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Posts By Jamie Alston

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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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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Tetris Review Rewind

The game needs no introduction; but this review does, however.

As it so happened, the Game Boy was the perfect present, as my older brother found out when he graduated from middle school. After the party was over and everyone had gone home, mom and dad came downstairs with a just one more wrapped present. I still remember my brother opening the box and joyfully exclaiming “It’s a Game Boy”! Since Tetris came packaged with it, we wasted no time playing that Russian puzzle game for years to come. It was the perfect game to complement the perfect present.

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Qix Review Rewind

The original Geometry Wars

My earliest memory of Qix began sometime in the mid-90s when I saw it listed in a Funcoland price sheet (remember those?) and thought it was pronounced “quicks”. As a kid, I thought it was a rule that all words spelled with a “Q” had to be pronounced with the qu inflection. But years of expanded vocabulary eventually proved me wrong. In short, the game’s title is pronounced “kicks”- because I suppose the developer Taito wanted you to get your kicks playing Qix. See what they did there?

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Xevious Review Rewind

A Game Changer

Every time I play Xevious on one of Namco’s "museum" compilations, I can’t help but reminisce about the time when I first discovered the game in 1992 on the Atari 7800 (a system which also familiarized me with other Namco classics outside of Pac-Man). Back then, our family couldn’t afford the Super NES or Sega Genesis. So, in a move of what I think was out of pity, a friend of ours gave us her 7800 with a huge bag full of games. While rummaging through the cartridges, I came across the little oddity known as Xevious. It was probably the first game I had heard of that started with an “X”, and the name intrigued me. I quickly fell in love with the unique enemy designs and mysterious land structures peppered throughout the game.

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Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride Review Rewind

Family Matters

August of this year will mark the 20th anniversary since Dragon Quest was introduced in the US. With 10 core sequels and many spin-offs since then, you’d think an RPG fan such as myself would be well-versed in the series by now. But in reality, my Dragon Quest knowledge over the years has only been cursory at best. I got started about eight years ago when I completed Dragon Warrior (the series’ name in the US until 2005), and I’m currently nearly halfway through the massive adventure that is Dragon Quest XI. My depth of familiarity with the series pretty much ends there. Or at least it did until I recently finished Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride- a Nintendo DS remake of the beloved Super Famicom original.

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Dragon Warrior Review Rewind

This RPG is a real grind. No dragon your feet here.

If there’s one thing I absolutely adore about Dragon Warrior (aka Dragon Quest), it’s how much its subtle charms have influenced each sequel to come after it. There’s just something special about playing the latest game in the series (currently Dragon Quest XI) and still hearing the familiar sound cues of attacking an enemy, taking a hit, or the brief but satisfying victory chime and level-up fanfare. Additionally, the character designs by Akira Toriyama (Dragon Ball creator and illustrator) give a visual continuity throughout each game. Without question, the Dragon Quest series has laid down some deep roots that all started here. But although it's a beloved first entry for nostalgic fans of the series, newcomers might not warm up to certain gameplay elements that weren't refined until much later.

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Metroid II: Return of Samus Review Rewind

Back for the first time

Nintendo is no stranger to making risky decisions that could have resulted in utter failure. After all, they released the Famicom\NES during a time when the consumer market shunned video games. Then there was that time in 2004 when most of us thought they were crazy when they announced the dual screen handheld DS. And many were skeptical when motion controls were introduced on the Wii console. Nonetheless, their decisions proved to be a significant success. Such was the case with the early Metroid series.

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