N64 Classic?

Wow! A flurry of trademarks this week has resulted in soft-to-firm evidence of Nintendo’s follow up to the as-yet unreleased SNES Classic; the N64 Classic. Despite popular opinion the next venture would be a Gameboy Classic, the sole, mainstream 64-bit console (Jaguar 64 ignored) looks like it is next to appear in reduced numbers and inflated prices on eBay. But what will we get in the box?

Launching last holiday season, the NES Classic launched with 30 preloaded games and the imminent SNES Classic will have 30% less. Let’s apply that formula to the potential N64 Classic. 30% less games would – when rounded up – give us 15 N64 games. Here we go:

  1. Super Mario 64
  2. Mario Kart 64
  3. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
  4. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
  5. 1080 Snowboarding
  6. Wave Race 64
  7. F-Zero X
  8. Mario Party
  9. Mario Tennis
  10. Mario Golf
  11. Pokemon Snap
  12. Star Fox/Layla’s Wars 64
  13. Smash Bros
  14. Donkey Kong 64
  15. Paper Mario

Honourable mentions:

  • Doom 64
  • Beetle Adventure Racing
  • Turok 1&2
  • Pokemon Stadium
  • Pokemon Puzzle League
  • Pilotwings 64
  • Yoshi’s Story

A huge issue with this console is a large chunk of its AAA quality back-catalogue was made by Rare – now owned by Microsoft. Banjo-Kazooie, Perfect Dark and Blast Corps have already been retro-bundled in Rare Replay on Xbox One. So all those games are out. There are also a number of games in limbo like Goldeneye or Diddy Kong Racing. DKR was ported – by Nintendo to DS but ripped out Rare’s characters. Surely they wouldn’t do the same to the original? 

Wishful thinking:

  • Banjo-Kazooie 
  • Banjo-Tooie
  • DKR
  • Goldeneye
  • Perfect Dark
  • Jet Force Gemini
  • Blast Corps
  • Killer Instinct Gold

Outside bets:

  • Quake 2
  • Star Wars Episode 1: Racer
  • Star Wars: Rogue Squadron
  • Body Harvest
  • Earthworm Jim 64
  • Mortal Kombat 4
  • Snowboard Kids
  • Top Gear Overdrive
  • Superman 64…

The one nugget of hope here is Star Fox 2 on the SNES Classic. If that game can see the light of day then Goldeneye etc may have a chance. 

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Out with the old…

2016-17 has seen an increasing number of ‘retro’ boxes released or announced; Atari’s mysterious machine, NES/SNES Classic and SEGA’s new Megadrive/Genesis. What this draws attention to – among other things – is how far the industry has travelled in a relatively short space of time. With this thought in mind, it has become apparent that much of our lexicon has become outdated. Similar to plastic guitar periphals, motion controls and Bubsy the Bobcat, certain words and phrases used everyday in gaming forums (literal and figurative) are archaic and in need of updating. 

Adventure – Once confined to 90’s PCs, ‘adventure’ games (inclusive of point and click) have enjoyed a recent resurgence. Grim Fandango along with several other Lucasarts titles have been pointed, clicked and dragged into the 21st Century. Obtuse gameplay with one linear yet baffling pathway usually defined these games – requiring the player to put together the random assortment of paraphernalia to trigger the next part of the adventure in question. The term ‘adventure’ encompasses more than these though. The spiritual successor to these games are surely the Telltale Games series which apes the point and click mechanic albeit with more choice over the story elements. Perhaps these games are more greatly defined by their slow-burning, intricate stories and the term ‘adventure’ is in lieu of saying so. Yet the label ‘adventure’ is not always indicative of this as exemplified by Sonic Adventure (cheap shot I know – love it really!). So what is an adventure game? What should we call games like Discworld, Minecraft Story Mode or Life is Strange? ‘Walking simulator’ doesn’t seem to cut it…

Arcade – This is a place we went to in our youths to pay money to play games. It is not – I repeat, not – a genre. A common tag line of certain games is it boasts ‘arcade’ style gameplay. Highly doubtful as the last game I played like this – Fast Racing RMX – didn’t create the urge to ram 50p into my Switch or make a rude username to appear in the lap time records. Perhaps this though is the spirit of the term: chasing high scores. Playing through bite size chunks of gameplay and repeating until one refined the experience. Should then, the term be ‘high-score-a-thon’? ‘Arcade’ covers too much to encompass all it consumes at present; racing, fighters, sports…the list goes on. 

dlc – The worst offender on the list. I’m not going to talk about horse armour but just think how silly this sounds. My PS4, Xbox One and Switch are crammed with fully fledged retail games which were downloaded. Fallout 4, Destiny and Mario Kart 8 all sit shackled to my consoles yet free from the constraints of physical media – safe in the knowledge they can never be traded in. They are all downloaded content. So why is an expansion referred to as ‘dlc’? Why have we not got a more elegant name for a term which – in addition – has got some quite negative connotations? Then there’s cloud based games like PlayStation Now which has games advertised with ‘all dlc included’ yet you never download the game or the additional material. Think about it. 

Indie – Taking root in the now defunct Xbox Live Arcade era and blossoming through last gen and now, smaller games (or downloadable content…) seem to be tagged with the term ‘indie’. This happens in music too. ‘Indie’ is an abbreviation of ‘independent’ meaning the band – or game – is being created sans a record label or publisher. An accurate example of an ‘indie’ game would be Thomas was Alone or Super Meat Boy. However, larger studios have got in on the act challenging the notion that all games must be £45 upon entry. These include Child of Light or Journey. They are not independent, rather the opposite. What they have in common with many ‘indies’ is the smaller game size. 

Platformer – Sonic and Mario are different. You can almost see the design meeting SEGA had when establishing their mascot. Sonic is fast and Mario is slow in comparison. Mario is red with blue clothes so Sonic is blue with red clothes (sneakers). Mario is the anti-hero, the everyman thrust into danger to save the girl, whereas Sonic is bold with an attitude. It doesn’t matter who or what he’s saving he just does it – like a Nike advert. In fact, the original Sonic 1 instruction booklet translated the back story incorrectly. Japanese players thought the Green Hill Zone took place on Earth yet in the West we believed it to be the fictional world of Mobius. I digress. The thing they have in common, is jumping on platforms. Fast forward twenty years though and the worlds – whatever they are – they inhabit are hard pushed to be described as ‘platformers’. A term which has been coined to describe the 3D iterations of these games has been ‘collect-a-thon’. In Super Mario 64 you had to collect the stars to restore power to the castle which unlocked more doors so you could unlock more stars to find more doors which led to Bowser. In Banjo-Kazooie you found Jiggies which were the missing pieces in paintings which when complete allowed you to enter said world and find more Jiggies in order to…you get the idea. In 3D Sonic games you collect Sonic Emblems just because. Anyway, the platforming elements of these games have fallen by the wayside – especially in 3D Sonic which would be better classified as ‘rollercoaster’. 2D platformer sits fine but what do we call the 3D ones: adventure games? 

RPG – ‘Role Playing Game’ encompasses everything. When I picked up a Pong paddle, I was playing a role. When I play Virtua Tennis, I’m playing a role. To be more specific, the ‘role playing’ part is generally attributed to the development of skills and powers throughout the game. This is why many games are described as having ‘RPG elements’; open world stealth with RPG elements or sports simulation with RPG elements. So what then is an RPG if most games these days could be classified as having features of them? Skyrim: Elf simulation with RPG elements? The term has transitioned from a genre to a mechanic. What is it which defines a game with RPG mechanics – like Darksiders 2 – from a RPG like Final Fantasy 15? What is Zelda: Breath of the Wild? 
Which games-related terms would you like to see changed? What will we be describing, classifying and labelling games in 10 years time? Who decides them? Who watches the deciders? 

Re-reviewing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

On March 3rd, many of my (non-dad) friends received their shiny new Switches and began the adventure of a lifetime exploring the vast, open expanse of Hyrule. Back over here, I eagerly popped in my disc into my tired, forgotten Wii U. 85 hours later, the game was ‘completed’ (all 4 divine beasts, Master Sword, all memories and Ganon defeated). The game went on eBay, giving me a net spend of £7 for a game I had basically had an affair with for 5 weeks. However fast forward to July and my shiny new Switch needed a game meatier than Fast Racing RMX (which is awesome btw). It was time to return to wake Link up again but could a second play through – so close to my 1st one – be as enjoyable?

After an hour of play, the first thing which stood out was just how hard the opening is. Enemies which I had got used to being one hit Master Sword fodder were giving me a real run for my money. I was REALLY missing my 3 wheel stamina capabilities from my Wii U save file too. Secondly, despite telling myself there was no visible difference in graphics between the two versions, I was wrong. It is worth noting there have been several patch updates in between my playthroughs so the Wii U may have got better but this is what I found. The frame rate and slow down is better on Switch. Busy areas like Kakariko Village and Kokiri Forest ran smoother although the Switch version does seem to have more pop in. The resolution too is visibly crisper on Nintendo’s newest console. Anyway, back to gameplay…

When playing the Wii U version it was a strange sensation. Any moment not playing the game, I was thinking about it. For 20 days in a row I sunk more than an hour an evening into it; as well as ridiculous amounts of time at weekends. Although not dragging me into it’s web of addictiveness this time, playing the game again (65 hours in) is a joy. Upon leaving the Great Plateau, disregarding any sense of direction, I jumped into the unknown – just like I had on Wii U. Despite spending 85 hours previously exploring Hyrule, I found myself finding new areas and secrets which had eluded me before. I was certain I’d spoken to every side quest NPC at the stables but I obviously missed some (a few actually). Obviously the main spine was of the game has remained familiar and has not yielded any surprises but like the best of its peers like Skyrim or the Witcher 3, the weirdest, world-building quests remain off the beaten path in the side quests. Who knew that the largest, most immersive fantasy world ever created was actually even bigger? If you think you’ve seen everything the game has to offer, I’d recommend gliding back in to dig a bit deeper. This is before we’ve even begun taking advantage of the first expansion releasing last week. Many years ago, I would play through Ocarina of Time annually – enjoying every minute. The biggest compliment I can pay this game is it feels the same way. 

Top 10 Things That Switch Should Have

1. Netflix/Amazon Prime

2. Mario Maker

3. Smash Bros platform (like Killer Instinct on Xbox1)

4. Mario Kart dlc for every track ever (e.g the Mario 64 pack)

5. Mario HD Allstars (Mario Galaxy 1+2, Sunshine, 64 DS)

6. Animal Crossing 

7. Metroid Prime Trilogy HD

8. Zelda Dungeon Designer

9. SEGA free to play 

10. Virtual console

Metroid: Ocarina of Timing

Updated January 2018:

Whenever this elusive direct happens, the current blank canvas for Switch in 2018 has led to much speculation. Check out our article from last year about what we think we don’t want but might actually want on the world’s (probably) most increasingly popular console.

After Mario 64 and Ocarina of Time, fans were clamouring for the same again on GameCube. The infamous demos of Mario 128 and Link v Ganondorf battle teasing Project Dolphin whet the appetite for the next generation of Nintendo’s heavyweight franchises. What we got though were Wind Waker and Mario Sunshine. Both games scored highly but had a lukewarm reception. Mario Galaxy and Twilight Princess were more in line with fan expectations. Fast forward a few years though and Wind Waker – remade in HD on Wii U- is considered many fans’ favourite Zelda game. Of all Mario’s past adventures, Sunshine is the one the majority are hoping sees the light of day on Virtual Console. In other words, after getting the ‘vanilla’ version of these classic series, perhaps it is time to embrace when they come in more exotic flavours – like Breath of the Wild or Odyssey.

In a very roundabout way, what I’m getting at is this; should we give Metroid Prime Federation Force another chance? Now that we know ‘proper’ games are heading our way, can we enjoy this game for what it is and not what we want it to be? Perhaps the biggest mistep Nintendo has made in this story -again like Sunshine and Wind Waker – is timing. If Federation Force had been held to 2017 and released now – on Switch – the reception would be huge. “WE HAVE PRIME ON THE WAY FOR SWITCH, METROID 2 ON 3DS BEFORE XMAS AND ONE LAST THING; FEDERATION FORCE ON SWITCH TO KEEP YOU GOING! IT’S OUT NOW!” Releasing a game which has co-op at its heart on a co-op centric console? Pop the Joy-cons off and dive into the football mode? Win, win.

As with many things in life it’s about timing. We’ll have to wait and see if Nintendo’s has improved in this console generation. 2018 and the great unknown await…

Top 10 3DS games to port to Switch

The rules are:

1) Second screen functionality ripped out and it still works

2) They’re good!

3) Ports don’t count

Here we go:

1) Zelda: Link between worlds

2) New Super Mario Bros 2

3) Mario Kart 7

4) Pokemon Sun/Moon

5) Luigi’s Mansion 2

6) Sonic Geneations

7) Sonic Boom 2

8) Pilotwings

9) Super Mario 3D Land

10) Pokemon XY or Ruby/Sapphire

Unpopular opinion; I’m not a huge fan of Mario 3D Land…

The Lost Games of this Generation

This E3 has come with a stark revelation; we are heading towards the end of the current console generation. Perhaps the scalable nature of recent technology (henceforth known as the Switch -Xbox One X scale) will prolong it but the standard 5 years is almost over. E3 2019 will likely announce new consoles across the board for a holiday release Armageddon. With us so far in though, there are a few games which have surprisingly absconded from the current generation.

Bioshock

Nope. HD re-releases do not count. Bioshock Infinite, whose studio Irrational  had a troubled development and post launch, is long gone. The story lines of Rapture and Columbia have been sewn up but in a Legend of Zelda kinda way the ending (SPOILERS) of Infinite allowed for – no pun intended – infinite sequels; ‘there’s always a man and there’s always a city’. Bioshock 2 – outsourced from Ken Levine’s studio – was unfairly knocked and arguably shipped a deeper game than the original or sequel. Therefore another developer assigned by 2K Games would not be out of the question. No logo, leaked art (we know Ubisoft aren’t involved then…) or anything have been shown. If this game exists, could/should it be coming to Ps5, Xbox One X2 or Switch 2.0?

Banjo-Kazooie

Having been on hiatus since Nutz and Boltz on 360 (a creative marrying of Diddy Kong Racing and the original games), Banjo and his breegull companion are due a return. Although well received, N&B was a huge departure from the N64 games’ template. It suffers from what we call the GameCube effect. Mario Sunshine, Wind Waker and this game would all have benefitted from being the game AFTER a standard entry in the series. If they had followed Mario 64 2, Ocarina of Time 2 (Twilight Princess?) and Banjo 3 – closely sticking to the original formula- they would all have been welcomed in open arms. A word of warning though; look at Yooka-Laylee. The game straddles the collectathon template whilst attempting to tap into the grand openness of the current era. Banjo and Kazooie need to tread carefully in order to avoid becoming Microsoft’s Sonic; meandering confused across 3D planes. 

Castlevania

This is the generation the ‘Souls’ genre really took off. Dark Souls 2+3, Bloodborne and Nioh can all take credit for that. There have been a vast number of ‘Metroidvania’ 2D, smaller titles too like Guacamelee. Yet, despite reinvigorating the brand in the previous era, there has been no Castlevania. Either a 3D game akin to a ‘Souls’ game or a full, HD side-scrolling adventure are conspicuous by their absence – like Metroid was prior to E3. With the upcoming Netflix series I wonder if Capcom is ready to let Dracula out to feast again?

Half-Life

Maybe Half-Life is destined to be video games’ Firefly; left incomplete and sought after year upon year. Maybe Half-Life 3 is actually a Steam Sale meta-game. Maybe Valve know they can’t ever make a game which matches the hype and hopes attached to the series. The original was a benchmark for PC shooters in the 90s and kept the momentum going with a sequel, episodic expansions and engine spin offs like Team Fortress. Gordon Freeman – like Banjo – is in danger of becoming irrelevant to modern audiences unless the next game makes an appearance. At this stage though, it seems as unlikely as ever. 

Honourable mentions:

  • Pokemon Snap
  • Wario 
  • Spyro the Dragon (not including Skylanders)
  • SEGA’s Virtua series
  • Knights of the Old Republic
  • Advance Wars

Which long forgotten series would you like to see before the generation is out?