Tag Archives: snk

Zelda clones and offspring

As you may have noticed from a previous post, I recently finished The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, which means I have beaten 10 Zelda games and have 3 to go (not counting the Four Swords spin-off games or the awful licensed games for CD-i).  Now, finishing 3 Zelda games is no small task and it’ll probably be awhile before I’ve actually done so, but I can’t help looking to the future.  When I’ve beaten all the Zeldas, what will I do when I want a Zelda fix but don’t want to replay a previously finished game?  Well, fortunately, there are many Zelda clones out there.  I’ve assembled this list for myself as much as anything but I’ll share it here for those other forlorn gamers that have rescued Hyrule as many times as possible. Note: I am ONLY including the games that by reputation are considered worthwhile. I’m not including any that are generally considered crap because I don’t want to play them!

Note 1: Before we start, bear in mind that I have not played most of these games. So, if I categorize a game incorrectly, just let me know!

Note 2: With each game I will list 2 ratings. The first rating, from GameFAQs, represents scores from amateur reviewers. The second rating, from GameRankings, represents scores from “professional” reviewers. Okay, let’s go!

Part 1: A rose by any other name . . .

Unapolagetic, Unabashed CLONES! These are the games that make little to no effort to hide their Zelda-ish-ness.

Golden Axe Warrior (Master System, SEGA, 1991)
what a terrible cover illustration
I have to start with this game because, OH, GOD, just look at the screenshots!

Yep, this is a major rip-off but fans seem to like it for what it is. Interestingly, this game came out in 1991, five years after the original Zelda was released in Japan. What made SEGA think that, after all that time, they needed their own Zelda clone? And for the Master System, no less, when the SNES/Genesis war was well underway? And how did the Golden Axe property get mixed up in the whole thing? Another interesting note – SEGA never bothered to release the game in Japan.
GameFAQs: 8.3 (3 reviews) GameRankings: N/A

Neutopia (TurboGrafx-16, Hudson, 1990)

I mainly started with Golden Axe warrior because it was so blatantly derivative. However, Hudson beat SEGA to the punch by one year with a slightly less derivative offering, story and all. See fo’ yo’ self.

GameFAQs: 8.0 (6 reviews) GameRankings: N/A

Neutopia II (TurboGrafx-16, Hudson, 1991)

Hudson didn’t waste any time releasing a follow-up. Both games are supposed to be pretty good in spite of their shamelessness.

GameFAQs: 7.0 (1 review) GameRankings: N/A

Crusader of Centy (Genesis, NexTech/SEGA, 1994)

Unlike the previously-mentioned games, this one supposedly has some original and unique aspects in story and concept, like some sort of animal training and monster philosophy. However, just LOOK at those screenshots.

GameFAQs: 7.6 (7 reviews) GameRankings: 8.0 (1 review)

Part 2: I’m Breathless: Music From and Inspired by the Film Dick Tracy

This section contains games that take the Zelda formula and wrap it up in new clothes. These games have enough of their own feel that they have established their own fan bases, unlike the games in Part 1, whose only legacy is “play this if you want more action in the style of the first Zelda game.” However, all of the games in this section are usually described as, “it’s like Zelda but . . .”

The Battle of Olympus (NES, Infinity/Imagineer, 1988)

“It’s like Zelda but in ancient, mythology-inspired Greece.” More specifically, it’s like the Zelda black sheep, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. Reputedly, it’s a bit more action-oriented and less RPG-oriented than its inspiration. This game has some pretty rabid supporters, too.

GameFAQs: 8.3 (12 reviews) GameRankings: N/A

Willow (NES, Capcom, 1989)

Oh, look! One of the few games on this list that I’ve actually completed! A year after the film of the same name was released, Capcom managed to finish off this beauty. “It’s like Zelda but in the world of Willow,” which isn’t exactly all that different from the world of Zelda. However, this game is far from derivative and very much has its own identity. There is a lot of item acquisition and there are dungeons, but there’s less of an overworld/dungeon/overworld/dungeon process. The setup is a bit more RPG-ish than most Zelda games. I thoroughly enjoyed the music and revisited certain areas just to hear it.

GameFAQs: 8.5 (11 reviews) GameRankings: N/A

Crystalis (NES, SNK, 1989)

“It’s like Zelda but more RPG-ish and with a storyline.” This game does look like Zelda on the surface but its fans, and there are many, claim that it is superior to the original in every way. Maybe so!

GameFAQs: 9.3 (29 reviews) GameRankings: N/A

StarTropics (NES, Nintendo, 1990)

“It’s like Zelda but in a modern setting and with a yo-yo instead of a sword.” This game was developed by Nintendo’s Punch-Out!! team and wasn’t released in good ol’ Japan.

GameFAQs: 8.6 (30 reviews) GameRankings: N/A

Zoda’s Revenge: StarTropics II (NES, Nintendo, 1994)

This little-known sequel was released four years later and only in the USA. Poor guy.

GameFAQs: 8.8 (16 reviews) GameRankings: N/A

Final Fantasy Adventure (Game Boy, SquareSoft, 1991)

Oh! Another game I’ve actually beaten! “It’s like Zelda but in a Final Fantasy world.” This is actually the first game in the Mana (or Seiken Densetsu) series and bore the title, Final Fantasy Gaiden: Seiken Densetsu, in Japan. At first glance it looks a lot like Zelda but the overall feel is pretty different, with that darker Final Fantasy tone. There are many RPG trappings like leveling up and magic points and the items/weapons acquired throughout the game are more destructive than what you’d normally find in Zelda games (like blades and clubs on chains). I understand the SNES Mana games are less Zelda-ish but this one certainly belongs in Part 2 of this article and I would definitely recommend it.

GameFAQs: 8.8 (26 reviews) GameRankings: 8.2 (6 reviews)

LandStalker (Genesis, Climax/SEGA, 1992)

“It’s like Zelda but with an anti-hero, platforming, and an isometric viewpoint.” This one also has pretty rabid supporters.

GameFAQs: 8.7 (15 reviews) GameRankings: 8.7 (2 reviews)

Beyond Oasis (Genesis, Ancient/SEGA, 1994)

“It’s like Zelda but in a middle-Eastern setting and with brawling.” One reviewer described the game as a mash-up of Zelda and the Streets of Rage series. Sounds like a nice change of pace!

GameFAQs: 8.1 (13 reviews) GameRankings: 8.4 (3 reviews)

Legend of Oasis (Saturn, Ancient/SEGA, 1996)

The sequel to Beyond Oasis, but now with “Legend of” in the title to make the Zelda connection clearer. Thank you for that!
Now that's a big kick!
GameFAQs: 7.7 (3 reviews) 7.8 (3 reviews)

Alundra (PlayStation, Matrix/Sony, 1997)

“It’s like Zelda but in 32 bits and with some jumping.” The main character is even elfin in appearance.

GameFAQs: 7.9 (32 reviews) GameRankings: 8.5 (11 reviews)

StarFox Adventures (GameCube, Rare/Nintendo, 2002)
Dinosaur Planet
If you hadn’t already guessed, this game is “like Zelda but with the StarFox cast and conventions.” Here’s how it came about. In the N64 days, Rare had made something of a habit of making high-quality “clones” of Japanese Nintendo games. Super Mario 64 begat Banjo-Kazooie and Donkey Kong 64 and Mario Kart 64 begat Diddy Kong Racing. Eventually, Rare decided to make a Zelda game for the N64, entitled Dinosaur Planet. Shigeru Miyamoto got a look at it, noticed the protagonist was furry, and commanded Rare to convert the game into a StarFox installment for the GameCube. Anyway, the gameplay is Zelda 64 to the core, with the L-button aiming, button mapping and auto-jump. After this release, Rare and Nintendo divorced.

GameFAQs: 7.7 (66 reviews) GameRankings: 8.0 (80 reviews)

Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy (PlayStation 2/Xbox/GameCube, Eurocom/THQ, 2003)

The general consensus is that this game is like Zelda but in ancient, mythology-inspired Egypt. The main innovation is the addition of a jump button.

PlayStation 2 version – 8.6 (8 reviews) 7.9 (33 reviews)
Xbox version – 8.0 (2 reviews) 8.1 (21 reviews)
GameCube version – GameFAQs: 8.0 (9 reviews) 7.9 (25 reviews)

Beyond Good & Evil (PlayStation 2/Xbox/GameCube/PC, Ubisoft Montpelier/Ubisoft, 2003)

The protagonist is a photographer of some sort and the setting is kinda sci-fi. I don’t know much else but it’s always described as a Zelda clone. It has developed a really fervent cult following and was respected by the critics. Supposedly, a sequel is on the way.

PlayStation 2 version – GameFAQs: 8.1 (34 reviews) GameRankings: 8.7 (57 reviews)
Xbox version – GameFAQs: 9.1 (27 reviews) GameRankings: 8.8 (52 reviews)
GameCube version – GameFAQs: 8.9 (33 reviews) GameRankings: 8.8 (43 reviews)
PC version – GameFAQs: 8.9 (9 reviews) GameRankings: 8.3 (23 reviews)

Okami (PlayStation 2/Wii, Clover Studio/Capcom, 2006/2007)
doggy
Unlike most of the games on this list, Okami enjoyed a pretty healthy marketing and hype push. Interestingly, it came out in the same year as a high profile Zelda release, Twilight Princess, and the reviews often described it as a “Zelda-killer” or as having “out-Zelda’d Zelda.” Pretty big talk! So, yeah, it’s like Zelda but in an ancient, mythology-inspired Japan, and the protagonist is a divine dog. The game was especially praised for its beautiful, painting-like visuals. This was the last game Clover Studio developed before Capcom dissolved them and the principal members left to form Platinum Games. There’s a sequel on the way for DS.

PlayStation 2 version – GameFAQs: 9.5 (52 reviews) GameRankings: 9.2 (75 reviews)
Wii version – GameFAQs: 8.9 (27 reviews) GameRankings: 9.0 (47 reviews)

Part 3: All in the Family

This section is a quick overview of games that bear superficial similarities to Zelda and are probably influenced by Zelda but are not by any means clones and that break out of the mold in several meaningful ways. Perhaps I will write more about these games at a later date but for now I’m including the following in this category.

Mana series, including Secret of Mana, Seiken Densetsu 3, Sword of Mana, and the bastard stepchild, Secret of Evermore.

SoulBlazer series, including SoulBlazer, Illusion of Gaia, and Terranigma.

Shining series, including I’m not even sure which games el oh el.

Zenonia series, the series that’s dominating on iPhone of late.

END

I’m glad that all these clones exist because there are too many elements that the Zelda games hold onto with unnecessary stubbornness.  Why is the setting always medievel-Europe-looking’?  Why is the star always a little, elfin, blond boy?  Anyway, you have your orders. As for me, I still have to beat three more Zelda games before I can seven dig into the list. If you disagree with my categorization, let me know. If you love one of the above-mentioned games and think I should play it first, let me know. Goodbye.

National Game Registry 1993: In the Hunt

IN THE HUNT
original platform
arcade
developer/publisher
Irem

One of the very few auto-scrolling shooters that’s any good, this submarine game came from the same team that would later create the Metal Slug series, and it’s obvious from the gameplay and graphic design. Go underwater and then kill everyone.

In the Hunt was inducted on January 2nd, 2010.

Return to the National Game Registry to view more inductees.

National Game Registry 1993: Samurai Shodown

SAMURAI SHODOWN
original platform
arcade
developer/publisher
SNK

The success of Capcom’s Street Fighter II resulted in a legion of imitators. SNK recruited some of the designers of the original Street Fighter from 1987, but considering how terribly that game actually plays it should come as no surprise that efforts like Art of Fighting and Fatal Fury were complete garbage. SNK finally righted the ship with Samurai Shodown, which incidentally plays much more like SFII than the previously-mentioned efforts, while maintaining the high special effects SNK became known for. The setting is feudal Japan and the cast consists of the great archetypes associated with that period. A whole series followed, although the later entries might be more accurately considered updates rather than sequels.

Samurai Shodown was inducted on November 6th, 2009.

Return to the National Game Registry to view more inductees.

Mini eRRRRRRviewz: Hee Haw

Metal Slug: 2nd Mission (SNK, 2000, NeoGeo Pocket Color)

It’s longer and more challenging than its predecessor but reuses the same engine without any real graphical/audio upgrades so it gets the same grade.  B+

Hydro Thunder (1999, arcade, Midway) *as part of PS2 title, ‘Midway Arcade Treasures’

I loved this game in the arcades and I love it at home.  One thing I love about this game is that, save for one course, the tracks don’t have laps – just one long, straight shot through.  There’s a lot of variety in courses and boats and the action is very arcadey.  Annoying rubber banding programming detracts a bit, though.  B+

Viewtiful Joe (Capcom, 2003, GameCube)

A great, very original game.  I initially hated the character designs and the overall style (“Henshin a go go!” *cringe*) but I got over it and really got into the actual gameplay.  Speed things up, slow things down – Joe has a lot of powers to master and fighting becomes really complex but natural.  I’m looking forward to playing the sequel some day.  A

Final Fantasy IV: The After Years (Square Enix, WiiWare, 2009) “MAIN STORY” ONLY

This game is being released episodically.  The initial, $8 download is called the ‘Main Story’ mode and credits even roll afterward, even though it’s only about 5-6 hours long.  It’s very much a sequel to FFIV, with all the same characters and crap but with nice changes to combat to keep things fresh.  There are 7 short chapters (probably 2 hours each) forthcoming, along with another big download to conclude everything.  Not sure if I’ll get them all because, dammit, the graphics and audio are straight out of 1993 and it seems overpriced.  We’ll see!  B

Mega Man (Capcom, 1987, NES)

Mega Man 2 (Capcom, 1988, NES)

Mega Man 3 (Capcom, 1990, NES)

Yes, I recently played through the first 3 Mega Man games.  I think I can see why there have been a million Mega Man games, as the action is really pretty addictive.  The first game establishes the action, the robot masters, Wily, all that crap.  MM2 expands everything and the levels reflect better planning and introduces some inventory to manage.  Finally, MM3 is even longer than MM2, and is much more challenging.  There’s definitely a lot of rehashing but each new release is definitely a worthy effort.  Soon I’ll see if the same is true for MM4, MM5 and MM6.  B, A, A

Terribly short game reviews

Some games I finished recently.

MEGA MAN 9 (2008, Wii )
Completely unoriginal but very solidly designed. B

GRAND THEFT AUTO: CHINATOWN WARS (2009, DS)
Such stupid, stupid writing but otherwise very good most of the time. B+

BRAID (2008, Xbox 360 )
Stunning visuals, moody music, clever gameplay, with a plot that’s about as clear as a David Lynch movie. A

F-ZERO X (1998, Nintendo 64)
Very smooth racing game, bringing the established F-Zero style into 3D. B+

METAL SLUG: FIRST MISSION (1999, NeoGeo Pocket Color)
Run n’ gun action like its arcade cousins but with deeper elements (prison camp escapes, skydiving, nonlinear progression). B+

NEW ADVENTURE ISLAND (1991, TurboGrafx-16)
I always call this series the “poor man’s Mario” and this one delivers. C

SUPER MARIO LAND 2: 6 GOLDEN COINS (1992, Game Boy)
I’ve beaten this game a few times but I just played through it again at Allison Payne’z house. It’s pretty good but too short and not QUITE Mario-ish enough. B

Xbox Live Arcade is also a hotbed of retro game sequels and remakes

I recently wrote about the Wii Ware retro sequels that appeal to me but there are even more on Xbox Live. Unlike goddamn Wii Ware, Xbox Live has DEMOS so I’ve actually played all of the games on this list that have been released. This list ONLY contains games that I have determined to be good and possibly worthwhile. This means that Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix will not be listed – it’s a good game but barely an update and probably worth $7, not $15. At the bottom of the list are some upcoming releases that interest me.

PRE-ARTICLE CLARIFICATION
On several, previous occasions I claimed that one must have a paid membership to Xbox Live to buy download games.  NOT TRUE.  A free account membership gives one access to both paid games AND demos.

RELEASED GAMES

Prince of Persia Classic
$10, Gameloft/Ubisoft

I bought the full game and it’s great.  It’s a remake (in the true sense) of the original PoP.  The story is the same, the levels are similar but everything’s been made from scratch, with very different control mechanics.  The graphics are full 3D and based on the designs from the 2003-2005 PoP games.  I really recommend this one and it’s definitely worth the $10.

Bionic Commando Rearmed
$10, GRIN/Capcom

Another one that I bought – it’s sort of a remake of the NES Bionic Commando, but the levels are (mostly) different, there are many new features, bonus areas, the bosses are really wild, and the dialogue is hilarious.  The price is nice!

Pac-Man Championship Edition
$10, Namco Bandai

This game kinda started the recent trend of taking an old-ass game, keeping the old, pixellated sprites and enveloping it in neon effects and techno music.  This game is highly recommended for fans of the old Pac-Man games.  It has the same gameplay but somewhat more complicated and with many different modes.  A worthy release but at $10 it’s definitely overpriced.

Mega Man 9
$10, Inti Creates/Capcom

Just like the Wii version (which I’ve been playing lately).  It’s just like the NES Mega Mans but with some new – but not drastic – elements.  At $10 it’s a bit overpriced but it is long and challenging.

1942 Joint Strike
$10, Backbone/Capcom

I’ve only played the demo, which is fairly long, but it seems to be pretty tight.  It has a lot more variety than the original 1942 and has great boss fight action and a chase sequence.  I might buy it someday.

Space Invaders Extreme
$10, Backbone/Taito

This is actually a conversion of a DS and PSP release from 2008.  The Xbox Live version has improved visuals that might give you a seizure.  This game shows how effectively a really old formula can become fresh.  The action is much more intense than in the original with waves appearing right after the other and crazy boss fights.  Compared to $30 for the DS version, $10 isn’t too bad.

Galaga Legions
$10, Namco Bandai

Every Galaga sequel has some twist to bring the old fans back in and this is no exception.  Now you have 2 auto turrets that you can position and reposition to your heart’s delight all over the play field.  The action is non-stop.  Another one I may get someday.

FORTHCOMING GAMES

The Secret of Monkey Island Special Edition
LucasArts

Announced at E3, this game is a remake-from-scratch of the original Monkey Island.  It will have brand new graphics and full voiceover work with a complete overhaul of the command system.

Tales of Monkey Island
Telltale Games/LucasArts

On the heels of the Monkey Island remake comes a new episodic release developed by a team of former LucasArts adventure game folks.  It sounds interesting but I’m only tentatively excited mainly due to Telltale’s modus operandi: 1) they seem to be really hit or miss and 2) the game will be released in 5 installments, likely at $10 apiece.  God!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time Re-Shelled
Ubisoft

And now we have a 3D remake of the 1991 arcade hit, originally by Konami.  Not much is known but it seems interesting.

Metal Slug 7
SNK Playmore

Wow, I’m glad I didn’t waste $30 to buy this on DS last year!  It’ll probably only be $10 from Xbox Live.  Sweet.

More Japanese mergers/acquisitions

Awhile ago I wrote an entry about Japanese mergers and buy-outs of recent years. Here’s a recap:

Squaresoft (Final Fantasy, SaGa, Mana) and Enix (Dragon Quest, Soulblazer) merged to create Square Enix.
-Square Enix acquired Taito (Space Invaders, Arkanoid, Bubble Bobble) but maintains it as a separate brand.

Sammy (Guilty Gear, pachinko machines) acquired SEGA (Sonic, Phantasy Star, Yakuza) to form SEGA Sammy but SEGA is maintained as a separate brand.

Konami (Castlevania, Metal Gear, Contra) acquired Hudson Soft (Bonk, Bomberman) but maintains it as a separate brand.

Namco (Pac-Man, Tekken, Tales) merged with Bandai (Gundam, Digimon) to form Namco Bandai.

Technos (Double Dragon, Super Dodge Ball, River City Ransom) folded and its assets were acquired by Atlus (Shin Megami Tensei).

SNK (King of Fighters, Samurai Shodown, Metal Slug) was acquired by a pachinko company and then later regained its independence as SNK Playmore.

Since I wrote that entry, there have been more recent developments . . .

Namco Bandai acquired the video game aspect of Banpresto (Super Robot Wars, Summon Knight). Namco Bandai also acquired D3 Publisher (Puzzle Quest, licensed games).

Tecmo (Ninja Gaiden, Dead or Alive, Tecmo Bowl) merged with Koei (Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Dynasty Warriors) to form Tecmo Koei.

AND MOST INTERESTINGLY, Square Enix purchased a European publisher, Eidos (Tomb Raider, Hitman, Legacy of Kain), pending shareholder approval.