This 1998 Gremlin/Fox Interactive release for the Sony PlayStation is a fast, tunnel-based shoot ’em up with trippy visuals and a pumping Crystal Method soundtrack. It was designed and programmed by the prolific Tony Crowther.
Of the three versions of Kokotoni Wilf released by Elite Systems, the Commodore 64 version is arguably the worst.
Compared to the Spectrum original, Amstrad Kokotoni Wilf is pretty ugly. The developers have chosen a dark blue background with green caves, and the odd splash of colour in the (very flickery) sprites and landscape decorations. The graphics are very poor in my opinion.
Developed by Sega and released for the Megadrive/Genesis in 1990, Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse is a masterpiece platform game that has stood the test of time extremely well.
Conker’s Bad Fur Day was a surprising 2001 release – on the Nintendo 64 – for British developer Rare, in collaboration with Nintendo.
What is surprising about it is that it is an “adult” game – meaning: it contains cartoon characters behaving in ways that you don’t normally see in a Nintendo game, like vomiting on people’s shoes, making sexual innuendo, and using mild swear words.
This is the first game in the Lufia series – developed by Neverland and published by Taito in 1993 for the Super Nintendo.
Lufia and the Fortress of Doom is a cute and colourful Japanese Role-Playing game with Zelda-style presentation and turn-based combat.
It may look benign, but Lufia and the Fortress of Doom is a pretty hardcore level-grinder under the hood. That’s been a hallmark of the Lufia series as a whole – they look like kid’s games but are much, much more than throwaway adventures.
I’m a fan of the Lufia games – they’re all detailed and beautifully-made and contain all the ingredients a good dungeon-crawler needs. I’m also very fond of the presentation of this game – particularly the speech bubbles and fonts, which are clean, nicely-balanced, and easy to read.
Graphically, it’s not the best SNES RPG out there (that honour goes to Seiken Densetsu 3!), but it is beautifully-drawn and coloured, and all the monsters are well presented in combat. Boss battles are memorable too. In fact: the game starts with one!
While I do prefer the sequel to this first Lufia game, I do think that Lufia and the Fortress of Doom shouldn’t be ignored. It’s still one of the Super Nintendo‘s great RPGs.
Of the three Super Mario Bros. games released for the Nintendo Entertainment System, this 1988 release must surely rate as the best.
Directed by Takashi Tezuka and produced by Shigeru Miyamoto, Super Mario Bros. 3 really takes the Mario series to a whole new level, with new techniques, gimmicks, and secrets, as well as the usual high standard of finesse and charm.
Super Mario Bros. 3 forgets that Super Mario Bros. 2 ever existed and instead goes back to what made Super Mario Bros. so enjoyable to play. And that is: challenging, left to right-scrolling levels, and precise control over Mario (or Luigi – the two-player mode came back). In this game Mario could (for the first time) slide down slopes; pick up and throw special blocks; freely climb vines, and also fly, float, swim faster, and throw hammers (!) using collectable power-ups.
Individual levels form part of eight themed ‘worlds’, and a map allows you to choose which level to take on next (another new feature at the time), and although the game is still relatively linear it does at least give you the occasional alternative route. Plus: you can now see secret areas opening up on the main map, which is quite exciting (and something that we later saw expanded in the phenomenal Super Nintendo sequel to this, Super Mario World).
Super Mario Bros. 3 also introduces bonus mini-games into the mix and these allow the player to win extra lives or power-ups which can be used later during a level.
Playing it now, there is no doubting that Super Mario Bros. 3 is an amazing game that has stood the test of time well. In some respects it plays a bit like a prototype of the peerless Super Mario World, which indeed it is – a prototype of that game, albeit one that sold almost 20 million physical copies worldwide!
The North American release of Super Mario Bros. 2 was controversial because it was not the same Super Mario Bros. 2 that was released in Japan – it was a re-skinned game; made into a Mario game, because the Nintendo bigwigs thought the original was too difficult for western gamers.
And the result is the game you see here. It looks like Mario from a distance, but when you drill down to it, there are quite a few differences. In this there is no two-player option. Players can instead choose to play each stage as one of four different characters – Mario (of course), Luigi, Toad (the mushroom), and Princess Peach. Each character can run and jump, and climb, and do all the usual Mario-style actions, but they also each have a unique ability. Mario can jump the farthest; Luigi – the highest; Peach can float, and Toad can pick up items quickly.
Also unlike the previous game: the player can explore both left and right – as well as vertically – rather than being forced to always move left to right. Enemies are no longer beaten by jumping on them. Instead: they can be ridden on by jumping on them. And if you do want/need to beat them up you have to throw objects at them instead.
Super Mario Bros. 2 contains twenty different levels in total, spread over seven themed worlds. Each world has different enemies, plus a boss battle at the end.
Although this version of Super Mario Bros. 2 has since gone on to be regarded as a bit of a retro-gaming classic, it is easy to see why it garnered some criticism at the time. It does deviate from many of the Mario conventions we’ve come to recognise, although it does retain the precise controls, cute graphics, and charm of the Mario series as a whole, so is well worth a play.
Super Mario Bros. 2 was initially released on the Famicom Disk System in Japan in 1986, but was not released in North America or Europe in its original form, as you might have expected. It was instead decided that the gameplay was “too difficult” for Western gamers (and also the video games market in North America was undergoing a crash at the time), so Nintendo decided not to release it in English language territories – at least until it was later re-branded as Super Mario Bros.: The Lost levels – and released a different Super Mario Bros.2 in North America instead.
This ‘lost’ version of Super Mario Bros. 2 is just as insanely difficult as the legend describes. It plays very similarly to the first Super Mario Bros. game, but has a variety of new features that seem designed to trick you. Like black mushrooms. You learn not to pick those up quite early in the game… The level designs this time have been designed to make you tear your hair out too. Make one wrong move, and you’re dead. Some sections have easier routes, but these are often hidden and require Mario (or Luigi) to find a hidden block to open them up.
The whole game seems like it was designed with “professional players” in mind. This original, Japanese version of Super Mario Bros. 2 is certainly not for beginners. Which is why it is so much loved by speed-runners and modern game pros now. It’s one of the toughest challenges in gaming.
The game sold over seven million physical copies in Japan in its first year of release.