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Hugh Likes Video Games: Final Fantasy Adventure

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Final Fantasy Adventure

Game Boy

Square/Sun Soft

Final_Fantasy_Adventure_Front_CoverFinal Fantasy Adventure 3

Today we’re traveling back in time for a classic edition of Hugh Likes Video Games.  Final Fantasy Adventure is a action RPG originally released for the Game Boy by Square.  Released in Japan as Seiken Densetsu, western fans may be more familiar with its blockbuster sequel, Super Nintendo’s “Secret of Mana.”  The game follows a escaped gladiatorial slave as he fights against the forces of the evil Glaive empire to protect a mysterious girl who may be the key to an ancient power.

A top-down action role playing game, Final Fantasy Adventure feels more like the Legend of Zelda than its command-based namesake.  In fact, the name was changed for the U.S. market to tie-in to the popular NES and SNES titles.  Over the course of the game, the hero, who the player names themselves, equips a variety of weapons, armor and magic, travels through a world that is surprisingly vast for the little handheld, and befriends a number of allies to help in his adventure.

Having recently replayed Final Fantasy Adventure, I can say that it holds up in some ways and not others.  The combat is solid fun, and the story is spare but enjoyable.  The repetitive dungeons and occasionally frustrating puzzles, which occasionally rely on luck rather than skill, are not.  Also aggravating are the town NPCs, who have completely idiotic pathfinding, and give long speeches whenever you touch them.  Getting out of town can occasionally be more of a hassle than the dungeon you just left.

Despite the antiquated elements of the game, Final Fantasy Adventure remains a hidden gem from the dawn of handheld gaming.  It is not yet available in the Nintendo Virtual Console store, but there was a rather bland remake for the game boy color called “Sword of Mana.”  Unfortunately, it didn’t hold up to the original.  If you have an old Game Boy or GBA laying around, pick up this one if you get the chance.

Hugh Likes Video Games: Steamworld Dig

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SteamWorld Dig
Image and Form Games
Played on PS Vita
SteamWorldDig
SteamWorld Dig: A Fistful of Dirt is a quirky indie platformer.  You play as Rusty, a young steam-powered robot called to a tiny frontier town by his miner uncle. The first thing he has to do, however, is solve his mysterious death.  He left Rusty his mine, so the plan is to dig it out, look for clues, and get upgrades from helpful towns-bots on the surface.
SWD is a fun and colorful game with controls that are very easy to pick up.  As you mine valuables and delve deeper, you come across tougher materials and enemies, but gain access to upgrades and better tools.  The balance is nicely tuned to provide a gently sloping difficulty curve.  There are also plenty of hidden areas and secrets to reach once you upgrade your abilities.
The designs are appealing and fun as well.  The post-human wild west setting is delightful and slightly off-putting at the same time, especially when you start running into irradiated survivors in the underground caves.The only major downside to the game is that it is rather short, even for a puzzle-platformer, and the physics puzzles themselves aren’t too taxing.  With only three main sections, The game can be fully cleared in only a few hours.  There have been further games teased in the “Steamworld” line, so hopefully this will only be a teaser of greater things to come.  As it is, “SteamWorld Dig: A fistful of Dirt” is a fantastic platformer for younger gamers, or a worthwhile afternoon distraction for veterans.

Hugh Likes Video Games: Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions Evolved

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Hugh Likes Video Games
Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions Evolved
Played on PS Vita
Geometrywars3
The Geometry Wars series has a simple concept.  A little ship flies through a 2D grid and shoots enemies for points.  It also has an elegant, pseudo-vector graphics visual style.  So how do you improve on a classic formula whose visual flair is so immediately iconic?  Any change to the gameplay or graphics would be too drastic with so simple a concept.  Rather than just retreading the same formula or completely retooling it, “Geometry Wars 3” does something both unexpected and completely unique.
Geometry Wars 3 Dimensions Evolved is not a 3D shooter.  It is a 2D shooter mapped to a 3D object.  A tradition 3D shooter lets you maneuver thought a vast environment of empty space filled with enemies and objects.  Geometry Wars 3’s environment is a 2D grid, but presented as a variety of 3D solids, like globes, hemispheres, cylinders and cubes.  Projectiles, enemies, and obstacles are likewise set on these objects, making movement surprising, innovative, and just as addictive as previous incarnations.  For example, your projectiles move very differently on a capsule-shaped surface than they do on a disc.  These shaped playing fields put interesting spin on gameplay.
There are plenty of other additions as well.  A variety of level types and gameplay modes keep the experience fresh, and a lengthy first player Adventure mode does a good job of introducing them to the player.  Players also get a variety of computer controlled drones that assist in a number of ways, from collecting shards to increase your score modifier, to ramming opponents or firing highly accurate, sniper rounds.  Drones also have customizable special attacks that further increase their novelty.
The only major flaw of the game is that the soundtrack is rather forgettable techno-pop that soon grates.  Overall, Geometry Wars 3 is a winner.  Its addictive but varied gameplay will keep shooter aficionados trying for one more high score for a long time.

Hugh Likes Video Games: Rogue Legacy

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Hugh Likes Video Games: Rogue Legacy
Cellar Door Games
Available for Steam and the Playstation Network
Rogue Legacy
“Rogue Legacy” is one of those indie games that feels both nostalgically familiar and refreshingly novel at the same time.  A platform game set in a randomly generated castle, “Rogue Legacy” put me equally in the mind of the old school turn-based dungeon explorers and punishingly difficult 8-bit platformers like “Castlevania” and “Ninja Gaiden.”
The player controls not just one character, but a family of adventurers.  You navigate the castle in one of eight classes, fighting monsters and collecting treasure.  When you lose a life, you choose an heir, who inherits your gear and spoils.  You can use them to improve your stats, buy new gear, or equip magical runes. These give the player special abilities such as air dashes, double jumps, or steal health from monsters.  Each heir has their own class and physical characteristics which subtly change gameplay.  Barbarians have better health but weaker attacks while Shinobi are fast but can’t land critical hits.  Individual characteristics such as an Eidetic Memory or Dwarfism affect gameplay while baldness or colorblindness change the graphics.  There are a variety of different effects that change up the game without being too distracting.
Each castle is randomly generated, but the gameplay and layout will seem very familiar to players of games like “Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.”  The player explores rooms in 2-D, fighting a vast horde of enemies and leaping over traps.
While you can improve your abilities, players will still die quite often, because the game is quite difficult.  Enemies fill the screen with projectiles and attacks, which can be extremely difficult to avoid.  I’ve had enough generations go through this castle that they should have jetpacks and phasers instead of swords and armor by the end.
In spite of the extreme difficulty of some of the layouts, the game rarely feels frustrating, and the generation mechanic ensures that each run-through feels different.  It’s an easy game to pick up intending to play for only a few minutes, and find that hours have passed, saying ‘I’ll just do one more run.’
“Rogue Legacy” is a charming game for old-school platforming fans looking for a modern twist, with gameplay that can be picked up on the go.  It is available for Mac, PC, and Playstation consoles.

Hugh Likes Video Games: Super Smash Bros

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Smash bros

Developer: Bandai Namco Games

Nintendo 3DS

Smash Bros. is one of those love it or hate it gaming franchises.  Its pick-up-and-play style and four player vs. mode have always made it as much a party game as a serious fighter, and nostalgia has always been baked in.  As a fan of Nintendo games, and a much more casual player of fighting games, it is right in my wheelhouse.

Nintendo has certainly delivered another helping for the 3DS, with a huge roster of characters and a slew of new gameplay modes, many of which focus on customization.

In addition to playing with a customizable set of Miis, Players can also tweak any of the  characters making them hit harder or move faster, or upgrading special attacks.  This gives more traditional fighting and wrestling game fans a chance to balance out a character just the way they want, and build them to fight their friends.  But it can be turned off at the flick of a button, which ensures players who aren’t willing to spend a lot of time can still sit down and play.

All-Star Mode, a special battle royale mode where characters are fought in the order they were published, and Smash Run, in which players build up a character by collecting power ups, then fight one on one, are quick and fun diversions.  Classic mode also returns, this time with branching paths that let you choose your opponent.

Nintendo seems to have wrung every drop of power they could out of the 3DS, with a huge roster of characters, and a collection of new and returning stages that look great.  But the 3DS does present some limitations.  The loose analog stick on the original 3DS makes movement a bit muddy and tough to control.  The game has trouble differentiating inputs, particularly between up and side attacks.  The screen resolution is also a bit lacking, with tiny figures occasionally lost amid the clutter.

If you are a Nintendo fan, you likely already have this one.  It is a worthy successor to previous installments, and the sheer variety of gameplay modes and characters ensures there’s something for everybody.  Smash Bros is available from Nintendo, Amazon, or your local games shop.

By the way, my Friend Code is 5327-0999-1447.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

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The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

 

It has been said that Nintendo is a company stuck in the past. That they retread old ideas and characters, plying on nostalgia rather than innovation. And while there’s truth there, when they get it right, OH MAN do they get it right.

“The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds” is a 3DS sequel to the Super Nintendo’s “A Link to the Past.” Old School fans of the series will find the maps, designs and plot familiar. Mysterious figure arrives in Hyrule, is immediately revealed to be a bad guy, Link has to collect three pendants and the Master Sword to follow him to the other half of the game.

While it looks like “A Link to the Past’s” Dark World, the other section of the game takes place in Lorule, a more developed mirror kingdom complete with its own Princess and villagers. And Lorule is, for reasons that remain unclear until the end of the game, being torn apart.

Link can travel between the two dimensions using the game’s key new ability. Thanks to a magical bracelet he acquires early in the adventure, Link can change himself into a painting, and walk along walls. It’s a strange ability, and not particularly intuitive at first, but it is masterfully executed in the game, and provides a whole new set of puzzles to solve.

The other major change is that Link’s tools lack ammunition. Instead, Link has a stamina bar that slowly refills, and is shared by all of his rods, bombs, and ranged weapons. Link has access to most of his standard equipment very early in the game as well. This makes “A Link Between Worlds” a much less linear affair than previous games. Link has the ability to tackle dungeons in any order he likes.

The design of the dungeons is quite good, although some of the puzzle solutions felt a bit easy. Since the player has to do a lot less hunting for rupees and equipment, the game seems a bit short.

The artistic elements are reminiscent of the super nintendo, but trades sprites for nicely rendered 3d models. Although most of the game is seen from the top down, a few cut scenes switch to a perspective closer to the ground, and show off the 3DS’s horsepower. The actual 3d is possibly the best I’ve seen on the system. The terrain of Hyrule sinks into the screen, and enemies leap out. This is the first game where I honestly preferred to keep the 3d turned up the whole time.

“A Link Between Worlds” is a great game for players who are new to Zelda, and it rewards fans of the series with plenty of easter eggs, like Majora’s Mask, which can be found on the wall of Link’s House, but unfortunately, can’t be worn.

The game is a wonderful update on a classic, with an amazing twist ending. I highly recommend it.

Megaman I: Elegance in Design

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System: Nintendo NES/Famicom

Release Date: 1987

Megaman’s creator, Keiji Inafune recently funded a kickstarter for his new independent project, Mighty Number 9. Inspired by the buzz surrounding the new project, I went back and looked at the Blue Bomber’s original adventure with new eyes.

I didn’t have “Megaman” for my NES, but lots of my friends did, and I remember the games fondly from the early nineties. I also recall them being controller-threateningly difficult. I was curious to see how the first outing would stack up to my memories.

First of all, it is worth noting that the first game lacks the graphical and musical polish of the sequels. There are only six stages, and once the player determines the proper order for playing them, they fall rather quickly. Especially if you use the well-known ‘pause trick.’ Likewise, there’s not much of a story besides ‘You’re a good robot, they’re evil robots, go fight them.’ It’s the sort of fare from the era that is simple, but has been expanded upon greatly in the years since. For example, in the much-praised Megaman comic, put out by Archie Comics.

While I will agree that Megaman is hard, it was not quite so bad as I remember. Aside from a few of the end stage bosses, (and I am looking squarely at you, one-eyed rock monster) the deaths don’t feel cheap. Unlike other 8-bit era platformers, there is no countdown clock. The game gives you plenty of time to observe and experiment. Megaman really is the start of what later-generation indie developers would call ‘puzzle platformers.’ Most of the game can be best progressed by observing the challenge and discovering the pattern, or choosing the best Robot Master’s subweapon for the situation. For example, the flying torpedo enemies can often knock you into a pit when they explode, but freezing them rather than shooting them with your regular gun solves the dilemma. Most of the jumping puzzles can likewise be bypassed with the Magnet Beam.

This creates an odd challenge curve as the game actually gets EASIER as you gain new powers. The game’s non-linear nature lets you play the stages in any order, but the real challenge is figuring out an optimal path. each Robot Master has a weakness, and some levels, such as Fire Man’s stage, are practically impassable without the right weapon.

All in all, Megaman I is a solid entry in the NES’s roster of games. While its sprites and textures are a little less eye-popping than its successors, it is at the very least noteworthy for being the progenitor of something great, and a whole lot of fun. You don’t need to play it to get into the series, as there isn’t much of a story aside from the window-dressing standard to that generation, but it is certainly worth your time. Just watch out for those disappearing block puzzles.