Home > Chronological Challenge, Clearing The Backlog > Clearing The Backlog: Chronological Game Challenge pt 14

Clearing The Backlog: Chronological Game Challenge pt 14

Welcome to this week’s update on my Chronological Challenge, where this week we start 1996, the year where the PS1 picked up and the N64 popped up to really bring us into the 5th generation.

So naturally, we begin this year with two SNES games. Because of course we do.

Let’s kick this off with something that never originally had a European release…

Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars

Publisher: Nintendo | Developer: Squaresoft | Year: 1996 (Japanese release)
Original System: SNES
Played on: Wii Virtual Console

Goal: Defeat Smithy and restore the Star Road

Actual Outcome: Smithy smashed!

Opinion: Even though we’re in the latter half of the 90s now, we still can’t get away from the 4th gen systems, can we? This is one of the final SNES games we have to look at, and the last one that I’m playing in its original form.

Super Mario RPG was a collaboration between Square and Nintendo, designed to get younger players into JRPGs. It does this by stripping back the complicated mechanics that define the genre, and setting everything in the cute and happy world of Mario and his friends.

And it’s a curious little game. It succeeds at being a lead-in for beginners, as it’s a lot simpler and shorter than your average JRPG. Dungeons tend to be short, the level progression system is stripped-down, and the challenge tends to be low. For instance, boss fights in many JRPGs require you to manage your resources well enough that you don’t run out of MP and can’t use your best abilities. In Super Mario RPG, there are many bosses who are best defeated solely with basic physical attacks, so that resource management goes right out the window.

Is this a bad thing? Not at all. It’s awesome that a game like this exists. JRPGs do tend to be stressful affairs centred on stat management and strategy, and this complexity can be a barrier to entry. But Super Mario RPG is more laidback, making it a brilliant introduction for those who are a little intimidated by that.

But for JRPG veterans, there’s still quite a bit to like here. By using characters from the Mario universe, Square tapped into a world with almost universal appeal, and so the game oozes charm from every pore. There are some great moments throughout the game thanks to its superb sense of humour, and the timed hits mechanic is a unique addition that adds a lot to the battle system. Plus the challenge does ramp up a little towards the end of the game – I know I had some trouble with the “challenge” portion of the final dungeon, and the final boss fight came close to the wire at the end.

Super Mario RPG is a wonderful game, and a great note for Square and Nintendo’s soon-to-end relationship to end on. And it’s further proof that SNES developers really had just nailed the system by this point.

Kirby Super Star

Publisher: Nintendo | Developer: HAL Laboratory | Year: 1996
Original System: SNES
Played on: Nintendo DS (Ultra remake)

Goal: Clear the game 100%

Actual Outcome: Cleared the original scenarios 100%, but struggled to get past The Arena (giving a final percentage of 80%)

Opinion: I debated long and hard about where to include this in the challenge. The version of Kirby Super Star I own is actually Ultra for the DS, not the original SNES version. So I first listed it by the DS release. But then I figured that I counted plenty of other remasters by their original releases on my list (e.g. the Monkey Island Special Editions), and Ultra doesn’t seem much of an update. It’s more a graphical polish of an older game for a newer audience, and so I moved it to the release of the original.

So bear that in mind. I didn’t play the original SNES version, I was playing the DS remaster, so if something doesn’t quite add up, that’d be why.

Anyway! Kirby is a little pink puffball who devours all who oppose him and steals their life essence. We’ve discussed this before. And he looks adorable while doing it. And his games are usually adorable and fluffy and fun and [incoherent happy noises].

Kirby Super Star is no exception to this. However, where it differs from other games in the series is that it’s actually six tiny games put together into one big game (in fact, it was originally named Kirby’s Fun Pak in the UK to further highlight this). The game is actually Spring Breeze, Dyna Blade, The Great Cave Offensive, Gourmet Race, Revenge of Meta Knight and Milky Way Wishes, all smooshed into one package.

Spring Breeze, Dyna Blade and Revenge of Meta Knight are traditional Kirby games in the style of Adventure – in fact, Spring Breeze reuses a bunch of stuff from Kirby’s Dream Land – and they play exactly as you’d expect. You explore a maze-like series of levels, using the abilities of enemies in the area to progress, and ultimately battle King Dedede or another enemy at the end. For these sections, read my mini-review on Adventure to find out my opinion.

The Great Cave Offensive is the prototype for Super Smash Bros Brawl’s Subspace Emissary, as it’s a single huge area which you can traverse in the aim of finding treasures, some of which are harder than others. It’s impressive how a 2D platformer can offer up such a huge explorable world. It’s a little easy to lose track of where you are, but otherwise it’s a lot of fun to try and figure your way around.

Gourmet Race is a three-stage race against King Dedede where the objective is to get to the finish line first while simultaneously eating the most food along the way. It’s a silly mini-game which is largely forgettable, but the music is fantastic and has since become a signature song for the whole series, so that makes up for it. (Even if these days I find it hard not to hear Snoop Dogg in it)

Milky Way Wishes is once again similar to normal Kirby gameplay, but this time swallowing enemies doesn’t steal their powers. Instead, you need to find the abilities similar to the treasures of Great Cave, and then you can switch between them in the pause menu. It’s an interesting gameplay switch but it almost makes the game a million times easier, as any time you’re knocked about and lose a power you can just immediately re-equip it. It’s an interesting switch of gameplay though.

The problem with Kirby Super Star, however, is that it feels disjointed. None of the games fit together very well, and they’re all so short, so it feels like you’re rushing through everything. While the gameplay is excellent in every part, the whole experience feels like it’s in bits rather than a coherent whole.

Kirby Super Star is a great game overall, but the experience would be much better if the six individual parts had a more consistent fit.

And that’s how 1996 begins. If you’re curious about what games will be coming up for the rest of that year, I have them all listed as “now playing” on my Backloggery.

Until then, keep an eye on my YouTube channel as always for my ongoing Tomb Raider 3 Let’s Play, follow me on Twitter for news and opinions, and if you really like what I do, why not consider tossing me some money over on Patreon?

And I will see you next week with more reviews!

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