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Flashback/Feedback 2: Classic.1UP Letter Column

Jeremy Parish

Flashback/Feedback 2 Your classic gaming letters answered... or at least replied to. Write to: with your questions, opinions and declamations. 1/28/04: Tripping the Light SNEStastic In the very exciting premiere edition of this here mailbag thing, I asked for reader feedback regarding the best SNES games ever to help out a fellow by the name of Leo. Or rather, I asked for your favorite SNES games... there's a distinct difference at work, there. It's entirely possible to have favorite games which aren't necessarily the best, and it's also perfectly acceptable to dislike games which are objectively great. Just look at games sales from this past holiday season to see some fine examples of people snapping up mediocre crud and leaving great titles to moulder on clearance. Even my personal experience backs this up: I can't seem to stop playing this awful GameBoy Advance import called The Block, which is nothing more than a vapid, pointless, joyless Arkanoid rip-off.

Not surprisingly, I received a veritable flood of responses. In the interest of space (and not boring the pudding out of everyone with a dozen responses of "Super Metroid!") I've edited most of these a bit. Just a judicious trim, mind you -- I didn't change anything. (Now, if someone had praised, say, Brandish or 7th Saga or something, it might have been a different story.) So let's see what the masses had to say. And Leo, I hope you're reading this, because I'd be pretty bummed out if we went to all this trouble for nothing.

The Gamut

Greetings there.

Given the last mailbag, I can't help but pass on a chance to rant about my favorite SNES games. Let's hope you don't regret inviting all to voice their opinions. Wahoo!

Now, there's the ususal must haves, RPG's like Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasies, Earthbound, Secret of Mana, and Super Mario RPG: Legend of the seven stars. But since our friend Leo is budget minded, let's look at some alternatives.

Pocky and Rocky is a fun side scrolling shooter, fairly over looked but worth the playing. I dare anyone to find something more amusing then watching a tanooki throw leafs at forty miles at hour.

Kirby Super Star, in my opinion was the last great Kirby game. While each of its seven 'Games' are short, they offer alot of replay value and fun. Even a Metroid-esque (Albeit more leniar) treasure hunt through vast subterrainian caverns. (Complete with nintendo in-jokes!)

CastleVania IV is a reminder that the series was great even before SOTN.

Illusion of Gaia, Soul blazer, and Actrasier for the methodical minded Action RPGer are also great fun.

Legend of Zelda, Super Metroid, Super Mario World, Yoshi's Island, Starfox, Earthworm Jim, Mystical Ninja Goemon, and Super Ghouls and Ghosts fill the rest of the gaps.

-Mewd Looks like you covered the full spread there, although I'm wondering when Pocky and Rocky became a side-scrolling shooter. At last check, it was top down (and thus, by my definition, simply "Space Invaders with two-player coop and player-controlled forward scrolling and a saccharine dose of Japanese mythology." Which, really, is a stupidly untidy definition, and I apologize. Great game, though).

It is a little odd how expensive SNES RPGs tend to be. Unless you pick up something really awful like... oh, say, Brandish or 7th Saga, you're going to be shelling out upwards of $40 -- quite a bit for aging games which, really, aren't that uncommon. I feel pretty bad for the kid who pays $90 for a complete copy of Chrono Trigger on eBay only to have the battery poop out on him in a year. I guess that's the obsessive nature of RPG fans for ya (he said, nimbly avoiding mention of the RPG mania in his own past).


Action: Yoshi's Island (My personal favorite 2D game of all-time), Super Metroid Action/RPG: Soulblazer, and Secret of Mana (Zelda would be in here, but you may as well just buy the GBA port) RPG: Chrono Trigger (Every basement-dwelling fanboy needlessly over-hypes this game, but it's still a lot of fun), and Final Fantasy II Strategy/Simulation: Ogre Battle, Actraiser (Stay the hell away from the god-awful (no pun intended) sequel. It will probably try to kill you in your sleep). Honorable Mentions: Legend of the Mystical Ninja, Castlevania IV, Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals (had to throw a non-Square RPG in there), and Earthbound. Stay the Hell Away From: Mega Man X 2 and 3, the Star Wars games, Paladin's Quest, StarFox, the Donkey Kong Country series, and anything with the word "Akklaim" on the box.

Just my two cents...

-Nick Wilhelmy OK, the similarity of your list to the one I would have made is a little unsettling. Either you're stalking me and sent this letter knowing I would praise you on your good taste in games, or we've become part of some terrifying collective overmind that dictates our opinions and compels us to form a colony via Internet gaming sites. I'm not sure which prospect unnerves me more.

But yeah, Yoshi's Island is more or less the pinnacle of action platforming -- about as good as it can get in two dimensions. I'm looking forward to the day a 3D platformer is as brilliantly designed and plays as perfectly as that little magnum opus.

Also agreed: ActRaiser is a work of genius, ActRaiser 2 is a complete flop. I was excited a few months back when SquareEnix renewed their ownership of the series. If indeed they decide to revamp the series, I'd really like to see the god-sim elements restored. That sort of hybrid game would probably go over a lot better now than it did in 1991 -- gamers on the whole are a lot more sophisticated now. (The Guy Game notwithstanding.)

Of Annelids and Kings

Super Metroid, no question. It's probably the sweetest piece of software ever released for the SNES.

Ê I'd also suggest Leo to look for Earthworm Jim, the one game that Shiny ever created that didn't suck. It's a fun (although sometimes frustrating) platform game with some of the best animations in the SNES - and hey, any game that encourages you to blast corporate lawyers in the bowels of Heck is worth a shot. It's hard to believe it came from the same company that eventually would give us "Enter the Matrix".

Carlos Rodriguez I've never really been into Shiny's games. They're high-concept, and I respect that, and the graphics and animation are never less than superlative. But like Treasure's games, Shiny has always suffered from a tendency to let wacky innovation and creative ambition get in the way of a polished, satisfying finished product. That being said, EWJ was brilliant; I couldn't stop laughing when I reached Heck and the ominous strains of Night on Bald Mountain dissolved into tepid elevator jazz. I recommend the original game in any of its incarnations -- even the GBA version.

Five is the Magic Number

In response to Leo's/your request last week, I've got a few reccommendations. The Mario World games are a given, of course, along with other top-tier games like Mario RPG. I actually got Final Fantasy II and III for $20 each, and number 2 even came with its box. The second-tier gmes like Kirby Super Star and the easily (yet never) forgotten Mario Paint are also must-haves. I liked Final Fantasy Mystic Quest personally, and we can all agree that it's a great game to play while sleeping. Of course, it only cost me $12. Also, Brain Lord is a pretty good Quintet-style game, and Illusion of Gaia's a ten hours well spent, even if you're not going to play it ever again, it should only be $5.

-Brian Butler has played a noneducational Mario game for the PC, but he's pretty sure that it was a homebrew. I admit I've never played Brain Lord -- something about the name just didn't appeal to me. It sounded too much like a dreary edutainment game, and anyone who's ever played Professor Pac-Man (all hundred of us) knows that ventures like that can only end in tears.

Quintet, though, can generally be counted on for a good SNES game. ActRaiser already received its due just a few letters ago (ignore the sequel), and Illusion of Gaia was pretty good. Although the morality stuff got a bit silly. My personal Quintet favorite is SoulBlazer, the predecessor to Gaia -- it offers a little more freedom and a lot less chatty interlude nonsense, and the moralizing is far less heavy-handed.

STOMP: The Giant Robot Musical

I'd nominate Metal Warriors as a great SNES game, it had fantastic multiplayer and was capable of being as complex or simple as one wished, as far as strategy went. ÊI also loved that it was a 2D mech game and actuallyÊworked; it justÊseems like there'd be a million ways to mess that sort of thing up.Ê

Ê -Ernie That's the spirit. I respect people who can stand up for the underdogs and will boldly proclaim the merits of obscure games no one has ever heard of. As long as they're not obnoxious about it, anyway. What little I played of Metal Warriors was pretty snazzy, but the game I really got into was Cybernators. Crushing little people with a giant robot and blowing permanent holes in the walls in an SNES game? That's exactly the sort of thing that made us love Konami back in the day.

Camera Obscura

Here's some of the more obscure titles that might be worth taking a look at.

Secret of Evermore - This pseudo-sequel to the Mana games lacks their unique charm, and was a big disappointment to a lot of people when it came out. But taken on its own, the game's got some good things going on. If you like the style of gameplay found in Secret of Mana, this may be up your alley.

Demon's Crest - This is one of the coolest games that nobody owns. It's the SNES sequel to the Gargoyle's Quest games on the Gameboy and NES. Similar in flavor to a Castlevania game, but with the twist that your character is a fire-breathing, flying demon, making the gameplay interesting and unique. Unlike all of these other games, I only discovered this one about a year ago myself. I was pleasantly surprised, to say the least. This game can be a little harder to find than some of the others, but it's still not very expensive.

Super Punch-Out!! - Of course the old Mike Tyson's Punch Out!! is an NES classic, but the SNES version isn't so fondly remembered. I've never been all that sure why. The control is much smoother and more life-like, and the graphics are pleasing to the eye. I think Super Punch Out retains the humor that made the NES version so fun, and the challenge is definitely there too, if not more so.

Sim Ant - Of all the Sim games that have come out over the years, I think this was one of the best concepts to follow the original Sim City. You get to control a colony of black ants: foraging for food, fleeing from large clumsy mammals, and often waging war against a rival colony of red ants. In fact, I don't know why I don't own this game. I'm going to go track down a copy right now, dammit.

-Christopher Lundgren It saddens me that you recommended Secret of Evermore while its vastly superior predecessor Secret of Mana went unrecognized. I realize you were shooting for obscure, but still. Where is the love, my friend? Where is the love?

Bully for Demon's Crest, though. Best thing that ever came out of the Ghosts 'N' Goblins series. Capcom needs to lose that Maximo jerk and give us more Firebrand.

Alternate Realities

I figured you'd be flooded with responses for games like Secret of Mana, Final Fantasy III, Super Metroid, etc, and rightfully so. So, I thought I'd vary the list with a few that might get overlooked in shadow of these giants.

Mario All-Stars with Mario World: 5 Mario games in one cart isn't a bad deal... especially when you consider that the remakes are actually improvements.

2) Super Castlevania 4: For some old-fashioned vampire slaying.

3) MegaMan X: I remember this game being really fun and fast-paced. I also remember Zero's death being meaningful.

4) Earthbound: I just thought this one might get left out under Square's mighty influence. I still like it, anyway.

5) Mario is Missing: Only if you're into S&M. I think four is a good place to end (that last one doesn't actually count). Who knows, maybe these all will be mentioned, and I just grew up around video-game fearing fundamentalists. Regardless, good luck to Mr. Leo in obtaining the real gems.

--Matt Pretty good choices, except that last one. The poor guy asked for serious advice; don't toy with his feelings. Personally, I like the Mario Advance games just a wee bit more than Mario All-Stars. Portability trumps price for me, and the wacky extras rule... like those eReader levels in SMB3. Plus, they gave us six extra levels of Yoshi's Island on GBA, which is the Merriam-Webster of "love." Or should be, anyway.

Anyway, how's that for service, Mr. Leo? That should be a great start for your SNES collection. And if you're still undecided on Super Metroid, you'll definitely want to grab a copy after seeing what's in store for in the coming week.

Nostalgia Trek: The Next Generation

Dear Mr. Parish,

You're partly right about the whole "nostalgia for the systems people grew up with" thing. Your estimates for how long it would take to kick in seem to be a little off, though. As a representative of the year 1986, I can safely say we've been experiencing a (presumably) similar nostalgia for our generation of consoles for quite some time now. My best guess is that it happened shortly after we entered high school, give or take a year or so from person to person. My friends and I have waxed nostalgic about things anywhere from equipment in Mario RPG to moves in Street Fighter II. It's not just my group of friends, either. I've had similar conversations with people on the Internet that I've never even met before.

Another common misconception is that we are restricted to memories of the SNES-era onward. Of course, this isn't always the case, as those of us who had older siblings had fairly extensive exposure to the NES and, in some extreme cases, the Atari. I still firmly believe that Mega Man III is one of the greatest games ever made. Sure, I might not have been very GOOD at it when I was four, but I still remember the exact moment when I accidentally figured out the invincibility trick. It's little memories like that that make being a gamer worthwhile. I guess what I'm trying to say is that any gamer can feel that sort of nostalgia for any game at any time, regardless of age or console.

Except those kids who go around wearing Atari shirts. Those ingrates have probably never even SEEN an Atari.

-- R. Crowder Yeah, I probably should have been more explicit when I said that the SNES generation would be hitting college soon and therefore 16-bit navel-gazing will be upon us any minute now. The truth is that the 8- and 16-bit eras sort of bleed into one another, especially since Nintendo supported the NES for years after the SNES and Genesis were out. In a lot of ways the later consoles were more of an extension of the former era than a hardware generation in their own right.

They say talent skips a generation, and its seems groups of gamers do as well; I see a lot of people with rabid devotion to the Atari 2600, but there's nothing like that for the 5200 or ColecoVision. You can't walk across the Internet without stepping in steaming piles of NES fansites, but good luck finding more than a handful of sites erected by SNES and Genesis devotees. And bucketloads of young 'uns came of age with the PlayStation, never knowing the magic of cartridges, bitmapped sprites and RCA composite cables. Just you wait until they become old enough to trade adolescent hysterics for ironic self-awareness. It'll be Seanbaby all over again, except making fun of Punky Skunk instead of SkyKid.

Worms by the Bucket - Now Only 2 Cents!

This nostalgic aura of gamers as a whole has put me in a very specific mood which is hard to describe. Not exactly nostalgia in the way that I wish I were back in that time, but it almost feels like the gaming community has experienced a "Dark Ages" where boundaries keep popping up in mainstream media where before there weren't any. Ê

Games have almost exclusively developed in the graphics area in the past five years. Stories have been a bit more creative, but not much more involving. Controversy is a rarely-tread area, with few exceptions anymore. Ê

GTA? There's something to be said for knocking out hookers. Manhunt? Snuff fetishes are pure shock value. But this pales in comparison to games I've played in my history. Commodore 64 games(for example), more than any modern game, offered so much more in the "images that stick with you" department. Want a few examples? There was an ACTUAL game called "KKK Adventure". You got point for killing the, uh... African Americans with guns. You were penalized for the ones wearing school uniforms. A text adventure gameÊcalled "F*** Quest" had you searching a house for as many sexual partners as possible. However, if you were "assaulted" by a homosexual, you would automatically contract AIDS and lose the game. Ê

Shocking material to say the least, but I felt comfortable knowing games like this were allowed to be made. But it seems that this area's grown stale since the first Mortal Kombat hit the arcades. Anyway, do you see games that offer more mature themes like this appearing in the future? Gore is great and all, but I'd like to see a game that goes further than that, especially if it were done with a dark, serious edge to it-- and not merely viscera for it's own sake. Ê

Brendan B. Crikey, mate! You managed to cover a whole lot of ground there, with some impressively sweeping claims. Some of it I agree with, and some of it makes my skin itch. But I'm pleased, because this is exactly the sort of thing that makes for a delicious, meaty mail bag.

Your Mission, Should You Choose To Accept It

It looks like the Flashback/Feedback column is making the leap to monthly updates rather than bi-weekly for a little while, but don't worry: I keep all of your letters in a safe place until they're published. (At this time, I have no comment re: the rumor that I print them out and sleep with them under my pillow.) This just gives you more time to organize your own responses to the six pack of worms whose top has been well and truly popped by Mr. B's missive above. Do you think games are less likely to push the limits of acceptability and taste these days? And either way, is it a good thing? I have my own opinions, but I'll just rein them in until I hear what everyone else thinks.

So go on, sink your teeth into this Brendan's combo and order up a super-sized response for Heavy on the opinions, please.

Classic.1UP editor Jeremy Parish's lifelong dream of working at McDonald's was tragically derailed by his career as a game writer. Previous Columns: Retrobabble One | Two | Three | Four Flashback/Feedback One

Copyright © 2004 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. Originally appearing in 1UP.

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