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Reviews

Final Fantasy III Review Rewind

Final Fantasy gets a job.

When Final Fantasy VII appeared in the late 90s, my initial reaction was that of shock at the significant gulf in sequels for the US. It was a harsh reality to learn that, of the three mainline Final Fantasy releases we received, Japan had double that number by the start of the PlayStation era. As time marched on, Square (now Square Enix) eventually released the sequels we had missed. Meanwhile, I’ve been playing a nearly 30-year-long game of catch-up since 1997. A particular blind spot for me was Final Fantasy III- the last one to be developed for the Famicom. However, after finally getting around to playing it, I now have a new appreciation for this long-running series.

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The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past Review Rewind

Link’s 16-bit debut still sticks the landing 30 years later.

If there’s ever a time I dread writing a review, it’s when my subject is a highly favored game that has received so much praise over the years that it’s a bit hard not to sound like I’ve just hopped aboard the nostalgic hype train at this point. Check any top 10 list of the best Super Nintendo games, and you’ll be hard-pressed not to find The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past floating somewhere within the top five, if not the number one spot. It’s a testament to its staying power in the minds of the gaming community at large. When I sat down to play this game for myself, I only had one question- is the game really that good? Yes. Yes, it is.

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Knight Rider Review Rewind

KITT turbo boosts onto the NES.

The 1980s was a decade with no shortage of TV action/crime dramas featuring a suave loner with a high-tech vehicle on a crusade to champion all that is good. At the top of the pile was Knight Rider. Each week, David Hasselhoff hit the road to stop criminals with the help of KITT- a super-advanced Pontiac Firebird Trans Am voiced by William Daniels (aka Mr. Feeny from Boy Meets World). A popular show in syndication by 1988, Knight Rider was the perfect candidate to get a licensed video game on the even more popular Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). So now, sit back and join me on this shadowy flight into a dangerous world of a man who does not exist.

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ESWAT Review Rewind

Enforce the Law

Being in the arcade business well before 16-bit consoles came along, Sega always had a discerning eye for what would catch an avid gamer’s attention. Their games covered nearly every genre out there at the time. If you wanted to be a high-flying jet pilot, Afterburner was your game. If you always wanted to ride like the wind with your partner at your side, OutRun owned your quarters. And in 1989, if you wanted to be a law enforcer with a lot of firepower and plenty of criminals to test it on, ESWAT: Cyber Police had your fix. While the Genesis version wasn’t a 1:1 port- sporting a slightly modified premise and fewer levels- the game was a worthy effort with a few quirks that kept it from being an A-lister.

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Elevator Action Review Rewind

Tactical Espionage Action

“Elevator” and “action” aren’t words that typically belong in the same sentence. But lo and behold, Taito released an arcade game in 1983 that would pair a mundane function with the trappings of a spy thriller in the game Elevator Action. You play the role of a secret agent that finds himself at the top of everyone’s hit list. Avoiding certain death requires cunning, skill, and riding a lot of elevators. It made a big enough impression to become a cult classic that people remembered fondly.

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Penguin Wars Review Rewind

When Animals Attack

In the gaming days of years yonder, there seemed to be no limit to what developers could dream up as a basis for killing some time. And when they couldn't create a game revolving around humans playing sports, saving the world, or destroying aliens in space, they could always turn to the animal kingdom for inspiration. So in 1985, Ascii Corporation made a little ditty in the arcade called Penguin-Kun Wars. The player chooses one of several animal characters to fight it out using dodge balls in a small arena. It was a unique idea as no other game like it yet existed.

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Cool Boarders 2 Review Rewind

It’s all downhill from here.

In 1996, UEP Systems released Cool Boarders on the PlayStation. It was one of the few pioneers of snowboarding games on home consoles. The popularity of extreme sports was steadily gaining momentum in the United States, as were releases of snowboarding titles from other game developers. So it was only natural that UEP Systems would follow up in 1997 with their sequel, Cool Boarders 2.

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Renegade Review Rewind

The Street Fighter

Sometime in May 1986, Japanese arcades saw the release of a brawler called Nekketsu Koha Kunio-kun (roughly meaning Hot-Blooded Tough Guy Kunio in English). It stars Kunio- a miscreant high schooler fighting for a classmate being picked on by rival gangs. The game is notable for being the first brawler to feature an urban setting and introduced many trademarks common to the genre- a tough guy protagonist, themes of street justice, generic thugs, female villains, and so on. The game underwent significant revisions for its Western release and subsequent NES port, including a name change to Renegade and the story wholly disconnected from its source material.

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Fantasy Zone Review Rewind

Cute but Deadly

After seeing the incredible success of Konami's shoot-'em-up Gradius, Sega sought to create an arcade game that could rival it. So in 1986, game designer Yoji Ishii (Flicky, Outrun, NiGHTS) came up with a concept that combined the whimsical sensibilities of Twinbee with a giddy samba-esque soundtrack to create Fantasy Zone. As a lighthearted take on side-scrolling shooters that later cemented the "cute-’em-up" subgenre.

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Super Mario World Review Rewind

A whole new world.

Witnessing the leap from the NES to the new 16-bit Super Nintendo in 1991 was downright magical. The console had an eye-catching futuristic design (in the eyes of my six-year-old self anyway), and the hardware produced higher-quality graphics and sound that delivered an experience impossible for the previous generation. And what better title to lead the charge than Super Mario World? I remember seeing the game for the first time at a graduation party for a friend going to middle school. We all huddled around her TV, taking turns playing the game. As soon as that giant Banzai Bill streaked across the screen, I was hooked.

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