All this week, we’ve been recounting our picks for the best Wii U, 3DS, eShop, and Virtual Console releases of 2015, but those aren’t the only games that have left a big impression on us this year. Before we share our picks for the best overall titles of 2015, the staff look back on some of the most memorable, older games they’ve played in the past 12 months.
I was in a down mood a few weeks back in December when I randomly decided to download Link’s Awakening DX on my 2DS. I don’t know about anyone else, but I have a little bit of trouble playing old Game Boy and NES games using the D-Pad on any iteration of 3DS. Yeah, I don’t get it either, but I’d noticed the 2DS D-Pad is pretty dang close to a Game Boy Color’s, so that night I finally decided to test my experiment and play a Virtual Console title using the thing.
I played the game for exactly 10 hours and 1 minute straight (according to my 2DS system play log), and not only beat it, but finally gathered all the Secret Seashells for the first time. I’d played Link’s Awakening DX a million times in the past, but it had been a long time since the last time I booted it up, and I enjoyed every moment of the game. I’ve been playing Oracle of Seasons in the weeks since, and it’s great, too, but there’s something about Link’s Awakening that I love more– the font, the story, all of it.
Beyond those two games, I’ve been going through my tiny NES library ever since I got a Hyperkin retro console. My NES still works, but it’s precious (and semi-buried in my closet), so I use it sparingly. This lovely little black box that is the Hyperkin is working in a pinch, though, and I’ve been trying to get past Turbo Tunnel in Battletoads ever since. Ever. SINCE. Also, I wish Disney and Capcom would put the original DuckTales on Virtual Console. The remake is lovely, but the NES version is so dang charming.
Most of my 2015 was spent replaying a flood of older games for blog review purposes, so while I missed out on many new releases, I revisited just as many beloved classics. Out of those games, Zelda: Majora’s Mask left the biggest impact on me. I hadn’t played it in well over a decade (since my grade school days), so naturally I was shocked at not only how hauntingly beautiful the game’s world and story was, but at how many little details are packed throughout Termina. You’d be surprised at what masks elicit the most heartwrenching of responses! The Song of Healing still lingers in my memory a year later, and I’m aiming for another playthrough this spring (this time without a 100 percent completion; I’ll just be collecting all the masks).
What else did I play? Oh yeah, EarthBound, my favorite game ever made. To this day, I’m amazed at how this game grows up with me. I learned what the word “nostalgia” was around the time I picked it up in fourth grade, and I came to associate that with not just EarthBound’s legacy with older gamers (hi, Starmen.net!), but how the game embraced a cartoonish, random sense of humor I’d embraced. As I’ve gradually grown to understand all the game’s jokes and themes, the irony still blows my mind even today. Super Nintendo is host to many masterpieces, but this remains its top work for me.
Given all of the recent Star Wars shenanigans of late, it was inevitable that somewhere, subconsciously, this would have an influence on my current gaming. Lo and behold, I find myself firing up both my SNES and GameCube to play arguably two of the best Star Wars games from past systems: Super Star Wars and Star Wars Rogue Leader: Rogue Squadron II.
I’ve played Super Star Wars for SNES countless times in the past, but I have never managed to complete it. I can’t remember if this was due to the fact that I moved on to another game and somehow got hooked and never returned, or if it’s the insane difficulty and unforgiving platform sections (argh, that Sand Crawler level!) were just too much. Whatever the reason, I’m back on it now with a vengeance and determined to finish what I started.
That being said– enter Star Wars Rogue Leader: Rogue Squadron II. This is a series that I unfortunately missed out on the first time around, both on N64 and GameCube. Having recently re-purchased a GameCube, strongly influenced by our very own Joshua Johnson’s article on the little purple wonder (thanks again, Joshua!), Rogue Squadron II was one of the first games I chose to buy and play on it, and I have to say– what a game!
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m still staggered by how much GameCube was pushed right to its very limits when it came games as well made as this. Everything is there: slick visuals, superb Star Wars score, and challenging gameplay. The game still plays well, even by today’s standards, and gives a distinct feeling of being a part of this wonderful Star Wars universe that, dare I say, gives the likes of Star Wars Battlefront a run for its money.
I didn’t play anything that old this year. I did, however, catch up on a couple of 3DS platformers I had initially passed on. I spoke at length about my exploits with Yoshi’s New Island during our Backlog Summer feature, but this Christmas I received New Super Mario Bros. 2, which I’ve been playing in the dying days of 2015. I skipped this one because it had an ill-timed release shortly before New Super Mario Bros. U, and I just felt like I had more than enough Mario platforming to fill my time. Of course, I now realize that too much 2D Mario is a pretty silly complaint. It’s like saying “too many tacos.” It just doesn’t sound right.
Anyway, I’ve been having fun with the game so far! As usual, the level design is top-notch. I’m only about halfway through the game’s second world, but I plan on taking my time with this one. The game is a little on the easier side, but getting every Star Coin takes a bit more work, and I’ve been trying to sink a little more time into that than I typically do.
I also sank a bit of time into Super Smash Bros. for Wii U this year. When it came out in late 2014, I had already spent a lot of time with the 3DS iteration, and didn’t really spend as much time with the Wii U version as I would have liked. Thanks to the game’s strong amount of post-release DLC, I was able to really get sucked into the Wii U title in 2015. It bums me out that the next sets of DLC will be the last, but we really have been spoiled by the amount of strong extra content. I love that Sakurai has helped maintain interest in the game this long after the fact.
I believe it was one of many a discussion about classic games between my coworkers and I that inspired me to finally play Super Castlevania IV for the first time a couple of months ago, on the Wii U Virtual Console. And in total honesty, full disclosure here, this was also my first Castlevania experience.
Not only is the music really good, which is important for me personally when playing any game, but it’s incredibly fun. It’s challenging and yes, it can be a bit frustrating at times, but that challenge is what I appreciate in older games– nothing about SCIV holds your hand or tries to make things simple for you. On the contrary, you’re going to die, maybe a lot, and the game doesn’t feel bad at all about starting you way back at the beginning of a level if you didn’t reach a certain point in a stage (which isn’t marked, you just have to keep mowing down enemies and forging ahead). There are some awkward control issues, like the feel of the jumping mechanic and especially swinging over pits, which became a problem for me at times, but the game is far from clunky. I got pulled in very fast and didn’t want to stop playing, and before I knew it I had blazed through the first three stages.
It’s not the best looking SNES title but given its age I was genuinely impressed by some of the textures and effects I was experiencing for the first time. I also enjoyed reinforcing my whip and picking up secondary weapons that helped take out bosses and kept combat interesting. I didn’t end up beating SCIV— at least, not yet– but I’m really happy I finally played it and understood very quickly why this is a classic SNES title.
What were some of the best games you just got around to playing in 2015? Share them with us in the comments!