Three years old now, but still worth your time. Click here for the YouTube link.
After a long and frustrating release process, Sivak’s long-anticipated Battle Kid 2 was unveiled on Nintendoage on December 14. Printing issues postponed the release, but fortunately that had no lasting effect on the popularity of the game.
A mix of Metroid and Mega Man, the game is–like its predecessor–brutally tough, but not wholly unfair. The original game was famous for its blind jumps and pixel-perfect shooting, and while these qualities are likely to have been carried over to the sequel, YouTube footage reveals that Battle Kid 2 certainly executes a demonstrably more developed and nuanced execution of the two games’ core ideas.
Besides being a well thought-out and all-round intelligent game, the importance of Battle Kid 2 is that it is further evidence of the growing legitimacy of independently-developed video games. With people like Sivak sitting down with the intention of coding rewarding games with nothing but assembly language and low-level C, and people receptive and appreciative of such efforts, one can confidently say that the future of video games in good hands.
To read about the unfolding of BK2’s development, click here for the Nintendoage forum thread.
Those wishing to be better-informed of BK2’s content should direct themselves to this Let’s Play:
And a message from the YouTube celebrity James Rolfe:
Keen fan of Mega Man on the NES, but can’t spare the money to finally be able to possess a cartridge? This this might be a possible solution: Power Blade.
The title executes a whole load of concepts that you can find in Mega Man, for a fraction of the price! It might not be the authentic blue bomber, but if you’re after some solid 8-bit platforming from a trusty developer, Taito, you’re going to get your money’s worth.
PAL Power Blade cartridges on eBay.
EDIT: Jump’nshoot 9000 has moved to a dot-com domain! Find us here: jumpnshoot9000.com!
Gaming lore has it that this is one of the worst titles in the Zelda series. The general will of the gaming community also seems to instruct that this is one of the worst games ever made. Contrary to what a review of a game might usually require, the Derridean attitude that there is ‘nothing outside the text’ will (hopefully in a manner that avoids a cliché) be deployed in discussing Zelda 2 in this post. So, along these lines, these two kernels of pop wisdom should merely be borne in mind when reading this post. Neither of them will be addressed per se, but they’re important for the purpose of reflecting on this text – as is, it might be argued, the popular sentiment attached to any particular text.
What will also not be discussed is the decision to include RPG elements, and side-scrolling action in the game. There is nothing wrong with the inclusion of these two concepts in the game in-and-of themselves. What many seem to rely on when criticising Zelda 2 is that, somehow, because these two concepts make Zelda 2 so different, it is therefore bad. To put this bit of popular criticism to rest, it should be responded that there is nothing that can be argued against these two concepts except the manner of their execution.
As a point of departure for the discussion, note that included in this post is a constructed image of the entire Zelda 2 over-world. The purpose of including this image in the post is to provide a different perspective on the game. One of the earliest criticisms of the game one might hear, one based on a first impression of the game, is that the over-world is blocky and displeasing to look at. This image should work to counter-act that criticism – its easy to observe that a lot of care has been taken in assembling Zelda 2’s overworld, and the result of all this effort is that the features of its landscape are actually very, very subtle. Look, for example, how the big road on the western part of the over-world, the mainland, paces its curves through forests and mountains by going through areas of relaxing plains. In addition, notice how the plains and forests themselves are hugged by mountains. That’s surely some deft game design!
In contrast, or, alternatively, almost by complement, the main problem with this game lies not with its aesthetic construction, but its mechanics. The two elements within Zelda 2’s mechanics that could be improved are its:
Both of these elements are broadly agreed to be the core problems with the game. What seems to have happened, however, is that many have seemed to go too far when relying on these two elements of criticism, going on and condemning the game. Furthermore this kind of attitude seems worryingly congruent with a philosophy of deeming games as either ‘good’ or ‘bad’.
Two of the most salient criticisms of Zelda are that (a) when the player dies in a dungeon, they should not return back to the beginning of the game, but to the start of the dungeon, and (b) a player’s experience should not be lost at Game Over. These are two of the easiest things that could be fixed to improve game play.
Aside from these two problems under this element, the way the game is paced is an issue. Dungeons like Death Mountain are almost impossible because of their difficulty relative to the amount of experience that a player usually has the opportunity to accrue. The problem with this is that it encourages grinding. Grinding nothing but evidence of poor game design. The accrual of experience in any RPG should be for two purposes only: deepening the enlightening nature of puzzles in the game, and driving the story. It could be argued that RPG experience points should serve as tiny meta-items that go towards the discovery of game items proper. What happens when experience points are not properly focused on these two purposes is that experience becomes a focus of jouissance: the accrual of experience for its own purpose. This wastes the players time, and as a result, utterly destroys the quality of game play.
What many players have done is blame the inclusion of experience accrual as a concept tout-court, in Zelda 2, when the real issue is that it is, at times, horribly executed. To make clear what was said above, the cause of this poor execution is due to the game’s poorly designed difficulty curve.
One of the important things that Zelda 2 established for the series was going and talking to people in towns. Interaction with people helped drive the story somewhat, and introduced an extra layer of complexity for puzzle-solving. Unfortunately, the potential for conversation the player has with townspeople in Zelda 2 is extremely limited.
The terrible dialogue with people in the game can probably be put down to memory limitations. Games like Final Fantasy and Ultima (among others) appear support enormous amounts of text without sacrificing much graphically or interactively, but there is probably some reasonable explanation other than laziness for this being the case in Zelda 2.
The other way in which technological issues hamper the quality of this title is the way enemies respawn and the way their AI functions. Add to this list the occasional glitch and shoddy hit-box and one has a more-or-less comprehensive list of almost every unavoidable problem with games from the 8-bit era. Dungeons and random encounters can become extremely tedious due to the unrelenting number of enemies with which the designers populated these areas, due to a lack of memory and processing power. It simply wasn’t possible to make these kinds of games any more complex. Here again, as with accruing experience above, quality (in an abstract sense) is sacrificed for quantity.
The tediousness of the game play in Zelda 2 is no better demonstrated than in the open-air water-side random encounters: where bubbles and rocks fly at the player in order to create a challenge similar to that of Bullet-Bill aerial levels in Super Mario.
Aside from these two problems with the game’s mechanics, Zelda 2 is a brilliant game. This game manages to pull off an incredibly deep thematic feel. After walking around in the sunshine for a while, talking to people in towns and collecting items, plunging into a majestic stone-cobbled dungeon really conveys a sense of brooding evil lurking beneath the surface of the land. Forests feel wild and dense, and the associated desert and water side-scrolling areas authentically convey exciting forums of action that serve as an important indication, in comparison to the original Zelda, of how Nintendo wanted to develop this franchise.
This is a good game. You should definitely play it.
You can purchase it on Nintendo’s Virtual Console or buy a NES cartridge on eBay for far too much money. It’s also available in various other forms, be it compilation discs on the GameCube or relaunch cartridges on the GameBoy Advance.
It’s probably been picked up by now that I seem to sing nothing but praises for games and people, but if I did otherwise there’d be no time to recommend anything. And there’s a tonne to recommend to people scrolling through endless lists of really average games on the Steam ‘marketplace’.
I seriously consider this to be one of the best games ever made. I’ve always found the controls of the original Super Mario Brothers to have been pretty terribly mapped, so the final form that the controls took in this final NES version of the Mario franchise is extremely satisfying.
When all you can do is go from the left of the screen to the right, you need those tight controls. Holy moly are the controls tight in this game. Best played on the original NES with it’s two-button controller, this game has singly seen me spent entire evenings and nights attempting to conquer as much of its fascinating content sheerly because the ability to run and jump is so freaking masterfully programmed.
The learning curve is perfect, with an almost impossible number of permutation of 2D enemies and terrain challenges. Ghosts in castles chase you when you turn your back to them, forcing you to run when you encounter one on either side of you – combine this with platforms of knives and falling ceilings and you have probably the most authentic rendering of a haunted castle you’ll see unsurpassed until Super Mario World.
The fact that this game achieves so much in 384 kilobytes is the reason why I prize it above Super Mario World. The SNES was a beast when it was released (1992) a year after Mario 3 debuted (1991 – we’ve always been short-changed) here in Australia, what Super Mario World achieved was on top of the shoulders of giants – the fact that Mario 3’s score-panel was achieved at all (two screens were drawn to make the score panel, so, conceptually, it was separate from the play area, which was revolutionary for the time) is testament to the fact that Miyamoto is one of the best game team managers/concept designers to have ever lived.
This game is proof that you don’t need incredible graphics just to pull a game off, let alone make a near-perfect one. Every platforming game after this one owes it some sort of artistic debt. There are so many hidden items in here that only person to person conversations will reveal. You need to talk to your friends/someone else in order to complete this game:
A: ‘Yeah you get the magic whistle by crouching on the green box in the third level on that world.’
B: -brain literally explodes-
The fact that seasoned players knew this stuff before game-sharks and ROM-mapping was easily available is one of the universe’s greatest mysteries – if it was just by sheer empirical trial and error that we discovered all the secret stuff Nintendo’s Entertainment Analysis and Development department (they actually have such a department!) crammed into this game, I can only continue to be astounded.
Every 2D platforming game is just a slight variation on this game. I’m completely certain. This game has me seriously considering buying NES consoles for the sole purpose of making sure people know this game exists. I realise Megaman 3 is a close competitor with Mario 3 (it’s worth noting that the new 9 and 10 released on the current generation of consoles were a disappointment, and are probably worth a look) but the infinite amount of varied substance in Mario 3 makes it practically perfect.
Get this game at all costs, and play it until you develop arthritis in your thumbs.
NB. Notice I’ve made no mention of:
– The tanooki suit.
– The fact that this game is still awesome despite you can’t save.
– Koji Kondo’s brilliant music.