10 years since Christmas 1997 – A N64 Tribute (Part 2)

Click on the pictures, they’ll lead you to some videos of the games on YouTube so you can roughly have some idea about what I’m talking!

16. Yoshi’s Story

Yoshi Title

Before going into detail about this game, I’d like to point out first that Yoshi is my favorite game character. It’s not something in particular on him (we agree that he’s a male, it’ll make this easier for all of us) that makes him so loveable for me, it’s maybe his absence of anything of the like that draws my fondness to him. He’s not particularly cool, doesn’t have much of a backstory, he’s Mario’s ride and sidekick in Super Mario World but Green Yoshi and his 7 friends save the day in Yoshi’s Island. He just has this inexplicable charm! I’ve loved him since I was little. While I do like complex games with rich storytelling, in my opinion a perfect simple game is better and sometimes even more enjoyable than a perfect complex game and that’s because simple games are based on an intuitive idea that works really well rather on an elaborate plot. Yoshi is just as good a flagship character for simple games as Mario but let’s face it, Yoshi>Mario.

YS picAnyway, having played and loved every second of Yoshi’s Island back on the SNES, I really looked forward to Yoshi’s Story. It looked like a spiritual sequel to YI, but that it wasn’t. For starters, it was way, WAY cuter. Also, it was much slower-paced, easier and simpler than Yoshi’s Island (not in a good way). At first, I was disappointed. I liked the game somewhat, but it couldn’t possibly hold a candle next to the epitome of 2-D platforming a.k.a Yoshi’s Island. The graphics were pretty (like cut out of a storybook), the music was of superb quality, surpassing many current gen games in obvious production values, and was also very well inspired and catchy (I remember getting the OST from Nintendo World magazine… I didn’t really listen to any music back then and friends made fun of me because I used to listen to that) and the game itself was mostly enjoyable and fun. But I couldn’t shake away the disappointment.

It took me some years to fully appreciate Yoshi’s Story for what it really was: not a sequel of Yoshi’s Island in any shape or form but a new, distinct and all-around very well put together game. After making that clear to myself somehow, I started liking Yoshi’s Story a lot more and also enjoyed it more. It’s puffy, care-free atmosphere is just irresistible at times, the Yoshi’s singing less cringe-inducing… You just have to let yourself flow, Dimitris… Yes, that’s better… Be the Yoshis… Eat fruit, lick giant clouds made of candy, smell the air, lay firework eggs, love, peace and happiness… … …

But I’ll never forgive this game for one thing: it debuted Yoshi’s voice.

15. Blast Corps

Blast Corps title

bc imageI got Blast Corps in May 1999, although it was released much earlier. I didn’t really know anything about it before it came to my possession but by then I had come to know that “Rare=Gold”. And I wasn’t wrong! The main idea behind the game is this: A big truck-like vehicle carrying 2 nuclear missiles has gone haywire, is uncontrollable and is literally just heading straight ahead. It can’t be destroyed for obvious reasons and nobody can do anything about it. If it crashes into anything, the missiles will go off… After this briefing’s probably when a genius butted in this idea: “I KNOW! We’ll destroy anything that’s blocking its path”. Apparently they thought it was a decent one. And this is exactly what this game is about: destruction.

Using a variety of vehicles, from jetpack-donning mechs to huge bulldozers (and much much variety inbetween), the player is called to destroy any building that blocks the missiles’ path. This isn’t always as easy as it sounds, for the cities and areas in this world you have to save aren’t exactly built to make your job easier. But this only makes the game more challenging and rewarding. And SECRETS! This one really has a lot of them. I like these games you can complete by only playing decently, you can unlock some goodies if you’re pretty good, but have to be absolutely masterful in to get to places you never thought or imagined were in the game and are so glad you unearthed. Blast Corps has so many secret levels or secrets within a level it’s not only enjoayble to replay but also rewarding in many many ways. What I also liked in this game was the sound department which as usual gets extra special treatment by mama Rare. The sound effects and music is brilliant as well as the little parts and pieces of supportive voice. All in all I remember Blast Corps as a very addictive and fun game!

14. Donkey Kong 64


dk boxart

Another game by Rare here and a special one at that; it’s the sequel to the game that made the company’s name. Donkey Kong! After DKC3 which was my lucky introduction to not only Rare but also Donkey Kong platformers (I worked my way down the series afterwards) comes this piece of excellent gaming, Donkey Kong 64. I first saw it in Austria on the same stands that taught me about Super Mario 64 only it was Christmas, and it was 1999. The game provided players with a free (required by the game) Expansion Pak, a certain hardware component for the console’s deck that expanded the system’s memory by 8MB, a significant booster back then.

dk capRare learned from Banjo-Kazooie’s magic recipe and built upon it for this one. Set on the original Donkey Kong Island, K. K.’s after DK’s banana stash once more. This time, Donkey Kong has not only Diddy Kong but also Lanky, Tiny and Chunky by his side, new characters that haven’t made their appearance in any game since then(I’d rather have Kiddy and Dixie in there instead of these new guys but eh!) Levels are very intuitive in that they have different parts for each Kong, since every Kong has distinct abilities, and they are built based on intertwining paths. Sometimes I thought they were too complex for their own good, and that is possibly one of the games downsides. Otherwise, DK64 really is very epic and well-made. I’m tired of saying this already but it’s the reason Rareware received so much praise back in the time, every single game of theirs truly was fantastic. Donkey Kong 64 lacked a bit of soul their other games… no no don’t get me wrong, it DID have soul, just not as much as say Banjo-Kazooie or Blast Corps, it’s like going to Switzerland when coming from Iceland and complaining about the lack of snow. It IS there, you’re just used to more of the stuff. Not that Icelanders would actually complain about lack of snow but that’s another story…


DK64 was just a huge game. There were 200(!!) bananas to collect, with most having to do with collecting more stuff. I have no problem with collectathons, especially when done right (which usually Rare succeeds in doing) but there were just too many different small bananas, coins and younameits to gather. It got a bit boring… BUT EVEN LIKE THAT! Impressive worlds, solid gameplay, classic enemies, auditory pleasure, Rare humour, unlockables, primates with musical instruments, cameos of the likes of Candy, Funky and Cranky (old Wrinkly died… :'( ) and… what else does a person that enjoys his persisant gorillas really need?

10 years since Christmas 1997 – A N64 Tribute (Part 1)

Nintendo 64 Tribute

The Nintendo 64. Released 1996 in NTSC markets and in 1997 in PAL territories, it was Nintendo’s first fully 3-D console. Made as a successor to the super popular and industry-defining SNES, the N64 saw in its 5 years Nintendo’s fall from the top of the home entertainment market. Sony, who created the PlayStation from the ashes of the to-be collaboration with them and Nintendo to make a CD platform for the SNES, used the design of this new platform to create the next new most successful console ever. Sony didn’t only bring in the CD platform to the industry successfully and en masse for the first time, it also hosted numerous reiterations of old franchises that practically reinvented their lines. Games like Final Fantasy VII or Metal Gear Solid were parts of older franchises that once belonged to Nintendo’s “side”. New games like Resident Evil, Pro Evolution Soccer, Crash Bandicoot, Tekken and Gran Turismo quickly geared the PlayStation for hardcore and casual gamers alike, with the latter term practically being invented by Sony’s generation. Nintendo’s decision to build its console around the ’80s philosophy of cartridges paid its tolls; even though N64 games had non-existant loading times and were pretty resistant to wear and tear (both factors compared to Sony’s CDs), not only couldn’t they fit 1/10 of what CDs could fit, they were also much more expensive to produce and, for good or for bad, much more difficult to duplicate, using legal means or otherwise. Yes, the possibility of pirating games and playing copies only really kicked off with the PlayStation and many would argue that this is one of the basic factors for its appeal to the broad audience. Cool games for cheap. What more could a bloke ask for? But I digress. This post has little to do with how the PlayStation changed the face of the games industry.

Way back then, in 1997, I didn’t know and I didn’t particularly care about these things. My mother had bought me my SNES for my 8th birthday, which was when I essentially became a Nintendo gamer. I did own a pseudo-NES on which I had numerous classic games of the NES era, among them Super Mario Bros. and Bubble Bobble, but my pre-SNES gaming history is also irrelevant. By 1997 of course, SNES was as new as PS2 is today alive and kicking. OK, PS2 is still selling better than PS3, but that’s not the point here! I had found myself a console that was dying, with N64 coming right around the corner. Neither me nor my mum knew that at the time, but it wouldn’t take long for me to find out (meanwhile I enjoyed such wonderful games as Yoshi’s Island, Donkey Kong Country 3 or Super Mario All-Stars that were already defining my gaming profile.)

July 1997. By now I’ve caught wind of the existence of N64, but I’ve been too busy playing SNES to really care. Suddenly, one day, I get to play Super Mario 64 in a small toy shop in Eisenstadt, Austria. I stand there, jaw hitting floor. I start playing on the demo stand for hours at a time, and the shopkeepers always shooed me away in words I didn’t understand every time it was time for the shop to close… I urged my mother to let me go to the shop again and again or to any other shop that had the game so I could play, even if I played the wrong way, holding the left handle of the middle one (I didn’t even know there was a Z button). It was just sooo good! I had even made her buy me a strategy guide of it in german and pestered her every time to translate bits and pieces to me… Sorry mum! 😛 There was no way around it: that console and that game had to be mine.

The rest of the summer and autumn went by with me wanting a Nintendo 64, fantasizing about it (you know, going to school and thinking about it and stuff) and really looking forward to Christmas. That’s when mum had told me she’d get it for me… Agonizingly, and with me playing some more SNES games, Christmas 1997 finally was upon us. Christmas Eve to be exact. It was a sunny morning, and I was playing Super Mario World while the other children were out singing the Kalanta. That was the day we’d go and get it (yeah it was much less dramatic than the Nintendo 64 kid scene, no trees, no wrappings or anything. But it was cool in its own way) So we did, from that big shop in Kallithea mum used to refer to as “the warehouse (apothiki)” and which later became Max Stores. That’s where we bought most of my SNES games as well. I got my N64 along with Super Mario 64 and GoldenEye. When I got home that day, I connected the system to our small 14″ Grundig I used to play my SNES on and played for hours. We’d have Christmas with friends, and so all the family friends came and brought their kids as well, and we all gathered round the TV and played… I remember Kostas’ and Alex’s faces, they couldn’t believe I had it! 😀 And the next day, (Christmas Day) another sunny morning, I called my then best friend Kostas (it was another Kostas) and we played together… Well with one controller it was much less “playing together” than “letting Kostas watch me play and maybe handing him the controller for a few turns” but that’s how it goes sometimes! GoldenEye didn’t get much playtime at first cause I couldn’t figure out how to play it… That, of course, soon changed…

Anyway, If I wrote ALL of my experiences with the little machine down it’d make for some tall wall of text, so my intro stops here. Intro, because I’m just getting started! This Christmas 10 full years will have passed since the day that was a landmark for my gamer side. As a tribute to those days and to the N64 which I think is (ok nostalgia really talking here but that’s how it works usually, right?) one of the best consoles ever, I’ll post my Top 20 for it, along with any comments, thoughts or experiences from and about each game. So, let me take you back to the past, back to my childhood days…

20. Pokemon Stadium

PS Box

The year is 2000. Pokemon mania is sweeping the West and every pre-teen boy can’t help but succumb helplessly to the charm of Game Freak’s Pocket Slaves. While Pokemon Blue/Red were released in Europe in late 1999, I first got involved in the huge phenomenon around January of Y2K. The whole thing intrigued me very much, noticing but not really observing the craze that had followed not only the game but also the anime series on TV. It especially hit me when I went to Austria that year. Pokemon was EVERYWHERE!

I quickly made up for any lost time with some vigorous playing on the Game Boy. I played and played Pokemon Blue for hours on my green GB Pocket… I’m somewhat embarrassed to say that Pokemon was my first RPG, and so it was some really fresh material for me. I quickly understood that I shouldn’t only be leveling up my Venusaur leaving my Paras and Pidgeotto at Lv ~20, and deleted my game and started anew once or twice so that I could have a really balanced team and finally get the game mechanics. I was hooked, just like any other 11-year-old at the time. But I wanted more. And I knew that my Nintendo 64 had the key to that.

April 2000. After some months of agonizing wait (I still remember how frantically I looked for the game in all the stores I frequented… Once I even remember getting to the verge of tears after a big disappointment from my local game shop, when they told me that they didn’t know when it would be released), I skipped school and waited for mum to call me from Jumbo and tell me that she had finally got it. Oh BTW, even since then I somewhat organized skipping school with mum, she always was good like that. Or wait… Maybe I was malingering again and she just played along with it, I don’t remember… She wasn’t too strict about that kind of thing and as we can see today no harm came from it. 😛 Anyway, she brought the game home and I was DELIGHTED I can tell you! Popped it in my N64, put my Pokemon Blue in the Transfer Pak so I could use my Pokemon from the Game Boy game in Stadium, and off I went!


The game, while it lacked any RPG mode, had some meat. It was certainly cool looking at your hardy monsters in magnificent 3-D, reading the new Pokedex entries Stadium had, playing the Game Boy game on the big screen through the Transfer Pak or even giving the mini-games a go. Lickitung’s Sushi Bar was a good laugh, as well as another one with Electrode in which I don’t remember what you had to do… All these mini-games were multiplayer, and good thing I had some friends that also were into the whole Pokemon thing. OK, I’ll admit it, I was the nerdier one when it came to games… But Stadium’s best feature was none other than multiplayer battling. We used to play with rentals, looking for quick duels of skill in commanding the little bastards. The game really was ideal if you wanted a quick dose of the rush of a Pokemon battle without having to plunge into the depths of the RPG.

While I also bought Pokemon Stadium 2 when it came out and generally liked it and the second generation Pokemon, the first game made a much bigger impact on how we played with our monsters back then. It was the next best thing after the GB games and it surely deserves a spot in my Top 20.

19. Turok: Dinosaur Hunter

Turok Box

Turok, if I recall correctly, was a whim purchause I made with dad. We looked for a present for me and it ended up being Turok. I have no idea when, but it happened!

Turok CapThe hero was an indianesque person that hunted dinosaurs becauuuuse… Again, I have no idea. I didn’t ever get much into the game’s story. The only things I can tell are: the game was hard, it had some cool and biiig guns and some interesting locales, the game was confusing, and its cheats were superb! Unlocking the uber guns and blasting everything away certainly was fun, as was being invincible and flying (I still remember that the cheat code had something to do with “bird”… But that is as far as my memory serves me), and going to every boss stage and wooping ass. Because I ended up only playing the game using cheats because I thought it was much better using some cheat or another than just playing normally, not to mention much less frustrating, I don’t remember it at all well. But messing around with this game was rewarding! Plus, how cool is a game full of dinos? Even if sadly you have to kill them… Looking back, the “normal” game must have been good, at least its structure was hub-based and linear at the same time. Intriguing, no?

18. Banjo-Tooie

BT Boxart

Banjo-Tooie Art

Banjo-Kazooie ranked very high in my top games for a long period of time (still does) and my expectations for the sequel were even higher. B-K’s ending revealed that “Banjo-Tooie” would allow the player to gain access to hidden secrets in the original game by means of using a stop ‘n’ swap kind of system, something to do with cartridge swapping anyway. This in my mind only meant that Banjo-Tooie would have an awful lot to do with the original, and I just couldn’t wait!

Banjo-Tooie was released in Europe in June 2001. When it appeared, I had exams (it was the end of my first year in junior high) so I couldn’t pick it up right away. But when I did, I couldn’t help but be a bit disappointed. I found out that the “stop ‘n’ swap” thingie had been dropped and that only a few connections remained with Banjo-Kazooie, like the appearance of Gobi the camel or other references that should have been dependant on your status in B-K. The real secrets of the original were lost forever (even though lots of hackers are still tearing the cartridge apart to find hidden connections and clues, check out the numerous YouTube videos on this) and were replaced by the same items that the connection would have unlocked but had been hidden quite normally within the game.

Apart from this diasappointment though, Banjo-Tooie was actually pretty good. The worlds were much larger than those of the first game, more transformations, there were connections between levels, the graphics were better, the music was of the same high quality and generally it was a pretty worthy sequel to the first adventure of the bear and bird. Rare also once again showed what a great sense of humour they had throughout this game with their typical style of never ever taking anything too seriously. Unfortunately, unlike the first one, I only played through Banjo-Tooie once and did not even collect all of the jiggies. Thus, my memories of the game are pretty limited. I do remember some special moments, like the T-Rex transformation, Cloud Cuckoo Land and the Jinjo Village. I’d like to play it again some day, if only to make it more vivid in my mind.

17. Pokemon Snap

Pokemon Snap Boxart

Another Pokemon title in the Top 20 (and it’s the last one). This time it has nothing to do with battles or collecting monsters… It’s all about…


ElectabuzzIn Pokemon Snap you go around on-rail levels like caves, beaches, volcanoes etc and take pictures of Pokemon in their natural habitat. Professor Oak then scores your pictures according to the size of the Pokemon in the picture, its stance, if the Pokemon is using a special move, how interesting or impressive the picture is etc. Interaction with the Pokemon is accomplished through the use of pester balls (throw one at it and see what happens) and apples (which inexplicably all Pokemon like) and a lot of the time a mini-puzzle has to be solved for a Pokemon to forget its camera shyness or even appear at all. Sometimes, Prof. Oak judged pictures on wrong criteria, and a fine, rare and artistic picture could go down the drain… Right? No! The game allowed you to save a fairly lare number of pictures… You could have a very personal Pokemon photo album!

Even if the game becomes predictable after a while because of the linear actions the player has to take to capture the best poses of each Pokemon (which is still not always the case, some Pokemon really allow for creative photographing), it still manages to be addictive and FUN! This game might actually be one of the best-executed spin-offs ever, and I owe that to HAL Labs, who’s behind this… Game Freak wouldn’t be able to pull this off! Anyway, capturing wild Pidgeys flying around in flocks in one picture, a Scyther slashing away or Mew dancing through the air in its bubble surely never felt this good. Sadly, the game only features about 60 out of the (then) 151, but it’s not a big deal since all have their cries straight from the anime and are actually very well modeled. In some cases I think their Snap renditions are better than in Stadium… Anyway, this game is a must for any friend of Pokemon and it’s not hard to understand why I loved it back in October 2000, when I really was a pretty hardcore fan.


And we think 24 hours are not enough

So yesterday was Garret’s birthday… We bought him a cake along with Mario, Mordread and Housemaster and paid a visit far earlier than what he had told him we would. We decorated the cake with a “6939”, aka his days played! I was thinking of maybe having a 10011 on the cake, that is 19 in binary, but Housemaster came up with that other slightly less geeky but loads friendlier idea. We struggled in the heavy rain on our way to Garret’s, running for shelter and realising once again that umbrellas are only a minor help when having to deal with downpours… It reminded me of No-Man’s song “Only Rain” which has been acting as my earworm for the last couple of days (and pleasantly so). At some point it goes: “No more fountains, only rain.“, a lyric I find strangely optimistic…

Anyway, after we somehow managed to get the cake ready, candles and all, under the storm so that Garret wouldn’t catch wind of us, we invaded his place, Happy Birthdayed him all the way home and had a jolly good time! Few of our clothes were dry, footwear not included, so we all took off shoes and socks and left them to dry. The whole barefoot theme was quite unique and fun! Gave the evening a whole new tone of coziness and proximity. And once again, I demonstrated my unique abilities of clumsiness, dropping cake everywhere, accidentally knocking over plastic cups and managing to get all this on video. After the mess I made a few days ago at Mordread’s house while playing D&D, spilling coke TWICE all over the table we played on, for the first time ever I caught myself mentally or even physically nodding when my friends shouted “RE HALL!” when any kind of disaster struck. Mordread likes doing it even when I’m not the cause of blunderous mayhem… I wonder if I indeed emanate this “Clumsiness Aura” *WoW mode: prone to 50% more accidents when within 30feet of me* but what’s mostly funny about is that when I’m alone far less accidents happen. Or maybe it’s because I don’t pay as much attention to them as when I’m in company?

Clumsy or not, it was another of these times I really enjoy nowadays, an atmosphere the Dutch call “gezellig” which means great coziness, right company, right lighting, right discussions, right food and drinks, at the right time. Don’t you just love sitting back and savouring these moments? I’m sure there will be plenty of such moments in Athens when I’ll be going back there in a few days – 5 to be exact – when I’ll be meeting more friends than ever before. I think I’ll have to make a tight schedule to manage to meet everyone I want to… Wonder if I’ll manage to actually sit back and relax at home or with dad in Aegina when I’ll have so many things to do, including of course choosing the parts for my new PC which is underway or helping George with tweaking my current PC which I’ll be handing down to him minus the chassis. Oh yes it will be a busy fortnight, but no less fun (if not more fun) I’m sure!

Today I also had my first Aikido training session. Katana stances, staff, tried some rolls and fighting exercises. It was a great workout too! Even if it’s a bit on the expensive side (45 euros per month), I think it will be well worth it. The philosophy behind the art, which represents peace, spiritual energy and trying to bringing no harm to others while reverting their attack power back to them are very welcome additions to the stylish combat and weapon training… And aren’t japanese weapons just COOL? Yes they are! *takes katana pose*

Also, I’ve been watching a lot of Firefly, this cool little TV series that could. I’ll post my thoughts on it when I finish the two remaining episodes, I doubt they’ll change my seriously positive impressions though! I also wish I’d manage to get 120 stars in Super Mario Galaxy before I leave but I think in the end I’ll just take my Wii with me, it looks like it’ll be getting some playtime one way or another in the holidays anyway!

Oh it’s 4:28am… Gotta keep to that uber leet sleeping schedule of mine so oyasumi, goedenacht and kalinyxta!

May the people cheer and the Prosecco flow!

After having quite some internal battles, deciding whether my droplets of words can actually make any difference at all to this ocean of communication, broadcasting of thought, experience and aspiration we like to call the Internet, I decided to take the plunge. I am now joining the ranks of those who think that what they think and believe others would be interested in reading is actually important!

It’s not a bad thing — we should already admit that personal blogging is one of the most subtle (or perhaps not so subtle?) forms of self-projection and self-admiration: as noted above, to start a web log one must think of himself as important and deem his or her life to be worthy of documenting one way or another. A lot of times it’s interesting solely to the writer… I do want to think that what I’ll be writing here will be interesting to others apart from me (I also keep a more personal diary I occassionally write in… Some certain people like to call it an “emo notebook”; you know who you are!). Quoting Benjamin Franklin:

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.

While I’ll admit I have disagreed with Ben before, my goal is to achieve both of the above. Starting now! Prosecco for everyone! (English speakers only please click here.

PostScript: This was originally posted in my proto-blog on Blogspot on 6/12/07. It took only a few hours for me to decide that Blogspot was bad news, and soon thereafter I started working on getting my own domain up and running. And before you lie the results! Let’s have a toast now then… To private blogging! *lifts glass with Prosecco*