Home > Chronological Challenge, Clearing The Backlog > Clearing The Backlog: My Chronological Game Challenge Pt. 1

Clearing The Backlog: My Chronological Game Challenge Pt. 1

I have many games. I don’t have the biggest collection of games in the world, but it’s pretty big. And like many people with 100s of games in their collection, there are many games I own that I’ve never touched, and many more that I have touched but never finished. I decided that this needed to be rectified, and I figured the best way was to set myself a challenge.

I aim to play through every game I own, with varying goals for completion, in order of their original release date. It’s gonna be a long haul, but it’s gonna be worth it. At least, I hope it will be.

Of course, as I go along, I will post my thoughts. First impressions of games I’ve never played, renewed views on games I haven’t played in a while, and general thoughts on games I know very well.

Here are the first batch of games from the last couple of weeks:

Super Mario Bros

Publisher: Nintendo | Developer: Nintendo | Year: 1985 (Famicom release, Japan)
Played on: Wii Virtual Console (originally released for NES)

Goal: To beat Bowser in World 8-4

Actual Outcome: I got to World 6-3. I died to one of those goddamn trampolines that always mess me up with their wonky physics!

Opinion: Super Mario Bros. The first game I ever owned and probably the first game for a lot of other people too. You all know this one. And if you don’t I’m concerned. Could this challenge mark the first time I ever finish this game?

Well, if you looked up there, you’ll know the answer is no. I died to trampoline physics in world 6. Because trampolines are not my friend.

My opinion of the game, though? Super Mario Bros is fun. It’s the kind of game that you can load up once in a while and go “aww this game’s so good” despite it being primitive in every way now. It’s a soft, warm comfort blanket that makes everything feel okay again. Until you die at a trampoline in world 6, of course.

It’s a barebones game, lacking in many features that would become standard for Mario over the years, and featuring some key elements in only a nascent, primordial form (such as being hit as Fire Mario reducing you to Small Mario, not Big Mario), and the level design is often fairly repetitive.

But it’s nice. It’s a trend-setter. It’s a fun little romp. And it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy about sitting too close to the TV in the early 90s and listening to all the bleeps and bloops. Aww.

The Legend of Zelda

Publisher: Nintendo | Developer: Nintendo | Year: 1986 (Famicom release, Japan)
Played on: Wii Virtual Console (originally released for NES)

Goal: Collect 8 pieces of the Triforce and defeat Ganon

Actual Outcome: Collected 6 pieces of the Triforce and then quit out of frustration.

Opinion: You know, everyone says Zelda II is the black sheep of the franchise. A game so vastly different to every game it shares a name with that it may as well not be part of the same franchise. But no one ever says this about the original Legend of Zelda, which is a peculiar beast at the best of times.

The Legend of Zelda feels experimental at all times. It’s a game that does weird things, seemingly for the sake of doing weird things. It’s a game that dumps you into a world, impressive as it for the NES, and then expects you to figure out what you’re doing. It’s a game that lets you explore dungeons in any order you wished, but still had a set order of doing things that it didn’t tell you about. And it feels so alien to the rest of the Zelda series that even Nintendo seemingly invented an alternate universe on the official timeline for it to exist in.

It’s also a frustrating mess of a game. Far too often, important goals are squirreled away behind obtuse methods of exploration. You’re expected to rub up against every surface in the hopes you might find something useful behind it. Enemies can suddenly ramp up in difficulty with seemingly no progression for you as a player. I know people complain about hand-holding in games, but The Legend of Zelda is what happens when you take it way over to the other extreme.

And this is why I didn’t finish it. Put simply, I didn’t enjoy The Legend of Zelda. It frustrated me, and so much of it felt like a chore I had to overcome. It’s rather disappointing that such a fantastic series began from such strange, awkward beginnings.

Also, why is it called the Triforce if it’s in 8 pieces? Fix this, Nintendo. Oh you did later on? Okay then, carry on.

Metroid

Publisher: Nintendo | Developer: Nintendo | Year: 1986 (Famicom release, Japan)
Played on: Wii Virtual Console (originally released on NES)

Goal: Take down Mother Brain

Actual Outcome: I took down Mother Brain and escaped from “Zebeth”!

Opinion: As someone who had only previously played Prime before, Metroid was looking to be an interesting experience. And it certainly was. Especially as it was the first game in this challenge where I met my goal!

Metroid does what Zelda Nintendidn’t. It dumped you a large, explorable world, but didn’t feel the need to make everything overly complicated. You could go the entire game in Zelda and never find another sword. In Metroid, it’s very easy to stumble on useful powerups. And what’s more, they genuinely do make you feel more powerful.

Every time I collected a useful new powerup, it was usually at the point where I was considering giving up and moving on. I got the Ice Beam at the time I was getting annoyed at things constantly flying at my face. I got the Screw Attack at the exact point my fuse was about to blow over enemies spawning in my path as I jumped across a screen. And so on. The fact that the game managed to counter my frustrations at every turn made me very happy indeed.

I had some issues with Metroid, mostly involving the volume of enemy encounters and how often stuff would just spawn on top of you as you walked through a door, and also how the health system seemed determined to always put you back on 30 Energy no matter what. But the exhilaration I felt when I fired those missiles into Mother Brain’s pod negated it all, and the final escape was a heart-pounding experience that I was convinced I was going to fail but managed to pull together in the end.

Metroid is a good game that stands the test of time. I hear Super Metroid is even better. I look forward to it (when we get there).

Super Mario Bros 2

Publisher: Nintendo | Developer: Nintendo | Year: 1988 (NES release, USA)
Played on: Wii Virtual Console (originally released on NES)

Goal: Defeat Wart

Actual Outcome: Rather pitifully, I got to World 3-2 and proceeded to die everywhere.

Opinion: Super Mario Bros 2 is weird. It’s the best way to describe it. It’s nothing like any other Mario game. Which makes sense, because it’s actually a Mario reskin of a completely different game (Doki Doki Panic). It’s a crazy fever dream Mario had from consuming too many mushrooms. It has a health system. Jumping on enemies doesn’t hurt them. Bowser isn’t in it. Peach is actually playable! What is this sorcery?

It’s fun, though. It’s got some imaginative level design and some fun challenges. Plus this is where the Shy Guys and the Bob-Ombs came from, so it has that going for it. But it’s just so hard to shake the feeling that everything feels wrong. Incredibly wrong.

I have fond memories of this game too from being a kid, but replaying it now made me recognise just how off-the-wall it is in comparison to the rest of the series. And that’s really all I can say. It’s good but it ain’t right.

Super Mario Bros 3

Publisher: Nintendo | Developer: Nintendo | Year: 1988 (Famicom release, Japan)
Played on: Wii Virtual Console (originally released on NES)

Goal: Defeat the great and terrible Bowser (again)

Actual Outcome: Eaten by a fish on World 3-8

Opinion: Okay, this is more like it. This is the Mario game that took the Super Mario Bros formula and decided to bolt on improvements and additions everywhere. As such, for many it’s the best Mario game ever made. For me, I wouldn’t go that far.

However, this isn’t to say I dislike Super Mario Bros 3. I love Super Mario Bros 3. But I don’t want to marry Super Mario Bros 3. I merely want to occasionally go drinking with Super Mario Bros 3. I see Super Mario Bros 3 as a good friend and I don’t want to risk that by taking it further.

Bizarre metaphors aside, Super Mario Bros 3 is a fine game. The first game set many standards for the series, this one set pretty much all the others, and tweaked the standards that already were in place. It’s a smooth, slick, imaginative platform game that makes you wonder why anyone else at the time even bothered. Sometimes it’s hard to believe this game ran on the same hardware as the first game. The leap in size, graphical quality and sheer things to do is immense. Nintendone good.

There are some niggles like the lack of a save system, which should have been mandatory with that world map in place, and the lack of ability to replay levels and explore them to their fullest, but maybe those things would have been too tricky for the system at the time.

The point is, Super Mario Bros 3 is superb. But it isn’t my favourite Mario, or even my favourite 2D Mario. What is? WAIT AND SEE.

Super Thunder Blade

Publisher: Sega | Developer: Sega | Year: 1988 (Mega Drive release, Japan)
Played on: PS3 (part of the Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)

Goal: Beat the game (didn’t know much about the game prior to playing it)

Actual Outcome: Nope

Opinion: This is some helicopter-based rail shooter. Apparently it’s a port of an arcade game. It’s also terrible.

From what little I played of it, the gameplay seems incredibly dull and repetitive, and this is exacerbated by the fact that half the time it’s nearly impossible to tell what’s going on. Lots of things buzz about the screen but it’s hard to tell which shots are yours and which ones are coming for you. Sometimes enemies pop into existence right in front of your face and kamikaze into you like the pilots are blind.

I gave up on this pretty damn quickly as a result and probably will never play it again.

Altered Beast

Publisher: Sega | Developer: Sega | Year: 1988 (Mega Drive release, Japan)
Played on: PS3 (part of the Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)

Goal: Beat…whatever the hell is the enemy in this game

Actual Outcome: Died to the boss in Stage 2

Opinion: Altered Beast is a strange…uh…beast. It’s a very old side scrolling beat ‘em up, presented entirely in 2D with big chunky characters and a very limited move-set. It also has the ability to turn into various creatures with different powers (although you have no choice over which creature you get to be). The version I played was the Mega Drive port of the arcade title, and it’s hard to say what I think about it.

The game is clunky and awkward, and sometimes can feel a little unfair at times because of this, and yet it’s oddly charming. The really badly-rendered spoken lines throughout the game (e.g. “RISE FROM YOUR GRAVE”) lend it a certain cheesiness that’s hard to dislike. I didn’t get very far into the game, but I had a little fun with it. Not a lot, and I certainly wouldn’t call it a favourite, but it’s interesting enough.

Mega Man 2

Publisher: Capcom | Developer: Capcom | Year: 1988 (Famicom release, Japan)
Played on: Wii Virtual Console (originally released on NES)

Goal: Defeat the Robot Masters and take out Dr Wily

Actual Outcome: Dr Wily taken out!

Opinion: Mega Man 2 is the only game I own purely because nerds on the Internet made songs about it.

It may be a weird reason to buy Mega Man 2 but I don’t regret the decision to do so. Mega Man 2 is an amazing game, and is probably now my favourite NES game from the limited collection I have. Everything about this game is amazing. It’s got fluid and enjoyable gameplay in varied environments, and it urges you to keep going. Graphically the game has a very nice art style that’s especially good for the NES. And the music is amazing, even if now it all gets nerd lyrics added to it at all times.

And beating this game for the first time felt good. I’d previously attempted to beat the game, but always got caught out by the Mecha Dragon in Wily’s Castle. Well, I took out that dragon and beat up everyone else who came after to emerge victorious once more. And it was fantastic and I had a blast.

Bad things? None. Go away. This is Mega Man and it’s the best.

Alex Kidd In The Enchanted Castle

Publisher: Sega | Developer: Sega | Year: 1989 (Mega Drive release, Japan)
Played on: PS3 (part of the Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)

Goal: Clear the 11 stages

Actual Outcome: Stage 4 I think before I both died and got incredibly bored

Opinion: All I know about Alex Kidd is that he was Sega’s original mascot before Sonic came along. And if this game is any indication of the rest of his games, no wonder Sega decided to jettison him in favour of a speedy hedgehog.

Alex Kidd In The Enchanted Castle is boring. The level design is lazy and uninteresting, and everything feels like it’s half-arsed. The levels themselves are tiny, flat affairs with nothing to make them stand out. Your purpose is to collect onigiri to move to the next level, and money to allow you to bet on Rock, Paper, Scissors tournaments. And that’s…pretty much it. And there’s not even a goddamn castle as far as I can tell!

About the only amusement I got from this game was the sight of this strange monkey-child punching a car. And you’re gonna need to do more than that to make it a good game overall.

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