Home > Chronological Challenge, Clearing The Backlog > Clearing The Backlog: Chronological Game Challenge Pt 2

Clearing The Backlog: Chronological Game Challenge Pt 2

For those of you who missed last week’s entry, I have set myself the challenge of attempting to play through every single game I own in order of release in an attempt to discover games I’ve not played, finish games I’ve not beaten, and explore games I’ve finished even further.

Last week went from Super Mario Bros to Alex Kidd In The Enchanted Castle, but I’ve played a bunch more stuff in the time in between. I actually finished the last of these games in the middle of this week, and I’ve been playing through something else since, and hopefully I’ll be discussing that game next week. But for now, let’s focus on thsi week, shall we?

Phantasy Star II

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

Goal: Beat the game!

Actual Outcome: Gave up in the middle of what I assume was the first dungeon

Opinion: Phantasy Star II is apparently a big ol’ JRPG from the olden days, and one that was highly influential and helped shape the JRPG genre in some small way. It was an impressive technical feat back in the day and amazed people with its sheer size and its complex storyline.

I played it for the first time for this challenge in 2015, almost 25 years after its original release, and in all honesty, I didn’t know what the hell was happening.

The game dumps you in and gives you some hilariously clumsy backstory about this biodome planet being invaded by monsters and everyone wondering what was happening with the central computer (hilariously named Mother Brain), and your character needs to go and save the day. But it was hard to take this seriously because all the dialogue is awkwardly explaining things to the audience at every turn (e.g. “Hello, I’ve been your commander for years, I want you to do a thing”), and what’s worse, the lead character’s name was Rolf. It’s hard to take your protagonist seriously when he almost shares a name with a Muppet dog.

But beyond the hilarity of the dialogue and plot, I wasn’t having fun with this. Battles are largely automated, so entering a battle amounts to pushing a button and then going off and doing something for a while. You learn techniques, but I never know what the hell they do because they have weird names like “Tsu” and no explanation can be found anywhere. I’m afraid to buy weapons and armour because the stats of these things are never shown. And the control scheme is all kinds of confused and you often have to press every button in some combination just to get through a conversation.

And then when I reached what was apparently the first dungeon, I was horribly distracted by some fancy parallax scrolling someone thought was cool but made it hard to see actual walls. And then there’s the fact the dungeon used teleporters, not stairs, to move between levels, and everything looked the same, so I never knew where I was within this dungeon.

And I just gave up. The battles were kind of boring, the plot over-explained itself and the mechanics under-explained themselves. I may research this at a later date and come back armed with more knowledge, but for now I’m moving on. This isn’t holding my interest.

Golden Axe

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

Goal: Defeat Death Adder

Actual Outcome: Died on Stage 6

Opinion: Golden Axe is a classic game in a genre we don’t see much of these days – the side scrolling beat ‘em up. Golden Axe famously lets you choose a warrior and battle across the land to take down some evil bad dude called Death Adder. Your heroes are the dwarf, Gillus Thunderhead, the amazon, Tyris Flare, and the man with the best name, Ax Battler. Who are they? Doesn’t matter! They’re here to slash up some enemies and have a good ol’ time!

Honestly, Golden Axe is dated as hell, but it’s a lot of fun. Strategy seems very limited, and more often than not I found myself just dashing and headbutting enemies to stay on top of the pack, but I had a blast playing this.

I don’t know what it is, but it seems the simplistic nature of the game as a whole endears me to the whole experience. It’s a game that’s unashamed about being silly for the sake of fun, and despite the somewhat clunky controls, it’s kind of addictive. It’s certainly not the best game I’ve played for this challenge so far, but I had fun with it.

Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom

Publisher: Sega | Developer: Sega | Year: 1990 (Mega Drive release, Japan)
Played on: PS3 (part of the Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)

Goal: Beat the game

Actual Outcome: Pretty much identical to Phantasy Star II

Opinion: Before I attempt any of these Phantasy Star games in future, I may need to do some kind of research about what the hell I need to do because Jesus Christ they’re not user-friendly.

That’s my entire review. This is basically the same as Phantasy Star II but with slightly better dialogue. And the stark contrast of what appears to be a medieval town with mention of cyborgs. And my time with the game was about as extensive as the previous game – wandered through some of the first areas completely confused and then just gave up out of frustrated bafflement.

ESWAT: City Under Siege

Publisher: Sega | Developer: Sega | Year: 1990 (Mega Drive release, Japan)
Played on: PS3 (part of the Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)

Goal: Beat the game

Actual Outcome: Died on stage 1

Opinion: ESWAT: City Under Siege is the 80s in a video game (it’s from 1990, but that was a transition period). You’re a cop. You can become a cyborg. Gotta stop all the bad dudes.

But it’s also just incredibly bland. I only played part of the game (basically just stage 1), but it was a generic side-scrolling shooter, with nothing to make it stand out. There didn’t even seem to be much in the way of crazy powerups, unless you got those as you progressed. I wouldn’t know. I died to the helicopter boss and didn’t care enough to carry on and find out.


Publisher: Sega | Developer: Sega | Year: 1990 (Genesis release, USA)
Played on: PS3 (part of the Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)

Goal: Not sure, it’s a puzzle game that goes on forever, basically, so maybe just play around and see what my highest score is?

Actual Outcome: Level 37, 556,875 points

Opinion: I should never be allowed to play these kinds of games. Columns is a very simplistic match-3 puzzle game that sadly has a tendency to get me horrendously hooked. Which means that yes, I enjoy it, but no, I shouldn’t play it as I’ll probably not get much else done. It’s lucky that I pushed myself to step away from the game to move on with the challenge.

There’s not much else to say, however. It’s a simple puzzle game in the vein of things like Tetris, and it’s a fun little game to play when you’re not doing much else. The music’s atrocious though.

The Secret of Monkey Island

Publisher: LucasArts | Developer: Lucasfilm Games | Year: 1990 (DOS release)
Played on: Steam (special edition re-release)

Goal: See how far I can get before I get stuck

Actual Outcome: Couldn’t remember how to buy a ship after the three trials and kept getting stuck in a loop, so I ended it there.

Opinion: Welcome to the first game in this challenge that I’d actually finished before. Monkey Island is, of course, one of the classic point ‘n’ click adventures from the genre’s heyday, and it’s the game that helped kickstart Tim Schafer’s career at the helm of Double Fine later on.

The Secret of Monkey Island is a silly game, with most of the puzzles requiring a sense of humour to crack the game’s logic. For instance, the puzzle that involves protagonist Guybrush Threepwood stuck on the bottom of the ocean weighted down by an idol tied to his foot, and the solution is simply to put the idol in your pocket. The insult-based swordfighting is also legendary for similar reasons.

Replaying Monkey Island, I set myself the task of trying to remember all the puzzle solutions to see how far I got before getting stuck, and I did pretty well, managing to remember everything required for the trials, and recruiting my whole crew. I just slipped up at the point where I had to get the actual ship, since I could no longer remember the dialogue sequence required to progress. Breezed through the game a lot faster than my previous run, but it lost none of its charm in the process.

The Secret of Monkey Island is a classic for good reason. Some bits are a little slow-paced for my liking, and some areas could have been better arranged to avoid repetitive clicking just to walk through them, but overall, its humour and its quirky puzzles plunder me heart.

Fatal Labyrinth

Publisher: Sega | Developer: Sega | Year: 1990 (Mega Drive release, Japan)
Played on: PS3 (part of the Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)

Goal: Defeat the dragon on the 30th floor

Actual Outcome: Got bored about four floors in, realising that there was nothing holding my interest

Opinion: What is this game? Seriously, what is this? As far as I can tell, this is a roguelike RPG where you have to traverse a mysterious tower, get to the 30th floor and take out the dragon at the top for fabulous prizes. But in practice, it’s a game about rubbing on walls and wandering through an endlessly recycled environment until you slowly lose your mind.

There is pretty much nothing that makes me want to play through this game. You move through a floor of the dungeon battling enemies along the way, some of whom are dicks. You collect random stuff as you progress, and you only learn what this stuff does by using it. You slowly go hungry. And based on what I’ve read, gold’s only purpose is to give you a nicer funeral upon your death. Thanks for that vote of confidence, game.

I’m not sure why anyone would want to play Fatal Labyrinth, as the random factor wears off quickly when it becomes obvious that very little changes from floor to floor, and the game isn’t even clear about what floor you’re on. Argh!

Super Mario World

Publisher: Nintendo | Developer: Nintendo | Year: 1990 (Super Famicom release, Japan)
Played on: Wii Virtual Console (SNES)

Goal: Activate all 96 exits then defeat Bowser

Actual Outcome: I exited every possible exit and defeated every possible Bowser

Opinion: Super Mario World is my favourite Mario game. This is the game that I sunk tons of hours into as a kid, and why not? This game is wonderful.

The challenge here was to finally finish the game to 100% completion, by finding all 96 exits, something that I had honestly never done with this game prior to this week. In the process, I rediscovered the love I have for this game and its many wonderful qualities.

Super Mario World is fun. It’s Super Mario Bros 3 with some new features, and without some of the frustrations of that game. It has a save system, it has the ability to replay levels, and it has tons of hidden goodies tucked away under the surface. Basically, Super Mario World is the definitive Mario game.

I love everything about this game. I love the art style, I love the gameplay variety, I love the challenge of it that frustrates but always wants me to come back for more, and I love the soundtrack. It’s amazing that a game as feature-packed and as impressive a leap as this one was a launch title for the SNES, rather than something released later as developers pushed the hardware to its limits.

I have nothing bad to say about Super Mario World at all. It’s a fantastic piece of work that still holds up today.

Gain Ground

Publisher: Sega | Developer: Sega | Year: 1991 (Mega Drive release, Japan)
Played on: PS3 (part of the Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)

Goal: Beat all 50 stages

Actual Outcome: Reached round 2

Opinion: I knew nothing about this game prior to starting it up. I’d read various conflicting things about it that suggested it was some kind of watered-down RTS for the Mega Drive, but in actual fact, it’s not. Instead, it’s essentially a shmup.

You have a selection of characters, you can choose one of them, they have different abilities, and you have to battle across various screen-sized levels to progress, and you can add more possible player characters to your roster by picking them up on the battlefield.

I expected to hate this, but when I got my first game over, I found myself completely restarting since I actually quite enjoyed it and was disappointed in myself for not getting further. Admittedly, it took me a while to realise I had a secondary fire button, but let’s not discuss that fact, shall we?

Gain Ground was a pleasant surprise. I’m not very good at it, but I had fun with it.

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