One of the best things about being in my line of work is all the opportunities I get to discover older games that I’ve never played before. The different projects I get involved in normally have me retreading information I’m already aware of, but sometimes I get the chance to run into a retro game that either I’ve never even heard of, or one that I’ve never had the pleasure of actually playing before.
It's a Party!
One particularly unexpected pleasure I’ve had this year is actually enjoying Mario Party. This was a part of a planned article series about video game music that never really went anywhere (happens all the time). There’s this artist on YouTube who goes by the name of PoopPoopFart (Yes, really) who makes these amazing covers of video game tunes. One of the songs he did several years ago was of Rainbow Castle from the original Mario Party. I’ve never been all that fond of Mario Party, only having played it once at a friend’s house ages ago and I didn’t really have a very good time. But I wanted to hear the original version of this song in its original context, so I busted out my copy of Mario Party and played a game with my son. We had a blast, and that lead me to not only trying a couple of the other Mario Party games I owned from my years working in video game retail, but also to purchasing the rather excellent Mario Party Superstars on Switch the day it released, which has proven to be a really great multiplayer experience for my whole family.
So here we have an entire game series that I wrote off as junk for decades, and I finally understand it. It’s not my favorite game ever, but it’s one I have a newfound respect for.
Hunting for Good Metroid Games
Similarly, we have one of the only Metroid games I had never beaten before this year, Metroid Prime Hunters. Like Mario Party, I played this game when it first came out for a few minutes and decided that it really wasn’t for me. But this year, my son and I played through the entirety of the Metroid series for a project I wanted to work on which eventually became my “Complete” US Metroid Collection video on the Stone Age Gamer YouTube channel.
When we came to Hunters, I decided to download it on Wii U so I could play it on the TV, making it easier for my son to watch me play. I’m not saying the game was a masterpiece or anything, but it finally kinda clicked with me, and it was a really good time. The single player game has its issues, mostly in terms of controls, but all in all it’s a pretty fun little game that’s especially impressive considering the hardware it was released on. I had written that game off as something I’d just never get around to doing ages ago, and now, I can finally say I’ve played it through to conclusion.
Less connected to this job specifically, but still related tangentially we have Ninja Baseball Bat Man, which I discovered via our Podcast. My co-host Dan was one of a handful of people who really went above and beyond for my 40th birthday this year, where they all made me an arcade cabinet with a PC running MAME built inside. Dan insisted that the two of us take a few minutes at my birthday party to stand there and play a few levels of this completely insane game that he loves called Ninja Baseball Bat Man. It’s an awesome little beat 'em up that’s nigh impossible to find in the real world, but thanks to Dan, I was able to play the thing on my very own arcade cabinet. And it’s really cool!
A Wise Musical Decision
Over on Geekade, I host another podcast called WaveBack that’s all about video game music. We were doing an episode celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Donkey Kong franchise, and I went looking for some lesser known David Wise DK tracks to include. In my research I found that he had written a completely unique soundtrack for the Game Boy Advance version of Donkey Kong Country 3. Eveline Fischer did the music for the SNES original, which is a game I’ve never particularly cared for. I just think it’s an ugly little thing, and the music never sat right with me either. Now, this GBA port isn’t a much better game, but I did find it a bit more playable thanks to the new, and in my opinion, vastly improved soundtrack. I adore David Wise music, and the stuff he came up with for DKC3 I feel just matches the stages they’re attached to way better than the original SNES versions did.
So no, I’m not a DKC3 convert or anything, but I did discover some absolutely kick-butt new music, and learned that the rest of the game had some wacky changes too, so much so that I devoted an entire blog post to the subject right here on this site.
Genesis Does what N64 Don't
One of my other jobs is as a staff writer for Nintendo Force magazine, a physical magazine that strives to carry on the legacy of Nintendo Power. I was assigned to review the Nintendo 64 portion of the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack, which meant I had to actually sign up for it. You can read all about my thoughts on the N64 stuff in the magazine itself, but it’s actually the Sega games that I’ve spent way more time with. Thanks to the spot-on emulation and the rewind feature (both things which are missing from the N64 NSO stuff) I was able to beat Sonic 2 with all the chaos emeralds without using the debug code cheat for the first time, and from there I dove into a coupe of other fun things I never really messed with before.
First, I played some Contra: Hard Corps, a game that I officially don’t understand. Dan and I played it for Geekade’s charity event, the PAin-in-the-ass-a-Thon, a few years ago, and we made it a few levels in and neither one of us were having any fun. Well, we were having fun not having fun with the game, if that makes any sense. But anyway, now that I had a rewind feature at my fingertips I decided to give the game another try and see how far I could get/see if I could understand what it is about this game that so many people love so much. I got way farther than I ever did during the PITAthon, but it still didn't click with me. Still, I do have more of an understanding of what makes the game tick now, and that’s really something I thought would never happen.
But the biggest surprise for me came from the Mega Drive version of the NSO app, which I downloaded with my Japanese account. There, I discovered Puyo Puyo. Now, I’ve been a fan of Puyo Puyo for much longer than I was aware. I first played it as Kirby’s Avalanche for Super NES, and Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine for Sega Genesis. I loved Kirby’s Avalanche and I poured a ton of hours into the game. Several years later I learned of its connection to Puyo Puyo, but every time I ran into a new Puyo release, I more or less ignored it because if I wanted to play the game, I’d just play my SNES version.
That is until we got Puyo Puyo Tetris for Nintendo Switch. I love weird crossover games, and this one worked surprisingly well. There was this one song in the game that I fell in love with, which had this long weird name when I downloaded the soundtrack from the nefarious corners of the internet.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago when I booted up Puyo Puyo for Mega Drive to see how similar it was to Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine, and once I started actually playing the game, that song I loved from Puyo Puyo Tetris started playing! Turns out it’s the Theme of Puyo Puyo and has been reprised in countless Puyo games over the years. The Mega Drive game is apparently the first place where the song was used, and that 16 bit version is spectacular.
A Twisted Tale
Probably the coolest thing I got to play this year though was Makai Prince Dorobacchan for PC Engine. I first learned about the game when I was writing a blog for the site about secretive sequels a number of years ago. I recently revisited that post to turn it into a video for our YouTube channel and I wanted to get some footage from the game. I started looking around online when suddenly, it hit me. I got a Super SD System 3 a few months ago to do a video about for the site! So I found the files I needed (legally, of course) and booted up the game for the first time. It was great! It’s no Twisted Tales of Spike McFang, but it’s a pretty darn good time.
It’s been quite a year in terms of video game discoveries for me, and I owe so much of it to my chosen profession. So I guess what I’m trying to say here is one, thank you for reading, watching, and listening to the stuff I do. If nobody cared what I had to say, I wouldn’t be able to make a living by saying it. So seriously, thank you to everyone who has supported my work all these years. Second, never assume you know everything about every game that’s out there. Surprises are waiting around every turn, especially in places you may never have thought to look. Retro video games are so darn cool.
So, did you discover any new old games this year?