Wednesday, December 27, 2023

The 1000 Games I've Beaten (#57 - 91)


#57 Final Fantasy VII (Playstation) – Fall 1997

This was me finally breaking with Nintendo tradition and jumping ship to the Playstation. It wasn't an easy decision to make. The N64 was a pretty rad system too. Nothing was competing with Final Fantasy VII at this point though. Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI were my top two games for the previous couple of years, and combine that with the futuristic steampunk aesthetic that I was REALLY into as a 13 year old, and I had to have this. So I got a Playstation just for this game, and the game along with it. This is to this day the most excited I remember ever being to buy a game system. (Yeah, even more so than the Super NES).

It wasn't all good with this game though. It coincided with the first semester of High School (which started very early in my hometown for some reason, so I was in with a bunch of older kids). I had been pretty hard to deal with the previous few months and it was imperative that I focus and do well going into HS. As a result I was grounded around the time that FFVII came out, on a strict no-games diet for several months so I'd focus on school and do well with that. And it worked, I actually did do well in school... until I got assaulted in the parking lot, but that's a whole other story.

In other words, for about two months I couldn't play this game after it dropped, despite having it sitting there. I did however get a reprieve when I got a weekend with it, though I was only allowed to play the demo. Which I played over and over again all weekend, pretty much ignoring everything else. I think FFVII to this day has one of the most iconic demos ever released for a game. I mean, can anyone think of a more iconic demo?

After Halloween came and went, I'd been doing well enough in school that I got un-grounded and FFVII was finally on the table. I may have snuck some play sessions with it when I wasn't supposed to, and got through the entire Midgar section of the game. Once I was allowed to play it for real, I started over, because I actually felt kind of bad for sneaking as much as I did for what was supposed to be a reward for doing well in school. So what I did was have some discipline and kept my playing to a minimum even after I could play this. I'd do maybe an hour in the evening every day and that was it. Kind of surprised that I managed that, but I did. On weekends obviously I'd do a bit more. Still, my playtime was limited enough that it took me about 40 days to finish the game. It was the only thing I played in Nov/Dec of '97. All in all I think everything worked out fine.

...except for that whole "being assaulted" thing in the first week of December, which I think was right around when I finished the game. Maybe a few days before I finished the game, I don't know. I played it again over the Winter break and beat the game a second time, this time in about two weeks. I remember that playthrough a lot better than the first one. The first playthrough I mainly remember for being depressing. Especially the stuff with Dyne and Corel. HS itself was pretty abysmal and awful, especially for the younger class who really should have been in middle school. So when your average day was depressing, it isn't surprising that the evening sessions of FFVII would be depressing by extension.

As far as beating the game goes, it's one of the easier FF games. Grinding and overleveling really trivializes it. I didn't do those things on the first time through (because I couldn't stand grinding for many it's something I really enjoy). I did know a bunch of kids at school who were playing it and a few of them were bragging about how much they overleveled. One of them had Fire 3 and hadn't even gone to the Chocobo Ranch yet, he literally just grinded all of that outside Midgar. That's pretty insane, and probably took like 20 hours. Unless he was just making it up, who knows with high schoolers.

I cruised through the game at a good clip and don't remember any particular parts presenting any sort of roadblock. The only part that really gave me any resistance was probably the two forms of Sephiroth at the end. It was a few months before I tried Ruby and Emerald Weapon but I don't remember them being terribly bad either. On the third or so playthrough in January '98 I tried doing a "no equipment upgrade" run where I never changed anyone's starting equipment (and didn't level grind either), and I got to the Demon Wall in Temple of the Ancients before I seemed to hit an impasse. That's like...halfway through the game. I don't know many RPGs where you can get halfway through the game on starting equipment. So that illustrates how basic this game is.

For a while I saw this as very much a middle-of-the-road FF game. When I first played it I loved it, but I was a bit let down that more of it wasn't in Midgar. And then as the years went by, it became more and more "average" to me. I'd say for most of the past 25 years I would have placed it smack in the middle of a series ranking, at best. However, in the last couple of years I've gained a new appreciation for it, maybe because of the remake (which I wasn't crazy about, but that's a whole other story). As of 2024 I would probably rank it very close to the top.

Most Surprising Aspects: That Midgar was actually a very small portion of the game. Also that Disc 3 was basically just one dungeon, when I (and most of the other kids) thought it was going to be huge like the others.

Not-Fun Fact: This was the second game I ever had to return, after Xardion. That kind of thing got a lot more common with disc-based games. Still don't know how Xardion had the issue it had. In any case, FF7 would always freeze up at the exact same spot, the FMV with the mega-cannon firing at Diamond Weapon very late in the game. I think it was right after that boss fight, too, so I had to repeat it a bunch of times hoping it wouldn't freeze. It kept freezing at different points during the cutscene and just couldn't make it. Luckily Media Play was nice enough to switch the game out so I could finish the thing. Also, this was when the benefits of the PS1's memory cards became fully apparent, as I didn't have to replay the entire game to get back to where I was like I would have had to with any game before this point.

Toughest Part: Waiting for the game to actually arrive, probably. That year and a half felt like a decade. And then waiting even longer to actually play it.

Biggest Surprise: I actually had no clue Aerith died, somehow, given how huge it was at the time and given how many people had the game. Probably the most surprised I've ever been by a game. Killing off a main character just isn't something that happened back then. I don't expect it to happen again in the remake because people know to expect it now, the remake doesn't really have any teeth, and the remake misses the point of the original. That point being that while loss is painful, beauty and gratitude can spring from it. But who cares about that, in the remake we have magic time ghosts and nobody dying without immediately reappearing by the end or getting magically healed by flying space condoms. It's the Easy Mode of emotional storytelling. Why have any stakes when everything can just turn out fine like an episode of Disney's Doug? More on that game when I get to like #900 or so.

Note: Notice how all the shots in this entry are from the demo? Because that's what I got to play, and that's what I remember most. Playing the demo...over and over. Does that sound bad? It wasn't. It was great. Talk about building appreciation for something for when I finally got to play it. I never would have appreciated the game that much if it had just fallen in my lap immediately. This applies to a lot of other things as well. In the modern era I can just play whatever I want, and none of it hits as hard as wanting something for months or years in the 90's and finally getting it.

#58 Bushido Blade (Playstation) – Winter 1997

After FF7 I basically went on a Squaresoft On Playstation fun fest for like 6 months. I played all four of the big Squaresoft PS1 drops from that moment in time. Bushido Blade was fantastic, especially as a Highlander fan.

Thing was, I liked the demo more than I liked the actual game. The demo had you fighting in a gorgeous environment and distilled the game down to its essence. The actual game changed everyone's outfits around to less-appealing looks and most of the environments weren't as nice as the demo. 

Regardless, I still liked the game. It wore out its welcome midway through the rental when I found a particular move that always instakilled CPU opponents without fail, and proceeded to easily finish the game as well as the "defeat 100 foes in a row" challenge mode.

Most Prominent Memory: One big memory that stands out is the two intro themes and how brilliant they are. I permanently associate both of those with Dragonball Z due to the point in time that I heard them, specifically the Freeza Saga.

#59 Final Fantasy Tactics (Playstation) – Spring 1998

The third of Squaresoft's four horsemen of PS1 insanity, and probably the best of the four games. I spent around 40+95 (over my two runs at the game) hours on this in 1998, which was the most I'd ever played a game at that point. Surprised I didn't leave it on a few more hours to see if it would go over 99 hours on the clock.

When I first got this game, I had to take the bus in the rain to go pick it up from Let's Play, a small local business that ended up being where I got like half of everything game related (purchase or rental) from this point onward until probably about 2007 or so. They had everything, would let you keep things for like 2 weeks, and would set up systems so you could sit there and try things out before checking them out or buying. I remember being super impressed with the box art and the white background, which conveyed the mood of the game well before it even got started.

This took two runs because of the Riovanes debacle, which I'll get into in Toughest Part. Other than that, I enjoyed the heck out of this game and spent a ton of time micromanaging and grinding job points to try different class combinations. I love the soundtrack, the constant thunderstorms, and everything about this.

Fondest Memory: Random battles with rain and thunderstorms. Playing those was always a good time, especially when it was raining for real outside.

Toughest Part: Wiegraf and Velius being back to back maulings. Two of the hardest fights in 90's RPGdom, with no checkpoint between them (and another very hard fight after them before you can leave that area). Still don't know what Square was thinking when they designed Riovanes. That part caused me, and a lot of other people, to have to start the entire game over and basically play through it twice, given that the fight is about 75% of the way through it. Yeah, yeah, keep extra save files. As a kid who never had to worry about that previously and left extra save files for new runs at the game, this game taught me a lesson.

Post Series HERE.

#60 SaGa Frontier (Playstation) – Spring 1998

The last of Squaresoft's big four, but not least. This is basically SaGa 7, and the first SaGa game to actually keep its name outside Japan. It's an interesting idea, with seven character scenarios, and kind of a predecessor to things like Octopath Traveller. The soundtrack is also pretty incredible, and I have fond memories of just listening to the sound test. This game also took me MONTHS and I think I was actively playing it for most of early 1998.

Beating the game wasn't easy because a lot of the objectives were kind of obscure. It's one of those games that doesn't really tell you where to go. Unclear objectives + have to meet said objectives to advance + big open world = lost a lot, wasting time, etc. Lute's scenario was basically just a big level grind fest, and some of the final bosses were treacherous. I also had to go to the local stores and read the guide for it every so often. Blockbuster was cool because they had a ton of RPG guides to read. I liked this game a lot, but not enough to buy the guide for it. I did get the FFVII Prima guide though.

Toughest Part: Diva, final boss of Emilia's scenario, is probably the toughest fight the game has to offer. Even when spamming Dream Super Combos, which trivializes most of the game, Diva is still a challenge.

#61 Mega Man in Dr. Wily's Revenge (Game Boy) – Summer 1998

Stage-wise this is basically half of a Mega Man game, yet it has all of the challenge and then some. I really wanted a Game Boy Mega Man (specifically IV and V) and all the store had was this and II. I remember both being marked WAY down at least. Maybe $5 each? It was a different time.

In any case, I powered through this one over a couple days, only running into roadblocks with the Wily stages. Luckily there are only like, two of them.

Most Annoying Part: Cut Man's stage, with those conveyor belts and spinning blade things. The jump height is so pathetic and the Game Boy screen is so scrunched that it became an issue to even hurdle over these things.

Toughest Part: Enker is a tough opponent, as is the final battle with Wily. Definitely a challenging game overall, but I'd give the nod to the four boss rush followed by Enker as being the toughest stage.

Post HERE.

#62 Mega Man II (Game Boy) – Summer 1998

Then we had this game, which was over in a blink even though it's longer than the first. And that was it, never got any other Game Boy Mega Mans. I feel like I kinda got saddled with the two least-awesome of them. At least this one has a cool boss lineup. I flew through it in a couple hours and felt shortchanged even at $5. That said, I would give it higher marks than the previous game due to having more levels.

Oddball Part: What's up with Wily's tiny dinosaur mech at the end of the game? He usually has huge fearsome monstrosities for mechs. Here it's like this dwarf t-rex.

Toughest Part: None. This has to be the easiest classic series Mega Man game by a mile. Unfortunately this also makes it pretty unmemorable fight-wise. I can't remember anything from the initial playthrough of this.

Post HERE.

#63 Star Fox 64 (Nintendo 64) – Summer 1998

Played this at a friend's house and, on a lark, went ahead and beat the entire game. Well, by entire I mean the easiest path. I'd love to give it another run someday and try more of it. Really fantastic game here that I never got to do much with. I remember it debuted the Rumble Pak and that was pretty cool, first time playing a game with the rumble feedback that we now just take as ubiquitous in everything. There's also a really good boss theme in this one that is kind of synonymous with the N64 for me (along with Ocarina of Time's very peppy first area music). 

#64 Tekken 2 (Playstation) – Summer 1998

Another rental, another quick blast over a weekend or so. I was super familiar with this game from playing an arcade machine of it at a local pizzeria. So getting it on PS1 and getting it home was pretty awesome. I finished it with a few characters.

Fondest Memory: Playing it at the pizza joint, along with a bottle of Nestea (which to this day I permanently associate with this game). I remember pumping some quarters into this game while on expeditions to the local game store to read the SaGa Frontier guide and find out how to get un-stuck in whatever scenarios I was stuck in. This was pre-GameFAQS or at least pre me knowing about it. So I'd go read the guide, write some stuff down, then go play Tekken 2 and have a slice of pizza. Not sure why I didn't just buy the guide instead of making like 3 or 4 trips to the store to read it. Well, maybe I just liked the walks.

#65 Metroid (NES) – Summer 1998

Very first game I ever emulated. This opened up a new world because I could finally check out all the NES games I missed out on, plus things from the SNES and Game Boy catalog that I couldn't afford to get to before. And I went straight to Metroid! Was it everything I dreamed of? Well, not really, and to this day it's my least-favorite main series Metroid game.

That said, the newness of being able to emulate NES was so potent that I didn't even care that I had to play the game with a computer keyboard. And even if it isn't up to the level of the sequels I had grown up with, it is full of Gunpei Yokoi charm.

I don't remember too much about beating the game, except being lost quite a bit. This game is confusing and full of extended hallways that look alike. Oh yeah, and verticality everywhere. But hey, I was finally playing it! I'd wanted this game for five years at this point.

Post HERE.

#66 Super Castlevania IV (Super NES) – Fall 1998

First Castlevania series game I ever played. I didn't understand the series at all, or the fact that this was a remake, but I enjoyed it a lot (and died a lot). Not sure what drove me to make this the second thing I ever emulated, given how many things were now on the agenda to check out.

The part I remember most is the ephemeral soundtrack, which someone else described as being the audio version of a liminal space. I get it, for sure. The intro track in particular has a certain otherworldly quality to it. As for the rest of the game, it's really good, and takes the non-Metroidvania Castlevania formula to the limit. I'd go so far as to say this might be the best of the non-Metroidvania lot (only potential competitor is probably Rondo of Blood). I started with like the best possible entry into the series.

This game was a real workout for someone not familiar with the gameplay. I had a lot of trouble getting to the end and some of the bosses gave me definite grief. I remember a level with a collapsing ceiling that was a particular PITA.

Post HERE. Which I apparently wrote entirely in literary prose. Wow.

#67 Mortal Kombat 3 (Super NES) – Fall 1998

I never liked this as much as the first two and that's the case to this day. The storyline is interesting, with Shao Kahn directly attacking Earthrealm and the battles taking place on our streets, but I gotta say the bloom was off the rose a bit. The first two games had this kind of mystical quality to them and all kinds of crazy stuff could happen. By this point it was a little formulaic. They also removed a bunch of characters people liked. Don't remember much about beating this game, except that I rented it (as opposed to emulating) because it was actually available, and that I was pretty much done with it after one day.

Post HERE.

#68 Final Fight 3 (Super NES) – Fall 1998

I rented the first two games a few times but wasn't able to beat one until I emulated the third (it was nowhere to be found in stores at the time). The new characters are great: Lucia is super hot, Dean has his lightning punches. The game is fun to play, with multiple routes. If there's anything negative about it, it's that it suffers from being a sequel to some pretty great games. That Mega Man X3 / Castlevania Dracula-X syndrome.

It's also a tough game, especially the bosses, and you have to be tactical with not wasting your continues if you want to get to the end. I found this game to be a blast, and if I'm being objective, it's probably the best of the 3 games even though I didn't think so at the time.

Post HERE.

#69 Parasite Eve (Playstation) – Fall 1998

This is a cold, winter-y game in my memory, because I replayed it over the following winter and most of my memories are from that. This first run was a rental from Blockbuster of all places, which I rarely rented things from in this era due to having better options. The previous gen was all emulatable at this time but I had to go back to renting to play newer PS1 drops. This was a particularly good one, and Squaresoft's answer to Resident Evil. Aya Brea is one of my favorite PS1 characters. They've got my favorite building, the Chrysler Building, as a postgame super-dungeon with 77 floors. I never got so far as to do that part, but I really enjoyed the main game.

Fun Fact: A lot of the content in this game was originally supposed to be in FFVII. That game was conceived as taking place in New York City (before they changed things up to make it Midgar).

#70 Mega Man X4 (Playstation) – Fall 1998

I remember this being when I really started getting into the PS1 as a system (while Squaresoft's block of great games was a year before this, I still associated Squaresoft with Nintendo). They did a lot of things with this game that couldn't have been done on a Nintendo system at the time, like the cutscenes. Bringing back Dr. Wily and hinting at him being a menace again in future games was something that got me really excited to see where the series would go (and then they did nothing with the idea after MMX5, but that's a whole other deal).

Having two playable characters in this game was fantastic. X3 experimented with this, but here you can play the whole game as Zero and he's much more agile on his feet.

Zero himself is incredibly fun to play as, especially the fire sword uppercut. So this put a whole new spin on the series. Considering X was already a blast to play as, they were just adding to an already-solid series.

Toughest Part: The 3 final boss fights. They're all in a row and you have limited sub-tanks compared to previous games. That said, they're not bad at all once you get good at said fights. If you can beat the first of the 3 forms without taking a hit, which isn't hard to do, you're in good shape for the other two. Nothing about this game is terribly challenging, especially with Zero.

Post HERE.

#71 Dragon Ball GT: Final Bout (Playstation) – Fall 1998

The first "DBZ" game a lot of us got to play, so it got a ton of slack and was probably pretty overrated. Is it a good game? Ehhhh. It's carried by the soundtrack, the overall great vibe, and being an actual Dragonball game we could play in the states.

This game isn't good by any objective measure, but damn if I don't love it. And most Dragonball Z fans probably loved it at the time too. So cool to see these characters on screen. Though they made some weird choices with the characters, like having a bunch of different versions of Gokou. Would have been cool to cut a couple of those and give us, say, Broly / Kooler / SSJ3 Gokou. Welp, we took what we could get back then.

Fondest Memory: Fighting SSJ4 Gokou in what looked like the apocalypse while "Hero of Heroes" played.

Weirdest Memory: Getting to the end and having the final boss be... "Super Baby", whatever that is. Still not sure why DBGT's first big bad is named Baby, of all things.

Post HERE.

#72 Tactics Ogre (Playstation) – Fall 1998

For a while, this was actually my favorite game to play. I mean, Chrono Trigger was still my all-time favorite, but I kept going back to this one. I liked it more than FF Tactics even because it allowed for more strategy (due to more characters onscreen at once). FFT's weakness is having a limit of five characters in your party (when enemies often have 8 or 9 enemies on the board). This game evens it up a bit.

It was also more of an enigma. It was rough around the edges enough that there was some mystery to the game mechanics and how things actually worked. Various spells seemed ambiguous in their effects, things like that. So there was more to figure out, more to experiment with. After a while I went back to FF Tactics being my favorite of the two, due to its polish and the classes being more interesting. Tactics Ogre gets kind of "standardized" after a while, where you find a few classes that work better than others and just sort of gear everyone up along the same lines.

This game got remade several times and I played those as well (PSP and Switch, and yeah I'm counting them as separate games). Each time they added some things and tweaked some things. I don't remember the PS1 version giving me any particular grief. Nor the PSP version. The Switch version, however, made the final boss fight extremely nasty for some reason.

Post Series HERE.

#73 Brave Fencer Musashi (Playstation) – Fall 1998

This was briefly my favorite game on the PS1. Another Squaresoft hit and something I revisited a bunch of times over the next year or so. Great soundtrack (sure are a lot of those in here), good gameplay, and a unique vibe. It's also the source of the name of this website.

Boy, Squaresoft sure did carry the PS1 for a while, didn't it? I mean, the system would have been fine without it, especially in 1999 once Metal Gear Solid was out, but it was significantly elevated by Square in 1996-1998.

Fondest Memory: The ice castle with the dragon boss at the end. That place made a huge impression on me for some reason and I loved the various music tracks for both the area and the fight.

#74 Mega Man (NES) – Fall 1998

With four X games under my belt it was time to tackle the original series. This was near the top of my list of things to emulate once I was able. It's also the hardest of the six NES games by a MILE. I've got no shame in admitting that I sploited the pause trick to beat not just the Yellow Devil, but also Dr. Wily, Ice Man, and anything else I could use the Elec Beam on.

Toughest Part: Fire Man redux at the end of the Wily Fortress. The last boss to return before the fight with Wily himself, and I was always basically out of health by that point (Wily I would just gimp anyway). So I lost over and over again to Fire Man due to how stacked the deck was.

Favorite Robot Master: Probably Bomb Man. It just feels like a quintessential "first level" type of stage, and he was the first Mega Man boss I ever saw in the pages of Nintendo Power so that also counts for something.

Post HERE.

#75 Mega Man 2 (NES) – Fall 1998

Much easier game here, with a couple exceptions. I could have had this game beaten years earlier on a friend's NES, but I couldn't beat Alien Wily for some reason. Fantastic game on every level that really set the bar for the series. It was awesome to finally get to play this at home thanks to the wonders of emulation.

Toughest Part: That one Proto Bed of Chaos fight where you have to take out a bunch of gun pods in a room with limited Crash Bombs. That part was awful.

Favorite Robot Master: Metal Man has the best weapon, but I think I like Bubble Man's stage more.

Post HERE.

#76 Mega Man 3 (NES) – Fall 1998

Lot of fond memories of this, and playing it at friends houses was how I discovered how good game music could actually be. In 1998 I was knee-deep in emulation and having an absolute blast catching up on NES games, and the Mega Mans were a big part of that. This is probably the one I was most looking forward to, as back then I saw it as possibly the best game in the series. After actually playing all the way through it... it really isn't, but it was still something I was really into as a kid.

Toughest Part: The Doc Robot fights. Always had a bunch of issues with those and to this day I don't know what any of them are actually weak to.

Favorite Robot Master: Snake Man hands-down on design. What a cool boss. Though Needle Man has a special place for being the first one I saw and tried to beat.

Post HERE.

#77 Mega Man 4 (NES) – Fall 1998

Used to not really like this one and saw it as a mid middle-of-the-road classic Mega Man. Nowadays I see it as the best of the first six, more refined than the first three and without making any of the mistakes of the next two. I really like this game and if I had to reach for any classic-series Mega Man to just casually play, I would reach for this one.

Favorite Robot Master: Pharaoh Man. Easiest choice yet. He might be my favorite boss in these entire six games. Rad design, rad stage, great weapon.

Post HERE.

#78 Mega Man 5 (NES) – Fall 1998

My least-favorite of the five now and I think it was back then as well. The design was getting kind of played-out, and losing your charge every time you get hit was highly annoying. Especially considering I was still playing these games with a keyboard. Still, I loved the first four so I'll always have that.

Favorite Robot Master: Charge Man. I mean, the guy is a literal train, with a unique weapon. Great music too.

Post HERE.

#79 Mega Man 6 (NES) – Fall 1998

I think you lose your charge in this one too, but it has some cool innovations to offset that. Like Beat, and Rush Jet now being a freakin' jetpack. This one isn't bad at all, and I really enjoyed how there were two fortresses (which is also the case in the previous two games, but they went all out with this one in terms of fortress level sizes and boss designs).

Favorite Robot Master: Knight Man. Though I also like Tomahawk Man a lot. Actually this game has some of the strongest RM designs of the six games.

Post HERE.

#80 Axelay (Super NES) – Fall 1998

Lots of good memories of renting this one (yep, a rental, even in the age of emulators) and pushing my way through it. Tough game, but by space shooter standards, actually quite easy. Only six levels but all of them are compelling, and the special weapons you can pick from are generally all interesting.

Fondest Memory: The stage four music and how incredibly soothing it was. Would let the game run just listening to that music.

Post HERE.

Honorable Mention: Rolemaster Magestorm. Didn't beat this game (because you couldn't really beat it, it was an online arena shooter). Played it a bunch right around this time though. Objective was basically to win team-based fights, gain exp from kills, and level up. You got four classes to choose from: Mage (your standard fire and ice spell flinging mage), Cleric (healer who could also cast smite spells, easy to level but relegated to support roles), Mentalist (bunch of mind spells that manipulate the battlefield to your advantage and inflict status effects, plus electric damage spells), and Arcanist (doesn't regenerate MP like other classes do unless you're in a healing pool, which is a disadvantage, but in return they get the most powerful pure mana based attack spells and the OP holy damage element).

Was incredibly fun and probably the only online arena game I've spent any real time on. Only problem is that it took an absolute age and a half to level up. I think the level max was 30 and the highest I ever got was about 8. The class I ended up having the best luck with was Arcanist, which was the one I took to level 8. Found it to be the most effective and damaging of the bunch. Unfortunately the hours and hours required to level kinda drained the fun out after a while so my run with the game only lasted a couple months. Still, a memorable game that left a real impression on me.

Fun Fact: I associate the Axelay stage 4 music with this game because I left that track on while playing this one time. This was in September 1998 with all the windows open and a light rain outside. It's actually one of my fondest game memories.

#81 Pokemon Blue (Game Boy) – Fall 1998

I was about as stoked for this game as I've ever been for anything. One of those "think about it all the time before you get it" games. Couldn't afford it so I tried emulating it even, but Game Boy emulation was kind of a non-starter at the time and I wanted to play it on the actual system anyway. Scratched together about $25 and "bought" it at K-Mart by handing the guy the wad of mostly $1's, thanking him, and walking out. Only problem was, the game was $29.99. So I guess technically I stole it. But instead of taking it off the shelf and walking out, I paid everything I had and even said thank you! So that's helpful I guess. The guy didn't come after me either, even though they could have caught up to me, so in retrospect I wonder if the guy just got a chuckle out of a kid giving him the wrong amount for that game everybody was into, and moved on with his day. Was the only time I ever did that. Come on though, it was Pokemon. The first one. I was pretty sure everyone had it except me. I guess I figured I'd try my luck with $25.

Thing was, not only was seemingly everyone playing this, I'd already lost a couple weeks since launch date where everyone got way ahead. So as soon as I got my grubby mitts on it, I was playing it nonstop for a couple days. Got all kinds of fond memories of the first few towns, and the forest, and catching my first bunch of Pokemon. The game hasn't aged well, and even though I've played it several times since I've never been able to recapture the magic of the first run. Now it's just a rough around the edges Game Boy RPG that I know all of the ins and outs of. Back then, though, it was an entire WORLD waiting to be explored.

Fondest Memory: Catching a Pikachu while trying to catch 'em all before fighting the first big boss.

Post Series HERE.

#82 Destiny of an Emperor (NES) – Fall 1998

This was actually the second or third video game I ever played. When I was like 5 years old I was in a doctor's office and they had an NES set up in the waiting room with Super Mario Bros, Destiny of an Emperor, and Shadow of the Ninja. I think I tried them in that order. Mario was the one I was really into, and I got to 1-4 in my first go somehow before dying to Bowser. The other two I didn't fare that well with and only played them briefly.

The game was definitely on my shortlist of things to emulate and take another swing at in 1998. After Pokemon Blue concluded I was pretty well spent and just wanted something easy to cruise through for a bit. I don't know if I'd call this easy but it worked out fine. Very enjoyable game and a fairly unique RPG.

Fondest Memory: Figuring out what I was actually doing in this game and actually progressing in it.

#83 Ninja Gaiden (NES) – Fall 1998

Another thing high on the list for NES emulation. Unfortunately this game was SUPER hard, mainly because of the knockback. That infernal knockback probably killed me 200 times. I got to the last world and ended up having to sploit with states to get the final bosses down. I don't even consider it sploiting in this case because the game really SHOULD have given you checkpoints here. States are basically just fixing a problem with the game.

Great story here and I think the story of this trilogy needs a lot more credit than it gets. These games made it cool for basic NES action games to have sweeping, epic stories. I feel bad for anyone trying to beat this game on an original NES though.

Toughest Part: The trio of final bosses. What's with the final bosses sending you back so far if you die? That doesn't happen anywhere else in the game and it's kind of ridiculous. At least the bosses don't respawn, so once one is down, it's down.

#84 Super Adventure Island (Super NES) – Fall 1998

Nowhere near as good as its sequel, which was basically Zelda II with huge improvements across the board. This on the other hand is just a regular platformer like the NES Adventure Island and its sequels. Much easier than the ultra ball-busting NES games, though, which means it's a fun romp instead of a murderfest.

I think this was covered in my first bought NP (Volume 36) so I have a soft spot for it there. Extremely colorful and vibrant game. One of the things I really liked about the SNES was how colorful the games were compared to the NES.

Don't remember much about beating the game. Not sure if it was a rental or a rom. Just remember that it was a refreshing surprise of a game. The only tough part was this lightsaber-wielding...thing.

Post HERE.

#85 Final Fantasy (NES) – Fall 1998

I've played this more than any other RPG on the planet, hands-down. It wouldn't surprise me if I played this all the way through 15 times or more. I've played every version of it that I know of, and in some ways my favorite version is still the NES.

All of that said, it took me until Fall 1998 to get to it, during that magical era of emulating the classics that I missed. I had read so much about it over the years that I was super-familiar with the game before I ever even played it at all. Don't remember what my first party was, but I think it was Fighter/Black Belt/RM/WM. Probably wrong though. I didn't know about Temper or Haste or any of that so the boss fights were rough. It's one of those games that gets easier the further you go, especially if you have a Black Belt along.

At this point I could probably play through this game blindfolded, and I don't think I can say that about any other game. Does this make it my favorite FF game? Well, no. Nowhere near. Yet between the short length and the simplicity of it I find it the most compulsively replayable of the bunch.

Also, at some point I decided to do runs of the game with four characters of the same class (and do this for every class). Over 20 years or so I managed to do all of them, culminating with 4x White Mage (the "toughest" challenge). For me, 4x Thief was actually the toughest challenge. On the NES, Thief is actually a really, really bad class. At least WMs can nuke undead. Thief hits everything for 1 damage after a certain point unless you overlevel by like 5-10. It's insane.

Toughest Part: Probably Kraken. Guy hits insanely hard with physical attacks and can OHKO one or two people before you get your Invisiras and Ruses set up.

Biggest Benefit of the NES Version Over Others: The classic 8-bit music. I love the midi soundtrack of this game and it has a charm that even the various orchestral remixes don't have.

Favorite Class: Black Belt. They're so overpowered, it's hilarious. Also the easiest class to beat the game with four of. You don't even need to class-up because in this version their higher class has the same stats as their original class. No improvement at all. And get this, they actually gain less MDEF per level. Regardless, I love this class. Don't need go worry about equipment or spells, just blast everything with punches.

#86 Gradius III (Super NES) – Fall 1998

Exciting game that really shows off the capabilities of the SNES (it dropped very close to the system's launch). Nintendo Power sold it to me, so it was on the list. Had a blast with this one, though I prefer Super R-Type for early SNES side-scrollers.

Most Prominent Memory: The level with all the blue bubbles. That really showed off the SNES' power. Also some of the enemy sprites are impressive.

Post HERE.

#87 Rockman & Forte (Super Famicom) – Fall 1998

Dubbed "Mega Man 9" by a lot of people at the time, this was basically a SNES remix of Mega Man 8. Kind of crazy that we got what is essentially a demake back then. It's a lot more than that though. It has some new levels and most importantly playable Bass. This one was very very tough, even on emulator, and I had to cheat 2 win. But no worries, much later in time I went back and played through it again (on the up and up) to do the post for it.

Post HERE.

#88 Super Ghouls and Ghosts (Super NES) – Fall 1998

Another super-tough game that I had to cheat 2 win, then later went back and won fair and square for a post. As challenging as this game is, I think it's a lot easier than its NES predecessor. Once you get the hang of it and learn where everything is, you get into a groove and find that the game really isn't as bad as you think. That said, the final level is still rough no matter what. I always use a code to fight Sardius at the end because F doing the entire second quest.

Protip: I found getting the bow powered-up (for homing arrows) and then just never getting hit allowed me to power through the game right up to the end. That unleashing of homing arrows decimates everything.

Post HERE.

#89 X-Kaliber 2097 (Super NES) – Fall 1998

This interesting game benefitted from being in the same Nintendo Power as the main Super Metroid coverage. You play as a rad to the max Billy Idol looking guy with a sword, as he fights all kinds of street punks and mutants in a future dystopia. As far as platform action games go, it's super average and there isn't much to say about it. It sure gets a lot of cool points though.

#90 Castlevania: Dracula X (Super NES) – Fall 1998

This was on the SNES list along with Super Castlevania IV and suffice to say this was a huge step down from that one. It's notorious for being a nerfed version of Rondo of Blood. Only being able to whip in two directions is most of the step down, but also the level design took a dive and the difficulty level is cranked a bit too high to be fun. Especially the final boss fight, which is just idiotically un-fun with the most of the floor being a pit. I like the game a bit more now that I've played Rondo of Blood and can draw various comparisons, but historically I just didn't like this one much at all.

Post HERE.

#91 Twisted Tales of Spike McFang (Super NES) – Winter 1998

A very fun and very obscure game that I've never even seen anyone talking about. You play as this vampire dude who throws a fedora-boomerang and collects cards that trigger various spell effects. It's something that really should get more attention than it does.

Fondest Memory: Walking to the store in a blizzard that seemed to go on all week. No, not the game store, the grocery store, to get groceries and carry them back through said blizzard. Was playing this game at the time and remember saving/quitting out to go get this done. Another similar memory that I forgot to mention in the Secret of Mana post: I remember sitting outside getting some fresh air late in the evening while "Distant Thunder" wafted out of the window from the game sitting on the TV. For some people, these games provided the soundtrack of OUR LIVES.

Next: Xenogears

The 1000 Games I've Beaten

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