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16-bit classics I missed out on the first time

On 06/12/2019 at 11:03 PM by SanAndreas

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Lately, I've been playing three classic compilations on my Switch. Two of these are from Konami - the Castlevania and Contra Anniversary Collections. Konami has been re-releasing a lot of its old library lately, after being largely a no-show in the gaming world since the huge fiasco over Kojima Productions and MGS V. Hopefully they're taking a few hesitant steps back into the gaming world beyond Yu-Gi-Oh and Pro Evolution Soccer. They're even jumping into the mini-console scene with mini TurboGrafx-16/PC Engine consoles - the consoles were originally developed by Hudson Soft, and ownership therefore passed to Konami when they bought Hudson.

The third is from Square Enix - the Collection of Mana, which got a surprise release on Nintendo's eShop after the Nintendo E3 conference. 

All three collections gave me the opportunity to play classic games that I missed out on the first time. In two cases, it was because I had the wrong console - I was a SNES boy rather than a Genesis boy back in the day. The third case was because I was born in the wrong country to play it, LOL.

Castlevania: Bloodlines (Genesis)

Nintendo notoriously locked down Capcom, Konami, Square, and Enix in the early years of the 16-bit era in an attempt to deny content to Sega. Street Fighter II, Castlevania, and Contra were Nintendo-exclusive for a few years, then the companies turned around and made special Genesis versions. Bloodlines was the Genesis's unique entry into the Castlevania series.

Bloodlines is a far more straightforward CV game than Super Castlevania IV or Symphony of the night. It's very linear, and it lacks the multidirectional whip mechanics of IV.  It plays more like the NES games with better controls. But it's a fun, stylish, and dark entry into the series, and was the first CV to really branch out beyond the mythos of the early games. The game is set during World War I, where it's implied that the war is being engineered by Elizabeth Bartley, the niece of Count Dracula, as an attempt to resurrect her uncle.

The wielder of the Vampire Killer whip s Texas-born John Morris, who was written as the son of Quincey Morris, a character in Bram Stoker's original Dracula novel. You can also choose to play as Spanish swordsman Eric Lecarde. They battle Elizabeth Bartley's minions in a variety of locals across Europe. 

This game also marked the CV series debut of Michiru Yamane, who would end up becoming the main composer for the series for many years, including the beloved Symphony of the Night. One of the themes composed for this game, Sinking Old Sanctuary, would be reused in Legacy of Darkness (N64) and Circle of the Moon (GBA).  The music has all the unique acoustic qualities of the Genesis, while the sound effects have the characteristic scratchines of Genesis sound effects. The game is very crisp and has a darker palette than SCIV.

Contra: Hard Corps (Genesis)

Sega's Contra entry was Hard Corps. In this game, you picked between four playable characters, including a female character, Sheena, a robot character, and a werewolf character, and battled somewhat comical enemies. This game has a narrative told in cut-scenes, that Contra III on SNES did not have, and it also has branching paths. It's as brutally hard as any Contra game. Its visuals are again crisp and flashy. Perhaps a little too flashy, as even regular enemies die in explosions that obscure much of the screen and can get you ambushed by enemies coming from behind. 

Where Bloodlines was a more back-to-basics CV experience compared to its SNES counterpart, Hard Corps is a more complex game compared to Contra III.

Trials of Mana (SNES)

This is one of the games I've most wanted in an English version for years. It's a localization of Seiken Densetsu 3, the successor to Secret of Mana that was never previously localized due to being released very late in the SNES's lifetime and Square's stormy relationship with Nintendo at the  time.  Shortly after its E3 2019 presentation, Nintendo released the Collection of Mana on Switch's eshop, which also includes Trials' two predecessors, Final Fantasy Adventure for GB, and Secret of Mana for SNES.

The third game in Square's Zelda-styled Mana series, Trials of Mana is a far superior game to Secret of Mana in almost every way. The combat is much faster and smoother. You and your party can now really lay into the enemies instead of having to time out your hits to get them to connect, and the game is so much more smooth. Out of a cast of six main characters, you pick one character as your player avatar, as well as two others as your companions. Your choice of main character determines the final villain of your story, and your choice of companions determines certain story elements, as the six characters are paired off into three male-female pairs against one of the game's three villains. The story is better paced this time around. The characters you don't pick will appear as NPCs.  The game features another great soundtrack by Secret of Mana composer Hiroki Kikuta.

Furthermore, Square Enix is doing a full 3-D remake of Trials of Mana, which will be released next year for the PS4, Switch, and Steam. Unlike the remake of Secret of Mana which was simply a straight remastering with 3-D graphics, Trials will have a fully realized 3-D world on the scale of the 3-D Zeldas or Okami, with 3-D camera views and improved mechanics. Even though I picked up the collection, I will likely get the 3-D remake of Trails when it lands next year.

Final thoughts: 

Nintendo and Square Enix really killed it at E3 with all these games. The FFVII remake finally has a light at the end of the tunnel. We're getting a new Switch Zelda. The Dragon Quest Hero and Banjo-Kazooie are coming to Smash. Astral Chain looks great. I'm looking forward to Cyberpunk 2077 as is everybody else. On top of games I was already looking forward to like Fire Emblem: Three Houses and Dragon Quest XI S for Switch, I'm not going to have any shortage of games in the coming months. What a time to be.a gamer.



Jamie Alston Staff Writer

06/12/2019 at 11:16 PM

What a time imdeed! It’s getting to the point where I have to cancel certain preorders in favor of upcoming games I'd rather not have to hunt for later. I’m think about swapping Dragon Quest Builders 2 for DQ XI S. I canceled the Crash Team Racing remake in favor of the deluxe edition of the Final Fantasy VII Remake. There’s so much stuff I want to play!


06/13/2019 at 08:07 PM

I'll probably preorder the FFVII collectors' edition. I already have Fire Emblem on pre-order.

Cary Woodham

06/13/2019 at 03:53 PM

The Collection of Mana and Trials of Mana announcements were some of my favorite things from E3.  Right after I heard about those announcements, I immediately emailed my Square PR contact and requested a review code for Collection of Mana.  Not sure I'll get it, but I had to try anyway!  I did some research and found out there is going to be a physical copy of the collection, but it doesn't come out until the end of August.  But I reserved it just in case.  It's the same price as digital, so even though I want to play the third game NOW NOW NOW NOW NOW, I'll just be patient and wait.


06/13/2019 at 08:06 PM

I didn't know it was getting a cartridge release. Oh, well. I'm probably getting the 3-D remake of Trials of Mana unless it turns out to be horrible (and from what I've heard, it's great). 


06/14/2019 at 10:07 AM

I have absolutely no patience so I bought Collection on the eShop the minute I saw it.

I'll probably get the cartridge when it comes out too.


06/14/2019 at 03:03 PM

Me too, goldangit.

Matt Snee Staff Writer

06/14/2019 at 10:53 AM

I missed out on a lot of 16 bit classic too... mainly cause I never had a SNES as a kid. But I missed a lot of Genesis games too, even though I had the system. I played a lot of them in emulation in the late nineties where I downloaded every game ever. I want to play those Saga games on Switch though. 


06/14/2019 at 03:08 PM

I played a lot of Sega's 16-bit stuff because it's so readily available and because my Genesis-owning cohorts had Sega's games. Kinda debating on the Genesis Classic just because of one game - Alisia Dragoon, which I played at a Walmart kiosk when I was a kid and I haven't seen it re-released until now. If they could get Lunar and Lunar 2 on that thing I'd plunk down the money for a pre-order now.


06/15/2019 at 09:07 PM

I've always wanted to try the Mana games. 

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