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Legend of Heroes, The: Trails in the Sky SC (PlayStation Portable)

Game Console Genre
Legend of Heroes, The: Trails in the Sky SC Legend of Heroes, The: Trails in the Sky SC PlayStation Portable RPG

Take a medieval-fantasy setting, now imagine what would happen if they learned of a way to have technology closer to that of the modern day. That meshing of the two time periods is the world of the Trails series (or Kiseki if you want to go by the Japanese name).

Along with being the source for a lot of the technology in the world, Orbments is your method of using magic. If you’ve played Final Fantasy VII, or are familiar with that game’s materia system, then you have a pretty good idea of how the system works. Unlike FF7 however, the items placed in an Orbment, don’t directly give you magic, but rather stat buffs or other benefits like reduced magic costs or casting time. In addition, each item in the Orbment gives elemental values, which are added up with the rest of those on the same lines to figure out which magic that character can cast. This means that you sometimes need to decide whether to go for a specific magic, or to go with more general stat buffs.

Another memorable element about the Trails games is the recipe book. While you could just purchase the more typical healing items and status effect cures, you can also try out some of the local cuisine. Not only do these heal you along with some healing a status effect or buffing one or more stats, but you can also make them yourself once you’ve eaten the food once and have the right ingredients on hand. Who knows, maybe you can make a business out of cooking up some food (because I guess nobody here worries about others profiting off their recipes). Not only that, but SC introduced a new kind of food: Attack Foods. Enjoy throwing large cookies at enemies and sometimes using meatballs as what seems to be flamethrowers. Look, I never said the food had to make sense.

Keep in mind that Trails in the Sky FC and SC are two games with a connected story. Before trying the SC set, I strongly suggest that you playthrough the FC set. Not only will this give you more context about the world since SC continues directly after the events of FC, but you’ll also be able to earn some starting rewards in SC depending on how many Bracer Points you earned during your travels in FC (you may want those when doing a run on the highest difficulty in SC). televandalist televandalist has designed these sets to show you basically everything that these games have to offer, while also having challenges for the boss fights, opening all the treasure chests in an area, and getting through the games without any deaths or running away from fights.

I will warn you however, these games are known for their insane amounts of dialogue, not just because of the main story, but also due to the NPCs and in-game books. Trails games have NPC dialogue change after almost every story event, allowing most of them to have their own stories and arcs to see, like the two people that met in an alleyway and eventually got engaged, the hotel maid that is way too energetic about their job, or the duo of Anton and Ricky, who have appeared in most of the games in the series as they wander across the world. There is also a bit of literature to find. Ever wanted a book listing the language of cats? Considering how much text there is, the name Kiseki is very fitting, as it was a miracle that so many of these games have been localized.

Donkey Kong Country (SNES)

Game Console Genre
Donkey Kong Country Donkey Kong Country SNES Platformer

People have written long essays on the joys of DKC. How it makes them feel, how great the platforming sections are, how over rated it is. Once could even argue that there is nothing new to say about this game. But what about the achievements? After all, that’s the reason why we’re all here.

This is not a brand new set. Instead, this is a fantastic update on what is easily a favorite title for a lot of people. The original set was perfectly fine, but the critic in me feels like it could have been a lot more. Mostly progression, with the standard 100% and beating bosses without getting hit. Not bad, but not special.

The upgrade adds points for the Animal Specific bonus rooms, and challenges the player to explore every nook and cranny of a game that has almost certainly been memorized by the vast majority of completionists. While I can understand if some people get upset at an update, after all now they would need to re-complete something they may have hit 200% on ages ago, I personally feel like the new challenges are worthy of the addition, and make for a stronger set overall.

Arm Wrestling (Arcade)

Game Console Genre
Arm Wrestling Arm Wrestling Arcade Sports (Arm Wrestling)

ARM WRASSLIN’, BABY! THE MANLIEST SPORT IN THE UNIVERSE! Many consider this early (1985 was almost 40 years ago!) arcade gem to be the predecessor of the Punch-Out franchise, as it features similar gameplay mechanics, like having to beat opponents one by one in a sanctioned match, and character designs. I personally think that this could’ve stood as its own series, but I digress.

What do you do in this game? Well, ya wrassle with yer arm! You have to master the art of quickly moving the joystick and activating bonuses at the correct times, so that you can lay out your opponent’s hand on the table. There’s 5 colorful characters, one with a very special secret about him, who you have to defeat. They will pull each and every dirty move to have an advantage over our not-quite-Little-Mac protagonist. After the 5 bouts, the game loops with harder and faster patterns.

Just like the Punch-Out series, this is a test of your reactions and finger speed. May the best man win!

Spider: The Video Game (PlayStation)

Game Console Genre
Spider: The Video Game Spider: The Video Game PlayStation 2D Platformer

Imagine you were playing Donkey Kong Country but you could replace your ape limbs with advanced weapon like missile launchers and flamethrowers. That is exactly how Spider plays, a 2.5D action platformer with plenty of banan- I mean…checks script DNA strands to collect. Just like DKC has sections all around the island to explore, Spider offers multiple levels stretching across an entire cityscape from a dingy broken down lab, the streets of the city themselves, and also the sewers that run along the underside of the city.

The elevator pitch of the plot would be, “You are a scientist that was making huge advancements with bleeding edge neuro-technology. You could transfer your consciousness into a spider like drone but a rival company wanted to steal your technology by any means necessary. So during one of your experiments your body is stolen and you must reclaim your body as the cyber-arachnoid drone.” Of course things won’t be so easy as many of your technologically enhanced experiments have escaped such as: wasps that shoot lasers, bats that can drop bombs, and metallic manti that can throw boomerangs.

I know that if you are a fan of collectible filled 2.5D platformers you won’t be disappointed with this game. Did I mention you can run along the walls and ceiling, just like a spider!

Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga (Game Boy Advance)

Game Console Genre
Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga Game Boy Advance RPG

The Mario RPGs need no introduction. They’re short, they’re gimmicky, and they’re generally far from a challenge. Above all, though, they’re absolutely loaded with fun to the point of bursting. Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga in particular embodies this element very well. Every time a new enemy appears with an absurd attack to dodge, every time someone asks “Are you THE legendary Mario?” and pressing A makes Mario jump (much to everyone’s delight), every time progress is ground to a halt to make way for a stupid minigame, every time Luigi gets spooked and runs off (or sulks because he’s stuck in his brother’s shadow)…A small amount of joy sparks in my cold, dead heart. And in the end, that’s what video games are all about.

So do yourself a favor and pick up a Mario RPG. It doesn’t even have to be this one. Go play one of the sequels, or Paper Mario, or the OG SNES release. You deserve a little bit of pure, simple fun.