The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time RetroActive Review

The-Legend-of-Zelda-The-Ocarina-of-Time pic1

Original Release Date: 1998

For years, Ocarina of Time has had a rather unassailable reputation. It was critically acclaimed at the time of its release, and continues to be regarded as one of the greatest video games ever made. However, in more recent times, more people have started questioning this, with some claiming the game is highly overrated, and saying that it’s not the best game ever made or even the best Zelda game ever made.

In general, I think the disillusionment with Ocarina of Time is a good thing. Recognizing that it isn’t infallible is important, as it’s that kind of attitude that has silenced dissenting opinions and caused problems for the franchise as a whole. Because people were so enamored with Ocarina of Time, games like Majora’s Mask and Wind Waker didn’t get the attention they deserved, at least during their initial release. Rather than appreciating how good they were in their own right, people complained about how they were too different from Ocarina of Time. As a result, Nintendo then tried (and ultimately failed) to recreate what seemed to work with Ocarina of Time in the following 3D titles, namely Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword. It’s the incorrect idea that Ocarina of Time was perfect that also led to them being far too safe and conservative with the 3DS remake, rather than really trying to update and fix the things about the game that were flawed or dated.

However, I feel in some ways that the disillusionment with Ocarina of Time has gone too far. It’s perfectly fine to say that Ocarina of Time is not perfect, or that it’s not the best Zelda game. I would actually agree with both of those assertions. But many people go the extra mile and try to downplay all of the things that Ocarina of Time did well, or even pretend that there wasn’t any good reasons why people fell in love with the game in the first place. This is a shame, because the reality is that Ocarina of Time was, and is, a very good game.

Much like Super Mario 64, Ocarina of Time was a pioneer that helped pave the way for the future of 3D gaming. However, Ocarina of Time had a trickier task than Super Mario 64. Mario games have never been very story focused, typically focusing all of their energy on the gameplay and having the story being more of an afterthought. As a result, Super Mario 64 only had to worry about having good gameplay, which it did, while still having a pretty barebones story.

The Zelda series, on the other hand, has always had more lore to it, and ever since A Link to the Past, story has played a much bigger part in the Zelda games. To that end, Ocarina of Time kept both story and gameplay in mind as it built up the world that many people still know and love to this day.

The storyline, while fairly simple and straightforward, is also incredibly well paced and beautifully put together. The storyline overall is your pretty standard good versus evil, destined hero has to stop evil villain kind of story, but where it shines is in how it ties the narrative and gameplay together. The game starts off in Kokiri forest. For story purposes, Kokiri forest serves as the quiet start of Link’s journey before he ventures off into the world, while for gameplay purposes it serves as a tutorial area that lets new players become acquainted with how the game works, and also allows veteran players to move through it quickly.

From there, the game introduces you to the various regions of the game, introducing new locations and characters while also establishing new elements to the gameplay. All of this then ties in once you leap forward seven years. The game informs you that Ganondorf has taken over Hyrule, but it also reinforces that through the gameplay. As you travel through all of the locations you explored as young link, you can see how things have changed for the worse during the seven year interlude. Castle town is in ruins, Kakariko village has swelled with refugees, Kokiri forest is full of monsters, Death mountain is more dangerous, and Zora’s Domain is frozen over. The game doesn’t simply tell you that things have changed for the worse through exposition, you get to see it for yourself firsthand through the gameplay, which adds more depth to the narrative and worldbuilding. In addition, the heightened stakes of the narrative tie back into the gameplay, as the game introduces more elements and more difficult challenges during the second half.

The game also uses 3D space very effectively. While somewhat primitive in terms of graphics and scope when compared with modern games, Ocarina of Time still has some of the most clever puzzles of any 3D game. While many modern games take 3D space for granted, Ocarina of Time actively builds the puzzles with the 3D space in mind, and each new dungeon explores this with new items and environments. The camera controls are also much improved over Super Mario 64, and have aged quite well.

Another thing that Ocarina of Time does well is in its scope. While the world of Hyrule is definitely smaller than a lot of more recent adventure games, it manages to be compact while still having a sense of bigness. All of the locations in Ocarina of Time have a purpose, and none of them are any larger than they need to be, with the only minor exception being Hyrule Field. This makes traversing through the game world fun, while traversing many modern game worlds can be a bit of a chore. Modern games can have much, much larger worlds, and there are plenty of modern games that craft their worlds well. But many of these games have worlds that are filled with a lot of empty space that serves no real purpose at all, and many of the locations and environments are often copy and pasted over and over, which further reduces the sense of wonder of exploring new areas. While Ocarina of Time was held back by the limits of its time, in hindsight this allowed it to avoid many missteps of more recent adventure games.

Ocarina of Time does very well with its environments. Each location is distinct and memorable, and each of the dungeons in particular stand out as being very unique. It’s the first Zelda game where each level felt different from the last, whereas in the older games a lot of the dungeons tended to blend together and feel interchangeable.

The story also incorporates its non interactive elements well, and does its best to make sure that they don’t get in the way of the interactive elements. The cutscenes are all fairly short, and don’t provide any more information or exposition than is needed. The characters, while not as deep or developed as the characters in later games, are still distinct, and seeing how they change and grow after the seven year leap is also very interesting, and ties into the game’s overall theme of change over time.

The music is fantastic. The ability to play different songs is beautifully implemented, and really enhances the experience. Each musical piece fits their respective environments perfectly, and the soundtrack is hands down the best in the entire Zelda franchise.

Gushing praise aside, this game hasn’t aged completely gracefully. The graphics do look a bit dated, and even by N64 standards they aren’t always as good as they could have been. In particular, the use of the 3D in some areas, such as Castle Town, is rather awkward, and not as good as the rest of the game. Some hills are rather blocky looking, many stairways are flat, and some of the textures and models do look rather dated.

Another problem is the rather lackluster content outside of the main story. While the main storyline and dungeons are done very well, the sidequests and exploration are less prominent. This is not to say that they aren’t there at all, or that they’re not good, but players who like to explore off of the beaten path might be left feeling a little disappointed, and many of the future Zelda games offer much more content when it comes to exploration and sidequests.

One of the more prominent sidequests is the gold skulltula quest, where there are 100 scattered throughout the game world, and you need to try to get them all. But getting them all is rather tedious and time consuming, and there’s not really a proper reward for doing so. After you collect 50, you’ll have gotten all of the rewards that matter, and you won’t get any more rewards until you get all 100. And once you do get all 100, your only reward is a bunch of money, which at that point in the game you won’t really need. This particular sidequest is an interesting idea, and it would have benefited it if the player received a more substantial reward for getting them all, rather than just bragging rights, which is something only idiots care about.

Another issue is that not all of the items are utilized as well as they could have been. Most of the items and weapons you get are actively useful throughout the game, but there are a handful that are not. The hammer and the hover boots are not useful very much outside of the dungeon they are found in, and some items such as the ice arrows, Nayru’s love, and the golden gauntlets are obtained so late in the game that the player is give almost no opportunities to use them.

While the gameplay and narrative tie in together for the most part, there are a few times were there is a bit of a disconnect. According to the story, Link and the sages work together to purge each temple of evil, and some of the sages actually do appear in person. But in the gameplay, Link works through the challenges and the boss alone, and the sages only show up afterwards. Having the sages play a more active role in the gameplay would have been tricky, but it would have helped tie in the gameplay and story a little better than what was presented in the actual game.

This issue also comes into play when you enter the Gerudo fortress. It’s towards the end of the game, Link has gotten much stronger, and from a story perspective shouldn’t have any problem fighting the Gerudo guards directly. But because the gameplay wants the player to focus on stealth, if the Gerudo guards see link, they automatically arrest him and throw him in a cell, when he should realistically be able to fight them off. While a relatively minor issue, this does create a temporary disconnect between story and gameplay, which is only exacerbated by the fact that the guards don’t take any of your weapons away, which makes even less sense that Link not being allowed to fight back.

Finally, the gameplay and story, while good, aren’t as fleshed out as in later games, and in terms of overall design, both Majora’s Mask and Wind Waker are better games.

I could go on about the things that Ocarina of Time does well, or continuing nitpicking some of the areas where it falls a bit short. But at the end of the day, Ocarina of Time remains an excellent title, and one that has aged pretty well. It managed to successfully translate the Zelda formula to 3D, and delivered a truly stellar example of what games are capable of as an artistic and immersive medium. Whatever your opinion about this game is, its importance and quality cannot be denied. It’s not perfect, but it is still very, very good.

If you don’t like Ocarina of Time, that’s fine. If you think it’s overrated, that’s fine. If you think it’s outdated, that’s fine. If you don’t think it’s the best game ever made, or the best Zelda game ever made, that’s fine.

But if you think that Ocarina of Time is a bad game, you’re wrong, plain and simple.

How well it holds up       3/4

Personal Enjoyment        5/5

Overall quality                 9/10

Recommended

For further information about the game:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Legend_of_Zelda:_Ocarina_of_Time

http://zeldawiki.org/The_Legend_of_Zelda:_Ocarina_of_Time

http://zelda.wikia.com/wiki/The_Legend_of_Zelda:_Ocarina_of_Time

Super Mario 64 RetroActive Review

Super Mario 64 pic1

Original Release Date: 1996

While Mario isn’t as prominent or important as he used to be, his importance to this medium cannot be denied. With the original Super Mario Bros he simultaneously revitalized the game industry and established the framework that almost all 2D platformers still use to this day. He then practically perfected the formula with Super Mario World and Yoshi’s Island.

And with Super Mario 64, he made the leap into what was at the time the wild west of 3D gaming. Just as with his 2D classics, his 3D debut is often credited as establishing many conventions, and helped people to understand how 3D games could work, and what it took to successfully translate a franchise from 2D to 3D.

Super Mario 64’s importance as a pioneer is unquestionable. However, just because something is important doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a game that holds up to modern scrutiny. The original Legend of Zelda was a pioneer of its genre, but the game itself falls short in so many areas when compared with later evolutions in the genre that there’s little to recommend about it nowadays. With all that in mind, how well does Super Mario 64 stand the test of time?

On the whole, pretty well. One thing that is very evident from the start is that Nintendo understood that 3D games are inherently different from 2D ones, and what works in one format won’t necessarily work in another. So rather than trying to copy the older 2D games exactly and just add 3D around the established formula, they instead built the game from the ground up with the 3D gameplay in mind.

Instead of just moving across side scrolling levels, Mario can now move freely in any direction, and on top of that has a much more diverse set of abilities than his 2D counterpart. This allows for new ways of approaching problems, as well as new ways of presenting obstacles and designing levels.

Everything about Super Mario 64 feels deliberate, and in a good way. The game actively takes advantage of the 3D environments it contains, with very effective use of spacing. The visuals are also very distinct, and present the player with a variety of colorful and interesting environments. Even though the visuals are clearly dated, they’re still vibrant and fun to look at.

Overall, Super Mario 64 has stood the test of time relatively well. However, it does have some shortcomings. The camera controls are a bit awkward and wobbly compared with modern games, and sometimes make seeing where you want to go needlessly difficult. The game also has a similar issue with Super Mario Bros 3, in that the different levels focus less on building on what the player learned in previous levels, and more on having different gimmicks. While this makes each level distinct and memorable, it also makes getting through each level more of a hassle, as each level can only be beaten by trial and error. Exacerbating this issue is the fact that, unlike in Super Mario World or Yoshi’s Island, there are no mid-world checkpoints, so if you die, you have to start the whole level all over again. This is not helped by the sometimes arbitrary one hit kill obstacles. For example, falling into lava will do some damage, but still give the player a chance to recover, while stepping into quicksand results in instant death.

Another issue is the inclusion of the lives system, except that it ironically has the opposite problem of its 2D counterparts. In many 8 bit and 16 bit games I’ve complained about lives systems before, with my main issue being that their purpose is to make the game longer rather than better. Well, it was around the time that Super Mario 64 came out that the lives system became a bad design decision for a different reason. While the lives system used to be a cheap means of making a game last longer, during the transition to 3D the lives system instead became entirely pointless.

In Super Mario 64, you can easily get a lot of lives, avoid running out, and even if you do run out, there’s not much of a penalty at all. As infuriating as the lives system was in older games, it at least had some sort of purpose for existing, while in Super Mario 64 it’s an entirely meaningless mechanic that adds nothing to the game at all. If the lives system was removed, it wouldn’t affect the game at all. This is the reason that most games nowadays don’t have a lives system, because developers figured out that having one is either bad or redundant.

Despite suffering from a few crow’s feet, though, Super Mario 64 is still pretty fun and engaging even to this day. It took the classic fun platforming that Mario is known for and successfully translated it into 3D, providing something both familiar and fresh. I’m not a major fan of Mario games in general, and I can’t say the leap to 3D really changed that feeling much, but I still had fun with this title. It’s a really good 3D platformer, and is still very much worth playing.

How well it holds up       3/4

Personal Enjoyment        3/5

Overall quality                 9/10

For further information about the game:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super_Mario_64

http://www.mariowiki.com/Super_Mario_64

Top 10 SNES Games

SNES Picture

The SNES era was quite an important time for the medium. It took many concepts that had their origins in the NES, expanded upon them, and took them to the next level, while also adding in many new ideas of its own.

Still, after going through many of the old 16 bit classics, I find myself slightly disillusioned with the SNES and retro gaming in general. When it comes to many past eras that people are fond of, they tend to emphasise the points that were good and ignore the points that were bad or mediocre, while doing the opposite when analyzing more recent developments in the medium.

The reality is that no era is perfect, and it’s best to be fully honest when analyzing any era, even if you have nostalgia for it.

Having said that, the SNES library overall has aged much better than the NES library, and there were quite a few games that I enjoyed for the system. Therefore, as you’ve probably already figured out, I’m going to go through my 10 personal favorite SNES games.

Now, before I begin the list, there are a few things I wanted to address. In particular, some may be startled by the absence of any JRPGs on this list, or indeed the absence of any reviews for them on this site. Well, I did actually try quite a number of JRPGs, but found that I just couldn’t get into them. Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of good things about them, and I don’t think they’re bad games. But the turn based combat didn’t gel with me, and even the JRPGs that deviated from the standard turn based combat still had enough things that ultimately prevented me from continuing them. Maybe I’ll eventually give this genre of games another shot, but when it comes to the prominent JRPGs for the SNES, I just couldn’t get into them.

So, with that note taken care of, here are a few guidelines for what games made it onto this list. First of all, only games I have reviewed are eligible. If I didn’t review a game, it’s either because I didn’t play it, or I did, but couldn’t stand playing it long enough to give a full opinion on it, as was the case with many JRPGs for the SNES. Secondly, these games were not chosen based on what is objectively the best or most important, but simply on which games I personally enjoyed the most. And finally, only one slot per franchise.

Aladdin picX

10: Aladdin

Starting off the list is a lesser known platformer based off of the Disney film of the same name. While not a masterpiece by any means, it’s still a fun and well designed game. What really sets it apart from the multitude of generic platformers for the SNES, though, is just how creatively and competently it pays homage to the film it’s based on. The environments are well designed and match the artstyle of the movie perfectly, all of the character sprites have a ton of personality to them, and hearing the brilliantly done 16 bit rendition of “You’ve Never Had a Friend Like Me” was just fantastic. If you’re not a fan of the Disney version of Aladdin, this game may not carry as much weight, but if you are, you need to check out this game as soon as possible.

Megaman X pic2

9: Megaman X

Another game by Capcom (Back when they were actually good), Megaman X is an ambitious re-imagining of the Megaman franchise that truly stands on its own. It does have a fair number of problems that drag it down, as I noted in my review, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a lot of fun with this title. Smooth gameplay, crisp visuals, and awesome music make this a standout platformer for the system.

Donkey Kong Country pic2

8: Donkey Kong Country

Not really sure what to say about this one. Everyone says it’s really good. And…yeah. It is. Can’t really think of anything else to add right now, so I’m just going to move onto the next one.

Actraiser pic1

7: Actraiser

I was a bit harsh towards this game in my review, but that wasn’t because I didn’t like it. Rather, I was a little disappointed with it, because it could have been so much more. As I said in my review, it would have benefitted the game to either commit to being a great action platformer or a great god game, rather than opting for a mix of the two.

But while not as good as it could have been, it’s still quite good. The platforming sections are memorable and challenging, and the civilization sim sections, while lacking depth, do give you the invigorating sense of building up a human society. Not a perfect game, but for what it is, it’s a pretty great title for the SNES.

Star Fox Picture

6: Star Fox

This is another game that I was not super kind to when I reviewed it, and I still maintain that it’s a bit dated and a bit short. However, after going back and replaying it a few times since my review, I have to say, this game has a lot of staying power. It’s fast paced, it’s invigorating, it’s fun, it’s got lots of personality, and it’s a game that’s kept me coming back again and again.

Zombies Ate My Neighbors pic2

5: Zombies Ate My Neighbors

Is the title weird? Yeah, it is. Is the game itself weird? Absolutely. But it’s also one of the most engrossing games for the SNES I’ve played. Its simple premise is executed brilliantly, and it has probably the most replay value of any game on this list. It may not be the best game about zombies, but it’s certainly one of the most unique.

Super Metroid pic2

4: Super Metroid

A lot of people hold this game up as the holy grail of gaming. Me personally, I think it’s…good.

In all seriousness, while I wasn’t blown away by this game like many other people were, I can still recognize the sheer quality of this title. While it can sometimes be needlessly obtuse, the attention to detail is staggering, both in terms of gameplay and environment. Not one of my all time personal favorites, but I did really like it, and it deserves to be at least as high as #4.

Yoshi's Island picture

3: Yoshi’s Island

If the fact that this was the first and so far only game I have given a 10 didn’t tip you off, I love Yoshi’s Island. All of the previous Mario games were good, but I just didn’t have much of a personal connection with them. Yoshi’s Island, on the other hand, had me hooked from start to finish. The gameplay is fluid and varied, the level designs are unique and memorable, the music is incredibly charming, the visuals are timeless and endearing, and the boss fights are distinct and well put together. Honestly, this game gets just about everything right, and I will be playing this one again and again.

Now some may be confused as to why this is only at #3, seeing as I gave it a 10. Well, while this game did earn a 10 from me, there were actually two games that I find I enjoy a little more.

Super Castlevania pic2

2: Super Castlevania

This game is not perfect. It held onto many archaic trends of the NES Castlevanias that ultimately dragged down the experience, and in addition it didn’t make the most of its new ideas.

But after playing through it several more times, I find that the flaws matter less and less, and the stuff that’s good just sticks out more and more. The game’s atmosphere is perfect, each level is unique and memorable, and despite its shortcomings it is a well put together game. It’s more fun to play through than any of the NES Castlevanias, and the final showdown with Dracula is probably my favorite in the series so far.

A Link to the Past Pic2

1: The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

Yeah, kind of predictable, I know, but can you fault me? While I like most of the Zelda games, A Link to the Past is easily in my top 5. It’s by far the best 2D Zelda ever made, and despite being a little dated, has withstood the test of time almost as well as Super Metroid and Yoshi’s Island. An exciting, well put together adventure, it’s my favorite game for the SNES.

So, those were my 10 favorite SNES games. What are your favorites? Do you hate me for not being able to get into 16 bit JRPGs? Be sure to let me know in the comments. If you like what you’ve read, be sure to stick with me as I move onto the N64 classics. Thank you for reading, and have a good day.

Aladdin for the SNES RetroActive Review

Aladdin pic2

Aladdin

Original Release Date: 1993

Most licensed games tend to suck. It’s true now, and it was true back during the SNES era. But occasionally, there are some licensed games that come around and are actually pretty good.

Aladdin for the SNES is a game that not only succeeds in being a pretty decent platformer, but also succeeds in being a pretty faithful adaptation.

While the controls are a little wobbly when compared with other 16 bit platformers, they’re still responsive and intuitive, and the game provides a variety of challenges for the player to overcome. Each challenge is distinct and fair, and players are usually not unreasonably punished for making mistakes.

The aesthetic and music of the game is particularly well done, and shows a lot of respect for the original source material. The environments are very similar to the ones from the film, and the 16 bit remixes of songs from the film that play through some of the levels are a joy to listen to.

It does have a lives system and limited continues, which are two things I’ve complained about before. However, they’re less of an issue here because A) the game is fair in its challenges, B) the levels are really fun to play through, and C) there is a password system that mitigates the issue for the most part.

It’s not a masterpiece, but Aladdin for the SNES is a pretty good game, and if you have an appreciation for 16 bit platformers or Disney’s classic film of the same name, then this is a game that is very much worth checking out.

How well it holds up        3/4

Personal enjoyment        4/5

Overall quality                 7/10

Recommended

For further information about the game:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disney%27s_Aladdin_(Capcom)

Actraiser RetroActive Review

Actraiser pic1

Actraiser pic2

Actraiser

Original Release Date: 1990

While there are quite a number of god games centered around building up a civilization nowadays, they were much less common back in the 16 bit era.  One of the first games in this genre was Actraiser, a god game that is widely regarded as one of the best titles for the SNES. But how well does it hold up?

Actraiser combines more traditional side scrolling action with a civilization sim. You take the role of a deity tasked with ridding a world with evil. From a sky palace, you observe different lands and go down to rid each one of monsters and allow human civilization to grow and flourish.

At the beginning of each stage, you descend down from the sky palace and play through a side scrolling level that feels very similar to Super Castlevania, except you’re armed with a sword instead of a whip, and the controls aren’t quite as stiff. Once you beat the level, you are then tasked with spreading human civilization in the newly liberated land. While you can’t control the people directly, you can direct them, and are able to perform miracles to clear obstacles and defeat monsters. You have to guide the people to seal all of the monster lairs in the land so they no longer need to fear evil. Once they’ve done that, you then must complete another side scrolling level to defeat the last monsters in that land. Once you do that, you then move on and do the same thing for all of the other lands.

In many respects, Actraiser succeeds in what it sets out to do. Each of the side scrolling levels is distinct and memorable, as well as challenging in a hard but fair manner, despite the inclusion of an annoying lives system.

The civilization simulator sections are also pretty good, and each land has its own unique environments and strategies to spreading the human civilization.

But the problem with Actraiser is that it feels like two different games in one, and the two don’t connect that well. It would have benefitted the game if it had focused on either being a good action platformer or a good god game, rather than opting for a mix of the two.

While the side scrolling levels are good, they’re also a bit short, and feel rather disconnected from the civilization aspect. The levels would have been more memorable if they had been longer, and if they had been synced up, like in Super Castlevania.

Similarly, while the civilization sim part of the game is good, it’s also rather shallow, and there isn’t a lot of choice in how you can direct your civilization. All you can really do is help the people to rid the land of monsters, and once they’ve done that, there’s not much left for you to do. There are also times when the people of the lands will pray to you, but their dialogue is so generic and bland that you’re constantly reminded that you’re interacting with a group of sprites rather than actual human beings. The game would have been better if you actually felt like you were playing as a deity, and that you were actually guiding real people along whatever path you decided to have them follow.

In the end, Actraiser isn’t a bad game, it’s just not as good as it could have been. If it had focused on one aspect or the other, it could have felt like a more fleshed out and complete experience.

Still, the side scrolling sections are all right, and the civilization sim sections are all right. So overall, the game is all right.

How well it holds up        3/4

Personal enjoyment        4/5

Overall quality                 8/10

Recommended

For further information about the game:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ActRaiser

Zombies Ate My Neighbors RetroActive Review

Zombies Ate My Neighbors pic

Zombies Ate My Neighbors

Original Release Date: 1993

When it comes to videogames, there are often cycles where a certain genre is overly popular, to the point where the industry becomes oversaturated to the brim. While this has been an issue in modern gaming, with brown military shooters being overly common for several years, retro gaming wasn’t free from this problem.

In particular, the platformer was the genre that was overused. After the success of Super Mario Bros, just about every game for the NES was a platformer of some kind. And while the SNES library had a bit more variety to it, the platformer still remained a dominant genre for the console.

Fortunately, there are always some games that stand out as being especially unique. Punch-Out was that game for me for the NES, and Zombies Ate My Neighbors is that game for me for the SNES.

ZAMN is a top down run and gun game where the goal is to rescue all of the neighbors in a level before they are killed by zombies or other monsters. That doesn’t sound like much at first, but the game executes its premise incredibly well.

The controls are responsive and intuitive, and the game gives the player access to a large arsenal of weapons, all of which are fun and interesting to use. The level design is nonlinear, and there is no one clear correct path to win. All that matters is that you rescue all of the neighbors in a level, and the order in which you do so does not matter. This, coupled with levels that offer a variety of ways to approach and overcome different obstacles gives the game a large amount of replay value.

Each level is distinct and memorable, and the aesthetic and overall tone of the game is really good. Like Castlevania, it pays homage to a lot of classic horror movies. While Castlevania took itself fairly seriously, though, ZAMN approaches the horror tropes with more of a comedic edge, and does it extremely well. The game is brimming with creativity, and is utterly unique in its style and gameplay.

There are some flaws with it. It includes a lives system, which is something I’ve complained about before. However, it’s less of an issue here for two reasons. First of all, there’s a password system that mitigates the issue for the most part. And secondly, the game is mostly fair in its difficulty. It is quite a hard game, but it gives the player the tools they need to overcome the various obstacles, and gives them enough breathing room to do so, rather than killing the player in one or two hits. Another flaw is that finding that one last neighbor can sometimes be a pain as well.

On the whole, though, ZAMN is a well put together game. It’s creative, unique, and holds up really well. It’s not one of the all time classics, but it’s a very good game, and deserves to be looked at.

How well it holds up        4/4

Personal enjoyment        4/5

Overall quality                 8/10

Recommended

For further information about the game:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zombies_Ate_My_Neighbors

EVO: Search for Eden RetroActive Review

EVO pic

EVO: Search for Eden

Original Release Date: 1992

While Spore may be the most well known game to focus on the evolutionary process, it wasn’t the first, and one of the lesser known games that did it earlier was EVO: Search for Eden. It has a small following, but has largely faded into obscurity over the years. Has this loss in visibility been justified, or is EVO an underappreciated gem?

EVO has the player assume the role of an early life form, a fish, and guides them through the process of evolution, becoming stronger and eventually gaining sentience and entering the Garden of Eden. The player gains points by defeating the different creatures you encounter, and these points can be used to evolve your creature.

One thing EVO does well is its creativity. Like Spore, the amount of possible creature designs is pretty large, albeit much more limited than in Spore. The game also makes each new stage of life distinct and memorable, with unique environments and enemies.

Unfortunately, it shares some bad similarities with Spore. Like in Spore, there’s really not that much choice involved. While you can customize your creature in different ways, you’re not really given a choice as to how your creature can evolve. Rather than giving the player the freedom to decide what kind of animal they want to end up as, the game forces you to follow the path that evolution took in real life. This makes the game feel less like you’re going on a journey and more like you’re ticking off marks on a checklist, which was a problem Spore also had.

Another problem with EVO is that there really isn’t that much to do. While Spore had many problems, there was still a lot of interesting things the player could do, particularly in the space stage. In EVO, on the other hand, all you do throughout most of the game is just fight other creatures in 2D, side scrolling levels. That’s pretty much it, and there’s not a lot of variety to the gameplay.

This is compounded by the fact that the gameplay itself is incredibly sluggish and unmemorable. The combat in particular is very weak, and unfortunately takes up a large percentage of the game. While it’s concept is pretty unique, the actual gameplay is very similar to every other platformer for the SNES. And in that regard, EVO is by far the weakest platformer I’ve played for the SNES so far.

In the end, EVO is indeed like a 16 bit predecessor to Spore. Both are rather impressive as creativity tools and as an example of what this interactive medium is capable of. But as an actual game, both fall short in many areas.

How well it holds up        2/4

Personal enjoyment        3/5

Overall quality                 6/10

Not Recommended

For further information about the game:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E.V.O.:_Search_for_Eden