Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Top 5 games of 1994

I’ve been a gamer for most of my life, having lived through the third generation of gaming (NES)
upwards. Over 25 weeks, I will list my top 5 games from 1990 – 2015. 
Here's 1994
Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (Mega Drive)sonic 3
Instead of describing Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (which is basically a slightly less fun version of Sonic 2 – I found it to be too ‘busy’ at times, making it difficult to keep track of what’s happening) I’d like to share a story about the game – Not many know this but Michael Jackson was originally commissioned to compose the music for the game. Sega pulled out after his child abuse allegations came to the fore. Apparently the credit music was the inspiration for one of his songs, ‘Stranger in Moscow.’
sonic 3
Sonic and Knuckles (Mega Drive)
Sonic and Knuckles reads a lot like modern DLC. Originally developed to be included in Sonic 3, it didn’t make the cut because of time constraints. It released with a physical feature called lock-on technology which allowed you to play through Sonic 3 as Knuckles and to play as Tails in Knuckle’s game. For a kid like me, this was nothing short of pure magic, and breathed new life into my older games.
sonic and knuckles
Earthworm Jim (Mega Drive)
This is the second consecutive year that one of David Perry’s games made my list (he also worked on Aladdin the previous year). I got Earthworm Jim as part of a second-hand bundle (I can’t remember what the other game was). The game was unlike anything I played before. As a kid, you don’t really understand what ‘tongue-in-cheek’ meant, but you did recognize when something was trying to subvert the status quo… and Earthworm Jim did this in spades – you had to rescue someone named ‘Princess What’s-Her-Name’, who gets crushed by a cow as you approach her after the final boss. You also fight a goldfish and a conjoined monkey-headed scientist. To say this game was weird is like saying Max Payne liked the occasional swig. I also remember this game being really difficult. Did you find it tough?
earthworm jim
Donkey Kong Country (SNES)
Part of Rare’s golden era, Donkey Kong was an important weapon in Nintendo’s fight against Sega and Sony’s fledgling 32-bit contender (more on this console in later years). Through the use of a silicon graphics workstation, Rare were able to develop a swansong for the then-dying console (think God of War 3 for the PS3). I’m a huge platform guy and big fan of the series (I am currently playing Tropical Freeze on the Wii U). Donkey Kong Country is to this day, the second highest-selling game for the console and a must-play for any avid retro gamer.
donnkey kong country
Lion King (Mega Drive)lion king
Lion King was my life in ’94. No other animated movie has since come close to dethroning it. I had the VHS, the song books, even those little white marbles with the cheap stickers that peeled off after a week. I remember seeing a review for the game on KTV (I might be wrong) and thinking, this game is legit (I didn’t have too much experience with games where your character evolved over time – in this case, from cub too hyena-slaughtering bad-ass). GamePro slated the game, saying it was too repetitive… but they were wrong (more wrong than when Colin Powell told the UN that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.
lion king
So these are my top five games that were released in 1994. Join me next Tuesday as I go through my favourite games from 1995. Leave a comment and let me know which were your favourite games from the nineties.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Top 5 games of 1993

I’ve been a gamer for most of my life, having lived through the third generation of gaming (NES) upwards. Over 25 weeks, I will list my top 5 games from 1990 – 2015. To ensure consistency, here are the rules I will be following
  • I will only write about games I’ve played (which means)
  • Even though I played most of these games a few years after they released, I will stick with the year they were released (otherwise this list will be all over the place)
  • Some games may have been released at different times for different regions. When this happens, I will use the year related to the version I’ve played
  • Due to the second rule, it does mean I won’t be able to list gems like Super Mario Brothers and Circus Charlie
This week I will highlight 1993.
Battletoads and Double Dragon (NES/ Mega Drive)
Videogame crossovers are very popular, with Smash Brothers, Marvel vs Capcom and Kingdom Hearts bringing together beloved IPs (usually to beat each other up). Battletoads and Double Dragon is widely considered as the granddaddy of crossovers and is probably the first major crossover game. Battletoads were created by Rare (of Goldeneye fame) as a response to the green behemoth known as TMNT, adding the two belligerent brothers to the  mix (and their associated enemies) was like adding chocolate pieces to vanilla ice-cream. The more chocolate you add, the better it tastes.
Battletoads-and-Double-Drag
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters (NES/SNES/Mega Drive)
So this is the third week in a row that I’ve highlighted a TMNT game, which is testament to what a huge fan I was. Perhaps it’s a generational thing. TMNT: Tournament Fighters was an above average fighting game (nothing spectacular like the game below). What was remarkable was that Konami developed three different versions (NES, SNES and Mega Drive) with different characters for each one. They didn’t call it console exclusives or anything – it was what it was. To be fair, this slot should have went to Mortal Kombat 2, which went on to become quite an iconic title in its own right. I just have fonder memories of TMNT: Tournament Fighters.
tmnt-tournament-fighters
Super Mario All-Stars (SNES)
Super Mario All-stars is an anthology of arguably the three best NES games of all time, and Super Mario Bros 2. The original Super Mario Bros is timeless. It’s the only game I’ve played every single year for the past two decades (It’s like Undertaker’s Wrestlemania streak before Brock Lesnar crushed our collective childhoods). Super Mario Bros 3 was voted the best game of all time by IGN, and Super Mario Bros: The lost levels added new levels that weren’t available outside of Japan. What made these games special was that they were remasters done right, upgrading the visuals for the 16-bit era. I have yet to meet a gamer who has not played Super Mario Bros, but if you are reading this, then it is absolutely criminal if you do not play this game.
super-mario-all-stars
aladdinAladdin (Mega Drive)
By now you should have a fairly decent hold on what I enjoy, and it shouldn’t surprise you that a licenced platformer makes the list. I was a huge Aladdin fan growing up (well, huge Disney fan, but that’s about as remarkable as having an e-mail address so I shouldn’t bother highlighting it). You tend to overlook the stereotypes when you’re a kid (the pastiche of commodified cultures all thrown together like an oriental biryani). Aladdin was a great game that hit all the spots. Interesting fact – it’s the third-best selling mega drive game after Sonic 1 and 2.
aladdin
Samurai Shodown
Japanese fighting games were all the rage back in the early nineties. Street Fighter opened the doors for a multitude of variations on the old ‘beat someone to a pulp’ mechanic. Samurai Shodown stood out for me because it focused on weapons. Samurai Shodown was not only critically acclaimed (winning multiple ‘game of the year’ awards), it was also quite authentic (although now that I think about some of the characters, I’m not so sure). This was probably the spiritual ancestor to games like Soul Calibre. Like all fighting games, I completely ignored the main dude (I will cheer for my own guy thank you).
samurai-shodown
So these are my top five games that were released in 1993. Join me next Tuesday as I go through my favourite games from 1994. Leave a comment and let me know which were your favourite games from the nineties.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Top 5 games of 1992

I’ve been a gamer for most of my life, having lived through the third generation of gaming (NES)
upwards. Over 25 weeks, I will list my top 5 games from 1990 – 2015. To ensure consistency, here are the rules I will be following
  • I will only write about games I’ve played (which means no Mario Kart)
  • Even though I played most of these games a few years after they released, I will stick with the year they were released (otherwise this list will be all over the place)
  • Some games may have been released at different times for different regions. When this happens, I will use the year related to the version I’ve played
  • Due to the second rule, it does mean I won’t be able to list gems like Super Mario Brothers and Circus Charlie
This week I will highlight 1992
Mortal Kombat (Arcade)mk
This list was quite easy to compile (1992 was a bit of a dud year it seemed). The five games highlighted here were all quite special to me (except Darkwing Duck – it wasn’t really that good but I liked the show). When you’re a kid and your folks don’t take an active interest in what you play, you tend to play anything that’s cool. And Mortal Kombat was cool (maybe that should read Kool). You know what’s kool, being the inspiration for the Entertainment Software Rating Board forming (which explains why no one cared about age-ratings before). One of the things I liked about Mortal Kombat is that the developers wanted you to root for Lui Kang (the John Cena of the series) but everyone loved Sub Zero (cheap ice-balls) and Scorpion (because he was awesome). It was also responsible for a half-decent movie adaptation (with arguably the best theme song of the nineties, and every period since).
 mk
Streets of Rage 2 (Mega Drive)
Streets of Rage 2 is the pinnacle of side-scrolling beat-em-ups. It’s  been downhill since then. Don’t take my word for it (although I would really appreciate it as it cements me as an influencer) but ask any 30 something gamer who played Streets of Rage 2 when it was released and they will swear by it’s varied combat, eclectic cast, and kicking soundtrack. I completed it about fifty times and I can’t for the life of me remember the plot, but like all good beat-em-ups, it doesn’t matter at all, seriously, you could be pummeling a bunch of scientists who are 95 percent of the way to curing AIDS and it wouldn’t matter. Do check it out if you get a chance (it was reently re-released on the 3DS).
streets of rage 2
Sonic 2 (Mega Drive)sonic 2
One of the biggest rivalries in the nineties was between two wrestling companies, WWF (now WWE) and WCW. The competition pushed them to upped their game every week and in so doing, create some of the most memorable television to date (think NOW and Stone Cold Steve Austin). Sega and Nintendo had one of these storied rivalries, with hit after hit being unleashed on our battered wallets. Sonic games were the Fifa titles of the early and mid-nineties as everyone seemed to have  it (there was also a TV show where you barked orders over the phone while someone played it poorly (I can’t remember what this was so please remind me). Sonic 2 added Tails to the mix, in a half-baked mutliplayer mode that was perfect for when you had to play with younger siblings (You weren’t dependent on Tails keeping up and he never actually died).
sonic 2
Darkwing Duck (Golden China/ NES)
Darkwing was a lesser-spotted duck of the nineties (it was actually a spin-off of talespin, which was a spin-off from Jungle Book – Disney Inception). As stated above, I was struggling to find a fifth game that I liked  in 1992 and Darkwing Duck does tick all my low expectations (licenced platformer), yet I haven’t tracked it down since to replay it (something I’ve done with the other four? Perhaps because it felt too much like a mega man game, or it relied on me loving the source material more than I did. I think the actual reason I didn’t like it was because it was tough. Like darksouls duck tough.
darkwing duck
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Hyperstone Heist (Mega Drive)
This game was very similar to 1991’s Turtles in Time, but like a good cinnabon with tea, it always hits the spot. This was the first game ported to the Mega Drive and it was all the more beautiful for it. It was the first time I noticed more frames in the sprite animation. There were fewer levels (these games were churned out annually like Call of Duty), but they were longer, so that helped.  The issue with beat-em-ups (including modern titles) is that as enemy types respawn, it becomes repetitive. This wasn’t really an issue in the TMNT games because the footsoldiers were these faceless entities anyway (stormtroopers of New York city) so it wasn’t too bad.
tmnt hyperstone
So these are my top five games that were released in 1992. Join me next week as I go through my favourite games from 1993. Leave a comment and let me know which were your favourite games from the nineties.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Top 5 games of 1991

I’ve been a gamer for most of my life, having lived through the third generation of gaming (NES) upwards. Over 25 weeks, I will list my top 5 games from 1990 – 2015. To ensure consistency, here are the rules I will be following
  • I will only write about games I’ve played (which means no Super Mario World today)
  • Even though I played most of these games a few years after they released, I will stick with the year they were released (otherwise this list will be all over the place)
  • Some games may have been released at different times for different regions. When this happens, I will use the year related to the version I’ve played
  • Due to the second rule, it does mean I won’t be able to list gems like Super Mario Brothers and Circus Charlie
This week I will highlight 1991
Sonic the Hedgehog (Sega Mega Drive)sonic
Part of my infamous 8-in-1 (you can read about it here), Sonic led the charge like a blue Aragorn storming into the Mushroom Kingdom, a shot of attitude to counter Nintendo’s saccharine franchises.  ‘Attitude’ stood out in the little things, like Sonic tapping his foot impatiently if you didn’t touch the controller for a few seconds, coaxing you to get on with it. I dig the villain, Doctor Robotnik (proper doctor, not honorary). Sure the guy was evil, and turned critters into robots, but I got the sense he worked hard to build his evil empire. Let me know if my nostalgia-loving eardrums deceive me but I do think the theme music of Sonic is much more memorable than most games released these days.
sonic
Street Fighter 2: The World Warrior (Arcade and Mega Drive)
While not my favourite in the Street Fighter 2 series (that honour belongs to Super Street Fighter 2), Street Fighter 2 was my jam. That’s not to say I was any good at it (I was pretty much useless against anyone with working fingers). I didn’t let my countless defeats get to me, often blowing up to R5 at the arcade (I think It was 20 cents a go back then). Street Fighter was one of the first games to introduce me to lazy stereotypes (booga fire and all that), which was par for the course since it was published in the same era as Bloodsport.
Street Fighter 2
Tiny Toon  Adventures (NES)
Keeping with the theme from last week’s list, platformers were a staple of my formative gaming years, with Tiny Toon Adventures being one of the stand-outs. A large part of the allure was that my friend had M-Net (which meant he had a lot of friends, most of who did not have M-Net…) so we would go to his place and watch it on KTV. I really liked that you could switch to another character when you picked up an orb, with each secondary character having their own unique skills (Plucky flew short distances, The Tasmanian devil broke stuff and the cat (Furball or something – not sure, limited exposure and all that) could climb walls. The only thing I could fault it on was difficulty – the game seemed a little tough. There were these stages where you were chased by this crazy person, and if she caught you, you had to start from the beginning (this is something Prince of Persia would try to recreate (unknowingly) with their Dahaka character in their not-as-great-as-sands-of-time sequel.
Tiny Toon Adventures
TMNT
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time (Arcade)
I was a huge TMNT fan back in the day, which of itself is not newsworthy because it’s like someone saying they’re a huge Lionel Messi fan (doesn’t raise any eyebrows). I remember the arcade set-up at the Durban Beachfront (a questionable establishment that smelled like bubblegum ice cream, salt and wet towel), providing four cabinets for unrivalled co-op action (a joy I would only taste again half a decade later with Goldeneye, and now with Rocket League). I’m only just realizing how much I liked licensed games.
TMNT
Sunset Riders (Arcade and Mega Drive)
We end 1991 with another co-op game, and what might possible be the last time I reference my notorious 8-in-1 mega drive cartridge. Sunset Riders is a side-scrolling western shoot-em-up in which you play as a bounty hunter killing outlaws and avoiding stampeding bulls. These games were really popular back then (Double Dragon, Final Fight, Streets of Rage, Golden Axe and Cadillacs and Dinosaurs being among the more popular ones. Maybe not Cadillacs and Dinosaurs but that was pretty bad-ass). I replayed the mega drive version a few years ago – not too shabby.
Sunset Riders
So these are my top five games that were released in 1991. Join me next week as I go through my favourite games from 1992. Leave a comment and let me know which were your favourite games from the nineties.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Top 5 games of 1990

I’ve been a gamer for most of my life, having lived through the third generation of gaming (NES) upwards. Over the next 25 weeks, I will list my top 5 games from 1990 – 2015. To ensure consistency, here are the rules I will be following
  • I will only write about games I’ve played
  • Even though I played most of these games a few years after they released, I will stick with the year they were released (otherwise this list will be all over the place)
  • Some games may have been released at different times for different regions. When this happens, I will use the year related to the version I’ve played
  • Due to the second rule, it does mean I won’t be able to list gems like Super Mario Brothers and Circus Charlie
This week I will highlight 1990


Chip ‘n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers (NES/ Golden China)
As a thirty-something year-old man, I tend to be a little jaded when it comes to licenced games, but as an eight-year old kid hooked on Disney cartoons during M-Net’s Sunday evening open time slot, I couldn’t get enough of it. Chip ‘n’ Dale was a fun platformer, improved by the option to play two-player (loved chucking Dale onto enemies). I never actually owned a NES, and did most of my gaming on a Golden China (had no idea I was playing pirated software), so with no option to save my progress, it actually worked in my favour that the game could be finished in a single sitting.
chip n dale


Super Mario Bros 3 (NES/ Golden China)supermario3
You’re going to be seeing a LOT of Super Mario games in my lists. Arguably one of the greatest games ever made (having just been chosen as number 1 in IGN’s Greatest Games of all-time list), Super Mario Bros 3 was and still is an absolute joy to play. I recently booted it up for my nephew to play and within ten minutes I wrangled the controller from him and took over. A timeless game that every gamer should play.
supermario3


Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse (Sega Mega Drive)
I never actually owned an original Mega Drive. I got a knock-off at a flea-market along with an 8-in-1 cartridge that had Sonic the Hedgehog, Streets of Rage, Flintstones, Columns, Mickey Mouse and a few more games. I did not know it was a knock-off at a time (8-in-1’s made sense compared to the previous 64-in-1’s I had in my previous knock-off). Like Chip ‘n’ Dale above, this was another Disney platformer I was really into in my youth. The game sees Mickey save Minnie from a witch named Mizrabel (ten points for name) who wanted to steal her youth (a theme we will see a few years later in a famous Rare game). The game was a mix of the first two Super Mario games, in that your attacks alternated between jumping on your enemies heads (like the first SMB) or throwing apples (like the second SMB).
castleofillusion


Snow Bros: Nick and Tom (Arcade)Snowbros
The second co-op title in my list, Snow Bros was a spiritual successor to Bubble Bobble, and continued in its storied, manic tradition of encasing enemies and then killing them. I never thought I was actually killing them before I sat to type this piece. Games are simplistic like that, like old action movies. The game follows the exploits of these murderous siblings on their quest to save their girlfriends (I’m not sure if they were also siblings). These icy damsels happen to be princesses, and the bros happen to wear overalls. Coincidence? I replayed Snow Bros about six years ago, and it remains just as fun.
Snowbros


columnsColumns (Sega Mega Drive)
Confession time, I actually prefer columns to Tetris. This might seem blasphemous but some of my fondest memories of playing video games as a kid was playing columns while my granddad sat on the couch next to me, probably judging me for not using investing my time in better pursuits, like rubbing his feet or playing Carrom (check it out). For all the millenials reading this, Columns is the spiritual ancestor of bejeweled, or candy crush, without the annoying social media sharing.
columns


So these are my top five games that were released in 1990. Join me next Monday as I go through my favourite games from 1991. Leave a comment and let me know which were your favourite games from the past, and if you can guess the Rare game I referenced earlier.