I started this weird pursuit a bit before Thanksgiving: playing every game on the NES Classic, and writing about how I feel about the game now, vs. how I did (or would have) in the year it actually came out. When I was a very young, very enthusiastic child.
Since then, I've even made real progress in Mega Man 2! I'm getting my old skills back. Maybe. A little bit.
Like Excitebike and the original Zelda games, I never played the original on NES (or its Game Boy sequel), and got my first taste of Kid Icarus in the NES Remix titles. So, I didn't completely lose my mind when I steered young Pit off screen to the right, only to see him emerge on the left, like you do in Mario Bros.
It's a cute, if way-too-hard weirdo platformer that certainly hasn't aged as gracefully as Kirby and Mario, but there's something to it. The aesthetic is really appealing, a chunky, sprite-y, very loose take on Ancient Greek mythology mixed with some complete nonsense—wtf was up with the Eggplant wizard?
Young Danielle would've probably played it devoutly. Given my weird obsession with Ancient Greek culture a lot younger than most kids do (that's a thing kids do right? That's normal?), grade school me would've likely started giving "lectures" to my parents about how "mythology is in a VIDEO GAME, isn't that EDUCATIONAL?"
This was my very first experience with Ninja Gaiden (the original game, but also, actually, anything in the series). I really liked it! The game, while early, is doing some interesting stuff with platforming—there's a kind of sticky wall jump/wall hang move that allows you to check out an area before you jump into it, and while the combat is pretty basic, there's a nice little variety of weapons.
I didn't exactly get far in my explorations, but I could see the foundation for a reasonably innovative game. I mean, if an 80s platformer about ninjas could be called innovative.
Young Danielle would've been so transfixed by the opening cinematic (which is famous for being one of the first attempts at film-like narrative presentation in games) that I would have watched it several times in a row, dreaming of my own sweet revenge fantasy.
Like so many young ones, my very first exposure to Nana and Popo (the ice climbers), was in 2001's Super Smash Bros. Melee. And I messed around with it again later in Animal Crossing (a game I played religiously through all four years of undergrad). Ice Climber looks cool (ha!) with big, funky sprites, and I like that there are cute sheep in it. But man, it is just not very impressive compared to something like Super Mario Bros. or Metroid's comparatively huge, rich worlds.
It's even a little paltry compared to simpler games like the original Donkey Kong. It's just… am I missing something?
Young Danielle would've played it for a couple of hours, and then returned to playing Mario games over and over. Or dropped it for The Little Mermaid or DuckTales. Now that was a game!
Ok. I really like football—the sport, not necessarily the NFL and the fan culture and some of the less savory bits that come along with it—but I have next to no experience playing football video games. So Tecmo Bowl, with its clean and effective presentation of the sport, simple play selection, and happy atmosphere—is pretty rad.
It's basic, sure! But that's something my 5-year-old self would've found welcoming. Maybe I would've learned the sport earlier (I didn't know the difference between a first down and a halfback until I was like 24, and I grew up a total jock.)
[Editor's Note: I'm actually deeply disappointed that they chose to include Tecmo Bowl and not the clearly superior Tecmo Super Bowl. QB Eagles has my heart for life. -Austin]
Double Dragon II: The Revenge
Billy and Jimmy star in: a classic brawler! Featuring all the classic moves: kicking a guy in the penis! Punching people in the face! Having a rad haircut and a dead girlfriend!
It's not Double Dragon's fault, but brawlers have a hard time getting my attention, unless they do something a little different. Really, they just need a touch of mechanical innovation, or enough weirdo level design to stand out and offer something special. I couldn't really get into this one (outside of that delicious art).
By this year, the only beat-em-ups I really had experience with were of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles variety, so, playing this, I probably just would've been annoyed there were no heroes in a half shell in it. Sorry Billy and Jimmy.
I died comically quickly playing this game. Like, embarrassingly quickly. There's a hellfire of guns aimed at your head from the very start, and, apparently, I'm terrible at shooting while running and jumping.
But I stuck with this one a little longer, because, hey, it has a reputation for being one of the best early action games, framed unironically in the era of the beefy 80s hero and films like Predator and Commando.
It's fast-paced and weirdly, sort of refreshingly earnest to play these days.
I'm pretty sure I actually played this, top to bottom, with my cousin back in the early 90s. We played co-op and made it all the way to the end one weekend afternoon, and it was one of very vanishingly few games I actually saw the credits roll on at that point in my young life.
It's a foggy memory, but a very happy one. I remember feeling like I had accomplished something noteworthy or even noble. You're welcome, planet earth. I saved you all when I was six.