Retro Game Reviews, Nostalgia-Free
by Jake Krajewski | published Dec. 29th, 2015
RIT is a school full of gamers, many of whom have been gamers from a very young age. Games from our childhood are always remembered fondly, but how good are they really? Are they still actually fun, or are we so blinded by nostalgia that we don't see the obvious flaws? I have taken to reviewing some retro games to find out. This list will consist only of titles I did not play as a child so that I can avoid being swayed by nostalgia.
"Punch-Out!!" Featuring Mr. Dream (Nintendo Entertainment System, 1990)
Sadly, I was unable to get my hands on a copy of the original "Punch-Out!!" game that featured Mike Tyson as the final foe. As someone who played the Wii reboot of the game, I was excited to see how it would turn out. From what I played, it was enjoyable, but ultimately not as enjoyable as the Wii version. The boxers I went up against had notably smaller move repertoires than their Wii counterparts, making many fights feel monotonous once I had learned the pattern. The game certainly does become more challenging as you get farther into it, but the difficulty spike is insane. The huge difference in difficulty between Great Tiger and Bald Bull made me want to snap my controller in half. Additionally, you are only allowed to lose three times before you have to load your save via a special code. However, your losses carry over into your save. If you lose once before your first save point, you can only lose two more fights from then on, even if you load your save. Also, save points only occur after you beat the champion of each of the three circuits. If you get a game over, you have to go back and fight through every fighter in the circuit again, which is endlessly annoying. The game is a fun challenge, but only for a little while at a time.
Final verdict: 3/5 stars
"Banjo-Kazooie" (Nintendo 64, 1998)
"Banjo-Kazooie" is possibly developer Rare's best-known game. Known as being from Rare's "golden age," this game is a platformer centered around protagonists Banjo the bear and Kazooie the bird. The gameplay involves exploring worlds and collecting all manner of objects to progress.
The first thing anyone would notice about this game isn't actually the game itself — it's the controller. The Nintendo 64 controller is possibly one of the most awkwardly-designed controllers of all time.
The control stick feels like it's too tall and the whole thing is just uncomfortable to hold; it takes some getting used to. However, once I had the hang of the controller, the game itself was actually a lot of fun. The platforming was fairly good, the challenges became more difficult over time without ever feeling overly unfair and the secrets stashed around the game made exploring worthwhile. My only real gripe is with a particularly difficult phase of the final boss in which the player has to fly around the stage and boost into the boss. It's very difficult to aim and ends up feeling frustrating. That aside, the game is rock-solid.
Final verdict: 4.5/5 stars
"The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time" (Nintendo 64, 1998)
Opinions on this game vary wildly depending on who you ask. Some call "Ocarina of Time" (OoT) the greatest Zelda game of all time, while others clamor that the only reason anyone believes that is because they are biased because of nostalgia. As someone who has no nostalgia of the game, I can judge it on its merits as a game alone. After playing through the entire story and exploring side quests on my own (I made sure to avoid any sort of guide or walkthrough), I can honestly say that I love this game. It follows the traditional Zelda formula, sure, but there's nothing inherently wrong with that. The fighting feels very solid, which I wasn't expecting for Nintendo's first attempt at a 3-D Zelda game. Awkwardness of the controller itself aside, the game controls well. The story is on par as far as "The Legend of Zelda" plots go; Ganondorf is trying to take over using the Triforce and Link has to stop him. The different areas of the world were interesting and had plenty of hidden secrets to find. The amount of content was surprising for the first Zelda game outside of the 2-D world. It feels like "The Legend of Zelda" that I know and love to this day, but with a level of care that actually seems above average compared to the titles of today.
Final verdict: 5/5 stars
"Mario Party 2" (Nintendo 64, 1999)
"Mario Party" is known far and wide as one of the games that ruins friendships, and for good reason. It's hard to forgive someone when they dump you into a pit of lava or push you off a cliff. "Mario Party 2" is usually the first "Mario Party" game people remember playing as a kid. After playing it myself, I have to say I had a mixed experience. First are the boards: they all have the same formula for collecting stars, which is to get to the star space and pay 20 coins. Because of this, the boards all feel like palette-swapped versions of each other. Even though the boards have different layouts and some different special events, they ultimately don't feel that different from one another. More important than the boards, though, are the minigames. While the selection is understandably a bit slimmer than the more modern "Mario Party" games, the level of creativity in their settings and scenarios is still what I've come to expect. However, the minigames don't control as well as in other titles. I found many times that pressing a button at a certain moment had a delay or would not register at all (which, through testing, I found was not the fault of my controller). Other times, there was too much going on on the screen for me to be able to tell what was happening. Overall, "Mario Party 2" just doesn't stand up to its more recent titles. Even the ninth and tenth versions of "Mario Party" were more enjoyable than the second.
Final verdict: 2/5 stars