NINJA GAIDEN 2
Tecmo - NES
It's not as good as Ninja Gaiden 1, but NG2 is still a fine platformer. It utilizes the same basic gameplay as Ninja Gaiden 1, but adds new features like winds that blow you around, icy floors, and even a stage where the lights flicker on and off. One thing I may like better about Ninja Gaiden 2 is that the boss fights keep you busier, unlike NG1 which had a few bosses that could be defeated just by standing in front of them and slashing away. However, the overall difficulty of NG2 is lower and the story is not as good. But it does have an incredibly dark and brooding atmosphere, and the graphics and sound are decent!
SUPER GHOULS N GHOSTS
Capcom - SNES
Super Ghouls n Ghosts is one of the most challenging games I've ever completed! With levels that include a sinking ghost ship, a bouncy raft ride over waves, rotating towers, avalanches, and even rooms that turn upside down, Super Ghouls n Ghosts always keeps you busy! The bosses are huge, and some, like the final bosses, are really tough to beat. The innovative double jump gave you greater play control than earlier games in the GnG series, such as Ghosts n Goblins.
Konami/KCET - PSX
Azure Dreams is a really bizarre RPG in which the goal is to reach the top of a 30-floor tower. But it won't be easy, because monsters attack at every turn, and the floor layout is always different, due to a random floor generator. Whenever your character leaves the tower, he reverts back to experience Level 1, therefore, you will mostly let your monsters do the fighting for you, a la Pokemon. In-between trips to the tower, you can use money you've earned to make the town grow and you can also date various women in the town! Its graphics are kind of ugly, but Azure Dreams is fun, addictive, and challenging on a number of levels.
KID ICARUS: OF MYTHS & MONSTERS
Nintendo - Gameboy
Kid Icarus for the Gameboy is a very overlooked game that actually features some pretty cool platform action, exploration, and boss fights. Some of the music, particularly the overworld and final level, is among the best Gameboy music I've heard. The game is set up in a similar way to Kid Icarus for the NES, and has really excellent play control, but overall, it's not as challenging as its predecessor. It's still a fun game and a lot better than many other Gameboy platformers that got more attention (*ahem*Super Mario Land*ahem*).
Nintendo/Rare - N64
Banjo-Kazooie seems to be a game that people either love or hate for various reasons, and I guess I fall into the category of those who liked it. Although not quite as good as Super Mario 64, BK offered more of the same style gameplay. You must find missing puzzle pieces or complete tasks to earn them, just as you did with stars in Super Mario 64. BK has some of the best graphics on the N64, decent play control, humorous characters, a huge game world to explore, and one helluva tough final boss!
Kemco-Seika/ICOM Simulations - NES
Shadowgate was a cleverly-scripted game that completely absorbed me from start to finish. Using a point-and-click interface, you had to solve puzzles in Shadowgate by finding and using objects correctly and interacting with the environment. The game had a very brooding and mysterious atmosphere, and gave me a feeling of really being inside a creepy castle. Although the graphics are mostly static images, many of the monsters and other objects looked really cool. Shadowgate's only flaw? There was no replay value once you solved it. =(
Konami - NES
Life Force was the first true "modern-style" shooter to appear on the NES, with diverse, challenging levels and bosses. Life Force has excellent graphics and sound (some of my favorite music on the NES), and pretty much improved on Gradius in every way possible. Life Force was also one of the first shooters to feature both horizontal and vertically-scrolling stages.
SUPER MARIO BROS: THE LOST LEVELS
Nintendo - SNES
Originally available only in Japan, The Lost Levels is the real Super Mario Bros. 2, and became available to American audiences when Super Mario All-Stars was released. The Lost Levels was much more challenging than any other game in the Mario Bros. series, featuring warps that take you backwards, poisonous mushrooms, and hair-raising level design!
Konami - Arcade/PSX
I never actually played Gyruss in the arcades, but I did get a chance to experience it on the Konami Aracade Classics disk for PSX. It's easily my favorite game on the collection, and it's amazingly stood the test of time well! Basically, it's a faster Galaga clone, with enemies diving in and out of the middle of the screen rather than from the top. Gyruss is really tough, really fast, and has excellent music set to the tune of Bach's "Toccata and Fugue".
Hot-B - NES
Over Horizon is a lost classic - a game that was never actually released in North America, and I'm not even sure of its status outside of Japan (though I hear a PAL version exists). A great game with creative level design and tough boss fights, Over Horizon also features a unique weapon edit mode, colorful graphics, an excellent soundtrack, and a bizarre code that changes some of the game's graphics to Japanese characters and symbols!
Hal Laboratory - SNES
Arcana is a unique 1st-person RPG with a tarot card theme. The battle system is very fast and requires strategy at times, and the dungeons are very fun to explore. The music is quite decent! The story is okay (though poorly translated). Arcana is challenging enough for an RPG and it also has a kick-ass final boss fight!
Nintendo - Gameboy
Metroid 2 was the first game that I owned for Gameboy that I truly liked. Although it's a bit more linear than Metroid 1, it still has a decent amount of exploration through a maze-like cavernous world. Samus's mission is to find and defeat all Metroid life forms on the planet, and many of them have mutated into huge, powerful monsters. This game was very suspenseful because you never quite knew when you were going to be attacked by the Metroids!
CASTLEVANIA 2: SIMON'S QUEST
Konami - NES
Castlevania 2 took the Castlevania style of gameplay and put it into a sidescrolling, RPG-like adventure. Although not everyone was happy with this new format, for those who liked it, Castlevania 2 presented a large game world to explore, unique puzzles to solve, and gorgeous graphics and sound. The game also featured multiple endings for added replay value.
Milton Bradley/Natsume - NES
One of the toughest shooters on the NES, with level-design inspired by R-Type, Abadox is a truly challenging game that doesn't get enough credit! Often seen as a LifeForce rip-off for its similar theme, it is much harder, and features vertically scrolling stages that move downward, instead of up. Excellent music, outstanding graphics, huge bosses, and fearsome level design make Abadox a game worth giving a shot!
SNK/Takara - SNES
With lots of fun characters, a great final boss, colorful graphics, fast controls, and an interesting weapons system, Samurai Shodown is my second-favorite one-on-one fighting game after Street Fighter 2 Turbo. This port may not be arcade-perfect, but it still packs a punch.
METAL COMBAT: FALCON'S REVENGE
Nintendo - SNES
As the much-improved sequel to the mech battle game, Battle Clash, Metal Combat is simply the best Super Scope game there is. The simple interface of having two giant mechs battle it out mano-a-mano belies the complex battle system which involves charge shots, super bombs, finding enemies' weakpoints, and defesive maneuvers. Metal Combat featured many more beefed-up mechs to obliterate than its predecessor, and is much more challenging, especially on higher difficulty settings, and the ability to play as two different mechs, the Falcon and the Tornado.
DRAGON WARRIOR 4
Enix - NES
I wasn't that big a fan of any Dragon Warrior game until I played DW4. It has nowhere near as much tedious level-building and features a unique chapter system that helps eliminate much of the aimless wandering that was present in the earlier DW games, because you always know what your goal is. In each chapter you play as a different character with different skills, and you're often given different tasks to complete. One chapter may have you trying to defeat a specific boss mosnter, while another has you set up shop as a merchant to make lots of money. DW4 has an interesting story that all comes together in the final chapter, and it's one heck of a good RPG!
Konami - NES
I remember playing Contra in arcades years ago, so imagine how floored I was when I found out I could play a pretty decent home version of it on my NES! The idea of Contra is very simple - a sidescrolling game in which you shoot at everything that moves. The game has some of the most precise play control ever. Although Contra is not as difficult as it's often made out to be (even without the 30-man code) it still offers a decent challenge, requiring quick reflexes to get through many of its toughest spots.
Konami - NES
GASP! Yes, I admit it, I like Super C a little more than Contra, for several reasons. First of all, I owned Super C first, so I became more fond of it. Second, it seems like Super C is a little more challenging than Contra, and I like the design of some of its levels better, such as the mountains and the final level (although Contra has a better final boss). I also prefer the overhead-view stages to Contra's "3D" bases. But basically, these are both great games that are good for a challenge (if you're new to them) or a quick play (if you've mastered them.)
ARC THE LAD: TWILIGHT OF THE SPIRITS
Sony/Cattle Call - Playstation2
Like Dark Savior, Arc the Lad 4 is one of those games that needed to be more than what it was, but what is there is really, really good. Arc 4 is a game that's a combination of strategy and traditional role-playing (like what you'd get if you mixed Aidyn Chronicles with Kartia and threw in a little Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy Mystic Quest). The battle system is fun and there are some decent boss fights (particularly the final boss if you're not overleveled when you reach it.) The story and characters are my second-favorite of any RPG right after Kartia, and in fact, I'd go so far as to say Bebedora and Maru are my favorite RPG characters ever, period.
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