My Favorite Games of 2019, and of the Decade of the 2010s

I usually do not do Game of the Year lists and have not for some time, and for good reason — it is impossible for any one person to play all of the great games released in a year, and I am no exception.  More games release now than ever before, so it is impossible for even a team of people to keep up with all of the games releasing, much less any one individual, no matter how much they follow this industry!

However, partially because I played more recent games this past year than I had in quite some time and partially just because I wanted to, I decided to try to make a ‘my favorite games’ list this year.  It is in several parts:

Table of Contents
——————-

  1. My Favorite Games of 2019
  2. The Best Classic Re-releases/Enhanced Ports of 2019
  3. Special Awards
  4. My Favorite Older Games I Bought in 2019
    1. Pre-Current Gen Games (ie no 3DS/Vita/X1/modern PC/NS)
    2. Modern Consoles, games from before 2019
  5. Worst Classic Games I Bought in 2019
  6. My Favorite Games of the Decade of the 2010s
    1. My Favorite Games of Each Year of the 2010s
    2. Overall Top 10 of the Decade

My Favorite Games of 2019

Key: NS: Nintendo Switch; X1: Xbox One; 3DS: Nintendo 3DS; PS4: Sony PlayStation 4. Key: (DD Only) means that the game has no physical release on this platform.

The Best Games Newly Released in 2019

1. Super Mario Maker 2 (NS)
2. Etrian Odyssey Nexus (3DS)
3. They Are Billions (PC) (DD Only)  (final release was 2019)
4. Ding Dong XL (NS) (DD Only)
5. Fire Emblem: Three Houses (NS)
6. Samurai Shodown (2019) (X1; also on PS4)
7. Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair (X1; also on PS4, NS, PC)
8. Shalnor Legends: Sacred Lands (NS; also on PC) (DD Only)
9. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night (NS; also on PS4, X1, PC)
10. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice (X1; also on PC, PS4)

Honorable Mentions: Dragon: Marked for Death (NS), Anthem (NS), Dead or Alive 6 (X1), Golf Peaks (NS) (DD Only), Puyo Puyo Champions (NS) (DD Only), Daemon X Machina (NS)


The Best Classic Re-releases/Enhanced Ports of 2019


1. Collection of Mana (NS) – (one game first US release in ’19)
2. Gunlord X (NS) (DD Only) – (first licensed release in ’19)
3. Sega Ages: Virtua Racing (NS) (DD Only) – (heavily enhanced classic port)
4. Commander Keen in Keen Dreams (NS) (DD Only) – (first console release in ’19)
5. Arcade Archives Moon Cresta (NS) (DD Only)  – (first official console release in ’19)

Honorable Mentions: Croixleur Sigma (NS) (DD Only) first US release in ’19), Johnny Turbo’s Arcade: Joe & Mac Returns (NS) (DD Only) (first official console release in ’19)

Special Awards

Best Graphics: Anthem  – Sure, this game has its problems, but it looks absolutely incredible!  It’s not as terrible to play as people say, either.
Best Music: Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair – The Donkey Kong Country composers return, and are still incredible.
Most Addictive: They Are Billions, Mario Maker 2 (tie) – Both of these are games I have played versions of for years, and will surely continue to play for years to come.
Most Fun to Watch Others Play Online: Mario Maker 2 – I’ll probably never be as good at this game as streamers are, but maybe that is part of why I so enjoy watching them play the game…

Game of the Year: Super Mario Maker 2 – This was an easy one, it’s been my likely Game of the Year since its release and nothing since has changed my mind on that.

My Favorite Older Games I Bought in 2019

Key: SAT: Saturn; NES: Nintendo Entertainment System; JAG: Atari Jaguar; TCD: TurboGrafx =-16 CD (aka PC Engine CD); TG16: TurboGrafx-16 (aka PC Engine); 5200: Atari 5200; INTV: Mattel Intellivision; CVIS: Colecovision; GBA: Game Boy Advance; DS: Nintendo DS; DSi – Nintendo DSi (Digital Download games for eShop for the 3DS, now); GEN: Sega Genesis; N64: Nintendo 64; PSV: PlayStation Vita; CD-i: Phillips CD-i.

Pre-Current Gen Games (ie no 3DS/Vita/X1/modern PC/NS)

1. Tempest 2000 (JAG)
2. Jeff Minter Classics (JAG) (modern homebrew title)
3. Saturn Bomberman (SAT)
3. Mega Man 3 (NES)
5. Thunder Force III (GEN)
6. Seirei Senki Spriggan (TCD)
7. Monster Tale (DS)
8. SteamWorld Tower Defense (DSiWare on 3DS eShop)
9. Tempest (5200) (modern homebrew title)
10. Snafu (INTV)
11. Nova Blast (CVIS)

Honorable Mentions: Super Monkey Ball Jr. (GBA), Pepper II (CVIS), Iron Soldier (JAG), Space Fury (CVIS), Sonic & Sega Allstars Racing (DS), Zoop (JAG), Strikers 1945 (SAT)

Also Noteworthy:
BurgerTime (INTV), Hover Strike: Unconquered Lands (JCD), Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon (CD-i), Link: The Faces of Evil (CD-i), Super Space Invaders (GG), TI Invaders (TI99), Stunt Racer 64 (N64), Gateway to Apshai (CVIS), Demon Attack (INTV), Atlantis (INTV), Marchen Maze (TG16), Donald Duck: The Lucky Dime Caper (SMS), Accelerator (CD-i), Loco-Motion (INTV), Lady Bug (CVIS), Dick Tracy (GEN), I-War (JAG), Moon (DS), Sengoku Blade (SAT), Moto Roader MC (TCD)

Modern Consoles, games from before 2019

  1. 3D Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (3DS) (DD Only)
  2. SEGA AGES Sonic the Hedgehog (NS) (DD Only)
  3. 3D Streets of Rage 2 (3DS) (DD Only)
  4. Super Mario Advance 4 – Super Mario Bros. 3 (GBA – Wii U VC) (DD Only)
  5. 3D Space Harrier (3DS) (DD Only)
  6. 3D Streets of Rage (3DS) (DD Only)
  7. Rune Factory 4 (3DS)
  8. Summon Night 6 (PSV)
  9. ACA NeoGeo: Aero Fighters 2 (NS) (DD Only)
  10. Monster Hunter Stories (3DS)

Honorable Mentions: 3D After Burner II (3DS)(DD Only), The Legend of Legacy (3DS), The Alliance Alive (3DS)

Also Noteworthy: Obduction (PC) (DD Only), Kamiko (NS) (DD Only), Johnny Turbo’s Arcade: Gate of Doom (NS) (DD Only), Stranger of Sword City (PSV), Johnny Turbo’s Arcade: Wizard Fire (NS) (DD Only), Johnny Turbo’s Arcade: Joe & Mac Returns (NS)(DD Only), Hive Jump (Wii U), Johnny Turbo’s Arcade: Super Burger Time (NS) (DD Only)

Worst Classic Games I Bought in 2019

  1. Video Speedway (CD-i) – While far from the worst game ever, this game is very boring and bizarrely difficult.
  2. Wizard Defenders (DSiWare on 3DS eShop) – This tries to be good but fails miserably.  It gets unplayably hard quickly.
  3. Airlock (2600) – Lives down to its reputation, sadly.
  4. Hanna-Barbera Cartoon Carnival (CD-i) – Bad minigames.
  5. Medal of Honor: Underground (GBA) – The GBA is not a good platform for 3D_!
  6. Towers: Lord Baniff’s Deceit (GBC) – It is unforgivable to not have an ingame map in a game like this, released when it did, on a handheld.

My Favorite Games of the Decade of the 2010s

Note: American release dates are used here, as always in this article.  Additionally,  I usually do not count re-releases of old games for this list and won’t be listing classic-console re-releases here, such as Sega’s 3D Classics line and such.  However, I ignore this rule for a few titles I really like.

My Favorite Games of Each Year of the 2010s:

2010
——
1. Picross 3D (Nintendo DS)
2. Donkey Kong Country Returns (Wii)
3. Etrian Odyssey III: The Drowned City (Nintendo DS)
Honorable Mentions: Hydro Thunder Hurricane (Xbox 360), Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty (PC), Metroid Prime Trilogy (Wii) (mentioned here for the addition of motion controls), 3D Dot Game Heroes (PS3), Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii)

2011:
——
1. Kirby’s Return to Dream Land (Wii)
2. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii)
3. Professor Layton and the Last Spectre (Nintendo DS)
Honorable Mention: Driver San Francisco (PC) (also on Xbox 360, PS3), Monster Tale (DS)

2012:
——
1. Growlanser IV: Wayfarer of Time (PSP)
2. Xenoblade Chronicles (Wii)
3. Gunlord (Dreamcast)
Honorable Mentions: Super Hexagon (PC), Hotline Miami (PC)

2013:
——
1. Super Mario 3D World (Wii U)
2. Fire Emblem Awakening (Nintendo 3DS)
3. The King of Fighters XIII (PC) (also on PS3 and Xbox 360 previously)
Honorable Mention: Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan (Nintendo 3DS)

2014:
——
1. Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions (Xbox 360) (also have for PC and Xbox One; also on PS3 and PS4)
2. Terrian Saga: KR-17 (PC)
3. TxK (Playstation Vita)
Honorable Mention: Under Defeat HD (XBox 360) (also on PS3; up-port of an older, Japan-only Dreamcast game)

2015:
——
1. Super Mario Maker (Wii U)
2. Splatoon (Wii U)
3. Pillars of Eternity (PC)
Honorable Mentions: The King of Fighters 2002: Unlimited Match (PC) (previously released on other platforms), Rocket League (PC) (also on PS4, Xbox One, Switch)

2016:
——
1. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD (Wii U) (if you count an HD remaster)
2. Overwatch (PC) (also on PS4, Xbox One, Switch) (GOTY if you don’t count the above)
3. Picross 3D: Round 2 (Nintendo 3DS)
Honorable Mention: Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS (Nintendo 3DS)

2017:
——
1. Starcraft Remastered (PC) (yes, it’s a remake. I’m listing it anyway. The new graphics are great!)
2. Yooka-Laylee (PC) (also on PS4, Xbox One, Switch)
3. Super Mario Odyssey (Switch)
Honorable Mentions: Splatoon 2 (Switch), Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana (Playstation Vita) (later ported to PS4, PC, Switch)

2018:
——
1. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (Switch)
2. Tempest 4000 (Xbox One) (also on PC, PS4)
3. WarioWare Gold (Nintendo 3DS)
Honorable Mentions: Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption (PC), Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (Xbox One; also on PS4, PC)

2019:
——
1. Super Mario Maker 2 (Switch)
2. Etrian Odyssey Nexus (Nintendo 3DS)
3. They are Billions (PC)
Honorable Mentions: Collection of Mana (Switch) [particularly for the first US release of Mana 3, previously Japan-only], Fire Emblem: Three Houses (Switch), Ding Dong XL (Switch)

Overall Top 10 of the Decade

  1. Super Mario Maker (Wii U) (2015) – This game redefines platformers in a truly special way.
  2. Starcraft Remastered (PC) (2017) – The best game ever, redone with better visuals.
  3. Picross 3D (Nintendo DS) (2010) – A puzzle game classic still to be topped.
  4. Splatoon (Wii U) (2015) – Easily one of the best shooters ever made!
  5. Super Mario Maker 2 (Switch) (2019) – Mostly better than the original, this game only suffers for the worse creation of the Switch’s capacitive touchscreen versus the Wii U’s reactive one.
  6. Super Mario 3D World (Wii U) (2013) – A highly under-rated game, I hope it gets a Switch port soon!
  7. Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions (Xbox 360) (also have for PC and Xbox One; also on PS3 and PS4) (2014) – This game was ignored by most, but I was totally addicted and played it regularly for a year.
  8. Kirby’s Return to Dream Land (Wii) (2010) – Kirby returned with a vengeance!
  9. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD (Wii U) (if you count an HD remaster) (2016) – The HD version of one of Nintendo’s best games ever is probably the definitive version.
  10. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii) (2011) – This game was slightly disappointing for a major Zelda game, but that still ranks it as exceptional.

Honorable Mention: Yooka-Laylee (PC) (also on PS4, Xbox One, Switch) (2017) – Everybody is wrong about this game, Yooka-Laylee is amazing and one of the best games of the decade!  I have played more of this game than Mario Odyssey and don’t regret that.

So, for me 2012, 2016, and 2018 were the weaker years of the decade for games, while 2010, 2015, and 2019 stand out for the greatness of their libraries.  2017 is was a fantastic year as well.  Overall though, 2015 has to win because Mario Maker and Splatoon are two of my favorite games ever.  Quantity matters, and 2019 has that, but quality matters even more.  (They Are Billions, by the way, does not make the top 10 because the random luck of level generation and unfair nature of defeats make it incredibly frustrating, and not always for fair reasons. Maybe it should be on the list despite that, it’s close.)

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Console Opinion Summaries, Part 2: The Third Generation – Atari 5200 and 7800, NES, Master System, and Colecovision

That’s right, it’s not a mirage, it’s an actual update to my ‘Console Opinion Summaries’ list!  This took way too long, so for future entries I probably should cut back on the history portions that are done much more completely elsewhere on the internet, but at least this is done and I mostly like the results.  Here, I cover the five consoles I own that I consider third generation — that is, consoles released between 1982 and 1985.

Table of Contents

Colecovision, CVIS – 1982
Atari 5200, 5200 – 1982
NES – 1983 (1985 US)
Atari 7800, 7800 – 1984 (1986 full release)
Sega Master System, SMS – 1985 (1986 US)

And last, a ranking of how much I comparatively like each of these systems.

The Summaries

Colecovision, CVIS – from Coleco, released in 1982. Game support 1982-1984 plus third party only support 1985-1987, plus scattered modern homebrew releases. Two million sold, not including a clone system from the ’80s, a modern Flashback system release, and an upcoming Colecovision clone system. I bought a Colecovision in August 2018.

History: The Colecovision released in summer 1982, and brought in a new generation of videogames. With significantly better graphics than the previous consoles and a library full of reasonably good conversions of arcade games, Coleco made a big splash in 1982-1983 before falling off because of the crash. Coleco, originally the Connecticut Leather Company, was a major toy manufacturer in the ’70s and ’80s, and had been successful in videogames with their line of home Pong clones in the late ’70s. They also made one extremely obscure and rare cart-based console in the late ’70s called the Coleco Telstar Arcade. In ’82, Coleco finally made a more direct competitor for the Atari 2600 with the more powerful Colecovision. The system has some hardware similarities to the TI 99/4A computer, as it uses the same TI graphics and sound chips as the TI99, except it has a different CPU: the popular Zilog Z80, instead of TI’s CPU. The resulting graphics are sprite-based, something of a revolution at the time for consoles, and look very much like TI99 graphics. Basing consoles on computer parts from several years earlier has ever since been a common practice, and here we see one of its first occurrances. Consoles are almost always cheaper than computers, so this makes sense. It uses controllers inspired by the Intellivision’s, slightly more comfortable than those but also not very good, and also with the horrible idea of having the main fire buttons be on the sides of the controller. The console itself is also, in my opinion, unbelievably ugly. But anyway.

Again, the Colecovision sold well at first, pushed by its relatively powerful hardware and popular arcade games like Donkey Kong, a game they got through a deal they managed to make with Nintendo, beating out Atari for DK’s Western home console rights, before fading as the market fell apart. Coleco did not help matters though, because their big Colecovision addon, the Coleco Adam computer, was something of a disaster; it was repeatedly delayed and has issues. The Adam debacle helped push Coleco out of the industry, as while home computers did continue to sell in the mid ’80s people wanted ones like Commodore’s on the lower priced end or the IBM PC and Apple II on the more expensive end, not the Adam. Still, as the crash progressed Coleco tried to hold out and released more Colecovision games in 1984 than Atari did for all their systems combined, but by the end of the year it was clear that it was over. Coleco stopped making new games for their system in late ’84, before discontinuing it in mid ’85, ironically right about at the time that the NES released in the US to resurrect the console market.

Meanwhile, overseas the Colecovision made a big impact in the market at least in mindshare, if not in sales. In Japan, Sega was impressed enough that in mid 1983 they released a console that is nearly identical to the Colecovision, the first Sega console, the Sega SG-1000. The differences between the two are extremely minor, and games are extremely easy to port between the two systems, a fact homebrew developers have taken advantage of. At the same time, however, Nintendo looked at the Colecovision and had a different reaction: they decided to make a console that could beat the Coleco in graphical power. This project resulted in the Famicom, also known as the NES, and even if you look only at early Famicom/NES titles like Donkey Kong, it is easy to see how much better the NES is than the Coleco; there is only a year between the two systems in time, but the power gap is significant. However, I do not think that it is a generational power gap, not even close; it’s probably less than the gap from Dreamcast to Xbox, Wii to Xbox 360, or such. Particularly with a homebrew addon to give it more RAM the Colecovision can do some nice graphics, and I don’t think that just because it died off before the NES released it should be dumped in the same generation as consoles released five years before it; the Colecovision was clearly next-gen when it released, and just like my article from some years ago I still consider this system, and the Atari 5200 which released a few months after it, third-gen and not second.

But anyway, after its discontinuation, in the West, third party Tele-Games released a Colecovision clone called the Dina 2-in-1, and released a few new games for it between ’85 and ’87. After that, the system died out. As for the SG-1000, it only lasted from ’83 to ’87 itself. It was crushed by the Famicom, but did apparently do better than Sega’s low expectations, so they decided to continue making consoles. The SG-1000 and its computer counterpart the SC-3000 were only released in Japan and a few other nations, including France, Australia, and Italy.

Aesthetics and Design: The Colecovision may be reasonably powerful and with a surprisingly large library for a mostly short-lived system, but as I said earlier I find its design somewhat shockingly horrible. The early ’80s was able to make some nice looking electronics, but for me this is on the opposite end of the spectrum! With ugly ridges, holes for the controllers which may have been common then but look bad with controllers in them and horrible when empty, an overly large shell filled with air, and one of the largest and more unreliable power supplies ever seen on a classic home console, the Colecovision is, for me, aesthetically quite bad. The controllers are not great looking either, and feel mediocre to bad to hold. “They’re better than Intellivision” is true but is not saying all that much, unfortunately.

And unfortunately, its design has a lot of problems as well, particularly in build quality. Colecovisions are infamous for failing, and finding one in good working order, like mine fortunately is, is a rare occurrence. The power supplies handle multiple voltages and fail all the time; the video output, RF only like all systems of the time; can break; chips can fail; and more. All classic systems can die on you of course, but by all accounts the Colecovision is worse than most in build quality and reliability. Coleco cut corners anywhere they could when making these things and it shows. The controllers are no better; my console may be fortunately working perfectly, but my controllers are mostly half-broken, as both of my regular controllers have failed main fire buttons and both of my Super Action controllers have bad buttons, as is common. Other consoles of the era are also known for controller buttons failing over time, so this is not only a Coleco problem, but it can be frustrating to deal with. I mostly use my Coleco Roller Controller, a trackball which you can put controllers into and use like an arcade stick, using the stick on the controller and buttons on the trackball. It’s a good solution, but I do wish the system had a better controller. I hope upcoming homebrew projects finally bring us one.

Game Library: The Colecovision has several hundred games, with a solid library of ports of arcade games from the early ’80s and a bunch of third-party software, some ported from computers or consoles of the day and a few here and there exclusive. A paucity of exclusives is an issue on this console, however — as Coleco mostly made licensed arcade ports and third parties mostly ported games from other systems, this system has a very small exclusive library. Colecovision versions of games are often the best home versions of those games on early ’80s consoles, but when they are all downgraded from the arcade games and in this 21st century playing old arcade games is easy, this means a lot less than it did back then. Still, the Colecovision has some interesting stuff, and I do like games like Pepper II, Mr. Do, and more. It has a few interesting true exclusives as well, such as the fascinating, if highly dated, Fortune Builder. Overall I put the Colecovision in the lower tier of my consoles in that list I published recently, but part of that is because of the build quality, controllers, and paucity of exclusives; the games it does have are often pretty fun, and I do somewhat like this system. (Plus, this is the only console released in the month I was born, and that counts for something for sure.)

Atari 5200, 5200 – from Atari, released in late 1982. Game support 1982-1984 and 1986, plus scattered modern homebrew titles since the early ’00s. One million sold. I bought a 5200 in 2013.

History: The infamous Atari 5200 is the system often mentioned as one of the causes of the great videogame crash of 1983, along with other Atari moves such as their awful E.T. game. Atari was hardly blameless, as they released the 5200 with games far too similar to their 2600 games, continued to release most games on both consoles, had a pack-in title nearly identical to the 2600 version of the same game, and never really seemed to know what they wanted to do with the system before abandoning it barely over a year later. Indeed, the 5200 released in late ’82, and Atari was done in early ’84 and released only one solitary game for the console that year, with the rest of the ’84 library coming from third parties. Its sales were highly disappointing as well, as its final sales number shows — the 5200 sold a thirtieth of what the 2600 had, in the end, and was beaten out by the Odyssey 2, Colecovision, and Intellivision. The 5200 is overly large and is filled with air, has yet another vertical, Intellivision-styled controller with side fire buttons, and has a small game library. It has less homebrew support than those four other pre-crash consoles as well, excepting ports from Atari’s 8-bit computer line. And the system’s analog joysticks are a real mixed bag, with great control in games that make good use of it like Pole Position, and bad control in games which rely on digital precision, like Pac-Man.

However, despite all of its faults, I like the 5200. I admit to often looking at disliked gaming things and trying to find something to like in them, but it doesn’t always happen… but very much did here. So, the Atari 5200 released in late 1982. It is a consolized version of an Atari 400 computer, the lower end of their popular Atari 8-bit computer line that they sold for at least a decade. However, where Atari 8-bit computers use Atari 2600 joysticks, the 5200 has an all-new controller with an analog joystick, two fire buttons on each side, a keypad in that Intellivision style, and, innovatively, for the first time, a Pause button. On the controller. There are Start and Reset buttons right on the controller too. This is the first console with pausing standard in all games, and that, for me, is a big deal! That all buttons are on the gamepad and not on the system is really nice as well. With controller extension cables you can put your 5200 across the room from you with no issues; this is not the case for most consoles before it.  The first model 5200 has four controller ports as well, though no games really made use of it, and the first ever automatic RF switch; before this all consoles require you to go manually flip a switch on a box attached to the back of your TV to switch between watching TV and playing the game, but the 5200 has the first attempt at doing this automatically.  5200 auto switches are failure-prone as the tech was clearly not all there yet, so they removed it from the second model of the system in favor of a simple manual switch, but it’s a really cool thing if you have a working one, as I do.  I love not having to flip that switch to play 5200, it feels much more modern for it.

But yes, the Atari 5200 sold badly, and was badly mismanaged by Atari. Their corporate parent Warner Bros. did not understand generation transitions yet, as there hadn’t really been one yet, so they didn’t make the differences between the two systems as clear as they could have, and continued to put more focus on the 2600 than their new system. Perhaps with better marketing and choices it could have been more successful, though the controller was a barrier. I like the 5200 controller overall, but I do think that it shows why all modern controllers still have both a d-pad and an analog stick — having only the analog option does not work for all games. The 5200’s analog joystick was a great step forward compared to the digital gamepads all prior consoles had as their main control options, but having both analog and digital options probably would have been better.

But anyway, for reasons outside for Atari’s control, the crash was probably inevitable. For the crash did not only happen because of Atari, but because of the market as a whole. The absence of a licensing model for third-party games is a key component of the crash, and that model would not develop until the mid ’80s, in response to the crash. The flood of low-quality third-party software was a major driver towards the crash. Atari did not help matters by sticking to the then five or six year old 2600 for probably too long as their main focus, but even with better decisions, a correction was probably looming. The arcade game market in the US crashed at the same time as the console market, after all; the whole gaming industry dropped significantly in sales. Computer sales increased, but not by enough to make up for the whole drop.

So, when I look at the Atari 5200’s history, I think more of the things it does right, than wrong — the reasonably nice pixel graphics that have a distinct Atari style, very different from the sprite-based visuals of the TI/Coleco but just as good overall; the interesting controller which makes as many games better as worse; the system’s good looking design and style; the introduction of the standard pause button; and the games, which I quite like many of. Unlike its rival the Colecovision the Atari 5200 did not make anywhere near as much of an impact on the industry and has far fewer games, but on a subjective level I like it more all the same.

Aesthetics and Design: The Atari 5200 is big. That is everyone’s first reaction to it, and they are right: this thing is huge! The Atari 5200 has a very large, and mostly empty, case. However, design-wise I think it looks pretty good. The box is a sleekly designed wedge with some nice styling on it. The system is durable and well built as well, they can fail but are mostly reliable. I have never had an issue with Atari 5200 hardware, and I have two of them, one of each model. The cartridges are similarly absurdly oversized, maybe four or five times bigger than the otherwise identical tiny little Atari 8-bit carts that they are often ports from, but look nice. I do wish they had end-labels, but that is now a solvable problem. And thanks to its black plastic cover on the back, even if you choose not to store you controllers in the controller holder which takes up maybe a third of the unit, it still looks great, quite unlike the Intellivision or Colecovision. That cover for the controller bay was a good idea indeed. The controllers similarly look nice, and I find them a bit less uncomfortable than Intellivision controllers are; sure, they do hurt your hand after a while and these vertically-oriented controllers were a mistake, but it’s a definite improvement over the Intellivision and Colecovision. Those added Pause, Reset, and Start buttons are fantastic as well. I wish that the Sega Master System and Atari 7800 had done that, instead of putting their pause buttons on the console itself! Overall I think the controllers look nice and work alright, so long as you can find a working one with a good rubber ring around the stick — it does not center itself, so you need that to help push the stick back to the middle after you let go. I got used to this quickly, myself. You will almost certainly need to get a repaired controller, as while Atari 5200 consoles are quite durable the controllers are infamous for failing, but with a fixed up pad it’s a fun system to use, particularly for games which make use of analog well.

The Atari 5200 only has one add-on controller, but it’s a really nice one, the Atari 5200 Trak-Ball. Where the Coleco Roller Controller (trackball) is a pretty bad, slow-to-respond ball I do not like using, this one is impressively responsive. Indeed, of the old trackballs I have, for Sega Master System, Atari 2600, Colecovision, and 5200, this one is by FAR the best! Unfortunately it only works with compatible games, which are a definite subset of the already-small 5200 library, but with most Trak-Ball compatible titles, you want to play them on trackball. Games like Centipede and Missile Command are great fun with the regular controller, but are even better on trackball. The trackball is not cheap, but it’s worth the expense. It looks really nice, too, with the same stylings as the 5200 itself. The Trak-Ball is quite large, larger than some consoles in fact, but that makes for a good, comfortable platform to use the ball on.

Game Library: The Atari 5200 library of actual released titles is tiny. WIth its lack of success and quick abandonment, Atari did not release many games for the system. Third parties did support the 5200 and released some pretty good games for it, but this system definitely does not have the most quantity of releases. I do, however, think that the games it does have are often high quality. Defender, Centipede with the trackball, Galaxian, Pole Position, and more are among the best games of the time! And while, due to its market failure there are not many original homebrew titles for the 5200, the 5200 does have a vast quantity of homebrew ports of Atari 8-bit computer games, and a whole bunch of cancelled protoypes and finished titles that were in the works when the console was abandoned in ’84. The three titles Atari released in ’86, to clear some produced games out of their warehouse, are good as well. The 5200 is a system where you really need more than the original library to get the most out of the console. Now, those 8-bit ports are very much a mixed bag, as the games were designed for a digital joystick so unless the person making the port changes the code they will often control somewhat awkwardly on the 5200’s analog joystick, but games which do adjust for that end up well.

On the whole, I’m sure it’s partially just being contrarian, but the 5200 is my second-favorite pre-crash console, after the Odyssey 2, and my favorite Atari console. I really do find it fun to play and collect for. However, as I said earlier, this console shows why no modern console has done away with the d-pad — you end up with this, digital controls awkwardly mapped to an analog stick not designed for that kind of game at all. Oh well. At least Atari tried something different, that’s much more interesting than just doing the safe thing every time! And it worked at least as much as it didn’t.

Nintendo Entertainment System, NES (aka Family Computer, or Famicom / FC, in Japan) – from Nintendo, released in mid 1983 in Japan and fall 1985 in the US (Europe later). Games released between 1983-1994, with homebrew games following. 61.91 million sold. I bought one in early 2008.

History: Japanese card and toy company Nintendo got into the videogame business in the late ’70s when they made a series of home Pong clones. After that, they started making arcade games, most notably the massive smash-hit game Donkey Kong. Nintendo then licensed their games to several American companies for home system release, including Atari for home versions of Mario Bros. and home computer versions of Donkey Kong, Coleco for home console versions of Donkey Kong and DK Jr., and others for games such as Sky Skipper on the Atari 2600. In 1982, as mentioned in the Coleco section above, Coleco convinced Nintendo to give them the license for home console versions of some of their games. After that Nintendo employees looked at the Colecovision, and as I described earlier they were impressed, but in response they decided to make something better.

And thus, the Famicom was born. It uses off-the-shelf parts, which means it does not us any custom chips, but even so was easily the most powerful console available at the time of its release, easily beating out the Colecovision and 5200. It has limitations, but with its easy expandability with mapper chips and powerful, sprite-based graphical hardware, it was an impressive technical feat at the time and its graphics and gameplay design sensibilities are very highly regarded for many good reasons. Where the Coleco has a fatal flaw in struggling to draw scrolling screens well, the NES can do so easily, particularly with those mapper chips. Where Coleco Donkey Kong clearly looks worse than the arcade game, the NES version is a very close approximation. And where Coleco, Sega, and Atari were all using late ’70s sound chips, Nintendo used something newer and better.

At first, the Famicom did well in Japan but did not overwhelm the SG-1000, its main competition. In the first year Famicom graphics were barely better than Coleco/SG-1000, and Nintendo had to recall all early systems because of a design problem. By ’84, however, things turned decisively in Nintendo’s favor, and from that point on there was no looking back. Japaense third parties started supporting the Famicom in ’84, and it quickly became the dominant gaming platform. Then, Nintendo started looking into a Western release. It finally happened in mid ’85, two years after the original release in Japan. Nintendo redesigned the case, gave it a new name, and bundled in a robot, ROB, to try to con people into thinking that the NES was a new kind of electronic toy and not another one of those discredited consoles like the Atari. They also packed in their new hit, 1985’s Super Mario Bros. It worked, and the system came to dominate the American market just like it did in Japan, just a few years behind — where in Japan the FC peaked in maybe ’85-’86, in the US it only started hitting its stride in ’87-’88. Nintendo would not see nearly as much success in Europe, however. Still, the NES would go on to sell twice what the Atari 2600 had worldwide and redefined gaming, creating some of the industry’s most enduring franchises and mascots and making it clear that Japan was one of the most important places in the world for videogame development. Indeed, while Western developers did make some NES games, almost all of the top titles are from Japan, a very different situation from consoles prior. Popular Japanese arcade games were released on consoles before, to be sure, and some, such as Pac-Man, Space Invaders, and Donkey Kong were huge hits, but at that time there were also hit Western arcade games, while on the NES Japan dominated. The remaining Western game developers mostly were making home computer games at this point, not console. That situation, with Japan being dominant in console game development and the West in computer game development, would last into the ’00s.

The Famicom also had one addon, a floppy drive called the Famicom Disk System which allowed for games to save and for cheap production costs. After initially being considered for Western release, that was cancelled; instead, Nintendo introduced the concept of password and battery saving, relying on batteries welded into the cartridge instead of floppy disks. Both ways have their downsides, in terms of long-term durability, but it would be an important move, as most other consoles afterwards would start putting batteries in carts to save data, before battery-free flash memory would slowly be phased in in the ’90s and ’00s. The Famicom also had an unpopular, early computer addon only a couple of games supported, and that robot with its two games. Seven years after its release Nintendo finally released a new console, the Super NES, in 1990 (1991 in the West, six years after the US NES). The NES/FC would continue to get game support for years after that, though, with new officially licensed games for over a decade, a mark only the most successful consoles meet. Now, just selling well does not make something objectively good, but the importance and impact of the NES is impossible to deny.

Aesthetics and Design: I have never seen a Japanese Famicom in person, but it looks … okay, if very toy-like. It has hard-wired controllers and is small. In comparison, the US version, the NES, is a true classic! Designed to look like a VCR, the NES, with its front-loading cartridge slot and high-end-electronics look, made a statement at the time and still looks great today. The cart port does have durability problems, but fortunately they are fairly easy to repair or replace, and otherwise NESes are quite reliable. NES controllers are good, but not the most comfortable things; they are rectangular, with Nintendo’s innovative d-pad and buttons layout that would totally change gamepads for the better, but have very sharp corners I have always found uncomfortable. Fortunately many other NES controller options exist that are more comfortable, including the NES Max, various arcade sticks, the NES 2 controller, and more. In Japan there is also a shutter-glasses 3D headset addon, but unfortunately that wasn’t released here; it’s too bad, I’m sure it works well. All of the official accessories look good, from the light gun to the Max to the small, second-model NES 2 console, and they all work well, that first model cart port aside.

Game Library: The NES game library is huge and is one of gaming’s most popular. I loved this console as a kid, though I did not own one, and many of its games are still fantastic today. However, some things about the NES have definitely aged, including games’ propensity to be incredibly obtuse and frustrating with way too much of the “go find the thing randomly hidden in some random tile or block which there are no clues for” school of puzzle design, and the “go grind” school of RPG design. I have never liked either of those design styles much at all. Sadly few games save, either, apart from RPGs. So, while I still like the NES, I do not unreservedly love it, and it isn’t at the top of my personal all-systems list. It is in the upper part of the list, but isn’t in the top five. The NES is still great, and has a lot of outstanding games, but while some of its games are among my all-time favorites, many others have been surpassed.  Still, the best NES games are timeless classics.

Atari 7800, 7800 – from Atari, released in 1986 (after a limited test market in 1984). Games released in 1984 (test market) and 1986 to 1990 (maybe 1991 in some areas), with some modern homebrew titles in the last decade or two. About 3.77 million systems sold. I bought a 7800 in 2013.

In 1984, as the videogame market crashed, Warner Bros. gave up on their failing Atari 5200 console. The 5200 was barely over a year old, but they effectively abandoned it in early ’84, though they did not publicly say so for some months. Instead, they looked around and decided to make a new console, one designed by a company called GCC. GCC is more famous for making the very popular hit game Ms. Pac-Man for Bally Midway, the American licensor for Namco’s Pac-Man at the time, but they also designed the Atari 7800 and made its first few games. This console’s name refers to “2600 backward compatibility plus 5200 power”, though it is a quite different console from the 5200 — this system is not 5200 or Atari 8-bit computer compatible. In terms of power, the 7800 has slightly better graphical capabilities than the 5200, with full sprite support in the modern style and more, plus better support for hardware-enhancing addons. However, the 7800 also has significantly worse sound, as the audio chip is sadly identical to the Atari 2600’s. It does support sound-enhancing chips in game carts, namely the same audio chip that the Atari 5200 uses, but only two games used them so most are limited to 2600-level audio. Additionally, its two-button digital joystick has no analog option apart from a light gun that a few games use, making some games worse and others better versus the 5200, which of course is the opposite in terms of analog versus digital.

Warner Atari test marketed the 7800 in 1984 and started production, but instead of going forward, they decided to give up on the failing American console industry and sold off Atari to Jack Tramiel, previously owner of the computer company Commodore. Tramiel sold Commodore and bought Atari’s computer and console development side. At first, he mostly wanted it for their computers, but he eventually decided to get into the console business as well. Atari’s arcade game division and game developers, however, went to a separate spun-off company, Atari Games, which stayed more closely connected to Warner. This split would be crucial, as it meant that Tramiel’s Atari could not benefit from the arcade games being made by Atari Games, such as, perhaps most notably during this era, Gauntlet, Super Sprint, Vindicators, NARC, and such. Jack Tramiel had the rights to arcade games published by Atari before the split, such as Centipede, Missile Command, and such, but not those new games. After the split Atari Games would make its own home console division under the name Tengen, since Tramiel’s Atari had exclusive rights for the name outside of arcades, and vice versa in arcades. Tengen, however, during this generation exclusively supported Nintendo; Atari home and Atari arcade would not start working together again until the early ’90s.

And on top of that, Jack Tramiel was, while well off, not as wealthy as the top companies he was competing against. Tramiel’s Atari never had the kind of money of an NEC, or the reach of Nintendo. Tramiel Atari struggled with limited budgets and many, many features unrealized because they would cost too much. And of course, Tramiel was often more focused on Atari’s computer business, including the successful Atari 8-bit line and the computer he released afterwards, the Atari ST. So, the Atari 7800 had a relatively small game library, heavy on re-releases of pre-crash classics early on, followed by a thin scattering of new, albeit clearly very low-budget, games. Atari 7800 games never have battery save, or even password save, and have much smaller max cart sizes than their later NES or Master System counterparts.

However, despite all of those limitations, the Atari 7800 was a moderate success in the US and Japan, and in the US it outsold the Sega Master System by a sizable margin to finish in second place. Sure, the NES sold like fifteen times more systems, but Atari did well enough to turn a profit; the low-budget, low-investment approach worked well in the days of 8-bit consoles, and the Atari name still had some cache. Looking at its library now it is often hard to see why it did so well, but seeing it as a newer way to play peoples’ existing Atari 2600 libraries, with a few 7800 games here and there, it does make sense. People knew the Atari name, and there may be only sixty games, but plenty of them are well-made, quality titles. After initial success in its first few years, though, 7800 sales dropped in the later ’80s. Ironically, the sales declined as the system’s game library got more new games and not only old ports, so most of the more interesting 7800 games are somewhat uncommon. Oh well. Atari stopped releasing new 7800 games in 1991, and discontinued it officially on Jan. 1, 1992. Unfortunately for Jack Tramiel the low-buget approach would work much less well in the ’90s than it did in the ’80s, but that is another story.

Aesthetics and Design: The Atari 7800 is an okay-looking console, but I don’t think it has the style or beauty of the 5200. Still, it is a reasonably average box with a clasically Atari angled wedge shape, is fully backwards compatible with the 2600, and has decent, if not great, controllers. The standard 7800 controller is vertically oriented, like the Intellivision, Colecovision, and 5200, and has side fire buttons. However, with only two large fire buttons, one on each side, and no keypad, this controller is simpler than those three. The loss of the start and pause buttons on the controller than the 5200 has is quite unfortunate, though; instead this system has a pause button on the console itself. This very obnoxious design element is also seen in Sega’s console that generation, the Master System. It was likely done for controller port wiring reasons, but it is unfortunate and makes both systems worse than they should be, having to go over to your console just to pause is not good.

As for build quality, the Atari 7800 is reasonably durable, with one exception: those buttons on the console itself. The on/off and Atari 2600 control buttons on the system are sadly prone to failure, and my 7800 is among the many which have stopped working because of button failure. This is a fixable problem if you desolder the old buttons and solder in replacements, but it is annoying. The controllers seem to be durable, however. They are mushy, unprecise, and not especially comfortable, but at least the things seem to keep working.

Atari 7800 cartridges look exactly like 2600 games, just with different labels. As a result they can be easy to mistake for 2600 games until you know what you are looking for. The shape is classic, though, so it works fine.

Game Library: Because of the somewhat unique circumstances of this console, I decided to cover the game library section above, in History. But to recap, the Atari 7800 has a small, about 60-game library. This is about the same number of games that the 5200 got, but spread out over more years. The library is heavy on pre-crash ports for its first year or two, or games inspired by that kind of game. Later on it got more variety of games, but it rarely ventured beyond early-ish NES design. Additionally, since the controller is digital-only, the 5200’s analog advantage/disadvantage is lost; it’s really too bad that Atari and GCC did not think of having both analog AND digital control options available here, it would have been the better way! After all, some games benefit from each.

The games run well and plenty of the games are good, but with many multiplatform ports, not all of which are better than previous versions of the same games — Centipede suffers significantly versus the 5200 version due to its controls, for example — and exclusives which I often do not find as exciting as games on other formats, the 7800 ranks somewhat low on my list. The Atari 7800 is a decent console possibly worth owning for the right price, and it does have some interesting modern homebrew software though I do not have any of those, but I find it somewhat disappointing. Atari went for something safe with this design and it worked out reasonably well for them, but I find the bolder concept of the 5200 more interesting.

Master System, SMS  (aka Mark III in Japan) – from Sega, released in 1985 in Japan, 1986 in the US, later in Europe. Games released from 1985 to 1995 and even later in Brazil, though not in any one region; it lasted 1985-1989 in Japan, 1986-1991 in the US, and 1987-1995 in Europe, where it saw its greatest success outside of Brazil. 10-13 million sold, not including modern Brazilian clone systems, though in the US the system sold only a million systems and finished in third place in a three-way race.

History: Arcade game developer Sega’s first home console was the aforementioned, Colecovision-based SG-1000, which only released in Japan and a few Western nations but not the US. Despite eventually being absolutely crushed by the NES, the SG-1000 apparently did better than Sega’s initial low expectations, so once it faded they decided to release a successor. Called the Mark III in Japan, this console is fully backwards compatible with the SG-1000 and uses the same shape of Atari 2600-style, vertically-oriented cartridges. Before releasing the console in the rest of the world, however, Sega decided to give it a name and design change, and the Sega Master System was born. The Master System is effectively the same thing as the Mark III, it just looks different. Both have very ’80s-cool hardware designs. Master System carts are turned on end, going from vertical rectangles to horizontal ones. And the SG-1000 compatibility is gone even in nations which recieved it, since those carts are a different shape.

The Mark III is the last console of its generation, and graphically you can tell. Releasing three years after the Colecovision and two years before the PC Engine (TurboGrafx), the Mark III / Master System, as you should expect, has the best graphical capabilities of any console of its generation. Master System graphics can look pretty good. Effectively the Master System is just adding a new, powerful graphics layer on top of the core SG-1000 (Colecovision) hardware, but it works. Unfortunately, aurally the Master System uses the same TI sound chip as the SG-1000 and Colecovision before it, and it is no match for NES/Famicom audio, not even close. Sega realized this and released an FM sound addon which gives usually much better music in games which support it, but sadly the FM addon only released in Japan. Sega also released a model in Japan called the “Master System”, a Mark III in the Western-style MS shell with a built-in FM addon and 3d glasses hookup.

Despite this, facing stiff competition from the trancendant Famicom (NES), the Mark III sold poorly in Japan, failing to provide Nintendo with much competition. In America the situation was little different, and Sega’s first console here sold poorly. It did just well enough to get five years of support, but the NES outsold it thirty to one and even the Atari 7800 probably doubled its sales here. In Europe and Brazil, however, Sega found a more receptive audience, as Nintendo was much less adept at reaching those markets. In Europe they fought Nintendo to a draw, and Brazilian company TecToy managed to make the SMS one of the most popular consoles ever there. TecToy made a few games for the system as well, later on.

After the Mark III/Master System’s discontinuation in Japan, in 1990 Sega decided to release a handheld to compete with NIntendo’s Game Boy. Called the Game Gear, the system is a handheld version of the Master System, with a lower screen resolution and more colors supported on screen but otherwise identical hardware. From this point on, many games released on both GG and SMS, albeit usually on SMS only in Europe and perhaps Brazil. In 1995 Sega finally decided to discontinue the SMS in Europe, as 8-bit hardware sales there were finally fading. The system had a much longer and more successful run internationally than its failure in the US and Japan would suggest, overall.

Aesthetics and Design: The Mark III and Master System are both pretty nice looking systems, with extremely ’80s, but pretty cool, looks to them. The SMS is a nice looking system for the time. However, in terms of design it has one major flaw: just like the Atari 7800 above, the pause button is on the console! Even if this is done for button-wiring reasons, it really is unacceptable, particularly here; on the 7800, at least, all that button does is pause games, but here some games require you to pause in order to access options menus and such. So, you’ll need to be sitting right in front of your SMS in order to play games like Golvellius. It’s pretty annoying stuff.

Master System controllers are not too well thought of, and I agree with that assessment. With a somewhat mushy d-pad and buttons, Sega may have copied Nintendo’s revolutionary controller on this console, but they did not match its level of function either in button feel, responsiveness, or that missing pause button. Still, SMS controllers are decent, and do the job okay. Additionally, most SMS games support the fantastic Sega Genesis controller as well. Unfortuantely, some games, including the aforementioned Golvellius, require you to use a real SMS controller or a modified Genesis controller to play, but for the rest of the games any Genesis cotnroller will work and is highly recommended. Sega’s third console’s controller would be a dramatic improvement over their previous ones.

The Master System has multiple accessories, though they are quite mixed in quality. On the good side, the SMS light gun, the Light Phaser, is quite good, with a nice futuristic design and much better accuracy than a NES Zapper. The SMS 3-D Glasses, 3-d shutter glasses, work great as well; the 3-d imagery is surprisingly convincing. However, the Sega Sports Pad trackball is both horribly slow to move and, mystifingly, only works in analog mode with two sports games and not any of the games you’d expect a trackball to work with. It’s a pretty bad trackball. The Sega flight stick controller is strange as well; it looks like an arcade stick but backwards, wit hthe stick on the right and buttons on the left. It’s very strange as a result. Having the stick on the right works in a regular flightstick, but this isn’t one, it has no buttons on it and is not analog, so it really does not work very well here. There is also a paddle controller in Japan only; I don’t have that one.

Oh, and the Sega Master System is also somewhat infamous for its Western box-art; most of the ’80s SMS titles, including most games released in the US, have absurdly simplistic, verging on horrible, box art. It’s really in “so bad it’s good” territory a lot of the time, but seriously, Sega could have done a whole lot better than this!

Game Library: The Sega Master System library pales in comparison to the NES’s, but is solid otherwise, with a good selection of quality titles and plenty of exclusives as well as ports of many Sega arcade games. However, the early-life titles, the ones we got in the US, don’t match Nintendo quality in my opinion most of the time — though the light gun games are better than Nintendo’s for sure, and some others — and the later games only released in Europe are often cheap, simplistic licensed cash-ins. Indeed, the SMS has something of a split personality. Where its early games are usually super-hard games in that classic style, a lot of the later SMS/GG titles are easy and slight titles most people will get though without much trouble. There are exceptions to this of course, but it is often true. I am a critic of the quality of the Game Gear’s library; I think a lof its games just are not very good. These games are often much better on the SMS than they are on Game Gear, as the greater screen visibility of its higher resolution means a lot in platformers for example, but the core games are still often lower-quality licensed cash-in titles from second-rate external teams such as Aspect. Sega made many fewer of its handheld games in-house than Nintendo did, and I think that you can tell the difference. So, overall I think that the SMS has an alright library and it certainly has plenty of good games, but as someone without any nostalgia for the system since like most Americans everyone I knew with a console that generation had a NES, it’s still in the (upper part of the) lower third of my list. I know this is a subjective thing, though.

Overall, my personal ranking for consoles of this generation is:

1. NES – This is no contest, the NES is one of the all-time greats. With a massive library of some of the best and most influential games ever made, the NES had an impact on this industry few systems get even close to and while some of its games have aged, many are as fun today as they ever were.

2. Atari 5200 – I know most people would not agree with this one, but there’s something about this system that I really like. The analog controller is interesting and makes as many games better as it makes worse, and that trackball is probably the best one I’ve ever used! It’s a nice-looking system too, and having the first automatic RF switch (finicky as it is) and pause button on the controller are appreciated as well.

3. Sega Master System – With a reasonably large library of games and plenty of interesting hardware features, the Master System easily comes in third. I don’t love this system like the NES, but it can be pretty good.

4. Colecovision – While the Colecovision is arguably the most important system on this list in terms of industry impact, and its libary includes plenty of good games, between the awful controllers, incredibly ugly console, dearth of exclusives, and that signature lack of smooth scrolling seen in all of the systems with this TI graphics chip, while I have definitely had fun with the Colecovision I can’t put it any higher on this list than this.

5. Atari 7800 – The Atari 7800 was a financial success for Atari and has some pretty good games. Beyond that, though, between its awful audio, limited controller, and small, often unimpressive game library, for me this system takes up the rear here. Sure, if my 7800 worked better that would be great, but I doubt it would move it up this list any; the competition is too strong.

Posted in Atari 5200, Atari 7800, Classic Games, Colecovision, Game Opinion Summaries, NES, Reviews, Sega Master System | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pendulous review update – 16-bit emulator and full game release

I wrote a review of Pendulous in August 2015.  In February 2017, the games’ original creator found my review and decided to release the full game for free in response.  That was a very nice thing to do and I have been enjoying the full game ever since, but I never made a post about it, I only mentioned it in that article.  Now, however, I have made anther find related to this game, one which makes this little update quite valuable: there’s now a way to play Pendulous, with no problems, in 64-bit Windows 10!  Yes, it’s true, and it’s because of an emulator called OTVDM.  So, I went back to my Pendulous review and lightly edited it to add in mentions of these two important items, mention of the release of the full game, and to cover that emulator I learned about recently that runs 16-bit Windows applications. A few spelling errors were also corrected. The rest of the review has been left as it is.

The review is here: http://www.blackfalcongames.net/?p=225

The links to OTVDM and the full game are in the links section at the end of the article.

Posted in Classic Games, PC, Updates | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Opinion List: Update to the Consoles Ranking List and new Platform Favorite Games Lists ‘new’ platforms

In 2015, I made a list of how much I like all of the consoles I had at the time. Additionally, that list also includes lists of my favorite games for every console I own.  I did not attempt to make an overall-favorites list because that would be too hard, so this will have to do because this new update is the same way.

In the four years since,  I have gotten quite a few more platforms, so I thought that while I work on my ongoing game opinion summaries lists, the time has come for an update to that article. There are things to like about every console and ranking them is a somewhat silly enterprise, but it’s fun to do anyway so here a list is.

Now, while I have bought games, in some cases many games, for all but a few of the consoles I had as of 2015, I am not going to redo the ‘my favorite games’ lists for most of the consoles I covered in the first article. Instead, for now I will just make lists for the new platforms. I could add games to the old lists, but for the most part they still stand as good summations of what I think of most of those consoles. The only exception is the 3DS, whose list has changed so much that I need a new one, so that is below.

The other platforms that I have bought over the last four years and will make ‘my favorite games’ lists below for are: 3DO, Atari Jaguar, Colecovision, Mattel Intellivision, Nintendo Switch, Nokia N-Gage, Philips CD-i, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Tiger R-Zone, Wii U, and Xbox One.

Console Ranking List

1. Nintendo 64, N64
2. (tie) Super Nintendo, SNES
2. (tie) Sega Genesis, Gen (with Sega CD, SCD & Sega 32X, 32X)
3. Nintendo DS, DS
4. Game Boy, GB
5. TurboGrafx-16, TG16 (with Turbo CD, TCD)
6. Gamecube, GC
7. Dreamcast, DC
8. Nintendo 3DS, 3DS
9. NES
10. Wii U
11. Wii
12. Odyssey 2, O2
13. Nintendo Switch, NS
14. Game Boy Advance, GBA
15. Atari 5200, 5200
17. Atari 2600, 2600
18. Xbox 360, X360
16. Saturn, SS
19. Xbox
20. Neo Geo Pocket Color
21. Virtual Boy, VB
22. Game Boy Color, GBC
23. Xbox One, XONE
24. 3DO
25. Atari Jaguar, JAG
26. PlayStation Portable, PSP
27. Sega Master System, SMS
28. PlayStation, PSX, PS1
29. Colecovision, CVIS
30. PlayStation Vita, PSV
31. Game Gear, GG
32. Atari 7800, 7800
33. Mattel Intellivision, INTV
34. Philips CD-i, CDI
35. PlayStation 3, PS3
36. Nokia N-Gage, NNG
37. PlayStation 2, PS2
38. Tiger R-Zone (if you count this as a console)

If you compare this to the old list, you will see that most systems stay in the same places they were before with only a few exceptions. Those are, first, I moved the 3DS way up the list. While the 3DS is not quite the equal of the DS or Game Boy, it is a fantastic system I still use every day. The system is now fading out, but lasted into 2019 and has a larger and better library than it did four years ago, and also I have played more of the games.
Second, I moved the Atari 2600 up a few spots, above the Saturn and Xbox 360. Those systems are both pretty good, but while I really do prefer the 5200 to the 2600, the 2600 has a lot of games which are still very fun. All systems age over time, but today the 2600 is well under-rated and deserves to be remembered.

Otherwise, it is mostly the same as the old list. I’d like to make some comments on where the new systems fall on the list, though. A few of these were tough choices, and I’m far from certain about the best order of a few parts. Most notably, I’m torn between the Wii and Wii U, and also I’m not entirely sure about the order in the new Xbox One, 3DO, and Jaguar block. I went with the Wii U over the Wii, despite the Wii’s far larger library, because in the last few years since I got it I have played a lot more Wii U than Wii, and while the Wii absolutely has a vastly larger and better game library, if you compare only the top games the Wii U is right there with it, or better; nothing on the Wii has addicted me like Mario Maker.

As for the Xbox One’s placement, it’s a very good system in a lot of ways, but the game library holds it back; with very few exclusives and often underwhelming first-party offerings, it has to go lower than the other Xboxes. I decided to put it over the 3DO and Jaguar, despite it probably having fewer exclusive games than either of them, because on the whole, including the games and services, it’s an impressive system. As for the 3DO and Jag, as per my 3DO-Jaguar-32X list from a bit ago the 3DO probably has to go above the Jaguar, though I do find the Jag’s oddness quite charming, and can definitely make a case or the Jag being better, based on that I value games I really like over having the largest library and the Jag has an all-time classic in Tempest 2000.  The 3DO has other factors in its favor, though, so it is very close between the two of them. Either way on that, the two are pretty close so I put them next to eachother, at the right point in the list. There are things I like about the Jaguar, but it’s too flawed to finish higher on the list than it is, unfortunately.

Lastly, I was somewhat torn between the Intellivision and CD-i for fifth worst. Putting the PS3, N-Gage, and R-Zone in the bottom five were easy calls, but deciding between those two for numbers 33 and 34 was much harder. I ended up deciding that the Intellivision edged out the CD-i because even though the CD-i has better controllers and far better framerates in most of its games, I rarely enjoy the kind of games the CD-i is best at, video-heavy titles, so I find the Intellivision’s best games to be better than anything I have played on CD-i. Thus the Intellivision narrowly avoids being in the bottom group.

As for the Colecovision, I could understand why some people would put it much higher on the list, but while I like some things on it for sure and it was definitely a very important system for the industry, for now I think it’s in the right place. If I get a better controller for it someday and some more games it could move up, though.

It’s hard to rank consoles. I like most of the systems on this list in some way or another, after all; only the bottom four are systems I really all-around dislike. For quite a few of these systems I look at their placement and think ‘this should go higher’, but you can’t move everything higher all of the time, so I guess this will have to do.

Platform Specific Lists for Consoles Not in the Old List Or Significantly Changed

Note, this list is alphabetical by platform.

3DO

1. Star Control II
2. StarFighter
3. Samurai Shodown
4. Return Fire
5. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Slayer
6. BattleSport
7. Super Street Fighter II Turbo
8. The Incredible Machine
9. Blade Force
10. Shockwave 2: Beyond the Gate

Honorable Mentions: Doom, Wolfenstein 3D, Star Wars: Rebel Assault, D, Gex, Shanghai: Triple Threat, The Need for Speed, Road Rash, Soccer Kid, Myst, PO’ed. Not on my list, but noteworthy: Out of this World, Flashback, Alone in the Dark 1 and 2.

Atari Jaguar and Jaguar CD

1. Tempest 2000
2. Jeff Minter Classics (Homebrew Release)
3. Iron Soldier
4. Zoop
5. Hover Strike: Unconquered Lands (CD)
6. I-War
7. Cybermorph
8. Club Drive
9. Val D’Isere Skiing and Snowboarding
10. Blue Lightning (CD)

Colecovision

1. Mr. Do!
2. Nova Blast
3. Pepper II
4. Linking Logic
5. Omega Race
6. Space Fury
7. Gateway to Apshai
8. Zaxxon
9. Defender
10. Venture
11. Miner 2049er

Honorable Mentions: Time Pilot, Space Panic, Fortune Builder, Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Junior, Looping.

Mattel Intellivision

1. Snafu
2. BurgerTime
3. Demon Attack
4. Atlantis
5. Space Spartans
6. Microsurgeon
7. B-17 Bomber
8. Loco-Motion
9. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons
10. Pinball
11. Bomb Squad

Honorable Mentions: Vectron, Tennis, Lock ‘n Chase, Dragonfire, Bowling, Venture.

Nintendo Switch

For this system I’m going to list new games and classic ports or remakes seprately. First, new games.

1. Super Mario Maker 2
2. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
3. Super Mario Odyssey
4. Splatoon 2
5. Tetris 99
6. Collection of Mana (for the first English version of Mana 3!)
7. Gunlord X (DC homebrew port but I’ll count it)
8. Puyo Puyo Tetris
9. Mario & Rabbids: Kingdom Battle
10. Kirby Star Allies
11. Xenoblade Chronicles 2
12. Blossom Tales
13. Starlink: Battle for Atlas

Honorable Mentions: Nine Parchments, Super Bomberman R, Fire Emblem Warriors, Shining Resonance Refrain, Kamiko, Daemon X Machina, Fire Emblem: Two Houses, Dragon Quest Builders, Octopath Traveler, Mega Man 11, Mutant Mudds Collection, Golf Peaks, Party Crashers, Sweet Witches, Jumping Joe & Friends

Nintendo Switch classic remakes, re-releases, or enhanced re-releases:

1. SEGA AGES: Sonic the Hedgehog (Genesis)
2. ACA NeoGeo: The Last Blade 2
3. Collection of Mana (for Final Fantasy Adventure)
4. SEGA AGES: Lightening Force: Quest for the Darkstar
5. ACA NeoGeo: Blazing Star
6. SEGA AGES: Virtua Racing
7. Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap
8. ACA NeoGeo: Aero Fighters 2
9. SEGA AGES: Phantasy Star
10. Johnny Turbo’s Arcade – Gate of Doom & Johnny Turbo’s Arcade – Wizard Fire
11. Wild Guns Reloaded

And many more!

Nokia N-Gage

1. Pathway to Glory
2. System Rush
3. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater

Honorable Mentions: The games probably worth playing are mostly games I don’t have — Civilization, Rifts, Pathway to Glory 2, and such. Of the other games I have, I guess Super Monkey Ball is vaguely of note.

Philips CD-i

1. Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon
2. Link: The Faces of Evil
3. Laser Lords
4. Accelerator
5. Inca
6. The Apprentice
7. Lucky Luke

Honorable Mentions: Jigsaw, Defender of the Crown, Lords of the Rising Sun, Dragon’s Lair, Space Ace; non-games or edutainment: A National Parks Tour, Treasures of the Smithsonian, Time-Life Presents 35mm Photography, Mother Goose: Hidden Pictures, Richard Scarry’s Busiest Neighborhood Disc Ever, etc…

PlayStation 3

1. Wipeout HD
2. 3D Dot Game Heroes
3. Dragon’s Crown
4. Thexder Neo
5. R-Type Dimensions
6. MotorStorm: Apocalypse
7. Trails of Cold Steel
8. MotorStorm
9. Disgaea 3
10. After Burner Climax

Honorable Mentions: MotorStorm: Pacific Rift, Deception IV: Blood Ties, Nitroplus Blasterz, Battle Princess of Arcadias, Mamorukun Curse!, Resogun, Warhawk, Under Night In-Birth EXE:Late, Ratchet & Clank: Tools of Destruction, Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, Aegis of Earth, Mugen Souls Z, Lair, Tales of Xilia, Demon’s Souls, White Knight Chronicles II, Sports Champions; PS Minis: Trailblazer, Fortix, Echoes. There are many more JRPGs on this system I haven’t played that are potentially worthy of note as well, though quite a few are also on PC now.

PlayStation Vita

1. Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana
2. TxK
3. Wipeout 2048
4. Summon Night 6: Lost Borders
5. Ys: Memories of Celceta
6. BlazBlue: ChronoPhantasma Extend
7. Grand Kingdom
8. ClaDun: This Is Sengoku
9. Exist Archive: The Other Side of the Sky
10. Utuwarerumono: Mask of Deception

Honorable Mentions: Operation Babel: New Tokyo Legacy, Utuwarerumono: Mask of Truth, Senran Kagura: Estival Versus, Soul Sacrifice, Ragnarok Odyssey, Persona 4 Golden, Touhou Double Focus, StarDrone Extreme, Stranger of Sword City.

Tiger R-Zone

1. Batman & Robin

I only have one game for this system, still, so it is simultaneously its best and worst game! (I’m sure it’s not the worst though, this game’s got a little more to it than some R-Zone games seem to.)

Wii U

The top five on this system are so amazing they vault it high on the list of best systems ever (plus, for most but not me, Zelda: Breath of the Wild).

1. Super Mario Maker
2. Super Mario 3D World
3. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD
4. Splatoon
5. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U
6. Xenoblade Chronicles X
7. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD
8. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
9. Sonic: Lost World
10. RUSH

Honorable Mentions: Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars (a fantastic game now crippled by its online level trading being shut down), DuckTales Remastered, Rayman Legends, Art of Balance, Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara, Mario Kart 8, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, Star Fox Guard, Hyrule Warriors, Skylanders Swap Force, Skylanders Giants, Axiom Verge, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse (also on 3DS).

Xbox One

1. Rare Replay
2. Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions
3. Tempest 4000
4. Samurai Shodown (2019)
5. Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey
6. Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition
7. Goat Simulator
8. Dead or Alive 5: Last Round
9. Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate
10. Cuphead

Honorable Mentions: Sunset Overdrive, Forza Horizon 3, For Honor, Destiny, Destiny 2, Dead or Alive 6, Inside, Moto Racer 4, ReCore, ONRUSH, TrackMania Turbo, Race the Sun, Crimson Dragon, Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon (also on Switch, PC), Anthem.

Nintendo 3DS (Updated List)

I will really, really miss dedicated handhelds, the Switch is not the same at all compared to this amazing system!

1. Fire Emblem Awakening
2. Etrian Odyssey Nexus
3. Picross 3D Round 2
4. Fire Emblem Fates
5. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
6. Super Mario Maker for 3DS
7. WarioWare Gold
8. Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan
9. Picross e [series]
10. Ever Oasis
11. Puzzle & Dragons Z + Puzzle & Dragons Super Mario Bros. Edition
12. SubaraCity
13. Kid Icarus Uprising
14. Color Zen
15. Metroid: Samus Returns
16. Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask
17. Etrian Odyssey V: Beyond the Myth

Honorable Mentions: Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido, Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy, Mario & Luigi: Tipping Stars, SEGA 3D Classics: OutRun, Parascientific Escape: Cruise on the Distant Seas, Crashmo, Chicken Wiggle, BoxBoy! and its sequels, more Sega 3D Classics titles (Super Hang-On, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Space Harrier, Streets of Rage 2, etc…), Luxor, The Legend of Legacy, Mario Kart 7, Tetris Axis, 7th Dragon: Code VFD, Paper Mario Sticker Star, Super Mario 3D Land, Sonic Lost World, Hyrule Warriors Legends, Super Smash Bros. for 3DS, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse, Mutant Mudds, and lots more.

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Console Opinion Summaries For My Systems – Introduction, Table of Contents, and the First and Second Generations

Yes, it’s something new again and not what I was talking about. Well, I think this is more interesting than discussing a bunch of sports games and such. I will get to that, but first, this is something I’ve been thinking about here and there for a long time but never made. Yes, it is like a Game Opinion Summaries list, but for all the consoles I own. I’ve got a fairly sizable collection now!

When it comes to computers I will discuss them in brief, but I cannot cover the breadth of the PC’s history and library here, so I won’t try. I chose “Console Opinion Summaries” for a reason; I love PC gaming a whole lot, but that would be a topic beyond the scope of this article. Suffice to say, the PC is the best gaming platform and always has been my favorite. Comparing that to consoles, which each have a limited life, is not entirely fair. I could compare each operating system or such, but instead I’ll just mention the PC very briefly and mostly focus on the consoles I own in this list, and the one classic computer I have as well since I exclusively use it for games.

This article is a work in progress. For now only the first party, the Atari 2600 summary, is complete, but this article will eventually also cover all of the second generation platforms I have. Future articles will cover the later generations. If it’s not done soon I probably will post another article saying when I finish this one.


Table of Contents For This Series

 

Please note: for the dates listed below, the first date is the system’s first release year anywhere in the world. The second date in parenthesis, if present, is the release year in North America, where I live if it is different from the first year.

An addon is a platform which attaches to a previously released console, increasing its hardware abilities. If a system is an addon I note that below. Addons are currently listed with the generation that their base platform released in, though I could see changing this at some point in the future; it is debatable.

First Generation
(none)

Second Generation
Atari 2600, 2600 1977
Odyssey2/Videopac, O2 1978
Texas Instruments TI-99/4 & TI-99/4A 1979 (1981 for the TI99/4A model; the original, rarer, TI99 model released in ’79.)
Mattel Intellivision, INTV 1979 test market, 1980 wide release
Game & Watch 1980
PC 1981

Third Generation
Colecovision, CVIS 1982
Atari 5200, 5200 1982
NES 1983 (1985)
Atari 7800, 7800 1984 (1986)
[Macintosh, Mac (Mac Only) 1984]
Master System, SMS 1985 (1986)

Fourth Generation
TurboGrafx-16, TG16 1987 (1989)
TurboGrafx-CD, TCD 1988 (1989) (TurboGrafx-16 addon)
Genesis, Gen 1988 (1989)
Game Boy, GB 1989
Phillips CD-i, CDI 1990
Game Gear, GG 1990 (1991)
Super NES, SNES 1990 (1991)
Sega CD, SCD 1991 (1992) (Sega Genesis addon)
Sega 32X, 32X 1994 (Sega Genesis addon)
Sega 32X CD, 32XCD 1994

Fifth Generation
Atari Jaguar, JAG 1993
3DO 1993
PlayStation, PSX, PS1 1994 (1995)
Saturn, SS 1994 (1995)
R-Zone 1995
Virtual Boy, VB 1995
Atari Jaguar CD, JCD 1995 (Atari Jaguar addon)
Nintendo 64 1996
Game Boy Color 1998
Neo Geo Pocket & Neo Geo Pocket Color 1998 (1999 for the Neo Geo Pocket Color model that I have)
Nintendo 64DD, N64DD 1999

Sixth Generation
Dreamcast, DC 1998 (1999)
PlayStation 2, PS2 2000
Xbox 2001
Game Boy Advance, GBA 2001
GameCube, GCN 2001

Seventh Generation
N-Gage, NNG 2003
Nintendo DS, NDS 2004
Xbox 360 2005
PSP 2004 (2005)
Wii 2006
PlayStation 3 2006
[Nintendo DSi, NDSi – DD (DSiWare) 2008]

Eighth Generation
Nintendo 3DS + 3DS DD (eShop) Combined Total 2011
PlayStation Vita 2011 (2012)
Wii U 2012
Xbox One, XONE 2013
Nintendo Switch, NS 2017 (provisional placement in 8th gen)

So, here is the section in this article.

Table of Contents for this Article

 

First Generation
(none)

Second Generation
Atari 2600, 2600 1977
Odyssey2/Videopac, O2 1978
Texas Instruments TI-99/4 & TI-99/4A 1979 (1981 for the TI99/4A model; the original, rarer, TI99 model released in ’79.)
Mattel Intellivision, INTV 1979 test market, 1980 wide release
Game & Watch 1980
IBM PC 1981

First Generation

 

The first generation of game consoles started in 1972 with the release of the Magnavox Odyssey, and consisted of the Odyssey 1, designed by engineer Ralph Baer, and later on numerous home Pong systems and Pong clones from many manufacturers, based on Atari’s breakout hit arcade game Pong. I have seen a few home Pongs for sale in stores, but have never used one myself; I was born in the early 1980s, but my first gaming experiences were in arcades and on the PC and NES, not first or second generation consoles. Perhaps oddly, growing up I did not know anyone with any console older than a NES, so while I knew of Pong and the second generation consoles, I had not used them myself until the ’00s.  So while I have read about these systems I’ve never used one so it will not have a large section here.  Determining the origins of electronic gaming is a quite interesting endeavor, look it up.  But while there is history in this article, retelling game history isn’t my focus here, covering platforms I actually have experienced is, so I will move on.  Someday I probably will get some home Pongs, it might be neat to have.

Second Generation

 

Continuing from the above, when I did go back in the ’00s to try Atari games, first in emulated re-releases and then more recently when I started collecting the actual consoles, I found them interesting. At their best, second generation games are simple and repetitive but fun experiences. These are not games I often play for hours, but that’s fine; having very fun games you can play for a few minutes before moving on to something else has a place too, without question. When these games start getting more complex I think they often struggle, but the simpler games dominate and many of them are good.

The second generation started in 1976. At first sales were slow, but they picked up in 1980 after the release of Space Invaders. 1982 and 1983 particularly saw a massive growth of software and hardware, as the industry boomed both in arcades and at home. It was not sustainable, however, and the American console and arcade industries crashed in the famous Video Game Crash of 1984. Computer gaming grew during this period, but while growing, computer sales were far lower than console sales had been; many people simply stopped playing games for some years. The crash had multiple causes, including that there was no licensing system for console games yet so third party game publishers did not pay first party console owners anything and that quality control got very low in 1982-1983, causing a massive glut of very similar, and often low quality, games. Perhaps some people were tiring of the kinds of games available as well, and others moved over to computers, as the Commodore 64, particularly, released in 1983 and was a big hit in the mid ’80s selling millions of systems. At this point many manufacturers thought that computer-console hybrids were the future, and almost everyone tried making them. Most failed.

During the crash most hardware and software publishers folded, and most consoles went out of production, but after it, as home console gaming recovered in 1986, several of the more popular pre-crash consoles came back. This gave the Atari 2600 new life, particularly, and the Intellivision as well. Overall, this is an interesting era in gaming. A lot of people today ignore everything before the NES, deeming the games too simple to be worth their time, but I don’t agree at all; sure, as I said, yes, pre-crash games are simple, but they are often great fun! Seeing the origins of the industry are interesting as well, as people tried things, not knowing if they would work or not, because there was no textbook for how to make a console or a game; you just had to make things and see if it worked. It can be fascinating stuff.

Here, I should put a note — while most online lists consider the new consoles of 1982 to be part of the second generation, as per my ariticle on this site years ago I disagree, and I’m sticking to that. So, the Atari 5200 and Colecovision, despite being pre-crash systems, will be covered in the third generation article. The Intellivision is really an in-between system, but as it released closer to the Atari 2600 than it did the Colecovision — the Intellivision test market was two years after the Atari 2600 and two and a half before the Colecovision — I’m leaving that in the second gen. It’s kind of a judgment call but I think it makes sense.

Despite that, many consoles released in the second generation. I have the most popular ones, including three consoles and one, kind of two, computer platforms. I have written articles on this site before covering games from all of these platforms except for the Game & Watch, but now I’ll discuss them again. focusing on the systems in general this time instead of the specific games.

Atari 2600from Atari, released 1977; discontinued 1992; final game release 1990 (1992 in Europe). 30 million sold, not including modern clone systems. I purchased one in 2013.

History: The Atari 2600 was the first hit video game console. It was not the first console with interchangeable game cartridges with ROM chips on them, that was the Fairchild Channel F, but it brought the game console into American homes in a way that would not happen again until the NES. In the US the Atari 2600 outsold all other consoles before the NES by at least ten to one, so they dominated the industry. As I said earlier, its first years were slower. There were no third-party games at all in the ’70s, in fact; the first third party, Activision, was founded in 1980 by some disaffected former Atari employees. The boom years of ’82 and ’83 provide a large percentage of the overall Atari 2600 library, before the crash, again partially because of that massive software boom, dropped support to zero in 1985 before its rebirth the next year. The late-era 2600 games often are pretty interesting, and provide some of the system’s better titles. The system continued to sell, too, so many are not hard to find. Atari finally stopped making games for the 2600 in 1990, and that was its last year of support here in the US. A couple of final third party games released in Europe in 1992, and at the beginning of that same year Atari officially discontinued the platform. It is still an extremely influential system that any gamer should try.

Aesthetics and Design: The original Atari 2600 has an iconic look, with a ridged, fake woodgrain top and the cartridge at an angle at the back, label facing away from you. In fact, the cartridge ports face away from you as well, and controller cables are extremely short in these pre-crash consoles so you will need the system very close to where you are sitting. The backwards cartridges are unfortunate, many of these games have nice artwork on the carts you can’t look at while playing. Additionally, the 2600 has switches on the console itself you will need to use during play, to select which game mode you want to play, to start and restart games, set the difficulty, and more. You cannot pause a game in progress, though; that would be a later innovation. These early consoles were intended to sit on the floor, but if, like most collectors today, you don’t want to do that you will either need a setup which allows you to sit close to the system, as I kind of have, or will need to take it out when using it. This is an inconvenient issue with all of these consoles and it is worth mentioning. My solution is to have a small multi-shelf unit near the chairs in the room for the consoles that need to be close to the seats, and that works for me. Anyway, the Atari 2600 looks okay and the look is definitely memorable, but I’ve always thought it looks kind of bland. Of the pre-crash consoles this is definitely not one of the better looking ones in my book. It’s far from the worst, but is average looking at best. I know some people love this design, but I’m just not a big fan. The controllers have a stiff joystick which barely moves and one button. They are okay once you get used to how little that stick moves, but like many people I would recommend using a Sega Genesis controller instead — they are fully compatible with the 2600 and I like the feel much more. In addition to its regular controller the 2600 has several alternate controllers, among which I have the paddle controllers, driving controller, keypad, and kids’ controller. The paddle controllers are the most important, as they are fantastic and many of the games that require them are among the system’s best.

Game Library: As befitting it success, of the pre-crash consoles the Atari 2600 has by far the most games. With hundreds of games releasing during its 14-year active life in the US and numerous homebrew games from fans releasing in the decades since, the Atari 2600 has by far the largest and, by most metrics, best library of the pre-crash consoles. I like the 2600 and its games, but despite its massive numerical advantage this system is not my favorite second-gen console. Still, it is a quite good one.   The system’s shooters are particularly good, but racing games and maze games also stand out. Those were some of the top genres of the time and the 2600 has great games in all of them. And again those games for the paddle controllers are really cool, the paddles are great. I love the driving controller too, it’s a real shame that only one game was made for it.  Atari 2600 collecting is mostly very cheap, and the games are often fun so it’s rewarding.  Even if the games aren’t great, seeing how the 2600 handled much more powerful arcade games can be fascinating.  I covered some Atari 2600 games once, in a Game Opinion Summaries list some years ago that is on this site, and will do an update at some point hopefully not too far off where I cover the many more games I have gotten since.

Odyssey 2 / Videopac, O2 from Magnavox, later Phillips-Magnavox, or Phillips in Europe. Released 1978, discontinued 1983, final game release that same year, though Europe did get a followup system that lasted into 1984. In the last few decades homebrew developers have brought this system back to life. 2 million sold. I purchased an O2 in 2012.

History: The strange and fascinating Odyssey 2 released in

Aesthetics and Design:

Game Library:

Texas Instruments TI-99/4 & TI-99/4A from Texas Instruments. The first model, the TI 99/4, released in 1979, and the second, the TI 99/4A that I have, released in 1981; discontinued 1983, though homebrew developers have kept it alive. Sales – unclear? The TI99/4A did sell far better than the first model though, TI99/4 systems are uncommon. I got one in 2014.

History: Texas Instruments invented the integrated circuit that makes complex electronic devices like game consoles possible. Over the decades, they have been extremely successful as a chipmaker, but on the consumer side their only lasting success has been their line of graphing calculators. Their one attempt at a consumer home computer was this one, the TI 99/4 and TI 99/4A line which lasted from 1979 to 1984. Never particularly successful, the system was discontinued during the video game crash because, primarily, Commodore’s Vic-20 computer beat the TI99/4A on everything – price, features, and software. TI tried to match Commodore’s rock-bottom pricing, but all that led to was money losses, until TI cut its losses and got out.

The system’s graphics and audio chips are extremely influential, however. The audio chip in the TI99/4A would be used in many consoles over the decades, including the Colecovision, Sega SG-1000, Sega Master System, and more. The Colecovision and SG-1000 uses the same TI video chip from the TI99 as well, and the Master System and Sega Genesis use chips which are backwards compatible with it. None of those systems use TI’s CPU that is the core of the TI99, but in terms of its graphical and aural look, the TI99 has a style very reminiscent of the Colecovision, with sprites on drawn backgrounds. It’s a quite different look from the all-pixel style of Atari systems of the time. The graphics have aged reasonably well, though that audio chip’s never been great. The few games with speech synthesizer support, if you have that addon as I do, are much better though; that speech in Parsec and Alpiner and such is pretty cool.

In terms of software, the TI stands out among computers of its day in that TI mostly focused on cartridge-based software, and not tape or floppy disk. This is good for durability, because TI99 programs often still work, since a lot of them are on carts. Just try that with your old tapes for other computers! TI locked down the cart port though, so until it was cracked in much more recent years, only first-party software released on cart. This resulted in the TI99 having far less software than most computers, which isn’t great; that makes this computer feel like more of a console, in that first party software dominates in a way rare on computers. The TI99 does have tape and floppy disk addons and most third-party software is for those, but a lot of people never bought either. The tape drive is common enough, but the large floppy disk addon box is not.

Aesthetics and Design: The TI99/4 and 4A have three different models. First, the TI99/4, available for the first two yeras of the system’s life, sold poorly and is rare. I’ve never seen one, and they don’t appear too often online on auction either. The improved 4A model from ’81 sold much better, and are common and easy enough to find. This model comes in two revisions. The first is black and silver, with a cool silver metal look that has aged very well. The second is beige, very similar to the first in most ways but just plastic and not metal, and thanks to the color change looking more like most any ’80s or ’90s computer. Cartridges plug in flat on the right side of the system, which works well. There is also a side addon port, for the speech synthesizer addon, connection to the homebrew addons or the expansion box for floppy drives, and such. The tape drive plugs into a different port on the box. Annoyingly, none of the ports are labeled, so you’ll just need to remember which one is the controller port and such. Also, try to find a system with the original, magnetic key-combination things that go above the keyboard, you need these to remember what to press to do things games will tell you like “press Redo to try again” or such. There is no “Redo” key, you need to press the right button combination. That’s fine once you have one though, and I like that they are magnetic. On the whole the TI99 looks pretty nice.

Unfortunately, in terms of durability and control the TI99 fares much worse. Indeed, these systems have all kinds of problems. Their keyboards are infamous for failing, and since they are built in to the system this is difficult to fix. The graphics and RAM chips also often fail, and replacing RAM chips is definitely not easy either. The official gamepads are no good either, so get an adapter to use Atari controllers instead. Yes, even though the system has a 9-pin port for controllers on it you can’t just plug a 2600 controller in, you need an adapter. Games can all be played on the keyboard too, but there the often-stiff controls on TI99 games are probably even worse. For various reasons, some of them the computers’ fault and some of them my own, I have gone through three of these systems, and while my current one mostly works perfectly, it probably has a video chip issue so I’m stuck with having to use only RF output, which is not ideal. So for me at least reliability is questionable.

Game Library: As far as that software goes, for games TI published a mixture of ports of some titles from other platforms and original titles, some of which are heavily inspired by popular arcade games and others are original, along with a lot of educational software and computer programs for writing and such. I find TI’s software library quality mixed; this system is fine, but I don’t love it, as I said in my Game Opinion Summaries list for the system several years ago. I have a few more games for the system now, but my general opinion is similar. The TI99 has some fans, though, and there is a small homebrew community for the system to this day. It has flashcarts, homebrew addons to give it more RAM, recent homebrew releases, and more. That adds a lot to this system that the original library doesn’t have. As for non-gaming applications, most of those from computers this old are probably only of historical interest, nobody is going to be seriously using TI99 Home Financial Decisions today. The many educational games can be amusing, however. Early Learning Fun’s amusing stuff. Hangman is alright too, provided that you have a working keyboard. But on the whole, while the TI99 is interesting and historically important for being the origin of those graphic and sound chips Coleco and then Sega would use for years, I find the controls stiff and hard to use and the games often flawed.

Mattel Intellivision, INTVfrom Mattel. Test marketed in 1979, released nationally in 1980. 3 million sold. I got one in 2019.

History: The toy company Mattel released a console to compete with the Atari. The Intellivision released in test markets in late 1979, then in 1980 it released nationwide. The Intellivision was the second-best selling pre-crash videogame console, though with only 10% of the Atari 2600’s sales this is not as big of a deal as it may sound. Mattel gave up on gaming at the end of 1983 thanks to the videogame crash, but a group of former employees bought the rights to the system and re-released it in 1985 in Europe and 1986 in the US. This re-release brought new games out for the system until ’89, when it finally faded out. This makes the Intellivision the second-longest-lasting console of its generation, after the 2600, not including modern homebrew of course.

Sort of like the Odyssey 2 above, Mattel mostly made their own software, with a largely original game library supplemented with a few Data East ports and some third-party software. The quality of these games is argued about, but regardless the system has a reasonably good-sized library, and has homebrew support today as well.

The Intellivision is technically a 16-bit console, and while I am counting it as second generation, it really shows that this console released both two years after the Atari 2600, and two and a half years before the Colecovision — it is in between in power for sure. Against the Atari, Intellivision clearly has better graphics, a point they marketed fairly heavily particularly for its sports games. Despite its only moderate success, the Intellivision had a significant impact on the industry, and after its release most controllers for new systems were clearly Intellivision-inspired until the Famicom/NES changed the industry. Like most people I find the controller horribly uncomfortable and have never liked side action buttons, but people clearly saw something in it becuase seriously almost every console in ’82 and ’83 had controllers very much like this one.

Aesthetics and Design: There are four models of Intellivisions, the first one, the Sears model, the smaller and much more ’80s looking second model, and the Intv System III, the ’86 model, which is like the first model but in a different color. I have the Sears Super Video Arcade, and while I may have serious questions about the Intellivision software library, as I said in my recent Game Opinion Summaries list for the system, I love the look of this system! Indeed, the Super Video Arcade is probably one of the best-looking consoles I own. The flat top of the system looks cool, the buttons are great, and the lines of the system are both classic and still nice looking. Of all the system with ridged surfaces on them this is probably my favorite. The system is surprisingly heavy, but that is because it has an internal power supply, and not a brick like other consoles. This makes it easy to plug in, it’s just a regular plug.

Do know that you will need access to the right side of the console, though — carts plug in on the side, in order to keep that flat-top look, and you’ll need to hold the console firmly while pressing carts in or else they won’t insert far enough for the system to read them. This is where top-loading cart ports are more convenient, but oh well. Oh, like the Atari you do need to be near the system thanks to the very short controller cords. The 1 and 3 have hardwired controllers, too. With the Sears and the Intellivision II you could use controller extension cables, since they use 9-pin ports, but it would look a lot uglier without the controllers on the top.

Oh, and as for that controller, again, it is impressively uncomfortable. The plastic edge around the control ring is painful; the side buttons are tiny and feel bad; and it has awful ergonomics. However, I will at least say that at least for me both controllers work perfectly, which is more than I can say for the later Colecovision or Atari 5200. This system has no alternate controllers of note either, because most of the systems have hardwired pads.

Game Library: The Intellivision has a decent-sized game library with a fair amount of third-party software and quite a few games from Mattel and the later Intellivision group. However, a lot of the games run very slowly, as their tools limited games to 20fps, and even somewhat as not-framerate-concious as me definitely notices it. Intellivision games can run well, as a few games show, but most struggle. And thanks to that controller, the controls are oftne not great either. The controller has a lot of buttons on it, so games are able to be much more complex than they are on the one-button Atari and games make use of that. However, while back then this was a selling point, looking back I think that simpler works better most of the time for games from this era so I don’t think it makes the games here better. I do like some Intellivision games though, and the system is maybe worth owning if you like games from this era since the system and its games are very cheap. There are re-release collections of Intellivision games, but because of the nature of the controller they many won’t play quite right, and some games are still exclusive.  If you do get one, the Sears Super Video Arcade is the best model for sure.

Game & Watchfrom Nintendo. The first Game & Watch released in 1980, and they released until 1991. 43.4 million of them were sold.  The on  ihave we got back around 1990 or so, probably.

Including this in this list is a bit questionable, because teh Game & Watch is not a game console. Instead, it is a line of stand-alone handheld LCD games. Each one plays only one game. For no good reason, I count my one Game & Watch that I got as a kid in my games list, but don’t have the other few handheld LCD games I still have listed here, including my Micro Games of America Pac-Man, which is pretty good, and a broken “Football” game I got in Europe in the early ’90s but still have. The other handheld LCD game I remember getting was Tiger Electronics’ Baseball.

Anyway, Game & Watch systems are small rectangular LCD handheld games. In addition to playing only one game each, they do not have fully programmable screens, but instead like all systems of this they can only light up parts of the screen. It works, but means the games are simple. Many handheld games like this, including most Tiger titles, were infamously bad, but Game & Watches are fairly high quality and both work well and look good. As the name suggests, each one has a clock on it as well. You cannot turn off a G&W while the batteries are in the system, though; it stays on to keep the clock going all the time. So probably don’t leave batteries in them when not using them.

After selling very well for years, the Game & Watch was discontinued in 1991 in favor of the Game Boy. Other handheld LCD games, such as those from Tiger, would continue selling through the mid ’90s, but faded out after that in favor of handheld consoles. I think the G&Ws work well, but much prefer the more dynamic control and gameplay of handheld games and have rarely gone back to my one G&W, 1981’s Octopus. It is a very simple game in the way of most games from the day and can be fun, but is too repetitious to be as good as better home console games of the time.

PCoriginally from IBM, and now by many companies running Microsoft operating systems and Intel x86-compatible CPUs, and first made in 1981. They are ubiquitous worldwide.  Our family first got a PC in early 1992.

The IBM PC first released in 1981, a computer platform from the largest tech company both then and now, IBM, running on Microsoft DOS and with Intel x86 architecture. IBM may not be as prominent now as they once were, but still are the largest in terms of number of employees, at least. The IBM PC started out as a business machine, the cheaper and smaller desktop companion for your company or school’s IBM mainframe computer. In the decades since, the PC has become separated from IBM, and instead is defined by the combination of Microsoft operating systems and Intel CPUs, the OS and CPU vendors IBM chose back in 1981. Initially in few homes, the IBM PC became the leading computer platform in the US by the mid ’80s and was the leading computer gaming platform as well by the later ’80s. In Europe and Japan it took much longer for the PC to be the winning computer gaming platform, but in the US, once the Commodore 64 faded, the PC fairly handily won out. Once 16-color EGA graphics and Adlib sound cards released in the mid to later ’80s, PC games could start to compete visually as well; before that, 4-color CGA with one-tone beeper PC Speaker audio was pretty limiting. Some kinds of games work great with those limitations, but many others do not. By the early ’90s, it was clear — the PC was the most powerful home gaming platform in terms of visuals and not only games. The release of the first 3d accelerators a few years later cemented that even further. The PC has a history and back catalog unmatched in the industry.

The PC isn’t just the first gaming platform I had at home, it is, as we got a 20Mhz 386 PC in early 1992. As I said at the top, the PC is unquestionably my pick for the best gaming platform ever. There is one caveat to this, though: backwards compatibility on PCs can be difficult. While it is a single platform, it is a platform which has changed over time, and older games and software may not easily work on a newer machine. The PC has changed over the years, and native backwards compatibility on the PC, with Windows 10 as the current operating system, goes back about to the mid ’90s — Windows 9x games or newer may work, while DOS and Windows 3.1 or earlier games do not without emulation. However, those emulators, most notably DOSBox, are easy to find, so playing DOS games on a modern PC is easy. Windows 3.1 games can be tricky, depending on how well they run in a Windows 3.1 install in DOSBox on your machine, but are quite doable. Where the major problem lies is in Windows 9x games — games for Windows 95, 98, and Millenium, along with some Windows XP games, from the mid ’90s to mid ’00s. These games are new enough to use things like DirectX or graphics card drivers which change over time, so some games break as drivers update over the years, depending on which parts of the older driver they rely on. Sometimes fan patches fix these issues, but other times they do not. Additionally, modern 64-bit versions of Windows cannot run 16-bit applications, which means Windows 3.1 software, or 16-bit Windows 9x software, cannot run. This can be quite frustrating at times; there are ways around it, including DOSBox or other emulator installs or a Virtual Machine if you can get one running well, but none are as good as just running those games natively on a 16-bit or 32-bit operating system.

That is all to say, while the PC has the most amazing library ever, one computer will almost certainly not run every game. Yes, the one real negative about the PC is its greatest strength, that long back catalog. Instead, a modern PC will run any modern game, and most games from the last fifteen years, plus games that work correctly in DOSBox and/or have had a modern re-release. That is more than enough for most gamers, but for someone like me, this means you are sure to need multiple computers. At minimum, one older, DOS or Windows 9x-based machine is a necessity, and I have one. There are some games that do not run well in either machine, but at least between my PCs I can run most games… though there are those frustrating ones I just never can manage to get running correctly on any machine, such as Recoil. Bah. Oh well.

What makes this worse is that computers and drivers will continue to change, so the current incompatibilities are surely a rolling issue; at some point lots more games will break. I hope emulation or virtual machine authors can fix those issues, though it will get more and more difficult over time, as we deal with trying to make mostly-online games working again. Many games will surely be impossible to play in the future, which is sad. The classics will always be playable though, so there’s one plus for classic games over a lot of the modern ones! Unfortunately I like both modern and classic games though, so… oh well. Anyway, regardless of these issues the PC is the best for sure.

 

Second Generation Consoles Ranking: 1. Odyssey 2; 2. Atari 2600; 3. Intellivision; 4. Game & Watch. If we also include the TI 99/4A it would go third or fourth. The PC would of course go in first overall, but if we look only at PC software available in the early to mid ’80s I am not sure; I have played few PC games that old. I can say I love 1984’s Castle Adventure, though.

Posted in Articles, Atari 2600, Classic Games, Game & Watch, Game Opinion Summaries, Intellivision, Odyssey 2, Reviews, TI 99/4A | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Opinion List: Comparing the 3DO, Jaguar, and 32X Game Libraries

I have had a lot going on recently so I have not gotten nearly as far with that Genesis Game Opinion Summaries update list as I’d like, though I do have the list of titles I’ll be covering together.  But not enough is done to post, so for this month’s last-minute update I guess I will post this dumb little opinion list.  This started out as a silly little timewaster I made for fun a few months ago, after some discussion of these platforms on a retro-gaming Discord I post on.  Now I have expanded that list into a full article.

Three Failed Video Game Platforms of 1993-1994: Which Is Best?

Note: For the purposes of this list, the Jaguar and Sega 32X also include not only the cartridge games for those platforms, but also all Jaguar CD and 32X CD games.

Below, I will list my opinions on where all three of these platforms compare in each design or game genre category.  Number one is the best, two is in the middle, and three is last.  How big the gap is between them in each genre or category varies widely from category to category, it depends.

Table of Contents

Summary List Comparisons
Hardware Comparisons
Game Genre Comparisons
Overall
Detailed Comparisons
Hardware Comparisons
Game Genre Comparisons
My Top 10 Favorite Games, Overall and On Each Platform
Conclusion


Summary List Comparisons

Hardware Comparisons

Hardware Power – 1. 3DO 2. Jag 3. 32X
Controller – 1. 32X 2. 3DO 3. Jag
System Design: 1. 3DO 2. Jag 3. 32X

Game Genre Comparisons

Racing – 1. 32X 2. 3DO 3. Jag (all three are great, it’s a matter of opinion)
Fighting (2d) – 1. 3DO 2. 32X 3. Jag
Fighting (3d) – 1. 32X 2. Jag 3. 3DO (maybe, 2nd and 3rd are close — Ballz 3D vs Fight for Life)
Vehicular Combat (Flat Plane) – 1. 3DO 2. Jag 3. 32X (though it is very close between first and second and could go either way)
FPS – 1. 3DO 2. Jag 3. 32X (probably, though JagDoom may be best overall)
Flight Combat – 1. 3DO 2. 32X 3. Jag (probably; all are great here and any could win)
Simulation – Vehicle (land or air based) (lots of overlap here with the flight combat and vehicular combat genres) – 1. 3DO 2. Jag 3. 32X
Rail Shooter / Into the Screen Shooter – 1. Jag 2. 32X 3. 3DO
Light Gun / Light Gun Style Shooter – 1. 3DO 2. Jag 3. 32X
Shmup / Shmuplike / Run & Gun – 1. Jag 2. 32X 3. 3DO
Platformer (3d) – 1. 32X (none on Jag or 3DO)
Platformer (2d/2.5d) – 1. 3DO? 2. Jag? 3. 32X? (This one is very close and could go any way. For exclusives only the list would be different, too – first Jag, second 32X, distant third 3DO.)
Strategy / Simulation (Building) – 1. 3DO 2. Jag 3. 32X
Puzzle – 1. 3DO 2. Jag (32X has none)
Adventure / FMV – 1. 3DO 2. Jag 3. 32X
Action-Adventure / Survival Horror 1. 3DO 2. Jag (32X has none)
RPG / Action-RPG – 1. 3DO 2. Jag (32X has none)
Sports / Card / Board – 1. 3DO 2. 32X 3. Jag (maybe; the Jag has my favorite overall game in this genre and maybe should be second)

Overall

3DO: 1st: 15 2nd: 2 3rd: 3 – 52 pts (3-1st 2-2nd 1-3rd)
Jaguar: 1st: 2 2nd: 12 3rd: 7 – 37 pts
32X: 1st: 4 2nd: 5 3rd: 9 – 31 pts

Overall, comparing these consoles this way the 3DO is the best no question, followed by the Jaguar and then probably the 32X. The 3DO is the winner no matter how you define the genres, but it’s close enough between the Jaguar and 32X that depending on how you redefine those genres either one could finish in second.

Detailed Comparisons

And now I will go in detail comparing each genre on the list above.  Note: Italics note games that are either console-exclusive or true exclusive; that is, games that are either only released on the platform in question, or are on computer and this console and not other consoles.  I will consider games exclusive if they have a substantial amount of exclusive content over other versions of the game, such as Virtua Racing does.  There is not an Overall category in this section because the Overall section above speaks for itself.

Hardware

Hardware Power – This is a tricky one, as these three systems use very different design philosophies.  Each has its own strengths and weaknesses, and the weaknesses are significant enough to help explain some of the reasons why all three of these platforms failed in the market. Going chronologically, the Jaguar released first, in fall ’93.  The first real 5th-gen console, the Jaguar was powerful for this time with 26 Mhz CPU and graphics chips, but it is quite bad at textured polygons and has numerous hardware bugs that make programming for it very difficult indeed and limit some of its power.   Getting the most out of the Jaguar is still hard, even all these decades later.  It is able to do pretty good 2d graphics as seen in Rayman, but the tough programming and design issues makes this hard sometimes; see bad performance of the Jag version of Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure, for example. Next, the 3DO is perhaps not as powerful on paper, as it has only one, 12.5Mhz CPU.  Indeed, games like Doom or Wolfenstein 3D show how the Jag can run 3d games at higher framerates and with more graphical detail as well; even a much more optimized 3DO Doom would probably not have been able to match the Jaguar version.  The 3DO also requires developers program in C, instead of machine code; it was the first console to do this, and it was controversial at the time as it probably limits power.  However, the 3DO has none of the hardware bugs or issues that the Jaguar does, so it was much easier to program for.  Making 3d games was hard at the time and you see that on the 3DO, but it is a better-balanced, less broken design able to do some nice things when programmed for well.  It is better at FMV and polygonal 3d than it is 2d — 3DO 2d usually seems to run at only 30fps, as Gex shows — but still, it’s a good design for the time.  As for the 32X, it released a year after the other two, and in some ways is the most powerful, but also is, like the Jaguar, something of a huge pain to program for.  In the 32X’s case, this is because Sega decided to use a dual-core, 23Mhz CPU, at a time when nobody had any idea how to program for two CPUs.  Just like the Saturn after it, most games surely do not make good use of both CPUs; it was just too early for that.  It is hard to program for as well, as its odd design is kind of tricky — the Genesis and 32X are each working simultaneously, and the two video images are combined in output to make what appears to be a single image… but it is actually two entirely separate images being combined.  Games often have a 32X main image and sprites and Genesis menu bars and background, or vice versa.  The 32X alone is not designed to do things such as 60fps 2d, so most games have issues.  Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure, for example,  has a 60fps Genesis background, with 30fps 32X sprites on top.  I may not notice much as I’m not framerate-concious much at all, but people who notice those things will really dislike this.  The 32X’s maximum capabilities are impressive, but the limitations of the CPUs and dual-system design hold it back.  So, I decided that the least broken design here, the 3DO, is best; it may be slower but games can actually get the most out of the system, and games which push it look great — see Blade Force for example.  Second, the Jag is busted but powerful when programmed for by a skilled team; see Skyhammer.  The 32X is similarly hard to program for, though perhaps easier than Jaguar, but I’m putting it in third because its best games and techdemos don’t match up to what I’ve seen from the best of the Jaguar — Skyhammer probably beats that infamous Zyrinx 32X techdemo video, for example.  I’m not a programmer though, so I could be convinced to change my mind on this category.

Controller – The 32X uses the Genesis controller.  All games work with regular 3-button Genesis controllers, but many 32X games support the 6-button controller for additional functions.  I definitely recommend the 6 button pad for the 32X, a lot of games do support it.  The official Sega 6 button Genesis controller is my favorite non-analog controller ever, so I gave the win here to the 32X.  It’s a fantastic and very comfortable controller.  In second, the 3DO has a very Genesis-inspired controller, with three face buttons along with two SNES-like shoulder buttons.  It is not quite as comfortable as a Genesis pad, but is a good controller regardless which fits well in the hand and works well.  For some games you do wish there was a sixth action button, though.  The 3DO does have the best assortment of alternate controllers, too — there is a light gun (the GameGun), a 3DO mouse, analog joystick (the CH Flightsick Pro for 3DO), and 6-button digital controllers in several designs, including from Capcom and others, for alternate controllers that give better controls in various kinds of games.  I have the mouse, joystick, and a few 6-button pads, and they are great options in supported titles.  The analog joystick really improves those flight games!  In last, the Jaguar controller is a lot more comfortable than I had ever given it credit for before finally buying a Jag earlier this year.  It may look huge and awful, but for those of us who like larger controllers like I often do the Jaguar controller is actually comfortable and feels good.  However, the decision to have a 12-button keypad, with only three action buttons and no shoulder buttons at all, is questionable.  While there are a few games which make good use of the keypad to allow things that would be a pain to do with any other controller, most of the time it just makes for awkward gameplay, as you have to reach down to the keypad for some important functions.  There s an expensive 6-button controller with shoulder buttons, but that just duplicates five of the keypad buttons onto the five added buttons, so how useful it is depends on how games mapped the keypad.  You will need to use that keypad, and it only sometimes works well.  Also, the Jaguar is one of the only 5th-gen consoles which has absolutely no analog control options released during its life.  There is now a homebrew mouse adapter with one or two things that support it, but for the most part Jaguar games are digital-pad-only, which is a real problem in 3d titles.  32X games are also mostly digital-only, but that is a last-gen addon so it is more excusable there than it is in this next-gen console.  The 3DO doesn’t have analog stick on its controller either, but the mouse, joystick, and lightgun controller options fill in there.  This is what decides it for me in the 3DO’s favor over the Jaguar, that the 3DO has analog controllers while the Jaguar does not; otherwise, between the two base controllers, it’s close enough that I could go either way.  But a lot of Jaguar games are screaming for analog controls that they system doesn’t have.  This was the case with a whole lot of games on all consoles at the time, until the N64 changed things, but it is an issue even so.

System Design – I like the look of the FZ-1 3DO.  It looks like a VCR or other similar pieces of ’90s home electronics, and it’s a classy look that is extremely dated in a nice way.  If the NES was designed to look like an ’80s VCR, the FZ-1 3DO is a ’90s VCR, a bit like the one we had back then but with discs.  I have not seen the FZ-10 in person, but it looks like a fine console design.  It is nothing amazing, but okay.  On the other hand, the 3DO saves to a battery soldered to the board, which is bad; those batteries will die and need replacing.  The disc drive and tray are also high failure points.  The Goldstar’s not as nice, but it still looks alright.  As for the Jaguar, it is a good looking system with some nice lines, but the absence of a cartridge flap, and the exposed board ports on the back and front, look cheap.  The cartridges look nice, but don’t stack all that well because of their curved design and don’t have end labels unless you add them, unfortunately.  As for the 32X, it has great Sega design, but its odd, mushroom-like look is an issue.  The Jaguar CD drive similarly blobs up on top of the Jaguar, but as much as it is maligned for looking like a toilet seat and being absurdly failure-prone, at least the Jag looks like it was designed for that CD drive to sit on top of it, so the two fit together well; the CD kind of completes the look of the Jaguar.  The Genesis clearly was not designed for a top addon, so the 32X is this ugly blob on top of your Genesis.  As for saving, Jaguar games save to EEPROM chips on the carts.  These chips hold very little data, but are great and their write limits should last a long time.  32X games save to batteries or EEPROM or FRAM chips on the carts. The 32X is probably the most durable of these three systems, with the lowest failure rate by far.  Still, overall, the 3DO looks the best.  You’ll need to replace that battery sometime and may have laser issues, but it’s a mostly good design.  The Jaguar is in second, with better design than it usually gets credit for.  And as much as I love the Genesis, the 32X lags behind in last.  The Sega CD and Genesis look good together, but adding the mushroom on top kind of messes up the look.  32Xes are much more likely to work in the future than the other two systems are, though.

Genres

Please note, this is not a comprehensive list of all games on all three consoles.  I’m only mentioning some highlight titles.

Racing32XVirtua Racing Deluxe, Motocross Championship, BC Racers; 3DOThe Need for Speed, Road Rash, Autobahn Tokio, Wacky Races 2: In Space, kind of Off-World Interceptor (it’s mostly a shooter), Driving School, MegaRace, F1 GP, Crash ‘n Burn, BC Racers; JagSuper Burnout, Power Drive Rally, Club Drive, Checkered Flag, Supercross 3D, Val d’Isere Skiing and Snowboarding. All three platforms have some great games here, but I gave the win to the 32X because Virtua Racing Deluxe is an outstanding game that I love, and the 32X version is in some ways the best version of the game. This is definitely an opinion case, it’s easy to see why some people would prefer the 3DO for NfS and Road Rash particularly, or the Jag for Super Burnout particularly, but I like VR Deluxe enough to put it on top.  Really all three of these systems are winners in this genre.

Fighting (2d)JagUltra Vortek, Kasumi Ninja, Primal Rage; 32X – Mortal Kombat 2, Brutal: Above the Claw, Cosmic Carnage, Supreme Warrior, Primal Rage; 3DO – Samurai Shodown, Super Street Fighter II Turbo, Ultraman Powered, The Eye of Typhoon, Sailor Moon S, Shadow: War of Succession, Yuu Yuu Hakusho, Way of the Warrior. For a non-MK fan like me, SamSho and SSFIIT make this a very easy win for the 3DO.  The anime fighters on 3DO are amusing games as well.  For second place, real MK2 is a whole lot better than the mostly poor MK knockoffs on 3DO and Jaguar, so the 32X finishes second. Of the 3DO and Jag’s MK knockoff games Ultra Vortek is the best one, but that’s not saying all that much. Oh, worst game here is actually tough — do you go with the unbelievably horrible, barely playable atrocity that is Shadow: War of Succession — a game that should score under a 1 out of 10 on any scale — or the incredibly awful wreck of a game that is Supreme Warrior, which is also horrendous? As much as I greatly dislike Supreme Warrior it’s at least amusing to look at, so Shadow is worst overall I think.  Kasumi Ninja is also a pretty awful game, but it’s not on the level of those two atrocities.

Fighting (3d) JagFight for Life; 3DOBallz 3D: The Director’s Cut; 32X – Virtua Fighter, kind of WWF Wrestlemania: The Arcade Game. Here we have a very good version of a very popular classic — Virtua Fighter — and … two awful messes that very few people like, FfL and Ballz. I’ve never liked VF1 all that much, but it is a good game and the 32X has a great version. So the 32X has one of the biggest wins on the list, but who is second? Here I chose Fight for Life over Ballz, in part because FfL is a VF clone while Ballz is a slightly enhanced last-gen port, but you could go either way there, and maybe Ballz is better. Oh, and Wrestlemania the Arcade Game kind of counts since it plays like a fighting game with 3d movement, not a wrestling game. You have regular health bars and everything.

Shmup / Shmuplike / Run & GunJagTrevor McFur in the Crescent Galaxy, Raiden, Defender 2000, Protector SE (PD), Total Carnage, Rebooteroids (PD); 32XZaxxon’s Motherbase 2000, Kolibri; 3DOCaptain Quazar. The 3DO has a lot of shooting games, but they’re all top-down free-roaming stuff or 3d into-the-screen games, not regular topdown or side-view shmups, arena shooters, or run & guns, which is why those genres are all combined into one here; these systems just don’t have many. So, the Jaguar, with a true classic in Raiden and a few other okay games, wins this, with the 32X in second with a good game in Motherbase. Though, since the two 32X games are exclusives while while Raiden is on many platforms and is not best on Jaguar, for exclusives you could give this to the 32X — it’s much better than the Jag-exclusive Trevor McFur or Defender 2000 by what I’ve seen of those games. If you include homebrew releases, Protector SE and Rebooteroids on Jag also look good. As for Captain Quazar, it’s an okay game.

Platformer (2D/2.5D)3DO – Gex, Phoenix 3 (the first half of the game), Johnny Bazookatone, Soccer Kid, Flashback, Out of this World; Jaguar – Rayman, Hyper Force, Soccer Kid, Zool 2, Flashback, Bubsy in: Fractured Fairy Tales, Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure; 32X – Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure, Blackthorne, Spider-Man: Web of Fire, Knuckles Chaotix, Tempo. Rayman is probably the best overall game here, but as I said this is a tough one because for me personally none of these three systems have a platformer I really love. Rayman is good but too hard; I’ve never really liked the cinematic, high-animation style of game seen in Flashback, Out of this World, and Blackthorne, but of those three I like Blackthorne the best and while it is a port the 32X version does have an exclusive graphical overhaul and level; Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure is good, but both of these versions are quite flawed (it’s best on PC); Tempo, Soccer Kid, and Gex are decent to good games, but are slow-paced and kind of average; and the others, Bubsy Jag, Hyper Force, Zool 2, Spiderman, Phoenix 3, Johnny Bazookatone… average at best. Oh, and Knuckles Chaotix is interesting but very flawed and isn’t above average in my book either, not in its main game. I love platformers, but these three could go in any order really and be valid…

Platformer (3D) – The bonus levels in Knuckles Chaotix on 32X are the only thing here on any of these formats so it’s an automatic win for the 32X. They’re really good for the time!

RPG / Action-RPG – As the only one of these platforms with any amount of Japanese gaem support, the 3DO has an advantage here — the top Western RPG studios were almost exclusively PC game developers at this point, while in Japan RPGs were mostly a console genre.  So, the 3DO has some JRPGs.  It has a few Western ones as well, most notably a pair of pretty good first-person dungeon crawlers.  3DO Lucienne’s Quest, AD&D: Slayer (FPS-RPG), AD&D: Deathkeep (FPS-RPG), and a few Japanese-language games; JagTowers II (FPS-RPG). 32X none. This one’s a very clear win for the 3DO. AD&D Slayer’s better than Towers II alone, never mind the rest of it…

Adventure / FMV is a very clear 3DO win. All three systems have some adventure games, and some are on several of these systems, but the 3DO has the most by far.  Quite a few adventure games were ported to 3DO, particularly ones with FMV video in them; it was a good platform for this kind of game and the adventure genre is probably one of the strongest on the 3DO. If the Jaguar CD had done better and lasted longer this could have been competitive because Jag CD visuals do seem to regularly beat the 3DO in FMV, but it has so few games that it doesn’t. The handful of games on both platforms may all be better on Jaguar, perhaps, but even if they were, they can’t outweigh the pile of good stuff on 3DO.  Some games, such as Myst and Dragon’s Lair are on both 3DO and Jaguar.  Additionally, the 3DO also has games such as Psychic Detective, Hell: A Cyberpunk Thriller, Dragon Lore, Putt-Putt Joins the Parade, and more.  As for the 32X, there aren’t really any in its cartridge game library, but all six 32X CD games are ports of Sega CD FMV games.  They aren’t really adventure games though, and most are quite awful.  The two from Sega, Fahrenheit and Surgical Strike, are the best of the six, but they’re still not great.  Only Fahrenheit is even kind of an adventure game, too; Surgical Strike is a FMV shooter.  So, in adventure games the 3DO wins easily, the Jaguar finishes second with a small but sometimes quality library, and the 32X trails well behind.

Action-Adventure / Survival Horror – This genre could be combined with  the above one, but I decided to separate it.  As opposed to the above games, these have combat beyond the ‘hit the button at the right time’ QTE gameplay of a Dragon’s Lair or Space Ace.  The 3DO is the first console with survival horror games as we know them today, so it is noteworthy for this.   3DOAlone in the Dark, Alone in the Dark 2, Doctor Hauzer, Robinson’s Requiem; Jag – Robinson’s Requiem, Highlander: Last of the McLeods; 32X – None. I’m no AitD fan, but this is a clear win for the 3DO.  The Jaguar is second by default; that Highlander game gets mostly bad reviews but it is something, which is more than the 32X has.  There are some PD Jaguar adventure and action-adventure games as well.

Strategy / Simulation (Building) is similar; all three have at least one, and there are a few good ones on Jaguar, but the 3DO‘s a clear winner. The great classic Star Control II, my favorite 3DO game, is the standout here, and one of the best games on the 3DO as well.  I don’t need to list these out for each platform, it is no contest at all.  The Jaguar does have some interesting strategy and simulation games, including Attack of the Mutant Penguins, Baldies, and some games released on both 3DO and Jaguar Cannon Fodder if you count it as one (it isn’t really), Syndicate (another semi-strategy title), and Theme Park, but Star Control II is better than any of those games, and the 3DO has plenty more besides, such as Guardian War, Panzer General, Theatre Wars, The Tower (SimTower), DinoPark Tycoon, The Horde, The Perfect GeneralKonpeki no Kantai, and more.  Some of these are Japanese-only, but still it’s a decent library.  The 32X has very little in this genre other than a Japan-only port of Romance of the Three Kingdoms IV, so it finishes well behind in last.  So, 3DO first, Jaguar second, 32X last.

Rail / into the screen shooter (with a movable character) – These are into-the-screen 3d shooting games where you control some kind of ship or character that you can move around.  JagTempest 2000, Zero Five, Blue Lightning; 3DO – Pyramid Intruder, Burning Soldier, Total Eclipse, Off-World Interceptor (racing/shooter), Novastorm, Microcosm, Sewer Shark (kind of), Rebel Assault (partially); 32X – Space Harrier, After Burner Complete. All three have good to awesome stuff here but Tempest 2000 is an all-time great and the best game on any of these three consoles so the Jag wins the category. The 3DO has the most games but I don’t love any of them, so it finishes third; 32X Space Harrier is amazing! A bunch of those 3DO games try to be like a Space Harrier, but they’re so much worse…

Light Gun / Light Gun Style Shooter  These are games where you can’t move a character or ship around, but instead just control a cursor on a railed path, shooting at things as they appear.  They may or may not support actual light guns.  JaguarMissile Command 3D; 3DOSpace Pirates (lightgun), Mad Dog McCree (lightgun), Mad Dog II: The Lost Gold (lightgun), Corpse Killer (lightgun), Who Shot Johnny Rock? (lightgun), The Last Bounty Hunter (lightgun), Crime Patrol (lightgun), Drug Wars (lightgun), Starblade (some consider this a rail shooter, but it’s really a no-gun lightgun game.); 32X – Corpse Killer (lightgun), Surgical Strike (kind of). The 3DO has a pretty obvious win here, with an actual light gun and a bunch of games for it.  I’ve never liked Mad Dog McCree at all, but the no-gun shooter Starblade is fun and some of those American Laser Games titles are cheesy fun even if their gameplay isn’t the best.  Choosing second place is harder, though.  Corpse Killer is an awful game with horrible controls.  It supports light guns, but still plays terribly even with one!  I know, I have tried.  Surgical Strike’s a lot better, but it is also an FMV game, so the controls are frustrating and environments repeat constantly. I haven’t played Missile Command 3D, but it wins anyway because I’d probably like it more than Surgical Strike.

Vehicular Combat (flat plane) – These are vehicular combat games where you do not have any form of real height control.  So, you’re in a tank, hover-tank, or such.  You may be able to jump, but can’t fly up or down.  These games include: on JaguarHover Strike and its improved CD release Hover Strike: Unconquered Lands, Aircars, I-War, Iron Soldier (this is also kind of a vehicle sim), Iron Soldier 2 (also kind of a vehicle sim); on 32x T-Mek, Metal Head; on 3DO Stellar 7: Draxon’s Revenge, BattleSport, Shockwave and its expansion Shockwave: Operation Jumpgate, Shockwave 2: Beyond the Gate, Quarantine, maybe Return Fire (overhead, not first/third person) and its expansion Return Fire: Maps o’Death. Return Fire is a great game and probably pushes the 3DO over the Jaguar, though it’s very close — the Iron Soldier games on Jag are also quite good. Aircars, I-War, and Hover Strike on Jag and the Shockwave series on 3DO are somewhat similar games and I’ll call them about even, though I do have a fondness for Hover Strike: Unconquered Lands and I-War that I don’t for Shockwave, so I’d probably lean Jag here.  On the other hand, I do also quite like BattleSport, so it is close.  As for the 32X, I like both of its games in this genre as well, but the games on the other two systems outshine them so it is in third for sure.  This is another genre where all three platforms do well, the 3DO and Jaguar particularly.  I guess I’ll stick with the 3DO being in first for now, but I could switch them sometime, the Jaguar has some games here I really like.

FPS3DO – Doom, Wolfenstein 3D, Defcon 5, Immercenary, Iron Angel of the Apocalypse, Iron Angel of the Apocalypse: the Return, PO’ed, Escape from Monster Manor, Killing Time, Space Hulk: Vengeance of the Blood Angels, Cyberdillo, Creature Shock (kind of, and partially; it’s also a rail shooter). 32X – Doom. Jag – Doom, Alien vs, Predator, Wolfenstein 3D. JagDoom is the best overall game here but the sheer number of 3DO FPSes puts it in first overall I’d say; some of those games are also quite solid. One great game can win a category if it’s THAT amazing, but there are a lot of ways to play Doom and the combination of flawed but interestingly weird games like Space Hulk, PO’ed, Immercenary, and Cyberdillo and good simpler shooters like Killing Time give the edge to 3DO, I think. AvP also is pretty interesting and Jag fans could give this to the Jag on a “quality over quantity” argument, but for now I lean 3DO. And the 3DO does have Doom, it’s just got a very low framerate. I find it fun anyway… Oh, and the 3DO also has two fps-rpg games and the Jag has one, though I’ll count those as RPGs I guess. The 3DO ones are great, I think — see the RPG genre.

Flight Combat (often slightly simmish) – 3DOStarfighter (also kind of a sim), Blade Force (a little simmish), maybe Super Wing Commander and Wing Commander 3 though they are also vehicle sims; 32xStar Wars Arcade, Shadow Squadron (almost a simmish game, but… not quite I think), Darxide, Star Trek Starfleet Academy Starship Bridge Simulator (simple combat with some sim elements); Jag – (note: all of these are also kind of vehicle sims) Skyhammer, Battlesphere + Battlesphere Gold (both PD), Cybermorph, Battlemorph. All three systems have some great games in this genre so it’s hard to decide objectively, personal opinion will probably decide it.  Even that’s hard though, I really like Starfighter and Shadow Squadron, and surely would like Battlemorph.  Star Trek, Blade Force, Star Wars Arcade, Skyhammer, and Cybermorph are good fun games too, with some issues.  I said 3DO first, 32X second, and Jag third, but you could make a case for these three going in any order depending on which games you like the most.  And while Cybermorph really is a good game, Battlemorph is better, and Skyhammer is a very impressive game for the Jaguar, my longtime love for Shadow Squadron and Starfighter put those systems above the Jag, I think.  And between 32X and 3DO, the other 32X games do some impressive things but they don’t match up to Wing Commander; I may never have been a fan of that series, but I can admit to their quality.

Vehicle Sim3DO Flying Nightmares, VR Stalker, Scramble Cobra, and the Wing Commander games, Blade Force, and Starfighter if you count them here; Jaguar has no exclusively vehicle-sim games, but does have the Iron Soldier games, Battlesphere, Skyhammer, and Cybermorph/Battlemorph if you count them here instead of where I put them earlier. 32x has none unless you count Shadow Squadron, which I likely wouldn’t, and Star Trek Starfleet Academy Starship Bridge Simulator, which … maybe. The 3DO is the only one with legit vehicle sims so it wins this by default. If you include all of the other games I just listed it’s a lot closer because all three have some great a-bit-simmish space or futuristic vehicular combat games, but the 3DO still probably wins if you include all the games I just listed. Shadow Squadron is one of the best games on that list but isn’t amazing enough to beat all of the other games listed, so the 32X is probably in last, though not by much. Those Jaguar games are also pretty good, Iron Soldier especially, and I haven’t played Battlemorph or Battlesphere so I can’t judge it entirely. As for 3DO, I like Blade Force, but find it super hard; Starfighter’s great but the controls are odd; and I’ve never been a Wing Commander fan, but they are good certainly. So uh, personal opinion might lean towards the Jag? I’ll need Battlemorph, Battlesphere is multiplayer-focused and insanely expensive. For now, for the sci-fi games portion of this genre, I put 3DO on top because of how much I like Starfighter. Of course, it also wins because it’s the only one with actual sims. Not good sims going by reviews, but sims.  I’ve never cared for fighter jet sim games though, so I can’t imagine liking them much myself.  Still, it has them.

Sports / Card / Board – With its very influential versions of FIFA International Soccer and John Madden Football, I think the 3DO has to win this category. There are other football and soccer games on all three platforms, but those two are the most important by far. The Jaguar has two football and two soccer games, including a solid version of International Sensible Soccer, but they look quite dated compared to those two, with much more 4th-gen-like visuals. The 32X has a version of FIFA and it’s good, but the 3DO one is better. Also, Olympic Soccer on the 3DO’s a decent game as well. In golf games the 3DO also has a huge lead — the Jag has none, and the 32X one okay one, while the 3DO has quite a few, a full eight in fact, most exclusive. The 3DO has the most other sports games too, such as boxing, FMV “how to ski / how to play tennis” tutorial discs, an okay summer olympics game, and more.  They’re mostly exclusive or console exclusive, too. For wrestling the 32X does have two WWF games though, while the 3DO and Jag have nothing. I don’t like wrestling, but WWF: The Arcade Game is alright.  For baseball, the 32X has two Genesis-style overhead baseball games, while the 3DO has two Japan-only more 3d baseball games (one by EA, oddly enough; why not make a US version too?) and a hitting trainer. As I don’t like Genesis World Series or RBI Baseball, even though I haven’t played the 3DO ones yet I’ll give the 3DO the edge here.  The EA one, Pro Yakyuu Virtual Stadium, looks good, and was EA’s first attempt at 5th-gen baseball in the Triple Play style; the other one, Pro Stadium, looks worse. For hockey though, the 3DO and 32X have nothing, while the Jaguar has one average effort in Brett Hull Hockey (aka Jaguar Hockey) so the Jag wins hockey. As for basketball, NBA Jam T.E. is on the 32X and Jag and is one of the best sports games ever made. The Jaguar has a couple of other much less good basketball games as well, in White Men Can’t Jump and Barkley: Shut Up and Jam (unreleased but leaked), but forget those.  There are two 3DO basketball games, Slam’ n Jam ’95 and Jammit, but they’ve got nothing on Jam, though Slam n Jam’s 3d perspective is kind of cool for the time. So this is a category where the sports game I’d most want to play, Jam, is on the two losing platforms but not the winning one… oh well, I love Jam TE but it is on lots of systems and I don’t love it so much I’d put the 32X or Jag over the whole, much larger 3DO sports library just because of it. Maybe they should win though, because the 32X and Jaguar versions of Jam T.E. are often mentioned as maybe the best versions of the game. The Jag version of Jam is a port of the 32X one with slightly better visuals.  As for card and board games, it should be no surprise that the 3DO dominates, as it does in this category in general, with multiple chess, mahjong, and shogi titles.  So, the 3DO wins here.  As for second place though, in part because baseball is my favorite sport and the Jag has no baseball games while the 32X at least has some, the 32X takes second.

Puzzle / Trivia – The 3DO has a quite clear win here. There are a few good puzzle games on Jaguar, such as Zoop, Vid Grid, and such, and more from homebrew developers, but the 3DO has more and better, including the all-time classic Bust-A-Move. That alone makes this an easy call; I do like Zoop, and the Jaguar has the only console version of Zoop that actually saves your high scores, but BAM’s one of the greats. The 3DO is also the only one with trivia quizshow games, such as Zhadnost: The Peoples’ Party and Twisted: The Game Show.  It has Lemmings, Shanghai: Triple Thread, Gridders, Trip’d, The Incredible Machine, and more, as well.  Several of those are good version sof all-time classic puzzle games. The 32X doesn’t really have anything in these genres, they’re all just on Genesis.

 

My Top 10 Favorite Games, Overall and On Each Platform

Now, I posted a list some years back of my favorite games by platform.  It’s getting a bit old though, and does not include the 3DO or Jaguar, so here are some little updated lists just for these three platforms.

3DO

1. Star Control II
2. Starfighter
3. Samurai Shodown
4. Return Fire & Maps o’Death
5. AD&D: Slayer
6. BattleSport
7. Super Street Fighter II Turbo
8. The Incredible Machine
9. BladeForce
10. Shockwave 2: Beyond the Gate

Honorable Mentions: Doom, Road & Track Presents: The Need for Speed, Wing Commander 3: Heart of the Tiger, Shanghai: Triple Threat, Gex, AD&D: Deathkeep

Jaguar

1. Tempest 2000
2. Super Burnout
3. Iron Soldier
4. Zoop
5. Hover Strike: Unconquered Lands
6. Rayman
7. I-War
8. Cybermorph
9. Val d’Isere Skiing and Snowboarding
10. Club Drive

Honorable Mentions: It’s not a game, but the Jaguar CD VLM is amazing!  Like, really amazing.  Also Battlemorph would probably be in 5th or so if I’d ever played it, but sadly I have not.

32X

1. Virtua Racing Deluxe
2. Space Harrier
3. Shadow Squadron
4. After Burner
5. Zaxxon’s Motherbase 2000
6. Star Wars Arcade
7. Metal Head
8. Star Trek Starfleet Academy Starship Bridge Simulator
9. Virtua Fighter
10. Tempo

Honorable Mentions: T-MEK, Blackthorne, Mortal Kombat II, Knuckles Chaotix (for those cool 3d bonus stages)

Overall – 3DO, Jag, and 32X

1. Tempest 2000 (Jag)
2. Virtua Racing Deluxe (32X)
3. Space Harrier (32X)
4. Star Control II (3DO)
5. Starfighter (3DO)
6. Shadow Squadron (32X)
7. Super Burnout (Jag)
8. Samurai Shodown (3DO)
9. Return Fire (3DO)
10. AD&D: Slayer (3DO)

Honorable Mentions: Iron Soldier (Jag), Zoop (Jag)

All of these 12 titles mentioned in Overall are B+ or better grade titles in my opinion, from the A+ all-time great Tempest 2000 on down to the B+-grade honorable mention titles.

Conclusion

 

In conclusion, this little exercise may not have proven much, but hopefully it does show that the 3DO had a nicely broad game library, with interesting games in a wide variety of genres.  Some of those games are good and others are not, but many of them are well worth playing, particularly if you like games from the era or are interested in mid ’90s experimental titles which try new things older consoles could not do. Overall, Tempest 2000 on the Jaguar is the best game here, and it is one of my favorite games of all time.  It is an exceptional classic, and I am thrilled  to finally own the original version.  The Jaguar is a very charming console too, with a mostly exclusive library of very odd games, for both good and ill.  Jaguar-era Atari gave games extremely small budgets and the system had nearly nonexistent third-party support, so seeing how much teams could accomplish on clearly far too little money is pretty interesting stuff.  Sometimes the results were good and other times quite the opposite, but that’s part of its charm, oddly enough.  The Jaguar’s ongoing, strong homebrew development community is another reason to be interested in the system — of these three systems, it has the most homebrew software by far. The Jaguar is an expensive endeavor to collect for, but I’m glad to finally be doing that.  Some Jaguar and 3DO games are very bad, but even that kind of thing can be pretty interesting, I think; just how unbelievably unplayable Shadow: War of Succession is, for example, must be played to be believed!  As for the 32X, the thing is an interesting system indeed.  On the one hand, Sega never should have released it.  The 32X proved to be a major mistake, helping to totally ruin Sega’s reputation among gamers.  You simply cannot abandon a platform that quickly after releasing it and expect there to be no consequences for that!  It’s sad, because some really cool 32X games were casualties of its very early demise such as the impressive-looking X-Men, but the quick death and major reputational damage shows that Sega’s best move would to have been to never release the thing.  However, it does exist, somewhat unfortunately, and… yes, if you like Sega and the Genesis absolutely get one!  The 32X library may be tiny, but among those few games are some fantastic classics.  Any Genesis owner will love some of the games on the 32X, and its best titles stand with the best on the Genesis.  The 32X is a lot cheaper to buy and collect for than the 3DO or Jaguar are, too, and the hardware is more reliable and less likely to fail in the future.  It may have the overall weakest game library of these three platforms, and it absolutely does lag behind both overall, but it’s still a weird and interesting platform I like.

Overall, I can see why most people never bothered with all three of these consoles, and why many collectors will pass on all three of them.  Try some games on one sometime, though; sure, many are rough by modern standards, but others still hold up well, and seeing the progress of the industry in that time of extremely rapid change is fascinating.  Tech this century has not changed anywhere near as rapidly as it did in the ’90s.  So yeah, get a 3DO.  And consider a Jaguar too, if you can afford it.

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Update

Sorry for the lack of any new articles, but some things happened.

First, I was planning on continuing the Guild Wars Game Opinion Summaries series for a while longer, but after the rape and allegation about Guild Wars music composer Jeremy Soule, I decided to put that off for a while.  He denies the allegations, but they sound quite credible. I will get back to my Guild Wars screenshots series — the soundtrack is only one component to that incredible game — but I think I’ll wait a bit longer before doing so.  I wish that they could remove that soundtrack and replace it with something  not written by someone evidently a total creep, but that’s not going to happen unfortunately I am sure.  Separating art from artist is sometimes difficult, and this is one of those times; Soule has never been one of my favorite game composers, but he did good work in a lot of prominent soundtracks.  It’s really too bad he seems to have abused that power.  This allegation is from after he completed work on Guild Wars 1’s soundtrack, but it’s still really bad, particularly in the context of other slightly less awful but also bad allegations that have surfaced about him.

So with that off the table for now, I tried to come up with something else but don’t have anything anywhere near postable yet.  I think I will do another Game Opinion Summaries list or update, probably a Genesis update covering all the games I’ve gotten since I finished the Genesis list.  I thought this was a good idea since the Genesis Mini is just about to release, so why not cover that fantastic console a bit more?  The other Game Opinion Summaries lists that I plan to do are a Colecovision one, following up my past Atari, Odyssey 2, and Intellivision lists with one for the other pre-crash console I have, and a TurboGrafx/PC Engine HuCards list.  I will do the Colecovision list this year, perhaps soon, and the TG16 one perhaps early next year, since that’s when the TurboGrafx Mini releases so why not?

As for what games I am playing other than classics, it’s mostly still random handheld puzzle games, Mario Maker 2 and They are Billions, which I got back into after its final release.  I have covered both of those games and they are what they are, extremely addictive games I love… or love to hate, depending.  Both can be quite hard and frustrating, in their own ways.  Mario Maker 2 is one of the best games ever, with an endless supply of Mario levels on all skill and competency levels, from extremely easy and basic to impossibly difficult.  My skill is probably somewhere in the middle, so I can’t handle the ones which require the super high-end skills but greatly enjoy the game anyway.  It’s perfect for anyone who likes Mario gameplay!  I still have not finished any levels in Mario Maker 2, but if I do I’ll write a post about it.  As for They are Billions, I love the strategy, but find the randomness very frustrating.  I’ve beaten several maps and am at the desert one now, which is quite hard.  I like the additional things they added to the game over the course of its time in Early Access, and it is a bit easier than it was when I first played it, but it’s still a very difficult game.  When you finally complete a map and survive that final wave it’s an amazing feeling, though!

So that’s the state of the site right now.  I’ll get something finished for posting this month.

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Guild Wars Memories and Screenshots, Part 13: April 2007 – November 2008

In early 2007, I got a new computer.  While my old one was a 1.5Ghz Pentium 4 with 384MB of RAM, a 32MB GeForce2 GTS graphics card, and Windows Millenium (which I still love! But anyway.), the new one was a Core 2 Duo E6600 with a brand new 320MB GeForce 8800 graphics card,  the new OS Windows Vista (which I also like a lot), and lots of RAM.  It was a huge upgrade, and I’d end up having the computer, with a few upgrades, for ten years.

When I got it, I remember thinking that maybe now I’d play PC games more again, like I used to.  By this point I already noticed that I was playing them less than I had before, in favor of classic console games mostly.  Well… that didn’t change.  The computer was a lot better than the old one in many ways, but I mostly kept playing older console games, only playing games on the PC here and there.  I started playing more modern games again in maybe 2016 and would say that now I play a mixture of older and newer games, but that’s well in the future here.

So, when the new PC arrived, I made sure to try out Guild Wars, still one of my favorite PC games, and I immediately noticed how much better the game looked!  These screenshots are the same exact game as before, it’s just running on a better computer actually able to get the most out of the game.  The difference is dramatic and looks great, and it ran at a stable 60fps almost all of the time too!  Despite this I still played a lot less of the game than I had in the previous few years, but the repetitive nature of the almost entirely clicking-a-skillbar gameplay had kind of gotten old so I wanted a break.  Still, enjoy the nicer-looking screenshots.  This article has 45 screenshots in four parts, ten from for April ’07, four from the August ’07 Guild Wars Eye of the North Sneak Peak event, 11 from November ’07, and 20 from January to October ’08.

Please note, the first images here are from April and then it skips to August because that’s what my screenshots do, they go from February to April to August.  From this point on long gaps like this between screenshot batches will be normal.

Additionally, with these larger, higher-resolution screenshots, please remember to click, or center-click, on the images to open full-size versions of the images, instead of the small thumbnails.

A. April 2007:  Heroes

In the world of Guild Wars, while the game was still fairly recent, 2007 was the last year with new paid content released.  Ten months after Factions, Guild Wars: Eye of the North released in August 2007.  Unlike Factions and Nightfall from 2006, which are technically stand-alone and do not require owning Prophecies, you can only play EotN after finishing one of the previous three campaigns.  The campaign is set in new parts of the Prophecies area of the continent, but you don’t need to own Prophecies, any of them will do.  Before EotN released, though, GW went quite some time with few updates.   Arena.net was having some problems deciding what they wanted to do next — did they want to make another full stand-alone campaign, an add-on, or what?  How will it work?  One campaign in progress got cancelled before Eye of the North was finally approved.  The resulting game was fantastic, but for paid content that was it for the game.  I’ve always been disappointed that the game was abandoned so quickly for a successful game of this kind, it deserved so much better!

So, while Factions had been followed with Nightfall only six months later, most of a year went by between Nightfall and Eye of the North.  I did not capitalize, however, and continued barely touching Nightfall.  It’s a good campaign and I like a lot of things about it, but somehow I kept stopping for long periods of time, sometimes because it was hard and I was playing it all solo and sometimes because, while great, I just didn’t enjoy the campaign quite as much as Prophecies or Factions.  Still, having FINALLY finished it much more recently, Nightfall is a fantastic campaign I should have played a lot more of earlier.  I didn’t, oh well.

Now, Nightfall released in the previous article, but I did not discuss the following issue that I have mentioned here and there at length then, so I will now.  Nightfall, beyond having a large and quite difficult new campaign, added one other major new feature to Guild Wars, which I have mentioned here and there and is both essential and unfortunate: Heroes.  Heroes are AI allies that you have much greater control over than the Henchmen that were the only thing available previously.  Where Henchies each have a specific build you cannot change, Heroes are fully customizable.  Indeed, you set Heroes’ skillbars up yourself, working from the skills you have unlocked on your account.  You can also buy skills for Heroes only, if you want some more skills for classes you don’t really play.  The AI won’t necessarily be as effective with some skills and builds as a human would, so reading up online about what kind of Hero builds work better is very useful, and Heroes are much better if they are in classes you have played extensively with other characters, but even so the ability to fully set your AI companions’ skillbars was fantastic.

The other major addition ANet made with Nightfall is giving players greater control of AI movements.  Nightffall added some new buttons to the minimap which you can direct your AI allies with.  Four buttons appear during gameplay when you’re in a mission or explorable area with AI allies.  The first three AI allies can be individually controlled, and the rest of your AI allies can be all moved together with a fourth button.  Where before they would just follow you around and could not be controlled beyond that, STRONGLY disadvantaging them versus human allies and encouraging the random-player-groups gameplay that I loved so much in the PvE (humans vs. AIs) part of the game, with these two additions that quickly started to break down.  To be fair, the sheer volume of content that had been added to the game, and people like me starting to play the game less, didn’t help either; where before everyone was playing the same campaign, now there were three and people were scattered through all three, without as many people in each of them.  As the years progressed, having AI allies became essential, as finding player groups for any number of PvE tasks rapidly became nearly impossible where it used to be easy, pre-Nightfall.  I still very much miss this element of the game, it was one of the things I loved about Guild Wars and Nightfall took it away.  My dislike of this is an important part of why I didn’t play much Nightfall for a long time.  However, how playable would Guild Wars be now without these additions?  A lot of the game would be even more impossible solo!

So, on the one hand, I greatly miss the Guild Wars of 2004-2006, where mostly randomly collected player groups did missions, quests, and explored together.  But on the other hand, Heroes and, perhaps even more, being able to give your AI allies direct ‘move here’ orders are essential things in a game with a lower and more spread-out playerbase.  You would never be able to always find human allies in every mission of this game at any time even if they had never added these things, so they are good.

It’s just a shame they had to add them, because it probably did more harm to the game than good — people really noticed how much better AI allies had become, and looking for player groups dropped off dramatically in very short order. Even when the playerbase was still high, while it was certainly still possible to find player groups sometimes, a whole lot of people who previously would have looked for players to group with moved over to Heroes instead because they’re almost as good and are always available.  It’s a very understandable choice that I would eventually do as well, because it makes the PvE game playable at any time, but as a result the game lost a lot of the sense of community that it had before.  Where in 2004 I had preferred Guild Wars over World of Warcraft in part because GW emphasizes grouping with other players you aren’t in a guild with much more, by ’07 that differential had surely gotten closer.  But, again, these changes also made the PvE game possible to play today in a way it would not be otherwise.  Late-game Guild Wars PvE is crushingly difficult as it is, without Heroes it’d be too hard to bear!  These changes really go both ways.  So, for both good and ill, the addition of Heroes is quite possibly the biggest change Guild Wars would have in its life so far.

Even if I was not playing a lot of Guild Wars anymore like I had been in 2004-2006, however, it was still a game I went back to with at least some regularity.  Including my estimates for beta playtime, in early ’07, as I say in this conversation with some random person, I was at maybe 900 hours played since the first beta.  I would only add a couple hundred hours to that over the next ten years.

Yup, I’m still playing more Factions than Nightfall.

Hey, it’s Nightfall! I’ve finally finished the first post-starter-island mission and gotten onto Kourna proper.

The Sunspear Sanctuary is kind of your base of operations during the campaign.

Kamadan, meanwhile, is the campaigns’ main city for interaction with other players. It has since become Guild Wars’ main social hub and trading place.

The random arenas.  And yup, this weird water-surface bug still works. Everything looks so much better now though, it’s all smooth and great looking!

In battle in the Random Arena.

… That didn’t end well. Too bad, but it’s almost always fun anyway.

I always like to go back to seared Ascalon every once in a while, it’s the first area I saw in this game and still is probably my favorite.


B. August 22-24, 2007 – Guild Wars: Eye of the North Sneak Peek Weekend (Beta Event)

A week before the game released, Arena.net held a very late promotional access weekend event, allowing anyone who owned a Guild Wars campaign to try out the beginning of the soon-upcoming new expansion.  I may not have played the game much in months, but was back for this event, I wanted to see how this new campaign would turn out.  I only have four screenshots from the event, but from the dates on the files they do show that I was once again here for a Guild Wars “beta”.  I don’t think I missed any public test events for the first Guild Wars.

My first impression of EotN was that I was impressed.  The first area is a beautiful snowy forest, like the South Shiverpeaks but more detailed and better looking.  It’s a pretty stunning looking area and one of the best in the game.  And in terms of gameplay, by starting from max level, EotN allowed for harder, more focused play.  I liked what I saw in the beta and wanted to play more.  And indeed, EotN would end up having a fantastic campaign loaded with interesting features and challenges.

Both in the beta and in the final game, you start EotN with a mission through a pretty great looking cave, fleeing from a threatening invasion…

Time is running out, will I make it?

And here we have maybe the first screenshot to really, really show off how much better the graphics are in Guild Wars in my ’07 PC than my ’01 one. From the anti-aliasing to the shiny lighting effects, this looks fantastic!  Indeed, the visuals in this shot still hold up extremely, extremely well.  Guild Wars’ graphics are some of the best ever.

The moon in the sky over this snowy mountainscape looks pretty nice too. I like this shot quite a bit.

 

C. November ’07 – Gameplay After the Guild Wars: Eye of the North Release

I believe I bought Eye of the North shortly after its release, digitally, but did not take any screenshots for a while.  So, this next screenshot batch is from November, when I took 11.  Many are quite similar, but I’m going to post all of them anyway.

Eye of the North is a great campaign, but it is quite different from past Guild Wars releases in important ways.  The difficulty is higher, as ANet cut back on lower-level content and started moving towards adding more high-level options to the game; the new skills and abilities are fewer and more focused, with far less of the bloated overlap of the skillsets that the two 2006 releases have; ANet started experimenting with having things go on in the world as you explored, something they would do a great deal more of in Guild Wars 2; missions do not have dedicated outposts before them like they used to, so you gather in towns for them; and more.  The previously mentioned uncertainty about what ANet should do with Guild Wars shows in the game, as they tried many new things in each of the four retail Guild Wars releases, but somehow they all work well together despite that, and perhaps in part because of it — the unique touches to each of the four campaigns keep them all interesting and worth revisiting!

As far as the story goes, there will be some very minor spoilers here, so I will block out this paragraph for anyone who wants none. Highlight the text to read it. EotN, as an expansion pack, was the first thing which actually continued the plot after the end of Prophecies, instead of telling other stories set elsewhere.  So, the plot returns to the issue of the Charr, among other things.  The game introduces several new friendly races, too, including the techie little Asura and the giant, warlike Norns.  You still can only play as a human, but the new races add some variety and both fit in the setting pretty well.  The expansions’ attempt to show different factions in the Charr and create a friendly, less evil Charr faction kind of works too, though even the “better” ones are still quite violent… though of course, so are humans.  That kind of equivocation would be the direction Guild Wars 2 would go in, but thanks to the way Guild Wars began, with the Searing, I don’t want to forgive the Charr.  On a related note, that GW:EN brings back the character Gwen is a clever touch, naming-wise.  Gwen’s position on the Charr’s a good one.  Anyway though, ignoring what they would do in GW2, EotN’s story is well-done, following up on the first game in some interesting ways.

I remember enjoying EotN and steadily playing through it, but looking back, I would not finish the campaign until late June 2009, almost two years after its release.  I don’t seem to have any screenshots from then, sadly — the screenshots I have from ’09, which I will start posting next time, do not show any of the ending parts of EotN — but did post about it online, so I know the date.  The basic structure of this game is that it has a main campaign of moderate to high-ish difficulty to go through, and optional side dungeons if you want some intensely challenging dungeons designed for human groups.  With AI companions most of the dungeons are too difficult for me and I did not have many people to play with anymore by this point, so unfortunately, though adding dungeons to the game was a fantastic idea, I still have not gone through most of them.

The new ice caves might look even better than the ones from Prophecies, which is definitely saying something.

Unfortunately, it’s not all shiny ice, there are monsters to deal with as well, in the dirt…

What, is this cave also a mine? Those are some oddly evenly-broken formations…

That little tree would probably look better with the camera a little farther away… but this was a ‘lots of first person shots’ set, so instead I got maybe too close for it to look ideal. Oh well. Anyway, we’re running through the wilderness, on the way to our next destination. As always.

At this point in the earlier parts of the EotN campaign, you compete in a tournament, facing off against a series of opponents, many of whom are familiar to people who have played the other campaigns. Here is Warmaster Tydus of Ascalon, a story character.

And LIttle Thom, from Kryta. He’s a henchman.

Melonni, a Hero from Nightfall.

Kisai, from Factions. She was a Henchman, but only in the starter island.

Sure you will…

This guy is from Ascalon as well… heh.

And last, of the ones I took screenshots of anyway, Cynn, one of the main story and henchman characters. Cynn’s “I want to kill as many Charr as possible” probably goes too far, but is not too far off base given what they did to Ascalon… Charr are the enemy!

D. 2008, January to October

These 20 images are all of the screenshots I took in the year of 2008.  Yeah, it’s not very many for a whole year; I may not have had many from ’07, but this is even lower.  Still, I was playing the game here and there, mostly focusing on slowly working my way through Eye of the North.  I may have been only sporadically playing the game, but was making slow progress through EotN, and was definitely enjoying it along the way.  This game has some fantastic looking areas, as this image set shows!  And the better computer better shows off just how good the game looks, too.

Yes, character models can take a while to load sometimes even on a better PC.

This place is creepy, look at the size of those cobwebs up on the ceiling… great sense of atmosphere!

Meanwhile, however, what the party, of me and Heroes as usual now, is doing is fighting some monsters.

I often use only two melee characters in my party, so Zenmai here has a tough job…

What an interesting, and ominous, building this is! What is that, spike-filled openings in the roof revealing a burning sky? With all of its dungeons, EotN very much makes up for previous Guild Wars campaigns having quite limited numbers of indoor areas, that’s for sure.

I know Guild Wars architecture is often hugely oversized, presumably to work well in a game, but this fireplace is kind of ridiculous if you think about it…

This hazy cave has a nice sense of atmosphere.

What is going on here, something is opening…

I don’t remember what this is at all, but it’s very cool looking!

And now it’s traveling up towards the flames above…

The amount of flowing lava here reminds me a bit of the Fire Islands, but this is somewhere else for sure. It’s also somewhere impressively dangerous-looking, though.

I know I say it all the time, but this game has truly spectacular art design. This scene here is yet another example of that.  The dark cave contrasts with the bright lava, surrounded with those tooth-like rocks…

Yes, it’s more dungeon traversal in EotN. These places are often really tough, particularly solo with heroes. I never have beaten most of them.

And unsurprisingly, given the firey theme, we see that this area is populated with Charr.

Hey, I didn’t turn the interface off!  It looks like things are going reasonably, my death penalty isn’t too high.  Warband of Brothers is one of the dungeons, and a quest, in EotN. You’re helping your Charr allies defeat some of the really evil Charr. Not that many of them are really all that good…

The way everything is on fire may make for neat scenery here, but the Charr’s addiction for burning things is horrible, as the Searing showed!

Same scene, interface off.

This area is pretty dark, I hope we’re getting out of the cave soon…

And indeed, I did! For a nice change of pace, here’s a bright, reflective ice cave.

Ah, it’s a mission. EotN’s missions were consistently very well designed and fun.

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My Thoughts on E3 2019 – Well, Nintendo Had a Good Show!

So, E3 was six weeks ago, and I’m finally getting around to posting something about what I thought. This will be a bit article than the ones I wrote for the last few years, but I do have some things to say. I put off posting something earlier because it wasn’t as exciting a show as other recent years.

As usual, I watched a lot of E3 coverage, focusing on watching the press conferences before the show floor opened, Nintendo’s Treehouse streams during the show, and Giant Bomb’s night shows each night.  I won’t have too much to say about that last one though, they were entertaining but not too newsworthy here I think, apart from a few things from the Xbox head Phil Spencer interview.

Here are my main thoughts on this E3.

So it’s E3 time again, and the game industry is excited!

… Well, they’re excited to tell you to come back in a year and a half, because Nintendo excepted, that is the main takeaway I took from E3 2019: come back in late 2020, when the next generation Sony and Microsoft consoles release. Before then? Well, there are a few games here and there, but it’s clear that a lot of developers have moved on to next-generation development.

Sunday: Microsoft and Bethesda

My main takeaway from Microsoft and Bethesda’s shows is that they showed games, but are focusing more, internally, on their next-gen projects.

On the positive side, Microsoft showed the most PC games that they have shown at their E3 show in a long time, for PC gaming it was Microsoft’s best show in years! The announcements include a new title in the classic Microsoft Flight Simulator series; a modern remake of Age of Empires II, Microsoft’s best real-time strategy game; that all of the Halo games are coming to PC; and an announcement beforehand that FINALLY Win32 executables will be allowed on the Windows Store. That last one is big, it means that the Microsoft Store is not, anymore, exclusively a walled garden for locked-down software, separate from the regular PC ecosystem. That’s fantastic news. So, this was a pretty good show for the PC from Microsoft. That was the main positive from Microsoft this year, though; on the console side, I was disappointed.

One reason for that disappointment is that some rumored projects, like a new Fable game, were not announced. A bigger deal, though, is how little gameplay Microsoft showed. At both the Microsoft and Bethesda conferences particularly, finding actual footage of actual gameplay seemed to be in short supply! I mean, pre-rendered CGI trailers look nice, but they aren’t gameplay. Why are they spending so much time on CG, and so little on gameplay? Even games that are supposed to release this year, like MS’s big holiday title Gears of War 5, showed very little gameplay. I’d much rather see gameplay than CGI, sorry. I kept hoping for Gears 5 to have some actual gameplay shown; I’m no Gears fan, but it’s always interesting to see where the big series are going. But no, it was all CG. CG is not gameplay, Microsoft. I don’t really care much how nice a CG trailer you can make, I want to see the actual games. There was gameplay of some indie titles and such, and a few others, but not enough.

One other project that was finally shown is the new Battletoads game. It looks like it could be fun, but has very basic Flash animation-style graphics, which aren’t too impressive. I’ve never liked Flash graphics as much as more detailed styles. Still, it could be alright, we’ll see.

Beyond that, Microsoft did hint at their next console. Details were scarce, but Microsoft announced more details about their next upcoming console, including that it will indeed release in late 2020, and that it seems like there will only be one model, down from the two models they were talking about a year ago. As for the details of its system power and such, though, Microsoft and Sony are in a high-stakes game right now, both not quite willing to announce their system’s specs so that the other one can’t boost their hardware power and one-up them, so we’ll have to wait. There is still some time until the releases, so that’s fine. Microsoft at least beats Sony so far for sure, Sony didn’t show up for E3 at all this year after all! I may greatly dislike Sony, but seeing one of the big three hardware makers skip E3 entirely really says that the show is declining. I hope the people running E3 can think of ways to improve the situation, I still think E3 is important.

On to Bethesda. First, they tried to apologize for the very unpopular game they released last year, Fallout 76. It’s good they mentioned it I guess, as opposed to just pretending that nothing was wrong as some publishers would. Bethesda is not exactly one of my preferred publishers, and as usual they didn’t show much I care much about; their main focus was on their Doom 2 remake, called Doom Eternal. I’m sure Doom Eternal will be a great game, but while it seems good the last one didn’t keep me interested for all that long, so I’m not planning on getting the sequel anytime soon.

And then… ughhh, well, and then… they announced… a Commander Keen cellphone game. I am, of course, a big fan of the Keen series; they’re fantastic platformers which I loved in the early ’90s and still think are great, great games, which are still some of my favorite platformers ever. It’s been frustrating to see id and then Bethesda do nothing with it for so long. So on one level, seeing this announcement was cool. The trailer for the game is amusing, with some dumb and some amusing comedy. The art style is simple, in that modern animation way, but works, and the characters and creatures and such are recognizable — Yorps are in this game as you would hope, and more. They’ve added a twin sister character in addition to the original Keen, too, which is a nice addition. Apogee and id games rarely had playable female characters in the ’90s, so it’s good to see them doing better now. It’s sad that this is coming back as a mobile game, though. Too bad. I like the trailer as a trailer, but not as a game. So yeah, it was nice to see but also awful to see, because seriously, Commander Keen returns… as a cellphone game?? Argh!

Monday: Ubisoft, Square-Enix, and Limited Run

There was a lot less to watch on Monday than usual, as Microsoft moved to Sunday and EA and Sony didn’t have conferences at all, as E3 shrinks. So, this left only two major conferences that day. Ubisoft and Square-Enix had stuff to show, but neither one particularly excited me. Ubisoft has some great and interesting games, but for me at least they didn’t show them this year. They focused strongly this year on their modern-military shooters and such, including The Division 2 and various other Tom Clancy games, not games I play much of. Ubisoft makes games I like, but they got less attention this year. The new Gods & Heroes game looks potentially cool, though it was just yet ANOTHER prerendered trailer with no gameplay, first. It looks quite Assassin’s Creed inspired, but hopefully will be more fun than those games — I have always wanted to like the AC games due to their interesting settings, but the gameplay has never held my interest. We’ll see with this not-AC title. Additionally, it is amusing that the original Wii lives another year thanks to Just Dance 2020, which was announced for the current systems and the Wii. Sadly the Wii U isn’t getting it, so I guess that great console is dead now, as far as retail games go. Limited Run’s release of Axiom Vergea few months ago seems to be the last Wii U release on a disc… ugh. But more on that soon. As for Ubisoft, otherwise it was a pretty forgettable show for them. Oh well. Hopefully we see games I am more interested in like Beyond Good & Evil 2, Skull & Bones, TrackMania, Rayman, Rabbids, and such in the future. Maybe they will even make a Rayman 4 someday… that would be amazing, Rayman 2 is still one of the best platformers ever made.

Square-Enix had a solid show. I don’t have too much to say about it, though; most of their games are remakes and remasters, with only a few really new games shown. And their two big games aren’t ones that interest me all that much, Marvel’s Avengers and the FFVII remake. They have done some recent remakes and re-releases that are pretty cool, like the enhanced ports of Final Fantasy XII, but the VII remake isn’t interesting me too much; the gameplay looks okay but not really like something I’d really want to stick with, and the story has infamously been spoiled to everyone on the internet for a long time. It will be a bit interesting to see if they change anything, though. As for the Avengers game, I don’t know, it looks fine I guess. I’m no superhero fan though, but I see the trailer has gotten a very mixed reception. I’m not sure how much of it was gameplay either, versus CG.

Limited Run had a little video presentation Monday as well, and I watched it. I am not a Limited Run fan, though; if you want to be a real publisher make enough copies of your games to satisfy demand! The show was partially amusing and partially groan-inducingly bad, but what it really did is once again remind me of why I do not like their business model. I mean, it’s fantastic that there are physical copies of these games being made, don’t get me wrong. And some of these games would have no chance of selling enough copies to justify a full retail run. Others, however, would… but then they get stuck with Limited Run’s minuscule-printrun nonsense anyway. It’s sad stuff. This whole ‘we’ll make a few copies, sometimes of good games and sometimes of bad ones, and get collectors to buy them up immediately regardless of quality just to have the full set’ business model is obnoxious, and bad when it sticks some actual good games’ physical releases behind these rare Limited Run releases. For one example of that, see what is apparently going to be the final disc release for the Wii U, since Just Dance 2019 was not announced for the system, Axiom Verge for Wii U. I’d like to own that since it is the best version of the game, but not “how you get a Limited Run game” like, so oh well.

So uh, yeah, I hope Nintendo’s show is good, since unlike the rest of the industry they probably aren’t prepping for an all-new console next year…

Tuesday: Nintendo’s Show Begins

Nintendo always has its show last, Tuesday at 9am Pacific, or noon here. And it didn’t take long before it was clear that Nintendo won E3 again. I know I’ve almost always said that, but it was an easy runaway win this time, not close at all. With a sizable lineup of mostly good-looking games releasing this year, including many from the next few months, Nintendo had a lot to show and they did well with it. Nintendo has the advantage of supporting a current platform instead of moving towards a new one that will not be out for some time and it showed. There is really only one disappointment from Nintendo, that once again nothing was seen of Metroid. We know Metroid Prime 3 was recently rebooted with Retro making the game, but what about the rumored Metroid Prime Trilogy port that Retro supposedly made? I guess if it is real Nintendo doesn’t want to release it this year. That’s too bad. Otherwise, though, this was a great show with some nice surprises. Perhaps foremost among the surprises, we finally got — and saw released on the same day as its announcement, digitally at least — a translated, English-language version of the SNES classic Seiken Densetsu 3! It’s called “Trials of Mana” now, so I guess that’s now SD3’s official English name. It’s expensive at $40 for a digital collection of Final Fantasy Adventure, Secret of Mana, and Trials of Mana, but… probably worth it anyway. Square also announced a full 3d remake of Trials of Mana, coming to Switch, PC, and PS4 next year. It looks a lot more ambitious than the apparently-poor 3d remake of Secret of Mana, which would be nice.

Also, Nintendo closed the conference by announcing that a sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is in development. That’s cool I guess, though it’s definitely not really my kind of game. The trailer teases us once again with Zelda having a significant role, but they’ve done this too many times now for me to believe it. No, probably either she gets kidnapped right after that cutscene and you have to rescue her, or she’ll follow you around as your AI companion. Playable Zelda? “But then what would Link do?” … I hope I’m wrong this time, but sadly probably won’t be…

Other than that, Link’s Awakening’s remake was also shown at length, as expected. And… well, it has great graphics with its unique ‘toy’ artstyle, but in terms of gameplay and design it’s clear that it’s a very, VERY faithful remake of the original. It looks like everything is in the exact same places it was before, so someone like me who has played the original many times probably won’t get too much out of this apart from seeing the redone graphics. Link’s Awakening is one of my favorite games ever, so it’s fantastic that it will be getting more attention again, but I kind of would like to see something a bit more new than this is looking like it will be, I guess. For new content, beyond the removal of screen transitions and freer movement, Nintendo has only shown one thing: the photo hut from DX has been removed, and the photo collection element as well presumable, and a new customizable dungeon has been added there. Here you can use rooms from dungeons you’ve beaten, placing them into a dungeon to form your own custom dungeons. It’s a pretty cool idea that might be fun to play around with for a while, though it’s limited to just placing whole rooms, you aren’t designing anything more detailed than that so this is not a Legend of Zelda Maker. And other than that, it looks like LA again. Again, LA is one of my favorite games, but I love the original, it doesn’t need this remake for me to love the game! I will play this eventually, but the original black and white release will probably always be my favorite.

They showed a lot of other games as well. First, Daemon x Machina appeared again. This mech shooting action game that had a demo a few months ago; the demo wasn’t amazing, but was fun and I am kind of looking forward to this game. No More Heroes III was announced as well. I don’t care at all, I STRONGLY dislike some elements of what I have seen of the story of this franchise and don’t think I would like the gameplay either. Other games shown include Mario & Sonic at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, bringing back this long-running franchise after an olympics off; Pokemon Sword and Shield, which is sure to be the year’s big hit but isn’t something I care about; Mario Maker 2, which released a few weeks ago and as my last article shows is my Game of the Year for sure, despite some faults; Animal Crossing showed, though it has been delayed to 2020 and is a series I’ve never played or really wanted to play, but I do like that this time the female villager is getting the main focus in the trailers and gameplay and not the male one; Astral Chain, which sure looks like a Platinum action game, which is praise for some but not for me, I’ve never liked that kind of game much at all; and more. However, of course, F-Zero was not present, because that amazing series never will come back. Truly unfortunate. It needs to!

I watched a lot of the Nintendo Treehouse streams during E3, and they showed lots of footage of all these games and more. The Switch port of Dragon Quest XI looks to be the definitive version of that game for example. I might get it sometime. It was a good, fun show from Nintendo, packed with games and stuff to look forward to. Their World Championships stream on Saturday, before E3 began, was quite entertaining too. I particularly liked the Mario Maker 2 portion of that show, watching speedrunners compete to complete new Mario Maker levels as fast as possible was great, I would definitely watch competitions like that again.

Conclusion

Overall, Nintendo had a good show loaded wtih good games. Animal Crossing’s delay to next year leaves only Pokemon and the Link’s Awakening remakes to be the big holiday titles for the Switch this Christmas, but Pokemon is big enough that that should be fine for most. For me their big game is out already, Mario Maker 2.

As for everyone else, there were a few bright spots here and there, with some interesting indie games I mostly didn’t mention here and the promise of some great upcoming projects, but it is clear that a lot of developer attention is focusing on the still mmore than one year away PlayStation 5 and next Xbox. That’s okay, game development takes a long time, but it leaves somewhat sparse lineups of major titles on those platforms in the interim. Fortunately a lot of top modern games have very good replay value and Nintendo’s releasing games at a good pace, though, so things are fine for now. The industry will need to figure out what to do with E3, though — shows like this, with so many major publishers saying nothing, are not as exciting or important as the shows of years past. At what point does it collapse, with publishers tired of spending so much money for reduced returns? Or alternately, does it become another convention like a PAX, instead of the more industry-focused event that it was? That is a likely outcome, but we will have to see.

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First Impressions: Super Mario Maker 2 (Switch) – The 2019 Game of the Year is here!

First, one little site update — I just noticed that my Ever Oasis First Impressions article was missing from the Table of Contents page, so that error is now fixed!  For anyone who missed out on that great 3DS title pick it up, it’s very very good.  But anyway, on to the article.

Yes, I know I haven’t yet done a post on this years’ E3 last month.  I should write at least something, but… for now, how about something even more recent: a First Impressions article on this month’s biggest release, Super Mario Maker 12 for the Nintendo Switch.

Super Mario Maker (Wii U / 3DS) was Exceptional!

Super Mario Maker on the Wii U was amazingly fun to play levels in, make levels in, and watch people make or play levels in on the internet. I didn’t have a Wii U when the first game released because I was foolish and didn’t get one until very late, but had a lot of fun watching videos online of people playing it, then I played a fair amount on 3DS once that version released, and on Wii U after I got one.  I only published one Mario Maker 1 level on the Wii U, though, and it was just a few months ago so almost no one played it, Mario Maker 1 activity is well down.  I’ll probably remake it (with some changes) on the Switch, and make new levels too I hope, but for anyone interested, here’s the level code, presuming it’s still there: 64C7-0000-03DC-1903  The game is the best game on the Wii U and probably the best of the generation.  That’s no easy statement, since Splatoon is also exceptional and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, while not really my thing, is also very very good, but Mario Maker comes out on top, I think.

As for that 3DS version, while the missing features — no online level trading, no way to type in codes to follow creators or play specific levels, and such — are crippling, the long single player campaign made up for it and made it a great purchase.  It’s also a very funway to play random 100 Mario Challenge levels.


The Positives

But now, the sequel is out! As I said in the title, I’m pretty confident that this will be my game of the year. I certainly can’t think of anything that will challenge it for that; Link’s Awakening is sure to be amazing but isn’t a new game, and nothing else I can think of is really in contention.

When discussing the first game above, I said that the three things I love about it are playing levels, making levels, and watching people play the game online in videos.  And while it’s early, I’m already having fun with all three of those things in this fantastic sequel! Well, I haven’t made levels yet though I will, but playing and watching are both fantastic. And i will make levels, particularly once I get a good stylus for my Switch. For playing levels, Mario Maker 2 is like the first game but better. It has almost everything from the first game, but with more visual themes for the four game styles from the first game, a full new game style I will discuss in a later paragraph, and a whole bunch of new things added to the four main styles from the last game.  The biggest addition is sloped surfaces, aka slopes, and they are a really nice inclusion.  There are also new enemies, several new powerups in various modes, on/off switches which enable and disable blocks, snake blocks which follow a programmable track, the Angry Sun, and more. The new visual themes are also great, there are a full ten now! It’s pretty awesome stuff. As a Game Boy fan, I particularly like the inclusion of the Mario Land 1 Superball powerup, which turns your character grey, plays Mario Land 1-1 music, and gives you the Superball just as it was there, a bouncy ball which picks up items. This items’ use in Mario Maker is pretty obvious and great. The other new powerups are a hammer you can destroy some blocks with and giant pixel Mario. 

Other new additions include some theme-specific ones — the new Forest visual theme has water and land, just like it did in Mario World, and you can program how the water raises and lowers.  You can do the same for lava in the Castle theme as well.  Of course there is new music for the new themes in games which previously did not have those themes, just like the new music from MM1 such as SMB1 Airship music, and it’s great stuff.  One other very interesting addition is Night mode.  When you go into Night mode, each level theme changes dramatically — the forest’s water turns to poison, another goes into super-low-gravity mode like the Moon level in Mario Land 2, and more.  These allow for some fascinating changes to the regular Mario Maker formula.  The list of additions is substantial and fantastic. Super Mario Maker 2 is amazing, and Nintendo says that two MILLION levels have already been uploaded, which is pretty amazing. No Mario Maker 1 levels are playable in this version, but there are so many levels that that isn’t an issue.  Creators are picking up right where they left off in the first game, and it’s great.

One other major new addition is that you can now make requirements that you’ll need to complete in order to finish a stage.  In levels with a finishing requirement, you will NEED to do that thing to finish; if you get to the end of the stage without it, the goal will just be a black outline, you won’t be able to complete the stage until or unless you do that thing.  These rules include things such as ‘you must kill all enemies of type X’ to ‘you must get all the red keys’, and more.  They make levels a lot harder, and so far I’m not sure what I think of them; they do require you to play levels quite differently, but it’s not something that I’ve ever seen in a 2d Mario game before, and I like being able to finish a level when you manage to get to the end.  And given how many people are making extremely difficult levels in Mario Maker, these just allow people to make even HARDER insane ultra-difficult stages, which is sure to frustrate many.  Still, it’s an overall positive as an inclusion since it allows for some potentially cool stuff in levels that don’t abuse it.

The game adds one major new gameplay mode, based on a 2.5d take on the Wii U classic Mario 3D World.  It is kind of ironic that the major new theme is from a game not available on the Switch, but 3D World’s gameplay fits well in 2d in a way that an open-levels 3d game like Mario Odyssey would not, so the choice makes sense.  This new level style is great and has many unique elements which only exist in 3D World mode.  These include clear pipes you can travel through within areas, the cat suit, grille areas you can grab on to,  cannon things that shoot into the screen, blocks which alternate between two sets (red and blue disappearing blocks, that is), giant question mark blocks which make a row of blocks appear out of them, you now have a butt stomp attack, and a bunch more.  The cat suit is particularly worth mentioning, as they are not just kind of cute, they give you more moves and really open up movement, as the cat suited characters can freely climb walls, do a diagonal pounce attack when in the air, and more.  It’s just as great as it was in 3D World.  Level themes are 3D World-inspired as well, with very different looks from the others in the game.  3D World style is awesome and I am really liking how levels set there play, they are a refreshing change from the standard gameplay of the rest of the styles.  3D World style is one of the best things about Mario Maker 2 so far.  A lot of stuff from the other four modes is missing, but the new stuff more than makes up for it. When creating you can’t transfer from the main four styles (the same ones from the first game) to the new 3D World one, it resets your stage, but they’re very different so that’s fine.  Mario 3D World really was an amazing game, I like it just as much or more than Mario Odyssey.  Nintendo still really should make a Switch port of the game, way too many people missed it because of how sadly poorly the Wii U sold!  Many of the Wii U games that have not been ported to Switch make sense, but this is the biggest one that does not.

One other new change adds more playable characters throughout all modes apart for Story mode.  This time you can play as not only Mario online and in level creation, but also Luigi, Toad, or Toadette. This is a great addition.  It’s too bad that Toadette is now Nintendo’s female character in Mario games and not the Princess or Rosalina as they had before, but it’s better than having no actual female characters as was the case in the first one, even if it does continue Nintendo’s strange, and somewhat inexplicable, love for Toads — also see the 3DS and Wii U Paper Mario games for a lot more of that. Anyway, you choose which character you want in the pause menu, so it’s not set by level creators. 

Additionally, on a more neutral node, in the first game all new levels went into the 100 Marios mode, where you had 100 lives to try to beat 15 levels (or 6 levels, in Super Expert difficulty). Well, 100 Marios mode has been replaced with an endless mode, where you have only a few lives and see how far you can get. With only 5 lives at the start instead of 100, getting far is a lot harder this time; yes, you can get extra lives in levels, but it’s tough. I also miss the goal of trying to finish 15 levels and beat the game; instead you now just play until you lose. There are online leaderboards, but still I don’t know that it’s an improvement.   On the other hand though, story-wise there is a major improvement here — Mario Maker 1 presented the usual sexist trash of “Bowser kidnapped the princesses, beat these levels to rescue her” at the beginning of each 100 Marios run.  This time, though, it is an endless mode, and story-wise it just says ‘Mario is going on a journey’,and off he  sets.  Oddly, this animation is the same no matter which of the four characters you’re playing as, but they will appear ingame.  Gameplay-wise the endless mode is not as fun as 100 Marios mode because you start with a sparse five lives so getting much of anywhere is extremely difficult on the higher settings and also because they changed the algorythm so unplayed levels never appear in endless mode, but more on that later; storyline-wise, Mario Maker 2 is a great improvement over the original as it thankfully ditches the sexist “rescue the princess again” plot of that game.  It does make it pretty confusing about why the Princess isn’t playable in this game though, only Toadette.  I don’t understand Nintendo’s love for Toads.  Oh well.

There is also a multiplayer mode, though I’ve heard very bad things about the online play’s quality. I haven’t tried it for myself yet though, and it’s online only — oddly, unlike NSMBU, this game doesn’t have four player co-op on a single system, so far at least.  At least there is a multiplayer mode though, the first one didn’t have anything, so it’s great to see the addition.   Also there is a new local two player creation mode option, but it requires Joycons for some bizarre reason. I mean, the game supports the pro controller in creation and regular play, it’s what I use to play the game with single player! Why require both players in the two player creation mode to use joycons? Nintendo does very strange, poorly thought through things sometimes… but again, that they added multiplayer at all is good, it wasn’t in the first game.

The game has a single player story mode as well, and it’s pretty well done. It has about as many levels as the one in the 3DS game, but has a lot higher production values this time, with a world map, stuff to collect, choice about what order you play the levels in, and more. And some amusing conversations are here too, like the ones with Mary O. and Yamamura the pigeon in that game. Yamamura does return in this game in the tutorial mode, check it out if you need help learning how to play and create levels.  But in Story mode, you play as Mario, rebuilding the Princess’s castle after Undo Dog accidentally undid it. Each level has a different challenge to overcome, and introduces you to a new element of the design. It’s pretty good, though it’s not what I play Mario Maker for, really; the weird, always mixed in quality fanmade levels are.  I also find it a little odd how you have a little bit of 3d control in the hub world, making me want to use the analog stick, but then all levels are of course on a flat plane as all Mario Maker levels are.  Why does the hub have that depth, it’s kind of strange.  I know some platformers do have 3d hubs with 2.5d levels, and it can work great, but it’s better when both are intended to be controlled with the same thing; that’s not the case here, you really want a d-pad in levels.  This is pretty minor though, and Story mode’s great fun.  It’s not the same in challenge and length as a NSMB game campaign, but there’s more than enough here to keep you playing for a good while, and hopefully learning about good Mario stage design as well.  That tutorial mode has lots more on that line available for anyone who wants it.

Negatives

So the game is mostly amazing, but it does have a few issues. First, some little touches from the first game, like the skinny Mario and the weird sounds Mario sometimes made while falling into pits are gone. The mostly Nintendo-focused Youtube channel GameXplain did a great video explaining a bunch of the more significant things removed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-Y3vvHvKCk.  Some of these things are minor, but others I do miss.  One other important thing removed, with one exception, are the numerous costumes that Mario used to be able to wear in the first game which made you appear to be numerous other characters.  These only existed in the Super Mario Bros. 1 graphical style, but allowed for a huge variety of character looks to play the game, and for themed levels with the character to match the design of the stage.  It was too bad that they were only in the SMB1 style, but still were pretty cool, and they added more costumes over time.  That’s all gone here; you can only play as the four characters and nothing else, and you can’t theme a stage for one of the four characters because the player chooses who they are, not the level creator.  That’s good — otherwise a lot of levels would surely require everyone to be Mario — but it is worth mentioning.  Oh, that one old costume that returns?  It’s the giant pixel Mario, which is now a new powerup you can get.  It’s a nice addition.  It’s too bad that the costumes are gone, but I don’t mind all that much because the restriction to only being able to use them in Mario 1 was quite limiting anyway, they either needed to be in all of the modes or none this time, and they chose none.  Oh well.

Additionally, creation is a lot worse than it was before because in my opinion, capacative touch screens are awful compared to reactive for serious gaming purpose. I’ve been saying this for years, but still believe it, and this shows it very clearly! Fingers are horrible for precise touch, so you can’t do much of use with just your hands. So, you’ll need a capacitive stylus that works with the system and allows for precision, which is an additional expense and will have trouble matching the precision of a reactive stylus if they even CAN do that — those awful mushy tips are the worst for precision to say the least!  With a good capacitive stylus you can get close to Mario Maker 1’s level of control, but I doubt it’ll ever match it because of the precision limitations of capacitive touch methods.  And since the Switch doesn’t come with a stylus or have a place to store a stylus in the system, it’s not nearly as convenient to use either.  This is a pretty big limitation.  Alternately, you will need to learn the button controls, which I haven’t tried much yet but won’t be as good as direct touch control is.  Nintendo put some effort into making button controls that work, with circular item-selection menus which make choosing what you want to place fairly easy, but it’s no match for the speed and precision of a stylus.  Considering that creation is half of the game, this is a pretty big problem.  The millions of posted stages show that people are overcoming these limitations, but it is a downgrade.

Nintendo’s awful online services are also a problem.  Friend codes are a thing in this game, and you can’t bring your Switch friends list, if you have one, into the game; oh no, that would actually make sense, and Nintendo isn’t about making sense when it comes to online anything. So no, you’ve got to trade friends codes outside of the game, and add them manually in Mario Maker. Alternately, if you have a level code you can follow creators that way, but still, they make it a lot harder than it should be. That’s to be expected from Nintendo, but still, it’s annoying.  Every player makes a Mario Maker character for online level trading this time too, and unlike Mario Maker 1, this time everyone needs a unique username.  Unfortunately, Nintendo has a ten character limit on their usernames, so almost anything reasonably legible was taken immediately. For a game requiring everyone to have a unique username and a large playerbase, you need more than a paltry ten characters for names.    There are also horrible lag problems in the simultaneous 4-player multiplayer online mode that are not fixed yet.  You can’t save or view replays of good runs within the game, either.  Times, yes; replays, no.  And Nintendo Online is a paid service?

And last, I’ve referenced this earlier, but in the new endless mode that replaced 100 Marios mode, unplayed levels will never appear this time! Now only levels with a like will. Instead, new levels ONLY go into the New Levels tab in the single-level selection option, so the only ways to get your level played and liked, so it appears in the endless queue, is either to know people who will play your level, beg people online to play your level like everyone else, or hope people play it in the new levels queue, that’s it. I’m sure they were trying to fix the “lots of terrible levels in the 100 Marios mode” problem the first one had sometimes, but this isn’t good either. Also it can take several days for levels to even get into the queue, at the moment… not great. This issue does seem to be getting better, but the basic design of how new levels are handled is not good. I’ve seen the idea of a new levels mode, like the endless mode, but just for new, unplayed/unfinished stages, and that’s a good idea, I think.  Having Endless mode start you with only five lives was a mistake as well I think, it’s not nearly enough to get very far.  The challenge of seeing whether you could beat 15 stages (or 6 stages, in Super Expert mode) with 100 lives is gone; now I’m lucky to get even a few stages in on Hard.  As a result of all this I’ve been playing a lot more single levels from the level browser, often ones from the New (unplayed) Levels tab, instead of lots of 100 Marios mode like I did in the last game.  It works well so I don’t mind too much, but it probably is a downgrade overall.

Conclusion


Overall, though, despite some issues, Super Mario Maker 2 is absolutely amazing.  I’ve been playing a lot of this game, and for playing levels, it’s everything the first game was but better thanks to all the new stuff!  What is here is pretty amazing,  and there’s a lot here.  It is fantastic that Mario Maker is back and on a more popular system this time, because while the Switch is a lot less perfect for this game than the Wii U was, it’s still fantastic stuff and an all-time great.  Mario Maker is one of Nintendo’s best ideas ever and it’s really great that it’s now on the Switch.  If I had to choose which of the two games is better overall, right now, I might lean towards the first one because creation is so much better in ways this game can’t match, but it’s close, and that says a lot given the limitations of the capacitive screen.  It’s really a case of which is better, better play thanks to all the added options in Mario Maker 2, or better creation thanks to the better screen of Mario Maker 1?  Different people will have different opinions there. 

Really though, the best answer is ‘they’re both amazing!’.  This is an exceptional, must-play game which anyone with a Switch should definitely buy.  And it will just get better with time, too, as updates are coming, such as one that will add the ability to play against friends online.  I hope to see a second new graphics mode get added eventually as well, in the conspicuously empty space next to 3D World’s; either one of the Game Boy games’ styles or Super Mario Bros. 2 would be perfect additions to this game!  They have already added the Superball, so how about the rest of Super Mario Land’s gameplay as a theme, Nintendo? That would be pretty awesome.  Regardless, though, this is a game that I, and a lot of other people, will surely be playing on and off for years.  It’s outstanding and provides endless hours of incredible fun, and aggravating frustration, as you play the near-endless variety of levels people have created.  Seeing what people can create in this game, with its familiar mechanics juxtaposed with levels that may be good and well balanced, or absurdly easy, or absurdly hard to the point of near-impossibility for most, or anything in between, is fascinating and one of the most interesting things in gaming.

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