My Summertime Games

I’m going to start off by apologizing for not having a blog post ready for this past weekend, my brother was in town for the week and I didn’t have much time to sit at my computer and write anything out. I had an enjoyable week playing games and visiting our local used game store in town. As this past week was the 4th of July, I thought it would be fun to write about the games that I associate with summertime. I have made a list of the games that always remind me of those summer days as kids where my brother and I would come inside from playing baseball out in the backyard, grab a couple cold sodas, and then proceed to play some games during the hottest hours of the day. First off….

All-Star Baseball – “America’s Pastime”, this was a bit difficult to name just one single baseball game as my favorite, but the first memories that come to mind are playing the All-Star Baseball games on my N64. I started as a kid playing La Russa Baseball 95 on Sega Genesis all the way through to present day MLB The Show games. We would play outside and pretend we were hitting in major league stadiums like Ken Griffey Jr. or Mike Piazza and then head inside to continue on as our favorite players on the N64. The games have improved by light years from the simple design of the 16-bit days, and the yearly offering of MLB The Show is still probably the games I play most during the summer months. I often think of all the time spent playing baseball on N64, as well as in the backyard with friends and family, being inseparable from any mention of summertime.

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater – Growing up in the 90’s and into the early 2000’s before extreme sports games like skateboarding and snowboarding seemingly went extinct, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater most successful series of the genre and helped bring extreme sports even further into popular culture of the time; remember Jackass or Viva La Bam on MTV? or when the X Games drew massive viewers on ESPN? I first played the original Pro Skater the summer of 2000 after a cousin brought the N64 version of the game over and spent the day playing. I got my mom to buy my brother and I a copy of the game from a local Kmart and we spent the rest of the summer obsessively playing it; I remember waking up in the mornings that summer just to try and collect more tapes thereby unlocking more levels. As someone unable to even stand on a skateboard( and living in the middle of nowhere) this was like discovering another world. Pro Skater, along with Rogue Squadron 2 were the first games I got when the GameCube came out in 2002. I still have copies of the first couple Tony Hawk games for Playstation that are still fun to go back and play every now and then, despite the camera and controls which have not aged particularly well. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater was a huge game for me during all those summers as a kid, not to mention all of the cool licensed music that were used for the games. Ask anyone who played the game to NOT think of THPS upon hearing Superman by Goldfinger.

Mario Golf N64 – I dragged my trusty N64 into my living room a few weeks ago and Mario Golf was one of the first games that I popped in. I spent countless hours with my younger brother and our neighbor friend trying to unlock all the extra characters that you needed to first beat in Match Play, which proved quite challenging to say the least. I remember taking turns playing one hole each trying to beat Metal Mario…I don’t think we ever did? The music and sound effects from this game still bring forth all those warm fuzzy nostalgic feelings after all these years. I dragged my trusty N64 into my living room a few weeks ago and Mario Golf was one of the first games that I popped in and plan on going through and writing about the Mario Golf series as I love all the games. While many consider Mario Golf for the Game Boy Color to be the high point of the series, my favorite would still have to be the N64 version.

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City – Man…I can’t even imagine the hours that were spent playing this on Playstation 2. GTA: Vice City was the game my brother and I saved every cent of allowance money and traded in several stacks of games just to buy a PS2, because we knew we HAD TO GET THIS GAME. Vice City took everything that GTA 3 had pioneered in open-world games and added even more. My friends and I used to take turns playing the game for hours on end without even attempting to actually complete a storyline mission. I had never played anything like it to that point, it was so fun to run around the neon, tropical landscape of Vice City set during the 1980s. The carefree do-anything gameplay, music, and chaos that Rockstar created in Vice City is still one of the first things that comes to mind when I think of video games in the summertime.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – I ACTUALLY have a more recently released game on my list! It has been two years since I was able to get a Switch and the obvious choice of game to go along with it is Breath of the Wild. I spent the rest of the summer completing shrines and gathering Korok seeds in Nintendo’s open-world Zelda masterpiece. I had been itching to play through the game all over again, so I started another playthrough over the weekend with the intention of completing every shrine and finding every Korok seed, along with finally completing the Master Sword Trial( wish me luck! 😉 ). There really isn’t much to say about BotW that hasn’t already been said, if you have not played it yet…YOU NEED TO PLAY THIS! The game is an experience.

Super Mario Sunshine – I am simply unable to think of summertime video games without Super Mario Sunshine being one of the first games springing to mind. I fell in love with this game from the first time I played in on my GameCube in August 2002 and Mario’s vacation-gone-awry on Isle Delfino is still one of my highlights on the console. The exotic Isle Delfino and the Piantas – its anti-pollution, fruit-loving denizens, simply evokes images of a dream summer vacation. The wonderful Koji Kondo soundtrack adds to the summertime mood as well. Despite the seemingly relaxed vibe of the game, it can be terrifyingly difficult; just take a look at some of the 3D puzzle-platforming levels in the later stages of the game. I recently wrote up a list of my “Switch Wish List” and Sunshine is one of the games I really would love to play on the Switch, as the predecessor of Super Mario Odyssey. While the camera is STILL the games biggest drawback, it is a pure enjoyable experience traversing Isle Delfino with your waterpack – F.L.U.D.D and still consider it one of the defining experiences on the GameCube. Switch re-release or not, Super Mario Sunshine is still my go-to summer gaming experience.

That’s going to be it for this week’s post, what games do you think of right away if you when you reminisce about childhood summers? What are you still excited to play the remained of the sumer? I did also pick up a copy of Super Mario Maker 2 and have been loving it so far; the depth of the course creator and insane user-created levels are really impressive. That along with Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 when it releases in a couple weeks will most likely consume the rest of my summer. I still have a lot of games that I want to keep working on as the past week was spent mostly playing MLB The Show, Mario Kart 8, and an assorted few N64 and GameCube games and then of course, Season 3 of Stranger Things. I do plan to get more in the rhythm of writing weekly posts moving forward through the rest of the summer. Over the course of the week, I was able to come up with some ideas for future blog posts that I would love to experiment with as well, so I’m pretty happy about that. Happy National Video Game Day! Finally…a holiday for us gamers 😉

Keep on playing…

Doom 3 – Demons In The Darkness

We all have games that for one reason or another end up being put in the backlog, usually with the intention that we’ll get back to it after we finish up whatever we’re currently focusing on. For me, I seem to come across games that I begin playing and seem to enjoy enough before…kinda…stopping. What then typically happens is enough time passes that I then decide I’ll just start fresh from the beginning, some games this process gets repeated several times…so I was extra happy to see through to the end a game I have spent years playing off and on – Doom 3; a game I’ve played off and on since its release in 2004. So, after 15 years I figured it was about damn time to see this one through.

After the successes of the first two Doom games, the result of which spawned ports and iterations of the original Doom on just about every operating system and console available (including the notorious Sega 32X and Game Boy Advance ports), iD Software in the early 2000’s their next entry in the Doom franchise would be a remake/reboot of the original first released in 1994. The game spent the next several years in development from announcement to release date. Doom 3 was released on August 3 2004 to critical acclaim and still remains an interesting, if not unusual entry to the franchise.

I can ACTUALLY see you this time!

Doom 3 is a bit of a departure for the series in that the fast paced run-and-gun element of the first two games have been slowed down and takes a back seat to atmosphere and storytelling similar to the BioShock or F.E.A.R, which Doom 3 undoubtedly influenced. You still engage in intense gunfights with demons from the depths of Hell, however the gameplay is more survival horror and narrative than simply shoot everything in sight…though you STILL do plenty of that. The tone of the game is dark and brooding with reanimated zombie soldiers and an entire army of demons seemingly lurking around every corner. The lighting effects and shadows in the game are very impressive and I found myself stopping frequently to take in the terrifying ambience in Doom 3. The story is the same as the original Doom and takes place on the UAC Mars Base Research Facility where scientists have discovered several stone tablets at a nearby excavation site and in the process open a portal to Hell unleashing everyone to unimaginable horrors.

Throughout the game you encounter random survivors, soldier and scientist alike to further flesh out the story of the game. You play as a Space Marines recruit en route to the Mars Facility just as…<don’t say it!>…all Hell breaks loose (no more lame puns 🙂 ). Upon checking into the UAC base, you are given a PDA( REMEMBER those? lol) to keep track of email, as well as audio and video logs; this serves as a way to keep track of your current objective as well as provide further backstory in the events leading up to your arrival as you collect the PDAs dropped by others to listen to their audio logs and email which provide details relevant to your objectives such as locker codes or computer terminal locations.

Back to Hell with you, Mancubus!

The majority of the game takes place inside the UAC Facility with its multitude of corridors, labs, and computer terminals; this further adds to the feeling of claustrophobia keeping you on your toes as this game is DARK, not only in tone but in that you are unable to ACTUALLY see what you are supposed to be fighting. This is probably my biggest gripe about the game – even with the brightness settings turned up, it is very very hard to see. Another element that adds to this is the conscious decision by iD to make you unable to hold your flashlight AND gun at the same time, this being the most common gripe I heard as soon as someone would mention Doom 3. You continue making your way through Mars Base until you are sent directly to Hell via teleporter, this was my favorite and far too brief level in which fight the Guardian and retrieve the Soul Cube – an ancient weapon capable of destroying the army of Hell-spawn. You are then teleported back to Mars and venture back through the remainder of the research facility and proceed to find the excavation site where the Stone Tablets and Soul Cube were discovered. You continue to blast your way through hordes of demons before battling the Cyberdemon and saving the day. The Cyberdemon fight I admit was brief and felt rather anti-climactic due to the power of the Soul Cube annihilating anything in its path(and refilling your health at the same time). Side Note: In later “BFG Versions” of the game the famous “duct tape mod” was added, giving you the ability to see AND shoot.

Though Doom 3 is a reboot of the franchise, the game still contains many of the same monsters and demons from the previous games like the Cyberdemon, Hell Knight, and Pinky, though the design of the monsters were changed around a bit( Pinky’s metal cyborg legs!). It also would not be a Doom game with a complete arsenal of weapons at your disposal, with everything from trusty shotguns to chainsaws and plasma rifles to perhaps the best known weapon in any FPS game – the BFG 9000, which is powerful enough to blow a Hell Knight to bits with a single charged shot….hell yeah!! 😀

This place seems nice…

There’s a lot about Doom 3 that I really enjoyed: the atmosphere is frightfully beautiful, and the graphics have held up remarkably well for a fifteen year old game. The weapons and demons are also well designed and fitting of the venerable Doom series. The levels work well to give the player intense close-quarters combat within the dark corridors of the Mars Base. My only real dislikes about the game were the screen shake when you are hit by an enemy attack to the point where it gets a bit disorienting, along with just how dark the game is, even with the brightness setting cranked all the way up. I know that was a conscious decision to provoke apprehension about just what might be hiding in the darkness as you make your way around, so I don’t feel it’s hugely detrimental to the game. The fact you have to choose to be able to see or defend yourself by not being able to use the flashlight and weapon at the same time is still an annoyance. Nevertheless, the positive things I can say about this game far outweigh a few minor critiques. If there is any other Doom fans out there that haven’t given this a play through yet, I very highly recommend it.

Playing through Doom 3 along with seeing more from the upcoming Doom: Eternal game has made me want to go through and play more Doom games. I mentioned last weekend that I had found a good copy of Doom 64 that I intend to make my way through shortly…as soon as I can find a Controller Pak…the modern conveniences like built-in hard drives that we take for granted these days, right?

Four hits from the Soul Cube and down goes the Cyberdemon

In the process of throwing this week’s post together, I came across a list of the FPS games that were released in 2004 like Doom 3…my god what a list of shooters released for console as well as PC: Doom 3, Painkiller, Far Cry, Killzone, Star Wars: Battlefront…and then there was also Half-Life 2 and Halo 2! Following up on this and writing a gaming year in review sounds kinda fun so I may do that in the near future. Has anyone besides me NOT played Doom 3? Does anyone else feel like if they don’t play a game for long enough without completing it that they need to start all over from the beginning?

Keep on playing…

Weekend Gaming Review – June 2019

I’m still feeling the excitement from all of the game announcements from E3 which ended this previous Thursday, and got a chance to watch some actual gameplay from upcoming games, mostly from the Nintendo E3 Treehouse stream I watched on Tuesday. I stated in last week’s post how excited I am for the Link’s Awakening remake and watching gameplay from it only increased that feeling, I also got to see more from Super Mario Maker 2 and Animal Crossing which I already have on the “Buy List” in my head. Two other games I am really interested to try out later this summer/fall for the Switch are Daemon X Machina and Astral Chain which make my Switch Shopping List even more lengthy this year. Along with spending multiple hours between gaming news sites and spectating the elation of Banjo-Kazooie fans after being announced as a new Smash Bros. DLC characters( I thought I LOVED the game…) I still found time to actually play some games, including a few games I started for the first time.

  • Mass Effect: Andromeda – I wanted to play through this game to see if it’s really as bad as I remember hearing about when the game was released. I know that BioWare has made a number of updates to the game particularly with the character animations during cutscenes which was I guess something a significant portion of gamers couldn’t get past, along with the story not being as ambitious as the original Mass Effect trilogy. I have enjoyed what I’ve played of the game so far and plan to write up my thoughts on the game after completing.
  • Pokémon : Let’s Go, Pikachu! – I actually hadn’t started on this game since it’s release last year and I am somewhat disappointed in myself. I watched my younger brother play through Pokémon Yellow( and I had Pokémon Red) on Game Boy Color as a kid, so I was familiar with the game and just plain hadn’t gotten around to it; most of my time last November and December was spent playing Black Ops 4, Red Dead Redemption 2, and Smash Bros. Ultimate. I love kicking back and playing pretty much ANY Pokémon game as one of my “comfort food” games that I come back to if I ever get into a “rut” and find myself asking “Am I really enjoying this or am I just playing this game to clear it from my backlog?” I couldn’t help but notice that I happened to pick this up after watching a bunch of gameplay showing Pokémon Sword/Shield which comes out in November…probably a coincidence?
  • Doom 3 – I have been playing through this off and on for a few weeks as I was determined to actually finish the damn game as it was one of many games that I began so long ago that when I finally come back to it I decide to start ALL OVER again and play through from the beginning. You know when you start watching a tv show and just kinda fall off about halfway through it that when you yourself wanting to see it through to the end you feel like you need to being fresh from the beginning so it seems more cohesive….I’m not the ONLY weirdo out there like that, right? Anyways…I’ve been playing through Doom 3 with an extra determination to finish it; there’s only a few months before Doom Eternal comes out and I want to get another run through of Doom 2016 before that. I also, just picked up a copy of Doom 64 that I found at my local retro game store that I’m lucky to have in my hometown, so I look forward to finally playing that as I never played it back in 1997.
  • Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon – Another game that has been in my ever-growing backlog waiting for me to finish. I bought Dark Moon when it first came out on the 3DS as I was really excited for another Luigi’s Mansion game with the original being the first game that I played and loved for the Gamecube in 2001. Another game that I simply have not played to completion, I mostly attribute this to that I spend a disproportionate amount of console games to handheld games. I have nothing against the 3DS, I just never played it as much as a console I can play on my tv. The handheld games I have always spent the most time playing are the mainline Pokémon games, otherwise most games for my Game Boy Color/DS/3DS have been relegated to games that I would play should I ever actually travel somewhere(almost never…). By this point it seems that whether I realized it or not, the games I have been playing all have a sequel or simply another game in the series coming out the near future with exception of Mass Effect: Andromeda.
  • MLB The Show 19 – Yup, still grinding away for more cards on my Diamond Dynasty team…

I will most likely write up my thoughts about Mass Effect, Doom, and Let’s Go, Pikachu! in the future after making my way through them. I started this blog simply as an exercise in talking about video games – something incredibly meaningful to me and has always been a part of my life. I have a lot of different ideas for future blog posts to add a little bit of variety so I’m not just typing “I played this game today…” every weekend. I will still continue to write out my thoughts about games that I’m playing or would like to play, along with different topics involving video games in some capacity. Current gaming news or specific memories or attachments to particular games is another avenue that I would be interested in; there’s even plenty of video game movies that I think would be fun to talk about. That about does it for this week…I still have a little bit of time to catch a few more Pokémon 🙂

Keep on playing…

Five Games I’m Most Excited About From E3 2019

The video gaming spectacle known as the Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3 is currently underway in Los Angeles, CA running from June 11-13. During this time game publishers, developers, media and gaming community in general gather to the Los Angeles Convention center to either showcase or experience the latest and greatest(hopefully) the industry has to offer. The event has come a long way since starting in 1995 as an offshoot of the Consumer Electronics Show, or CES as everything around video games had grown exponentially larger – industry, media, and consumers. Every year multitudes of gaming fans keep watch on their online gaming news outlet of choice, or more recently Twitch and YouTube channels dedicated to showing every minute of the array of games and technology on display. Every annual E3 convention is kicked off with several days of press conferences from the major developers and publishers, and with these press conferences come announcement trailers and gameplay footage of upcoming titles. This has become a bit of a spectator sport in itself as game announcements can come as a surprise and create an enormous amount of excitement for anyone who loves video games. After some deliberation, these are the five games that I’m most excited about after seeing from E3 2019.

Final Fantasy VII

Square Enix’s remake of the beloved Final Fantasy VII has been in the works for quite some time now after being initially announced back in 2015. The game development seemed to go for very long periods of time without any word or update from the developers, with some skeptical the game would ever happen at all. Well…Square Enix finally showed off some actual gameplay of FFVII during its presentation on Monday night and this game looks downright gorgeous with the updated, NOT jagged angular character models of Cloud and Barrett’s boss battle with the Scorpion Sentinel from early on in the game. The combat controls have been reworked a bit, with a shift more towards an action RPG that I think is an interesting change particularly when dealing with a game as highly regarded by hardcore RPG fans as FFVII. Another aspect of the game that I feel is a bit strange is the fact it is going to an episodic release, with Square Enix stating the entire first episode will take place in Midgar. Square Enix also stated the game will be large enough to take up two entire blu-ray discs upon release in its completed form; though they admit they are unsure of just how many episodes the game be comprised. Final Fantasy VII is a game that while being the benchmark title for the series, is in need of a face lift as it is one of the first games I mention when the discussion of “games that haven’t aged well” comes up(along with Goldeneye and Ocarina of Time)…nevertheless I am incredibly eager to check this out when it releases in March 2020.

Watch Dogs: Legion

The announcement for Watch Dogs: Legion was leaked prior to E3 and like the other games in the Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs series, it looks to be a very ambitious game that I sincerely hope they are able to pull off as this game really piqued my interest after watching the demonstration during the Ubisoft E3 presentation. Watch Dogs: Legion is set in London of the not too distant future, where an authoritarian militia-government has control, with soldiers on patrol as well as drones surveying your every move…you know sci-fi dystopian stuff. The premise of the game is similar to that of the first two games, with a group of individuals with the ability to hack seemingly any device have decided to fight back. I admit I have missed out on the Watch Dogs games up to this point so this may be an excellent introduction to the series for me. One of the unique features of this game is the fact there isn’t any “main character” as you can recruit and then control ANYONE you see out on the street. The gameplay demo showed the character currently being controlled as they were able to scan and identify different people around the area, with their different abilities and skill sets being highlighted. You could recruit a retired police officer, an amateur MMA fighter, an expert hacker, or someone with an extensive knowledge of drones. The developers at Ubisoft stated you can recruit an army of resistance members with skills as varied as you choose. If a character is taken down while fighting, you are given the choice of either surrender and be escorted to jail with you being unable to use them for a set amount of time or you can choose to keep fighting. If you opt to keep fighting and the character is killed you lose that character indefinitely…perma-deaths will be a thing in this game. Ubisoft also stated that if one of your characters is taken to jail, you will be able to be released back into available use if any of your recruited members who have backgrounds as a lawyer. The highlight of the Watch Dogs: Legion was the portion of the demo where the control was switched over to Helen – an elderly woman who is also a retired espionage agent. Watching Helen shuffle around a London park, feeding the birds one moment and then the next moment she stealthily takes out an armed guard with a taser to the neck…I was pretty much sold by this point 🙂 . Watch Dogs: Legion was announced for a March 6 2020 release.

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order

Ever since Jedi: Fallen Order was officially announced I was eager to see more, especially knowing the Respawn Entertainment would be developing the game. I have stated in the past how much I loved the Titanfall games as well as Apex Legends after it was stealth dropped back in February, so that combine that with the fact it’s another Star Wars game it seemed a no-brainer. I really want to see EA get a Star Wars game RIGHT, especially after the debacle around Battlefront 2 and…really any AAA title they have released the past few years. This past Saturday, EA and Respawn demonstrated a gameplay video after much speculation within the gaming community as to what the game even was going to be. In Jedi: Fallen Order you control Cal Kestis – a young Jedi who survived Order 66 has joined a band of rebels led by Saw Gerrera – the guerrilla leader played by Forest Whitaker in Rogue One; whose likeness is also used in the game. The gameplay video showed Kestis traversing the wookie planet of Kashyyyk and fighting Stormtroopers as well as hostile life forms. The gameplay we were able to see didn’t seem to be revolutionary in any way, with the traversal and general movements appear to be similar to that of any of the Uncharted games; the combat however, looks pretty enjoyable with really smooth looking lightsaber combat. The video shows Kestis will force-push a broken wall and then jump through and use the Force to freeze a Stormtrooper (a la Kylo Ren) in mid-movement before striking him down with his lightsaber. There is also the ability to freeze blaster fire mid-air and deflecting it back at enemies, along with the lightsaber throws we are used to seeing from the Force Unleashed games a console generation ago. What I did see of the game reminded me a bit of the Force Unleashed, with some of the jumping, and swinging across chasms we have seen from Nathan Drake in Uncharted games. I can’t help but still be just the smallest bit concerned given the track record EA has with their usage of the Star Wars universe, but the gameplay video did put my mind at ease quite a bit. Another interesting note about the game is the developers at Respawn have stated that among their inspirations for Jedi: Fallen Order were Super Metroid and Dark Souls and wanted to have the same nature of exploration and at the same time have the strategic combat of the aforementioned games. Jedi: Fallen Order is releasing on November 15 2019 and I certainly plan on checking this game out.

Cyberpunk 2077 – Special Mention*

I haven’t gotten to see any actual gameplay of developer CD Projekt Red’s follow up to the enormously popular Witcher 3: Wild Hunt so I wasn’t going to include it in a list of games that I was able to see actual gameplay from, but I after reading several accounts of the 50 minute gameplay demo being offered to those lucky enough to be at E3, along with watching the Cyberpunk 2077 cinematic trailer that was shown as part of Microsoft’s press conference on Sunday…and all I can say is that the hype for this game has been amplified tenfold; it looks to be the closest thing to a Blade Runner video game. Cyberpunk 2077 is set to be released on April 16 2020 and has the potential to be incredible, just watch this trailer…

Doom: Eternal

I really don’t need to spend much time discussing what the newest title in the Doom series from iD and Bethesda looks like other than saying “It looks like Doom 2016…just bigger and more of it!” The gameplay video shown at the Bethesda conference Sunday night showed plenty of the over-the-top demon slaying we have come to know and love about the series. This time around you will be fighting not only on Mars and in Hell, but also in other dimensions and planets which I have absolutely no doubt will still provide the same experience as the previous game. Doom: Eternal releases on November 22 2019 and I CANNOT wait!

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening Remake

I could have spent this entire time just talking about all the announcements from the Nintendo Direct Presentation of Tuesday morning. I could hardly contain my fanboy excitement as Nintendo announced a new Contra game – Contra: Rogue Corps, No More Heroes 3, a remake of Panzer Dragoon, Banjo and Kazooie FINALLY being added as characters in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and in the final moments played a very brief trailer announcing that a sequel for Breath of the Wild was currently in development…OH.MY.GOD :). Allow me to regain my composure for a minute and re-direct back to the game that I am probably most excited for after seeing more of it from E3 – the Link’s Awakening remake. I was intrigued when I watched the announcement that Nintendo was going to remake Link’s Awakening; a game first released on the original Game Boy back in 1993. I was also cautiously optimistic about the choice of animations used for the remake and being worried they may not do justice to a Legend of Zelda game however, after seeing extended gameplay segments shown by Nintendo over the last couple days I think the creative decision will work out perfectly. The graphics still remind me a bit of Peanuts movie, but it seems to make sense for this particular game. Link’s Awakening takes place all within a dream and has a bit of a goofy, oddball quality to it that I have begun to really like after watching the adorable cartoonish Link make his way around Koholint Island. They are including the Color Dungeon from the Game Boy Color DX version and what appears to be a Dungeon Creator in the remake that also looks fun. There is also a Link Amiibo that is being released at the same time as the full game on September 20 2019. I had embarrassingly never played through the entire game at the time of the remake announcement and quickly rectified that issue. (Side Note: I made a post about my thoughts about my playthrough of Link’s Awakening for the Game Boy a couple months ago if you care to read)

This fall is looking to be good for gamers as I am already game planning just the handful of games off the top of my head – Link’s Awakening, Pokemon Sword/Shield, Luigi’s Mansion 3, Doom: Eternal, Jedi: Fallen Order, and Death Stranding just to name a few. What games are you anxious to play later this year or that you’re really hyped up about after seeing from E3?

Keep on playing…

Ape Out – Going Bananas

This past week I sat down and played Ape Out, a game I had been wanting to play since it was released this past February. I absolutely love playing this game! It’s a vivid, violent, rhythmic smash ’em up that plays like something you could have found years ago in the local arcade but with a 70’s acid jazz kind of vibe to it. A game showcasing video games as an art form. From the second you break out of your cage and begin obliterating the guards watching over you, I knew I was in for an interesting ride.

The objective in Ape Out is simple: make your way from Point A to Point B. The gameplay and controls are simple, but extremely satisfying as you control an APE trying to ESCAPE(NOT to be confused with a PS1 title involving primates 😉 ) from his cage and make your way through the procedurally-generated levels, returning to the wild. As stated, the controls are simple: run, punch, and grab. You are vastly outnumbered by armed guards trying to take you down, and to survive you will need to make an instant decision of simply running past an unsuspecting guard or splattering against the wall. You are able to grab the guards and doors in your way and forcefully propel them at other surrounding enemies; this can also be a critical decision as quickly grabbing an enemy and using them to shield yourself from the barrage of bullets before hurling them at an enemy as if they are being shot out of a cannon…you can even pick up the limbs of the obliterated enemies and throw them at others…I enjoyed this greatly(NOT psycho) 😀

Ape Out is similar to Hotline Miami: utilizing a top-down camera angle, over-the-top stylized violence, and an explosion of colors. In Ape Out however, the top-down camera has been zoomed in, adding an increased sense of caution as you never know who is just around the next corner. There is also an absence of neon lighting and DeLoreans in Ape Out…

The sound design and visuals of this game are one of the more unique characteristics of the game; kind of a Miles Davis 1970’s jazz pastiche that I absolutely freaking love! The graphics are slightly grainy with a warmth around the edges of the characters and objects that exude a visual equivalent of the sound of a vinyl record being played. The colors in the game range from dark, smoky hues of black and gray contrasted by bright bold shades of red or orange. The dynamic contrast in colors is really brought out when you slam a guard into a nearby wall or post and the resulting blood red explosion is a bit like watching fireworks in the night sky. Other levels also shroud the environment in black that is disrupted by only the guards’ flashlights and a few dashes of purple around the level. The entire 3rd album( the game consists of four “albums” which contain eight levels each) – Fugue is washed in a completely crimson and orange backdrop that finds you trying to find your way across a desolate wasteland resembling a napalm-devastated Vietnam battleground. I haven’t even mentioned the music yet…the music in Ape Out is phenomenal! Each level or ALBUM rather, is set to a riveting drum solo whose rhythm mirrors yours as you progress through the level and even accents your very movements. You running down an empty hallway is accompanied by a steady snare drum roll while every time you pummel an enemy the music will add a cymbal crash, along with anytime you break through a wall; this adds a very stylish rhythmic element to the gameplay that is an absolute blast to play.

There are four main “albums” to play through in the game – Subject 4, High Rise, Fugue, Adrift – with four levels making up Side A and Side B respectively. Subject 4 begins kicks off your quest for freedom by escaping from research facility with the first couple levels serving as a tutorial of sorts as you get adjusted to moving around as a gigantic primate. High Rise takes place in a 32-story office building; making your way from stairwell to stairwell through a labyrinth of closets and cubicles before making a mad dash to the exit from the crowded lobby at the bottom. Fugue is a bit more difficult as the “album cover” would imply with a picture of a lit match – fire and lots of it. You cross what appears to be shipping warehouses full of oil drums that if anything OR anyone is driven into them with the force of an angry gorilla it will cause them to burst into a giant ball of flames; a new enemy brandishing a flamethrower pack is also introduced at this time. Fugue is probably the most memorable( and most difficult) level as the latter half( Side B) takes place outdoors in a scorched area surrounded by wire fence while firebombs are being dropped from the sky. The orange and red colors of the levels along with the stark snare drum march seemed to be a bit of an allusion to the Vietnam War. I couldn’t help but think of Lt. Kilgore of Apocalypse Now during this – “I love the smell of napalm in the morning…” The final album – Adrift takes place on a freight tanker on the open seas where you navigate your way through around the levels of the tanker before finally making your way to freedom.

After clearing each of the four albums you can choose the option to now play the game on Harder difficulty; there is also Arcade Mode where you can try to rack up the highest score possible while clearing the levels in the least amount of time and deaths. I enjoyed this game so much that once I cleared the albums I turned around and started the play through them again, this time striving for shorter completion time and fewer deaths. There are no exact same runs through the levels, as the paths through the maze-like levels as well as enemy placement are all procedurally-generated; you thought that same enemy with the explosives was just around the corner only to find out THIS time it’s several enemies with shotguns or none at all…at least until you round the next corner. Every time you take a hit, you will leave a trail of blood behind you for the guards to follow; after three hits you’re dead and will have to start the level over again.

Every time you die, the camera zooms out to show your path taken and progress made through the level.

Violence, jazz, and apes….awesome, right? Ape Out is available on PC and Switch and is a fantastic game that I very highly recommend to anyone looking for something a little bit different to play. Finally…justice for Harambe! 😀

What games have you been playing recently or what games are you most looking forward to hearing about at E3 this week? I plan on putting up another post with my thoughts about all the upcoming announcements after E3.

Keep on playing…

Back In 1995 – Remember the 90’s?

Several days ago I decided it would be fun to download another random indie game and share my thoughts about it as I did a few weeks ago with Coffee Crisis. The game I decided on after looking on the Nintendo eShop is titled Back In 1995 – a “retro indie game” which isn’t much of a novelty, but this sounded intriguing and might be worth a try.

Back In 1995 was developed by Throw The Warped Code Out and was published by Ratalaika Games, originally being released back in 2016(no pun intended) it found its way to the Nintendo eShop this May. The game was created as a very deliberate throwback to the survival horror genre games that were popular in the 90’s such as Resident Evil, Silent Hill, or Alone In The Dark. It was created to be as authentic to these types of games as possible, as if this game truly was developed…back in 1995. The game includes many of the characteristics of survival horror games from that time such as blurry character models and environments, fixed camera angles, lackluster voice acting, and tank controls…yes, they included tank controls to aid in game’s retro authenticity. Tank controls, for those who are young( and fortunate) enough to never have had to use them simply mean that regardless of where you are on screen pressing UP will always move your character FORWARD. Anyone old enough to grow up playing the original Resident Evil games with its cumbersome tank controls surely remembers the frustration of your character drunkenly stumbling down hallways and around obstacles as it is very difficult to move in a straight line.

Cloudy with a chance of…winged meatballs?

The storyline of the game(or lack thereof) begins with the game’s protagonist, Kent regaining consciousness and is convinced he needs to reach the top of a tower in order to find his daughter Alissa, or figure out what’s going on….or something? The story really isn’t fleshed out much more than that, with only a few notes and newspaper clipping that are scattered around the 3 (yes, ONLY 3) levels of the game. The main character has suffered some sort of trauma or has amnesia and tries to discover what is going on, typical of survival horror games of the PS1/Saturn/3DO era.

Back In 1995 does manage to recreate most of the atmosphere of the games it is trying to emulate, however that is about it. The fixed camera angles and fuzzy visuals you got from using an old cathode-ray tube (CRT) tv were limitations of the time that were utilized with the game to create a feeling of suspense, there was no sense of terror or even a single jump scare or anything like it during the game. I understand what the developers were going for with the aesthetic of the game and it does succeed in feeling like games of a previous era. Back In 1995 has most of the characteristics of Resident Evil or Silent Hill, but unfortunately none of the story or anything else that makes it very memorable. There are reasons why we STILL talk about making our way through a creepy mansion filled with zombies in Resident Evil or trying to piece together what happened to the foggy, eerie town of Silent Hill. Kent wanders around a hospital office, the rooftop of the hospital, and finally ending at somewhere I would describe as a rooftop luxury condo or some kind. The game is not challenging in the way of combat or puzzles, there is more than enough health and ammo and the couple puzzles are nothing more than a few switches or 3-digit combination locks. There is never really a sense of danger or urgency in the game, despite what is set up(or not). The enemies in the game are also forgettable as they never play much of a part in the story other than weird lumpy objects to maneuver around, remember the tank controls? The environments that take place in the game are all kind of same-y; a drab shade of beige or gray making it difficult at times to tell where an item may be lying around, causing you to wander aimlessly around the empty levels.

A luxury condo with a wonderful view…

Any challenge within the game is completely from your limitations of movement and patience. The game unfortunately gets to be a bit of a chore. You are unable move faster than a slow walk; no running or the ability to quick turn. I found myself holding down the B button as I was laboriously moving around, forgetting that you are simply unable to run. There is also not much in the way of sound effect or music to the game, just about all of the game is simply you listening to the sound of your loud footsteps clomping down the hallway which detracted from my patience while playing the game.

The ending of the game was also a little bit underwhelming as I found myself saying “oh….ok…that’s it?” as it tried to wrap everything up at the last second with a not so surprising realization that Kent was involved in a bad accident and it had left his mind so damaged that it rendered him incoherent and sometimes even violent with his family who had left him to be watched over by the staff of a psych ward of a hospital. I mentioned how inconsequential the monsters in the game were and how they were simply mentioned at the end of the game as “being in his mind”.

“Gotcha suckas!” – name the movie

Back In 1995 was created with the best intentions in mind of a genre of games they obviously were fans of, but were unable to capture the essence of what made the games of the era great. I would compare this game to a “cover version” of a popular song: it can sound(or look) like it, but more often that not it just doesn’t have the spirit of the original. Do I recommend Back In 1995? I can’t say the game is great, but if you played survival horror games on the PS1 back in 1995( last time, sorry!) it may be worth checking out.

Does anyone out there remember the old survival horror games of the 90’s tank controls and all? What are some indie games that you feel were negatively effected due to insisting on “retro authenticity”?

Keep on playing…

Gunstar Heroes – Treasure’s Debut Gem

As someone who grew up loving the numerous side-scrolling shoot em’ ups released for the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis during the golden age of games in the 90’s, Gunstar Heroes may be my absolute favorite. Some of my fondest memories as a kid were playing this on my Genesis and I still dust off my old cartridge and play it from time to time.

Gunstar Heroes was released in September 1993 for the Sega Genesis and was very well received by all the gaming magazines of the time(remember gaming magazines? 😁). The gameplay is similar to the side scrolling shooters popular at the time, like the Contra or Metal Slug games. You play as either Red or Blue, two siblings in the Gunstar family that has taken up fighting the evil Colonel Red (who does NOT wear red) has set out to acquire four gemstones to resurrect a powerful android – Golden Silver and control the galaxy…you know…the usual stuff.

When you choose your character you also select which fire mode you want to use – Free or Fixed. Free fire mode is what I have always preferred as you can run and gun through the levels rather than Fixed fire mode where you have to remain stationary to fire your weapon. You also choose one of four weapon types – Force, Flame, Chaser, or Lightning. Force is the closest to a typical machine gun with a faster fire rate(think Contra). Flame is a short-range but powerful flamethrower-type weapon. Chaser fires homing ammunition( F.Y.I – essentially the SAME as the Seeker fire mode you can use in Cuphead I was pleased to discover). Finally, the Lightning weapon fires laser beams that can shoot through enemies and barriers. One of my favorite aspects of Gunstar Heroes was the ability to combine weapon types; you can combine two of the same type of ammo the make a bigger more powerful version of the weapon such as two Flame types will create an even larger flamethrower or two Lightning types combined together create a steady short-range “blade” which looks conspicuously like a Lightsaber. My favorite pairing however, was the Force and Chaser types combined for a devastating homing machine gun effect which can be a HUGE advantage, as in typical shoot em’ up fashion the action on screen gets pretty chaotic( doubly so playing co-op).

Black’s Dice Palace forces you to roll a die to make your way through the level

Each of the first four levels can be played in any order and has a different boss fight at the end. You can pick from fighting your way through a jungle area( again…similar to Contra) and fight the boss, Pink to taking on Orange(who ironically is wearing GREEN military fatigues) and pursuing him on his flying base in an interesting level that begins climbing to the top of a tower chasing Orange as the screen scrolls vertically ending with a battle with Orange on the wing of a helicopter. You can also choose from playing your way through what is essentially a “board game” level as you have to roll the dice to advance to the corresponding spaces until you make your way to the end where you battle the boss, Black in what still remains one of the more unique AND at times, frustrating levels in a video game as a kid. (Another side note: this is just about note for note the SAME idea at the end of Cuphead playing your way to the DiceMaster at the end of the level…hmmm) Lastly, is probably my favorite level of the game in taking on Green( noticing a particular trend with everyone’s name?) – another member of the Gunstar family whose mind has been under the control and has been aiding the Emperor. The level takes place in an underground mining tunnel in which you ride in a small mine cart that can travel on either top or bottom path on screen while fighting waves of enemies before confronting Green who pilots the mech – Seven Force( think Tony Stark with Transformers). This is the most memorable boss battle of the game. Green can shift Seven Force into any one of…you guessed it…SEVEN different “Forces” – Soldier, Tiger, Blaster, Tail, Urchin, Eagle, or Crab. Once you defeat one of the first four stage bosses, you receive another one of the four gemstones. The next level finds you fighting your way through wave after wave…after wave of enemies to confront Colonel Red and rescue your sister Yellow, who has been kidnapped. This is pretty easily the most explosions I had seen on screen playing a video game to that time, possibly to this day, that’s how frantic the action gets during the game. The frame rate during this level gets slowed down to almost a crawl if playing co-op. After making your way through what seems like an endless amount of enemies before confronting Colonel Red who holds Yellow hostage, forcing you to hand over the gemstones before you battle the colonel’s right-hand man – Smash Daisaku who is dressed EXACTLY like M. Bison from the Street Fighter games and appears several times throughout the prior levels. After Smash Daisaku is defeated, the Gunstars chase Colonel Red who has set out to land his flying fortress on a small moon where Golden Silver is imprisoned. The next level takes place in space and has you piloting a small ship to shoot your way through the fortress’ defenses and stop the colonel. The setting of this level is from a top-down camera angle and plays similar to Xevious or the R-Type games and includes once again, a battle with Green and Seven Force in open space. The proceeding and final level of the game you catch up with Colonel Red, but not before he resurrects Golden Silver to be promptly destroyed by the android and initiates a battle between the Gunstars and Golden Silver before ultimately being destroyed.

Battling the brainwashed Green and Seven Force in the underground mine level

Gunstar Heroes was released as developer Treasure’s debut effort in 1993. Treasure was founded by devs working at Konami that had grown restless with Konami’s insistence on releasing sequel after sequel for their biggest IPs like the Castlevania, Contra, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games and wanted to focus their efforts on making a more original title. Treasure was formed in 1992 and decided they wanted to utilize the Sega Genesis’ powerful( at the time) Motorola 68000 microprocessor. Treasure showed an incredible amount of imagination and absurd humor in Gunstar Heroes, and also in later releases like Sin and Punishment, Ikaruga, and Dynamite Headdy( another Genesis game I loved as a kid).

The boss battle against Orange takes place on the wings of an aircraft

There was a sequel to Gunstar Heroes release on the Game Boy Advance in 2005 titled – Gunstar Super Heroes that received critical praise. I very regretfully, never picked up a copy for the GBA and now is a bit of a rarity for the handheld console. As for the original, I absolutely LOVE this game and have recommended it endlessly to anyone who would listen since I received it as a birthday present not knowing the incredible game I was about to play. I still feel that while the game received numerous accolades from gaming media it still is not as well known as games like Contra or Metal Slug, which is an astounding shame. The game has since seen a port for the Sega Game Gear as well as being released as part of the Sega Genesis Classics compilations. The Sega Forever version was also released in 2017 to play on mobile devices.

That does it for this week! Has anyone else out there played Gunstar Heroes or any other Treasure games? What are some games that you absolutely LOVE and feel are criminally unknown to the majority of gamers?

Keep on playing…

Weekend Gaming Review – Nintendo Switch

I didn’t have anything particular in mind for this week’s blog post as I admit the week seemed to rush by rather quickly, so I figured I would more or less discuss what games I have been playing over the past week as well as this weekend.

I started off the week by finally beating Cuphead on my Switch. I absolutely love the game! The gameplay is practically flawless and reminds me greatly of games from the Contra or Mega Man series. The game is certainly not easy, it is all the more rewarding when you are able to finally break through and beat a boss or level. I recommend it heartily to anyone who enjoys side-scrolling shooters….AND a challenge.

After beating Cuphead I had the urge to pick back up the Mega Man X Collection for my Switch and spent a good deal of time this weekend trying to beat Mega Man X, as I have played the game( SNES mostly) time to time from childhood but have never actually beat the game….an all to common thing, especially older and more difficult ones such as that. Mega Man titles have always been difficult but the satisfaction that comes from clearing a level and boss at the end is a feeling of “gamer euphoria” that is hard to match.

Who laughing now, huh?

As a bit of a changeup from the challenging side scroller games I have been playing, I spent several hours over the week playing Super Mario Odyssey. I have completed the “main story” twice and spent just over 90 hours acquiring all 999 Power Moons in the game, so I didn’t really intend on doing that all a second time, but there is something in the game that is just really relaxing in casually collecting power moons across the different worlds. I have said it before, but it really does remind me of the Mario 64 and the “collect-a-thon” games of the era including Rare gems Banjo-Kazooie, and Jet Force Gemini. These games will forever hold a very special place to me.

This past Friday, Konami released their Castlevania Anniversary Collection which had been announced as part of the company’s 50th anniversary. I promptly downloaded the collection on my Switch, as I have played many different Castlevania games but have never played Castlevania: The Adventure which was released for the Game Boy back in 1989 and hadn’t come across many physical copies of it around town. The game is enjoyable despite the terrible framerate slow-down that plagued many old Game Boy games that tried to push the limited technology of the day. The game only contains 4 levels so the game can pretty easily be completed in one sitting. There is also the first North American release of the NES title – Kid Dracula which is somewhat of a spin-off of the Castlevania series. I am really looking forward to digging into more games in the collection, as I have never played very much of either Castlevania 3: Dracula’s Curse and Castlevania: Bloodlines which I never played back after their original release as I was a bit young. The Castlevania series and similarly the Mega Man games serve to show us games that can age gracefully and still be fun to play – they are beloved by millions of fans due to this.

Castlevania: The Adventure is still fun to play, despite major slowdown issues.

I did also invest a fair amount of time over this weekend playing more Tetris 99( yes…still playing 😉 ). Nintendo announced the 3rd Tetris 99 Maximus Cup, which the goal was essentially to play enough to earn 100 points to get a customer retro theme to commemorate the 35th anniversary of Tetris being released. The theme itself is pretty cool, including the music and green tinted visuals found on the Game Boy 35 years ago.

That’s about it for this week! What were you playing this weekend or plan on playing this coming week?

Keep on playing…

Coffee Crisis – A balanced roast of retro gaming

I thought it would be interesting this weekend to pick up a random indie game on my Switch without knowing really anything about it and write my thoughts about it. In looking through the Switch Online Store, which I believe could use a bit more organization as it seems daunting to look through page after page of titles without there being much for filter options…but I digress. I found the game Coffee Crisis which was developed by Mega Cat Studios and published by Qubic Games. The game appeared to be a bit of a retro throwback to all the 16-bit side scrolling beat-em-up games that I played as a kid on the Sega Genesis or Super Nintendo. It also happens to involve metal music, retro games, and as the title would suggest….coffee.

I have fond memories of playing beat-em-ups like the Streets of Rage, Final Fight, and Golden Axe games; everything about this game fits right in with these games. I enjoyed the aspect of playing a game so reminiscent of the previously mentioned early-90’s titles. Mega Cat Studios I discovered, even produced an authentic Homebrew version of the game on cartridge with case and manual to play on Sega Mega Drive/Genesis that you can purchase on their website.

The story is set on Smurglians – a race of aliens who’s entire planet runs on the energy generated from coffee, metal music and WiFi( that’s right!) and have set their sights on planet Earth’s most precious resources. You play as either Nick or Ashley, two metalhead baristas at the Black Forge Coffee House who are not going to sit idly by and let this travesty occur as you fight your way through the streets of downtown Pittsburgh.

Walloping the elderly to save the metal…

The gameplay is pretty standard as far as beat-em-ups go; you progress through multiple levels with the occasional mini-boss appearing every several levels until finally making your way to the boss at the end of the game, which I was mildly disappointed in the abrupt not-quite-an-ending of the game, it more or less just….stops. The length of the game overall I was satisfied with, being roughly the same length as others of the genre. My criticisms of the game are pretty mild, as I any drawbacks to the game are the same that you would hear of games like Streets of Rage. For better or worse, Coffee Crisis is authentic to a fault with negative attributes that are commonplace in games like it. You screen position is difficult to keep track of when multiple enemies attack and you get “Caught In A Mosh”( couldn’t resist!). There is also the annoying abundance of enemies who can shoot projectiles at you or simply have “weapons” such as a lasso or a cane…yes, among the enemies you fight off are humans that have been taken control of by the Smurglians. These can be range from random looking “dude bros”, to western looking…uh…cowgirls, to I guess….the elderly? You fight your way through the streets of Pittsburgh drinking coffee, listening to metal, and pummeling old men and women that attack you with canes and walkers. There is also an array of Smurglians to fight from purple aliens sporting mohawks to tuxedo-clad aliens in wheelchairs who can shoot “mental projectiles” at you ( Professor X as a Smurglian). The game in premise alone is not any danger of taking itself seriously, I ALMOST felt like I shouldn’t have been enjoyed this developing chaos as much as I did. My other critique is also all too common in games such as this where, you have a powerful special move at your disposal HOWERVER, using it costs you a small portion of your health. The game is not an easy game, as it was clearly intended to be played in “couch co-op” with another player alongside you.

I still feel these negatives don’t overly hinder any enjoyment to be had playing Coffee Crisis, I had a blast playing this game. The soundtrack to the game is excellent as well, with tracks being provided by Pittsburgh area metal band Greywolf. There is also a couple small cameos from retro-gaming YouTubers Metal Jesus Rocks and Alpha Omega Sin. Mega Cat Studios clearly shows a lot of love for the 16-bit beat-em-ups of yesteryear and I very heartily recommend to anyone looking for an entertaining indie game to play, it’s got coffee, retro games, and metal, hell yeah!

I thought these dudes looked familiar….

Side Note: Coffee Crisis is currently available for LESS than the price of a coffee house brew at $1.99, a GREAT DEAL until May 27th. https://www.nintendo.com/games/detail/coffee-crisis-switch/

For anyone else who would like to purchase a physical cartridge version to play on Sega… https://megacatstudios.com/collections/16-bit/products/coffee-crisis-sega-genesis

Keep on playing…

Revisited – Star Wars: Rogue Squadron

We all have games from our childhood that hold a special place, that we still find ourselves coming back to. Games that still provide that spark of youthful enthusiasm even after all these years. Star Wars: Rogue Squadron on Nintendo 64 is without a doubt an example of these types of games for me.

Rogue Squadron was released on the N64 on December 7, 1998 in North America two days after my 13th birthday. Unfortunately for myself, the game came out AFTER my birthday and just a little TOO close to Christmas, so I wasn’t able to get the game until January of 1999…but it was definitely worth the wait as it is still one of my favorite games for the N64. This game was everything a young Star Wars fan could want at the time. For a full historical context, this was 6 months before The Phantom Menace was even released in theaters to much….um…discussion…so the Star Wars expanded universe was depicted primarily in books, comics, and video games. One of the most engrossing aspects of playing Star Wars games was being able to do everything from experiencing moments from the movies yourself or simply exploring the numerous planets lining the galaxy to the ships and weaponry used by the Imperials and Rebel Alliance alike – Rogue Squadron delivered all of these.

The genesis of Rogue Squadron can be pinned to Shadows of the Empire (LOVE this game also!) which was released in November 1996, shortly after the launch of the N64. The very first level you play as mercenary Dash Render piloting a Snowspeeder during the Battle of Hoth. I remember how impressive it was being able to participate in one of my favorite moments of the Star Wars Trilogy(Original) and how easily you could do everything from shoot down TIE Fighters to tangling up AT-ATs with your harpoon and tow cable. LucasArts then commissioned developers Factor 5 with creating an entire game around flight and combat elements using the ships of the Rebel Alliance. The story of the game takes place between Star Wars Episode IV and V, with the opening levels taking place shortly after the events of IV. You control Luke Skywalker – the leader of Rogue Squadron, formed after the destruction of the Death Star.

The game begins with Luke and the rest of Rogue Squadron coming across Imperial troops over Mos Eisley.

The gameplay itself, which is the heart of the Rogue Squadron series is a more arcade-style, action/flight sim game; not as in-depth of a simulator as some of the X-Wing/Tie Fighter games on PC. Factor 5 balanced this nicely in creating something that was easy to pick up and play, but is by no means an easy game. The flight controls are responsive and as smooth as anything else out there on the N64; about as smooth as Star Fox 64…JUST about. The game consists of 16 main story missions with 3 more bonus missions – including the Battle of Hoth and Death Star Trench Run – after completing the main missions. The mission types are generally relegated to finding and destroying targets, reconnaissance, and rescue/escort missions( a video game staple for countless years) though the levels never seemed to get overly tedious or repetitive.

Some of the most memorable missions for me are Defection At Corellia, in which Rogue Squadron sets out to rescue Crix Madine – an Imperial General looking to join the rebels. The level also includes an appearance(sort of) of Han Solo and Chewbacca in the Millennium Falcon joining in the fight with Han telling Luke “I thought you could use a hand, this IS my hometown after all…”. Another one of my favorite missions is The Imperial Construction Yards where you pilot a Snowspeeder and infiltrate the industrial planet of Balmorra leading an attack on Imperial facilities producing TIE Fighters, AT-ATs, and AT-STs. Of course, there are missions that are memorable simply for being incredibly difficult at times. Escape From Fest – in which you are escorting 3 stolen AT-PTs from an Imperial research facility and protecting them from basically everything the Empire can throw at you from AT-ATs, to TIE Fighters and Bombers, to turret cannons. If I didn’t hint at it earlier, the escort missions are by far the most difficult in the game along with pretty much any Y-Wing mission.

Rogue Squadron was also one of probably a handful of games that I had for my N64 that was able to take advantage of the boost from dropping in an Expansion Pack in the console. I didn’t get an Expansion Pack until a bit later once it was packed inside the box for Donkey Kong 64 as the more demanding games REQUIRED it to play. The game graphics were good to begin with, but with the Expansion Pack it added more detail and overall sharpness to them. It enhanced the visuals of everything from the planet landscapes; from the foggy, tropical planet Thyferra, to the rusty, Mars-like planet of Kessel. Even the in-game explosions such as destroying a TIE Fighter seemed to be improved. I remember playing the opening Mos Eisley mission after dropping in the Expansion Pack and being impressed saying “It looks just like when the Death Star explodes!” which in hindsight may have been a big exaggerated due to youthful enthusiasm, but the graphics due hold up pretty well especially when compared to other N64 era games. (Side Note: It is interesting in how visual image of some of these planets HAS changed due to being shown in newer Star Wars movies such as Solo: A Star Wars Story which begins on Han Solo’s home world of Corellia – a little more complex and densely populated than in Rogue Squadron – but also the planet Kessel which was affected as much as even in the Solo movie it was still a rust-colored planet that is home to Glitterstim spice mines and slave prisons.)

The audio in Rogue Squadron has also held up well, considering the limitations of the time. Everything from the sound effects of laser blasts, to the iconic screech of TIE Fighters and other fighter ships is true to the Star Wars movies and universe in general. The original score for the game is also very well done, albeit still not quite the same league as a John Williams score, but that is a bar set very high for any medium – movie OR video game.

The N-1 Naboo Starfighter was programmed into the game as an unlockable ship to use if the you entered the correct input code. This was largely undiscovered until much later after the game’s release and that of Episode 1. Still a cool easter egg included by Factor 5 for Star Wars fans awaiting the prequel trilogy.

I still love Rogue Squadron, along with the subsequent titles released on the GameCube and cannot recommend Rogue Squadron enough to anyone has may have missed out on this great game back in the pre-Y2K days. I can still feel the excitement of getting to explore the different worlds throughout the galaxy and getting to fly the different ships used by the Rebel Alliance as well as Imperials, X-Wing toTIE Fighter was a great thrill. This game along with Knights of the Old Republic would have to be my absolute favorite Star Wars game to this day. The sound and graphics have held up well and the controls are still as fun as I remember them being 20 years ago. There are games that we played and loved so much as kids that unfortunately we come back to and find have not aged so gracefully, but LucasArts and Factor 5 did an incredible job with this game and it still is capable of transporting back to those golden days of yesterday…in a galaxy, far, far, away…sorry! couldn’t resist 🙂

Keep on playing…