Sunday, December 13, 2015

Emulation (Part 2)

Alright, where were we?

Picking the somewhat controversial topic right back up where I left off last time, I'm going to cover the Wario Land series now. It's a somewhat under-appreciated series that, as I mentioned before, spawned from the Super Mario Land games on the original Gameboy.

I've already talked about the first one, so that leaves II, 3, and 4. And I'm still not exactly sure why they decided to go with Roman numerals for the second game.

Anyway, Wario Land II was initially released on the original Gameboy, and then released for the Gameboy Color a few months later. Even though I'm trying to play all original games on my list and stay away from remakes, I don't exactly consider the GBC one a remake, since it's essentially the same situation we had with Twilight Princess on the Gamecube and Wii. Except this time, one has color and one doesn't.

Wario Land II started a whole lot of gameplay elements that would carry over into the next two games (fitting, seeing as it was the first game to officially separate from the Mario series). It's a really neat game, and I enjoyed it a lot. It's close, but I think I prefer this one to WL1. The overworld map is gone entirely for the first part of the game. Once you beat the game, you unlock a sort of flowchart-esque level select screen that somewhat resembles a world map. While at first I didn't think I'd like this, it grew on me pretty quickly. Here's a picture:

That somewhat straight line of pictures down the middle represents the main levels of the game. The "main story," if you will. Now, what was cool about this game is that it actually had 4 hidden endings. For the most part, they were pretty tricky to find, and it was pretty likely that you'd play through the main part of the game without even knowing they existed. However, once you unlock this chart and you know which levels house secret exits, the endings become a bit easier to find.

Now, there are 5 main chapters in the game, and 5 hidden chapters. As you can see, there are only 5 total endings, though. This is because one of the chapters serves as an "alternate reality" for one of the main ones. Another hidden chapter actually branches in a certain level, in which you can either continue with the hidden chapter or branch back to the main story. This added a lot of variety to the levels and it was an incredibly fun feature. Upon completion of all of the levels, given that you've also collected all the treasure, a final (very challenging) level was unlocked, complete with a secret 6th ending to the game that's generally considered the "true" ending.

As for the levels themselves, they each hidden treasure like in the first Wario Land game. And that's about where the similarities stop. This game introduced the recurring element of Wario's invincibility. Instead of enemies killing him, they would transform him in some way, turning a platformer into a sort of puzzle game. This was brought back in Wario Land 3, and I'm quite fond of it. It's a much-needed breath of fresh air after all of the 2D Mario games.

Speaking of Wario Land 3, this brings us to our next game, Wario Land 3. 

I probably could have worded that better... whatever. I'm tired.

Anyway, Wario Land 3 combined the overworld aspect of Wario Land 1 (which I really liked) with the invincibility/puzzle concept of Wario Land 2, and fleshed them both out further. Overall, this game was incredibly deep and expansive, and it ultimately took me a very long time to complete. Each level now had 4 treasures instead of 1, each with a hidden key to go with it. On top of this, the levels were often up to 4 times the size of those of previous games, and the gameplay time really showed this. Overall, I loved the game even more than 1 and 2, but it did seem a bit tedious at times.

(I'm a sucker for overworlds)

The usefulness of the treasures was a definite plus, though. I liked the fact that you could use treasures to unlock new levels and areas in the world much more than just having them to put on digital 8-bit display.

And lastly, we arrive at Wario Land 4 for the Gameboy Advance. From what I've seen, this game often gets thrown under the bus for being different or getting rid of the invincibility mechanic and whatnot. Honestly, though, I love this game. I really do. I like it better than any of the other games in the series, and it's truly one of my favorite 2D platformers of all time.

The graphics and art style are gorgeous. The music is absolutely stunning. The level design is ridiculously clever. I can't say enough good things about this game. I only wish I'd had it as a kid on my Gameboy Advance. 

This was one of the prettiest levels in my opinion.

I don't really have enough time or space to go into too much detail about this game, but overall the combination of art style, music, and level design really made the game to me. I'm really glad I got to play this game, and I never would have even touched it if it weren't for emulation. It can't be all that bad... right?

Anyway, around the time I was playing Wario Land II, 3, and 4, I was also playing Mega Man X, X2, and 7. 

Mega Man X was a fun game. It made a lot of changes to accompany the transition to the SNES era, and it's a lot more complicated and deep than the original Mega Man series. I liked it, but I can't say I share the opinion many people seem to have about it. This game is praised all over the place, but I can't say I'd title it as the "best SNES game" or anything. It's good by Mega Man standards, I suppose. Although I have to say, the story is really good for a 2D platformer. 

Mega Man X2 was also fun, although I think I preferred the original more. The levels were a bit less creative, but it was still a fun experience. I liked how the story continued over from X1. 

Almost the polar opposite of X, most of the complaints I've heard about MM7 were pretty much absent when I played the game. I found it a lot better than I'd have expected it to be based on what I'd been hearing. I liked 7 about as much as X, and a fair bit more than the original 6 NES games. 

After 7 I moved on to X3, and I enjoyed this quite a bit. It's definitely my favorite X title so far. There was a lot of room for customization, ranging from body upgrades to various types of Ride Armors (mechs). There was a lot more optional content in this game, and I enjoyed that. The story also has 2 different endings, and although I'm normally not a fan of games with multiple endings, this one is an exception. Both of the endings were pretty awesome, and not too much was changed from one to another.

And, as of writing this, I'm currently about to beat Mega Man 8 for the PS1. It'll probably be a while until I write my next "emulation update" post, as I want to cover enough games so it doesn't end up being 1 or 2 sentences long. 

I also started the Final Fantasy series at the same time as X3, something I've been meaning to play for a long time. It's quite a commitment, but I decided to play through the first 9 games in the series. As of now I'm about halfway through 2 (even the NES ones are quite long), so I'll just stick with my thoughts on 1 for the time being. 

I have to say, Final Fantasy is easily one of the best NES games out there. It's primitive, sure, and a lot could have been improved, but the world is huge for such an early game. Keep in mind that it was released just a year after the first Zelda. 

Here's a sense of scope in comparison to Zelda 1:

There are several bugs with the combat system, and the story is very sparse, but for an NES game, I can see why it was so popular at the time of its release. A lot of people recommend the remakes of this game, but I can't say I agree. There's just some kind of charm in the old, retro 8-bit feel that really grabbed me. I really enjoyed this game, and I'd recommend any fan of retro games to play it. It's a ton of fun.

And, I suppose that's it. I'll try to get another update post up in a few weeks to share my thoughts on Final Fantasy 2, 3, Mega Man 8, and Metroid 2. See you then!

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