The 8 Ball 11.19.13: Top 8 Gameboy Games & Video Game Pirates
Posted by Marc Morrison on 11.19.2013
From Edward Kenway in Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag and Isabella in Dragon Age II to Cervantes in Soulcalibur and more, 411's Liana K counts down the top 8 video game pirates while Marc Morrison looks at the Top 8 Gameboy games!
Welcome to another edition of The 8 Ball. This week the formula is a bit changed since myself and Liana wanted to do our own separate "pet project" lists. Neither of us was really qualified to comment on each other's lists, so we just have two largely disparate lists for you to read and comment on, if you so wish. I chose to do Top (original) Gameboy Games, and she chose Video Game Pirates. Let's begin:
8. Batman: The Animated Series
Prior to the Arkham Asylum games, this game was tied with the SNES Batman: TAS game as the best Batman game to have been released. That's really sad when you consider the number of Batman games that have come out. Still Batman: TAS was a pretty fun experience on the Gameboy. Broken up into five levels, you primarily played as Batman who had more life and had his grappling hook. Occasionally you would switch to Robin who had less life but could cling to ceilings and use his hands to walk on them. It's a primitive game by today's standards but was a lot of fun back in the day.
I may get a little flack with the low placement of Pokemon, but that's fine. I honestly just never played the original Pokemon games (or any of them) much. Pokemon hit on September 30th, 1998 which was just two months prior to the Gameboy Color being launched. By that time, most people had pretty much abandoned the Gameboy (much as I did). However, Pokemon started a cultural event that persists to this day. Movies, tv shows, games, card games, merchandise, Pokemon has become a gaming phenomenon like Mario or Zelda. And it all started here.
6. Fortified Zone
I'm really not sure how I stumbled on Fortified Zone but I really used to enjoy it. The game was a top-down perspective game as you cleared out various rooms of enemies. Think something like Rambo mixed with Smash TV. You played as two mercenaries in the game and could switch on the fly. The male one had more life and could use the special weapons around the levels, and the female one had less life but was quicker and could jump over spiky floors. So you would enter a room with the male, clear out the enemies, then you could switch to the female and hop over the spikes to pick up a health pack for yourself, or special ammo for the guy. Fortified Zone isn't remembered or even played by a lot of people but it was a unique game for the system for sure.
5. Kirby's Dreamland 2
The original Kirby's Dreamland was a lovely but short and linear game. When it was made for the NES (Adventure) it was greatly expanded by giving you an overworld, the copy mechanic and ways to tackle bosses differently. Dreamland 2 pared down the number of overall powers you could use but gave you three animals (a Hamster, Owl, and Fish) which could modify the powers. So while the Stone power usually sucks, when you use the Hamster animal it becomes a rolling ball of death to your enemies. Dreamland 2 also had hidden things for you to find in the game, the Rainbow Drops, which unlocked the final boss in the game.
4. Super Mario 1
Super Mario Land was an interesting experiment on the Gameboy. It was popular and sold amazingly well but something about it felt "off" to me. The controls were a bit laggy in certain spots. Coupled with how small some of the enemies were this led to more than a few cheap deaths. There were some interesting levels in the game like the underwater and space levels though. Plus the whole Egyptian motif made the game's look fairly unique. Don't worry though, another Mario game is coming up soon.
3. The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening
Like with Kirby's Dreamland 2, Link's Awakening cherry-picked the best bits from its more powerful predecessor (Link to the Past) into a lovely handheld game. I loved the story in this game, that you're not just trying to rescue Zelda from Ganon again, but you have a different objective. The item system was fun also, being able to actually unequip your sword to traverse certain areas was cool. There was also a good trading quest that was an early precursor to the Biggoron's Sword quest in Ocarina of Time. The best part was being able to steal from the shop keeper and then him killing you when you re-enter his store. They should have kept this mechanic in all future Zelda games.
As I said with last week's column, Tetris is a masterpiece of game design. And Nintendo's decision to pack it into the majority of Gameboy's was a stroke of genius. Here is a game that has no practical end that tests the players skill in getting further. Sure B-Type existed, but A-TYPE is where it was all at. The inclusion of a 2-player with the link cable (cable sold separately) meant that you and a friend could battle against each other. And since most Gameboy owners did have Tetris, it means you could easily find other people to play against.
1. Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins
Frankly, not only is Mario 2 the best Gameboy game, but it's among one of the best Mario games in the series. The motif of the column has been "Take an existing game, slim it down and cram it on the handheld", and that's the philosophy Nintendo took with this game, taking elements from Mario Bros. 3/Super Mario and distilling them down to their essence. The truly great thing about Mario 2 is the non-linearity the game has, you can tackle any of the worlds (for want of a better word) as you please. Plus the worlds/levels themselves are highly varied, from a haunted landscape, to a world where you are tiny inside a house, to battling creatures inside a giant Mario-themed robot. Plus, Bunny Mario was just a blast to go through levels as, if a level didn't require the fire power-up, I would never use it.
The Better Half with Liana K
Top 8 Video Game Pirates
Marc and I decided to do different topics this week because I have been bugging him to do a pirate list. Why? Because I love pirates. Pirates are up there with ninjas and zombies as things geeks naturally love. Strangely, however, there are surprisingly few pirate games, compared to the number of zombie, and/or ninja games. But there ARE enough pirates out there to make a list, so here's proof that it's not the number of characters that counts. It's how you use them. While there are many versions of real-life pirates being used in games, I kept my list limited to fictional pirates as a reward for original character creation.
8: Eddie Raja (Uncharted)
Eddie is a modern pirate, and while modern pirates are much scarier and less flashy than the pirates everyone knows and loves, I give the Uncharted series credit for showing that modern pirates are really not nice, very desperate dudes. But Eddie's still got panache, and he does his part in a franchise that has to have bad guys that are immoral enough to make the series' immature, ethically-challenged protagonist seem vaguely heroic by comparison. Eddie's former friendship with Nathan Drake sets up from the beginning of the series that while Nate is likeable, he's not really noble, and that becomes an important character point throughout the series.
7: Wash Buckler (Skylanders Swap Force)/Davey Jones (Disney Infinity)
I combined these guys because they're great for the same reason: being adorable and badass at the same time. Wash Buckler is also kind of a Davey Jones knock off, although he has tentacles for legs as well as on his face. I'm sure that makes him popular with lady Skylanders, but 1) it's a kids game, 2) I digress. Wash Buckler's tentacles, and designation as a ladder base Swap Force Skylander, allow him to climb up walls, leading to some pretty cool Little Big Planet style mini-games. But really, the thing that makes him coolest is all the tentacles. Tentacles are cool.
Meanwhile, Disney Infinity's Davery Jones is 100% more cuddly than his live-action movie counterpart, and I'm not sure why. He's still cool enough for little boys to love him though, and he's a fun character to play as well, because he's on the slow side and tanky, but still useful. I can't help but giggle when I'm making him blast away guards in toy box mode. But then I go back to trying to figure out why this tragic blockbuster antagonist is suddenly so frikkin' cute! Look at the picture! He's huggable!
6: Grayson Hunt (Bulletstorm)
Even thinking about this immensely quotable, foul-mouthed space pirate cracks me up, because he's exactly like what I imagine space pirates would really be like – drunk, bombastic, and really not that smart. At his core, Grayson's an alright guy. He's just not sober long enough to really do anything about that. And I don't want to imagine what he smells like. But Steve Blum's crazy good voice acting overcomes a somewhat unoriginal character concept, and the over-the-top profanity just... I think I'm revealing too much about myself here!
5: The Protagonist of Sid Meier's Pirates!
Before there was Assassin's Creed Black Flag, Jack Rackham, Stede Bonnet, and company were known to gamers alongside a weird dancing minigame intended to charm ladies into giving you info. It's hard to explain this early open-world game, which originally released way back in 1987, other than it's that comforting sort of repetitive, addictive fun. It also made my knowledge of Caribbean geography much better!
4: Cervantes (Soulcalibur)
The Soulcalibur franchise boasts a lot of rich characters, and for some reason I find Cervantes much more menacing than Astaroth, and almost as creepy as Voldo... okay, nothing's as creepy as Voldo, but you get what I'm saying. There's a bloodthirsty evil about him that cuts through the fact that he has the proportions of a Bruce Timm superhero. The fact that he's legit scary, like, rip out your throat with his bare hands scary, saves him from being a cartoony Japanese retelling of a Western action cinema trope... not that there's anything wrong with that. At the end of the day "ghost pirate" is just awesome. Wonder if he goes out for beers with Voldo. Does Voldo go out for beers?
3: Edward Kenway (Assassin's Creed Black Flag)
I have to hand it to Ubisoft: they managed to explain AC3's buttface Assassin-turned-Templar Haytham Kenway by introducing us to his father. I should hate Edward: he's selfish, irresponsible, reckless, arrogant, and a drunk. Hmm, maybe he should run to be the mayor of Toronto. At least he doesn't have a crack problem. Anyway, as the game progresses, his better qualities come to the fore. I bet he'd have done things differently if he knew what a schmuck his son would end up being, but defined, imperfect characters are what keep bringing me back to the Assassin's Creed stories, even when aspects of the gameplay get broken.
2: Adéwalé (Assassin's Creed Black Flag)
While I like Edward, I LOVE Adéwalé! Not only is he a badass mo fo in a fight, but he's smarter than Edward, significantly more mature, and he's loyal even though Edward doesn't really deserve it. He's not brainlessly loyal, however, and he'll put the well-being of the crew over Edward's ambitions when things get ridiculous. Also, when Edward leaves the Jackdaw and it gets attacked, it never sinks, because Adé is awesome. Whenever they're at sea, Adé never needs to hang on to anything, because he is awesome. When the ship hits something, Adé never goes flying overboard despite never hanging on to anything, because he's awesome. He's like a black pirate version of Chuck Norris.
1: Isabella (Dragon Age II)
Bioware has a talent for making sure the required "busty fantasy babe" in their games is more than tits on stilts, and Isabella, in all her "Jack Sparrow with a great rack and no pants" glory, is a shining example of that. She's a study in consequence: her less-than-virtuous ways managed to piss off lots of Qunari, and she's the butt of numerous pirate gonorrhoea jokes... at least I'm guessing it's gonorrhoea. Anyway... I'm always pleased that Bioware's highly sexualized female characters are actually good characters, and saying Isabella is well-rounded is a terrible pun, but it's true. She really should wear pants, but with the burning that's apparently down there... well, maybe the sea air is therapeutic? I don't know. This is gross. Anyway, Isabella is great!
I think people might be more annoyed with Pokemon's relatively low placement than anything else, but that's a different discussion entirely. I did come up with a few games that didn't quite make my big list, for one reason or another: Kid Icarus, Donkey Kong Land, Final Fantasy, Metroid 2, any of the Mega Man games and Dr. Mario.
The General Roundup
As always, I'll try and address a few of the comments from last week. Panzer Dragoon sucked. This is all. Amped 3 is still actually a fairly solid game, I replayed it recently and still rather enjoyed it. For as relatively neutral I am about Halo now, I actually really did enjoy the first Halo game. Also, while Wipeout was a European launch PS1 game, it wasn't a USA launch game, coming out a few months later. If I was going to throw launch games from other territories on my list, I would have included Jet Set Radio Future for sure.