Game Boy Advance

[last updated: 09-OCT-2012]

Astro Boy: Omega Factor

RATING: 3/4

WHEN: Oct 2006

A great challenge and an engaging story.


When I first played Omega Factor, I didn't think much of it. I enjoyed it, but I found the whole "walk fight walk fight" routine rather obnoxious, especially considering with every fight I was boxed into a small area and didn't get to use the likes of the finger laser and rocket boots to any useful extent. It didn't help that the fact Astro had an essentially unlimited amount of super moves made every battle a snap.

And then I moved onto the higher difficulties, and it all came together. The storyline was all about exploitation, so it made sense at this point for the gameplay to be the same. With a maximum of five special moves or lower, combined with the fact enemies could thrash Astro with only a few hits, it became a mandatory guideline to exploit everything possible. Sharaku is a jerk who can harm me lots, so I had to exploit his inability to stab me when I lasered his knees. Denkou becomes invisible again after I hit him, so I have to exploit that by getting as many hits in as possible. Atlas is a dangerous foe when up close, so I have to keep my distance except for when he fires his cannon, in which case I get behind him and attack from there. And so on and so forth.

While it can make for a heap of frustration, it's also incredibly fun and the excellent story compliments it significantly. My only nags are that the first part of level 3 and the flying sections tend to drag on for a bit, which is utter hell when it comes to hard mode, since enemies kill you easily and death boots you back to the beginning of a section.

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Completion: 100%, all difficulties.

Bomberman Tournament

RATING: 2/4

WHEN: 2001/2002

A long, tedious quest, and a simple, enjoyable battle mode.


Bomberman Tournament is a spiritual sequel to Bomberman Quest, but obviously that element is downplayed and the fact the multi-player is actually good this time is given more praise, what with the title and all. I can't blame them, as the single-player mode is no longer fun.

The game, unlike Bomberman Quest, feels more like a typical RPG with only mild sprinklings of what the series is about. It doesn't help that Bomberman is further outshadowed by little Pokemon ripoffs, Karabons, which function in similar, more boring fashions. And even if the RPGness and Karabons were removed, you'd still have the frustrating dungeons, easiness in killing yourself, and the overall doesn't-even-compare-to-Bomberman-Quest feeling. It's a good thing they added that multi-player, because it's the main reason this should be bought.

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Completion: Finished.


Further reading: There's a walkthrough, game information and more at the Bomberman Shrine Place.

Bubble Bobble: Old & New

RATING: 1/4

WHEN: Feb 2004

Bubble Bobble just isn't fun alone.


Bubble Bobble is an enjoyable game, but in this day and age, it feels a bit odd paying full price for a GBA game which is simply the original Bubble Bobble and a remake with weird graphics and gameplay that doesn't appear to be any different at all. Maybe I never played the original extensively enough or didn't understand anything, but it really just seemed to be a choice between having the old fashioned fat Bub and Bob, or having weird, anime-styled skinny Bub and Bob.

Maybe if you're a Bubble Bobble fan, but paying £25 for a portable version with the only apparent new feature being a zoom just seems too much. It doesn't even come with a good link lead, it's just a two-player-only one.

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Completion: Got up to at least Round 35 before asking myself "why?"

Castlevania: Circle of the Moon

RATING: 3/4

WHEN: Aug 2001

NOTES: First game!

Just like Metroid, both in it being fun and never knowing where to go!


It only took me nine years, but I eventually got into the game and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I'd dare say I loved it!

Symphony of the Night rocked a substantial amount of socks, but it'd be hard to follow it up with... anything, really. It was pretty kickass. Circle of the Moon sticks with the basic elements of exploration, levelling up and gaining new abilities to reach new areas, but it remains close to the basic roots of Castlevania - there's no animal transformations or emphasis on the bazillion things you can equip, the game more or less restricts itself to jumping and whipping.

The game does add more variety in the form of DSS Cards - killing certain enemies provides you unique cards of which there are two sets. An upper deck that specialises in affects (whip upgrades, damage ratio, etc) and a lower deck that are elemental (fire, ice, yadda yadda), so you mix and match one of each to get a particular skill. It adds some nice variety and makes more sense than having a weapon slot in your inventory, though despite there being about twenty something cards in total, there were only a few that were of notable usefulness. Still, while the game isn't nearly as vast and extensive as Symphony, it stands on its feet well enough to make up for that.

The visuals are reasonably simplistic but functional, and there's a certain raw charm about it - they haven't quite got the detail of even the SNES instalments, but the environments are all nice and identifiable, so what more do you need? The music is fantastic and a lot of the tunes are still swimming about in my head; the presentation as a whole is pretty great. Unfortunately, while the game's look really brings a SNES game to mind, it's clearly not made to work with the original GBA as the damn thing is too dark to see properly. On a TV, however, it looks marvellous.

If there's a complaint, it's that the game is a bit brief. Symphony really shone because it had so much to do - the map was so incredibly vast, there were all the items to collect and experiment with, so many abilities, there was the new mode with Richter, and don't forget the friggin' inverted castle! Circle, meanwhile, only has a few extra "modes" that just give you different stats. It'd be kinda jerkish to demand something huge from a simple launch title, but it's kinda sad playing the game for only a week and feeling I've seen all there is to it. Still, doesn't stop the game from being any less great. Worth checking out.

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Completion: Finished.


Further reading: One of many games I played in 2009. Also got mentioned in this Classic Controller rant.

CT Special Forces 3: Bioterror

RATING: 3/4

WHEN: Aug 2005

It's long, it can be frustrating, but it's one good game.


CT Special Forces 3 is a port of a PlayStation game, which is surprising not only because it was ported from a CD console, but also how the animation remains fluid.

You play as army guys in a Metal Slug type situation, but there are some elements of stealthy games like Goldeneye 007 and Metal Gear Solid here. See, you're given a pistol, a machine gun, and along the way you can pick up a rocket launcher, flame thrower, and a cannon; and you're also stocked with grenades.

However, the ammunition for the other weapons is limited, and your character is fragile, so until you stock up enough ammunition, you're resorted to your weak pistol, compared to the strong enemies. Thus, you must shelter from attacks, and strike at appropriate moments. Then you can usually go nuts with a machine gun or something. Sometimes you're given a helicopter stage or control of a tank.

The game is brilliant. The soundtrack is very military-esque, the graphics are smooth and detailed, and the gameplay adds something new to the run-and-gun genre. If there are flaws here, it's that a lot of the stages drag on unnecessarily, the fact you can revive from where you just died with no loss of ammunition weakens the challenge, the 2-Player mode being rather dull, the lack of replay value, and it uses a password system. It was released in 2004. CRAZY

But yeah, definitely recommend playing at least once.

Plus bonus points because when I bought the game the girl at the checkout was cute. :]

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Completion: Finished on all difficulties.


Further reading: I did some retrospective on the series. Also, the crummy PlayStation version.

Earthworm Jim

RATING: 0/4

WHEN: Autumn 2001

When they remove what made the original so endearing, you wonder why they bother.


I admit, I barely played this. I would reach Evil the Cat's level, and promptly get stuck. I also admit that I haven't played the original (although I have watched it), but playing this just made me feel that they got the game itself across, snipped the animation and crapped out an inferior engine and called it a day.

The worst part about it is that I paid full price for what's a bastardisation of the original, and then lost it on a holiday to Spain, so I couldn't even at least get some money back.

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Completion: No.

F-Zero: Maximum Velocity

RATING: 1/4

WHEN: Jul 2006

Sometimes a retro flavour isn't automatic success.


Even though before this I had only played two games in the series, I love F-Zero, and F-Zero GX is quite possibly my favourite racing game of all time, but while that is mostly about boosting and destruction and being supa fast, the original is more tactical, what with the ships controlling like shit and everything. So I was expecting Maximum Velocity to be the same.

And it is. They barely changed a thing. All the ships, courses, and music is new, but not necessarily better. The tracks don't seem to fit the controls (which seem to be a lot worse than on the SNES), and you always seem to be either bouncing off the narrow walls or careening off the edge and exploding. It's likely I'm just terrible at the game, but I at least managed to complete a number of the cups in the SNES one; I only managed to come third at the end of the very first cup on easiest, and I did so by fluke.

And to rub it in, none of the new cars are good. There are no familiar faces (the all-around default car, instead of the Blue Falcon, is "Hot Violet". seriously what), and what's there are ugly monstrosities with colour schemes rivalling that of ice cream sprinkles. An overall shame.

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Completion: No.

Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls

RATING: n/a

WHEN: Jan 2005

Menus and talking and maybe a battle menu. (yeah i know it's in french shut up)


[no review]

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Completion: No.

Game & Watch Gallery 4

RATING: 2/4

WHEN: Dec 2002

Even more of the goal lacking, score racking mini-games. Is that a good thing?


The Game & Watch Gallery series has been an odd one for me. I only own two of the games, and I like them both, but for being games that are generally meant to be played in short bursts (which is my usual way of playing a game), I don't play them that much at all, and it's often months before I touch them again. I think the problem is the fact that although I prefer playing short games in short bursts (thus why I adore Bomberman Quest), collections of ultra short games just aren't my general preference. WarioWare does good because it has tons of micro games, and mixes them up with increasing speed and tension to keep you on your toes as you'll never know what will come next.

Game & Watch Gallery, however, just has several short games that keep going and pulling the same tricks which can be countered easily once you get the pattern down, and after that the only way you can mess up is simply by accident, a change to the pattern, or simply getting bored of the monotony. And it doesn't help that there are only four of the twenty games that I enjoy enough to play for a good length of time before quitting, and a majority of the games are so slow in easy mode that I just skip straight to hard.

I don't hate Game & Watch games, but it's merely the fact I've the attention span of a jelly cube and like things to progress when I play games instead of staying the same except having the Toads fall at two miles an hour after two hundred points instead of one.

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Completion: Unlocked all games.

Golden Sun

RATING: n/a

WHEN: 2002

Apparently it's good. I've never actually played it.


[no review]

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Completion: Steve finished it.

Gunstar Future Heroes

RATING: 4/4

WHEN: Jan 2006

Pure Treasure, not only in the fact it's awesome, but also in how you can't see what the hell is going on in screenshots.


Also known by the less stupid name Gunstar Super Heroes in America and elsewhere, most people haven't exactly been kind to it. I'll admit I've barely played the original Mega Drive instalment, though I am aware of the longer levels, 2-player co-operative (OH YES) and the ever important ability to mix and match weaponry, and thus in comparison this almost feels like a mockery. I'd like to rebuke it, but as with everything, the most I can do is say "yeah, it exists, but the game still rocks!" That's why I have no hopes of becoming a professional reviewer, you see. Those are valid outcries for the lack of those features, but ultimately I'm not sure how well they would fit in. Though multi-player is always missed no matter what. =(

Thus, this makes it difficult to adequately explain why I gave the game a 10. Not that I could give a good excuse for why Super Mario Land got a 9, but this is serious business. It has difficulties for every mood, whether it's just casual arcade action or some intense action, and each difficulty and character features a different take on the story, ranging from simple wisecracking throughout to ancient journals and all that jazz. They're not that great, what with the text boxes being tiny and all of the plots are rather generic anime standards, but it's a very nice touch regardless; certainly more engaging than Astro Boy and how each difficulty is just a difficulty, making total completion for that one a bit of a chore.

But yeah, if the original is longer with 2-player and less story, why play this? Well, you can play it while excreting.

My argument for every handheld game instalment.

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Completion: 100% on all difficulties, both characters.

Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land

RATING: 2/4

WHEN: Autumn 2003

A remake of a game I never played. It's got 4-Player co-operative, but it's still not as fun as Fun Pak.


Kirby games are not known for being difficult, and when they are it's usually because Kirby had the ill luck to get a crappy ability. Nightmare in Dream Land is no different. It can be completed in only a few hours, maybe add a couple more for total completion, hard mode, boss rush and Meta Knight's quest.

The short length of the game could've been made up for if there was a challenge to be had, but quite simply, there isn't. The only difficulty comes from the fact Kirby is reduced to sucking up and shooting things at enemies without a power, and powers are lost with only one collision, which is particularly nasty when near water or spikes, two things that prevent you from reclaiming your power. The extra mode, instead of actually making things difficult, simply halves your health.

On the bright side, the short length and minimal difficulty make it an easy choice if you just want to play a casual game to pass the time. It's also quite possible the best remake I've seen (emphasis on "seen", not "played"). Not only are the sounds and graphics spruced up to unbelievable levels of awesome over the originals, but it added a feature I would love in everything: 4-PLAYER CO-OPERATIVE. Bit of a shame that I never actually got to play it, what with the multiple cartridges necessary, but I'm sure it makes the game tons more fun. It makes me wish the Super Mario Advance games were given the same kind of treatment as this.

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Completion: 100%.

Kirby & The Amazing Mirror

RATING: 2/4

WHEN: Jun 2004

The Metroid-inspired nonlinear gameplay breathes in new life, but also kills it quicker.


The Amazing Mirror is an odd one. The nonlinear gameplay makes it stand out at first, as instead of a few short levels and then a boss, there are multiple, interconnected, massive worlds and only a few proper bosses in total, and more exploration is required to find those bosses.

The problem is, even though it's nonlinear, the areas still act like they do in regular Kirby games, so some doors don't allow you to go back through them, and there are often times where you're given a choice of exits but you can't see them all unless you return to the hub and trek all the way back, which is especially tedious when it comes to exploring the parts you can't get to via the hub warps. Matters aren't helped any by the fact your computer controlled allies are stupid, yet you still need more than one Kirby to shift large blocks, yet they don't realise that and just stand idly by. And real multi-player requires extra cartridges, so you can't even sort it yourself with an additional GBA.

Other oddities include the abilities. Against bosses and mini-bosses, a lot of them tend to do barely any damage, compared to spitting stars back at them; I've no idea if it's intentional, as for once it's finally better to lack an ability than have one when fighting bosses. Also, while some of the new abilities are great (Missile and Smash are among my favourites), I can't help but feel slightly miffed some of the quirkier ones like Ball and High-Jump were removed and replaced with the relatively crappy Cupid. And then some abilities they kept that make you wonder why. Throw and UFO are so very rare and their advantages are wasted in the cramped spaces that there's little reason for them to be here. And who uses Laser?

It's an interesting experiment in trying out new gameplay, but it would need a hell of a lot of retooling before I could enjoy it all the way through.

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Completion: Need all treasures.

Konami Krazy Racers

RATING: 3/4

WHEN: Aug 2001

NOTES: First game!

What you'd expect from a higher quality Mario Kart imitation.


A Mario Kart style game that was one of the launch titles, and it's actually pretty decent. It offers more variety and freshness than Mario Kart Super Circuit, such as having to get a license before unlocking the next cup, an interesting way of unlocking characters, and zany weapons. It isn't quite as refined and polished as Mario Kart (once you've got the Bear Tank, everyone else is pointless), the multi-player mode requires multiple cartridges, and the items can sometimes be too zany to figure out what they do, but it's a unique take on the genre.

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Completion: 100%.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

RATING: 4/4

WHEN: 2003/2004

Wonky port of a great game.


Just a heads up, I'll be talking about the SNES game. In all honesty, I just couldn't get into the GBA version. The screen felt too cramped and handhelds just aren't my style, G.

Satisfying.

That's how I sum up Link to the Past.

I play Zelda games purely for the dungeons. The puzzles, the battles, the sense of progression - it's what I'm there for! My problem with most Zelda games is that, quite simply, not enough dungeon action. They make you faff about on the overworld, doing tasks for stupid morons before you can even find out where the dungeon is; or like the first game, you're left to just muck around and find the dungeon, presumably to discover it's not the proper one and you're missing the right items. And that's no good.

Link to the Past, meanwhile, just lets you get stuck in. You can faff around with sidequests on the overworld if you want to, but if you're too cool for that league of lameness, you can just hop straight into the dungeons and fire away. And given the fact I played it after giving up on Twilight Princess, wherein I got sick of the constant sidetracking of inane tasks to do before I could even see the entrance to the dungeon, and then said dungeon turned out to be a drawn-out yawnfest... well, Link to the Past was satisfying.

I enjoyed every minute of it.

(I'd be kinda interested to see what the Four Swords portion is like but screw needing friends)

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Completion: Finished.

The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap

RATING: n/a

WHEN: Nov 2004

Zelda fun, only this time I know where I'm going, sometimes!


[no review]

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Completion: No.


Further reading:

Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga

RATING: 3/4

WHEN: Jan 2004

Lacks the polish of Paper Mario, but still terrific fun.


The first Mario RPG where Luigi is playable, that fact is part of the core gameplay where the two brothers pretty much physically abuse each other to solve puzzles and defeat enemies and whatnot.

As expected of Mario RPGs, it's quite fun and maintains its charm throughout the ten or so hours it takes to complete, give or take a few more to add in the side quests and whatnot.

However, it's not without its flaws. I had a frequent habit of mistaking the areas to be smaller than they really are, meaning I kept forgetting to check the little nooks and crannies in the corners of areas. Because of this, it took me forever to find the cave where the hammer smiths are so I could upgrade the hammers and open the way to the desert section.

Battles had other flaws, such as the sore lack of a multi-target attack (the fireball attack seemed perfect for one, but sadly it wasn't. The sequel fixed this problem marvellously with the wide selection of attack items), some of the Bros. Attacks not being explained terribly well or not that effective (it wasn't until at the end of my second playing that I realised you needed to hold the button for Swing Bros., which I learnt via a walkthrough, but it didn't change the fact that the move sucked), and again, it wasn't until after I finished it a second time and via walkthrough that I learnt what the hell Advance meant when it was next to a Bros. Attack.

But as usual with my reviews, although over half the text is spent rambling about flaws and negativities and whatnot, the game is still fun and I enjoyed it during both play throughs. I just feel it could've done with a bit of polish, but it's not like it's lacking a fatal amount. It's still good!

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Completion: Finished.

Mario Kart Super Circuit

RATING: 2/4

WHEN: 2003

Tons of courses, but it simply feels rather "ho-hum".


Everyone seems to love Super Circuit, but I couldn't see it as much more than a stopgap between a real sequel. I mean, what was new about it? The characters, graphics and items were all from Mario Kart 64, and it was only the courses that were new, with the exception of the unlockable Super Mario Kart courses (which is one of the few things I like about it).

The problem is, I feel that even if there was an addition of even minor kinds, like a new character or two, new items or even the ability to play battle mode by yourself, I'd be more positive. Because although the courses are all new and of decent quality (certainly better than those of the original Super Mario Kart), and the music has a unique style in comparison to the other games, it really feels more like an expansion pack to the previous games than a sequel that could stand on its own.

If you can ignore the fact you can race in Koopa Beach but can't play as Koopa Troopa, then it's a quality game. I'm afraid I can't. =(

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Completion: Finished.

Mario Party Advance

RATING: 2/4

WHEN: Jun 2005

A better single-player experience, but it's still more fun to play with friends.


While the Mario Party games are fun, they're rather tedious when you play them alone. And sadly, they've been forcing you to do that just to complete these stupid story modes that are absolutely no fun at all. So here comes Mario Party Advance, a game that reverses the traditional gameplay by, you know, actually making it fun to play by yourself. Since multi-player is barely emphasised at all.

You have limited dice rolls, but can get more by certain means, and your job is to solve the problems of all the citizens in Shroom City. It's essentially those boring side quests you get in Zelda games, except fun, and in a board game. These tasks range from simply retrieving an item, answering questions, to investigating several suspects in a burglary. It's a pleasant change from the usual, but when you run out of dice in the middle of a long quest, it can get rather frustrating.

Once the main game is done, there isn't much left to do. I never played the multi-player, so I could either just play it again, get high scores on mini-games, fiddle with the silly Gaddgets, or gamble for cash to buy pointless trinkets. It suffers from Kirby & The Amazing Mirror's problem where the new gameplay sparks new life into it, but eventually kills it quicker than it would if it simply followed tradition.

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Completion: Finished.

Mario vs. Donkey Kong

RATING: 1/4

WHEN: Nov 2004

A decent engine and amazingly fluid graphics are the most praise I can give.


I love Donkey Kong GB. The news of Donkey Kong Plus, the continuation of it with the ability to create your own levels excited me. And then it turned out to be this. I was saddened.

Firstly, numerous places say this is a remake of Donkey Kong GB. Far from it. People also say it's the same gameplay, but it's far more routine. Each level is two sections, where you first get a key to unlock a door, and then you find and locate the Mini Mario where you rescue it. Then at the seventh level, you bring the Mini Marios to a toy box without all of them being killed. And then it's a boss fight. And repeat for every world.

Unlike Donkey Kong GB, where each world was of varying numbers of levels, MvDK simply feels very routine. Nothing changes. Donkey Kong Jr. doesn't appear to hinder you, nor do you visit exotic places like an old fashioned boat, a plane, Egypt or anything with exotic dangers; you just go to bland surroundings to do the same old things with barely a change.

If anything, the graphics are partly impressive. They use prerendered graphics, like those in Donkey Kong Country, except these are so incredibly blurry that little details are lost in the sea of anti-aliasing. However, they have ridiculously fluid and smooth animations, it just feels like a waste that it's used on a Mario sprite where he doesn't even have a distinct face.

The thing is, the game has a great engine, and it's a shame that it was used on a game is an insult to what it's meant to be a sequel to. As a mild consolation, here's the only two Donkey Kong Plus screenshots I've found on the internet. [1] [2]

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Completion: No.

Mega Man & Bass

RATING: 2/4

WHEN: Spring 2003

Your usual Mega Man game: Fun, but difficult.


As I've probably ranted about a few times before, Mega Man games are generally difficult and frustrating. Mega Man & Bass is no different, but the features that made it tolerable are removed. You have no sub tanks, Rush isn't there to jet you across pits, the stage select is pretty restricted, and the level design is more atrocious than the standard.

In place of this are the two characters to play as (ala Mega Man X4), the first of them being the series' namesake, and the latter is Bass. He can double jump, fire in seven directions, dash, and is overall totally superior when it comes to getting through stages, at the expense of his Buster being pathetically weak without an upgrade.

However, this means that neither of them are particularly good. The levels seem built with Bass in mind, so poor Mega has to cope with these beyond-precise leaps across pits. On the contrary, since Bass's Buster is so incredibly crap without an upgrade, if he lacks the Robot Master's weakness battles can seriously drag ass; Mega Man's Buster can be charged up, so he can deal damage more quickly, but avoiding attacks can tricky with his lack of double jump.

As a result of that, and the aforementioned lack of what made things tolerable, the game isn't anywhere as fun as it could be. Not much of an unofficial conclusion, sadly.

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Completion: 100%.

Mega Man Battle Network

RATING: 1/4

WHEN: Autumn 2001

An involving battle system tied in with a storyline of craptacular proportions.


[NEW!] Mega Man hops on the a-boy-and-his-fighting-slave bandwagon. Lan and his digital buddy MegaMan.EXE traipse about the internet and fight cyber-terrorism, while enduring such hilarious school-related hijinks as being late for class.
The game is very much an RPG; you run around overworlds, talk to people, equip items, that sort of malarkey. As an RPG, it's pretty bad, full of the worst tropes of the genre (rampant backtracking, needlessly huge and complicated maps, talking to people endlessly to trigger event flags), and the story is a bland kiddies' anime affair. By that aspect alone, I would have no reason to play it...

... if it weren't for the battle system. It's a little hard to describe (but easy to understand once you see it!), but rather than turn-based menu combat, it plays out on a grid with real-time combat. Every ten seconds you can draw "Chips", which can serve as offensive (swords, bombs, cannons, remote controlled orbital satellites...) or defensive powers (shields, health refills, or even stealing, destroying or repairing enemy terrain). Five Chips can be drawn at a time, but only if they're of the same type or code, so organising your chips is vital to getting the right equipment at the right time.
It's a fast-paced and very engaging system, and reorganising your Chips for maximum efficiency feels more rewarding than just grinding for levels. The game rewards you on speed and skill, so the faster you wipe out the baddies, the better your reward.

The game's dilemma is that these battles are simultaneously the best part of the game, and the most frustrating. Battles are frequent. You will be running into one every five seconds on the internet overworld. No joke. Considering the exploration is boring as piss, it's a welcome distraction, but there's no way to stop the encounters. And due to the nature of the overworld, you'll be running into the same weak enemies you fought right at the game's beginning again and again.
You can carry Escape chips, but why should you waste a valuable chip slot on something that merely saves you a few wasted seconds? What if it doesn't show up at all? There were only a few battles in the game I legitimately wanted to run from (I had no Chips that could counteract their powers), but my answer to that was just save-spamming and resigning to my fate if I encountered them.

In addition, as enjoyable as the battles are, the rewards aren't at all satisfying. Your only rewards are Chips or money. There's a whopping one shop in the human overworld, while the rest are strewn across the internet in obtuse locations, all with their own unique stock. Finding the shop you want is one issue, but trying to raise the money to afford them is mad tedious.
Chips aren't a bad reward, but a vast majority of them are trash... and you aren't even given the luxury of selling your trash. You can only trade Chips for more Chips, but it's an entirely random affair; you can trade in three great chips and get a stinkin' shield for your troubles. If I wanted more Chips, I'd choose the Chips! I'm way more interested in affording armour and health upgrades, and I can't afford those if the game keeps giving me Chips instead of money for winning battles.

I'm not even sure if I can say I even enjoyed parts of the game. I think I preferred concepts instead. The battle system is engaging if flawed, while the entire overworld section is bullshit. I could say I'd prefer a game with just the battles, but it needs something to be wrapped around for it to have worth. I hear the later games in the series are more balanced and finetune the whole system, but I don't know i'd have the patience for them after this one. Nice effort, at least!

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Completion: Finished.

Mega Man Zero

RATING: 3/4

WHEN: Autumn 2002

Difficult, but aren't all Mega Man games?


The beginning of the Zero series is, to use a term I keep describing the game as but can't find an adequate explanation for the adjective: raw. The graphics, storyline, gameplay and presentation all feel very raw. But it's good, as it gives the series an entirely different feel.

Instead of traditional "select a boss" choices, you go on missions where objectives rarely vary from destroy a few things and maybe a boss, where you're ranked on how well you do, although it wasn't until the sequels that they decided this was important and set about making perfectionists go mad attempting to get every form and EX Skill with high ranks. Thankfully, this doesn't punish you for your rank, so you can use Cyber Elves and get killed as much as you like and it doesn't matter a thing!

Aside from the aforementioned nag, I think this is my favourite of the Zero series as the structure is more like the original games. Overall, the game is rather short, but that makes it more enjoyable and less of a pain to replay, and the fact that although there are health extenders and sub-tanks to be got with Cyber Elves, they're not absolutely required and all you need to get them is the right Cyber Elf and enough crystals to feed them. A lot more convenient than the ridiculous lengths you're meant to go in the X games to get them.

The rawness of the game elements give it more personality in my view, and make it stand out. The graphics, both in the mugshots, backgrounds and sprites, all look like sketchy drawings and give the perfect feeling of working in a small, weakened resistance force. The sequels throw this feeling right out the window with the base upgrade and cleaner graphics and whatnot. Another advantage to the raw feeling is the story being particularly lacking; there are barely any characters, and you're given only minimal information about what's happening both in the past and the present, which not only makes things more intriguing, but moves the game along quicker. The sequels go overboard with all these events and characters you're supposed to know and play important parts but ultimately just end up bogging you down with useless information. Who gives a shit about Dr. Weil and the Elf Wars?

And then there's the fact all the levels are connected not by teleporters, but how you can actually walk to them and everything and I could talk on and on, but quite simply, although it's difficult and led up to a series of games that try as hard as they can to kill you with stress over worrying about getting everything, it's a great game and definitely up there with the Mega Man classics.

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Completion: Need Cyber Elves and completion on higher difficulty.

Mega Man Zero 2

RATING: 3/4

WHEN: Autumn 2003

The difficulty is lowered slightly, but now we've got ranks and scores to worry about!


I'd probably have to say that Mega Man Zero 2 is my second favourite of the Zero series games I've played. The difficulty is lowered from the previous game, and the obscenely boring Triple Rod is replaced with the Chain Rod, a much superior weapon and further evidence that I adore any tool in a game that lets you swing on things. On the downside, EX Skills and Forms are introduced, which are nice to have but you need a high rank to collect them, and you still have Cyber Elves to worry about, so it's like double the stress!

However, the game itself is great, as the Chain Rod opens a whole new world of design, and there are some pretty fun stages, although that crystal cave was like the least fun ever. Nags that I haven't already been mentioned are the fact that levelling up your weapons is a total bore (Mega Man Zero 3 fixed this, thankfully), the storyline pales in comparison to the previous game (seriously nobody cares about Cyber Elves), and some of the unique features from Zero 1 were removed, such as failing missions, the ability to visit areas simply by walking and without the Trans Server and so on, which, in my opinion, makes the game lose a little of its charm.

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Completion: Need Cyber Elves, completion on higher difficulty, and all forms and EX Skills.

Mega Man Zero 3

RATING: 3/4

WHEN: Autumn 2004

Customization, a crappy new weapon and easier gameplay.


Zero 3 introduces a large number of new features that, surprisingly, work out pretty well for the most part. You no longer need to level up your weapons, Cyber Elves can be used without the need to lose them forever (although some still need to be sacrificed for the effects), Elemental Chips are replaced with body Chips that can get you more effects (no slipping on ice, auto charging, double jumping and so on), and the Chain Rod is replaced with the Recoil Rod.

Except the Recoil Rod is rather shit and pales in comparison to the Chain Rod. It's still a million times better than the Triple Rod, though.

Aside from the Recoil Rod, the additions help Zero get across sticky situations a lot easier, which would normally make this one of the better games in the series to start off with, if it weren't for the fact that the beginning levels try desperately to make you not enjoy it. Since later on in the game you've got enough equipment to be comfortable, like sub tanks and auto charger and the ability to refill health by standing still, the beginning levels throw you into the thick of things with lots of instant death elements (the volcano and ocean levels are particularly guilty of this), and the fact the bosses are relatively difficult with low health and lacking of the right elemental chips.

Two other annoyances include the odd and unnecessary mini-bosses in most stages. They lack advanced tactics and are easy to kill, but they consume a fair number of hits so they just slow the game down, especially in the case of the forest level's mini-boss. And then there's Cyber Space, which seems to have no purpose other than to make everything green, provide more life pellets and your Cyber Elves taking effect with no consequence, but has no bearing on the story. It feels out of place. Not a nag, but just kind of puzzling, see.

Halfway through the game things pick up greatly, and it reaches the same level of enjoyment as the rest of the series. Albeit slightly easier. So whoo.

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Completion: Need Cyber Elves, completion on higher difficulty, and all EX Skills.

Mega Man Zero 4

RATING: 3/4

WHEN: Feb 2007

NOTES: American version.

Different.


As the summarised review says, Mega Man Zero 4 is just a whole different specimen than the others in the series. Instead of being at the Resistance Base, the base of operations takes place in several trailers near a camp of human refugees from Neo Arcadia. The Shield Boomerang has been removed, so your only extra weapon is the incredibly nifty Zero Knuckle, which allows you to steal weapons from regular enemies; a pleasant consolation for the fact the most you can get off bosses are EX Skills, not even elemental chips or anything.

The Cyber Elf system changes again, where there is only one Elf and it has a wide range of abilities, although you have to raise the maximum number of levels before you can have a fair selection. While this is good as you can change the abilities any time you want, and it removes the factor of finding them first, it also makes extending your maximum health or getting sub tanks harder, as although it allows you to extend your health bar, it doesn't allow you to extend it and also drop health items at the same time. The lack of sub tanks from the Cyber Elf meant I had to restart my file on Normal mode to pick up a few so the Craft mini-stage wasn't downright impossible.

Also new are the item recipes, where you combine parts you get off destroyed enemies and use them to make chips of various effects, such as halving your damage, auto charging, and so on. The problem is, you have no idea what the hell to do. You can get recipes by talking to people, and it clearly lists what is necessary to build the chip, but the other methods, which include talking to your Cyber Elf and merely guessing, do not show what is necessary. My Cyber Elf may tell me "use frog and magnet parts", but those aren't the exact names of the parts, which are Kerosh and Magnemine. It isn't so bad when the descriptions of what you need are clear enough but when you need a "mechaniloid.L" part when the actual name of it is entirely different, it gets a little frustrating! It also doesn't help how the enemy isn't shown on the item recipes, so if you're missing a part and need to go find it, then you just have to guess what enemy it comes from.

Less prominent additions include the eight-level stage select (compared to the four-at-a-time stage select from Zero 2 and 3), the ability to high onto bars (thus introducing really frustrating platform shifting segments! With spikes!), and a weather system, which is actually fairly major but I have no complaints with it, and therefore nothing interesting to say.

Ultimately, with all these differences, Zero 4 feels closer to the X and classic series, which is precisely the opposite of what it started as. That, combined with the storyline (see February 2007 blog entry), make it feel very detached from the rest of the series, and therefore make the ending feel rather bleak. But the gameplay is good and the Zero Knuckle tops the Chain Rod in terms of awesome, so I still applaud the game.

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Completion: Finished on Easy and Normal.

Metal Slug Advance

RATING: 2/4

WHEN: Oct 2004

Frustrating up until you get all the cards, where it's then just flawed.


I've ranted about this many millions of times, and while I've slowly warmed up to it, it's really not as good as everyone says it to be. It has prisoners to save, cards to collect, and a vague sense of exploration, but it all feels pretty half-assed. There are too many cards that are simply decorations, and without the power-up cards the game is very uneven and frustrating. The exploration also seems very shallow, and the game simply feels like it tried to be both the arcade games and the NeoGeo Pocket games, but didn't know how to combine them well. Plus, it's replay value relies on collecting everything, and after that, it's simply not very fun. Metal Slug: 2nd Mission on the other hand, trumps it on just about every category, and is fun after being completed. Can SNK ever make a Metal Slug game that feels complete anymore?

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Completion: 100%.


Further reading: Check out Metal Slug: Missing in Action! This game had a wonky development.

Metroid Fusion

RATING: 3/4

WHEN: Feb 2007

Change isn't always bad!


Released alongside Metroid Prime, it was expected that more people would prefer this game over the 3D FPS style instalment, but for the most part, more people preferred that while the more linear gameplay of this attracted disapproval. I haven't played Metroid Prime, so I can't judge. I mean, you need to press B to jump! B!!

Despite being eight years since a Metroid game was made and using the aforementioned linear gameplay, I feel that this captures the essence of the older games pretty well. Besides the linearity, y'know. The fact you're told where to go bonds better with me, as although being stuck for days and then finding the solution without anyone's help feels like a great triumph, having no idea what to do or where to even go for years is just a little too much, so having a computer tell you your objective at least gives you a hint as to what you should do, even if it doesn't tell you that you can roll through walls that look solid. Hurf.

Admittedly, the linearity doesn't make the game quite as satisfying as Super Metroid; completing it was a relief, but it didn't quite bring as much joy as going "OH SO THAT'S WHERE I WAS MEANT TO GO" in the SNES instalment, even if I promptly got lost a few minutes later. Still awesome, though!

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Completion: In 4:16 with 45%.

Metroid Zero Mission

RATING: n/a

WHEN: Mar 2005

The usual 2D Metroid goodness.


[no review]

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Completion: On Easy.


Further reading:

NES Classics: Castlevania

RATING: n/a

WHEN: Mar 2005

Pretty fun.


[no review]

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Completion: No.

NES Classics: Excitebike

RATING: 2/4

WHEN: Mar 2005

An amusing time killer.


Excitebike is awesome, and before I bothered to play the original I absolutely adored the Japan-and-wacky-satellite-thing-only Mario version. One thing it isn't, however, is worth a stand-alone purchase.

Making your own track is fun, and the fact you can save it now is pretty rad, but it's even better when at a party, just busting out the track creator, make some unplayable abomination and say "beat that", only to have them complete it easily and make an even more unplayable abomination and point the finger at you. Fun times!

So for that reason I feel it should've been included on that GameCube WarioWare game as an extra, not as a £25 Game Boy Advance cartridge. Not that I paid that much for it. I had a little bit of sense then!

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Completion: No ending.

NES Classics: Ice Climber

RATING: 2/4

WHEN: Mar 2005

Another fun distraction. Plus, 2-Player!


Ice Climber is one of those games that I find fun, but not as fun as it really could be. The characteristic crappy jumping adds a different element to it, compared to every other game character who can jump with the greatest of ease across incredible distances, but is what makes the game unreasonably difficult. Even if the collision detection were better or if Nana and Popo could grip onto edges, that could make up for it, because it's not highly enjoyable trying to jump in through a gap four times and end up just falling through the floor, usually into another hole and off the bottom of the screen, automatically killing me, even if it was the slightest of falls.

Sadly, even if it isn't that bad of a game, the NES Classics series was way overpriced for a port with no extras at all. If it were multiple games or a remake were included then maybe it could be excused, but seriously.

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Completion: No ending.

Pokemon Sapphire

RATING: n/a

WHEN: Summer 2003

More of the same. Emphasis on "more".


[no review]

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Completion: No.

Rayman Advance

RATING: 1/4

WHEN: Jun 2005

It's cool they managed to get the graphics in, but it means you can't see shit.


I bought this even though I already owned the PlayStation version. Not the first time I bought the same game twice, but why? Because I planned to remove my PlayStation and get all the good games for it on different consoles. I've no idea just why I wanted to dispose of it, as it's library of games was pretty decent, though I'm not a big fan of it's actual hardware, but I guess I was just going mad.

In a nutshell, the port is actually really well done, all except for the fact that they didn't scale the graphics down. On one hand, it's nice that Digital Eclipse respected the visuals, but on the other they should've realised that it means you can barely see a thing. It's not so bad on the few world, but it quickly becomes a game of memorisation and hoping that a gap will simply lead to a lower platform and not certain death. So, yeah, it's not that good.

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Completion: No.

Sonic Advance

RATING: 3/4

WHEN: Spring 2002

The closest they came to the Mega Drive gameplay. I appluad.


Sonic Advance was the last Sonic game I bought and didn't immediately have any thoughts of doubt for purchasing it.

Instead of being a linear rush to the finish, this emulates the refined gameplay of the Mega Drive games, and does it very well. It may not be quite as fast, and the lack of co-operative is a bummer, but the fact they achieved so much is praise worthy. The sad thing is, this is as far as they got. In the sequels they ditched this in favour of crappy gameplay that offers minimal interaction, zero chance or reason for exploration, and more and more absurd means of reaching the special stage.

Which is an incredible shame, as if they kept this gameplay for the sequel, they could've ironed out the nags and made it a game to rival those that inspired it. As it is, it's a nice alternative after you've played the originals hundreds of times, although it lacks the "I've played this game for ten years and I DIDN'T KNOW THAT" factor. Still good. Bonus points for mixing things up with Amy's wacky style of control.

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Completion: 100%.

Sonic Advance 2

RATING: 1/4

WHEN: Jun 2003

NOTES:

Long, repetitive, and an exercise in tolerance.


After the awesomeness of Sonic Advance, seems like somebody felt to screw up the working formula and gave us this. Run at super fast speeds across monotonous levels with the occasional Badnik or spike to ram into. The only good things are the fluid graphics and the fact it can move so fast, but what's the point if it plays like a deflated basketball?

If there's one nice thing to say about this, it's that the sprites and animation is just gorgeous. But that's it.

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Completion: Need all Chaos Emeralds.


Further reading: I wrote some whiny whine about the game.

Sonic Advance 3

RATING: 2/4

WHEN: Jun 2004

Quite possibly the worst level design ever, and one horribly clunky game, but it's somehow more fun than the second one.


Sonic Advance 3 is an odd one. It uses the gameplay and level design style of Advance 2, while also throwing in elements of Knuckles Chaotix. This means the level design is a smorgasbord of horrible (but with less pits), but there's a second character who follows you, who does very little usually, but means CO-OPERATIVE MULTI-PLAYER with a second cartridge (damn).

The level design still has the fast speeds, leaps, swings and so on, as well as the spikes and baddies to stop you flat in your path, but the designs are more complicated with twists, platforms, pulleys and lifts. It doesn't really work since the character physics aren't really made for suddenly stopping or turning or anything, and it only makes getting to a decent speed more annoying. The levels are also fairly longer, which isn't very fun.

And special stages are even more ridiculously longer to get to; now you have to find all the Chao in a stage (all three acts and the totally pointless overworld), and then once they're found keys become collectable in stages, and you then use those keys to access the special stage. And then you repeat that for every world.

The Tiny Chao Garden is removed, and there's an overworld added to go to stages instead of a menu, which is horribly pointless, annoying and time consuming; but there are some cute touches like some enemies based off those from Sonic Adventure, certain pairings getting special names and poses, and the voices. It's slightly more fun than Advance 2, but it's still not really worth it except for maybe co-operative.

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Completion: 100%.

Sonic Battle

RATING: 2/4

WHEN: Mar 2004

A fun, but highly flawed and repetitive game. Great graphics, though.


A fighting game with RPG elements starring Sonic the Hedgehog. Whoda thunkit? The story is, for once, pretty good, and the character development and interaction is the best yet. However, it's the actual gameplay that's a letdown. The battles are enjoyable at first, but as the game progresses you're thrown into more and more battles where you have to kill two or more enemies ten times, and usually end up having to repeat it again before you can continue. It doesn't help that the fighting is rather shallow, with your limited number of moves and the fact that the computer can be beaten by simply using a special move they don't automatically guard against.

A very minor problem is the camera, as to turn it around, you need to stop and stand in place (while healing), and it snaps back to place once you stop. Pressing L twice flips it around, but it's still rather clunky. It could've been solved if there was a map or something. And finally, once you've got Emerl with some powerful chips, he can easily clobber everyone else with no effort.

It's a shame, as it's an amusing concept and the gameplay is fun when it doesn't involve repeating the same thing over and over. On the bright side, I absolutely adore the graphics, the music isn't too bad when you pretend it's done in something other than GBA synthesiser, and a remake or sequel on the DS or GameCube or something could potentially fix the gameplay errors.

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Completion: Need remaining chips.

Super Mario Advance

RATING: 2/4

WHEN: 2003

Fix the vertical scrolling and give me a proper multi-player, and then I'll appreciate it more.


You know why I bought this? Not because I heard it was a must-have game, not because I absolutely needed to have portable Super Mario Bros. 2, nor even so I could try multi-cart multi-player; it was because I didn't want to keep replaying the games I'd played tons of times. I was on holiday, see.

The worst part is, I completed it in a day, leaving only that awful Yoshi egg collecting challenge to be done, and nobody likes collection games. And then I never really played it much, and in the end I gave it away to somebody. And that's my story. Now to talk about the actual game!

The game uses the same graphics, sounds and physics as the All-Stars version, except they wackied up the colours and still haven't made the vertical scrolling any less annoying. Most of the pot interiors have been redesigned, minor things are added to levels, and there's a new boss, as well as the obligatory voices and Mario Bros. game tacked on. There's even a score system added in! But even with all that great stuff, it lacks the replayability and general betterness of Super Mario Advance 2. I, living up to what's expected of me, blame lack of co-operative multi-player in the main game.

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Completion: Need all Yoshi Eggs.

Super Mario Advance 2

RATING: 4/4

WHEN: Summer 2002

They barely changed a thing, and it's miles better than the first one. What's up with thaaaat?


Word on the street says that Super Mario World is a very good game. So how does the Game Boy Advance port hold up? Not too bad, actually.

Super Mario Advance added a heap of new things to it, but never went above the average scale in my view, despite the fact I liked the original Super Mario Bros. 2. So the fact that all this added was Luigi and his different mechanics, minor bug fixes and a Dragon Coin collection feature (with level select!) yet manages to be superior is pretty wacky. I think it helps that collecting the Dragon Coins is actually fun and not a pain in the ass, compared to the Yoshi egg collecting in the previous game.

I would probably go as far as to say this is better than the original, as all of the additions are actually good and don't hinder a thing, aside from the smaller resolution. It'd get an 11 out of 10 if it had co-operative multi-player. :]

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Completion: 100%.

Super Mario Advance 4

RATING: 2/4

WHEN: Aug 2004

Make new content and not let us see it. Excellent thinking, Ninendo.


So totally mixing things up, Super Mario Bros. 3 came last, instead of second. Crazy! And there are practically no additions or changes to it. It's still the same great game it was before, but since there's nothing new, there's no real reason to come back to it unless you absolutely must have it portable.

But here's the sneaky part. Nintendo did make new things for the game, such as new items (including the cape!) and new levels, but you can only access them with the horrible blunder, the e-Reader. See, this wouldn't be so bad if the e-Reader weren't a clunky piece of software, and if it were actually released outside of America and Japan. So what does this mean? You'd have to import an e-Reader and the respective cards, because the data isn't inside the game. Even then, America didn't get all the cards, so in the end, everyone got a slap in the face of varying degrees of hurt.

Overall, it seems like a wasted effort. They got the game across flawlessly, but that's all it has going for it.

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Completion: Finished.

Wade Hixton's Counter Punch

RATING: 1/4

WHEN: Jul 2006

Rather dull to play, but honestly, them graphics!


I like Punch-Out!!, so I thought I'd pick this up. I would say "big mistake", but it's more average than terrible.

So it plays kinda like Punch-Out!!; there's your various punches, blocks, and sidesteps, as well as some special moves I never figured out, but it doesn't really feel fun. The graphics are excellent and full of character, and the humour is fitting, but I simply don't find the game very fun. I upped the rating considerably because damn them graphics good. =(

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Completion: No.

Wario Land 4

RATING: 4/4

WHEN: Autumn 2001

Just a brilliant game.


I admit I'm judging without having played the others as much, but I'd have to say that Wario Land 4 is my favourite of the entire series. It's a step downwards from Wario Land 3 when it comes to features, but in doing that, it makes everything that was originally there just right. Stages are designed to each difficulty so the important stuff is pretty obvious, but the optional items like diamonds and CDs are craftily hidden, and the sneakiness rises quite nicely with each difficulty level. Bosses may have a way of being hurt that takes a while to find out, but if you prefer to finish them off quickly, you can buy an item to make the fight easier. And then the length of the game can be long if you take your time finding everything, or a short little distraction if you just want to blaze through.

Compare this to Wario Land 2, where no matter what, it's just plain long. And it also doesn't have music and graphics that are so incredibly awesome that it took a lot of willpower to not just ramble on about how much I love them in that last paragraph. I'm a sucker for characteristic animation and jazz. :{

With excellent gameplay and aesthetics that add to the game, it should be understandable that I pretty much love it.

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Completion: 100% on Normal.