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Your 2021 Gaming Diary

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Right! I've put this off long enough.  Let's get this year finished!

I'll be starting off this list with some games that I started and had to drop along the way for various reasons...

The Legend of Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon



You all know this game, its reputation proceeds itself, but how many of you have actually played it for real? How do you really know that it's as bad as it's made out to be!?  There's only one way to truly find out... and that means experiencing it first hand, on a real CDI!



Welcome to Nintendo's dark little secret, the unholy bastard child of the early 90s SNES CD failure fallout between Nintendo & Sony that gave birth to the Playstation (oh yes, you have Sony to thank for the Unholy Triforce!).  Chances are that you are already well aware of the story behind the CDI and the birth of the original Playstation, so I won't dwell too much on this game's history, but I just want to link to a lovely little interview with one of the lead designers on both this game and Faces of Evil; which helps elucidate a bit about the circumstances behind the creation of these games.  Long-story short, each game was made on a miniscule budget of just $600,000, with graphics and cutscenes that had to be outsourced to Russia, with no support from Nintendo whatsoever, and were pumped out within just a year; on a platform that was explicitely not designed to play games, that had no in-built background scrolling hardware or any sprite-based tilemapping support.  Quite frankly, these guys were dealt a bad hand; and Phillips hilariously squandered the two biggest licenses in all of videogamedom.


A majestic titlescreen.  That's about all of the Nintendo you're getting here.

So how's the actual game itself? Honestly? It's better than I was expecting! I love Zelda 2, it's a terribly misunderstood and underappreciated entry in the Zelda series; and there really isn't much else like it.  The closest we ever really got to a follow-up to Zelda 2 was Faxanadu; and that wasn't even a Zelda game... or a Nintendo game at all! So I quite appreciate the designers' attempt to follow the path not taken by the mainline series.  If it weren't for the wonky jump physics, broken hit detection, horrendously shit & unresponsive controls, incredibly choppy framerate, super limited menu navigation, ridiculous Castlevania 2 esc obnoxious secrets and nonsensical game progression? It might actually be a fairly decent game.  But sadly, that is indeed the case, so it's a frustrating and broken mess of a game that ends up being oddly entertaining both because of, and in spite of, its very numerous flaws.


Good luck not getting hit Zelda!

The Legend of Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon is a refreshingly simply action sidescroller, that attempts some neat environmental navigation mechanics that incorporate the use of an item inventory system.  Be it through the use of lamp oil, ropes or bombs; it's yours my friend... as long as you have enough rubies.  Unfortunately, this game is on the CDI, and that means that you're limited to a mere two buttons with no start or select button (because the CDi is a crap console that didn't have a standadised controller); this makes using items and/or the menu a complete nightmare, as you have to press up to jump and press joystick down + button 2 to open the menu, which is just as awful as it sounds.  Because the CDi is one of the worst machines ever made, the game also runs at about 5FPS with incredibly choppy scrolling, the hit detection is about as reliable as a busted shopping trolley and the lack of tile mapped graphics also makes for an exercise in frustration in figuring out what parts of the scenery are interactable and which are not.

The plus side of being a CDi game however? The music is surprisingly good! It's totally funky fresh and completely tonally inappropriate! It's great! Honestly! I'm not joshing! It's well worth a listen!  Here's a couple of choice cuts...

(Dat Frog croak backing!)

Cadence of Korodai

I actually genuinely enjoyed my time playing this game; it's actually nowhere near as bad as its reputation makes it out to be, but really, its faults come from the console it was made for.  The CDi is simply NOT designed to play games; it was a complete piece of shit, even for its time.  Quite frankly, considering the circumstances, it's a miracle that this game even got made and runs at all.  Sadly, I had to give up on playing this game and Link: Faces of Evil after my CDi's save battery gave up the ghost... and after finding out what ridiculous measures you need to take to replace a CDi battery? I quite rightly gave up on finishing this game on CDi... I should try out that fan-made PC Remaster that got made recently, I bet it would be a much better game than the original version...


Pictured: Phillips circa 1993


Superman 64



What is there to be said about Superman 64 that hasn't already been said a thousand times over?  You know it's shit, but HOW shit? Well...


Pictured: Abjact terror and despair

There basically isn't anything that this game gets right whatsoever.  Everything is so incredibly unfinished and broken that it is genuinely funny; it actually makes for a pretty enjoyable experience, in the same way that one enjoys watching a good trainwreck play out.  Just the basic act of moving around feels absolutely awful, every area looks like identical green shit, there are basically only 3 pieces of terrible music throughout the whole game, the objectives make no sense and barely even function without glitching out; it's thoroughly entertaining!


You know what? Screw Lois, I never liked her anyway

Now, what I didn't know before starting is that playing on Normal difficulty only gives you half of the True Superman 64 experience.  As it turns out, you only get to play through about half of the game when playing on anything other than Hard mode, with a good chunk of the Ring levels stripped out (thank God!), the requirements for completion made more lenient, and the game actually allowing you to carry on from where you left off when you inevitably fail a challenge.  The "downside"? You don't get to play the final stage and see the ending.

After I found this out? You bet I didn't attempt to play on Hard mode and called it quits there.  I'd seen enough.  Sorry Lois, but you're staying trapped in Lex Luthor's N64 dungeon.


No Krypton Factor can save this complete shambles

But hey! It's officially NOT the worst game I've ever played, or even the worst game I've played this year. (It was at least an entertaining mess!).  No, this year's honour goes to Perfect Dark Zero; fuck that game.

Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania


Total shit.  Stick with the Gamecube original.

Panzer Dragoon Remake


Total shit.  Stick with the Saturn original.

The Gunk



The Gunk is so boring that I don't even know what to talk about with it.  After less than 5 minutes, you've already seen everything that the game has to offer.  There's barely any environmental interactivity to speak of and the gameplay is so completely one note & uninteresting that there really isn't much to discuss at all.  Neat graphics tech demo, horribly boring game.  I expected MUCH better given Image & Form's pretty stellar track record and couldn't stand more than an hour of this goopy mess.

Psychonauts 2



A long time coming, the much anticipated sequel to the original Psychonauts comes a whopping 16 years after the original.  Now, I was never a big fan of the original game myself; for all of the charm it had, and for how much I liked the originality on display with its setting and concept, the original game is just not a very good platformer at its core.  It's janky, the level design is bad, the physics and game feel are very poor; it's a neat idea, but the core gameplay just isn't very fun.

This game however? It's a big improvement over the original in basically every respect.  It's a LOT more fun to control, the level design is much more interesting, the combat mechanics are much more refined and feel much better; it's just a far more polished and well crafted experience than the first game.  It's actually a pretty rare example of a 3D platformer not made by Nintendo or Rare that actually has competent core gameplay mechanics!  Add some genuinely interesting and charming settings & some pretty interesting gameplay mechanics and you're well on your way to a winner.


I mean, it has a hospital casino!! Haven't seen that one before!

The combat mechanics are also streamlined and refined significantly from the first game, with abilities now mappable to all four shoulder buttons (though these abilities are confusingly unlabelled, meaning that I'd often forget which each one does!).  Everything feels good to use, unlike the first game.  There's a cool zipline mechanic, and some bespoke sliding sections; and even some proper Zelda style boss battles! I'm really impressed with the gameplay on offer here!  And the production values are absolutely through the roof!

Unfortunately the game's pacing slows to an absolute crawl after the first couple of minds that you dive into; as the platforming gameplay takes a backseat to an endless barrage of dialogue and fetch quests.  See, this game isn't just a platformer, it's also an adventure game; and quite frankly, the adventure game elements just aren't all that interesting.  They drag the pacing down tremendously, and the dialogue just goes on and on... and it's nowhere near as funny as it thinks it is.  The adventure part of the game is ultimately the bulk of the gameplay and I just gave up trudging through it to get back to the platforming gameplay.  It's a shame, because the good bits are really good! But I just don't have the patience to run around aimlessly, looking for people to talk to to advance the story and get back to the actual fun part of the game.

Hotel Mario




You know the story, you know the memes, but do you know the game itself? Probably not.

This is a surprisingly solid little single screen arcade Elevator Action style game where you are tasked to (I shit you not), close every door to complete a stage.  You move with the d-pad, jump with the 1 button and close doors by pressing up on the d-pad; and that's it.  Shockingly, this game sports some surprisingly responsive and solid controls! No mean feat for a CDi game! (No doubt helped tremendously by the lack of background scrolling), with decent hit detection too! It's a very simple gameplay setup that introduces a decent variety of new enemies and obstacles along the way to keep things reletively fresh.


Mario's just being a friendly neighbour


There's a whopping 75 stages to complete, which is honestly way too long for a single playthrough; hence why I ultimately gave up once my CDi's save battery died.  But honestly? It's not a bad little arcade style platformer! It's... certainly an odd gameplay hook for, you know, a freaking Mario game of all things; but it's actually not bad at all! It's a very simple game, but it features tight controls, enough enemy variety to keep things interesting and some reletively nice visuals for the platform (for what it's worth).  It's probably the best game on the CDi; shame it's, you know, stuck on the CDi!

Right! Time to talk about the games I actually finished now!

Kirby's Dreamland DX


As the title and screenshot suggests, this is a mod of the original Kirby's Dreamland with a splash of colour! (No more white Kirby!).  The first version of this mod was pretty janky and not very well done, but thankfully it has received a myriad of updates since and is now in a good state that is well worth playing.

I've written about the original Kirby's Dreamland before in a previous gaming diary post, which I can't seem to find, but since making a full post about this game would take longer than it would to actually complete the whole game; suffice it to say that I'll give you the short n' sweet version here.  Kirby's Dreamland is the first ever Kirby game, and it predates his ability to steal copy powers; so the gameplay is very simple.  This game was designed to be beatable within a short bus ride, and that makes it super replayable.  It's a fantastic quick blast of fun that you can smash through in less than 30 minutes; with not a single bit of chaff to be found.  Even though the gameplay is decidedly simple compared to later games in the series, it's remarkable just how much HAL got right the first time around; it's fast paced, inventive, charming and bursting at the seams with interesting ideas and set pieces.  It doesn't waste your time at all.  And the music is absolutely legendary; it's no wonder why it was such a smash hit when it first came out in 1992.  It's the perfect portable platformer, and I still go back to it with a smile on my face every single time... well, until I try the hidden Extra difficulty and proceed to get my arse handed to me! Seriously! Extra is no joke!!


Happy 35th Anniversary Kirby!


Super Princess Peach


It's Super Mario... but for girls! You know, those things that cry a lot, get angry for no reason and generally can't control their emotions? I bet that'd make for a neat gameplay mechanic!  Let's get Mario kidnapped by a random Hammer Bro and let Peach slap and cry her way to victory!

Super Princess Peach is a... problematic game, shall we say.  There is absolutely no way that this game would fly today; it's quite possibly the most sexist game ever made, and in an industry as sexist as the games industry? That's really saying something!  Made by Tose, the famous ghost developer that normally doesn't take credit for their work (other than this one and the Starfy series), Super Princess Peach is a strange game that feels really random for its time; beating New Super Mario Bros to market by a good 7 odd months and feeling a bit like a GBA port in many respects.  It's a 2d sidescrolling platformer in the same mold as Yoshi's Island, being focused on exploration and collection.  The similarities also extend to the hand drawn visuals, level design and enemy selection (many of which return from Yoshi's Island).  Of course, this game's main gameplay gimmick lies in Peach's emotions (sigh), which allow her to use Anger (to set fire to things), Cry (to water things and run very fast), Joy (to spin things around and fly for a limited time) and Calm (to restore health) using 4 buttons on the touch screen.  Enemies can also be affected by emotions too, which alter their characteristics accordingly (including the terrifying Angry Boo!).



This'll be sure to appeal to women!

Like Yoshi's Island, there are various mcguffins to find in each stage; including three Toads (mandatory to open up the final stage and see the ending), minigame collectables (which unlock touch screen minigames) and puzzle pieces (used to unlock gallery photos).  Thankfully, getting all the Toads isn't too much of a pain; it's certainly not the absolute torture that Yoshi's Island is to 100%!  

Unfortunately, the level design just isn't very interesting.  It's all quite flat and pretty ho-hum, lacking the interesting setpieces and crazy gameplay mechanics of the SNES Yoshi's Island; while the vibe powers are basically just relegated to being glorified keys that activate accompanying switches.  This really drags the game down, as the gameplay is ultimately pretty bland behind its pretty visuals.  There just isn't much interesting going on here that you haven't seen done better in other platform games; it's all rather forgettable really.  Likewise, the boss battles are perfectly ok, and the music is decent, but nothing special.  It's all just very middle of the road.  There's a few tacked on touch screen minigames before each boss fight, and the title screen changes depending on the time of day with the DS' RTC; which is about the most interesting thing going on here.

Super Princess Peach is ultimately a decent 2D platformer and nothing more.  It's thoroughly ok.  It's fine.  It looks nice though.

Newer Super Mario Bros DS



Now I'm not normally one for straight up fan games, normally they're just not at the level of quality that makes it worth my time to play... however, this one is absolutely an exception to the rule.  Made by the same team that made the excellent Newer Super Mario Bros Wii; this game is a complete conversion of the original NSMB into an entierly new game.  And when I say entierly, I really mean it.  NOTHING has been left untouched, the soundtrack is entierly new (a mix of remixes from other Mario games and completely original music), the front-end has been completely revamped more in the style of SM3DW, there's new bosses, enemies, cutscenes, gameplay mechanics and even powerups!  Yes! The Hammer Bros suit is back, and it's badass!


The toughest flower you've ever seen

Unlike most fan games and fan hacks, this game has actually been designed to have a reasonable difficulty curve that feels reletively close to an actual Mario game; and the level design is generally excellent, with good pacing and interesting layouts.  The sheer amount of new mechanics that the Newer team have managed to cram into NSMB's shell is just incredible! From minecarts to Sumo Bros to terraforming land to anti gravity to Yoshi Coins to Angry Suns & Angry Moons (yes, really!); there's a crazy amount of custom coding and completely new mechanics that have somehow been put into the game! It's amazing what they've managed to pull off here with all of these new mechanics and it kind of puts NSMB 2 to shame.


You got Donkey Kong Country in my New Super Mario Bros!

The sheer amount of effort and polish that has gone into this fan game is just incredible.  They even have the title screen change depending on what world you're currently on!  Oh, and Luigi is fully playable too, complete with Luigi physics.  Quite simply, it's one of the best fan games I've ever played; right up there with Smash Remix, Newer Super Mario Bros Wii and AM2R.  A must play for anyone with the means to do so!


Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder



This is the true sequel to the original Golden Axe, not that weak Mega Drive junk.  Built for the powerful System 32 arcade board in 1992, this game never got a home release until the launch of the Astro City Mini in 2021 and it is a BELTER of a belt scroller!

Most beat 'em ups tend to run out of steam and become repetitive and a bit boring before the end of their running time... not here though.  This game keeps things fresh by making the environments hazardous and interactive all throughout and constantly throwing new enemy types your way all the way till the end.  The game feel is absolutely perfect, hits have awesome impact, with brilliant art and sound design that really sells the impact of each hit.  The visual presentation is a big step up from what was possible on home consoles at the time and goes a long way towards making the game feel fun to play; while the Conan The Barbarian style soundtrack really pumps you up all throughout!


Still freaking cool looking 29 years on!

The game is paced incredibly well and no stage feels like it outstays its welcome; with numerous branching paths in place that keep each runthrough feeling fresh.  Each stage also introduces numerous gimmicks that keep the gameplay from becoming stale too, such as falling bolders coming down and even into the screen with cool scaling effects! Or waterfalls that push you and your enemies around; and there's even some platforming to contend with!

I'm not the biggest beat 'em up fan in the world, as most games in the genre get pretty boring not far in; but this is absolutely one that I love.  While I'd still say that Streets of Rage 2 is the best of SEGA's efforts, GATRODA is a very close second in my eyes.

Clockwork Aquario


Quite possibly the most delayed game of all time (a whopping 28 years from initial announcement to release!), Clockwork Aquario is the final arcade game to be made by Westone; the creators of the Wonderboy series.  This is an excellent little action platformer that was originally designed for the SEGA System 18 arcade board.  A straightforward run n' jump affair, this game calls to mind titles such as Ristar and Super Mario Bros 2; though more straightforward than those two titles, it borrows their lifting and throwing mechanics. 

The controls are simple, you run, you jump, you pick stuff up and throw; oh, and you can punch as well if you're not holding onto anything.  Its fast-paced stages constantly throw enemies and platforming challenges your way in a manner that brings to mind the Ghouls N' Ghosts series (though nowhere near as hard!).  It's generally light and breezy in terms of difficulty, which is, quite frankly, very strange for an arcade game of this vintage!

It's a white knuckle thrill ride that sees you romping through 5 stages of arcade action goodness; you'll blast through the whole thing in about 30 minutes, but you'll want to come back for more.  Very much like Kirby's Dreamland actually!


Each level is dense and beautiful

It's a great game that does not waste your time, offering thrills a second that you will want to replay again and again.  I'm really glad that this game finally got a release, I'll be coming back to it again and again for some great single player and co-op action!

Right! That's your lot! I'm not writing anymore, I'm knackered! Onto 2022! (Metroid Dread's write up will go in the Metroid Dread thread when I eventually get round to it)


Perfect Dark Zero

Hotel Mario

Super Princess Peach

Twelve Minutes:

Bowser's Fury

New Super Mario Bros 2

Newer Super Mario Bros DS

Sabrewulf (GBA)

Ace Attorney: Justice for All

Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes

Clockwork Aquario

Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder

Famicom Detective Club: The Girl Who Stands Behind

Famicom Detective Club: The Missing Heir

Killer 7

Tales of Game's Presents Chef Boyardee's Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden, Chapter 1 of the Hoopz Barkley SaGa

Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney

Pilotwings 64

Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon & The Blade of Light

Kirby's Dreamland DX


Super Monkey Ball Deluxe (Gamecube Mod)

Castlevania: Circle of the Moon

Sonic Delta (Sonic 1,2 and 3&K Combined!)

Super Mario 3D World (Switch Version)

Metroid II: Return of Samus

Ace Attorney: Trials & Tribulations

The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX (MSU-1 Switch Remake Music Edition)


Dicey Dungeons

Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance

Metroid Dread

Metroid Fusion:  (Normal Difficulty, Any% casual playthrough) AND Metroid Zero Mission:  (Normal Difficulty, Any% casual playthrough).

Edited by Dcubed
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I'm going to finish off this topic with what I did for gaming in 2021 since I never got around to posting what I did for the rest of the year.


In spite of having a PS5 by this point all of my gaming was basically just playing Rivals of Aether as well as getting to World 5 in Super Meat Boy, my furthest ever point. Indeed, the two became related, I began work on a Super Meat Boy mod. But that is still in development to this day due to numerous reasons:



Turns out this guy doesn't have the time to do the spriting, leading to the recruitment of another spriter who was also quite busy so now I'm scrabbling around for more people to help with this mod.


Reeling from this and wanting something to do modwise I went and remastered an old mod that had been abandoned by the original modder and was in desperate need of some maintanance, then proceeded to start a seperate project on the side of Meat Boy, that one really got going in 2022 so I'll talk more about it in the 2022 thread.


So yeah, 2021's gaming was:


Crash Bandicoot 4: Its About Time

Magic the Gathering Arena

Ratchet & Clank (2016)

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

NieR; Replicant Version 1.42...

Metroid Prime Hunters

Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair

Deltarune Chapter 2

Metroid Dread

Rivals of Aether

Super Meat Boy


As well as numerous Zelda, Metroid and Sonic replays for Youtube videos.


But things change in 2022...

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