Guardian force (without the ‘force’).

Guardian - Box art
Guardian box art (this is for the CD32 version, but the A1200 one was pretty much the same, albeit in a bigger box).

Title: Guardian
Format: Amiga 1200
Release date: 1994
Obtained: 1994
Place of purchase: Uncertain
Price: Uncertain (but probably circa £20)
Completed?: No

Bought on the strength of a review in the mighty AMIGA POWER, Guardian was a pretty nifty clone of ye olde arcade game Defender, but with graphics in super-whizzo-3D. By that I mean ‘3D’ in the rather 2D sense that we understood in back in the mid-1990s, rather than ‘3D’ nowadays which is actually 3D. The visuals were impressive for the time and the hardware, as the graphic chipset in the Amiga hadn’t really been designed to push polygons around at break-neak speed, though today that look unbelievably simplistic. Alas, this was one of those games I never got very far in and never played very much, mainly because it was damned hard, not helped by the fact I was using keyboard and mouse controls when the it had really been designed for the Amiga CD32’s controller. As a result, I have very little indeed to say about this. Guardian, then: it was a game I played. For a bit. Years ago.

Guardian
Guardian, guarding things. With guns.

Duck Tales – Tales about ducks

Just to note, this blog was originally written a few weeks ago when we actually thought we might have a proper summer rather than the damp, grey disappointment we appear to be graced with.

Duck Tales boxart (I never actually owned the box, though)
Duck Tales boxart (I never actually owned the box, though)

Title: Duck Tales
Format: Game Boy
Release date: 1990
Obtained: Unsure – probably circa 1992/1993
Place of purchase: Swapped
Price: N/A
Completed?: Yes

The rather clement weather of late has made me think of games that remind me of summer. One of these is Duck Tales on the Game Boy. Actually, most GB games bring summer to mind, since the handheld invariably got the most use in the holidays which I’d usually spend with my Grandma and Grandad whilst my parents were at work.

Duck Tales was one of those games that I’d temporarily swapped for something else, but that something never cam back, and so the cartridge remains in my possession to this day.I think the ‘something else’ in this case was Super Mario Land 2, but I’m not entirely sure.

I’m fairly certain that the GB version of the game – a pretty well-known Capcom platformer – was almost a like-for-like conversion of the NES original, albeit a tad greener and perhaps with the absence of a level or so. It involved a lot of bouncing around on Scrooge McDuck’s curiously spring-loaded walking stick, much stealing of treasure and a substantial amount of eating ice creams in such locales as Transylvania and the Moon. Immense fun, if a little short-lived. I seem to recall completing the game on many occasions, with each play-through only taking an hour or thereabouts.

Scrooge McDuck doing some physics-defying walking-cane-based gymnastics
Scrooge McDuck doing some physics-defying walking-cane-based gymnastics

Every child of my age of course remembers the cartoon, a staple of afternoon and Saturday morning television throughout the late 80s and early 90s. Personally I never rated it as highly as the later Darkwing Duck (which I think also spawned an NES game that I never played), but it was nevertheless great animated-duck-based fun. Oh, and the theme tune was a little bit catchy too.

Skyward Sword: It’s a sword that’s pointing up. To the sky.

Zelda: Skyward Sword boxart
Zelda: Skyward Sword boxart

Title: Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
Format: Wii
Release date: 2011
Obtained: Christmas 2011
Place of purchase: Gift
Price: N/A
Completed?: Yes

I finished Skyward Sword just the other day, and thought I’d try to put some thoughts down about it. It was, in turns, one of the most amazing and one of the most frustrating games I’ve ever played. Let’s deal with the frustrations first… A big part of my problems lies with the motion controls. I won’t lie, I have a problem with such controls in general that problem stems back to my extreme idleness. Swiping the Wii Remote to launch an attack is fun most of the time, but becomes very tiring after a while in a way that traditionally-controlled games don’t. And whilst it’s a credit to Nintendo’s developers that Link’s actions so closely mirror your own physical ones, sometimes your movements result in the wrong attack, or just aren’t picked up quickly enough, and there are a few battles in the game where this becomes quite important.

Link, kicking some butt
Link, kicking some butt

The game also suffers from a level of hand-holding that is quite often over-the-top, but weirdly at some times irritatingly non-existent when you need it the most. I’ve read a few comments elsewhere about the stating-the-bleeding-obvious nature of Fi, your sort-of robotic sword-based companion, and depressingly it’s all fairly accurate. A typical exchange involving Fi goes like this:

Random other character: Well, in order to get through here you’re going to need to find a way past this door.

Fi: Master, I estimate with a 90% probability that in order to proceed you will need to find a way past the door.

Gee, thanks.

There are other bits in the game as well where the exposition and frilliness of the game gets in the way of actually playing it. Towards the end of the game I kept wanting to buy some heart potions, which isn’t a difficult task but does involve a fair amount of tedium. To whit:

  • Find a bird statue;
  • Return to the sky;
  • Flap your arm about like an idiot to move your bird towards Skyloft where the only potion shop in the world is located;
  • Land in Skyloft;
  • Traipse towards the bazaar;
  • Move towards the potion store and twiddle the analogue stick until the context arrow hovers over the red potion (which isn’t always easy to tell given the camera perspective);
  • Press the A button to examine it and have to sit through the same two-page explanation of what it is from the store owner (even though she’s sold it to me fifty times before);
  • Move the remote across to the ‘Okay’ button to confirm that I want to purchase it;
  • Watch Link scoop up some of the potion;
  • Watch Link do a little ‘ta-da!’ pose with his newly-purchased item and read a description of what it does (again) and how to use it;
  • Read some more dialogue from the shop owner who tells you that you can get your potion infused if you scoot down to her husband at the end of the shop;
  • Repeat ad nauseum.

Really – is all of that necessary? Surely at some point during play-testing somebody must have mentioned that maybe, just maybe, this was all utterly monotonous after you’ve watched it for the umpteenth time? Apparently not.

But, you know what, it’s still a phenomenally good game. The puzzles in the game are as cunning as ever, and are usually a joy to figure out. There’s relatively little moving of blocks from one place to another, and more using items and the environment in clever ways. The puzzles in the Lanayru Desert region, involving timeshift stones that change the environment, are a particular highlight and it’s a lot of fun to make your way through the game in general.

The storyline – often something I’ve found to be pretty weak in Zelda titles – is also pretty good. Yeah, it’s the usual ‘Zelda gets kidnapped’ business, but as a prequel to the other Zelda games it works well, and there’s even a fair bit of character development going on. Sure, it’s not going to win any Booker prizes and there’s a few too many MacGuffins around, but by the end you’ll find yourself caring about the characters and wanting to know more about their lives (maybe a handheld sequel is a good idea, Nintendo?).

I’d perhaps grown a little disillusioned with Zelda after Twilight Princess, which I felt was just a little too similar to previous titles, but Skyward Sword has reignited my passion for what is surely one of the best game series around.