My random day of retro gaming
November 20, 2022

Ever have one of those random days where you just feel like playing old video games? I have them periodically, but usually I donít act on the impulse because I have other things on my agenda. Yesterday, I ignored my other agenda and got down to some gaming. I thought maybe I would play and review a game, but none of yesterdayís sessions reached the point where a review is imminent. So instead, Iíll talk about them here.

First up, I had been wanting to finally play the first Shantae game for a long while. Iíd purchased every game in the series (and even backed one of them thanks to a Kickstarter campaign) when my finances were in a better place. The series is so clearly up my alley, and yesterday was my moment to finally dip my toes in that water. IÖ wish it had gone better.

Shantae was originally released on Game Boy Color, and always intrigued me. Capcom published the game, during a time when it worked with a variety of smaller Western developers to produce some interesting fare. WayForward, now a respected entity, produced Shantae as its first serious effort. If you want an original cartridge, itís going to cost you a pretty penny. I got the Switch version from Limited Run Games, and played a digital version yesterday that is sold on the eShop for a mere $9.99.

When Shantae was originally released, it must have been a spectacular find for those few people who purchased a copy. Itís one of the most impressive GBC games Iíve ever played, visually. It boasts beautiful environments, excellent character design in terms of enemies, NPCs, and the heroine herself. Her animation is shockingly detailed, almost like something you would expect from a first-rate Super Nintendo game. And the music is excellent, as well. It really suits the vibe, which is Arabian Nights mixed with swashbuckling pirate adventures.

Unfortunately, playing the game isnít a lot of fun. Because of the very small screen, environments feature a lot of blind jumps. Rather than accommodating players who might find this frustrating, level design is built around it. If you try to rush through an area, pits are placed precisely where theyíre most likely to confound you. And there are limited lives on hand, so that can spell disaster quickly. Enemy placement is similarly irritating, with imps and spiders and such placed once again to prevent a mad rush through anywhere youíve already explored and now need to backtrack through in order to get to your next destination. Thereís a lot of backtracking in the game, as well.

Dungeons are more interesting, but the first major water dungeon was a tedious maze. I found myself wandering its corridors a lot, defeating enemies and grabbing keys to open more doors. Eventually, I made my way to a room with a genie who taught me a magical dance so I could transform into a monkey. But even the transformation process requires special timing and a tedious dancing process. Then you can climb walls but not hurt the many enemies that might attack. At far too many turns, the game takes its neat ideas and impressive aesthetic and uses it against the player. I havenít given up on the series, but the first installment just didnít offer me a lot of enjoyment.

So I moved onto some other games, which I donít ďownĒ so much as rent by way of my Nintendo Switch Online membership. Thereís a surprisingly decent selection of older gems available now for both NES and SNES, to those who subscribe. I started with Journey to Silius, which Iíd always kind of wanted to play. The storyboard sequences at the beginning were told with visuals that would have impressed the heck out of me in my youth when the game was new and I cared as much about graphics as I did anything else. The gameplay, however, left me rather unimpressed. I ran and gunned through a futuristic environment with a lot of turrets and fast-moving enemies I took down with pistol shots. I managed to reach the boss, which kept dropping slug-like creatures on me that eventually killed me, and realized I might have fared better if I switched weapons for the duel. But I wasnít even sure how that would work, and the game didnít excite me enough that I felt a need to try again and figure it out. It was solid, but not great.

Next, I looked over the Super Nintendo selection and noticed there are a lot of caveman-themed games. Both of the Joe & Mac games are available, which is cool, as well as Congoís Caper (their spiritual successor). Also offered: Prehistorik Man. Iíve always wanted to play that one, going back to its time of release. I figured, ďWell, thereís no time like the present!Ē And at first, I had a good time with it. The story and setup are a little more drawn out than Iím used to from SNES games, but then I started playing and I liked the responsive controls and pretty environments. I think seeing them in the pages of Nintendo Power is what attracted me in the first place. Then I hit the hang glider stage and could not for the life of me clear it. I kept dropping into pits. I guess itís a bit like flying with a cape in Super Mario World, except there are a lot of bottomless pits and getting up to a running speed is less intuitive. ItísÖ not fun. At all. Eventually, I decided to find my entertainment elsewhere.

My final game for the day was Fire ĎN Ice, sequel to Solomonís Key. I actually enjoyed it for several hours, as long as Iíve spent with Solomonís Key over the years. I think I would suggest playing the game as much as I did but no more. There are some reviews for it here on the site, if you want in-depth analysis. I got as far as the ďbossĒ stage at the end of world 4, which is reasonably far, but then I hit a screen that was for me a roadblock. If youíve played the game and gotten past that screen, go ahead and tell me all about it. Me, I decided I was done with Fire ĎN Ice.

Anyway, that was yesterdayís gaming for me. I spent most of the day playing old games, and I might have to do something like it again one of these days, months, or years. Today, though, I feel like I should probably tend to some of the other tasks that I put on hold for my retro excursion. Have any of you killed a recent day with a random assortment of old games?

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dagoss dagoss - November 20, 2022 (11:59 AM)
I just went back to my review of Journey to Silius--holy crap, what was I smoking back then?

I've been stuck a lot in GBA and DS era games. According to /r/retro gaming, that's apparently retro now.
honestgamer honestgamer - November 20, 2022 (12:56 PM)
I think a lot of folks regard "retro" as anything released on hardware that released more than 10 years ago. But 10 years isn't a great cutoff point. 15, more like? Which would include GBA and DS-era stuff, yeah. I think we can go ahead and consider those retro now... even though DS is newer than this site! ;-)

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