was encrypted to the console which made it very difficult for the hard drives to be replaced one the PSX had broken. The DVR function was Sony’s efforts at penetrating in to broader markets that stemmed beyond the games room what with the DVR being able to record TV shows and more.
The Sony PSX plays PS1 and PS2 games (Japanese NTSC region titles). From a gamers perspective the Sony PSX is an attractive piece of kit. The downsides being that it weighs in at 13lbs, has blocky ergonomics and overheats very easily. You’d be very lucky to find a PSX in working order but it is possible. In 2005 the Sony PSX was discontinued and never left Japan commercially. When compared to the PS1 and PS2 consoles alike; both are much smaller, more reliable and run cooler. So why bother owning a Sony PSX at all?
Sometimes you just need an adventure in life. Sometimes this urge for adventure can be fulfilled with a good video game. Graphics are becoming increasingly more life like and the worlds are open and seemingly never ending. The problem is not all of these modern games appeal, and we don't always have the time to explore these gigantic worlds due to the realities of life. This is where retro games come in handy. They provide an escape and can often be experienced in full within anything between 30 minutes to a couple of hours.
Though as much as I do love retro games, sometimes I feel as if I am living in the past, completing the same retro games I am comfortable with over and over. This is a feeling you can easily experience with your personal life too. I wanted to look forward and escape my zone of comfort while simultaneously taking solace in something somewhat nostalgic. The truth is this 'adventure' that I had planned was something more than just simply wanting to play a game I had never played.
Ultimately playing a game is for fun, but the competitive side of me wanted to dedicate time to learning, mastering and conquering something within a month. I wasn't content just playing a game for fun I required a test of fortitude. I pondered what this could be for a short time.
Flicking on my brother's SNES mini while visiting his house I scrolled the games on offer. Contra 3. Finished it on hard mode. Super Mario World. Finished it 100% more times than I could ever count. Super Castlevania IV? Already played it this year. Super Ghouls 'N' Ghosts...never dared to play it. So that is what I decided to do, without any real thought. I wasn't really looking for it, but I had found it. I had a very limited experience with this game. I was just aware that it was notoriously hard and I had witnessed my brother die an unrelenting amount of times on it back in the 90s. A fire in my stomach erupted - I am going to do this.
I opened the options menu to see what the deal was — an otherwise simple black option menu with an obscurely over elaborate and majestic blue winding vine design with red gems adorning the screen's edges. Strangely beautiful for a game which is so willing to chew you up and spit you out even on it's "Normal" difficulty setting. Almost like an alluring treasure which once taken would trigger a hellish trap. The default difficulty setting alone is what gives a majority of people grief.
So to my surprise there was a hard and professional difficulty too. What maniac would ever try that? Isn't the punishing normal difficulty enough? Apparently it wouldn't be for me, and so the journey begins — on normal difficulty anyway.
The game (infamous for sending you right back to the beginning in order to complete it for a second time to get the true ending) begins in the classic Ghouls N Ghosts graveyard stage. You know — the stage 90% of people attempting to play this game give up on.
Despite it being one of the earliest games by Capcom on the SNES the pixel art looks fantastic and the music is absolutely haunting. In fact, it was composed by a female composer called Mari Yamaguchi, she also did the soundtrack for Mickey Mouse's Magical Quest. Strangely, as different as the games may be they share a very distinct sound and I came to the conclusion long ago that the same composer must have been involved. Mari has a way of painting the haunting landscapes of the frozen forests and stormy seas with sweeping mysterious melodies, while conjuring up a sense of dark menacing evil and urgency in the third stage's fire dungeon full of flames and bloodied spikes. There is always a sense of something foreboding or mystical.The soundtrack is one that did not hit me as immediately as other games. However the soundtrack began to really become highlighted during the trials and tribulations of completing the game. Remember, we were going to die a lot of playing this game — so we needed music that would be cast upon our minds in a residual way, as opposed to be a quick fast jingle which could become increasingly annoying with each restart.
To cut a long story shorter — I completed both loops of Ghouls N Ghosts. That means that I finished each of the 7 stages twice back-to-back and killed the final enemy with the coveted "Princess bracelet". The bracelet is an absolute requirement for finishing the game in its truest sense and the main reason you are sent back to the start in order for the weapon to spawn. It will not appear in playthrough one.
I had finally finished this tough game which I previously knew not a lot about. The problem is I had cheated. I had used multiple save states. From start to finish. The vaguest sign of danger I pressed that save state button. I felt not an ounce of accomplishment and had essentially learned nothing about the
inner workings of the game. I needed to go back and this time do it "for real", and do so with a mind of knowledge towards the game.
At this point I no longer had access to the SNES mini, so I had to download an emulator for my laptop which is far from a gaming laptop.In fact I had never played single game on it before. I had to borrow a faulty Xbox 360 controller from a friend in order to be able to play, as there was no chance I'd attempt this using keyboard controls. I was dedicated to this gaming experience and the game was on. My first step was to watch a couple of speed runs of the game to hear any potential commentary tips to provide assistance in understanding how this game actually worked mechanics wise. Nail the mechanics and you will nail the game. I studied how to get various treasure chests to spawn. Some chests require the player, the grey armour clad knight Arthur, to jump into some precarious locations in order to make them appear. A concept I had no idea about.
The chests are vital to your success and there is a specific cycle of which weapons, armour and traps spawn from them. I found this to be a large part of the battle and once you had this concept under wraps the game became a lot more manageable. Arthur can acquire two armour power ups. The first being the bronze green armour which will upgrade your current weapons firepower. The second is the golden armour which allow you to hold the button in order to charge your weapon, unleashing a unique special
ability per weapon. With that said here is a tip for you all, the dagger with the golden armour is the absolute best weapon in the game and the speed runners imperative choice.
Charging it up will unleash a flying dragon of pure blue fire which will scour the screen. Lining up the screen so that the enemy is on the right will mean that they are in line of the dragon's path, killing them quickly. You also gain valuable invincibility frames briefly during casting the spell, so exploiting this charge up feature is fantastic for survival.
The second weapon of use is the crossbow upgraded to at least the green armour, which is ideal for any casual player just wanting to achieve victory. When in gold armour the charge up function for this weapon will make any hidden treasure chests on the screen appear. The rest of the weapons are essentially garbage.
The jumping in this game is also a mechanic that needs some practice. Once you commit to a jump your character is locked going in that direction for the duration of it. Thankfully, Arthur has access to a double jump. Pressing another direction as you perform this will allow you to manoeuvre elsewhere, though you will also be committed to this jump too. Here is a secret for you. If you press the attack button at the peak of your double jump you will actually fire out a slightly stronger projectile. Useful for boss killing. So lots of quick double jumps and dagger/crossbow spamming is ideal
Now that the table is set on how the game mechanics work, I dived back in on normal mode and decided I would complete the game but only allow myself to save state at the start of each level. I completed both loops of the game using this method as a practice. Still, no sense of achievement, but a wave of confidence had been born. I no longer felt the need to save between each stage. I was finally prepared to play this the real way. With my newfound knowledge of the treasure chest spawns and confidence it was time to complete the game on normal mode with no save states. So off I went again, collecting as many money bags as I could along the way, as they provide you with a extra continue should you collect enough. Oh yes. Continues are limited!
The giant flying beaked monster of the first stage went down without a fight. I endured the 4-minute side scrolling perils of the second stage's stormy haunted ship graveyard as my raft wavered over the thundering rotten seas. I hesitantly made my way through the callous and menacing jumps across lava pits on to spindly platforms only to be greeted by the Mongolian Death Worm's 3rd cousin at the end of stage 3. I survived the slime covered convulsing, winding and rotating mode-7 guts of a giant beast in stage 4.
Then I hiked a majestic avalanche filled frozen forest full of pulsating purple fruits. All that, before arriving at the final castle and entering its most inner sanctum. Then of course I had to do it all over again to reach the ultimate final boss. After having conquered this final boss, I had finally completed the game as it was intended, with no save stating along the way. It was a challenge and there was indeed a learning curve. However with all this acquired skill, I felt at a loss yet again. "Isn't there a professional mode?", I reminded myself. I had a passion with this new ability to complete the game the real way, and now I wanted to test myself to the maximum.
As a side note, despite the whole game being quite taxing, I would like to shine a special spotlight on to stage 4, "The Ghoul's Stomach". Standing on a sidescrolling platform as obnoxious geysers of ghoul stomach gases try to knock you off to your death down a bottomless pit can be brutal. In fact I'd say this is the most daunting stage. The 3rd stage 'The Crucible of Flame',which begins in the fire dungeon is a close runner up. The frozen forest, stage 5, while not without its trials, is almost like a lovely treat and a walk in the park compared to the stage 4. The game can be finished by a skilled casual player within a hour or two. Speedrunners can finish both playthroughs within 45 minutes.
After a brief break the urge to complete professional mode became too much. Arthur once again pulled his armour on over his boxer shorts, giving me those 2 vital hit points on my health bar, and so the quest began again. I went directly to professional mode, thus skipping "hard" mode. The bosses take more damage and some of the enemies walk a bit faster...and honestly.that was about it. With either the crossbow or dagger in hand I conquered the first loop on pro mode. It honestly was not bad at all. I think the truest challenge exists on pro mode at the end of the 7th stage on the second loop/playthrough. You must get through the stage and reach the final boss, of which there are 2, with the gold armour and goddess bracelet. Though powerful, the bracelet is only of use if you are in possession of it while suited up in gold as it maximizes its range. This one aspect, range, is what is going to decide if you will get through the final 2 boss fights before being given access to the final true boss -demon emperor Sardius.
During loop 2, if you lose the gold armour at any point during stage 7 before the two bosses are killed you may as well sacrifice yourself and begin the stage again. The game consumed an uncountable amount of lives from me, as well as sapped my continues slowly. Though through dedication and patience I finally thwarted the enemies while adorned in the gold armour. I felt great, and let out a huge sigh of relief.Probably punched the air too. Even though I still had one final boss on stage 8 to defeat, I had no fear. The final boss is excruciatingly easy even on pro, possibly a reward for all the sweat and blood it takes to get there. As Arthur and the princess
trotted off on the horse together during the end credits, my quest to master this game also came to a close.
I had finished a game that so many other people give up on, even if they feel fondness towards it. It had been a great month of putting myself through something "new", and now I could say that Super Ghouls N Ghosts was one of my favourite SNES games, as opposed to just being "That hard SNES game that's good but I've never really played". Now this game is up there for me along with Castlevania IV and Contra 3.
To me this was more than just finishing a game, it was an additional little exercise in perseverance and motivation. The thrill of slowly but surely progressing and applying what I had learned from studying of the game's mechanics and then putting the brain power to physical dexterity with my hands was something I thoroughly enjoyed. The sense of accomplishment was amazing. I genuinely believe that overall this game is not as hard as people claim, they just need to spend more time with it and face the fear of it. I am highly convinced I could coach a moderate gamer through this game at least on default difficulty at this point. Something I could certainly offer no information or advice about at the start of the year.
There is actually a Gameboy Advance port of this game with 4 additional stages added. I have not played this, but the extra stages which I saw via Youtube videos actually fit the atmosphere of this game pretty well, and the visuals look vibrant and glorious. I might try playing this in future, but for now I am content with completing this version. It is time to move forward and look for something new.
You can try Super Ghouls 'N' Ghosts yourself on Nintendo Switch's subscription service. I highly encourage you to finally sit down, concentrate and stop letting the ghouls and ghosts scaring you away. My advice to anyone interesting in taking this game on, in brief.
Set your lives to 7 in the options menu. Use the dagger or the crossbow. Learn the chest locations/use the crossbow with gold armour to discover their locations..Collect the money bags to gain continues, but don't go for risky ones. Play through the game first time using save states as you progress. Reload sections to learn them.Once you are better at the game then play the game from start to finish without save states. if you do not have time to sit and do 2 playthroughs back to back for the real ending then save state at the start of loop 2. I consider this only being like pausing the game and returning to it later. This way it just saves on the electricity bill. Or perhaps you are just content completing one cycle - well, the same advice applies.
In addition, I wanted to get a tattoo for a long time but I could never decide what of. As a result of this little journey I decided to get a Super Ghouls 'n' Ghosts inspired tattoo. If you'd have told me in 2019 I'd cast aside modern games for a good portion of the year and focus on this game and complete it on the hardest mode AND get a tattoo about this game I'd not have believed you. It just goes to sometimes show things can just pop up when you least expect it and entertain you. From this experience I unearthed something old and crafted something new. While I was sitting getting the tattoo done, the artist actually said that it looked like something from a retro game. "It is, from Ghouls and Ghosts" I replied. "I used to play that!" he said.
Some Retro Games suck! That's right, there are some video games that completely missed the mark when it came to impressing gamers. This is not a good thing clearly. I want to be fully immersed in a game if I pop a cartridge in my Super Nintendo. I don't want to be struggling to get to even ten minutes of gameplay. Sometimes we have to admit defeat: some retro games suck. Here are five retro games that I feel are not worth your hard earned cash or valuable play time.
Shaq Fu (1994)
Imagine a famous basketball player becoming a character in Street Fighter 2. Now imagine that game game being absolutely awful in every way. Back in 1994 Shaquille O'Neal appeared in his very own 2D fighting game on the Sega Mega Drive and Super Nintendo. If this wasn't torture enough Shaq Fu also found its way on the Sega Game Gear, Amiga and Nintendo Game Boy in 1995.
What makes Shaq Fu such a terrible game? Not only is the idea of Shaquille O'Neal becoming a legendary fighter a terrible one the gameplay is simply awful. The moves were very difficult to execute making gameplay feel more like a button mashing contest than a game based on skill. Not only that the punch and kick sound effects were incredibly dull. Multiply the button mashing with the dull, out of context sounds of kicks and punches and you pretty much have Shaq Fu. The music is also very painful and does nothing to heighten the experience of this wannabe fighting game. Luckily Shaq Fu does not grace my very own retro game collection, it would only serve to taint it.
The dust has finally settled. Not only are we getting a Sega Mega-Drive Mini (Genesis mini in the US) in just over 3 months’ time, we now already know all of the games that come with it. 42 titles, 13 of which are exclusive to the west.
As good news as this all is so far, there are reasons why the Sega Mega Drive Mini is both essential and, er, not. Starting with the good; Sega really seem to be aiming to get things right. M2 are handling the conversions, and given their expertise in that field it’s a sure-fire sign Sega aim to knock Sony’s lacklustre Playstation Classic out of the park.
The choice of games also heralds quite a few tasty surprises. Castlevania: Bloodlines, Mega Man: The Wily Wars and Contra: Hard Corps are among the rarer and desirable classics on offer, as well as a very welcome return of Road Rash 2. Who knew Sega and EA even still talked?
The console itself, at 55% the size of the original classic, certainly looks the part. Much like Nintendo’s mini editions, Sega’s effort looks aesthetically pleasing on the eye. It will come bundled with the traditional three-button controller, with support for the Retro-Bit six-button option, but hopefully Sega will listen and include a six-button as standard. Some of the games of course will demand one anyway.
On the downside, many of the titles are a case of same old, same old. Sega have been releasing various Genesis/Mega Drive collections since the PS2 era, with the latest edition only being made available on Switch last December. No less than 24 titles (57% no less) make a reappearance on the Mega Drive Mini.
But no one can argue that regardless of how many times they are released, many of these titles were key to the Mega Drive being a success. From Alex Kidd to World of Illusion, The Mega Drive Mini certainly looks to be worthy of our money and time. And so, in no particular order, here are the five inclusions I’m looking forward to the most.
Protests of the Extinction Rebellion across London to tackle climate change, something I personally feel strongly about because you know, it’s just the survival of all life on this planet. What a better way to celebrate humanity, when it comes to climate change then playing a game involving an earthquakes and tidal waves?
Ladies and gentlelads, I give you the PlayStation 2 cult classic, SOS: The Final Escape, also know Disaster Report for the folks across the pond and in Japan it is known as Zettai Zetsumei Toshi (絶体絶命都市 The Desperate City).
In SOS: The Final Escape, you play as journalist Keith Helm, an everyday kind of man as displayed by his first name (Keith!), who’s just on the way to his first day at work. An earthquake strikes Stiver Island -the games location- and truly wrecks the place. You wake up after being knocked out, trying to survive the rough terrain, you must find an exit but a long the way you will meet other various survivors and maybe there is more to this disaster than you think? Woooohoooooo.
A low budget and an early PlayStation 2 title, SOS looks pretty rough. It has that very square, bland texture look when developers where just starting to handle 3D environments. Though the game makes good use of it’s limitations by using some good camera angles by really capturing the set pieces cinematically and building the tension.
Throughout the game you will see Keith’s clothes get more and more haggard, a small touch that was starting to be introduced more in videogame from this era. However, it does add the sense of desperation within the characters and a sense of exhaustion.
The PlayStation Portable or rather PSP was launched in Japan in 2004 and later to the rest of the world in 2005. The PSP slid in to a market that was dominated by Nintendo on the handheld front. What with the success of the Game Boy since the late 80’s and at the time the Nintendo DS; the PSP really had a lot of work to do in order to solidify itself within the gaming world.
Now I’m not here to ramble on about the tech specs of the PSP as I would much rather discuss the PSP from a cultural influence rather than a technical one. It seemed to be a instant hit. What with compatibility with the PS2 and PS3 (already highly loved and valued consoles) the PSP was and still is loved by thousands of gamers. With a beautiful library of games from series like GTA, Metal Gear Solid and more; the PSP was forever becoming a classic handheld console.
Today gamers still boast the PSP’s credibility in the home-brew world of emulation. Whilst this is not what I would use my PSP for; I can respect the usability and popularity of such a feature. Here we are today in 2019 talking about the PSP but this time we are taking a look at a possible Hidden Gem game by the name of innocent life a futuristic harvest moon.
Before we dive in to Innocent Life: A Futuristic Harvest Moon I want to ask: Have you payed Stardew Valley? If not then allow me to give you a brief overview. Stardew Valley is a farm simulation RPG. It is down to us to harvest and farm our own resources in order to build, grow and prosper. The game takes the form of a top down 16bit inspired style. It’s charming, it’s addictive and it’s captivating. Innocent Life for me is reminiscent of the Stardew Valley. Now, yes, Stardew Valley was released much later that Innocent Life but I feel we must draw the similarities.
Innocent Life: A Futuristic Harvest Moon takes place in 2022 in the colourful and aesthetic world of Heartflame Island. Known as Harvest Moon: Innocent Life. The game follows a robot boy who was created by Hope Grain. The game starts from the completion of the Robot Boys development. From there the game unfolds with tutorials which are based around learning to farm, interact and move around the world.
What makes Innocent Life so special? Not only is it rarely talked about; Innocent Life is full of charm. Its relaxing to play and feels charming throughout. If you can battle the, at times, long tutorial discussions I think you should really try and grab yourself a copy of Innocent Life.
The PlayStation Classic has not had the best start. The console was launched 24 years after the original PlayStation released in Japan on December 3rd 1994. Over the last 24 years the PlayStation has been host to classic games (and franchises) like Tomb Raider, Crash Bandicoot, Spyro The Dragon, Ridge Racer, Gran Turismo and more. In fact many, many more PlayStation Games have entertained us for years. I remember being completely stuck at the end of the first disc of Metal Gear Solid. Back then I did not have the luxury of checking out a guide/walkthrough on YouTube. I had to run down to a friends house to ask about the code on the back of the case. That will teach me for playing copied PS1 games.
Fast forward to 2018 and we are over five years in to the PS4 Generation of gaming (and of later years; PS4 Pro). Not only that we were all at the peak of excitement when Sony announced we’d be getting a PlayStation Classic. In essence; a mini PS1. How many games did Sony confirm? At the time of announcing the PlayStation Classic only five games were announced; arguably the stronger five. Without beating a regurgitating information we eventually got the list of PS Classic games:
If you’d have told me that a Sega Mega Drive game would be released in 2018 a few years back I would have told you that you were wrong. If you’d have also told me that that Sega Mega Drive game was going to be developed on original hardware like most other Sega Mega Drive games I would not have believed you. Well it happened and it happened in the form of Tanglewood. In an era where console gaming is dominated by the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch; it’s hard to believe that an actual Sega Mega Drive cartridge was produced on original hardware. One man is responsible for such an achievement and his name is Matt Philips. Matt is responsible for single handedly developing Tanglewood after successfully securing Kickstarter funding. Is Tanglewood a tangled-mess of a game though? I’ve been playing a lot of the game over the past week after being sent a press review cartridge.
Nymn is our fury fox like creature. Tanglewood starts with Nymn sound asleep only to waken being all alone. In an interview I did with Matt earlier this year he had this to say about Tanglewood:
“Tanglewood is a fantasy platforming game staring Nymn, a small creature who is lost from home. Nymn must try to survive each dangerous night alone in Tanglewood, by using his skills of evasion and trickery to escape the monsters that lurk in the dark.
“… The characters were designed as otherworldly, but fox and meerkat were the two main inspirations for Nymn. I wanted something that looked terrified, but was nimble and quick to escape danger. We experimented with many facial expressions and head shapes to get that scared and cautious look. The lore of the world involves another extinct race, that used to hunt down the Djunn for food whilst riding some of the monsters in game, but since they all passed away Nymn and his kind were able to live in relative peace - as long as they disappeared underground at night”
Tanglewood is simple yet extremely effective. If you choose to miss out on Tanglewood then you’ll be selling yourself short.
Retro Game Reviews. Mega Drive, Super Nintendo, Sega Dreamcast and more
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