The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) was released in North American back in 1985, when I was 4 years old. Soon after its release we had one in our home, and many of the games we played as kids on the NES still stand out as favorites of mine. Of the games we owned at home, and played at our friend’s houses, there were various features and attributes that stood out as “wow” moments: something exceptional, strange, or exciting. If you recall any of your own “wow” moments not listed below from your NES experiences I encourage you to share them in the comments.
#1 - A Second Quest
As if the first quest wasn't good enough, The Legend of Zelda also include an entirely separate second quest, with notable changes such as alterations to item and dungeon locations. This added a new level of depth and attributed a high replay value to an already fantastic game.
#2 - Stealing Boss Powers
Mega Man introduced a new feature to gaming that still holds up today: the ability to steal the powers of the bosses you defeat. Not only was it fun to absorb and use unique powers, but those powers also acted as game mechanics necessary to progress in the game. E.g. specific powers were stronger against specific bosses and others were needed to clear pathways. This encouraged players to determine the best path for challenging bosses, strategies determined by trial and error, word of mouth, and Nintendo Power magazine.
#3 - This Isn't the ArcadeStrider - arcade version (left) and NES version (right)
I remember the joy of playing Strider in the arcade: the beautiful animations as the character graciously flipped in the air, the stunning VFX as you attacked, and the rich environments. The day I brought home the NES version was a day of grand excitement...And then I played it. I was shocked by how simplified it was, and didn't understand at such a young age why it was so different.
#4 - Dynamic Time Change
Unlike the original Castlevania, a traditional linear adventure, Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest allowed the player more freedom of exploration. And with the addition of a day and night system, the player had to be tactful not only about where to venture, but when and how far as well, as enemies would be more difficult to defeat at night time. Surprisingly, every night seemed to be cursed.
#5 - Mr. DreamPunch-Out!! - Mike Tyson (left) and Mr. Dream (right)
Originally released in Japan without Mike Tyson, Punch-Out!! added Tyson for the American release and added him into the later Japanese versions as well. But after Tyson's 3 year contract expired he was replaced with Mr. Dream and the title of the game was shortened from Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! to just Punch-Out!!
#6 - Female HeroMetroid - second quest without the suit (left) and completing the game (right)
In a time when the video game hero character was dominated by men, the unknowing audience of Metroid assumed that the armor-clad space bounty hunter Samus Aran was a man, until after completing the game when it is revealed that she is actually a female.
#7 - A Familiar Enemy
Is that...Hitler?? The answer is, well, yes, at least definitively so in the Japanese version of Bionic Commando. While the Japanese version clearly displayed swastikas, the American version opted to use a more generic symbol (refer to the comparison image).
Choice of Zombies, for iOS, is a choose your own adventure game (think interactive story if you aren't familiar with the old CYOA books) brought to you by Choice of Game LLC, a group that produces a variety of CYOA style apps. Warning: spoilers below.
The game begins with the player defining who they are (male/female, job, etc.) which factors into some of the statistics that evolve as you progress through your adventure. And yes, the stats do seem to matter when making choices in the game. For example, during one of my three adventures I selected to be a guy that exercises, so my choices tended to lean towards physical activities. Whereas in another adventure I was a software engineer that was out of shape, and I elected to be sneaky and slow to save a survivor, which proved to be successful.
Overall there isn't much of an overarching story here, and I was really hoping I would discover more about the characters, the settings, and the outbreak. Most of the writing is instead geared towards campy humor, of which is sometimes funny but more often just too cheesy for my taste. Instead I would have enjoyed seeing more written about background stories, details, and character motivation.
Unfortunately there aren't any images (unless you count the main menu screen), and because of the simplistic style of the story telling I think some artwork would have been a great addition here. I remember as a child reading CYOA books and my favorites had amazing drawings to enjoy. I understand the argument that images in books can deter from the imagination of the reader, but again the writing focuses mainly on humor and simple facts, and is rather sparse on descriptions outside of the key details (e.g. there is a weapon on the left or the boy is sitting down) so I only see artwork elevating the experience.
During my 3 sessions I tried to take myself down different paths, for the sake of variety, though most of my paths intersected leaving me to believe there isn't a whole lot of content here. I did manage to collect a variety of different characters, many that overlapped between the adventures as well, and I noticed the game was a lot more interesting the more characters I brought along with me. At times a character would make a critical suggestion for how to resolve a problem, a small character would fit through a tight space, and other times characters argued about each other.
There was one annoying bug I experienced during one of my adventures that I'm hoping the developers can clean up, as it was definitely an immersion breaker. While at the church we parked our car inside the gate, and when Brian left our party in a rush he also left the car behind. However, when I fled the church later I was told the car was gone since Brian had taken it.
9 out of 10
Before I get into my review of Year Walk, as a disclaimer, there are no specific spoilers in my review. I think it’s important that everyone experiences this game with fresh eyes so that they can truly appreciate it. However, the only guaranteed way that I can promise nothing below spoils anything is to advise that you play the game first, and then read my review.
Year Walk, both mysterious and enlightening, allowed me to encounter a wide array of emotions that many games fail to do: excitement, fear, intrigue, sadness, hope, satisfaction, and understanding. And all packed into a short, yet complex and thought-provoking, iPhone game. In many ways I have trouble classifying this as just a video game, but rather think of it as a combination of game, exploration, and mystery. The interactive experience transcends the usual boundaries of typical games, with the true ending only coming to light once the player has fully dissected all of the rich layers that encompass this poetic story of self-discovery, love, and sacrifice.
As with any stellar game, book, or movie, Year Walk left a lingering impression in my mind, like a stamp composed of the cocktail of sensations I had felt. My thoughts remain curiously fixated on the characters, creatures, and settings, with a desire to know more, but a satisfaction with what I had learned and revealed.
76 maps were entered into the contest and of those 10 were selected for public voting. My map finished in 5th place, and I want to thank everyone that voted for it. I'm also thankful to CEVO and Gamebanana for holding these contests.
Brian Riggsbee lives in San Francisco CA. He enjoys gaming, writing, creating art, practicing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, chasing adorable dogs, and spending time with his wife and boy.