NES Remix

No, it’s not an indie.  But, I’m not exactly known as someone with a particular fondness for NES “classics” that grew stale before I was even born.  When Nintendo surprised everyone Wednesday by debuting NES Remix and announcing it was out right now, it was bizarre.  Almost as if they had no confidence in it.  But, it looked vaguely like the 9-Volt stages in Wario Ware, which is pretty much my favorite game ever.  And my Wii U was starting to get dusty again after I finished Super Mario 3D World.  So, $15 later, I was going to see what this game Nintendo was so nervous about hyping for more than a few minutes was all about.

NES Remix is made up of micro-sections of sixteen early first-party NES games, most of which are no fucking good today and probably wouldn’t have been all that fun even back in the day.  Look, I appreciate the historical significance of the original Donkey Kong, Super Mario, and Legend of Zelda.  But the same franchises have been done better so many times since the 80s.  To pretend otherwise seems kind of crazy.  Meanwhile, the majority of the games in NES Remix really just aren’t any good at all.  Baseball, Pinball, Tennis, Urban Champion, and Golf should be locked in a box and thrown in the middle of the ocean.  And Ice Climber?  I swear to God, I think it might legitimately be the worst game Nintendo ever made.  Not only does it control like it was designed by someone who hates video games, but it also has a tendency to have players fall through the platforms because you’re “too close to the edge.”  Even though you’re more than a full character-length on the platform.  If there’s a worst first-party game Nintendo has ever put out, I haven’t played it.

Funny enough, it's actually easier to do the bouncy-turtles shell-lives trick in Super Mario 3D World.

Funny enough, it’s actually easier to do the bouncy-turtles shell-lives trick in Super Mario 3D World.

So, a collection of sixteen games that I either hate or am totally indifferent too?  Games which have not been blessed with the gift of graceful aging?  Games which I would never pay the price for off Nintendo’s Virtual Console if they were sold alone?  Obviously, we’re talking a real game of the year contender, right?

Well, actually.. yeah.

NES Remix utterly owned me.  I got it Wednesday morning, and I played it so much that I ran out the battery on my Wii U pad three times in a single day.  Never mind how pitiful it is that a console could have the battery run out that much in a single day.  I also will try not to focus too much on how there is absolutely no reason why NES Remix has to be exclusive to the Wii U, or that Nintendo unquestionably lost out in millions in revenue this week alone by not having a 3DS version launch alongside it.  Okay, so that’s a lie.  It’s kind of the elephant in the room and it requires scrutiny.  Nintendo fanboys are saying it’s because Wii U needs exclusive software to justify owning it.  That’s a fucking cop-out excuse if I’ve ever heard one.  NES Remix is the perfect portable game.  Pick-up-and-play mechanics, small goals, a large variety of gameplay styles, and no consequences if you think you have time to kill, turn on your device, then suddenly become busy and have to turn it off.  Tethering this diamond to the Wii U would be like hiring Michael Jordan to be on your golf team.  I’m sure he’s a damn fine golfer, probably better than your average schmo, but wouldn’t he better suited on your basketball team?  And NES Remix would be better suited on the 3DS.  It just would be.

But, the decision was made, and NES Remix is slumming it on the wrong console.  Fine.  It doesn’t change the quality of the game at all.  NES Remix is, as of this moment, the best digital-exclusive Nintendo has ever produced.  Like Wario Ware, Nintendo has taken gameplay, stripped out most of the bullshit, then weaponized what was left into the most potently addictive micro-gaming chunks seen since, well, the original Wario Ware.  This is gaming in its purest form.  Scoring and/or speed based, no frills, white-knuckle gaming.  And I love it.

Sorry to disappoint white supremacists , but the game is called "Clu-Clu Land". With a "C". Just go back to playing Uncharted.

Sorry to disappoint white supremacists , but the game is called “Clu-Clu Land”. With a “C”. Just go back to playing Uncharted.

The NES games are divided into sections by game, which have anywhere between seven to over twenty levels per game, though I don’t believe every game has its own unique stage selection.  Baseball, Tennis, Urban Champion, and Donkey Kong 3 seem to have drawn the short straw and don’t have their own sections, and that’s just fine with me.  There’s also fifty “remix” stages that do something wacky with the gameplay or graphics, plus twenty-five “bonus stages” that seem more like deleted scenes, cut from the game for a reason.  Each stage is scored on a scale from one-star to three-stars, plus if you do really good, a meaningless rainbow star thing appears that doesn’t seem to unlock anything.

The remix stages are treated like the meat of the game, but really, I enjoyed all the non-psychedelic challenges presented here.  Stuff like trying to catch 1-up mushrooms in Super Mario, or fighting bosses in Legend of Zelda, one ten-second stage at a time, was hugely satisfying.  It even managed to make games like Golf and Balloon Fight more than enjoyable, something I never imagined was possible.  I knocked out most of those before I ever started on the Remix stages, which were often pretty cool too.  You might have to play a full stage in Super Mario where the game auto-runs for you.  As it turns out, Super Mario makes a great auto-runner.  Who would have thunk it?  Other challenges might be related to the presentation, like having the camera pull back, showing multiple, progressively smaller screens.  When I played these stages, I would then look away from the Wii U pad, where my room now seemed to be pulling back and shrinking.  It was trippy.  And awesome.

Not all the remix stages were well conceived.  A couple of them involve you playing Donkey Kong using Link.  No, you can’t use your sword for some fucking stupid reason.  Also, you can’t jump.  Ever tried to beat the first stage in Donkey Kong without jumping?  It’s way tougher than it sounds.  You’re basically left up to the whims of fate, hoping against hope that the barrels don’t go down the ladders you’re about to cross, since you have no way of defending yourself or otherwise avoiding them.  My gut instinct tells me they originally planned to let you use the sword for these sections (since it makes no fucking sense to have Link in Donkey Kong and not be able to swing your sword) but they couldn’t do it right (it’s really just a ROM hack, with Link painted over Mario), so they just left it the way it was.  Of course, the whole ROM hack theory doesn’t explain why you can’t jump.  Other ill-thought-out stages include Pinball (a crap game on its own, like most of the games in this collection) where the flippers are invisible, an Ice Climber stage where the only hook is the graphics become Game Boy-like (and this one screws up sometimes by having the mono-Gameboy sound be present during the NES part, and vice versa), or fighting “imposters” in Balloon fight that are the exact same enemies you already take on, re-skinned to look like you.  Really, some of them are just plain lazy.  But this is the same company that has put out roughly fifty-billion ports of the 75% complete NES version of Donkey Kong.  I’m almost convinced that Nintendo is the Japanese word for half-assed.

The biggest problem with NES Remix is these are the exact same games that they’ve always been, only broken down into microscopic chunks.  Although this makes some of the games more palatable, all their original control flaws are still present.  I mentioned Ice Climber above, which is probably Nintendo’s most broken controlling game.  But actually, the original Mario Bros. is nearly as crippled.  The jumping physics are horrible, requiring you to build up momentum to make a jump.  Only sometimes this doesn’t seem to work.  Plus, landing on a platform above you requires you to land perfectly flush on it.  If a micro-pixel isn’t on, you fall through the platform.  In games scored entirely around timing, shit like this is fucking maddening.  Additionally, Baseball, Tennis, and especially Clu Clu Land (my buddy Cyril’s choice for Nintendo’s worst first-party game) control the same as they always have: like shit.

One of the Zelda stages (not the one pictured) required me to use the candle to burn a tree down and reveal a hidden staircase. As God as my witness, I burned every God damned tree on the screen at least three times each and the staircase never appeared. I restarted the stage and the next time the very first tree I torched revealed the staircase. I'm not sure if it was a glitch or not. I never bothered to replay it after that. I had already ripped out enough of my hair by that point that my scalp was bleeding.

One of the Zelda stages (not the one pictured) required me to use the candle to burn a tree down and reveal a hidden staircase. As God as my witness, I burned every God damned tree on the screen at least three times each and the staircase never appeared. I restarted the stage and the next time the very first tree I torched revealed the staircase. I’m not sure if it was a glitch or not. I never bothered to replay it after that. I had already ripped out enough of my hair by that point that my scalp was bleeding.

Another issue, which is kind of minor, is that the difficulty of each challenge, in terms of what will give you a three-star rating and what won’t, varies wildly.  In one of the Super Mario levels that is divided into three sub-stages, the object is to enter a warp pipe.  The target time for three stars was 30 seconds.  Getting this required near-perfect runs.  I twice finished at 30.1 seconds because I had trouble lining up in the under-water pipe or something.  Eventually, I did get the three-star rating I had coveted, clocking in at 29.6.  No rainbow stars though, and I’ll be damned if I can guess where I could possibly make up the time for it.  Edit: Oh my God, I am such a fucking idiot.  I thought I had attempted to enter all the pipes in the second stage. It turns out there was a much, much closer pipe I could have entered than the one I was going into.  I just finished in 24 seconds and rainbowed.  I suck But then I would play multiple other stages where I could die three or four times and still score three-stars with rainbows even though my performance could best be summed up as “pitiful.”  There was no consistency from one stage to the next, and it takes the oomph out of the sense of accomplishment I sometimes felt.

Despite those issues, NES Remix is honest-to-God my new favorite Wii U game.  Certainly Nintendo’s best digital-exclusive in their history.  I was utterly hooked for three solid days on it.  It even did the impossible and made Urban Champion fun for like five seconds, which by my count, is three seconds longer than Wario Ware accomplished.  Although I have no fucking clu-clu why this is exclusive to Wii U, this is a must own.  At least, I think it is.  Opinions are hugely divided here.  One trend I’ve noticed: older gamers that played the originals to death in the 80s seem to like this a lot less than myself and younger gamers have.  I’m guessing if you’ve played the original Super Mario Bros. once a week for the last thirty years, you probably would be bored by some of the “challenges” here, like playing level 3-3 with all the platforms invisible.  See though, I don’t have every nuisance of these games committed to memory, and probably for that reason, this could very well end up being my Game of the Year.  So a word of advice to the younger Nintendo fanboys out there: don’t schedule a monthly play-through of New Super Mario Bros. or Pikmin 3, or else when Wii U Remix comes out in 2043 for the Nintendo Wii UeuPrince logo.svgmI3, you’ll be sorry.

NES Remix LogoNES Remix was developed by Nintendo

Seal of Approval Large$14.99 said “the game just fucking came out, so stop talking about sequels already you annoying fucking fanboys” in the making of this review.

NES Remix is Chick-Approved, but not remotely Leaderboard eligible (non-Indie)

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Curse of the Crescent Isle

Do you know what the key to critical acclaim is on Xbox Live Indie Games?  No, it’s not having a good game.  Don’t be silly.  It’s having a retro-style graphics and gameplay that borrows mechanics from a popular 80s NES hit.  If you have that, you have a game that will have more praise dumped on it than a parrot that sings Let the Bodies Hit the Floor.  Which is ironic given that most of these new-retro titles just poorly mimic the classics the same way a parrot mimics a song.  Sometimes praise is deserved.  Stuff like Escape Goat or Aesop’s Garden comes to mind.  Most of the time, the end result is cute and charming but ultimately just kind of exists as a weird novelty.

Take today’s Katch-Up game, Curse of the Crescent Isle.  It has pretty good NES style graphics without the slightest taint of anything modern to ruin the effect.  The story is appropriately insane.  You take the role of a King who has to save the people of his land from a, um, something or another that has turned them into, some.. things.  Honestly, I’m not sure what the fuck happened, but who cares?  I couldn’t figure out why anything happened to anyone in any 8-bit game, so why should I expect to start now?  It’s all about the gameplay, which is modeled after the platforming and lifting mechanics of Super Mario Bros. 2.  Only here, the enemies you pick up can be used as tools.  It’s a sensible evolution on the established concept.

It’s hard to lift with your knees when all you have is a beet-red anus for legs.

Here’s the problem: the game sucks.  Allow me to elaborate.  Super Mario 2 overall controlled decently, as long as you picked the right character.  I never used Mario, because his jumping was too weak.  I stuck with Luigi, who wasn’t quite as pitifully slow as the Princess, but could also jump higher and further than her.  In a game that is all about jumping, it made sense to me.  Unfortunately, Crescent Isle is all about jumping too, but you’re stuck with someone who controls like Mario did.  Oddly enough, the gravity feels strong, but the controls overall feel way too loose.  I can’t tell you how many times I would jump for a vine, grab it, but then coast straight off the side of it.  It was like the King lubed his hands up with Vaseline before jumping.

The biggest issue with Crescent Isle is how badly implemented the mechanics are.  The control scheme is very clunky.  You pick up enemies with the X, but you also use X to switch between lifting them over your head or putting them below your feet.  You jump with A and throw with B.  It’s messy and never feels intuitive.  There’s also problems with the physics of lifting and throwing.  Enemies can’t really die.  If you throw them into each-other, it just knocks one out.  Once they hit each-other, they ricochet back and typically cause damage if they float anywhere close to you.

The only thing Crescent Isle does well is puzzles.  There are some clever ones that make neat use of the enemies’ skills.  Sadly, the impact of those puzzles is lost due to the lack of check-points combined with the horrible play control.  And that’s not even taking into account when the game glitches out on you.  During the second stage, there are puzzles that require you to use an ice monster to freeze fireballs shot out of a pipe, then use them as stepping-stones.  It was clever the first time they used it.  After a dozen times, it was tedious and lame.  Especially since the fireballs sometimes would just go away instead of staying in place as a block.  Or there was the time that I froze a fireball, it disappeared, and the pipe never spit out another one.  I was stuck there, and that fucking sucks.  Sure, you can pause the game and restart the level, but it had taken me around ten minutes to get to that point.  And that was just that one attempt, not counting all the lives I lost trying to get there before that.  The puzzles lose their zing when the game’s lack of debugging causes you to replay them over and over again.  Hell, I lost count of how many times an enemy pushed me through a solid wall and to my death.  No wait, I didn’t.  It was ELEVEN FUCKING TIMES!

Why does the King always look like he’s constipated?

Ultimately, Curse of the Crescent Isle just isn’t that fun.  The controls are bad, the levels are too sprawling, and the concept is just kind of boring.  Of course, Crescent Isle has 8-bit style graphics and is almost kind of like Super Mario 2, so it got critical acclaim.  When I read how this was received by other critics, I was kind of flabbergasted.  You know, there was another 8-bit clone of Super Mario 2 once upon a time.  It was called Bible Adventures.  I never played it, but I certainly know of its reputation.  I have a theory that if that game came out today and was on Xbox Live Indie Games, it would be considered really good.  Why?  Because it meets all the criteria for critical acclaim on the platform.  8-bit?  Check.  Clone of a flagship title?  Check.  Actually fun?  Who cares?  Oh, don’t scoff!  You know I’m right.

Curse of the Crescent Isle was developed by Adam the Otaku

80 Microsoft Points never played Duck Tales on the NES so I can’t accurately compare this to that in the making of this review.

マイケルの不思議な冒険 (Michael’s Magical Adventure)

I did a double take when I saw the screenshots for Michael’s Magical Adventure.  I mean, look at it!

I know, right!  The resemblance is uncanny!

It looks just like Teddy Ruxpin!

Teddy had no comment.

Oh, and maybe Super Mario Bros too.  Just a little bit.

I wish it had played more like Super Mario Bros.  It might have been more fun that way.  Michael’s Magical Adventure really does try to invoke the look and gameplay of Nintendo’s classic franchise.  It just fails miserably at playability.

I’m not the only one who had a chuckle at the brazenness of Michael’s Magical Adventure.  It’s Super Mario in everything but name.  Instead of Mario, you’re bear.  Instead of Goombas, it’s rabbits.  Instead of Spinys, it’s porcupines.  Instead of turtles, well, it’s still turtles.  You also traverse all the Mario standbys.  Generic plains, icy hills, and haunted houses all make an appearance.  Now, just to be on the safe side, Mario wasn’t the only property they plundered.  There’s jungle-themed levels where you hop across the heads of alligators, just like in Pitfall.  And then there’s the final boss fight against your own shadow, just like in Zelda II.

It all sounds so great, and if it worked it would be.  Unfortunately, the game is riddled with control issues and glitches.  Since I’m a total control freak, I’ll focus on the controls.  About the only thing the game did get right was mapping jump to the A button.  Yet, everything else about the jumping is wrong.  It’s slow, slippery, unresponsive, and inaccurate.  And if I could find more mean words to describe it, I would.

Part of the problem is related to holding down the X button to run.  There’s never a point where you won’t want to run, yet you have to hold a button down to accomplish this.  If only there was, say, a special joystick that could interpret various degrees of pressure in a way that could map walking and running without the need to also hold a button down.  I know, wishful thinking on my part, but we still live in an era where we can only dream about such outlandish space age technology.

Not that it would help much.  Michael’s Magical Adventure needs some serious debugging.  I encountered many instances of getting stuck in blocks, or getting stuck floating in the air after jumping off a vine.  Even when the game’s engine wasn’t crapping out on me, the level design brought my blood to a boil.  In particular, two auto-scrolling vertical levels had me ripping my hair out.  The level design does get to be a bit too much later in the game.  To make up for this, you get access to a cosmic hamburger if you die five times in a single level.  Eating it will make you impervious to enemy damage for the entire stage.  On one hand, I liked it because I’m convinced some stages are impossible without it.  On the other hand, I felt like the game was patronizing me.  “Oh, you can’t get past a couple of little bumble bees?  There, there.  Eat this and just waltz up to the finish, you poor little thing.”

Hey, fuck you game.  Most of the time, it was the jumping physics and not the enemies that got me.  Ultimately, Michael’s Magical Adventure is exactly what I figured it would be: a poorly executed Super Mario clone without shame.  For some people, that’s all they want.  I’ve already seen it with this game on Twitter.  People have called it “Epic” or “Ace” or “Excellent.”

No, no, and no.  Why do people insist on devaluing words?  The Odyssey by Homer is an epic.  The Red Baron was an Ace.  The blooming onion at Outback Steakhouse is excellent.  Michael’s Magical Adventure is none of those things.  It’s just a bad video game.  And even if you convince yourself otherwise, it’s not going to bring your childhood back.  The nostalgia factor is certain to drive its sales, because 30-something gamers will grasp at absolutely anything that resembles their cherished childhood treasures.  Games like this are like dumpster diving for your security blanket.  If you dig down far enough, you might find something vaguely resembling it.  More than likely, it’s just the piss-soaked rags of a deceased hobo.

マイケルの不思議な冒険 (Michael’s Magical Adventure) was developed by HUNTERS

80 Microsoft Points said “yes, I’m aware the box art says the translated name of the game is Mysterious Adventure of Michael, but that is NOT what the Japanese text of the game says!” in the making of this review.

Couldn’t find a trailer.  Sorry.

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