Pauncho Smith's Game Awards Thing 2013
by Pauncho Smith

Alright. First time I'm taking a stab at this. This list will be divided into two different sections. "Old Stuff" and "Not Quite as Old Stuff", with the 2003 being the completely arbitrary line that separates the two categories.

So, here we go!


OLD STUFF!

Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts (SNES)
I've actually owned this on the Capcom Classics Collection disc for quite a few years now. Hell, I've even beaten Ghosts 'n Goblins AND Ghouls 'n Ghosts. Completion of the third game, however, proved to be elusive until recently (damn your piss-ant bracelet and your limited continues). I've always loved the presentation that these games had, and it truly feels like an accomplishment to get through them. In a way, Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts closed a chapter of my gaming life. Not only was the last of the original trilogy of games that I beat, but it was also the last of a trilogy of early SNES action-platformers; I've always seen this as part of a trio along with Super Castlevania IV and ActRaiser (two more games I absolutely adore).



Contra/Super C/Operation C (NES/NES/Game Boy)



Holy shit! I actually got competent at some of these! Finally.........I wonder if this means I'm on the shortlist for my own parking spot at SMPS's offices. Probably not, but I figure it couldn't hurt to ask.

Polly answer: You and Bpwner can knife fight for his parking spot. That seems like a reasonable compromise to me.


Castlevania (NES)
I'd like to personally extend my thanks to 1982 of Gainesville, Florida for not only hoarding a decent collection of old consoles, but for also not tossing my ass out after taking up space at the bar for hours on end without ordering a damn thing. I played and beat this in front of a scant handful of drunken strangers (and that one dude who can't help but tell you exactly how you should do what, when and where, regardless of whether or not said advice is actually solicited). I finished this right after plowing through Super C earlier that evening. It's the familiar jumping, whipping, and dying we've all come to know and love. I still prefer Super Castlevania IV's re-imagining of this one, but I had a decent time with it.







Bionic Commando (NES)
Picked this one up back in January. Messed around with it a little bit. Didn't quite get it. Put it away for several months before giving it another go. I don't know what happened, but things actually clicked this time, and I was arm-swinging like a pro and mowing down pseudo-Nazis with the greatest of ease. It's to the game's credit that the unique (for the time) approach to platforming never feels gimmicky. There are quite a few murderous platforming sections, which is balanced-out by some piss-easy bosses (which range from pushover to mildly tedious). But honestly, how can I really find fault with making Hitler's head asplode?








Mole Mania (Game Boy)
First came across this one in an old issue of Nintendo Power, way back in the year of Nineteen-Ninety-Whatever. It wasn't until this year I saw it looking back at me from behind a glass case and snagged it. Nifty little puzzle game with some interesting mechanics (the ability to traverse beneath the soil, digging holes to plug them up accordingly at a later time). Quite lengthy too for a Game Boy release, and there's more than a bit of challenge here (especially during the cabbage-tossing sections against Jinbe). Speaking of Jinbe, how does this guy afford a fortress AND minions on a farmboy's wages? Must be one of those paranoid "survivalist" types.





Metroid (NES)
Yeah. It's okay.



...........What? You want a little more? Alright.

This one certainly hits my soft spot for classic NES games (especially those with a solid black background; always felt those exuded a cleanness, a simple elegance), and it felt great to live through one of classic gaming's most memorable encounters (making Mother Brain's face asplode). As I played though, all I could think was "I would be completely screwed had I not remembered the maps they published in Nintendo Power X years ago" (code for I used a map on my phone and hoped the bartender or other patrons wouldn't notice). One patron did pat me on the back when I beat it, so.....yay?




Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos (NES)
Challenging. Devious and cunning. Eager to slice your throat open at the first sign of weakness. In spite of that, it's still a lot easier than the first Ninja Gaiden. I guess for me, that has almost everything to do with the fact that there's really nothing in II that's comparable to "6-2" from the first game. Yes, you go back to the start of the stage if you die on any final boss form, but you don't spend nearly as much time on the trek back. Total amount of time it took me to complete stage 6 and kill all forms of the final boss in Gaiden Uno? 3 hours. Total amount of time it took me to play through Ninja Gaiden II in its entirety? 3 hours. Eh, it's good to catch a break every now and again.








Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (NES)
Knew of this one and have watched it been played for years. Finally took the plunge this year. How'd it go? Well, I suppose I caught on reasonably well to how this one handled (I take to endless grinding pretty quickly, easier these days now that I have Spotify and Pandora). Death Mountain wasn't as awful as I was led to believe (keep moving right, butcher blue slime again and again for goodies), but getting to the Great Palace was every bit as miserable as I was led to believe. I appreciated the fact that I didn't have to bomb or take a candle to every square of the screen like I had to in Zelda I (I hate being lost and feeling like a total rube). I still believe that the series didn't REALLY start to get good until A Link to the Past. All the same, it was nice to finally go through this one, if simply for completion's sake.





Journey to Silius (NES)
A.K.A. that one potential Terminator game that would've actually been worth playing, this one popped up on the cheap one day, and I had to have it. It certainly feels like a Sunsoft joint (killer soundtrack, refined gameplay, brutally tough sections) and it's more than worthy of its status as one of the NES's hidden gems. I'm not too sure why they opted to give Jay a blonde pompadour hairstyle; maybe it was the most unique thing they could think of, but it's still a little odd to me. The controller took a few short-distance flights, but it was quite rewarding to knock off the final boss on my first try with only one bar of health remaining.









Mischief Makers (N64). I remember actually playing this back in 1998 and being struck at how much this looked like something the Sega Saturn might have churned out (Astal, if we're going to get specific). Got my hands on the cart again a few Xmases ago, but only recently had the chance to really dig in. The trademark Treasure weirdness is present, but it comes off as more "Well that sure is goofy" rather than "What the fuck is going on here?!". Marina is as cute as a button, stages are brief yet varied, controls are mostly smooth, and this being a treasure game, there are a handful of insane boss fights (Cerberus Alpha is a motherfucker, especially if you're going for a gold gem). I think on the whole, the game holds up much better than many other N64 or Playstation titles.





NOT QUITE AS OLD STUFF!

Batman: Arkham Asylum



So a funny thing happened this year; I discovered this little thing called "Steam". Arkham Asylum was the first game I ever bought of the service (entirely because it was on sale, and I recognized the name out of a sea of a bazillion faceless indie games). What did I think? I'll still claim the first Batman game on the NES as my favorite Batman-related property, but this one wasn't shabby either. The gadgets, the gliding, the swoop-kicking, all the iconic characters running around, lurking in the shadows to get a jump on some perp, it just felt so Batman-y. I loved that they brought in Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill to reprise their respective roles as Bats and The Joker. The ending did drag things down a bit, but overall I had a blast with this.


Bastion



This sure was a pretty game, wasn't it? Looks aside, it sounded amazing, there were tons of weapons to use and abuse, the story was immediately gripping, and hey, you had a guy who was half Mark Twain's face, half Tom Waits' voice helping you along.


Psychonauts



When it came to the original Xbox's library, this was probably one of a handful of games that caught my attention (yeah, never big on that franchise with that green dude in the helmet). It seemed so unlike anything I would've imagine coming from that console at the time. Some years down the road, Psychonauts came into my grubby little paws. Gameplay-wise, it isn't much unlike a boatload of other 3D platformers (especially when most of your tasks revolve around "COLLECT ALL THE THINGS"). However, I like my games weird, and this game is plenty weird. The excellent writing brings the quirky cast to life, and the areas you travel to are a sight to behold (I'd buy real estate in Velvetopia if I could).


Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4



Purchased this back in 2012, but finally sat down to this in 2013. I easily poured more hours into this game than any other this year (close to 100 last I checked), which is quite amazing when you consider that Persona 4 plays like mix between a old-school dungeon-crawling JRPG and a high school life simulator. There's a ton to do here, and something as mundane as chowing down at the local ramen joint to boost a social link with a party member can feel just as rewarding as finally achieving victory after a brutally difficult boss fight. Also, you'll probably fall in love with all these characters. Every. Last. One. Of. Them.

Also, I couldn't quite settle on who I wanted as a waifu, so I took 'em all. Because I'm hardcore.


Cave Story Plus



The little indie game that could, well before there was a market for them. Spent a little longer on this one than I would've liked because I kept on fucking up the route to the really super special evil impossible final area. Thankfully, it didn't take too much effort to get there after a few runs. There isn't too much in Cave Story that I hadn't seen before (save for those little bunny-dog-people-things), but the whole package was clearly made with love, and it was pretty easy to get into the swing of things.

Making it through the Blood Stained Sanctuary (packed full of cherubs, of all things), and defeating Ballos was probably the second-hardest game-related thing I've done all year, coming right behind finishing Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts.


Mark of the Ninja (Courtesy of Polly S. Hate)



Stealth finally done right. You actually look forward to planning, and executing every kill, and it feels AMAZING. Atmosphere is great, movement is generally fluid, and I appreciated how there were usually multiple ways to work your way through a tricky room or section. There are a number of techniques to learn (they let you do the really fancy kills) and gadgets and to use, but I usually just stuck to the kunais and my own wits. I found somewhat it humorous that while the game seemingly had no problem with you slicing up, blowing up, and hanging guards left and right, you were only allowed to "slap" the dogs to sleep.


Dust: An Elysian Tail



Ah, now that's where my mass animal slaughter went. Much like Cave Story, I didn't feel that Dust reinvented the wheel or anything when it came to games of its genre, but it's still a really well-crafted game. The environments are visually stunning, the voice acting is solid (and pretty dang funny at points), and Dust himself handles quite well for the most part. It's a blast to send enemies flying across the screen with a well timed strike, and seeing that massive blue level-up lightning bolt striking after merely finishing up a conversation, it always cracks me up. Getting around the map is easy for the most part, although some platforming segments were a bit iffy (I fell through the first third of a platform at times, you need to land directly in the center of small platforms to land safely, bleh).

Is it crazy that the only voice that bugged me a little bit was Dust? I couldn't help but feel he was always trying to simultaneously inhale AND exhale whilst delivering the lines. I dunno, maybe it's just me.


Divekick



There sure is a lot of diving and kicking in this game. The best of both worlds. Also I'm terrible when I play against other humans, so I'll let you all know when I get my laptop fixed, so you can all stand in line to kick my ass.


Portal (Courtesy of SpydaK)



Ports. Holes. Turrets. Gun. Science. Cubes. Momentum. Dying. Song. Cake. Lie. The end.


Astro Boy: The Omega Factor



Got this as an early Xmas gift. And hey! Treasure was involved. What could possibly go wrong? Um, nothing really. By Treasure standards, this is probably the most "restrained" thing they've ever been involved with (not counting Light Crusader, that had to be someone's idea of an joke), but since they were working with a well-established property, I guess they couldn't go crazy like they usually would. That's a minor issue, because what we're left with is a focused, well-polished video game. Both beat-em-up, and shoot-em-up sections play very well, enemy sprites range from hilariously small to taking up half the screen, boss fights are done quite nicely (with yet another reference to Gunstar Heroes' Seven Force packed in there) and you have your machine guns (that you keep hidden in your ass) and your DEATH LASER to wreck things with. There are a ton of characters to find (who enable you to power up your weapons, health bar, etc.), and I guess that's great for fans of Astro Boy and Osamu Tezuka. For my part, aside from the leading robot, I recognized three, maybe four other characters? (I think two of those guys were in Metropolis, I think). Oh well, I thought this was great. Thanks Santa.






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