Friday, June 9, 2017

Famicom Remix Best Choice comments

(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

After finishing Zelda: Ocarina of Time for the 3DS, I was kind of feeling burned out on games again, but still having a bit of an interest in getting one of the remaining Zelda titles just for the puzzle solving element. Book Off didn't have anything used that I didn't have, so I started focusing on some other activities, But then I found myself at the Bic Camera electronics store, and I noticed a copy of Famicom Remix: Best Choice. It listed both the original Zelda, and Zelda II for the old Famicom system (in the U.S., this was the NES). It had a new price of 3500 yen ($34 USD), which was a lot more than I wanted to pay. A couple days later, I got paid and I had a little unexpected free time, and I ended up buying it anyway.

(Donkey Kong stage select screen.)

According to the wiki entry, the very first Remix game was a pet project of Koichi Hayashida, who was working in Nintendo's Tokyo Entertainment Analysis and Development group. He claimed that he wasn't able to play most of the original Famicom games as a child, and he wanted to do them at work. But as an adult, he didn't have time to play the full games. Instead, he took the stage maps, skins and character artwork and ported them, bugs and all, to the Wii U in 2013. The second game. Remix 2, came out in 2014. Both games were packaged together as the NES Remix Pack in North America in 2014. Best Choice (AKA Ultimate NES Remix) came out for the 3DS in 2014 as well.

(The only Donkey Kong stage that is actually played as Donkey Kong (i.e. - go from the bottom to the top and rescue the girl).)

So much for the history lesson. All of the Remix editions consist of bits of stages from anywhere between 12 and 20 of Nintendo's really old Famicom titles, combined with specific "goals" and really tight timers. (I.e. - jump over 1 barrel in Donkey Kong; then, jump over 2 barrels; finally, jump over 3 barrels. That's it.) In Best Choice, we get Balloon Fight, Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong, Jr., Kid Icarus, 6 variations on Mario and Mario Brothers, Excite Bike, Metroid, Punch-Out and Kirby. You start out with Remix Stage 1, which has one challenge based on Super Mario Bros. - defeat 15 enemies within 60 seconds. You get 3 stars for finishing in 25 seconds, and rainbow stars if you finish in 19 seconds. This unlocks the first three regular Super Mario Bros. stages (23 total), Excite Bike, Donkey Kong and Dr. Mario. From this point on, everything revolves around picking a game and playing each of the available stages in an attempt to get as many stars as you can. Simply playing the highest available stage, even if you lose, unlocks the next higher one in the series. That is, playing Stage 3 of Mario Bros. will unlock Stage 4.

(Zelda stage select screen.)

In general, you unlock something new every 5 stars, which may be just a Remix Stage, or another one of the games. I unlocked Zelda I at 90 stars, and Zelda II at 200. If you use a continue to finish a stage, you get 1 star maximum. Finishing the stage within the top time limit gives you 2 stars. Coming in faster will net you 3 stars, and being insanely good at the stage gives you rainbow stars. Obviously, to unlock all the extras as fast as possible, you want 3 stars per stage, but that can mean playing the same stage 20-30 times in a row, and I'm not that dedicated. In practice, the rainbow stars are just a "feel good" status symbol you can brag about; in theory, though, getting all 762 stars unlocks Bonus Stage 27, and having rainbows on ALL stages unlocks Bonus Stage 28. Again, I'm not that dedicated.

(Zelda dungeon entrance for challenge 3 out of 5. The goal for this challenge - simply find where the entrance is and go inside.)

Ok. Well, I admit that when I first saw this game in the store, I got kind of excited at the idea of playing the original Zelda, and Donkey Kong, on a Famicom emulator for the 3DS. I miss the older, more primitive graphics for the Super Famicom games, and I kind of wanted to play Donkey Kong again after all these years. So, I was pretty disappointed at finding out that "remix" is a lot like "sampling" in hip hop jargon. That is, you take bits and pieces of what had been a good thing, and mash it up into something similar, but less original. I did learn something about myself along the way, though - I really hate Mario-style games. Hopping from platform to platform, elevator to pyramid - I can't stand losing a life due to a small mistake in timing because of the way the game controls are designed (often intentionally), and having to restart the stage all over from the beginning. Kid Icarus (Hikari shinwa Parutena no Ken, "Parutena's Sword of the Light Myth," in Japanese), Kirby, Punch-Out and Excite Bike just drove me up the wall. But, but I especially can not stand Mario and Doctor Mario. I did tough the game out to get to 240 stars to unlock Metroid, which I've never played, and I went up to 270 stars just to get the next available Zelda II Remix Stage (which turns out to simply be playing Toad from a different game, and throwing rocks at 3 octoroids to defeat them within 20 seconds). There's one more Remix Stage, from the Remix 2 game, for Zelda II at 310 stars, but I'm running out of stages that I can clear on my own, and I'd probably need 20-25 stages to get the remaining 37 stars I'd need.

(Zelda II stage select screen.)

I've been able to clear all of Zelda I, Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong, Jr. (granted, Jr. only has 7 stages). And all but one stage for Metroid and Zelda II. On a couple of stages for Zelda I and II, I was never able to get more than 2 stars. I like parts of Zelda I and II, and Donkey Kong, and I was surprised that I enjoyed parts of Metroid (it's a scroller that combines elements of Mario and Zelda, but with more shooting of aliens). All the other games? Not so much.

(Link fighting Horsehead from Zelda II.)

Summary: The Remix games feel like kind of a rip-off, in that you're really not playing any of the original games. You've got the same artwork and stage layout from those games, but in general you're not given a full, complete stage from any of them (one of the Donkey Kong stages was an exception, in that the goal was to get Mario to the top of the first stage screen to defeat Kong). I did like the first few stages of Zelda, because they succeeded in capturing the essence of the game, but that was about it. I've put the game away for a while. I may break it back out to try to get up to 310 stars for the one Zelda II Remix stage, but I'm in no hurry. I've got other things I want to do with my time right now. Maybe some day. Famicom Remix Best Choice is recommended to anyone that likes Mario, and can find it used, really cheap.

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