Diddy Kong Racing

[youtube id=”ClFN–YZyjA” width=”633″ height=”356″]

Diddy Kong Racing

While Mario Kart has been king of kart racing games since 1992, it has seen many imitators and rivals.  Diddy Kong Racing was the first kart racer (that I know of) that Nintendo had done outside the Mario series. Though technically Rare (who made the Donkey Kong Country series) were the real team behind it.
Diddy Kong Racing - N64
 It featured a similar set-up to Mario Kart, with racing through colorful themed tracks with power-ups to use. The cast didn’t feature Diddy Kong’s famous uncle, but original characters. Most notable would be Banjo the bear (who would later star in Banjo-Kazooie) and Conker (the star of Conker’s Bad Fur Day) the squirrel.
Diddy Kong Racing - N64
What also set it apart from Mario’s was the ability to use hovercraft and planes. The game received a very positive reaction from critics and gamers alike. It’s often remarked as one of the most beloved N64 games, with many thinking it was superior to Mario Kart 64.
Diddy Kong Racing - N64
No real sequel was ever released as Rare left Nintendo for Microsoft. Though surprisingly they came back to develop a remake of Diddy Kong Racing for the Nintendo DS. It featured online-play, but Conker and Banjo were absent. Though ironically despite some improvements, the DS remake received a mixed reaction. It wasn’t considered terrible but it was vastly overshadowed by Mario Kart DS.

WWF No Mercy

[youtube id=”jRyyS08P7mU” width=”633″ height=”356″]

WWF No Mercy

In every console cycle there are always games that get lost in time for whatever reason, waiting for the day when an ardent fan would bring them back up to a volley of puzzled looks. When AKI Corporations’ WWF No Mercy debuted on the Nintendo 64 in mid 2000, people were already looking towards shinier, newer things that they were told would blow their socks off, destroy their wallets and take them to the elusive ‘Third Place’.

WWF-No-Mercy-N64

 

Concurrent to No Mercy‘s release, wrestling popularity was at its height, and kids everywhere wanted to be The Rock or Stone Cold Steve Austin ( including me). When WWF No Mercycame out my local Kmart’s game shelves were filled with nothing but copies of Waialae Country Club and the odd exorbitantly priced copy of Conker’s Bad Fur Day (something for another article to be sure), so at this point I was mighty wary of what I was getting into.  It’s handy then that No Mercy was both a fantastic representation of wrestling and a damn good game. In fact, it was one of my favourite games of all time!

WWF-No-Mercy-N64

All it took was five buttons of destruction and the loving cradle of the Nintendo 64 controller and you could be beating up a virtual Triple H in no time. Never mind the overblown simulators that wrestling games have become today, No Mercy had an easy to learn, yet robust grapple system which meant that all competitors were (usually) similarly skilled, moves were easy to pull off and wonderfully animated for the time.  There is something awesome about seeing your opponent somersault through the air rag-doll style after a well-timed clothesline, or smash into the canvas after a power bomb.

WWF-No-Mercy-N64

 

If you became good enough, simple strikes could be turned into match winning counters – all the more sweet when you could hit an opponent with their own finisher. When I say hit, I mean really hit!  No Mercy captured the big hits of wrestling so well and with such great sound effects that when I used to go town on friends with a set of steel steps or a ladder I almost felt sorry for them…almost! The grunts and groans heard during submission moves are also pretty awesome but in more of a, ‘I suddenly feel disturbed’  kind of way. The bell sound effect that rang when a player copped a low blow is still hilarious to this day.

WWF-No-Mercy-N64

 

But it wasn’t just the game play that made No Mercy stand out – we’d already seen a similar engine in the previous games Wrestlemania 2000WCW vs N W O Revenge and WCW vs N W O World Tour. It was the fact that the game is pure fan service with over 60 wrestlers to choose from, including some wacky retro long-retired ones. Nearly every wrestler came with their own unique move set and entrance video with authentic music and taunts. They even modelled the different arenas from the show for extra authenticity.

WWF-No-Mercy-N64

 

In addition to all of this is a wealth of content including a championship mode for every belt that had dialogue, branching paths and even choices you could make to influence alliances. A survival mode – where you were charged with defeating forty opponents without getting knocked out of the ring, custom multiplayer tournaments and one hell of a create-a-wrestler mode. I would spend hours crafting a character to my liking before loading it onto my memory card and heading to a friends place to take them on.

WWF-No-Mercy-N64

 

Of course, I’d love to call No Mercy a perfect game but there are a few minor things that have always irked me. If you played the game regularly you’ll remember a rather annoying glitch that randomly deleted your content. There are also other versions of the game where characters wouldn’t bleed. But hey, I’m willing to let a couple of troublesome glitches slide after so much fun, especially for something that’s still enjoyable to this day. So much so, thatNo Mercy remains a very popular choice for wrestling fans on the PC. Although, seeing as they’ve patched and modified the game so much to bring it up to ‘modern’ graphical standards it has become very much a different game – with some people going so far as to replace the older wrestlers with the current ones. Sacrilege!

WWF-No-Mercy-N64

 

So if you’ve read this far you may have worked out that I hold this game in rather high regard. For me, it’s a game that sits up there with Goldeneye for multiplayer on the Nintendo 64 and is easily the best wrestling game of all time. The gameplay holds up so well and there’s so much to do that even though I don’t watch wrestling anymore, I can still return to it with three friends and have as good an experience as I had 11 years ago.

South Park: Chef’s Luv Shack

[youtube id=”8PvC_UoRwuQ” width=”633″ height=”356″]

South Park: Chef’s Luv Shack

There are hardly any South Park games released on home consoles nowadays, but back in the late nineties a trio of titles based on the show were developed.

There was an FPS (South Park), a racing game (South Park Rally) and a party game (Chef’s Luv Shack).

Despite the difference in genres, they all shared one common trait – they were all at their best when played with friends.

South Park - Chef’s Luv Shack - N64

It isn’t just a recommendation that you play Chef’s Luv Shack with friends though – but almost a requirement.

Set up as a quiz show, the game has you competing with up to three other players in order to gather the highest number of points (or dollars) at the end.

It’s as shallow as a puddle in terms of modes, with no dedicated single player option (you can choose how many rounds you play, from 2 up to 8 – and that’s it) but fortunately the main body of the game is enjoyable enough.

South Park - Chef’s Luv Shack - N64

Each round consists of a few quiz questions and a mini-game. Questions fall into certain random categories, such as ‘people who eat people’, ‘aliens, assholes and anal probes,’ and ‘DNA holes.’

Sometimes questions are simple, and other times they’re purposefully random – making answering them a gamble. Getting one right wins you 500 points, and getting it wrong deducts the same amount.

You have to press a buzzer to attempt to answer the question as well, which inevitably makes thing very frantic indeed if there are several contestants.

South Park - Chef’s Luv Shack - N64

There are some variations to break up the question and answer format, such as the wheel of fortuitousness (where if you land on a certain section you get a points bonus or are allowed to play an extra bonus game) or a pressure round – where if you get enough questions right a huge anal probe/drill is rammed up Cartman’s…well, you can guess where.

As you might expect, the mini-games are where the most fun is to be had, and most of the challenges are incredibly simple but perfectly suited to simultaneous competitive play.

South Park - Chef’s Luv Shack - N64

‘Asses in space’ is an Asteroids clone for example, and has you destroying as many rear ends as you can before you lose all your lives. It’s easy to pick up, and with more than one ship on the screen things can get joyously messy.

A game that requires button mashing is ‘Eat this,’ which has you taking part in a pie eating contest. You have to press A and B to eat the pies, and the d-pad to get rid of the empty tins, and if you can get a rhythm is enjoyably hypnotic.

South Park - Chef’s Luv Shack - N64

One other example is the Game & Watch inspired Scuzzlebutt, which has you moving left and right to bounce falling water balloons off a trampoline onto a tree (that’s on fire and has scuzzlebutt trapped on top of it).

Although each game is basic, they each have a slightly different concept or control scheme behind them, and there’s enough of them to stop the game from getting dull too soon.

It goes without saying that you have to play it in short bursts to keep it fresh though, but brief plays are what it’s seemingly been designed for anyway.

South Park - Chef’s Luv Shack - N64

The game still holds up fairly well today as well – for two main reasons.

One is that the basic graphics actually depict South Park fairly accurately, and secondly there’s very little out there quite like this, even today. Sure, there are slicker quiz game experiences – but none of them have the cast of South Park.

The game admittedly isn’t as funny as the show, but there’s more than enough here to satisfy fans.

South Park - Chef’s Luv Shack - N64

Overall, the anarchic nature of the show is well suited to the party game format – and if you’re a South Park fan this is an essential purchase. It’s fairly cheap nowadays as well.

Mission Impossible

[youtube id=”kS-RU_xNqIw” width=”633″ height=”356″]

Mission Impossible 

Well known as being a crushing disappointment when it was released back in 1998, it’s difficult to know exactly who would want to play Mission Impossible nowadays.

What’s really surprising about revisiting it today though is how you can still see the potential underneath the myriad of design missteps. It wasn’t dubbed ‘dissapointing’ for nothing.

Based on the TV series rather than the movie, the game opens with that tune and with some truly shonky looking character introductions.

Mission_Impossible-N64

Supposedly made to look like each person is twirling towards the screen, they instead look like they’re suffering from some serious spasms.

Things don’t get any better with the opening cutscene, which is woodenly animated and incredibly ugly and angular. It was never going to look good next to modern titles, but it’s still noticeably poor.

The first mission is also dull, and lacks any of the verve or excitement of the opening of say, Goldeneye.

You’re tasked with infiltrating a frosty Scandinavian (well, I presume it’s Scandanavian – the game gives all of its locations fake names for some reason) base and destroy the submarine within it.

Mission_Impossible-N64

Sounds promising, but it’s almost insultingly simple. You go into a building once you’re into the base, knock out a guard, disguise yourself as him (face changing is a big part of the game) and then stroll to the exit.

You then get to the next section, and have to find some bombs (why you didn’t bring your own is never explained) and plant them onto the sub and escape.

This had the potential to be a tense and stealth-based affair, but the game allows you to alert all the guards in the complex and still survive.

Thanks to the huge health meter (that’s the fuse at the bottom of the screenshot above) you can take hit after hit and grab the bombs, attach them to the sub and escape with no trouble at all.

Mission_Impossible-N64

It feels cheap, and there’s no satisfaction to be had from defying the odds as it was so easy.

Still, it’s perhaps fortunate that stealth wasn’t an pre-requisite in the mission, as the controls are woeful if you’re hoping to avoid detection. The main reason for this is because it’s nearly impossible to control the camera.

You have to move your hand off the analogue stick and use the d-pad to rotate the camera, which is as clumsy as it gets.

This means the C-pad is used to select your items and the d-pad for the camera, whereas it should have been the other way around.

So after this limp opening you may be ready to give up hope, but the next mission is markedly better – or at least, it starts off well.

Mission_Impossible-N64

You must access the important areas of a Czech embassy while disguised as a waiter, while also having to rig the air ducts with gas bombs and assume the identity of the Ambassadors Aide.

The way you achieve the last objective is actually surprisingly enjoyable and amusing. You not only have to spike his drink, but also have follow him to the bathroom and knock him out (and then change your face to his).

Most amusing is the cutscene where you drag the unconscious aide into the bathroom. You see him being slowly pulled in, and it looks incredibly dodgy – this clip must have been included as a joke.

What even more hilarious is when you take out the female assassin in the same place. Look 4 minutes and 53 seconds into this video to see for yourself:

[youtube id=”h4yR1ebPKFM” width=”633″ height=”356″]

This section ultimately makes you feel like an undercover agent though, and is a great example of why people’s hopes for this game back in 1998 were so high.

Somewhat inevitably it’s followed by a highly tedious trudge through a poison gas filled labyrinth however, which requires you to know exactly which explosive boxes to destroy to get through.

Choose the wrong route and you’re pretty much finished, as you only have a limted amount of ammunition.

Mission_Impossible-N64

To make matters worse the game froze while I was playing this section for no reason whatsoever, but with the game’s reputation for being a buggy this was no surprise.

My recent time playing the game is a perfect demonstration of the game as a whole. Small, promising snippets followed by crushingly dull or frustrating troughs.

Mission Impossible is not a complete disaster, but is sadly a case of a potentially great license squandered.

Virtual Pool 64

[youtube id=”_QSHD_GgZXw” width=”633″ height=”356″]

Virtual Pool 64

In terms of content alone, Virtual Pool 64 is a success.

The big issue is whether this huge amount of content and modes is worth wading through today.

If you’re a pool fan it’s probably safe to say that it is though. Despite the game’s slightly dated visuals it plays a fairly solid virtual rendition of the ball potting sport.

The controls are undoubtedly the most important element of the game – without feeling suitably responsive and solid the main meat of the game would be largely worthless.

So it’s good to see they’re not bad. Not perfect by any means, but workable enough.

Virtual Pool 64 - N64

Moving your cue (seemingly held by the invisible man) is done with the analogue stick. Adjusting the cue angle is done with the right C-button, while holding the R trigger helpfully allows you to see things from an overhead perspective.

Hitting the ball is a little odd though. You have to hold A, and then pull back the analogue stick, pushing it forward to strike the ball. The strength of the shot depends on how quickly you move the stick.

It’s unintutive at first, but eventually you get used to it. You can see what the developers were going for at least, attempting to recreate the cue movement with the analogue stick.

You can then start picking through the games many options and modes.

Virtual Pool 64 - N64

There are nine variants of pool to choose from, and you can play in one-off matches, tournaments and more for each.

Four of them are the same thing but with a different number of balls though.

3-ball, 6-ball, 9-ball and 10-ball all see you potting the balls in numerical order, with the person to pot the last one the winner.

I personally have always found this version of pool to be a tad unfair (you can pot all but one ball and still be the loser), but I know many people who swear by it.

For everyone else you have the reliable, trusted 8-ball mode, with the option to play it US or English Pub style.

Virtual Pool 64 - N64

If you don’t how this version of pool works i’m surprised you’ve managed to read this far into this revisit. Suffice to say, it’s the one version of pool you should think of when someone mentions the sport to you.

You choose a colour/ball type (plains or stripes) and you have to pot all your balls and the black before your opponent.

Straight Pool, on the other hand, is pretty much pot any ball on the table that you can up to a certain pre-set total. A little mindless, but fun enough.

Rotation sees you attempting to rack up a score of 61 before your opponent with 120 points available on the table. This is one of the less enjoyable variants.

Bank Pool is even more torturous, only allowing you to pot a ball if you hit the rail during your shot.

Virtual Pool 64 - N64

One Pocket is slightly more interesting, and sees you elect a pocket from the far end of the table which you must then try to hit as many balls into as you can. This one is like a hybrid of Hungry Hippos and pool, but it’s still not quite as good as that sounds.

That’s quite a lot to get your teeth into, and if you’re in the market for a pool game on the N64 (well, you might be) you won’t get much better than Virtual Pool 64.

Conker’s Bad Fur Day

[youtube id=”KYTMebSC-fk” width=”633″ height=”356″]

Conker’s Bad Fur Day

As i’ve said a few times before, buying N64 games back when I was a kid was expensive. Very expensive. With price-tags of up to £60 per title, I could only afford to buy a game once every blue moon.

It just so happens that one game I did end up paying full whack for was Conker’s Bad Fur Day – and I think I ended up getting my money’s worth.

Starting of development life as the sickeningly twee looking and kid-friendly Twelve Tales: Conker 64 – developers Rare made a complete u-turn, deciding to make the game an adult, swear filled romp instead.

It was an inspired move, and the game has a freewheeling charm that’s still refreshing today as a result.

Conker’s Bad Fur Day - N64

Unlike the bloated collectathon that was Banjo Tooie (released around the same time and also developed by Rare), Bad Fur Day is a more linear and focused experience – and has aged better as a result.

I say focused, but the game boasts such an eclectic mix of settings and genres it’s hard to keep up.

Starting off with a bright and colourful farmyard stage, the game then has you climbing a mountain of faeces, and then throws you into a prehistoric world – and that’s just for starters.

The game has a deceptively simple way of tying all these wildly different concepts together though, and that’s through the use of ‘context sensitive’ buttons.

Conker’s Bad Fur Day - N64

Simply put, these are pads which you can stand on, press B, and are given a relevant tool to help you in your current predicament. Whatever that may be.

Teetering on a thin walkway with bats attacking you? Press B on the relevant spot, and your fire off a flamethrower that sees those bats bite the dust within seconds.

Need to attacks a giant boiler’s brass testicles? Press B, and you can whack them with a pair of bricks.

A deviously simple way to inject even more unpredictability into affairs, these buttons are fortunately used reasonably sparingly – otherwise they have made the game’s design feel a little too amateurish.

Conker’s Bad Fur Day - N64

What’s really surprising when looking back at the game is how simple many of the challenges are, and how they sometimes only feel fresh due to how they’re set up.

An arena based combat section is nothing new for example, but riding a velociraptor and making it tear terrified caveman limb from limb is.

The game is also bolstered by some truly stunning bosses, and to list them all here would be to ruin the surprise.

One is much better known than all the others though, and is still as mad, operatic and quotable now as the day the game was released.

In terms of presentation Bad Fur Day is still impressive as well. The graphics may now appear a bit angular and fuzzy by today’s standards, but the full speech used in cutscenes and the quality of the game’s script still stands up.

Conker’s Bad Fur Day - N64

The humour is strictly lowbrow of course, and there are perhaps a few too many film references and parodies – but it’s genuinely amusing stuff for the most part.

The game’s flaws still stand out though, and against modern titles they look even worse than they did back in 2001.

The camera is very poor, and you’ll be wrestling with is by using the C-buttons a lot of the time. In terms of difficulty the game can also be very unforgiving, with the latter parts of the war section in particular being controller-smashingly unfair.

Another element of the game that is bemusing is the lives system. When you lose all your lives you see a game over screen, but once you’ve started up your save file you simply start from the latest checkpoint where you were before. What’s the point?

Conker’s Bad Fur Day - N64

It’s nonsensical design choices like this that can end up making the game feel a little dated, but they’re not enough to stop the game from being worth playing.

Conker’s Bad Fur Day is still a genuinely brilliant experience, and one that can be as frustrating as it is laugh out loud funny.

If you can persist through the occasional low-points the game offers up a mad-cap quest that hasn’t been seen before or since.

It’s just a shame that the game is so damn rare nowadays, mainly due to being released right at the end of the N64’s lifespan.

Last Action Hero

Last Action Hero

Before he became the governor (or Governator, that is) of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger was one of the biggest box-office draws on the planet as the big-muscled action star of such classics as Commando, Predator, True Lies, and the first two Terminator films. However, during a brief foray into such comedies as Junior, Twins, and Kindergarten Cop, Arnie lost his edge a bit for the lighter roles and, arguably, almost ruined his legacy. Among these not-quite-hits was the critically derided meta-movie Last Action Hero.

last-action-hero-nes

But, of course, since it was a big-budget film with a big-name actor, it was worthy enough to have a video game developed for it as released on the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) console in 1993. And, like so many others, this license title proves to provide low-quality gameplay, the result of publisher Sony Imagesoft wanting nothing more than to turn a quick profit on a media commodity with a low shelf life in the popular culture of the time. This is not a video game that showcases imagination or innovation.

Gameplay

The first mistake this side-scrolling, two-dimensional (not even the third dimension of being able to walk into the “depth” closer to the background, but purely left and right or up and down) beat-’em-up is that the A button attacks and the B button jumps, which is not only in reverse from the legendarySuper Mario Bros. original NES game that set the golden standard, but also serves as a stark reminder as to what camp this cartridge belongs to: The crappy one with all the terrible games.

Oddly enough, though, in addition to the typical movement left and right, the player is also granted a move other than the basic punch: A kick, initiated by holding up when pressing A. This is a nice touch, it could be supposed. The player can also crouch, punch from the crouch, and try to attack in mid-air as well, with mixed results.

last-action-hero-nes

The player takes control of Jack Slater, the movie-star protagonist of the movie-related movie, in a plot that loosely follows the film. It actually, at first, seems to follow it rather closely, down to the oddly rendered cutscene still frames that depict shots from the cinematic experience. However, rather head-scratchingly, the NES game departs from the movie right around the second level, when the boy dreams of a medieval setting involving a Robin Hood-like environment in which the player must then traverse. This seems like a tacky random add-on.

last-action-hero-nes

Now, a rundown of the entirety of the gameplay of Last Action Hero the NES game: There are seven levels. Each ends with a boss. Each consists of either running to the end of a one-way path, or repeatedly going back and forth and ascending to higher levels. The enemies infinitely respawn. There are no points or other rewards for killing enemies, so they are best avoided. The best strategy for bosses is to crouch and repeatedly punch until the boss dies. Some projectiles can be dodged by crouching, some cannot. The player begins with three lives and a six-hit health bar for each, measured in hearts. Occasionally, health refills can be found. Continues are offered if all lives expire. Attacking range is short and hit detection is terrible. This is Last Action Hero on the NES.

Graphics

last-action-hero-nes

This video game actually looks really good for an 8-bit title on the NES; though, by 1993, the console was in its twilight years and developers had little excuse to not know how to best make the on-screen action look. Examples from the first level alone: The police cars are displayed in bright detail, the background cityscape is creatively drawn in little pixels denoting window lighting per building, these windows flicker in moody atmospheric effect to match the rain, the protagonist actually wears a two-color outfit and is thus not prone to the Monochromatic Character Syndrome that many NES figures were drawn in, and the action proceeds fairly smoothly with little-to-no flickering or slowdown. That being said, some portions look better than others, the enemies get repetitive, and no amount of good looks can make up for awful gameplay.

Sound

last-action-hero-nes

The music is not outright awful, but it hardly tries to break boundaries either. You can fairly clearly hear the buzzy and bumpy-grindy notes of the two square-wave channels on the hardware struggling to complement the non-ambitious whines and weak lilts of the triangle-wave piece. The effects are even worse, though; a series of hisses, thuds, and hollow bonks. With such a plethora of previous NES classic titles to have witnessed before, some with truly spectacular soundtracks, it is somewhat remarkable that the developers really did not try to at least grant the background tracks a broader range or add some punch to the punch effects.

Originality

By its very nature, a license game lacks originality. However, there is some flexible wiggle room that allows for potential innovation and creativity to nonetheless still be expressed; unfortunately, there is very little true vision to be found on this cartridge. The beat-’em-up gameplay mechanic is even more monotonous than the usual genre strictures, the lack of reward for dispatching of enemies really breaks the entire motivation for combat, and it may be the worst of the handful of Schwarzenegger-movie NES license games, turning in a magic ticket for one star out of five.

Tetrisphere

N64_Tetrisphere

Tetrisphere

Tetrisphere feels like the type of game that might have been bought over to a fair few consoles – at least the Playstation – but no. It’s an N64 exclusive, and maybe as a result hasn’t been remembered by many.

It hasn’t even been re-made, or ported to the Virtual Console. This is the type of the game that will probably be forgotten with time, if it hasn’t been already.

It’s a shame, as it’s not actually that bad. In fact, you could argue that it’s a hidden gem.

N64_Tetrisphere

One thing you need to enjoy this though, is to forget Tetris when going into the game. Despite taking up half of its name, that classic puzzler is a completely different experience to the one served up here.

If to emphasise that this a ‘brand new’ idea, the game starts by slinging thumping weirdo funk into your ears. This is a game with ATTITUDE, and it wants to make sure you’re aware of this fact.

This effect is ruined somewhat by the cutesy robot characters with googly eyes that you see throughout the game, but whatever.

N64_Tetrisphere

Also unlike Tetris, you’ll need to go through the tutorial if you’re going to understand the game. Because boy, is it complicated. Or so it seems at first.

Basically (and I say ‘basically with caution), you place different blocks onto a 3D sphere, and have to match up the same tiles with each other in groups of at least two. Due to the 3D element though, you can do this in terms of tiles on top of each other, or side to side.

Once you grasp this, and it takes a few minutes, you can start destroying large amount of blocks at once. You’re helped by the ability to drag blocks where you want – as long as there aren’t any in the way of course – and the helpful fact that the shadow of the block you’re about to place changes colour if it will start a combo.

N64_Tetrisphere

It’s hardly a pick up and play title. But credit to developer H20 Interactive, they tried to squeeze as much as they can out of the concept.

There’s a two player mode (strangely, none of my friends want to play the game), and a solo option with plenty of options.

Rescue mode has you opening up a hole in the sphere to rescue a tiny robot, Hide and Seek has you finding items hidden away in the play area, and there’s Time Trials and VS the CPU modes to round things off.

Considering that the game is fairly common (I picked mine up in Gamestation’s BOGOF deal for £1 when the shop was actually good), i’d say it’s worth checking out.

H20 Interactive made this and the rather good New Tetris, also on the N64, so they clearly knew what they were doing in terms of puzzlers (actually, they only made 3 games – the other was the divisive Aidyn Chronicles).

It’s not as brain meltingly addictive as Tetris, but at least it offers up something unique – and is therefore miles better than tripe such as Magical Tetris Challenge.

Banjo Kazooie

Banjo Kazooie

Format- N64

Genre- 3D Platformer

Banjo Kazooie-N64

I mentioned this in an earlier post, but I think Banjo Kazooie’s a bit of a classic.

When I hear people doing retrospectives on the subjects of N64 or developers Rare however, they usually dismiss the game as a turgid collectathon.

That is completely and utterly wrong in my opinion. So without further ado, here’s my hastily assembled defence for this unfairly maligned 3D platformer…

Banjo Kazooie-N64

This was my first title for the N64, and as a result I naturally have a bit more affection for it than others might do. This doesn’t mean that I think it’s flawless though – just that most of the game’s faults are blown mostly out of proportion by its critics.

First, there’s the criticism that the game is only really about collecting items. Balderdash. Although there are far more items to bag than in, say, Super Mario 64, there really isn’t a suffocating amount so that it dilutes the actual gameplay.

This was arguably a problem in Banjo Tooie where you had several different egg types – but the original has no such issues.

Banjo Kazooie-N64

Next, the Rare staple of sticking a pair of eyes of an object is dismissed as a lazy form of characterisation. The game may go a little further than needs to at times (Loggo the toilet i’m *shudder* looking at you), but Banjo Kazooie is primarily aimed at younger players, and in that context this process is quite charming.

The same goes for the garbled voices. I like them dammit! They fit into the feel of the game perfectly.

The way people moan about these googly eyed and strangely voiced characters you’d think the game was attempting to be a piece of high art. It’s not, so this criticism is more than a little unfair.

Finally, the large move-set of the game comes in for a fair bit of stick. It’s a criticism I can actually understand – compared to the simple but deep skill set of Mario, Banjo and Kazooie’s moves seem a little less natural.

Banjo Kazooie-N64

I personally don’t mind it, but other players may not like the way the game has more attack and jump types than is really necessary. A little streamlining might not have gone amiss.

In the standout parts of the game, the worlds you explore are nearly all wonderfully varied and lovingly designed. Each world is standalone, with different enemies and wildly different challenges in each one. They’re small but have a whole lot of things to do in them.

The game’s piece de resistance is definitely Click Clock Wood. A hugely ambitious multi-season romp, it stands out from the rest of the game every time I play it.

The other worlds are all fairly tight and well designed, but then this world comes out of nowhere and dwarfs them all. This world is the high point of the game, and in my view, the entire Banjo series. I haven’t finished Nuts and Bolts though, admittedly.

Finally, the game looks gorgeous. For an N64 game it still wows me, and I can’t see the game becoming out-dated or unplayable for a long time yet. The 360 hi-res version looks nicer still. The music is also great. Sure, it’s a probably a little too lively for some, but it’s catchy as hell and fits the game to a tee.

I probably haven’t convinced or indeed unconvinced anyone with the previous spiel, but it’s good to get it off my chest nontheless. Tomorrow – something a little more obscure.

The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask

The-Legend-of-Zelda--Majora-s-Mask

The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask

I had gotten and beaten Ocarina of Time shortly before this game came out. I couldn’t contain my excitement for awhile.
The-Legend-of-Zelda--Majora-s-Mask

Despite a lot of recycled graphics, Majora’s Mask is one of the most unique Zelda games ever. It’s dark, weird, has aliens, and is about the end of the world. Not exactly a typical adventure in Hyrule. Hell it’s not even set in our favorite Nintendo kingdom.

The-Legend-of-Zelda--Majora-s-Mask

The moon in Majora’s Mask used to freak me out. Wasn’t so scary looking far away in the sky when I played Ocarina.
The-Legend-of-Zelda--Majora-s-Mask
I didn’t like Deku too badly. Blowing bubbles and gliding were pretty lame.
The-Legend-of-Zelda--Majora-s-Mask
Goron Link was much better, strong but slow. Unless you were rolling, which was beyond awesome.
The-Legend-of-Zelda--Majora-s-Mask
Zora Link was the best. I loved zipped zagging through the water. Plus the twin blade fin attack was pretty neat.
The-Legend-of-Zelda--Majora-s-Mask
I do admit my disappointment with Oni-Link. I worked so hard to get every mask, and turns out he just plays like Adult Link in Ocarina….
The-Legend-of-Zelda--Majora-s-Mask
I did hate the 3-day system, crappy ways to save your game/inventory, and the fact that there were only 4 dungeons. It did have the best side-quests in the series, so I still love it.

Magical Tetris Challenge

Magical Tetris Challenge

Magical Tetris Challenge

Format- N64

Genre- Tetris, Disneyfied

Has the addition of Disney in any form ever made a game significantly better? Meteos: Disney Magic added nothing to the rather good gameplay of the original, just added some pointless storyline claptrap.

Even Kingdom Hearts, the game which is pretty much built on all things Disney, suffers from having too many cartoon characters to be even remotely understandable by outsiders. A little selective culling of Disney would do wonders there.

Magical Tetris Challenge

Magical Tetris Challenge is worse than those two though. Much worse. The first thing that hits you is its quite appallingly shambolic presentation. It feels like a SNES game for the most part, trying to cover up it’s low rent attitude with colour and Disney characters. It doesn’t work. A SNES version might have looked better actually.

The story mode is clealry the main focus, so naturally you play that first. You can choose from a few characters but the outcome is pretty much the same. Two animated freaks meet up and natter about nothing for a bit, and then suddenly Tetris is brought up in the conversation and – hey! – you’re playing Tetris, just like that.

Magical Tetris Challenge

It’s almost as if Tetris is somehow the solution to all these characters problem, like some kind of block based currency. It makes more sense than real life though – Tetris battles should be used everytime two groups disagree about something. That will, sadly, never happen though.

Regarding the actual block twisting part of the game, it works well enough – up to a point. There you are, twisting blocks, winning, laughing, and cavorting, but all of a sudden a freakishly shaped block appears.

Magical Tetris Challenge

You weren’t warned. You didn’t see it coming. A freakish tetronimoe outcast, it could take one of many forms. A weird zig-zag abomination, a ridiculously long one block beanpole or a ‘screw you’ lardarse square spanning many squares in width. It could be any of these, and they all mess your game up like no-ones business.

I can make it through the first stage of the story mode, and the second at a pinch, but not much further. The addition of freak blocks mean a tough game is made much more difficult. Balance is thrown out of the window.

There are some other modes, and somewhere there’s an option to actually play a proper game of Tetris. But really, the game fails in my eyes.

It’s not exciting and effective enough to be considered a colourful Tetris side attraction, and it doesn’t play the game straight enough to be considered a worthwhile Tetris game in of itself.

Fortunately I only spent 60p on it (haggled the seller down from £1) in a car boot a year or so ago, so the game being a failure doesn’t work out too badly on me. I would consider a purchase very carefully if you were to pay any more than that though.

Knife Edge

Knife Edge

Format- N64

Genre- On rails shooter

Knife_Edge

One of the main appeals of a lightgun game is, obviously, the gun itself. The heft of it, the feel – it kindles our instinctive love of tactility. It does for me anyway.

Now, take that lightgun away from the experience. And make the actual game underneath a bit rubbish. Now, my friends, you have Knife Edge on N64.

It’s games like this that I fear the most during these retro revisits – its blurry 3D graphics and generally archaic sensibilities are so dated that it can’t even muster up a modicum of retro appeal.

The game wasn’t considered much cop back when it was released, so by todays standards it’s, naturally, looking pretty poor.

Knife_Edge

My cart of the game has been scrawled over, and alongside the dark murky colour scheme on the cart’s label it’s almost as if it wants to be forgotten and unoticed. I can’t blame it.

The label is actually a good representation of the graphics in-game. Low-res browns are abundant, and the text during cutscenes is of the weird thin scrawly font type that was strangely popular in the N64 era.

You play as a fighter pilot, and view things from a first person perspective. Basically you move your crosshair with the analogue stick and fire away at baddies. That’s it. All the main handling is done for you. It’s a generally sluggish and un-involving affair, with only the boss battles the moments graced with any gravitas.

There’s little else to say, besides the music is like something from a nightclub nightmare. It would have fitted in well with that club from the Robocop movie – and that’s not a good thing.

I feel a bit sorry for Knife Edge really. It has little cult appeal, and it’s not even so bad it’s good.

A small mercy for Europeans such as myself though – the game had the subtitle ‘Nose Gunner’ stapled onto it for its US release, but not anywhere else. At least I didn’t have to suffer that completely rubbish name.

Wave Race 64

Wave Race 64 - Title Screen

Wave Race 64 (1996)
By: Nintendo EAD Genre: Racing Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Easy-Medium
Featured Version: Nintendo 64
Also Available For: Nothing
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

Wave Race 64 - Gameplay Screenshot 1
As I recall, the mid-to-late-nineties saw a mini-craze for jet-ski racing games emerge. Most of the better ones were monstrous arcade behemoths complete with actual jet-skis to sit on and be thrown around by as you play. If one game can be singled out as starting this craze, it must be WaveRace 64, which ironically has never graced an amusement arcade (to the best of my knowledge anyway). This, the second game of the series after the lesser-known GameBoy outing, was initially unveiled in 1995 and released a year later alongside the Nintendo 64 itself. Having such a game as a launch title alongside Super Mario 64, amongst others, you could be forgiven for thinking that it would be somewhat over-shadowed, but many gamers revelled in the amazingly realistic water-based racing action offered by Miyamoto-san’s other launch title, and with good reason.
Wave Race 64 - Gameplay Screenshot 2

 

Wave Race is obviously set in the world of jet-ski racing. There are four riders available for you to choose from (whose names you can change if you so desire) and each has their own Kawasaki jet-ski. These vary in their handling, acceleration, grip, collision stability, and maximum speed, and you can also customise each machine’s settings. Once a machine has been selected, there are four play modes to choose between – championship, time trials, stunt mode, and two-player versus. There are nine varied, circuit-based courses to race through and each race lasts for three laps, although this can be changed on the options screen. As was becoming common around this time, some of the courses are locked to start with too, but more on that later!

Wave Race 64 - Gameplay Screenshot 3

It’s not just racing you’re required to do around these courses, however. Each course has many buoys strategically positioned around it which you must steer round slamon-stylee – go round the left of yellow ones and round the right of orange ones – while continuing to hold off your opponents. Each buoy successfully passed increases your engine power level, which has five stages. The higher the level, the faster you go. If you miss a single buoy, however, your engine power level will fall back down to level zero. If you think that’s harsh, miss more than five of them and you’re automatically disqualified from that race and must start again! The perimeter of each course is marked by pink buoys. If you should stray outside the boundary, the ‘Course Out’ counter will begin. Unless you return to the course within five counts, you will be retired. There are also numerous obstacles positioned around the courses like crates, logs, and abandoned boats, and some of them feature tunnels, alternate routes and hidden shortcuts.

Wave Race 64 - Gameplay Screenshot 4

As mentioned earlier, most of the courses are locked at the start of the game and the only way to access them is to race in the championship mode. You are able to practise first in a small area called Dolphin Park, but once you feel ready, it’s time to race! There are three different difficulty levels, but only one can be chosen for your first championship – normal. This mode is contested by three other riders over six courses. Your finishing position earns you points and if you have most points after all six courses have been raced, you can then move up a level. If you can then end up on top after the seven courses of the hard mode, the ultimate challenge awaits- the expert mode. This mode is contested over eight courses (all of them except Dolphin Park). Win this mode and you win the game!

Wave Race 64 - Gameplay Screenshot 5

As the difficulty level increases, so will the speed of your opponents, as well as the number if buoys and other obstacles on each course. If, however, you manage to finish the game, thereby unlocking all the courses, they will be available to race on in the other game modes. Time Trial mode allows you to race on any of the courses minus the other racers. There are still three difficulty levels and the object is obviously to get the fastest lap and course times possible. The Stunt Mode also allows you to select any course, this time including Dolphin Park. The emphasis here, however, is not so much on speed but on points, which are obtained by performing various stunts and tricks using the ramps if any are present on your chosen course. If there’s not, you’ll have to create your own ramps! Different stunts will obviously give you different scores, but you are also judged on your accuracy.

Wave Race 64 - Gameplay Screenshot 6

Courses in Stunt Mode are also populated by numerous rings. Passing through one awards you with fifty points and each one you pass through consecutively following that will increase your score by a further fifty points. Some of the rings are even submerged. These can be passed through by performing a submarine dive, which is done by pointing your jet-ski’s nose downwards when jumping from a ramp. If done correctly, you will hit the water nose-first and travel underwater for a short distance. This technique is also useful for avoiding some of the obstacles that litter the courses, particularly in the expert mode. The last way to earn points is by the amount of time you have remaining when you finish the course. Each tenth of a second gives you five points.

Wave Race 64 - Gameplay Screenshot 7

Like so many arcade style racers, WaveRace is an immediately enjoyable and playable game. This is thanks, in part, to its simplicity, but to give that all the credit would be detracting from the game’s other excellent features. Most notable among these is the authentic way in which the jet-skis behave on the fluctuating ferocity of the water. The physics are spot-on which makes for some exciting racing but the machines also handle well and the slalom style of play is both original and makes things more interesting. If there’s one aspect of WaveRace that’s more famous than any other, though, it must be the incredible graphics. It’s not hard to see why they garnered such attention either. The races are set at different times of day and the colour of the water changes accordingly. In normal light it’s clear blue but at sunset it’ll be orange or pink and at night, black. Whatever colour it is, it looks stunning and surprisingly close to the real thing and behaves in a convincing fashion too – many maintain to this day that it’s the most impressive water in a game ever!

Wave Race 64 - Gameplay Screenshot 8

Discounting the water, Wave Race’s graphics are still no slouch by any means. There’s some excellent lens-flare, some awesome reflections on the water, and some nice effects such as the odd dolphin or killer whale swimming past, but it’s the courses that impress the most. Each of them looks distinctive even though they are all water-based, and most are set in interesting locations. Besides the obligatory sandy beach type courses there is a course set in a marshy area complete with ducks and reeds, and a course where you race around a giant tanker, for instance. This is also a pretty loud game! The best way to describe the music would probably be as bright, cheerful, summery music – the kind of stuff you’d expect to find in a game with a setting such as this one. The sound effects, while not particularly plentiful, are equally superb. The jet-ski engine noise is perhaps the loudest sound effect ever heard in any game. My N64 is connected to my hi-fi and when the jet-skis are revved, the graphic equaliser is permanently at maximum! Other effects are realistic such as impact noises, and there are two announcers – one female one on the presentation screens and an enthusiastic yet somewhat repetitive one is also vocal throughout play.

If there’s one thing that you can pretty much always rely on Nintendo for, it’s the very high quality of their games. The presentation here is of outstanding quality and the game really is an amazing experience. What with the lush graphics, relaxing music, the water constantly splooshing and tossing you around, you can almost feel the spray in your face! It’s not all superficial either, the game is immersive and thrilling to play and is one of the few videogames I’ve played which is more of an experience than a mere game. There really isn’t any bad points here. The only possible criticism you could level at it is that it’s so good you’ll probably have seen all it has to offer in an alarmingly short period of time, but it’s so enjoyable to play that even if it didn’t have a top-notch two-player mode, you’d still keep returning to it for years.

RKS Score: 9/10

Snowboard Kids 2

Snowboard Kids 2 Cover
Snowboard Kids 2 Cover

Snowboard Kids 2 review by metalfighterriku

Overall score:
7.5 out of 10

Overview:

Snowboard Kids 2 is a fun party racing, mario-kart-style game, with a cute story mode and tons of cool options like unlockable boards, costumes, and characters.

The storyline for SBK2 is simple: Some stupid bratty green demon kid named Damien is wrecking havoc around Snow Town, and it’s up to a bunch of snowboarding 10-year olds to stop him!

SBK2 hosts the same cast of characters as the original, such as Slash, Jam, Linda, Tommy, and Nancy, but also adds a few new characters like Wendy and Damien. Each character has different attributes: speed, trick, and all-around, giving them advantages or disadvantages in certain courses and even boss stages.

The game consists of racing through 12 crazy courses, taking snowboarding off the slopes and into jungles, houses, and even outer space! In story mode, you occasionally run into a boss stage, where you race against or battle a boss character to keep it from reaching the finish line.

There’s also a variety of cool items, power-ups and weapons to use throughout the courses. There’s fan propeller that speeds you up, and a rocket that shoots you super fast for a short period of time. Some weapons send your opponent tumbling over, like the bomb and the glove, while others can immobilize your opponent for a few seconds, like the frying pan that flatens everyone and the parachute bomb that suspends a character in midair.

In order to use weapons and items you need money to purchase them. You can get money by collecting coins that are scattered around the course or by doing tricks. There’s also an item you can use to steal money from your opponents, but can be really annoying when used against you.

The story mode let’s you walk around Snow Town, which is basically a small strip of random buildings. There’s a board shop where you can purchase new boards using the money you acquire from racing the course. There’s also a schoolhouse, where you can change your character, an internet cafe, where you can view all the characters, course, boards, and songs you’ve unlocked, and there’s even a paint shop, where you can change the design on your board.

Snowboard Kids 2 is available for N64 or its emulators.

Fun Factor:

Its super cuteness, bright colorful cute big-nosed characters, and simple cartoon-style party racing gameplay is what makes this game fun to play!

Difficulty:

The game is simple but can be quite challenging when a massacre of items and weapons are being used against you. The boss fights in story mode can be difficult and sometimes annoying, especially when they scatter debris for you to trip over. Some characters use special boards in certain stages, making it difficult to pas them without the aid of a special board. After beating story mode, it gives you the option to play it on expert. I found the dinosaur in Crazy Jungle to be extremely difficult in normal mode, even with the dragon board, so I imagine on expert it is probably impossible.

Replayability:

Very high. I played this game over countless times because its a simple racing game with not much thinking to it.

Music:

8 out of 10. One of the things I love about SBK2 is the music. All of the course tracks are catchy and fun to listen to. Some of my favorites are Jingle Town, Linda’s Castle, and Turtle Island. There’s even a channel in Wendy’s Internet Cafe, in story mode, that let’s you listen to all these wonderful tracks!

Graphics:

7 out of 10.  For its time, SBK2 had awesome graphics. The characters were a bit polygonal but cute, smooth, and colorful. The background enviroments looked flat, but everything else was nicely done like the buildings and the water. One stage had flying fish and there was even a stage where you snowboard on a giant piano that made sounds when you jumped on it. Really cool!

Control:

The controls were very easy to understand. You start off a bit slow but then pick it up quickly. Speed characters are more difficult to maneuver than trick and all-around type characters. Doing tricks was also very easy to do, depending on which direction you have the joystick when holding down and letting go of the A-button lets you do different tricks.

Conclusion:

If you’re into racing games like Mario-Kart and Diddy Kong Racing and aren’t really big on graphics, but love cute looking characters in cartoony environments, then you should check this game out!