Tag Archives: Super Nintendo

Kirby Super Star (1996)


About a month ago, I asked my Twitter followers to pick a Nintendo Virtual Console game I should play and write up for my blog. Blogger Pixel Bubble was the first to respond, and chose Kirby Super Star. You can read Pixel Bubble’s thoughts on the games and the games industry on the Pixel Bubble blog, Geek Force Network, United We Game, and Twitter.

Kirby Super Star is not so much a collection of minigames as it is a collection of mutations. Masahiro Sakurai, at once the most eccentric and restrained of Nintendo’s ’90s game designers, never strays far from his core idea of how a Kirby game should play. Sure, Super Star offers two (very tertiary) timing-based challenges, but the main package swaps out Kirby’s objective while keeping his controls stable and recognizable. Even in his furthest flights of fancy, Sakurai stays true to Kirby mechanically as well as spiritually, a unique decision when compared to other genre-hopping mascots of the time. When Mario wanted to race, he took to the track in a go-kart. Kirby races as he does all things: Walking on a 2D plane, inhaling obstacles and enemies, and chowing down on loads of pastel sweets.

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Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars (1996)

The “genre mash-up” label is usually not a harbinger of artistic integrity. At their most transparent and desperate (think Cowboys and Aliens or Pride & Prejudice and Zombies), these crossovers reek of the worst commercial instincts, peddling a glib, digestible conceit over story and passion. They’re the sort of high-concept, pitch-friendly ideas that sound clever in passing but less so with every future mention, the shining allure of the “it’s like [blank] meets [blank]!” tagline – of familiar things made semi-new – slowly collapsing in on its own hollowness. In video games, no genre has suffered more indecencies at the hands of this Frankenstein-like graft treatment than the role-playing game. Nearly every other type of game has had the basic hallmarks of the RPG sutured onto it like a disproportionate fifth limb, as if skill leveling and weapon modification alone could transform any kart racer or hallway shoot-’em-up into something complex and heady. A handful of games incorporate these mechanics into their potpourris as easily as Quentin Tarantino can splice together the aesthetics of trash and art cinema, but more often than not, “contains RPG elements” is a kinder shorthand for “features extraneous bells and whistles to make this experience feel more involved than it actually is.” Continue reading

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Chrono Trigger (1995)

Chrono Trigger is not Primer, and the world is better for it. The game plays so fast and loose with the rules of time travel, it’s bound to make paradox theorists’ heads explode faster than if they met alternate-timeline versions of themselves. But Crono and his friends exist in a universe where soaring through the millennia is a dreamlike and inviting proposition. A greater attempt by the game’s designers to rectify the logical issues inextricably linked to the narrative’s central conceit – problems that make or break many other time travel stories – would almost certainly be at odds with their creation’s other bountiful charms. Besides, it’s not so much that Chrono Trigger‘s creators ignore the issue of causality; they simply employ it only when they feel it would most emotionally resonate.

The game begins in its parallel world’s version of our present. (However, its technology spans anywhere from turn-of-the-century steampunk gadgets to contemporary kitchen appliances to vaguely futuristic doo-dads.) Spiky haired silent protagonist Crono begins his grand adventure as many RPG characters before him: being woken up by his mother on the eve of a life-changing event. When his friend Lucca unveils her teleportation machine at a local festival, things – as they are wont to do at teleportation machine unveilings – go horribly wrong. Crono is soon hurtling through the ages, traversing and re-travesring a relatively small world map that only reveals its hidden depths in new time periods.

It wouldn’t be a party-based roleplaying game without a menagerie of superpowered oddballs aiding the hero on his journey, and Chrono Trigger’s suitably ragtag collection does not skimp on the eccentricity. Continue reading

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