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Posts By Jamie Alston

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

A game that needs no introduction; 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 the 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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Super Mario Bros. 2 Review Rewind

Ninception

If you told me when I was a kid that Super Mario Bros. 2 was merely a localized version of a pre-existing game from Japan, I wouldn’t have believed you. But in fact, that’s precisely what Nintendo did for the US release of the next chapter in the Mario series. This was mostly due to the fact the original Japanese sequel was nearly identical to Super Mario Bros., only with slightly improved graphics. There was also concern that the game’s high difficulty would be off-putting for American audiences. The solution? Take Doki Doki Panic, swap out the main characters, slap a “Super Mario Bros. 2” label on that bad boy, and you’ve got yourself Nintendo’s best-selling game of 1988.

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Airwolf Review Rewind

Get to the choppa!

Airwolf is one my favorite ‘80s TV shows. Originally airing in 1984 to 1987, the premise centered around a high-tech military helicopter capable of reaching supersonic speeds. In addition to the entertaining action sequences and interesting plot, Airwolf is perhaps best known for having one the most distinctive theme songs of the ‘80s (intro clip included below). Naturally, it was only a matter of time before we would see a video game conversion. There was an arcade version by a company called Kyugo in 1987, but the home console release was only for the Famicom. The NES finally saw its own version of Airwolf when Beam Software developed it with  Acclaim as the publisher in 1989- 2 years after the show’s final season. Needless to say, this version had a lot to live up to.

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Snake's Revenge Review Rewind

Revenge never tasted so bland

Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear series enjoys the distinction of being an icon that still resonates with the majority of the gaming community. Even if you've never played any of them, chances are you've at least heard of it by now. With all of the positive attention that the relatively recent Metal Gear Solid 5 has received, it’s easy to forget about the game that that could have potentially killed the series. And no-- it’s not MGS 2 (although I’ll never forgive it for those protracted conversations between Raiden and his nagging girlfriend). Nope, I'm referring to something much, much worse-- Snake's Revenge.

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