My experience with home video game systems have been a strange, annoying, and fruitlessly money-draining endeavor for me over the years. Like most, I was heavily into video games as a kid, and like some, the general affinity has stayed with me through what technically is my adulthood. Problem is, I'm one of the most easily frustrated players to ever hold a controller...if I can't get somewhere in a game within minutes of popping it in for the first time, its immediately exiled to my growing closet of things I never should have bought in the first place.
The same can be said for entire systems that I've owned. For me, the internet has always been a place to turn subtle and passing hobbies into all-encompassing ridiculous bouts of obsession. I doubt my personal materialistic stock would be so filled with useless action figures and books about black magic if I didn't have the internet, always ready to supplement my inane interests du jour with more crap with one little type-out of my credit card number. This extended, with quite an unfortunate impact on my bank account, to the wonderful world of video games.
A few years back I got into the nasty habit of purchasing video game systems I had no intent on ever using. In a few weeks, I managed to purchase an N64, a PSX, a Colecovision, a Sega Master System, Sega CD/32X, and Sega Saturn. For the brunt of these systems, I owned no more than 1-2 games. So while I may have had the fan-acclaimed Sega Saturn, my only outlet for its ability was a wonderful title called 'Nightmare Monsters', in which your only goal was to make Frankenstein slowly punch some kind of mummy. For the PSX, one of the only games I owned was Transformers: Beast Wars, which I'd expect is widely regarded as the quite-officially worst video game ever made.
Even old Atari consoles, NES, SNES and the now-obsolete Sega Dreamcast were part of my gaming army. The problem here was that I ultimately had more systems than games, so none of these systems really got their fair chance to impress me. Personally, I think the driving force behind all this was my sick desire to see an entire table of video game consoles hooked up to one 25" television. The idea that I could create such an enormous fire hazard with just one extension cord and a few red wires was nothing to balk at. It got to the point where I'd go to Toys'R'Us to return Star Wars figures I bought years prior just to get enough store credit to buy another system I'd never play. Throughout all this, the only system which has thoroughly survived my manic spending and non-playing is the Nintendo 64.
I've always been partial to Nintendo, but before any gamers disagree, I'm definitely not saying this is the best system. Especially in today's market. But even in yesteryear, its tough to ignore the immense library the Playstation etched for itself, effectively turning it into the 'next generation Nintendo system.' Dreamcast has a lot of fans, even the Saturn has been met with cheers from some of the more experienced gamers. I, however, am no experienced gamer. My mentality with these things is pretty much on-par with any eight-year-old's: I want it colorful, somewhat easy, and constantly fun. If its challenging, I'll look for a cheat code. If it takes too long to get to the cool stuff, I'll subconsciously divert my attention to a dark paint splotch on the wall and stop playing. And heaven forbid I find out that I missed some essential power-up in a level I already beat...that's grounds for the cartridge's immediate incineration.
But my experiences with the N64 have, generally, been pretty good. Though by my fast count I only own eight titles, I've been able to milk the system's play value for years now, to the point where its been a staple ingredient for those nights when my friends and I are too drunk to entertain the idea of going out and facing the world. For us quasi-suburbanist sloths who find more merit in a pint of Guiness than a beautiful sunset, such nights occur pretty frequently. I've donated my N64 to our usual apartment hangout, its a great way to be able to hang out with your friends without having to actually talk to them. Its not that the people I hang out with aren't interested in spirited religious debate or a discussion of current world news, its just that we're too sloshed and disinterested in each other's lives to really care. So, this N64 really promotes camaraderie. It gives everyone an excuse when they're not paying attention.
Well, since I only have eight games, I thought I'd do a quick review of 'em all, in one shot. The reason for this finds its roots squarely placed within how bored I am tonight, but for those of you who're considering purchasing an N64, maybe you can use the info. Considering that Nintendo will soon unveil their latest magnum opus of video game technology in the Game Cube, chances are good that the N64's system and games' price range will fall dramatically into the bargain realm. And believe me, a somewhat-decent game at half price will make you twice as happy as a good game with the big price tag. We're all suckers for a steal. That's how people who do nothing but make and sell mod chips can afford such nice cars.
Mario 64: If I was only allowed to play one game for the rest of my life, it'd be Tetris. But if Tetris already got picked by the shortest kid on the line, Mario 64 would be my choice. The flagship game of the N64 has withheld the test of time and remains one of the most complete, entertaining games I've ever seen. You know you've got a great game on your hands when there's 4-5 ways to beat each of the 30+ levels. Plus, it really makes things come full circle for those of us who grew up with the older Mario games. If you were ever wondering what it'd look like to trample one of those mushroom creatures from any direction, here's your answer.
Most of the levels are completely unique from each other. Some entail a lot of maneuvering or jumping. Others are more race-like, and yet others more enemy-driven. There's something here for everyone. The greatest part is that, since you can replay any of the levels you've beat at will, its almost like you've got a mini-library of games in one cart.
Graphics & Play: Still some of the best N64 has offered. They were able to pull off a conversion from the standard 2-D platformer to a 3-D environment with keeping the best aspects of both: yes, you can go in pretty much any direction at will, but things remain steady and focused enough that you won't get the same kind of frustration or action downtime some RPGs are infamous for. Mario's boosted his abilities for the game, too. Aside from doing different kinds of jumps, he's able to cue wild theme music whenever he wears a winged hat, which coincidentally also lets him fly around while screaming. He's also learned that the best way to recover from enemy attacks is by exploiting a designer-oversight by going for a swim. Compile that in with the sheer amount of different types of enemies and worlds found here, and you've got one hell of a way to dish out 20-30 bucks.
Best Stuff: There's this level in a snow world where Mario has to return a baby penguin to its ridiculously oversized mother. I'm not kidding, the mama penguin is literally 2.5x taller than Mario, and can talk. Its situations like these that make video games so great. Its an escapist world, and there's no further escape than conversing with a giant, panic-stricken penguin about its lost kid. Anyway, the best part of this game comes when you find the baby penguin. If you try hard enough, you can drop the penguin off the edge of the cliff, sending it to a premature grave. You're not going to get a star at the end of the level, but you'll feel so bad and rebellious every time you walk past that giant freak of a mother penguin later in the game.
Worst Stuff: The lava pits. Yeah, they're still around. But its not quite the way it used to be. In the original Super Mario Bros., when our hero falls into the lava, his body contorts to an inquisitive 'oops!' pose as he jumps through the floor and dies. It was annoying when it happened, but the suffering was quick and soon forgotten. In this game, the effects of Evil Lava aren't so matter-of-fact. When Mario steps into the fire goo, he jumps 30' in the air while screaming and holding his ass in a show of discomfort. But it takes more than one drop into the lava to kill him off. The thing is, unless you've mastered his moves, chances are good that this process will repeat itself 3-4 times until Mario's power meter finally tells him its time to die. In some cases, Mario's inevitable death takes over five seconds, which by video game standards is as close to torture as you can possibly get. Since we bond so much with the characters we play, these lava pits are a particularly excruciating entity. Falling into lava pits usually happens as a result of carelessness, so extending the amount of time and the animation in which Mario bites the bullet just serves to drill in our heads how stupid and clumsy we really are.
But, on the plus side, the first main enemy is a giant bomb who literally rambles off the Great American Novel after you defeat him, which meets its climax when he explodes into a floating star. If you like it surreal, this is your deal. Let's move on...
Pokemon Snap: I had no choice in getting an N64. Nintendo are the only licensed distributors of ridiculous Pokemon regalia. I don't care if all of Sega's games came with winning lotto numbers or instructions on how to make clever rocket packs, I couldn't possibly deny my primal urge to float around taking pictures of Pikachu. Pokemon Snap, admittedly, is a game meant to be played by people too young to read the words on the screen. In my defense, its probably a good game for the mentally handicapped, and I scored really poorly on the math section of my SATs.
The game is simple enough: aim, zoom in, and snap pictures of wild Pokemon as you work your way through a handful of different landscapes and parts of the world. To make things a tad more challenging, you can lure Pokemon by throwing apples at their head, (apparently the universal food choice of the creatures) or really shake shit up by nailing them in the back with a 'pester ball,' which explodes into a cloud of purple dust and generally knocks the Pokemon down, screaming in agony. I love kids games. Keeping you involved is the fact that you have to do certain things to see some of the more desirable Pokemon. For instance, if you keep throwing apples at a lowly Magikarp in one of the levels, it'll continually be mishandled by Mankeys until its thrown into a waterfall and evolves into the mighty Gyrados. In another level, throwing apples at Charmeleon's stomach will knock it into a pool of seething magma before it transforms into the giant Charizard. Hmmm. I think the appeal of this game has less to do with virtual photography and more to do with beating the shit of out cute little animals with limited vocabularies. If you like Pokemon, feed Pikachu apples. If you hate Pokemon, kill him with the things. The game works on so many levels!
Most of the people I've shown this game to consider it grounds to terminate their friendships with me. Believe it or not, my usual compatriots aren't quite as sadistically juvenile as I am, and the thought of Pokemon in any other form than an inappropriately sexual animated .gif makes them sick. But yeah, if there ever was a game intended strictly for children, you're looking at it. When your main goal is to get Muk and Jigglypuff as close to the center of the frame as possible, that's easy to understand.
Graphics & Play: The graphics are excellent - the worlds feel very 'real,' and since you're in constant movement, I've actually felt the same kind of motion sickness one would riding a simulator or watching a video of a roller coaster on a big screen. I hesitate to call feelings of nausea a good point, but the effort's there. If you can bypass your instinctual belief that Pokemon sucks, the levels are a good time waster.
Best Stuff: Having already defeated the game, the times I play it now are almost exclusively to pound Pokemon with apples and pester balls. The photo shootings are an afterthought at best. I kind of view this game as a sort of National Geographic special on the fictitious Pokemon world. Only its much cooler than real National Geographic specials, since at a whim you can choose to annoy the fuck out of the animals on the screen. And believe me, you haven't lived till you peg Chansey right between the eyes with a ripe apple. For the 13 bucks I spent on it, that's worth the price of admission alone. (tips on getting games cheap at the end of the article)
Worst Stuff: I have to admit, if you're not a Pokefan, you'll despise this game with quite a passion. In comparison, if this game was titled 'Monkey Snap,' and entailed taking pictures of different monkeys on different types of land, I'd absolutely hate it. That's because I've spent very little time growing fond of monkeys. Likewise, if seeing an Electrabuzz pound its fists against a wall for no reason doesn't excite you, you will hate this game, since there's not much else to do in it. Its also never a good sign when you can effectively cover the entire game in under 45 minutes. Like I said, if you're not one with Ho-Oh, avoid at all costs.
Next up is a game I don't actually own, but have played enough nonetheless to warrant pitching in my two cents.
Mortal Kombat 4: Actually, I just realized that I do own this, which goes to show how much I personally care for fighting games. The only one that's made any lasting impact on me was Street Fighter II for the SNES. The rest are all just 'there'. There's a few reasons for this. I'm the kinda gamer who likes action, but doesn't like to have to pay complete attention for the entire time during playing. You can't just drop your controller in the middle of a war with Shang Tsung, he'll probably seize the opportunity to morph into a tiger and eat you or some shit. Furthermore, up until recently, most of my game playing has been a solo affair. Fighting games are best played with or against friends...somehow, making Liu Kang turn into a dragon and breathe fire on Rayden just isn't quite as fun if you don't have someone next to you to gloat about it to. As a general rule, if you can use the term 'in your FACE!' out loud during a fighting game, you're just not playing it the way you should.
Last month my friends and I played this game quite a bit. You all know the drill here, no need to explain to you the game's purpose, which could be summarized quite nicely in saying 'kick the shit out of people.' Mortal Kombat 4 doesn't offer much that we haven't seen in the previous games of the genre, but there's a lot of characters, and thus, a ton of ways to rip out your opponent's spinal cord. If there's any game that's begging for a create-a-player option, its this one. Imagine being able to create your boss or annoying girlfriend as a surrogate opponent. The potential for the ultimate stress reliever is right here. If I could orchestrate a battle between Baraka and my lazy mailman, I'd be a very happy gamer. Until such time, beating up Princess Kitana with extreme prejudice will have to suffice.
Best Stuff: Arguably, the graphics in Mortal Kombat are superior to Street Fighter, but don't discount other factors to explain its mega-success and ultimate domination of the fighting genre. Its all in the fatalities, my friends. This is one of the only games ever made, and the only one I've played, where your biggest reward for playing the game well is to brutally murder someone. Since I play it so infrequently, when it comes time to finish off my opponent, I just hit every button on the controller with reckless abandon. One out of every six hundred times, I land a fatality. Victory is so much sweeter when you uppercut your adversary into a pool of acid. That's a life lesson, by the way, it goes way beyond video games. Don't just win. Decimate.
Worst Stuff: I could be wrong on this, but from what I've seen, once you've mastered the character of Noob Saibot, you are absolutely impossible to defeat. Here's a guy who jumps through the floor only to appear on the other side of the board a second later with your balls in a fistlock. How do you field an enemy like that? Plus, the damn guy is so quick, you can't even tell which of your character's limbs are being broken until its too late. This stresses one of the more unfortunate aspects of MK: some of the characters are clearly better choices than the rest. I also hate the fact that for this edition of the game, Shang Tsung is 30 years younger, wears a painter's cap, and appears to be under the false notion that he's a living, breathing man-cat. His fighting stance looks like something out of Cats more than a textbook fight preamble. The lack of a Goro Factor is also a bad sign, but if you're the type who enjoys disembodiment, pick it up. In my view though, there's better games to waste your money on.
Next up, my most recent acquisition. Just located this 'gem' at Best Buy for the esteemed price of ten dollars. That should've tipped me off on some of the game's little tiffs with the quality department, but you know how it is. I had to buy something, and there's only so many recordable CDs one can own before they begin to realize that they haven't used their CD burner in five months.
Wipeout 64: This game's unique level of SUCKô has given it quite the distinct reputation of a laugh riot with my friends and I. I'm not kidding, we literally play this game so we can giggle about how awful it is. My theory is that some disgruntled video game programmer out there became so disenchanted with the current state of video gaming that he sought to make a game so brutally reprehensible that it alone could halt gaming progress for years and years. Thankfully, five people bought Wipeout 64, so his plans never made it to fruition.
I don't know, I'm by no means any kind of expert on this subject. Does anyone out there recall reading a positive review of this game? I don't mean by some guy who felt bad because Nintendo sent them the thing for free to review. I'm talking real reviews. I refuse to believe that anyone who's given this game a minute of their life thinks its a worthwhile buy. While playing it, you get the feeling that absolutely no post-mockup editing went into the thing, since there's so many little problems that should've been corrected prior to its release.
Its a hovercraft racing game in the same vein as the rest - you go really fast, you've got to beat the other 'cars', and you can pick up power-ups to throw them off track or boost your speed. Simple enough...so how'd they fuck it up? Well, first things first: going around a turn without hitting the wall is the ultimate impossible mission. I'm serious, you just can't do it. Every single time, the lightest tap on the controller sends you spiraling into wall after wall. This wouldn't be anywhere near as annoying as it is if you didn't tend to blow up after hitting the walls a few times.
Then, there's the actual game. The boards might look a little different, but for the most part, they feel exactly the same. A plight such as this might be overlooked if the boards were any good, but no such luck. I have another working theory in regard to this game: its really not a racer. The instructions are wrong. You're supposed to be saving a princess. Its the only way to explain a game that seems to go out of its way to be impossible to navigate in a race. Then, there's the cars. You get to pick from a few different, but again, they're all the same. Maybe there's a few tiny nuances that separate them from being identical, but you're still gonna crash into the wall and not have any insight as to what you're doing no matter what car you pick, so its a moot point anyway. We're sadists, so we've continued to play it. But I couldn't in good faith recommend this to purchase even with the clearance pricetag of ten bucks. Its that bad.
As I write this, I check out the reviews on Amazon. What do I see? Its average customer review is 5 stars. I guess I shouldn't be too surprised. After all, I once tried to convince someone that the plot of Face/Off was realistic. Someday I'm going to find out that the general public's view of the things I've reviewed are the polar opposite of what I've said. Eh, trust me on this one. There's far better racing games, one of which we'll get to in just a few minutes.
Graphics & Play: When this game came out, I guess the graphics were considered pretty good. Today, they're most certainly not. Think Starfox for the SNES, only too fast to really tell when something looks good or when something looks shitty. The controls are easy enough to work and won't require any special effort by your thumb or index finger.
Best Stuff: If you screw around with the various options, there are some boards well-hidden in the game that aren't impossible to play and are actually quite fun to race on. When you find those boards, do let me know. Seriously though, some parts of the game bring out its best qualities: good gameplay even in a really fast-paced environment. The fact that one of your weapons makes the entire track have an earthquake is a nice bonus, too.
Worst Stuff: One of the biggest selling points on this game was its full-scale soundtrack. In truth, its a group of 5-second loops taken from the songs of a full-scale soundtrack. The main track consists of some techno music voice constantly repeating 'BANG ON'. Its about as timeless as it sounds, ut that's not the biggest blight on society this game produced. Okay, one of the power-ups you come across frequently allows your hovercraft to speed into autopilot for three seconds. Problem is, it stops so abruptly that you're guaranteed to crash as soon as the controls are returned to you. Since the power-ups amount to a bunch of symbols on the track that you can't see much less decipher, its hard to know when you've hit the autopilot one. So, in your efforts to get ahead in the game, even the power-ups halt you. But, assume you're a master player, the only one on the planet who could come out of autopilot without crashing. They've got you covered: as you come out, the word 'DISENGAGING' flashes on the screen in caps lock right over where your hovercraft is. So, not only are you facing an impossible task, you're also trying to do it with words covering the part of the screen you need to see. Glorious. Avoid. At all costs.
If you want a good racer, get this next one instead.
Mario Kart 64: Let's assume there was a God. I don't want this to turn into a religious debate, so I'll disregard dinosaurs, the fact that the world was covered only in water for millions of years, and evidence of microorganisms on other planets for the sake of argument. If there is a God, let's assume there is a heaven. Assuming that, I'll bet any amount of money that every fucker up there plays this game 24 hours a day.
Yes, its that good. Mario Kart is the ultimate party game, giving you and your friends the chance to not only compete against each other in races as your favorite Nintendo characters, but also the chance to shoot turtle shells at their engines, or in the best cases, shoot three turtle shells at their engines. Maybe I just like things simple, and make no mistake about it, this is a simple game. You don't have to master it, once you've played for a few minutes, you know all the tricks. That's a cool aspect of it, since you can play with someone new to the game without too many problems with the experience factor. You drive around, you throw shells, you avoid bananas, and you try not to do excessively stupid things like driving into lakes or off the side of space stations. Video games don't need to be incredibly drawn-out and involved to be classics, and this just proves it. For the solo player, the computer-driven characters work independently and uniquely enough from each other so that it won't seem boring or tedious to play. A strong, strong recommendation from me. And I'd assume (assume of course, I'd never get involved with such things) that this is a favorite amongst stoners. Making a monkey drive a car and use lightning clouds to electrocute Toad definitely lends itself to the stoner atmosphere. This game and a bag of Doritos must be invaluable in dorm rooms.
Graphics & Game Play: The graphics won't 'wow' you in this day and age, but they don't need to. I'm satisfied enough to see Wario drive a car. I don't need him to have perfect eyebrows to really enjoy it. The game play is really easy after just a few minutes of play, but the boards are so different from each other and vast enough in size to allow for plenty of creative maneuvering. Its like playing Mario 64, only every character can afford a car and have decided to put aside their personal differences for a fun little race.
Best Stuff: The actual racing is by no means the best part of the game - that honor goes to the awesome Versus Battle, where you and your friends forget about being the first one to reach the finish line, and instead simply drive around picking up weapons with which to kill each other. Its the greatest time waster ever, and nothing gets you more emotionally involved with a video game than the chance to make your friends serve the ultimate indignity: kill someone off quick, and they'll have to sit there doing nothing until the rest of you finish. Actually, that's not quite true. If you get knocked out of the battle, you turn into a rolling bomb. But still, the thought is there. The clever obstructions are pretty neat as well. All in all, a perfect choice for N64 beginners. Or experts. Or karate masters.
Worst Stuff: This isn't really bad so much as it is funny, but the voices in the game can get on your nerves. As a throwback habit back from my days of playing Super Mario Bros. 2, I always pick the Princess as my character. I swear, that's the reason. It has nothing to do with subliminal realizations that I was in fact born the wrong sex. But the Princess is by far the most annoying character to watch on-screen, since her tagline, 'here we go!', sounds more like a 50-year-old fledging transvestite than the queen of Mushroom Kingdom. Another point of interest is found in the voice of the Wario character. Nobody picks Wario. Ever. So while he's in the race, he's a computer character almost always far in the background. While your playing, you'll occasionally hear someone crash followed up by Wario's trademark cackling. Its a real big distraction, because mentally you're geared to always want to turn around and see what shenanigans the evil Mario clone is up to. Then, you've got to make a choice. Win, or watch Mario pick on Yoshi. Its a tough call, and I like my games simple. Other than that - fantastic game.
Just three more games left to do, as I realize this is probably long enough to warrant two pages. But you know, I think about how I like to browse the net. I usually have a cig or a cup of something in one hand, so I hate reading through sites that make you click a thousand times to finish an article. I like to envision this site's readers sitting with a cup of coffee in one hand, with their pointer finger on the other hand squarely placed on the keyboard's down arrow. Like nicely trained monkeys. So we'll stick to one page, for your benefit. Its not like those banner ads are making me rich anyway. Coincidentally, I can't figure out how we landed those Fleer baseball card ads. I'd think the general theme of this site is 'crap for people too geeky to like sports'. I could be wrong though, people keep asking me to write about the XFL. But I can't, because watching football ranks right up there with trying to bite my shoulders on the list of things I'd most like to do this decade. Needless to say, you won't see any sports games here on the N64 list, unless you count racing turtles and killing Scorpion 'sports'.
Alright, a note on the next two games. While I enjoyed them both, they've already got sequels out. I've not played the sequels, so I can't comment on them. If you're one of the three people who might use this as a sort of reference sheet in buying N64 games, you may want to check out some reviews of the next two games' follow-ups. From what I know, they're pretty good.
Pokemon Stadium: Don't act so surprised, your highness. I'm a Pokemon completist. I've got a Pikachu toothbrush, and an Oddish doll. They don't even make Oddish dolls, so that goes to show you how seriously I take all this nonsense. Buying this game was a natural choice for me, but a big step, since I rarely buy new games at their inflated first-costs. Its more of a principle thing, as I handle my money with all the care and finesse of a six-year-old in a toy store with their first ten dollar bill.
The game, again, is meant really for the kids. You get to make Pokemon fight and use their special moves on each other, but it sounds much cooler than it is, since the moves are set with a push of a button, and you don't get to control the characters' actual physical movement. Because of that, there's no real accomplishment. You just take turns hitting each other. The only way for it to be your fault if you lose is if you're a Pokerookie who doesn't realize that Vulpix is a piss poor choice against Psyduck. Aside from that, its all very basic. I couldn't in good faith call this game 'exciting,' or even just fun, but its not without a few points of interest.
Number one, all the original Pokemon are here. Or, by my count, 149 of them. No Mewtwo, but really, he'd kick everyone's ass anyway. The cartridge manages to hold 149 unique characters that you can play as, and that in itself is an accomplishment. Yes, some of the animations and moves are the same, but its a dream come true for fans of the show, or of the lesser-animated Game Boy games. I bought it expecting a smaller selection of the more popular characters, but they went at it full-scale here. Even oddities like Dragonair and Golem are represented.
If playing alone, you can battle your way through the progressively harder stadiums on your way to becoming a Pokemon master. Luckily, the higher levels are challenging, as this game ran the risk of being way too easy, even for a kid. If all it takes to win is the knowledge that water can kill fire and that fire can burn plants, you're not looking at a big time waster. Fortunately, things get tougher. Its lacking in the versus battles against your friends: I've tried everything, but it looks as though if you want to fight a friend, the computer must pick the Pokemon for you, and that's from a limited set. So while you can assuredly play as the giant sleeping fat Snorlax, you can't make him sit on your friend's characters. Pity, because it holds the game back from being an especially cool find.
There's also a ton of little side games and things to do. None of these things are at all entertaining for 95% of the people who read this site, though. I would love to see - and think it'd be a big success - a Pokemon fighting game with a more Street Fighter-ish platform. Those types of fighting games don't necessarily need blood, guts, and excessive violence to be fun. Super Smash Bros., another N64 title, pulled it off. I don't know too much about the second Pokemon Stadium game, but I hope they fixed some of the smaller problems of the first one.
Graphics & Play: Tremendous graphics, if a little redundant. Gameplay itself is an irrelevant aspect. If you know how to hit buttons, you can play this game. I should've realized something was up when even the five-year-olds in my family get bored with this one, but be that as it may, I can't recommend it. Even though its Pokemon, there's just not enough here.
Best Stuff: Jynx. Jynx is this weird Pokemon that looks like a fat eggplant with tits wearing a straw wig. Her attack? She blows a giant kiss at you while dancing. For that alone, its worth renting. The game is full of unintentional comedy like this. Another example: Clefairy, the POKEMON OF DOOM FROM THE MOON, likes to smile. Even during points when you're nailing it with a flame-thrower or thunderbolt attack. I also find it hard to believe that Pokemon that've been put to sleep won't wake up when you hit them in the face with an ice beam, but that's just me. The bottom line is, its always nice to see cute little creatures who are usually all smiles get knocked unconscious with vicious attacks.
Worst Stuff: I understand the need to give some Pokemon crucial weaknesses against Pokemon of different types, but I don't think that this notion should be enforced with one-hit victories. For instance, if a water Pokemon does anything against a fire Pokemon, it immediately dies. Blanka might not be the best choice against Chun-Li, but he didn't die after one kick. I'm surprised this is even in the game, since its for kids who'd probably throw a five-hour tantrum if they lost so easily.
Still, its an interesting game, and there haven't been many like it. Good for people who need a break from the norm - a great game to play when you don't necessarily want to give the Nintendo your absolute full attention. Actually, I recommend that you don't, as it'll make the thing's faults that much more obvious.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time: I wrote an awful little review of this game awhile back, but didn't do it anywhere near the level of justice it so richly deserves. In my view, this game is the pinnacle of achievement of the Nintendo franchise of recent times. I was never a huge gamer, at least in the respect of others, but this one came out during a period where I was heavily interested in the current video game news. People were wild for this one. For the first month or so after it came out, the widely used Nintendo newsgroups for all intents and purposes were limited strictly to talk about this game. If you had an N64, you had to have Zelda. And if you didn't, this was your reason to get one. I've talked to many people who bought the N64 sheerly so they could play this one single game. The power of hype? Maybe, but its backed up. This game is just awesome.
Put it this way: since I'm such a lame brain, I played this game for a good week before really getting anywhere, stuck in the first village where you had little more to do than talk to six or seven elves who all spoke in what sometimes sounds like death cult tongues. Still, even at this point I officially proclaimed it the best game ever made. Of course, that was the excitement talking, but I wasn't necessarily lying. This game provides a whole world for you to explore - and it never lets up. Just when you think you've seen all the cool stuff, you find out that you've got to age yourself like a fine wine for seven years in some sort of tomb, only to emerge and find out that places previously frequented by villagers and chickens are now home to face-eating zombies who scream really loud. Its one surprise after another.
I've always wanted to get into RPGs. I think its a great attribute for a game to give you a total escapist world where there's a ton of continuity and your decisions actually matter. But, I lack the patience. What Zelda offers that most other RPGs I've played don't is constant action while you're on this seemingly never-ending adventure. There's never a point where you'll think to yourself that the game is too boring to bother continuing. It can be frustrating at points, but its definitely never boring.
I honestly can't say enough about it, and its tough to cover all the good points in a brief overview. I'll leave some of the better aspects for the 'best stuff' portion, but if you're the type who likes to get some real time mileage out of your games, pick this one up. If you own an N64 and don't have this, you're really cheating yourself.
Graphics & Play: I'd say the graphics are about an '8' judging from what I've seen the N64 capable of doing. But that '8' is low only because of the fact that the game's landscapes and such are more reality-based than the Nintendo's usual cartoony atmosphere. The controls are extremely workable, and only get slightly annoying during close-up battles with particularly tough enemies. Like the famed original, the game's chock full of helpful characters, intriguing adversaries, and a ton of weapons. You can even fish, ride horses, and make guards wear fox masks!
Best Stuff: Its impossible for me to list everything...the game simply gives you too much cool stuff to do. I've said it before, but making the Goron King, a giant brown rock/monkey creature, dance for a full minute after hearing your astute ocarina-playing abilities is one of the greatest moments of the modern era. Another extra-cool sequence has Link falling through three floors of giant spider webs, while screaming, into a pool of water. Having been a fan of the original NES cart, I'm amazed to see how well the transition to higher technology was made with this one.
The best part though, an obvious answer for those who've seen it, is the fact that you can make Link beat the fuck out of chickens. Careful though, one swipe too many, and all the chickens band together to murder Link, a sight so cheerfully alarming that it makes me really wish there were some form of legit video game award ceremonies that give credit for the 'best action sequence.' Its scary to think that Link can defeat the evil god-devil Ganon, but not a flock of chickens. Does that make chickens the all-powerful force in Hyrule? Are children calling other children 'chicken' in Karaoke Village or whatever the Hell its called considered a compliment? Is there any form of media chickens don't make that much better? They really do go with everything.
Worst Stuff: Link is guided by a little sprite named Navi, who hangs around his shoulder throughout the game. Unfortunately, Navi's self-worth was shot through the roof early in the game when you had no clue what was going on. By the time you know what you're supposed to be doing, getting interrupted by a sprite who stops you dead in your tracks and demands that you 'listen!' doesn't seem quite so helpful. Not aiding this is the fact that Navi's suggestions get progressively more dumb and redundant. Like, you'll be on your way to go meet up with Link's green-haired friend Saria, and Navi will interrupt you to ponder what Saria's doing. If the damn midget would shut up for a minute, she'd find out.
I should also note that this game ranks pretty high up there on the list of games you can't resist using a walkthrough on. I know some players dislike games that they can't beat on their own, and while you technically could beat this one without any outside help, I don't think you'll be able to resist the temptation. Plus, for the casual player, which makes up a great many of us, it is a little too challenging to complete in full without a little outside help. As someone who needed codes to beat freaking Punch Out, I don't mind. And even if you do, overlook it...this is too great a game to pass up.
Alright, last game, and probably the most useful review, since it recently came out and there's a lot of buzz surrounding it. Bear in mind, my Nintendo hasn't been here in weeks, and I only bought the game a week ago. This final review is with limited time spent playing the game.
Conker's Bad Fur Day: I don't know what possessed me to get this one, I guess I was sucked in by the 'for mature audiences' rating. In truth, its for mature children rather than mature adults, so don't buy it expecting to see some sort of universal anomaly never meant to be shown on something with the Nintendo logo so prominently displayed. I don't think gargoyles using the word 'arse' or cartoon squirrels urinating constitute full-blown adult entertainment, but I could be wrong.
That being said, the game here is pretty cool. A lot of people expected traditional Rareware Banjo Kazooie style gameplay, and they were right. Its pretty similar to that, only with better graphics, many, many more words, and far more cut scenes. Actually, there were so many cut scenes early on that I grew tired of the game easily. I give credit to a game that opens with a parody of A Clockwork Orange before moving on to parodies of Full Metal Jacket and Terminator, but having to sit through cut scene after video after cut scene got on my nerves a wee bit. Then again, I've only played this while drunk and irritable.
It is pretty funny though, a rare game that can make you laugh out loud. I haven't gotten very far in it yet, but I'll go out a little on a limb and say that the hype far exceeds the quality. Its a good game, a fun game, but don't buy it because you heard they use the word 'shit' in it. Or because it has flatulent mice. If you're gonna get it, get it because of its endless parodies, occasionally funny scenes, and sometimes-impressive gameplay. In other words, don't get it expecting it to meet the hooplah surrounding it, because you'll be disappointed. Its a good game, but its not *the* game.
However, it is a well-stacked game, complete with a ton of chapters and levels, not to mention a whole other side of multiplayer games, some of which suck, others which are really cool. I say its hit-or-miss, but I wish I would've picked up WWF No Mercy instead, if that tells you anything about how much I value a cynical squirrel whose rabbit girlfriend has a very defined ass.
Graphics & Play: Graphics are about as good as they'll get for the N64, and the audio is the best I've heard on the system. Its full of legit conversations, you hear all the words, and they even nail the mannerisms of the characters down. Still, I didn't get the impression that it was fun enough to play not to cheat through it. I could be being a little harsh here though, so check out some other reviews on the net before taking my word for it.
Best Stuff: Its chock full of memorable scenes. Your main guidance comes in the form of a drunk scarecrow who drinks helium and doesn't mind when you pound his ass with a frying pan out of frustration. So, the game isn't without its strong points. There are some real laughs and surprises...a very witty video game.
The best thing I've seen so far though isn't the main game itself, its the 'Tank' war in the multiplayer section, which simply allows players to take control of a tank and try to make the other ones explode. I'm easy to please. And it just seems so out of place for this game to have a tank war in the middle of it, it makes it that much more of a nice bonus. I'll bet that 90% of those who purchased it had no prior idea that the multiplayer games would be so much different that the main part of the adventure. In effect, you're getting 12 games in 1. Seven of those games suck, but 5 good games for one low cost ain't so bad.
Worst Stuff: Word balloons. I've gotta check the options menu again, there better be an option to do away with the word balloons. Squirrels don't seem nearly as witty with subtitles. This review reads pretty negatively, but I'll throw a recommendation its way. You get a lot for your money, and its something we haven't really seen before. That's good enough for me.
And those are my Nintendo 64 games, all of them, reviewed. Now I can sleep easier. Actually, I left out some type of motorcycle racing game I'm pretty sure is lodged under one of my couch cushions, but I'm taking the fact that I can't remember the name of it to mean that its probably not worth mentioning anyway. Also, remember, these are the games I own, not the games I'd want you to automatically assume as the best or the worst for the N64. My point in writing it was twofold: we've got a lot of casual gamers in the audience, I'm thinking maybe some of you needed some steering towards some good games. Secondly, I spent all this money on games I rarely play, reviewing them at least helps me justify the spending a little. I wish I could take the same route of reasoning with sportscars or small islands, but alas, limited funds.
And speaking of limited funds, here's a little secret on how to pick up semi-obsolete games at a low cost. No, not NES and Atari games...games you'll actually play, for the N64, PSX, and such systems. I think its crazy for anyone out there to pay full prices on games for systems which are either now or imminently outdated, so don't do it! Used is the way to go. Really, I know some of you like your shit new, but I don't think the idea that you're not the first person to play that one particular Mario 64 cartridge is something that'll keep you up late at night. But there's far better places to buy used games than at video stores or the hedonistically overpriced Funcoland, and the options are available to you right here on the net.
No, this time, its not eBay, though you can find 'em there. I'm actually talking about eBay's sister site, Half.Com. Its like eBay, without the bidding process. People list their used crap at a set price, and you can buy from the site just as you would any other internet retail outlet. You can find games extremely cheap there, so if this is your thang, go check it out.
As for me, I'm glad there's at least one system I've purchased in the past decade that's brought me some real enjoyment. Not to knock the other consoles, but I've always been loyal to Nintendo. I think its because the Japanese bastards keep making themselves seem so American. I feel almost patriotic buying a game that puts money into the pocket of a guy named. We live in a crazy world, its a good thing we can escape to a world of Sonya Blade and Koopa Troopers once in awhile.
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