Games of May/June 2020

NewCity (PC)

NewCity is a game released into Early Access by indie developer Lone Pine. It is very much "early access", as in "functional alpha". Check out this link for my first look impressions.

Rhythm Tengoku (GBA)

Rhythm Tengoku is an unreleased-in-English game that I've been playing recently, the actual first game in the Rhythm Heaven series (The Nintendo DS game Rhythm Heaven is Japan's Rhythm Tengoku Gold). Since it was on a 3DS-run emulator, it's not quite the same as actual hardware but works well enough for registering button presses (maybe not so much in Perfect). The sound is also a bit crackly in the emulator as well, but it runs fine 98% of the time and while some of the songs are hit and miss, as a whole it sounds fantastic for the Game Boy Advance, which had a notoriously weak soundchip.

I actually tried it sometime last year but gave up on it (it's hellish trying to play rhythm games in an airplane) and it's fun to see how it fits in the series. Like WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgame$!, RT has most of the weirdness intact that got smoothed out in the later releases, but the trade-off is some broken minigames or concepts, like being able to end a game early by screwing up ("Night Walk"), some games are so fast that making one screw-up can be a make or break ("Showtime"), a few require multiple button presses ("Built to Scale"), and some are overall lame ("Wizard's Waltz"). In the end, like with WarioWare, the second game takes the props for having more consistent gameplay, even if it loses some of the raw features that made the series so interesting to begin with. I hope to cover the WarioWare series (minus Gold, which was done last year) in the near future.

Riven: The Sequel to Myst (PC/Mac)

The 1997 sequel to the megahit game Myst was one of the first games I remember that needed the power that only the family's new PowerWave computer (from my grandfather, who had already abandoned the Mac clone in favor of a new beige G3), with five CD-ROMs. I've beaten it before with a walkthrough but it still needs you to write things down. My current version of Riven, which I've set up on SCUMM, addresses a decade-long issue of running the game how it should be run...original resolution on a black background, which only recent ScummVM releases now offer. Sadly, I made the mistake of copying the Windows files of Riven (from the original CDs) into ScummVM which don't look quite as nice (and the video effects are more pixelated and not as convincing) but it's a mild trade-off. I have a workable version of Riven that looks and plays like the original. This time, though, I'm not using a full walkthrough (the guidebook, which I wish to cover soon, has another section just for the basic checklists of what you should find in every area). I hope I get don't too frustrated, I don't mind backtracking, but only if there's something you know where to find (like a new area of a map that you finally have the tools to conquer).

Super Mario 64 (N64)

The release of Super Mario 64's compiled reverse-engineered source code for modern computers was a big event in certain Internet circles. While the common release lacks the way to stretch out Mario's face, and ditches emulation features like quicksave, it's extremely accurate and works well with any resolution, without needing to sit back because the field of vision is meant for televisions.

It actually reminded me of why I loved Super Mario 64 in the first place. In the past, I've covered the games I've had fond memories of in Louisiana, namely Super Mario RPG, Majora's Mask, but the grand-daddy of all that is Super Mario 64. In a time of uncertainty and difficulty, it was a nice comfort, and even in the current state of the game (custom launchers and multiplayer is still a ways well as good controller configuration), it's the definitive way to play SM64 if you don't have it on a Nintendo console.

The recent discussions spurned from this new release of the game brings back discussion of if Super Mario 64 DS was better or not. Admittedly, I didn't play that version, but I don't regret it. I remember when it was announced at E3 2004 as a Nintendo DS launch title as Super Mario 64 x4. I didn't actually get to see video feed of it (56k modem, after all, with some really strict limitations on time), but I relished the idea of a playable Mario 64 port in the palm of my hand that I could also play Pokémon Gold with. Ultimately, Super Mario 64 x4 would have the co-op multiplayer features axed in favor of a controversial port that started out with Yoshi, not Mario, enter the castle (and only after retrieving a key)...not to mention all the other faults of the game (renamed Super Mario 64 DS) of just about everything changed for no real reason, gimmick stars that required using other characters, the awful D-pad controls, and the underlying fact that Nintendo DS was not exactly a Nintendo 64 in a pocket (nor was compatible with my old Game Boy/GBC games).

The game is great though the only world where real attention was paid to it was the first few worlds (Bob-Omb Battlefield), the others feel abbreviated and cramped, but it's still fun (until the stars that require some precise life-or-death controls or permanently missable areas). As of this writing, I'm only around 78 stars and not the full 120.

Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES)

Super Mario Bros. 3 I believed I first played on Super Mario All-Stars, but the original 1990 NES game, while less graphically featured than the later updates, was the first Mario game to really play with new power-ups and introduce standard world designs, with the ability of a mini-map, skipping levels, and keeping and storing items. I think the debate of whether it or Super Mario World is the better game is a matter of taste, but the theory that "Super Mario Bros. 3 is a play" based on some graphical choices in the first world and title screen is hogwash as they don't keep in mind the other 7 worlds.

The Game Boy Advance version, Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros. 3 is adapted from the Super Mario All-Stars game, and has all the usual trademarks of the "Advance" series, downgraded music, voice samples ("Hoohoo! That's what I needed!" when you get a powerup). I got this for Christmas in 2003 and even though I couldn't play the extra "e-Levels" (scanning levels on cards into the game via the e-Reader) because of a lack of the peripheral, it was fantastic. As both SMAS and SMA4 had save features and generous continue functions, the original game, not so much. There are no saves in the NES game, and you get kicked back to the beginning of the world (though you keep collected items). I tried this until around World 5 on a 3DS (using no quicksaves except to mark my place) until I got frustrated.