Like for most people on here, and probably in Europe, the NES was a machine that didn't get much time. I started with a home computer (Amstrad in my case, Spectrum for the majority) before progressing onto a SNES (again maybe altered for a Mega Drive for others). I imagine that's a similar story for most and if you did go 8 bit it'd be for the Master System.
I did own a NES, along with Mario 3 and Double Dragon, all bought for me as a present. The problem was the machine was bought when the NES was dead and after I'd already owned a SNES for about 18 months. I did play the arse out of SMB3 and think alongside SMW it represented the pinnacle of 2D platforming.
Over the years I bought, played and completed a few more Nintendo classics like the original Zelda and Metroid on my NES. Enjoyed them all, but again, belatedly playing them after I'd finished Super Metroid and LttP took some of their impact away. Other NES games I played largely came from compilation discs like Mega Man Collection on the Gamecube, Zelda 2 on the 3DS. Almost uniformally everything I've played has been Nintendo made. Other stuff was bought on NES cart- Battle of Olympus, Low G Man, Mega Man 2, Cosmic Spacehead- but they largely remained unplayed. Duck Tales, Chip 'N Dale and Blades of Steel are some I played more of to a degree but again it's only really Nintendo classics I've finished.
Then the other day, inspired by the Mega Man thread, I decided to seek out and play stuff I'd never really tried before. Made a list using NESguide by selecting developers I know (Konami and Capcom mainly), aided by a top 100 list , which again is predictably dominated by Nintendo, Konami and Capcom. First game I tried:
Played and completed the original Catlevania inside a day. That's the first none Metroidvania from the series I've managed to finish. What did I make of it?
It's reasonable but nothing special. By far the best bit is the music.
The game is split over 15 stages or so, with a boss at the end of every 3 or so. The bosses are where the main challenge is introduced really, besides death meaning a restart from the beginning of the stage with no checkpoints. By far the hardest for me was Death though having played him again I realised I could cheese it by trapping him in one place with the fire water. Dracula was reasonable but quite easy once you got his pattern down and destroyed his flame attack with said water.
The game finishes, gives the credits and reveals the names of the enemies involved. It then loops back to the start (bottom right pic) where the game begins again with seemingly more enemies that move faster and hit harder. It's a reasonable starting game though nothing special, one that was tricky but didn't force me to rely on save states. I used them, but mainly as a way of saving the start of every level and only Death forced me to utilise save states at various points of the same fight. Then again I tried him again once he was down, reloading a save state and cheesed him in one spot.
Talking of save states and the screen grabs from my actual playthrough, hands up time. Despite owning a NES, and having some of the games on cart, I've gone the emulation route. Several reasons really, mainly being the limitations of the hardware. The NES being RF or composite only everything looks shockingly bad on my LCD. Worse than that there's an element of lag present that's noticeable. I also suffered with hardware faults like the flashing light, having to load a game three times to make it work, jamming a second cart ontop of the first just a few things I had to do.
I very quickly grew tired of these hardware issues and played the games through my modded Xbox and a surprisingly perfect Android emulator on my tablet. The NES pad is also really uncomfortable. Luckily for me I have an adaptor to use different pads on the Xbox. Better still the tablet lets me use bluetooth controllers so I've been using a Wii Classic Controller and the official Wii SNES pad . Got to say flicker free, enhanced graphics with a comfortable pad and save stats very quickly won me over. The games no longer feel dated.
Second game I played, and it's an absolute revelation. Stupid name, brilliant game:
Metroidvania is one of my favourite genres. I've played and finished so many, it really is a genre that hooks me in. A quick think and I reckon I rate the genre like this in my order of preference:
Godly games- Super Metroid, Castlevania Symphony
Superb games- GBA Castlevania and Metroids, Kirby Amazing Mirror (man that handheld)
Decent- Megaman ZX, Shaman King, La Mulana, Cave Story
OK- Monster Tale, Guacamelee, NES Metroid
Anyway. Point of the list? I reckon Ufouria ranks below godly but deservedly in the "superb" list. It really is that good and quite possibly in my (limited) top 3 NES games. One thing for sure is it's miles, miles better than NES Metroid. What makes it so good?
You start the game with one little dude, the blue fella (left pic). He can do very little and is weak, though the game is kind initially in allowing him to take four or five hits off his HP before he dies. His initial aim is to reunite with his three other buddies. This is important as each has their own unique skills that makes traversing the world possible. The first guy jumps hight and is fast, the second dinosaur (middle pic) can swim and traverse successfully on ice. Trying either with a different character outright fails as only the dino can stay upright on ice and is able to move in water.
All have a basic attack, similar to Duck Tales in that you jump and have to hold down to initiate a stomp. Merely jumping without the stomp results in you taking damage. Later on there's secret weapons to find that enhance their attacks. Generally though you stomp on an enemy and it either turns into a blob (left pic) that you can throw to attack, or less frequently a heart to top up your HP. You switch the characters with a pause menu., intelligent use of their powers necessary to overcome the puzzles.
Lot's about the game is very bizarre and makes it feel quite unique. The enemies are varied, the use of items super. I like the idea of a plunger to help you wall climb for example. Everything looks so weird, the level of oddity is so high. One can attack by detaching his head, another when ducking proceeds to lie on his back and crawl around. The animation is of a high standard and the music catchy.
The real quality of the game? It allows real exploration, a genuinely none linear experience. Once you have the first two characters you really can go almost anywhere, skill allowing. Aided by a map (which has to be found, above right), it later highlights parts of interest. Judging by the difficulty of the bosses and the items I've received I've definitely been playing out of order something that has come about by my exploring.
Whilst the map is little more than perfunctory in quality it's immensely valuable in comparison to something like the original Metroid that had none. I've enjoyed returning to old areas and using new abilities to create a shortcut. These new passages have been important because upon death the game puts you back to the original start point. There's no lives or checkpoints, but you do retain all your items so death isn't too frustrating. A small concession to this is the bosses that place you just outside their room. The game also isn't that hard so it hasn't been a regular occurrence to see the game over screen, it's a game where I have used no save states outside of saving when I turn off to negate the use of passwords.
I don't really know how far I'm in but I estimate about halfway given the filling of the item screen and the ticking off of the green special areas. So I don't think it'll be much longer than a 10-15 hour game, but so far it's been immensely enjoyable.
So much so that the game enthused me enough to want to write about it.
Point of the thread? A blog for me to keep track of the new stuff I've played. Hopefully it'll reveal some new games that people will try. Though I won't be retreading old classics like Zelda and Mario it's always nice to read about them if you do play them.
Next post- completing Ufouria. Writing about the excellent Gargoyles Quest 2 and maybe inroads into Kid Dracula.