Monday 22 February 2010

Greatest Games I Ever Played: Part The First

As many of our regular readers will note, over the past year or so I've been making a list of The Worst Games I've Ever Played. Well, it seems like the time has come that either one of two things has happened.

1) I've run out of games that I've played that were so bad they deserved to be on this list.
2) I can't remember any.
In all honesty, the second one is most likely.

I thought, thus, that this week would be as good a time as any to begin my list of The Greatest Games I Ever Played. My first entry on this list comes from that often overlooked classic console, the SEGA Master System II.

Admittedly, the difference between the MSII and the original Master System is comparable to the difference between the PS3 and the PS3 Slim, in that it's largely a size change more than anything else. Mine came with Sonic the Hedgehog built in as well, which wasn't bad. Truth be told, I'm not a tremendous Sonic fan, as I've found that often you're forced to speed ahead and actually don't get to look around. I'm one of THOSE people that likes to be able to explore an open world in games, so things with a decent overworld are generally more likely to hold my attention for hours upon hours (in some cases up to 100 depending on the game). For those flabbergasted by those numbers, it's the same number of hours as watching the entire Star Wars Saga 15 times. Sad, really, when you consider that I've done that as well.

Anyway, my game of choice this week for your viewing and critiquing pleasure is generally one that's held in quite high esteem by Master System gamers, and was in actual fact first released in 1990, a full year before Sonic first found his way onto SEGA Mega Drive and Master System. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you:

Castle Of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse.

Now, for those who've never played it, this game has a very very simple concept. Players take the role of Mickey, and are going through the Castle of Illusion in order to save Minnie (Mickey's "bitch") from an evil witch named Mizrabel. You know, what's sadder than most things at this very moment is looking at the name of the witch and realising that when I was a kid I didn't get the relevance of the name. Looking at it now, it's like calling your character Captain Badd or General Grie...oh wait.

Anyway, the idea of the game is a very straightforward platform game, in the vein of Mario Bros or indeed...most of the games on NES and Master System. I had no access to a NES growing up, so I had little way of knowing how many great Nintendo games awaited me. That's a story for another time, however, as this game did a more than capable job of filling in the space.

Ultimately, the gameplay was simple, as Mickey you would destroy various Disney-esque enemies (There weren't really any licensed enemies as such - at least on the Master System version) by bashing them on the head. What was interesting (I don't know if it qualifies as "good" or "bad" in its way) was that Mickey had an arse attack. It's an interesting take on the stomping mechanisms, at the very least, and it's quite impressive really considering the technical limitations that were in place at the time using the hardware.

Ironically, it's partly for this reason that Castle of Illusion makes it onto the list. So many games at the time were doing their best to try and push the boundaries of what could be done. Some games worked, such as the Legend of Zelda on NES, and some were abject failures such as the oft-lamented Back to the Future adaptation for NES. What was nice about Castle of Illusion was simply that it wasn't trying to do anything beyond making the game enjoyable, which it did in spades.

Nowadays, I do like my expansive game world with a large amount of choice, but purely because nowadays developers have the hardware in place to make those games work technically. A big expansive game on Master System was more difficult to pull off, and bearing in mind I only went on to own two cartridges for the Master System due to finances, difficult to pull off on my system for sure.

Besides which, it probably was wise not to put too much choice into my hands at age 7. The reason I say this is very simple: at age 25, what I decided to do when given choice in The Sims 3 was make my Sim senile, to the point that when everyone else was enjoying their retirement, my Sim was out looking at the stars. Nice eh? Yeah, during the day.

In his pants.

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