Tag Archives: new super mario bros.

Okay, Cruel World, the retro/throwback 2D games trend is officially old now

As an old person that played early side-scrolling classics like Pitfall and Jungle Hunt on his neighbors’ Atari VCS (aka 2600) consoles, I have an affinity for the genre and have played many of the recent remakes/updates/etc. Initially, I was excited by the trend but as I recently played through about half of Donkey Kong Country Returns, I realized I’m more or less over it.

My post is focused on recent releases that look to some old game(s) for all of their inspiration. I’m not including games like Sonic Colors or Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia.  Althose these games are among the latest 2D entries in long-running series, they’re not “retro” in their focus and, really, 2D games in these series never went away.

Also, I will be focusing on games for DS, PSP, Wii, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360.  Now, let’s do this.


This category seems the most pointless of all.  These games are made to look, sound, and play like games originally released for NES, SNES, or Genesis hardware.

Mega Man 9 (2008, Inti Creates/Capcom: Wii, X360, PS3)

Capcom released SIX Mega Man games for the NES and FIVE for the Game Boy, all of which basically look the same (although the graphics did improve incrementally).  In perhaps the most cynical retro move Capcom decided, “Hey, let’s do it again,” even though Mega Man 7, Mega Man 8, and Mega Man & Bass had been released for later systems with improved graphics.  Mega Man 9 is a very solid game and probably more innovative than a couple of the original NES releases but in some ways it takes steps backwards, removing abilities like the slide.

My credentials: beat it.

Mega Man 10 (2010, Inti Creates/Capcom: Wii, X360, PS3)

In true Capcom fashion, they decided to do it all over AGAIN.

My credentials: in true me fashion, I downloaded and still haven’t played it.

Castlevania: The Adventure Rebirth (2009, M2/Konami: Wii)

Supposedly, this is a remake of the 1989 Game Boy release, Castlevania: The Adventure.  However, I have played that game and there are very few similarities between them outside of “story”.  Anyway, this is a very serviceable release but seems especially pointless, since there were already many classic 16-bit releases in the series, including Super Castlevania IV, Castlevania Bloodlines, Castlevania (X68000), Castlevania: Rondo of Blood, and Castlevania: Dracula X.

My credentials: beat it.

Contra Rebirth (2009, M2/Konami: Wii)

Again, a serviceable release, but doesn’t really improve or expand on the classic Contra releases.  The only noticeable change for me is that the graphics are almost a bit more cartoony, which takes things ever so slightly closer to Metal Slug territory.

My credentials: beat it (the only Contra game I know of with unlimited continues).

Yoshi’s Island DS (2006, Artoon/Nintendo: DS)

Way back before I was jaded regarding the whole retro 2D trend, I was really excited for this release.  Overall, it’s easily the best game in this portion of the article but it is sickeningly loyal to the original Yoshi’s Island.  This is a problem, as its shortcomings become more apparent.  The added feature of various baby characters available to ride on Yoshi’s back feels like inconvenient fan service.  The original Yoshi’s Island sticks out in part due to its visual innovation, so it’s ironic and shameful that this game just aped its predecessor.

My credentials: beat it.

Contra 4 (2007, WayForward/Konami: DS)

Supposedly, WayForward were inspired by New Super Mario Bros. but they seem to have forgotten that that game actually had modern visual and introduced many new elements.  Contra 4 tries really hard to include every Contra convention introduced in Contra, Super Contra, and Contra III.  It doesn’t add much outside of the strictly vertical grappling hook.  It’s fun, it’s tight, but what’s old is old.

My credentials: completed only on easy setting.


Bionic Commando (2008, Grin/Capcom: Xbox 360, PS3)

For the most part, this is pretty much a remake of the 1988 NES original.  However, the boss encounters are new, the visuals are great, there is a humorously dark attitude, and there are challenge rooms all over.  I think it’s definitely preferable to make a game like this that is basically a remake with some new elements rather than to make a “new” game that really has nothing new to offer.

My credentials: beat it.

Sonic the Hedgehog 4 (2010, Dimps/Sonic Team/SEGA: Wii, X360, PS3)

I was pretty disappointed with this one, not because I love the Genesis Sonic games (I don’t) but because I generally love the Dimps-developed Sonic games.  SEGA decided to make a game true to the spirit of the early 90s Sonic games but they went too far, and basically just remade Sonic and Sonic 2.  From what I’ve played of the game, Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles featured more innovation than Sonic 4.

My credentials: played about half, got bored.

Mega Man Powered Up (2006, Capcom: PSP)

A remake of the very original Mega Man, this release adds 2 brand new levels and, consequently, 2 brand new robot masters.  The updated visuals are cute but probably a bit too blocky.  The game allows you to play through the whole game as robot masters that you’ve defeated.  That may not seem all that great on the surface, but it allows you to use a specific robot master weapon as much as you want without worrying about it being depleted.  Capcom probably should have included the levels from multiple Mega Man games, which probably would have raised the quality through the roof.

My credentials: beat it.

Mega Man: Maverick Hunter X (2006, Capcom: PSP)

An updated remake of the original Mega Man X.

My credentials: I have not played it!


New Super Mario Bros. (2006, Nintendo: DS)

As a true homer, I really, really looked forward to this game.  A new side-scrolling Mario game!  The first since Super Mario Land 2!  I’m very conflicted on this release and it’s probably impossible for me to be objective but I can see for a certainty that it was way too easy.  It took me a scant 4 hours to beat the game the first time and I never, ever saw a “Game Over” screen as the game is painfully generous with power-ups and one-ups in some strange effort to make Mario’s quest as easy as can be.  I needed just 4 more hours to find all the big coins and secret paths and all that and then I was done.  And PS – I’m not even that great of a gamer.

Beyond that, New Super Mario Bros. is well-constructed but pretty uninspired.  There are new power-ups and other gimmicks but everything is so backward-focused.  There is no real innovation.  The structure feels like the developers looked at SMB3 and SMWorld and decided to ape them but with a few twists.  That isn’t much of a stretch considering the game was created by the same team that developed the Super Mario Advance re-release series on Game Boy Advance.  The old Super Mario Bros. games were largely special because of their crazy, surprising innovations.  They looked in front, not behind!

My credentials: beat it.

New Super Mario Bros. Wii (2009, Nintendo: Wii)

Well, it’s a lot longer than its predecessor.  Four players can play simultaneously, which is fun.  Too bad 2 of the players have to play as generic Toad characters.  Nintendo claimed they couldn’t use Peach because it would look strange when someone held her above their head with her dress on.  Ugh.  She regularly wears more practical clothing in the sports games, why not here?  Or why not use Wario and Waluigi?  Or, Jesus forbid, a new character.  Some of the power-ups are cool but the focus on the past continues with the reintroduction of the Koopalings.

My credentials: beat it.

Ultimate Ghosts ‘n Goblins (2006, Capcom: PSP)

Not much more forward-thinking than the New SMB games but it can be forgiven to some extent, as this game treats you like a man, not a kindergartener.  Additionally, some fundamental changes have been made, like a killed character continuing from the spot from which they perished, a warping system, an inventory (!), and non-linear gameplay.  A very worthy, well-thought-out update.

My credentials: got to the final boss door, didn’t have enough rings/keys/whatever to get in, quit, have fantasized for four years about coming back to it.

Donkey Kong Country Returns (2010, Retro Studios/Nintendo: Wii)

Retro previously developed the great Metroid Prime trilogy so I expected a lot.  And boy! I was disappointed!  This is probably not a bad game but I did not have fun playing it.  It misses the point more so than the New SMB games, as it fails to capture what really stood out about the original DKC games.  You might ask why I hold the game to the old standards; it’s because the game seems to be committed to them.  For one thing, at least in the first half of the game, I did not encounter any water levels.  I only came across Rambi once.  Also, the graphics, while of a very high quality, are not groundbreaking.  The original trilogy was known for its groundbreaking visuals and audio.  Before even considering a new DKC game, the developers should have thought of a way to make the game really stand out.

Additionally, the villains are totally lame and forgettable.  Strange, I used to think the same about the Kremlings but now I see their relative worth.  I just don’t get it.  I would have thought that Retro Studios would want to do something more original, ambitious, and rewarding after the Metroid games.  Guess not!

My credentials: played through 4 worlds.


Yes, I have played a lot of these games and I enjoyed or at least pretended to enjoy them as I did so.  But now I am older, wiser, and skeptical-er.  Almost all of the games in this article have been topped by recent 2D releases that were inspired by the classics but have decided to move into the future.  These games include LostWinds, Shadow Complex, and Braid.

For Allison – Good DS games

Here is a list of good DS games that I can PERSONALLY VOUCH FOR.


 – Oh, yeah, Allison, you already had this one and sold it. It’s basically the same as the GameCube game but it’s portable, which makes a lot more sense for this kind of game. I have a feeling that you didn’t actually get any jobs or find any treasures before you sold it.


– A couple of awesome side-scrolling action games with big doses of RPG elements (item management, magic, leveling up, etc). You probably shouldn’t play them because you think Super Mario Bros. 3 is a really hard game.


– A lot of fun but too slavish in its attempt to recreate the SNES Contra feel. Quite hard.


– Square never released this game in the USA until this DS release, which is actually a remake from the ground up with cute 3D graphics and some new mechanics. I enjoyed this one a lot and I think you might, too, until the last dungeon, which was a huge pain in the ass for me.


– A pretty good game but quite straightforward/easy for a Zelda game. And you already have it.


– This was not a critically beloved game but I liked it nonetheless. I think it captures a real Mario feel much much more accurately than the boring Mario Golf, Tennis, Baseball, Soccer, etc. etc.


– Maybe the best game on the DS. 16 new tracks, 16 tracks from the older games. Spot-on, perfect controls, unlike some other games in the series. Additionally, there’s a missions mode that even has boss fights.


– The level designs are very strong and everything looks great but it’s just too damn easy. It took me maybe about 4 hours to beat and maybe another 4 to go back and find all the 3 big coins hidden in each level. Still, I like it a lot.


– A port of the original and awesome PS1 game. 2 modes – 1 that’s just like the original, another that has new surprises and touch screen bullshit.


– These games look great and have awesome boss battles. They’re much more friendly to Mario fans than the old Genesis games. You’d probably say they’re too hard, though.


– Critical reactions to this game were mixed, mainly becuase the critics hate change. Unlike the old StarFox games, this one doesn’t have on-rails levels. Instead, it has short freerange missions and a strategy element where you direct your various ships.


– Some people had issues with the controls in this game but that’s because they were too stupid to use the thumb strap. Do you still have the strap that came with your DS? If you do, take a look and notice the plastic nob at the end. You slip your thumb through the strap and tighten it so the plastic is against your thumb and then it becomes the controller you use against the bottom screen. You cried to me that you want to play the newer Mario games, well, here you go – the best Mario game available on your DS. They didn’t just make a straight port, either. They added Luigi, Yoshi and Wario to the game plus several new levels.


A direct sequel to the original Yoshi’s Island.  It plays very similarly but with a few differences.  Baby Mario is no longer the only baby to ride around on Yoshi – now asshole baby versions of Wario, Peach, Donkey Kong and Bowser get in on the act.  It’s a good game and surprisingly challenging – which might be a turnoff to you since you only like easy games.

Square Enix is going nuts on DS.  Final Fantasy Tactics is coming very soon, plus a 3D remake of Final Fantasy IV in the vein of the FFIII remake.  On the same note, new, 3D remakes of Dragon Quest IV, V, and VI are coming out this year AND Dragon Quest IX is debuting on DS sometime this year (or maybe next). 

There are 2 Advance Wars games for DS that were critically acclaimed.  Square Enix recently released a new RPG that seems interesting, The World Ends With You.  It takes place in Tokyo in modern times.  Metroid Prime Hunters is supposed to be pretty good but probably not your style.

I can kind of see why one would prefer GBA and even GB to DS but I don’t see why YOU do since you never actually play any of them.  I would pick GBA out of the group because of the huge library which includes many SNES and Genesis classics and of course you can play old GB games on it, which completely cancels a GB unit out of the equation.


-AO- MAJOR EXPOSE! When Video Game Series Go Portable: Do They Count As Real Entries In Their Series?

The answer is: it depends.  Companies don’t exactly come out and say, “This here handheld game is a full-fledged entry in the series, Goddammit!” or “this is a half-assed sidegame that only the hardcore fans need bother with”.  However, there are clues.  Is the handheld game being developed by the same group of talented folks that design the main console games?  Is the game in question being treated like the next chapter in an epic saga or as a “side story”.  Also, is the publisher hyping it the way they would a console release or just kinda floating it out there?  Finally, does it feel like a cool new game or just a rehash?  The contestants:


Super Mario Land (Game Boy, 1989)

When Nintendo launched the Game Boy they knew they needed their most popular series to help make a splash.  Did they turn to Shigeru Miyamoto and his team at Nintendo EAD?  Nope.  Nintendo R&D1 took the reigns and made a mediocre game based somewhat on Super Mario Bros. with international themes and sloppy controls.  Verdict: Not a real Super Mario game

Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins (Game Boy, 1992)

Nintendo R&D1 struck again with a much better effort.  It attempts to capture the look and feel of Super Mario World but comes across pretty differently.  A decent game in its own right but not up to the standards of a REAL Super Mario game.  Verdict: Not a real Super Mario game

New Super Mario Bros. (DS, 2006)

Developed by Miyamoto’s Nintendo EAD team, including several of the developers that worked on the Super Mario Advance ports.  It’s too easy, but it’s definitely a satisfying game and feels right.  Nintendo hyped the hell out of it.  Verdict: A real Super Mario game


The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (Game Boy, 1993)

This game picks up right after the SNES game released 2 years later.  It pushes the Game Boy to the limits and has practically the exact same team of developers as the previous game.  Verdict: A real Zelda game

The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages and The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons (ame Boy Color, 2001)

These games reuse the 8-year old Link’s Awakening engine and their development was farmed out to Capcom.  They’re very good games but not exciting or important enough.  Verdict: Not real Zelda games.

The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap (Game Boy Advance, 2005) 

Looks nice, is a lot of fun.  Farmed out to Capcom (again).  Doesn’t do too much that’s new.  A very good game but Not a real Zelda game.

The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass (DS, 2007)

Attempts to continue the story from The Wind Waker but it’s the easiest Zelda game ever.  I never even had to use a guide and I’m pretty stupid.  Not really an epic adventure and not a real Zelda game.


Metroid II: Return of Samus (Game Boy, 1991)

Nintendo gives away the answer in the title.  The II shows that they’re treating it as a for-real entry.  It had been 5 years since the first Metroid and this new game was treated like a big event.  Verdict: a real Metroid game.

Metroid Fusion (game Boy Advance, 2002)

Great game with a lot of new ideas, directed by Yoshio Sakamato, the director of Metroid and Super Metroid.  In other words: a real Metroid game.

Metroid: Zero Mission (Game Boy Advance, 2004)

A re-telling of the original Metroid game with a great new chapter added on and new gameplay elements, again directed by Yoshio Sakamoto.  Verdict: a real Metroid game.

Metroid Prime Hunters (DS, 2006)

The gameplay is mission-based instead of exploratory and it was developed by Nintendo STC and not Retro Studios, the developers of the main Metroid Prime games.  Not a real Metoid Prime game.


Mario Kart Super Circuit (Game Boy Advance, 2001)

It was developed by Intelligent Systems but overseen by Miyamoto.  It feels totally true to the series, has very high production values and has been referenced in the later Mario Kart games.  Verdict: a real Mario Kart game.

Mario Kart DS (DS, 2005)

This one just has to be real cuz it’s the BEST game in the series.  Developed by Miyamoto’s crew.  Some of its tracks are reused in the new Wii game.  Verdict: the real deal.


Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic Chaos, Sonic Triple Trouble, Sonic Blast (Game Gear, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1996)

These games try really hard to look and feel as good as the Genesis games.  The result is that they feel like replications rather than fresh new chapters.  Not developed by Sonic Team, either.  Verdict: Not real Sonic games.

Sonic Pocket Adventure, Sonic Advance, Sonic Advance 2, Sonic Advance 3, Sonic Rush, Sonic Rush Adventure (NeoGeo Pocket Color, 1999, Game Boy Advance, 2001, 2002, 2004, DS, 2005, 2007)

Sonic basically split into 2 separate series: the console series and the handheld series.  They share a continuity but have very different styles.  PS – the console Sonic games of the last few years are terrible while the handheld ones are great.  Real Sonic games.

More later?  I dunno.