Thursday, January 4, 2024

The 1000 Games I've Beaten (#111 - 126)


#111 Dragon Warrior (NES) – Summer 1999

This was a co-play / race with my friend JM on emulator. I don't remember who won, and considering I was playing on an iNES emulator with sped-up default frameskip (and JM might have been as well IDK) I'm not sure a winner could be legitimately called. Having never played this or used iNES before, I thought the sped-up version I was playing was the normal speed of the game. Little did I know that the normal speed of the game is actually VERY SLOW.

Regardless, this was my first Dragon Quest series game and I enjoyed it a lot. Nowhere near as much as the Final Fantasy series, though later I ended up liking both pretty equally as far as RPGs go (maybe even edge to DQ if factoring in the last couple of FFs and how they were...action games). I liked the NES Simplicity of this game and was open to playing more of the series, which obviously I did. This is a fun romp and short enough for a quick replay once in a while.

Toughest Part: Trying to get the Erdrick Armor from the Axe Knight. I always try to get that as early as possible since it makes the game infinitely easier (due to not really needing inns anymore while grinding, and being able to save MP with health regen during dungeons). However the Axe Knight is one tough customer. It's a lot easier on emulator since you can just reload right at the boss instead of walking all the way back from town. Except the iNES emulator didn't have saves, so I had to do this legit.

Why was I using that emulator, anyway? There must have been an issue with the one I was using before this, and Nesticle wasn't on my radar yet. Anyway I think the Axe Knight can be beaten as early as level 9 or so if you get REALLY lucky with him using Sleep almost every turn instead of attacking. Land a StopSpell at the beginning and hope for the best, since he can hack you down in two attacks. On replays I generally had to get to level 13-15 to win the fight. As much as I would like to get Erdrick's Armor sooner, this bastard makes you work for it. 

Posts HERE.

#112 Startropics 2: Zoda's Revenge (NES) – Summer 1999

At this point I finally, after all these years, bought an NES. Was like 20 bucks at a flea market. The pickings for what game to get with it were kind of slim though, and I settled on this one. Also managed to pick up Final Fantasy for it so that was good too. I kept playing most of my NES games on emulator, with a few notable exceptions like this. Also aforementioned Final Fantasy which I spent a lot of Summer 99 playing on actual hardware and a TV. FF1 is actually a bit rougher to play on the NES due to not having any speed-up functions (the game is quite slow).

As for Startropics 2, this is yet another one that Nintendo Power sold me pretty hard. I've always had a soft spot for this game and its predecessor (which I didn't get to until many years later). It's a colorful series (of two games) involving an alien menace and an island-hopping kid with a deadly yo-yo. This is another one of those games with really appealing boss designs and I still remember most of the nine or so big bosses to this day.

One thing I remember well about this is that the game is HARD. You can't really outlevel or outgear the game, it's just a matter of grabbing all the heart containers and gitting gud. As the NES was so adept at. It took a few weeks but I did it and this playthrough is a pretty fond memory.

No post? That's surprising. Much like DKC2 and DKC3 I should probably fix this, given how much the game affected me as a kid. But that would mean replaying this beast.

#113 TMNT II: The Arcade Game (NES) – Summer 1999

I was a huge Ninja Turtles fan in the late 80's and early 90's, just like literally everyone else. I remember being obsessed with the action figures and wanting to collect 'em all. I think I got Michaelangelo and a generic Foot Clan guy and that was it. I really wanted Leonardo and Shredder but never got them, so I had to make do and pretend the Foot Clan guy was Shredder.

Anyway, I was never particularly sold on the TMNT video games and had no real impetus to play one, especially as late as 1999, but it still jumped out at me when I scrolled down the list of "what to emulate next". Man, those were the days. The NES and SNES libraries basically readily available, and the free time to actually play a lot of them!

The first Turtles game on the NES was pretty bad, and I even thought so in the early 90's when I played it at a friend's house (at a time when I liked every video game I got to play). You walk around on an overworld and then get run over by random zambonis. Yeah. Well, this second one was more like it. A standard beat em up, but a fun one.

Main thing I remember about this one is fighting Shredder, with his Sith Lightning and his ability to split into two mirror images. All in all this was a pretty rudimentary beat 'em up, but a good start and a good preview of the better beat 'em ups that the series would bring us later.

Toughest Part: Probably...fighting Shredder with his Sith Lightning and ability to split into two mirror images

Post HERE.

#114 Mega Man III (Game Boy) – Summer 1999

At this point I realized that with Game Boy emulation I could finally check out the Mega Mans I missed on that system. Not only did I miss Mega Man III and IV, I never even saw either of them for sale in a store! When I first got a Game Boy, this was the most recent Mega Man for the system, and certainly what I would have bought instead of Kirby's Dream Land if I had that option.

It's a good thing I didn't because this game is HARD, exponentially harder than KDL, and might have crushed my dreams. Especially on the small, hard-to-see Game Boy screen. Or maybe I would have risen up, gotten gud, and figured it out? On a monitor via emulation it's much easier to see what you're doing in this game and thus the game becomes quite a bit more manageable. This game also introduces the charge shot to the Game Boy series and overall it's quite a bit of an improvement over Mega Man II. I don't think it's a bad game at all, just that it would have been rough for a first game.

I liked how this game had four bosses from Mega Man 3 for the NES, including my favorite, Snake Man. Wasn't so keen on the second set of four bosses, which I consider to be some of the lamer ones from Mega Man 4 NES. I guess Skull Man is coo, and at least ahead of Bright Man. Other than that, if I ranked the eight Mega Man 4 bosses, the bottom 3 would be the other 3 in this game. That's okay though because it just meant they were saving the best ones for...

Post HERE.

#115 Mega Man IV (Game Boy) – Summer 1999

Now this one is awesome, and I'd put it at one of my top five Game Boy games without a doubt. It has some of the best bosses/stages from MM4 NES and a very solid selection of bosses from MM5 NES. We've got a robuster charged shot, Beat, a currency shop with currency to collect, various energy and weapon tanks, and a great fortress with a bunch of awesome-looking bosses in it. The weapon lineup in this game is also great. I mean everything about this game is solid, and out of the Game Boy Mega Mans this is one that I'd put up there with any of the console games in the series.

Don't remember much about playing this, or the previous game, for the first time. Just that it was a lot of fun. All of these Mega Mans kinda blended together in 1998/1999 because I went through so many of them. And since then I have only played this game as part of series runthroughs (on two occasions) so I've never really given it the standalone attention I probably should have. I just wish we would have gotten to fight Doctor Wily in the X series at some point besides vague allusions and Sigma outright saying he's still around. Well, lot of people think he's Serges in X2 and I can get with that, but official confirmation would have been cool.

Fondest Memory: Reading all about this in Nintendo Power Volume 55 (Aladdin on the cover), Also had Mega Man 6 for the NES.

Top Five Game Boy Games, For The Record:

5. Wario Land, 4. Mega Man IV, 3. Metroid II, 2. Pokemon Blue/Red, 1. Zelda: Link's Awakening

Post HERE.

#116 Ehrgeiz (Playstation) – Summer 1999

Breaking away from all the emulating and retro catch-up to play a brand new game that I rented. It's another banger of a Squaresoft PS1 game. This (fully 3D) fighting game is a blast to play and draws heavily from pro wrestling (which was as popular as it has ever been at this point in time). A lot of people were getting into more hardcore wrestling (which hadn't become totally passe yet) with stuff like ECW on the rise and more backstage brawls in the two mainstream promotions. So I pretty much associate this game with wrestling and discussion of wrestling.

Main thing I remember about it is the fantastic character select screen and how high-energy it was.

What most people remember is probably the bunch of FFVII characters you could play as. In addition to some pretty cool original characters like Godhand and Prince Doza. In a way, this was the genesis of stuff like Dissidia and showed that there was some demand for a "Final Fantasy fighting game" if they wanted to make one.

Another big thing about this game that doesn't get talked about much: Quest Mode. There was a full dungeon-crawling RPG mode built in, with like 30 explorable floors of monsters, potions, equipment, etc. I never actually got to the end of that mode and I've always wanted to take another shot at it. Just the fact that they included something like that, when they didn't have to, is worth praise. This game did things that fighting games didn't typically do, and set some new trends.

Post HERE.

#117 Kirby's Adventure (NES) – Summer 1999

Can't remember if this was emulated or I managed to get ahold of it on NES. I think I might have actually found the game. Surprised I didn't play this sooner considering you'd think it would have been at the top of my list of NES games to revisit once I had the ability to. I was never really a Kirby superfan though, not the way I was with other early games I got into. All of that said, this is another great game that was certainly worthy of a full playthrough.

It's much more complex than the original Kirby's Dream Land due to the power absorption mechanic. Which would have been a lot more novel if I hadn't played KDL2 already. Still though, seeing Kirby in full color in an NES game was a great experience and I still remember this game fondly.

Post HERE.

#118 Dragon Ball Z: Super Butouden (Super NES) – Summer 1999

Time for the CAVALCADE OF DBZ GAMES. At this point I was All In with DBZ fighting games and plowed through all four of the major ones on the Super Famicom (Lord knows none of these got released outside Japan). This first one covers from the beginning up through Perfect Cell, and it's a pretty rudimentary fighting game. Note how the cover has Gokou and Cell facing off. Gohan can't even get onto the cover of a game where he defeats the final boss!

The main thing I remember about this game is how damn good the music is. All of the fights in this game have their own specific themes, and all of said themes are excellent. In the story mode you have a set character for every fight and it follows the story of the show. The actual combat is pretty bad, with giant floaty jumps and very slow controls.

Favorite Stage Theme: Vegeta vs Android 18. This track is pretty damn funky. Also Vegeta gets to actually win this time so that's nice. Seriously, listen to this freaking theme music.

Post HERE.

#119 Dragon Ball Z: Super Butouden 2 (Super NES) – Summer 1999

This one is significantly better than the first and actually plays pretty well. I'd say it's easily the 2nd-best of the four Super Famicom DBZ fighters. Gohan actually got on the box this time! You've got more options in how to play this one and the controls are much easier to deal with. The only real problem with it is that the story mode doesn't really have a whole lot to do, since the first game covers all the way up through the Perfect Cell fight and when this game came out the show wasn't much further than that.

So what do they do, you ask? They cover the Cell Saga again, but nothing before that, then Movie 9 of the show. To my knowledge this might be the only DBZ game ever that actually covered Movie 9 in any major way. You fight Bojack's goons and ultimately Bojack himself with SSJ2 Gohan, who the story mode is heavily focused on. I've heard Broly is a secret uberboss you fight at the end if you play on Hard mode, so that's cool. Just don't play on Easy mode, because the game ends with the Android 16 fight (kind of random).

Post HERE.

#120 Dragon Ball Z: Super Butouden 3 (Super NES) – Summer 1999

Finally a Buu Saga game...and it isn't very good. Actually, it PLAYS the best of the three so far. The problem is that they totally left the story mode out! Even though the story for the Buu Saga kinda sucks, don't just leave it out! You can play as pretty much everyone from the Buu Saga here, including Majin Buu.

As a result of the story mode omission, all this really has is a two-player mode and what are basically exhibition matches against the CPU. At least you can play as any character you want and have whatever matchups you want. Gokou vs Majin Vegeta is doable here, so that's cool. I don't even know why this is on my "beaten game list" considering there's no story mode. How do you even beat the game? Well, I played it enough and definitely beat all the CPU characters, and it'd feel weird not including it.

Post HERE.

#121 Dragon Ball Z: Hyper Dimension (Super NES) – Summer 1999

Now THIS is more like it. Hands-down the best of the four games and it isn't even close. They gave this one an incredible soundtrack (probably even better than Butoden 1, and definitely more DBZ-like), it handles the best, it has a great selection of end-of-series characters, and they gave it a really legit story mode. Plus it just looks cool. If you love Super Saiyan hair, this game is full of it.

Vegetto, SSJ3 Gotenks, and everyone else of note are here, and this is very much a "Buu Saga game", but it plays so well that it outright obsoletes the previous trio of games.

Gokou's default form in this is SSJ2 which is pretty cool and a nice bit of attention to detail. Also check out how detailed and three-dimensional these character portraits are. This one feels like it had some real money and heart invested in it, rather than just being a rushed cash-in like so many other DBZ games. The story mode doesn't retell the story as well as the first two games did, and just kinda has you facing off with everyone as your chosen character. So you get things like Gokou defeating Cell. Still, it works.

This game's version of Gokou vs Majin Vegeta looks significantly more like the show. Yeah, everything about this game is intense and explosive. Every character is fun to play as. Just a top-notch game right here.

Fondest Memory: Playing this early on a Sunday morning after the latest episode of the show, which was nowhere near this point. I think they were still stuck covering early Freeza Saga over and over. So it was pretty cool to finally get a glimpse of what late-DBZ looked like through this game. That said, the game made the Buu Saga look WAY cooler than it actually ended up being.

Post HERE.

#122 Phantasy Star 4 (Sega Genesis) – Summer 1999

The second Genesis game I ever finished, the first one I bought on the actual system, and to this day I consider it the best Sega Genesis game hands-down. So I really lucked out buying this along with the system. Lucked out in a way that even my Kirby's Dream Land luck might pale compared to. That's right, I bought a Sega Genesis right around this time, soon after I got an NES. All of that retro stuff was incredibly cheap circa 1999. You could walk into a flea market or a local game store, spend $30-40, and walk out with an old game system and 2-4 top-shelf games for it. Everyone wanted to clear their inventory.

Favorite Track: One of the dungeon themes, the super-energetic one that plays occasionally. Lashiec's Air Castle is one such place. I think this tune might be a remix of a dungeon theme from earlier in the series, as this game has a ton of references to earlier games for long-time fans. Alas, I missed all of that, so chances are a lot of these things went right over my head. Here's the dungeon theme in question.

Regardless, knowing nothing about the series before I played this, I was shocked at how good it was. I'd put this up there with the best RPGs on the Super NES and I think it could hang in their relative vicinity. It's kind of like if 7th Saga got hit with The Genesis Weapon from Star Trek and blossomed into a much bigger and better game.

I played this a LOT all summer, got obsessed with the soundtrack, the whole nine yards. Given that it didn't have Nintendo Power hyping it up, or any of the usual things, this game achieved its high status with me entirely on its own. It really is that good, and to this day it hasn't lost any of that high status. Never replaying it helps with that, because Lord knows I've replayed so many things that got brought down ten notches by playing them in less-happy times.

Standout Memory: Listening to music from the game while I did writing and had meetings. This game evoked all kinds of moods with its soundtrack, and traveling to different planets was a rarity in RPGs from this era.

#123 Gradius (NES) – Summer 1999

The Gradius series is an interesting one that I'm back and forth about. I like the series and I like Konami, but I also find these games obnoxious in a lot of ways and generally inferior to other major shooters. Every Gradius game seems to repeat the same beats and level types, and they all have some really cheap stage design (especially late in the game). The fact that they keep repeating the same cheap designs in game after game is kind of mind-boggling to me.

In any case, this is the first one, it's pretty tough, and it's very barebones compared to later entries. Look how small the bosses are. Probably the most notable thing about this is that you can play the first stage in Legend of the Mystical Ninja. Not much else to say on this one.

Post HERE.

#124 Life Force (NES) – Summer 1999

Significantly better game IMO that for a long time I thought was Gradius 2. Nope, the actual Gradius 2 was Japan-only and this was a spinoff. Well, they got more creative with the stage designs in this one and it doesn't repeat some of the stuff I don't like from the series. Not sure why they didn't carry on with elements from this game instead of defaulting back to the first for later games.

Most notable about this game is that it now has vertical-scrolling levels, much like Contra. They alternated between the two level types (something later done by Axelay, which is probably the closest thing to a spiritual successor to Life Force). I like the vertical levels a lot and you can definitely tell this is a Konami game.

Post HERE.

#125 Nemesis (Game Boy) – Summer 1999

I think the Game Boy Player's Guide covered this, so of course I had to play it. It's basically another sequel to Gradius, with some significant graphical improvements. Yep, this Game Boy game has much more impressive bosses and whatnot than the first NES game. Check out the first boss and compare it to the NES version two entries back.

Aside from looking really good, this game plays well and I enjoyed the heck out of emulating it. I think I would have even liked this on the Game Boy hardware (as hard to see as it was) if I'd gotten the opportunity to get it at any point.

Post HERE.

#126 Spider Man and Venom: Separation Anxiety (Super NES) – Fall 1999

Weird how I finished this way before I ever finished Maximum Carnage. It's the less-good sequel to that game. Less-good on pretty much every level. Even with emulation advantages I wasn't able to get to the end of Maximum Carnage (I hadn't yet figured out that the key to victory is saving up superhero summon charges). However, I DID beat Separation Anxiety... via lots and lots of saving and reloading. I probably shouldn't even be counting this as a beaten game given how much cheating I did. Well, I got to the end, so we may as well count the thing. I'm sure I could have finished the game completely on the up-and-up if I made the effort, but quite frankly this game isn't worth the time.

Toughest Part: There was one particular symbiote boss that would dodge roll CONSTANTLY. This guy was a total PITA to fight. And then later in the game they pair him up with other bosses to double-team you. No wonder I had to use so many saves.

Post HERE.

Phantasy Star 4 with one of the best "final dungeon" themes I've ever heard.

Next up: Some seriously heavy hitters as I head back to school in September '99.

The 1000 Games I've Beaten

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