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Alex Kidd in Miracle World Review Rewind

Sega's Little Miracle

Let's take a minute to go back in time to 1986. Nintendo was basking in the success of their NES console with hits like Super Mario Bros., Excitebike, and The Legend of Zelda. Meanwhile, Sega wanted to prove that the Master System was the better entertainment medium of choice. Attempting to go toe to toe with Mario, they created Alex Kidd in Miracle World. For Master System fans, the release of this game was a day to remember. According to them, it was the dawn of a new era. According to some, Mario had met his match, and Nintendo would soon crumble under Sega's mighty fist. But reality had other plans.

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Kung Fu Review Rewind

Kick, punch, it’s all in the mind.

On October 18, 1985, the Nintendo Entertainment System was launched in the US. Among the 18 games released alongside it was Kung Fu. A rather unassuming title, Kung Fu has an intriguing history behind it. It started as an arcade game from Irem called Kung-Fu Master and was intended to be based on the movie Game of Death- Bruce Lee’s final film before he died. Later in the course of development, the story and characters were changed to become a tie-in to the Jackie Chan film Spartan X (aka Wheels on Meals). Most noteworthy about the game was its genre-defining gameplay elements that are considered by many to be the first example of what would come to be known as a beat ‘em up.

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Track & Field II Review Rewind

Bigger, but not better.

In 1988, the Summer Olympics took place in Seoul, South Korea. Capitalizing on this event, Konami released the latest game in their Hyper Sports series, Konamic Sports in Seoul on the Famicom. The game was released a year later in the US as Track & Field II. If the original Track & Field were a person, it would be the humble, modest friend quietly entering the room. Track & Field II, on the other hand, is more like the gregarious guy that wants to be the life of the party. Instead of the meager eight sporting events of the first game, this one features 15 athletic events (11 of which were new to the NES series).

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Blaster Master Review Rewind

A boy and his frog

My earliest years in gaming was a magical time. Every new game I discovered pioneered a fresh mechanic I hadn’t seen before. I'll never forget the moment when my brother's best friend came over with his NES games to show off Blaster Master. I marveled as the story elements unfolded while melancholic music played in the attract mode. Pressing the start button then transitioned me to the opening shot of an armored vehicle speeding off while the triumphant music swelled to a crescendo as I journeyed into the unknown. Never had I witnessed anything like that at the time. While everything I just described is nothing spectacular these days, Blaster Master still has a few gameplay elements that still hold up quite nicely.

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Dr. Mario Review Rewind

I hear he’s got the cure.

To describe Dr. Mario as a falling block puzzle game would be slightly misleading. In lieu of descending blocks, you’ll have to guide vitamin capsules raining down from that dubiously credentialed pill-popping Mario. I mean c’mon— he’s a plumber practicing medicine in the “Mushroom Kingdom”. It’s a Dateline investigation waiting to happen. Mark my words.

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Final Fantasy Review Rewind

Not so final after all.

Final Fantasy is the stuff of legend. No, seriously-- it is. Just ask any enthusiast about the origins of the series. Watch as their eyes gleam while recounting the story of how it all began. Legend has it that a long time ago (1987) in the land of Japan, a fledgling company known as Square (now Square Enix) wasn’t doing so well financially. Despite earlier releases like Rad Racer and 3-D World Runner, their games weren’t selling well enough to pull them out of the slump. It seemed as if all was lost. Wanting to go out with a bang, Square chose to develop a role-playing game. They called it Final Fantasy (*cue epic music*).

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Valfaris Review

To quote Bill: This is me at my most masochistic.

I have a few questions for you. Do you consider yourself to be masochistic in your choice of games to play? Are you driven by a need to show your superiority over other players and scoff at them for not “getting good”? Has your quest for harder and harder games desensitized you to the point that it’s impossible for you to enjoy anything that isn’t actively trying to frustrate you? Well, you’re in luck, because have I got the game for you! Enter: Valfaris, a game so focused on punishing players that it forgets to be fun. Which, if you answered yes to the above questions should get you absolutely psyched, right?

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Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD Review

I can't track these changes.

It almost hurts to write that it’s been 13 years since Sega released Banana Blitz back on the Wii. At the time, I know I couldn’t have been more excited that we were about to see a Monkey Ball game that leveraged the motion capabilities of Nintendo’s hit system. However, when it finally released, I wasn’t thrilled with the results. Rather than leveraging the Wii remote in its horizontal orientation, like many other motion-centric games had, it forced you to point forward and contort your arm in awkward ways to tilt the stage. I quickly shelved the game and wrote it off as a failure. I suspect I wasn’t the only one, because after all these years Sega has released an HD remaster of the game leveraging more standard console controls using the analog stick. Unfortunately, the transition has introduced level design changes that bring things to a degree of difficulty that I’ve found to be insurmountable.

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Stranger Things 3: The Game Review

Dungeon-crawling through Hawkins.

Like so many other children of the ‘80s, I love Stranger Things. Booting it up is like taking a time machine back to my childhood. The pervasive synth music, the wardrobes and the cultural references instantly transport me, making it easier to get sucked into the day-to-day of Hawkins and the ever-creepy world of the Upside-Down. And just like a true ‘80s property, there’s also a tie-in video game to go along with the latest season of the show. Thankfully this tie-in isn’t quite as low budget as as the Atari 2600 and NES tie-ins of yesteryear, but the dungeon crawling brawler pales in comparison to the electrifying viewing experience offered by the show, especially this latest season.

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EarthBound Review Rewind

The RPG that wasn’t afraid to get weird.

Remember that silly old trope in teen movies where the nerdy “plain Jane” character magically becomes super attractive just by removing her glasses? It was a bit like that with EarthBound- an RPG that was largely ignored when released on the Super NES in its twilight years. Nintendo’s ill-conceived ad campaign telling the player that “this game stinks” didn’t do it any favors either. The game’s overtly humorous kid-friendly facade was unusual for its time and quickly written off as ugly and boring by all but the most accepting of RPG fans. But thanks to the positive praise in gaming forums years later, it picked up steam and eventually became lauded as one of the best on the Super NES. Much like the bespectacled character in every 90s teen comedy, it was as if EarthBound removed its glasses. Nothing was different about it- just our perception of what was already there.

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