The Legend of Zelda – NES

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Let me hold it up to the light here…what, did you make this yourself? You really want to send me off to rescue your wrinkly ass with…what is this? Balsa wood? Yeah, some great hero of Hyrule I’ll be. “He could have saved everyone if it weren’t for that nest of termites.”

“Is he actually going to do it?” you ask. “Is he going to take pot shots at the Legend of Zelda?”

Yes, fictional reader who asked a question no one was thinking so that I could begin this entry the way I wanted. Yes I am.

But let’s face it, while the game is the orgasm in the orgy of fantasy, adventure, catchy music, and 8-bit eye candy, but to pretend that Nintendo ironed out all the flaws and created the paradigm of video games with only a 64kb cartridge is like saying a four-year-old scribbling out the alphabet has a literary prowess to rival Tolkien.

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Whoah, Ganon, dude…you gotta get out more. Lift a few weights. Cut back on the like-like steaks. I almost feel bad fighting you in that shape.

As usual, though, let’s start with the story. The Kingdom of Hyrule keeps a powerful source of magic, the Triforce of the Gods (or the Triforce of the Nintendo of America Secular Censorship Authority, depending on whether you’re American or Japanese). However, this is like eating in bed, and the crumbs of magic tend to attract vicious monsters, evil wizards, giant pig demons, and republicans to the kingdom. Currently, the demon king Ganon has seized command of the kingdom (despite losing the popular vote), the Triforce of Power, and in true villain fashion, Princess Zelda (we’ll not ask how he seized her). However, before her capture, Zelda decided to desecrate a sacred artifact—for its own good, mind you—and scatter the pieces of the Triforce of Wisdom around Hyrule. Furthermore, she put out a hit on Ganon and sent her servant, Impa, to track down the perfect assassin.

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Tink? Is that you? Come a little closer…there’s something really interesting in this bottle…

But Impa, being old enough to remember when the alphabet first came out, had a bit of a senior moment and came back with Link, an unarmed, prepubescent elf dressed like Peter Pan. Link, who apparently thinks he’s going to fight like Goofy from Kingdom Hearts, sets out with naught but his shield. His quest: wrest the hidden Triforce pieces away from Ganon’s goons and take them to the demon king himself to do battle. Wow. Where do I begin with that one? First, Zelda darling, your heart’s in the right place, but next time consider burying them in unmarked locations rather than hiding them in your enemy’s living room. Second, Ganon, I know you authoritarian types generally regard education with as much fondness as the scent of a burning skunk, but if it never occurred to you or your underlings to, you know, put the Triforce back together on your own, you may want to raise the standards on your help wanted ads. After all, it takes more than a few extra chromosomes to think that the hero would assemble it for you and waltz right into your office with it.

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What kind of fantasy world is this where I still need a prescription and a part-time job as an exterminator just to get medicine? I’m going to rescue Zelda, not roofie her!

So Link isn’t the sharpest edge on the sword (or judging by those tights, the straightest arrow in the quiver), but he gets the job done, much to the chagrin of the Hylian populace who, despite being forced to live in caves while packs of wild octopi devour people just beyond their threshold, seem to take every action possible to bolster the status quo of their predicament. They lure him into their casinos to take his cash, outright extort repair fees from him to maintain their shoddy housing, gouge prices on vital necessities, force him to obtain a reference letter before providing him with emergency healthcare, and refuse to give him the means to defend himself until he jumps through pointless hoops. But on the plus side, at least there are no background checks or five-day waiting periods. I guess, though, that dealing with an uneducated, right-wing group of victims is what separates true heroes from people applying for Canadian visas.

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…let me guess, the Democrats are in charge again. Don’t you know that the only thing that stops a bad guy with a sword is a good guy with a sword?

So by now, those of you who haven’t actually played the game are probably either confused about what I’m talking about or pissed off that I’ve just forced you to read three paragraphs of political satire veiled so thin that it could be sent home from school for violating the dress code. I promise that one of these days (preferably when national diplomacy no longer resembles poorly-scripted WWE smack-talk) I’ll go back and write a straight entry on this game. But for now, let’s talk about early sandbox games.

Most fans probably know the series through either Ocarina of Time or games that came out afterwards. These games and I have quite a bit in common—completely straight, even though no one seems to know just by looking at it. The original game is notably different in that right from the opening, the player has access to most dungeons and all but two of the grid squares on the map. In addition, you can collect items in whatever order you’d like, providing you can collect the cash to buy them or that you have the prerequisite items to obtain others. The result of this is a remarkable freedom as to how you play the game. We’re talking the type of freedom that makes Mel Gibson characters get teary-eyed. The type of freedom that George Bush wishes he could force upon the Middle East (sorry, but just try making a joke about freedom that doesn’t involve one or the other!)

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No, dude, this’ll totally work. I saw a cartoon rabbit do it on TV.

Like every other Zelda game, Link collects tools to help him, except instead of following the using-the-tool-to-beat-the-dungeon-it’s-found-in routine, most items just make regular tasks a little easier. Items range from the vital (swords, shield and bombs) to the mostly useless (raft, bow and arrows) to the completely worthless (red candle, wand, skeleton key), and the more difficult the dungeon is, the more likely you are to put the item you found there in a $1 bin at your next yard sale. So while the 1 to 2 hour game gives you several paths to choose from, those paths tend to lead to your choice of Detroit, Rio de Janeiro, Pyongyang, or Disney World.

Fortunately, for those of us who can’t quite strut around AGDQ with a girl on each arm like we’re the Jackie Chan of Zelda, there’s an intermediate option. For any player who finishes the game—or more likely had a friend on the playground who told them to name their save file ZELDA—the cartridge holds a second quest, with entirely new dungeons, a partly rearranged overworld map, new obstacles, more challenging bosses, and a red bubble enemy that might only be defeated by a prescription for sedatives and blood pressure medication. Oddly enough, I never played the second quest much when I was younger, so I found it more challenging than juggling hedgehogs. Dungeon layouts are confusing in part due to invisible doors, some of which work only one way, so between the doors and the onslaught of monsters I usually wound up feeling my way through the dungeon like a drunken roomba with an inner ear infection.

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It’s a good thing that Hylians don’t speak in cryptic riddles or this might be really hard to figure out.

Unfortunately I don’t have a playground full of kids to help me figure out the secrets of the second quest, but I do have the Internet, and I’m not ashamed to use it. Not only because Shigeru Miyamoto specifically wanted players to share information, but because otherwise the only way to find anything is to play the game like a Verizon commercial with bombs.

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Zelda II: The Adventure of Link – NES, Game Cube, GBA

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After having retrocookie’s background set to a scene from Zelda II: The Adventure of Link for maybe a year and a half, it occurred to me that maybe I should have an entry for the game itself. Zelda II, you see, has a number of notable distinctions, being the final game in the Zelda chronology (providing you don’t give yourself an aneurysm trying to figure out the official timeline), the first game to introduce a magic meter, the first appearance of Volvagia, Shadow Link and the Triforce of Courage, and it’s easily the most hated and least played game in the series because Nintendo completely abandoned the gameplay of the original to bring you Super Mario RPG. Oh, and it’s hard enough that King Leonidas could build a wall out of the Link corpses you’ll leave littered on the side of the road. But aside from the unfortunate fact that they mixed this game with 4 parts Mario, 2 parts Dragon Quest, 3 parts Castlevania with a shot of green food coloring to nominally call it a Zelda game, it’s actually a pretty good game in its own right.

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Link’s slides of his vacation to Easter Island.

The instruction manual describes the story like a heated debate between two Nintendo employees who couldn’t agree on why Link is still romping through Hyrule slaughtering octoroks like a burgeoning serial killer who hasn’t quite moved up to humans yet. Either an ancient prophecy finally got its act together, stopped drinking and sent its resume to Link, expressing an interest in a career of waking up narcoleptic princesses, or Ganon’s minions have put out a hit on Link, and he needs to stay alive long enough to get the Triforce, which I guess will scare them off. I don’t know. The game kind of leaves that point gaping like a meteor impact crater by the end. Link still has a hit out on him. If Ganon’s minions sacrifice him—which sounds as much like a sacrifice as giving up abstinence for Lent—and drizzle his blood over the pile of ash that used to be Ganon, the pig comes back to life.

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Fuck you, Nintendo of America Censors! Look what I got! Religious iconography! (But they insisted on renaming the temples as “palaces”)

But whatever the reason, Link sets off. The overworld map gives a top-down perspective, but unlike the first game, you don’t fight enemies on the map itself. Rather, you contend with random encounters. But unlike the jarring Final Fantasy shifts that hit you like the raptor you never even knew was there, these enemies appear as groups, wandering the map like a touring punk band, and if Link touches them he has to fight his way out of the mosh pit to escape. These encounters, as well as towns, caves, bridges, and dungeons, play out as a side-scrolling platformer. Yup. A side-scrolling platformer. Nintendo took the most original idea they’ve had since Super Mario Bros, and turned it into…well, Super Mario Bros. The side-scrolling combat is interesting, to say the least. Link can attack and defend in both upper- and lower-body positions. He can also learn a downward stab that lets him stomp his enemies like a goomba, or combine an upward stab with the power glove to let him break bricks above his head. But Link earns experience, while Mario doesn’t. (Although after rescuing the same damn princess for 25 years, it would be nice if he had enough experience not to leave Peach alone in turtle-infested waters. Or maybe he could put two and two together concerning all those kidnappings.)

Link also learns magic. In each town, he can gain access to an old man who adds another rabbit to his hat. Usually, though, they won’t just scrawl out avada kedavra on a sheet of paper and point you at the monsters threatening to enslave the world. Nope. Usually you have to do some chores. One old man lost his trophy to a thieving goriya, and I guess his high school basketball record is so important to him that he won’t teach the “jump” spell until he gets it back. Some requests make sense, like rescuing a child lost in the wilderness. But one woman wouldn’t let me in to see the elder until I walked over to the fountain next to the house, cupped some water in my hands, and poured it down her throat. Only two elders didn’t ask me to turn my pockets out to rifle through the results of my latest scavenger hunt. One gave me the shield spell freely, but I had to find the other old man, who had stuffed himself into a fireplace.

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If I had a hammer…

Dungeon items, on the other hand, are as disappointing as a bachelor’s degree in English: they’re time-consuming to obtain, completely useless, and only serve to let you move on to get another one just like it, but even harder to get. Out of the eight main items, six of which are found in dungeons, only the hammer and the whistle do more than create a passive effect, and only the glove and arguably the hammer do anything but open up a path to get to the next area of the map. All other items are used once or twice and then take up space in your inventory, like an Englebert Humperdink 8-track your grandma gives you at Christmas—you know you’re never going to use it, so it sits in a box doing nothing but preventing you from the crushing guilt of throwing out your grandma’s present.

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…it’s not what it looks like! Unfortunately. And did I mention that this, faeries, and a “life” spell are the only ways to regain health?

The game is as hard as a Cialis overdose, and while you can continue as many times as you’d like, after three lives you go back to the beginning of the game, starting over in Zelda’s bedroom as though you’re trying to fill up a punch card to get your tenth burrito free. I’ll attribute this to either a glitch or a translation error, as the instruction manual clearly states that if you continue from a dungeon, you’ll restart from the dungeon entrance. This only works in the final temple, but by temple four, the walk alone from the start of the game is enough to kill you out of boredom, if the monsters don’t mug you along the way. It’s a good thing that video games don’t need realism any more than the beef at Taco Bell, or Link might be tempted to skip town before the assassins find him and let the princess sleep for another thousand years or so. It’s not like anyone needed her for anything until now.

Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest – NES

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Ah, the Halloween season is now in full swing…by which I mean it’s late-October. And although I can use the month to justify a spurt of survival horror (the likes of which may resurface in December or January, considering my recent purchases), it’s important to remember that not all horror is “survival.” Well, technically speaking everything is survival. Mario has a strong desire to avoid Bowser’s incinerating halitosis, Pikachu tends to fight more effectively with regular trips to the hospital, neglecting your tamogachi/giga pet may have no lasting effects but makes you feel like a careless murderer, and whenever I leave my house I tend to subconsciously scan the area around me for ways not to die. But I digress. What type of writer would I be if I let an October slip by without reviewing a game from a series arbitrarily chosen to represent horror? This year, having been derelict in games from non-disc systems, I thought I’d dig into the one NES Castlevania game I’ve as yet overlooked, Simon’s Quest, in which Simon Belmont slaughters armies of werewolves, undead, and even fucking chtulu monsters, but still reacts to water like a cat with a heart condition tied to a bowling ball.

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You know, I always hoped those two would get together. Now that Simon has craptivated the vrampire’s heart, they might move on to krissing, or even something more serious, like frucking.

The story, as told by the instruction manual, picks up where the last game left off (not yet realizing that sequentially numbered games have to skip along a timeline like Quentin Tarantino at Old Country Buffet). Simon Belmont has gotten a bit cocky after putting the legendary vampire king to rest “once and for all,” but a beautiful woman appears to him in a vision and tells him he’s been cursed. In order to lift the curse, he has to assemble Dracula’s body parts, set them on fire, and then kill Dracula again, which sounds an awful lot like how he got into this mess in the first place. In spite of the fact that no intelligent, rational person would put their complete faith into a hallucination who gives them a dangerous quest based on some vague notion of a curse without providing so much as a description of what said curse actually does, Simon gladly accepts the quest.

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The goal of each dungeon, naturally, being to locate the unguarded magic bowling ball and poke it with a stick you bought from the RE4 merchant.

Simon’s Quest feels like Konami looked back on the previous Castlevania title and felt it came off a little heavy on the castle without including very much vania. So this game gives you free reign of Transylvania, letting you do all the typical video game stuff like barging into people’s houses, slaying a disproportional amount of apex predators roaming the countryside and city streets, and rolling around in poisonous marshes with nothing but a stick to protect you. Along the way you can buy weapon upgrades and find or buy items that augment your skills and abilities. Simon’s Quest is the hipster Castlevania—it was doing Metroidvania before Symphony of the Night made it cool. Granted, this early attempt at flirting with an interesting idea feels about as awkward as my first middle school dance, complete with the raging erection over something that hadn’t quite developed yet, it’s definitely a good thing even if no one involved had any idea what to do with it. (An open map with branching paths clearly had a lot of potential, but after descending into a dark, murky cave, the last thing I expect to find is a warm, inviting town.)

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“There! That’s how you put a dead body together!” [Victor Frankenstein shakes his head slowly.]

Case in point, item collecting is fun in Zelda and Metroid, but despite being a horror game, it felt…let’s go with “out of character”…for Simon to wander through the countryside with Dracula’s viscera stuffed into his pockets, whipping out various body parts like his own personal multi-tool, or wearing them like the latest fashion trends. Furthermore, I’m not sure the random assortment of body parts Simon finds would, even accounting for dark magic, add up to a vampire. Forgoing the usual collection of torso, legs, right arm, left arm, head, Simon instead collects Dracula’s rib, heart, one eye, a fingernail, and somehow this curse-breaking spell can get DNA information from Dracula’s ring. Considering both the lackadaisical effort in reuniting the scattered remains of the vampire and the fact that none of those things actually burn very well, it’s no wonder that Vlad comes back to life at the end for one last hurrah as an obligatory final boss battle. Although to his credit, he’s quite a bit smarter than Gannon. In Zelda II, Link quests to stop the pig lord’s revival. In Castlevania, Dracula gets Simon to do the dirty work for him. (But then again, that makes a lot of sense if you’ve ever seen Captain N.)

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One hand on the railing, feet firmly on each step, no sliding down the banister and you can slay those monsters *after* you’re on solid ground!

Typical NES Castlevania controls apply here. Simon still moves like a drug mule running Ambien and one of the condoms broke. He can equip secondary weapons that by the end of the game kill enemies as effectively as coughing on them and hoping they come down with a severe cold in a few days. Fortunately you can upgrade your whip, permanently, four times, and the fact that these upgrades are spread out over the game makes it feel like something a little more valuable. In the original—as well as Castlevania III and many of the games to follow—you only have to whack a few candles and if you don’t have a fully upgraded weapon after breaking open two or three of these waxen piñatas, it feels like the game has cheated you. As usual, going up and down stairs is a bit of an ordeal, as this brave, Herculean vampire slayer also epically listens to his mom when she tells him not to screw around on the stairs: he refuses to run, jump or throw weapons, and will only whip enemies providing he can keep one hand on the railing at all times.

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And, lo, Jesus said unto his disciples, take care of the poor, but let them not into the house of the Lord during the zombie apocalypse, for yea, we have a good thing here and outsiders may forsake us.

As one of the earliest games to have them, Castlevania’s night-day cycles makes the game interesting…if by interesting, you mean infuriating when you’re looking for a shop and arrive just as the sun goes down so the shopkeep won’t let you inside. Night prevents Simon from entering buildings. Monsters double their life total, and drop more hearts. Of course, since Simon and Link shop for wallets at the same 8-bit store, he can’t carry more than 256 at a time, so night usually just means harder monster and standing on a wall, flipping through facebook while you wait for the sunrise.

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Long overdue for retirement, Death practices his golf swing.

All in all it’s a rather odd game. Often maligned for its confusing layout, unclear purpose, and depending too much on backtracking, I have already pointed out that the layout, purpose and backtracking with new items to access new areas put Castlevania on a lot of people’s map with Symphony of the Night and other metroidvania style games. But I can’t disagree that something is wrong with Simon’s Quest—it’s boring! While other games are detailed and use vibrant colors, this one looks like Konami painted it with their toddler’s water-color set where all the paints have mixed together. The enemies, even at night, put up only a token resistance. All the dungeons are staffed by the same bored and confused skeletons. There are only three real boss fights, and even Death comes at you with the defeated apathy of a cop who’s ready to retire because he’ll never stop the endless wave of life he’s dedicated his…life…to stomping out. When you die, you restart with full health on the nearest safe ground to where you were, and don’t lose anything except hearts—if you have to continue your game—but like I said before, this punishment is like pouring a single bucket of water into the room with you to deprive you of air. If you haven’t played this game before, pretty much all you’d need is a decent map and you could get through the game in an hour or two.

Dr. Mario – NES, Game Boy, Game Boy Advance, Arcade, SNES (with Tetris)…

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I’ve spent my life trying to discover something I could do during my days to play nice with society, while still leaving plenty of free time to pursue things that make me not want to hurl myself into the blades of an industrial snowblower. So I decided to rank, from least time-consuming to the most, some positions I’ve held in the last ten years.

1. Substitute Teacher
2. Part-time undergraduate student
3. Public school teacher in Korea
4. Graduate student
5. University instructor (3 classes)
6. Full time Undergraduate student
578,903. Private school teacher in Korea during public school summer/winter vacations

Oddly enough, you’d expect stress levels to go down as amount of time went up, but no. It bottoms out around “Graduate Student” and hits a critical limit as “Private School: Korea” and “Substitute Teacher,” both of which exceed “hurl into snowblower” for things I wouldn’t want to do. Anyway, to get to the point of this rant, I’ve currently spent the last semester as #6 on this list, with two more of those hoops to jump through before I can legally hold a full-time job at a public school. Unless my novel suddenly takes off and becomes a best selling, direct-to-kindle, science-fiction…yeah that’s not happening. So video games, unfortunately, have to take a back seat for a while. And to that end, expect to see a lot of games I can finish in a few hours.

Despite a relatively minor infection, the patient suffers more from the side-effects of the treatment. How best to minimize these problems? Use more of the same drugs!

Despite a relatively minor infection, the patient suffers more from the side-effects of the treatment. How best to minimize these problems? Use more of the same drugs!

Doctor Mario! Because the only logical career path (as opposed to the career path outlined above) for a tradesman goes Carpenter → Plumber → Medical Practitioner. I guess rooting through all those pipes qualifies him for gynaecology. I don’t know, though. I’d really like to see his credentials, along with Dr. Dre and Dr. Pepper. Maybe ask Dr. Evil and Dr. Horrible to review the accreditation. But legally licensed or not, Dr. Mario solved one of Nintendo’s biggest problems: how they can make money off of Tetris when everyone and their pet wildebeest had cloned and/or ported the game to any device with a power cord or at least two batteries. So they took the idea of chucking blocks made up of smaller blocks into a jar for the purpose of reducing the amount of blocks in the jar, changed one or two things, and released Dr. Mario. Or, rather, Tetris with shorter line requirements that lets you build them vertically as well as horizontally.

For those of you who haven’t played the game and find your eyes spinning at my rant, imagine that the Tetris playing field got sick. The game starts with viruses of three different colors–red, yellow and blue–chilling in a jar. Mario, deciding to fight fire with fire, chucks in pills containing a combination of two types of medicine–red, yellow and blue, one block on each side of the pill. If you get four of the same color in a row of any combination of pill blocks and viruses–the whole row disappears. Let me point this out to you: one virus takes three doses of medicine to cure, while two viruses together only take two.

Pushed by Big Pharma to prescribe yellow drugs for a patient not even inflicted by yellow, Mario now faces a major malpractice lawsuit from the family of the survivor.

Pushed by Big Pharma to prescribe yellow drugs for a patient not even inflicted by yellow, Mario now faces a major malpractice lawsuit from the family of the survivor.

The major problem in the game revolves around Mario’s aforementioned medical training: namely, he doesn’t have any. So instead of carefully diagnosing the disease and measuring out the correct doses needed to properly treat the patient, he just lobs whatever he finds lying around the pharmacy like the patient were a carnival game who if Mario filled up with drugs faster than anyone else, he’d win a Sonic the Hedgehog keychain. No, strike that. Considering the fact that you can’t actually treat viruses with medicine, Mario works exactly like an E.R. doctor, prescribing whatever medicine won’t outright kill the patient, but will give them enough side effects for a good placebo effect to kick in, preventing a lawsuit from an angry patient upset that they couldn’t get “that drug that House takes” to treat the funny looking spot on their back shaped like a lemur.

Coming soon to an iPhone near you...

Coming soon to an iPhone near you…

However, other than the cheerful implication that every level failed means a dead patient, usually from overdosing on irrelevant medication rather than the actual viral infection, I’ve spent a lot of time with Dr. Mario. Tetris gets boring after having constant access to it on every game console, home computer, digital watch, graphing calculator, exercise bike, car dashboard, DVD menu, dehumidifier, wood chipper, coffee maker and pet iguana made since 1984. So what do you do when you don’t have the free time of a part-time undergrad, but more free time than a grad student? Do what I did: play Dr. Mario non-stop between classes in Korea.

Ultimate NES Remix – 3DS

Uh...I don't think Sarkesian really had this in mind.

Uh…I don’t think Sarkesian really had this in mind.

Question: If you could go back and fix or improve a classic video game, what would you change? Would you add save points to Castlevania? Give more experience per battle and an MP magic system in Final Fantasy? Extra stages in Super Mario World? Put Mega Man in the Adventure of Link? Or would you instead chop the game up into tiny bits so as to focus on minute, mundane tasks that have no relevance without the context of the full game, making them so pathetically easy that a comatose lemur could earn a 3-star rating for each challenge? I’ll give you one guess which option Nintendo chose for their Ultimate NES Remix.

Find yourself bored with the mundane challenge of running underneath a turtle with osteoporosis? Try running under a BIGGER turtle with osteoporosis!

Find yourself bored with the mundane challenge of running underneath a turtle with osteoporosis? Try running under a BIGGER turtle with osteoporosis!

With every new significant advance in video game technology comes an inevitable onslaught of ports from systems that had less computing power than my living room carpet. Nintendo develops the SNES and gives us Mario All Stars, Playstation devises a 32-bit disc based console and Namco immediately releases Pac Man for it, a move later followed by Midway Arcade Treasures for the PS2, and now that we have an awesome hand-held system with WiFi communications and 3-D technology without the need for glasses, Nintendo has decided that among all it’s remakes and ports of N64 games, it would give us the option of regressing all the way to the 1980s, but only in 30-second intervals with challenges less entertaining than most tutorial stages. No, If you must know, I didn’t exactly fall in love with this game. In fact, this sort of regressive nostalgia and half-assed attempt at creativity merely reinforces my decision not to buy a PS4 and comes dangerously close to forcing me to get up off the couch and go outside. But that would take too much effort, so let’s see what the game has to offer.

NES5Ultimate NES Remix contains selections from 15 well-loved Nintendo masterpieces and also Balloon Fight (a game that forces me to retract my statement about Joust from a few weeks ago: it didn’t need more variations of game play to make it worth playing for more than five minutes. It just needed to not control like a stack of Kleenex in a hurricane). Each game has between 6 and 25 miniature challenges, such as asking Samus to cross a room without taking damage, having Pit battle Medusa, or Link to find a secret entrance. However, while challenges sound like a lot of fun, Ultimate NES Remix hits their target about as well as a dart player on a carousel.

Oh no! How will I ever find the three coins with thirty seconds and only the silhouette of a few bricks?

Oh no! How will I ever find the three coins with thirty seconds and only the silhouette of a few bricks?

First, no matter what challenge you undertake, your score (from one to three stars, and on random occasions for no apparent reason, stars with rainbow outlines) depends entirely on your time. If Samus has to cross a room and enter a door, for example, you could opt to deftly weave through a crowd of monsters like a high-class thief stealing a diamond in a room full of lasers, but that might take time, and even if you got to that door, you’d probably get a lower score than the player who imagined themselves as Mongo from Blazing Saddles and just hopped in the pool of lava and waded across, hitting the goal on the verge of death. I enjoy timed challenges once in a while, but games that constantly hold me to a tight schedule just takes away the option to stop and smell the fire flowers. (an act I imagine would bear a strong similarity to snorting Tobasco) Dead Rising 2 timed everything, and that game completely took the fun out of beating heads and hacking limbs off zombies.

Second, who cares if Mario picks up the fire flower? If the challenge ends before you get to indulge in some freelance arson, the goal could have just as easily asked Mario to jump to a block, or walk forward, and it would have entertained just as much. One challenge put Link in the 2nd Quest dungeon room with the old man who offers, “Leave your money or your life,” with the instructions that you need to choose the latter and sacrifice one of your heart containers. The entire point of forcing a player into that decision depends on living with the consequences, but the game doesn’t ask Link to do anything afterwards, so we don’t have to consider our sacrifice, and whether or not we’d rather give up that blue ring we’ve saved up for, or if we want to bleed a little and tough our way through the rest of the game. And we didn’t have to go through an entire game to get to that heart container, or Samus’s screw attack, or Mario’s frog suit, so when you get these items, the level of satisfaction you receive almost reaches that of a hand job while under the effects of sodium pentothal.

Face insurmountable odds! Fight low-level bosses during the end game with full health!

Face insurmountable odds! Fight low-level bosses during the end game with full health!

Finally, I may have employed an undue level of generosity by using the term “challenge” to describe the tasks Ultimate NES Remix asks of you. If you’ve ever learned to ride a bike, at one point an adult probably touted their implicit level of trust, claiming they would never consider letting go of the bike while you pedaled, and–of course–let go, thereby shattering your eternal trust in them in exchange for the knowledge of how to balance precariously by your genitals on a knob of hard rubber moving at thirty miles an hour. Well, Nintendo, rather than letting go of the bike like most parents would to prove that you won’t fall over, instead puts on an extra pair of training wheels, then straps you to their back and rides the bike for you. As the challenges rarely last more than 30 seconds, they have a difficulty akin to poking a dead raccoon with a stick. In fact, a few of Link’s challenges, such as “find the secret entrance!” begin mere moments after he has set the bomb or cast the fire that will reveal said entrance, and if the game feels you can handle it, you only have to walk him into the newly revealed secret. Sound too hard? Don’t worry. The game imposes a bright yellow circle over the goal and often includes a yellow arrow pointing to it.

First, you sign them up for the Fruit of the Month Club, then when their intake of dietary fiber reaches epic proportions, you catch them by surprise in the bathroom and hit them with a hammer!

First, you sign them up for the Fruit of the Month Club, then when their intake of dietary fiber reaches epic proportions, you catch them by surprise in the bathroom and hit them with a hammer!

So knocking out three stars in each category didn’t take a whole lot of effort, so I thought, “Why not?” Well, I suppose I also had to consider Anne’s family reunion happening around me, and thought the game would give me an excuse not to talk to anyone. but still, I took a few days and earned each star in each challenge. I believe–although don’t quote me on this–that earning stars opens up more challenges for play, and that you also open up the truly remixed levels, but once I received all stars in each category, I opened up a new mode of play, the “Ultimate Famicom Remix”! Awesome! I know they made major changes when they brought these games to the US, so maybe I’ll get to experience their original difficulty levels, or play Doki Doki Panic instead of Super Mario Bros. 2.

Instead, I can sum up all the noticeable differences as follows:
1. Text in The Legend of Zelda reverts to original Japanese.
2. You can only pick up the trophy in the Adventure of Link by stabbing it.
3. Pit doesn’t fly automatically during his fight with Medusa
4. At the end of Kid Icarus, Pit no longer stands against a Grecian backdrop.

…”Congratulations! You’ve just mastered the art of classical piano and performed at all the major world concert halls. History will revere you as a virtuoso musician…now this note here sitting between the lines? We call that ‘C’…”

Exploit the glitch!

Exploit the glitch!

So I bought the game because the back of the box looked interesting, showing a stage in Super Mario Bros that ran from right to left instead of left to right, and Link climbing Donkey Kong’s scaffolding. I should, in all fairness, point out that Ultimate NES Remix does include three unlockable categories of actual remixes, for a total of 75 challenges, but like the rest of the game, you can’t play any of these long enough to enjoy them. Seriously, Nintendo…I have an SD card the size of a toenail clipping that stores 32GB of memory. If you want to swap out some graphics and data in a handful of 300KB roms, at least have the decency to give us the option of playing the entire fucking game. And that full version of SMB you gave us that plays at double speed? Yeah…I’d rather just go play Sonic the Hedgehog.
For my money, the true “Ultimate NES Remix” remains Super Mario Crossover, and it doesn’t cost a dime. Go play that.

(If they change the link…you can still Google the name)