Article update: The Legacy of Wonder Boy

monsterboy_1In light of the recent announcement that the Sega Master System classic Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap is getting a full HD remake, as well as the series getting a proper sequel in the form of Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom, I decided to go back and update my old post about the Wonder Boy/Monster World series.  It’s not a major overhaul or anything, but I mention the new games, as well as added a little bit about the Saiyūki World series, which I neglected to include originally.

Please click this link to check it out: The Legacy of Wonder Boy

Ruminations – Quest for Glory

questforglory_iconLately, I’ve been slowly working my way through Sierra’s old Quest for Glory series. I haven’t finished it yet, though, so I can’t really write a proper retrospective, but it’s such an interesting series that I still wanted to express my thoughts on it.

Quest for Glory is a series of five RPGs released between 1989 and 1998 for PC. Most of them are a unique hybrid of classic point-and-click adventure games and Western-style role-playing games, although the fifth game apparently strays more into action-RPG territory. They follow the adventures of a young aspiring hero (a recent graduate of the Famous Adventurer’s Correspondence SchoolTM) as he travels across the world doing good deeds to make a name for himself. While each game tells a standalone story, they link together to form an overarching narrative.


When thinking of classic Western RPGs, names like Ultima, Wizardry and Might & Magic are likely to come to mind. The Quest for Glory games don’t have quite the same recognition as those pioneering titles. Perhaps it’s because they’re categorized more as adventure games than RPGs, but the presence of character classes, stats, and even a combat system clearly separate it from a straight adventure like King’s Quest, and place it comfortably into RPG territory.

They also don’t have quite the same scope as a game like Ultima or Might & Magic, in which each game gives you a gigantic world to explore. Rather, each game in the Quest for Glory series focuses on a smaller, more contained area, with each one based on a different real-world location and culture. This may make them seem like they’re not quite as deep, but it does make them more accessible for people who may find a game like Ultima to be a bit overwhelming. (Like me.)

questforglory2_1Gameplay-wise, Quest for Glory manages to find a balance between its adventure and RPG elements that works way better than it probably should. The puzzles often have multiple solutions depending on your character class and abilities. This makes it one of the few adventure-style games to have genuine replay value, as you can replay the game with a different character class and find new solutions to the puzzles.

Another area in which the series balances itself is its combination of dramatic storytelling with a preposterous sense of humor. The series is filled with corny puns, references, cartoony sound effects, and an occasional fourth-wall break. Each game also contains silly characters that are very obviously inspired by classic comedians, including the Three Stooges, the Marx Brothers, and Laurel and Hardy. (Quest for Glory III even has Sanford & Son.) At the same time, there’s no shortage of dramatic tension, and the games can get somewhat dark at points with some morally ambiguous situations.

questforglory3_1In a way, the contrast between those two tones somehow manages to enhance them rather than undermine them. The goofy jokes are that much funnier when they catch you off guard during a sober situation, and the lighthearted atmosphere helps the serious parts carry a little more dramatic weight. The way they play off each other could have been jarring, but they end up working together brilliantly.

Quest for Glory really has a charm all its own. It creates a fantasy world filled with mystery and wonder, as well as several memorable characters. (Not to mention some great music.) While it could be said that it helped influence some modern RPGs, there really aren’t too many games quite like Quest for Glory. Fans have largely taken it upon themselves to carry on its tradition with games like Heroine’s Quest and Quest for Infamy. (The former is available for free on Steam, while the latter is available for purchase on both Steam and GOG.) Meanwhile, the original creators of Quest for Glory, the spousal game design team of Lori Ann Cole and Cory Cole, have been working on their own spiritual successor called Hero-U.

questforglory3_2Currently, the Quest for Glory series is available as a bundle on GOG. There’s also an impressive fan remake of Quest for Glory II from AGD Interactive that can be downloaded for free. (They also created some impressive remakes of the first three King’s Quest games.)

It’s a series that’s well-worth looking into. If you’re a fan of RPGs or adventure games, I highly recommend checking them out.

More info:

Star Fox Zero: Shooting For the Stars

starfox_iconNote: this is not a review.

It may function like a review, and it may be my evaluation of the game after playing it, but it is totally not a review.

Because I suck at writing reviews.

Now that that’s out of the way, I can say that Star Fox Zero is my favorite game in the series. Granted, it’s not really replacing anything. There wasn’t really a particular Star Fox game before this that I necessarily considered my favorite. I appreciated each one for its own merits. But with Zero, everything just seems to click together for me.

starfoxzero_1As a fresh reboot of the Star Fox series, it pays great homage to Star Fox 64. It takes much of its inspiration from that N64 classic, having a similar atmosphere and plot, and even getting back most of the original voice cast. But it doesn’t really go much beyond being an homage, as most of the game is entirely new, with brand new levels and scenarios. Zero is a game that stands on its own with its own identity, and it’s nearly as much a re-imagining of Star Fox 64 as Star Fox 64 was to the original Star Fox on SNES.

One of my favorite aspects of the game is the immersive experience it provides using the Wii U’s Gamepad. It’s not just a dual-screen game, but also a dual-audio game, with all of the character chatter coming from the Gamepad speakers. I recommend playing the game with the volume cranked up on both devices. It’s a fourth-wall-breaking experience that really brings the game out of the TV and truly makes you feel like you’re surrounded by the world of Star Fox.

starfoxzero_2Of course, I can’t talk about Star Fox Zero without mentioning its most controversial aspect: the controls. Basically, it works just like Star Fox 64 with traditional controls, but on top of that, it layers on gyroscopic aiming, the cockpit view on the Gamepad screen, and the lock-on feature. It all ends up complicating things a bit more than you might expect.

All I can really tell you is that they work exactly the way they’re supposed to. (Otherwise, we wouldn’t already be seeing sick score runs on YouTube.) Whether or not you, personally, will be able to get a handle on them, I have no idea. It varies from person to person.

starfoxzero_3This is Nintendo swinging in the opposite direction of Wii Sports. With that, they made a game that anyone could play, including people who have never touched a videogame. With Star Fox Zero, they’ve created a genuine hardcore experience that even people who play games regularly may have trouble wrapping their heads around. It’s definitely not for everyone, and depending on how open you are to unique control methods, you probably already know whether or not it would be your cup of tea.

For me, though, it proudly stands among the best of Nintendo’s hardcore action productions, including Bayonetta 2, The Wonderful 101, and Sin & Punishment: Star Successor. It’s the kind of game that only gets better the more you play it, and I know I’ll be coming back to it many times in the future.

As for Star Fox Guard, I still need to spend more time with it, but that will require me to rip myself away from Zero long enough to do it, and that could take awhile.


Some Notable Games Still Coming to Wii U (Besides Zelda)

wiiu_iconNow that Star Fox Zero is out and Nintendo’s next console is on the horizon, support for the poor ol’ Wii U seems to be dried up. Sure, Zelda is still getting a Wii U release, but it’s also scheduled for the NX, and aside from downloadable indie games, what else is worth watching for?

As it turns out, there’s still a small handful of games still coming to Wii U that are worth keeping an eye on, and nearly all of them will be available physically. So, if you plan to keep rocking the Wii U into 2017 and want to continue building up your library, here are some recommendations.

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

bloodstained_artworkKoji Igarashi’s Boodstained: Ritual of the Night is a spiritual successor to the Castlevania games he worked on at Konami, including the classic Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Bloodstained will follow the tried and true metroidvania-style gameplay, and promises to be his biggest game ever.

While the game is being developed by Inti Creates, the Wii U port is being handled by Armature Studio, who plans to implement exclusive Gamepad and Mii functionality.

The main game is tentatively scheduled for a March 2017 release, with extra content following after.

Also coming to: PS4, Xbox One, Vita, Windows, Mac OS and Linux.

Mighty No. 9

mightyno9_artworkIf you’re among those who has not started feeling animosity towards Keiji Inafune, then Mighty No. 9 could still be the scratch for your Mega Man itch. Bearing more of a resemblance to the Mega Man X series, Mighty No. 9 boasts a high challenge level, full voice acting (with both English and Japanese options), and an online co-op mode.

And if they stick to their release date, you could be blasting robots as soon as June 21, 2016, in North America (June 24 in Europe).

Also coming to: 3DS, PS3, PS4, Vita, Xbox 360, Xbox One,Windows, Mac OS and Linux.

Paper Mario: Color Splash

The latest in the Paper Mario series seems to be taking some cues from Splatoon, as Mario will be restoring color to the land with his magic paint hammer. The lack of RPG elements seen in the classic Paper Mario games has left some fans wary, but hey, it’s a new Mario game for Wii U.

And if Nintendo doesn’t bump the game to the NX, as some are speculating, it should be due out this year.

Exclusive to Wii U.

(YouTube credit: Game Explain)

Shantae: Half-Genie Hero

shantaehalfgeniehero_artworkThe fourth game in WayForward’s Shantae series will also be the first developed specifically for HD platforms. If you’ve never played a Shantae game, they’re a series of “cute” metroidvanias with an off-beat sense of humor. Half-Genie Hero will mark the beginning of a new story arc, making it a good entry point for new fans.

While a physical release has not been confirmed, a recent update from WayForward mentioned they were in talks with several publishers. There also isn’t an exact release date, but development seems to be in its final stages. Cross your fingers for a 2016 release.

Also coming to: PS3, PS4, Vita, Xbox 360, Xbox One and Windows.

Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE

tmsfe_artworkAtlus’s unusual crossover between their Shin Megami Tensei series and Nintendo’s Fire Emblem brings another meaty RPG to the Wii U. Being a more traditional RPG rather than the tactical style of Fire Emblem, it may have difficulty finding its audience, but if your Wii U needs a new RPG after Xenoblade Chronicles X, this is your best bet.

The game features a modern-day Tokyo setting, with the original Japanese voice acting and pop music intact. It’s also just around the corner with a June 24, 2016, release date in both North America and Europe.

Exclusive to Wii U.


yookalaylee_artworkConsisting of many former employees of Rare, particularly from the Nintendo 64 era, developer Playtonic is poised to bring back their distinct brand of 3D mascot collect-a-thon platform games. Taking its cues from the Banjo-Kazooie series, Yooka-Laylee will feature a dual-character gameplay mechanic and plenty of MacGuffins to collect (but in a “meaningful” way, whatever that means).

Look forward to lots of googly eyes and British humor this October.

Also coming to: PS4, Xbox One, Windows, Mac OS and Linux.

Looking Back at Star Fox

starfox_iconThe Star Fox series is certainly eclectic. Sometimes, it doesn’t seem to know quite what it wants to do with itself. Nintendo never seemed satisfied with letting it just be the arcade rail shooter that fans prefer, and it instead used it as an outlet for experimentation and innovation with admittedly varied results. But that’s also what makes the series, as a whole, interesting.

I’ve enjoyed the Star Fox games over the years, and with one of the latest entries, Star Fox Zero, creating its own waves (both positive and negative), I felt compelled to look back at my own experiences with the series.

Star Fox (1993)

More than any other entry in the series, the original Star Fox is very much a product of its time. However, being one of the first home console games to use polygonal 3D graphics, it was also the most revolutionary.

It might be hard to tell by looking at it now, but seeing it for the first time back when it came out was mind blowing. For a console that was already faking 3D pretty well with its “Mode 7” scaling and rotation effects, the fully polygonal scrolling landscape was on another level entirely. I remember thinking how cool it was when, during the Space Armada level, you would see giant battleships in the background, fly right up to them, then inside them to destroy their cores, and back out the other side. And it all happened seamlessly.


It’s less impressive today with its choppy frame-rate and sluggish digital controls, but some parts of it do hold up. In particular, the soundtrack by Hajime Hirasawa, with its mix of heroic John Williams-esque orchestrations and gritty guitar rock, is still my favorite in the series.

It also had a very particular atmosphere to it that’s never quite been replicated since then. Part of it was probably just the abstract nature of the graphics, but the original Star Fox felt downright bizarre at times. Things like the random geometric shapes floating through space and low-polygon count for all the character models made everything feel alien. Even now, I still don’t know what Professor Hanger is supposed to be, but I love it just because it’s so weird and random.

While it may be difficult to go back to today (both from a gameplay standpoint and because it’s never been re-released on the Virtual Console), I will always have a soft spot for the original Star Fox.

Star Fox 64 (1997)

While Star Fox 64 is objectively a better game than the original, I have to admit I’ve always had slightly mixed feelings about it. A lot of that stems from the fact that Star Fox 2 on the SNES, which I was extremely hyped for, never came out, and instead I only got a remake of the original. Not only that, but despite being a superior game, I felt that it failed to recapture the charm of its predecessor. In particular, the soundtrack by Koji Kondo and Hajime Wakai lacked the driving energy of the first.


That’s not to say I didn’t like the game. The controls were vastly improved due to not only the game being on hardware capable of running the game smoothly and responsively, but also the availability of an analog stick. I spent quite a lot of time playing this one back in the day.

Star Fox 64‘s main innovation was the inclusion of the N64 Rumble Pak, making it one of the first home console games to provide force feedback. It also boasted fully spoken dialog, which was not uncommon at the time, but impressive for a cartridge-based game.

As a reboot, Star Fox 64 set the standard for the series going forward, and was the game all future installments would be compared to.

Star Fox Adventures (2002)

Here we have the Star Fox game that was not originally intended to be a Star Fox game. First in development as an action-adventure simply titled Dinosaur Planet, the why and how of its conversion to the Star Fox series is muddled. But as a spin-off, it still left its mark on the franchise, influencing future installments.

Rather than being a rail shooter, Adventures is a Zelda-like game with Fox running around on foot fighting enemies with a staff. It’s quite a change of pace, and some fans still look down on it as a mediocre black sheep that had no right to be a Star Fox game in the first place.


Personally, however, I loved it. Part of that might be because it was the very first game I got for my GameCube and it has some sentimental value. But as a fan of the Zelda series, I highly enjoyed the gameplay, and I never saw a problem with a spin-off doing its own thing. In its own right, I find it to be a solid romp.

Being the final game Rare developed for Nintendo, it’s also gorgeous, with some nice fur and water effects, real-time facial animation, and an amazing soundtrack by Dave Wise.

I never quite understood why it’s so looked down upon. I think it deserves more appreciation than it gets.

Star Fox: Assault (2005)

In a way, Assault is a return to form, going back to the arcade-shooter style the series is known for, but for me, it’s kind of a mixed bag. Of the 10 stages in the game, only three have the classic rail-shooter gameplay. The rest of it is free-roaming All Range Mode dogfights, on-foot shooter sections, and Panzer Dragoon-style 360 degree shooting segments. At its best, I found it to be a fun shooter that takes the series in new directions. At worst, it’s a little dull and aimless.

There are things I like, to be sure. I like that it’s a true sequel that moves things forward, with an original story and a new enemy to fight (the Aparoids). It also has a terrific soundtrack by Yoshie Arakawa and Yoshinori Kawamoto.


Assault is not really a bad game. I have no problem with Star Fox trying new things, and I’ve always liked the idea of Fox being on foot in a run-and-gun-style shooter. It’s just that these other styles of gameplay don’t seem to be as well done as they should be, and they clash with the parts of the game that really shine.

In the past, the game has never really held my attention for very long, but I should revisit it at some point and give it a fresh chance.

Star Fox Command (2006)

I don’t have much to say about this one because, honestly, I’ve never played it. For some reason, I was never compelled to try it, either when it was originally released for the Nintendo DS, or after last year’s appearance on the Wii U Virtual Console. I’ve been curious about it, but not quite enough to jump into the cockpit. I should get around to it at some point, though.

Star Fox Zero and Star Fox Guard (2016)

Aside from the 2011 3DS port/remake of Star Fox 64, it took a decade for the series to return with not one, but two new games. Being that they’re so new, I shouldn’t say too much about them until they’ve had a chance to sit with me for a while, but my initial reaction is extremely positive.

Both games embrace the experimental nature of the series, with Zero putting a new spin on the arcade shooter gameplay, and Guard fitting an entirely new style of gameplay into the Star Fox universe. For now, all I’ll say about Zero is that it’s easily the most intense and hardcore game in the series. (Would you expect anything less from Platinum Games?) I haven’t spent much time with Guard yet, but it’s more fun than I expected it to be.

I’ll write up a proper post for both games in the near future.