Flashback Friday: Legend of Zelda Oracle Series

Double Jump Kris Mii The end of June means half of 2017 is over already… How crazy is that?

This Friday showcases a pair of Legend of Zelda games that were originally released  for the Game Boy Color with a unique connection, Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons.

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Released for the Game Boy Color handheld in 2001, the Oracle Series were a pair of games with parallel plots that gave Link the ability to control the element the game was named after, either the Ages or the Seasons. In Ages, Link travels back and forth in time, his actions in the past affecting the future in different ways, while in Seasons, Link controls the Seasons, allowing him to solve puzzles on this quest. Originally, a third installment — Oracle of Secrets — was going to be included that starred the third Hyrule goddess Farore, but she was instead included in both games to aid the player with linking the other two via passwords.

Both games were well received by fans and critics, with Oracle of Seasons scoring slightly higher than its Ages counterpart. According to the timeline of Hyrule Historia, the events of Seasons happen before Ages as well.

Each game starts off with Link meeting a performer, either Nayru or Din, before the performer is kidnapped by the villain of the game, Veran or Onox respectively. The performer is revealed to be the Oracle whose abilities the villain wishes to use for her or his own powers. Link embarks on a quest to save the Oracle, utilizing time-travel and the seasons to his advantage in order to rescue Nayru or Din.

The Oracle Series resembles Link’s Awakening in graphics and many game mechanics. Controls are similar, and even some of the sprites from Link’s Awakening are reused in the Oracle Series. Like many games in the franchise, the Oracle Series each have eight dungeons and a large over-world map to explore.

While the Oracle Series are each a full game in their own right, but the pair are marketed to be two halves of the same whole. Upon completing one of the games, the ending will reveal that there is a larger evil at play, hinting that the player should link the two games in order to play through the linear plot of the series. Linking the two completed games will give the player the extended ending and a battle with the true villain.

The Oracle Series were released on the Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console in 2013, and I almost immediately downloaded them. I had never gotten a chance to finish the original games. Unfortunately, I had seemed to have gotten a glitched copy of Oracle of Ages that did not allow me to progress through the eighth dungeon. Perhaps with the Virtual Console copies, I can finally see that extended ending for myself!

 

Have you ever played the Oracle Series? What did you think of them?

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Flashback Friday: Sims 2

Double Jump Kris Mii It’s another Friday! Yay!

We’ve been going back and forth between playing our Switch Games and living out perfect lives on the Sims 4. This month I thought we’d go back to when Rachel and I had first gotten hooked onto the Sims series with Sims 2. 

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The Sims 2, first published in 2004, is the second installment of the Sims franchise published by EA Games and developed by Maxis. Like the original Sims, the Sims 2 is a real life simulator where the player controls the characters and aids them in living their lives day to day.

The game itself was released on a plethora of platforms, most notably the PC but also the Xbox, the Playstation 2, and Nintendo’s GameCube, Gameboy Advance, and DS. It was a commercial success, smashing records with its release, and sold over 13 million copies over all platforms by March 2012.

The Sims 2 allows the characters — the Sims — to age through life cycles, such as child, teen, and adult, with a 3D game engine. Players customize the Sims’ looks and personalities before throwing them into a world where they can get jobs, develop relationships, and grow old or die unfortunate premature deaths. The game allows the players to play the role of a god, choosing and manipulating every aspect of the Sims’ lives, or just letting the Sims choose their own fate however their personality dictates they would act.

Besides the base game, the Sims 2 had expansion packs to greatly expand the gameplay. For example, Pets included dogs and cats, Nightlife boasted clubs and a dating system, and Seasons brought weather to the Sims’ world. Expansions tended to bring new life forms for the Sims, such as PlantSims, Vampires, and Witches. Stuff Packs were also developed and sold separately, bringing new items to decorate the Sims’ world with.

Since then, the franchise has evolved to The Sims 3 and most recently The Sims 4, each bringing new content to the franchise. Despite initial glitches and problems with the games’ releases, the Sims franchise continues to be a success.

Have you ever played the Sims 2? What did you think of it?

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Flashback Friday: Street Fighter II

Double Jump Kris Mii Happy Friday, everyone! Another month has come and gone, and we’re getting closer to the second half of 2017. Anyone else feel like time is going by too fast?

Considering the rumors of a Mini SNES being produced by Nintendo, I thought we’d talk about another SNES game, one that certainly was popular enough back in the day to make the Mini SNES list — Street Fighter II: The World Warrior. 

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Street Fighter II: The World Warrior is a fighting game that was originally released in 1991 as an arcade game before being ported to Nintendo’s SNES system. It became one of the best sellers of that console. It’s the sequel to the original Street Fighter from 1987. The series was developed by Capcom, and Street Fighter II was the company’s best-selling game all the way up until 2013, when Resident Evil 5 surpassed it. That’s over two decades!

Street Fighter II is credited with starting the fighting genre in home console video games. The player would select a character from a roster to compete in a one-vs-one fight, usually in a best two out of three rounds of close combat. Each character has a health bar and the aim is to deplete the opponent’s health bar before the timer runs out. Once the timer runs out, the player with the most health would win the round.

The game’s character roster boasted a diverse range of characters with their nationalities. Each had his or her own fighting style and it was a challenge to master everyone’s abilities. The fights even took place in stages from the characters’ home countries.

What I remember most about this game is Rachel playing it all the time at our grandparents’ house when her age was still able to be counted on one hand. If I wasn’t playing with her, I was probably waiting for her to be done so I could play Super Mario RPG.

Have you ever played Street Fighter II? What did you think of it?

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Flashback Friday: Pokemon Snap

Double Jump Kris Mii Happy Friday, everyone! Is everyone ready for April?

This week is all about one of my favorite Nintendo 64 games: Pokemon Snap! This game was everything that I wish Pokemon GO had been right off the bat. 

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Pokemon Snap was first released on the Nintendo 64 back in 1999, then on the Wii’s Virtual Console in 2007. Just last year in 2016, Pokemon Snap came to the Wii U’s Virtual Console. It’s developed a nearly cult following with its addictive game play.

The game’s premise itself is fairly simple. As the avatar, you travel around various areas on Pokemon Island in a special vehicle to take pictures of different Pokemon species. Your goal is to get the best shot to impress Professor Oak and gain the highest score. There are a few secrets around the island, such as landscapes that will resemble Pokemon when photographed from the right angle. Unlocking these secrets will reveal the final area where you can try to photograph a rare Pokemon.

 

The more photographs and the higher your overall score becomes, the more items you unlock to help your photographs improve. Apples and Pester Balls can make the Pokemon do various moves or pose differently as well as unlocking even more species to photograph, either by driving the species out of hiding or even making other Pokemon evolve.

Pokemon Snap, while simplistic in design and mechanics, is one of the most nostalgia inducing games that I remember playing. Pokemon is a fantastic franchise, and to have a side game that includes the adorable creatures in a relaxing setting was a good move on Nintendo’s part.

Have you ever played Pokemon Snap? What was your favorite aspect of the game?

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Flashback Friday: Super Mario Kart

Double Jump Kris Mii Thank God it’s Friday! I hope everyone else’s weeks have gone well!

The Nintendo Switch will be released in a mere week, and one of the upcoming games that Nintendo has boasted for the console is Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. This month we’ll be looking at the game that began the go-kart racing franchise, Super Mario Kart.

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Super Mario Kart was first released way back in 1992 for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. It was the first in a string of related go-kart racing games, allowing the Super Mario franchise to touch other genres and gain even more popularity among gamers. It sold over nine million copies worldwide, cementing its spot as the third best selling SNES game ever.

The game allows players to select one of eight characters from the Super Mario franchise and race with said characters around themed courses. Item boxes grant characters power ups to gain advantage in the race and put their opponents momentarily out of commission. This basic premise has continued in the rest of the games in the series, albeit with new power ups and plenty of more characters and courses to choose from.

Super Mario Kart is credited with inventing the go-kart subgenre of video games, with other franchises following suit with their own racing games, including Sonic Drift from Sega, South Park Rally, and Diddy Kong Racing. The Mario Kart series itself has gained seven sequels along with a handful of arcade spin-offs over the last two and a half decades. The games have received mostly positive reception, and is one of the leading multiplayer gaming franchises.

The latest anticipated game in the series, at the time of this post, is Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, which has already caused some controversy despite not even being released yet. A revamp of Mario Kart 8 for the Wii U, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has added the DLC from its Wii U predecessor along with a battle mode for the Nintendo Switch console. Many longtime Mario Kart fans wonder if the price of the Deluxe game is worth it for the additions rather than a brand new Mario Kart game.

Despite the long road, Super Mario Kart has brought about a new gaming subgenre, allowing players to game as their favorite characters in a new light.

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Flashback Friday: Fire Emblem Sacred Stones

Double Jump Kris Mii Happy Friday, everyone! The first month of 2017 has come and gone… How’s everyone’s resolutions doing?

Considering the hype that’s been buzzing around for the new Fire Emblem games coming this year, I figured this month’s Flashback will be dedicated to my first Fire Emblem game, the Sacred Stones.

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Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones was localized in North America on May 23, 2005, the second in the Fire Emblem series to do so. In Japan, the Sacred Stones is the eighth game in the Fire Emblem series. While not the most popular game of the franchise, it received good reviews, receiving an average rating of 85 from Game Rankings.

Like the previous Fire Emblem games, the Sacred Stones is a tactical RPG, whereas the player controls an army of characters fighting against monsters and opposing soldiers alike. The stages are maps, generally having the condition to win be to rout out all of the opposition, with a few other conditions as well. The player must use strategy and be mindful of the magic and weapons triangles in order to perform the best attacks.

The Sacred Stones revolves around the royal twins Ephraim and Eirika, each going on their own journey to resolve the mystery surrounding the sudden appearance of monsters on their world as well as an invasion by a country they had believed to be their ally. The story progresses in chapters, with one battle map per chapter, and is split in the middle of the game between Ephraim and Eirika. The main protagonists eventually reunite with their armies to take down the final boss.

One of the best aspects of the Fire Emblem game is the perma-death for characters — if a unit’s HP falls to zero, that unit is dead for the rest of the game. There are no revives, and those units that you spent such care leveling up are easily lost with just one wrong move. It’s a great challenge to win each battle without losing any units.

If raising a character’s level and skills isn’t enough of a reason to keep them alive in battles, this game also has support conversations between characters. By supporting another, characters get stat boosts by being next to one another in a battle, as well as having conversations to further their development (and, possibly, relationship).

The Sacred Stones holds a special place in my heart for being my first Fire Emblem game. I can’t tell you how many times I used to reset stages just so I wouldn’t lose any units! It’s been a wonderful introduction to strategy games, and I’m looking forward to the new additions of the franchise later this year.

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Flashback Friday: Pokemon Puzzle Challenge

Double Jump Kris Mii Happy Friday, everyone! Are you all ready for the new year?

With New Year’s Day on the way, many people look toward the future, with resolutions and ideas on how we can improve ourselves and our lives. Today, however, we’re going to take a step back and soak in some nostalgia with Pokemon Puzzle Challenge.

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Released in North America in December 2000, Pokemon Puzzle Challenge was a side Pokemon game for the GameBoy Color. It was styled after the Japan-released Panel de Pon, which was then known as Tetris Attack in North America, despite having no resemblance to the actual Tetris game.

The concept — being faced with a grid of stacks of colored blocks that are cleared when three or more of the same colored blocks are arranged horizontally or vertically — was used with several side games from Nintendo, including a minigame in Animal Crossing: New Leaf and the Nintendo 64 version of this game Pokemon Puzzle League.

While the Nintendo 64 port of this game focused on the anime characters, Pokemon Puzzle Challenge follows the main Pokemon characters of the Gold and Silver games, like Chikorita, Cyndaquil, and Totodile, along with the second generation’s main protagonist. During the Challenge mode, the player battles with the Johto gym leaders and their Pokemon. The opponent Pokemon has an HP bar that the player and his/her chosen Pokemon partner for the battle can deplete with combos created by clearing blocks. Challenge also allows players to unlock even more Pokemon partners (and even eggs!) by defeating certain conditions.

Other modes include Marathon, Time Zone, Line Clear, Puzzle, and Garbage. Marathon plays until the player loses when the grid of blocks reaches the top of the screen. Time Zone is timed play, and Line Clear is beaten when a player clears blocks beneath a line. Puzzle involves certain conditions — such as a limited number of moves or combo requirements — to beat, and Garbage is a more difficult version of Marathon, where barriers fall and hinder the player.

Pokemon Puzzle Challenge was released on Nintendo’s Virtual Console for North America in November 2014, going for less than $10 at the time of this post. It’s a fun puzzle game that’s not too long or strenuous, a perfect game to sit and play while relaxing. And it’s Pokemon — what more could you want?