Super Nintendo RPG Buyer’s Guide

Those of you who are long time readers of this site might remember that I usually don’t really like old-school RPGs. For example, I once referred to Final Fantasy VII as “Japanese menu torture”, and to celebrate Christmas one year, we revoked the seal of quality from the entire Phantasy Star series while also writing a detailed breakdown of everything we hate about the genre.

Sadly, the world as a whole doesn’t seem to embrace our completely logical argument that RPGs didn’t actually start adding gameplay until the late 90s, and as a result, many of the RPGs from the SNES era command high prices today. Which is why today we decided to look at some of the most valuable RPGs for the console, and in addition to revoking the seals of quality on account of them being boring-ass RPGs, we’ve provided a handy buyers guide showing how much it would cost to obtain these games, along with helpful suggestions of better uses for the money.

 

Paladin’s Quest

Paladin’s quest is a game about a Paladin, who goes on a quest, but is interrupted every two or three steps by belligerent slimes.

Price: $14, or about the price of a lunch at a nice Mexican restaurant. Either of these options will involve you picking stuff off of a menu, but only one of them offers choices that result in delicious nachos.

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Not to mention a chance to finally put what you learned in 7th grade Spanish class to good use.

Final Fantasy II

Final Fantasy II (or IV, thanks to Square’s insane understanding of how numbers work) is a lot like Game of Thrones in that both share a fantasy setting, frequently kill off central characters, and the final act takes place on the moon (just wait for Book 7: A Moon Over My Hammy, doubters)

Price: A fully boxed and instructioned copy of Final Fantasy II sells for about $75. For that much money, you could buy enough keyboard neckties to have some Kindergarten take one of the most regrettable class photos of all time.

 

Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars

Finally, a game for all of you Mario fans who have been waiting to experience the excitement of picking “Jump” off of a menu. Because, yes, that’s a thing you do in this game.

Price: If you’re willing to forgo a box and instructions, you can get a copy of Super Mario RPG for as little as $40. I’m not knowledgeable in such things, but friend of the site and occasional guest writer Bitterly Indifferent tells me this is enough to buy an orphan from an impoverished country that you can train to serve as a valet, or half an orphan from a less-impoverished country that you can train to serve as an end table. Bitterly also came up with the keyboard necktie class photo idea, so it’s entirely possible he just really hates children.

 

Breath of Fire

Breath of Fire features a protagonist who can turn into a dragon. Sadly, this does not turn all of your combat menu choices from things like “Fight” and “Magic”  into “RAAAAAAAAAARRGGHHHH!” and “SCRREEEEEEEEEEEE!”.

Price: Copies of Breath of Fire go for about $25. Or you could just buy Skyrim, which is also an RPG featuring dragons, and is actually, you know, fun. Plus you’d still have enough money left over to get those nachos we were discussing back during Paladin’s Quest.

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Suddenly, this is shaping up to be a much better evening.

Breath of Fire II

Breath of Fire II is an RPG so rare that for a while Stryker was convinced it was never actually released as a game, but only as a ROM uploaded to emulation sites as some kind of elaborate trick to identify game pirates. I guess in Stryker’s mind Capcom was going to host a SNES convention, and then have the FBI swoop in and arrest anyone who talked about how much they enjoyed playing BoF2. Or something. Stryker doesn’t always think these things through. Naturally, when someone came into his store with an actual copy to sell, he just HAD TO have it, and broke the bank with the highest payout in the history of his store, something like $12.

Price: Sadly, for those of you who didn’t own a failing used game store in the late 90s, you’ll probably have to look for it online, where complete copies of Breath of Fire 2 with box and instructions sell for a little over $100. Or, for a little less than that, you could get a surfing lesson, instead. There’s… no joke here. Surfing lessons just sound really fun.

Lufia & the Fortress of Doom

Lufia is most memorable for having an item called Sweet Water, which lowers the rate of random encounters to a level where you MIGHT not snap your controller in half after a few hours.

Price: A cartridge-only copy of Lufia will set you back $20. I couldn’t find anyone selling a complete copy presumably because, like me, everyone bought their copy of Lufia out of a bin of retired rental games at Blockbuster.

Back in my senior year of high school, I traded in my Genesis, all my Genesis games, and most of my SNES collection to get a Playstation. The night before, I stayed up until about 4am so that I could beat Lufia before trading it in. Don’t ask me why. Anyway, for the $20 it would cost you to buy Lufia, you could recreate my experience and pick up a Playstation along a copy of the first PSX game I ever bought, Destruction Derby, which is way more fun than Lufia. As an added bonus, the Playstation you buy probably won’t become a “skipstation” after 6 months like mine did.

 

Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals

“Sinistrals” are the bad guys, in case the name wasn’t obvious enough. And I believe a “Lufia” is one of those spongy things that you use to wash yourself in the shower.

Price: A copy of Lufia II complete with box and instructions will set you back $130. That’s the same price as a two foot alligator, a predator so perfectly evolved it hasn’t really changed much since the age of the dinosaurs. Then all you have to do is dig a trench around your house – which will probably take less time and be more fun than playing all the way through Lufia II, add water, and suddenly you live in a fortress surrounded by an alligator-filled moat.

 

Secret of the Stars

Secret of the Stars was made by Tecmo, and is best known for it’s hilariously bad translation, and it’s auto-battle feature, which is essentially an admission that few people actually want to “play” this damn game.

Price: A recent scan of Ebay showed Secret of the Stars cartridges selling for $25, which is slightly more than the cost of a “variety pack” of Combos, featuring 18 bags of the greatest snack food known to man. And while I appreciate a game that has bosses with names like “BAD BUNNY”, you’ll never convince me that’s more important than the opportunity to try every flavor of Combos that currently exists.

 

Robotrek

Robotrek is such a derivative and  unmemorable game that it doesn’t even get a little blurb on GameFAQs:

Robotrek

One unintended consequence of researching this article is that GameFAQs now thinks I like these damn games.

Price: Looks like you can get Robotrek for about $40. Or you could buy five or six cookie cakes, which is about the most you can safely eat in a year without giving yourself Type II Diabetes.

 

Chrono Trigger

Although it’s considered by many to be Square’s greatest achievement, I never got into Chrono Trigger the way I did Final Fantasy VI. Maybe it’s because unlike FF6, I didn’t play Chrono Trigger until after Baldur’s Gate had already spoiled all other JRPGs for me. Or maybe it was the part where I got stuck in a rock fortress and had to fight the same “optional” battle against dinosaurs about 5,000 times. Yeah, it was probably that.

Price: Copies of the game go for $50 for just the cart, but seeing as the game is has been made available for the Playstation, the PS3, the Nintendo DS and even your phone, I’m assuming most people going the SNES route are collectors who are going to want a complete copy, which is closer to $120. In most cities, this is less than the fees you’d have to pay to adopt a kitten from the SPCA. So think about that, RPG enthusiasts – while you’re sitting there commanding a ridiculous frog-man to attack stuff with a sword, some adorable kitten is sitting alone, unloved, in a cage at an animal shelter.

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All it wants to do is shower you with affection.

EarthBound

Despite being published by Nintendo and promoted pretty well, Earthbound didn’t put up huge sales numbers. But to the few people who have played it, it is a cult classic, beloved by fans for it’s humor, unusual weapons, and the parts where you mercilessly beat dogs with sticks until they become tame.

Price: Cartridge-only copies of Earthbound go for $155, while a complete one will set you back a reality-shattering $360. That’s only $40 less than the price of a brand-new PS4. But for the truly insane, there are also brand-new, unopened copies selling on Amazon for $6,000.

A quick scan of autotrader.com show that you can easily get a Porsche for that much money. Look, I’m not going to tell you how to spend your money, but one of those things is a car, says “Porsche” on it, and will get you laid. And the other is a 20 year old video game about children fighting space aliens, your enthusiasm for which will have everyone you know secretly thinking that you’re a weirdo. Don’t overthink this.

 

Anyway, it’s good to be back and updating the site again. New article on the 23rd, and we’ll see where it goes from there.

Pirates! Gold

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Grade: A+
Ranking in Sega Genesis Top 50: 1st
Publisher: Microprose
Year: 1993
Genre: Pirates!

Pirates! Gold is one of those rare games that was so far ahead of its time it doesn’t even seem possible. The mostly unstructured, non-linear, open world game – which combines aspects of the action, strategy and business genres – feels like it should have been more than the humble Sega Genesis could handle, and that even it could, it would have been far too advanced conceptually for a generation of gamers used to playing stuff like Streets of Rage and Sonic the Hedgehog; like a tribe of cavemen suddenly coming into contact with an aircraft carrier. Or a typical Genesis owner coming into contact with an aircraft carrier, for that matter. It’s a truly groundbreaking title with such a completely fresh perspective that it gave us ways to play that we didn’t merely think weren’t possible, but had never even conceived of.

Well… unless you played the original Pirates!, that is.

Pirates Gold025Pirates! Gold is actually the new-and-improved version of Pirates!, a PC game originally released in 1987 by genius game designer Sid Meier (this hopefully explains the reason for the otherwise insane use of an exclamation mark in the middle of the title). And if you think about how revolutionary Pirates! Gold seems for a Genesis game, just imagine something like that appearing on the NES, which it totally did. Having been shown the future of video games, both gamers and game developers of the mid-80s responded with a collective shrug – the game sold decently (on the PC, anyway), but wasn’t a blockbuster. Only a handful of other games showed any kind of influence from it, and video game pirates (as in, pirates that appear in video games, not dudes who illegally copy video games) were once again relegated to taking roles as flamboyantly dressed characters in terrible platforming games.

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Which is way less fun than leaning on a crate and scowling all day.

Still, you can’t keep a good idea down, and six years later Pirates! came roaring back to the PC and Genesis, with improved graphics, music that actually kind of sounded like music, and an impressive “Gold” at the end of it’s title. The gameplay was improved, but not too drastically, because when you’ve got a game where you play as a pirate and sail around a geographically accurate recreation of the Caribbean while getting into sword fights and stealing people’s gold and ships, there honestly isn’t very much to improve upon.

Pirates Gold039Pirates! Gold is great for a lot of reasons, but its most appealing feature has always been the freedom that it gives you. You can side with one nation and fight on their behalf, play each faction against each other, or just be a bloodthristy pirate who attacks everybody and then has a lot of trouble finding places to sell all those bags of sugar he keeps stealing. Those of you looking for a non-violent option can even play as a trader, buying goods at low prices and sailing to other cities to sell them for a profit. That’s actually pretty boring, but honestly, if you’re the kind of person who would think to play a game about pirates that way in the first place, it’s probably about all the excitement your tender heart can handle anyway, Princess.

Pirates Gold004While this freedom is awesome, it also makes it a little easy to get distracted at times, so it’s a good idea to have a goal in mind. Are you trying to complete all ten pirate quests? Reach the highest rank of nobility with all four nations? Get together the biggest ship and crew you possibly can? As your character ages, the game becomes more difficult – and eventually impossible – so there is something of a time limit in the game, and you’re not going to be able to do it all in one playthrough. Therefore, it can be helpful to focus on whatever is most important to you and set an appropriate goal, something that really works with how you want to play the game and what pathway you find to be most rewarding.

For example, Stryker and I made it our goal to marry this chick:

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Catalina?

Now, our reasons for wanting to do this may seem kind of obvious, and longtime readers of this site may remember that we have a certain fondness for buxom redheads. But there’s more to this that meets the eye. In Pirates! Gold, not all ladies look alike, and the prettier the woman you want to marry, the rarer she is and the more accomplished you need to be before she’ll notice you. In this particular case, we’re probably going to have to wreck havoc all over the Caribbean and get a rum named after us before she notices us (by the way, here’s some quick advice for real life: it’s probably not a great idea to pursue a woman who only recognizes mascots from liquor bottles). So by making this our goal, we’re actually setting ourselves up to experience the majority of the game.

Plus, you know, if we succeed we get to marry a superhot redhead. So there’s that.

Pirates Gold001The first thing you do in Pirates! Gold is create a character, and since our goal was to seduce a beautiful woman, we based all of our decisions on what we felt would create maximum sex appeal. For historical period, we went with “The Buccaneer Heroes”, which represents a brief time during the mid 1600s when pirates were looked up to and admired; as opposed to pretty much all the rest of human history when they were generally thought of as smelly murderers with questionable dental hygiene. For nationality, we chose French (naturally), and for special ability, we went with wit & charm, which seemed like a better choice for getting a girl to like us than, say, navigation. Plus, we liked the idea of our character distracting an opponent in the middle of an intense sword fight with a humorous remark (this is about 90% of how I play defense in pick-up hockey games).

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To seal the deal, we also named our pirate after notorious ladies man Gary Sinise.

Of course, before you can woo the most attractive woman in the world, you have to, you know, actually know where she is (I swear, this was always my problem in high school, too… well, that and also, possibly, that I wouldn’t shut up about Genesis games). Finding her is kind of tricky, because all the marriageable women in the game are daughters of governors, who keep them hidden away and will only introduce them to people they like. To modern reader, that might seem overly protective and paternalistic, but it actually makes a lot of sense in a world where nearly all of the population is male, and the #1 profession of choice is killing people and stealing their money. If I had a daughter in that situation, I’d probably try to prevent her from meeting random strangers, too.

Unfortunately, it’s not very easy to impress a governor in this game. You can’t just make a whole lot of money trading between colonies and then donate the profits to the governor’s re-election campaign like you would today. You can capture some pirates, and sometimes one of the governors will ask you to deliver a message for him – because despite being notorious thieves and killers, pirates still remained trusted mail carriers – but both events are fairly rare occurrences that only impress the rulers a little bit. If you really want to get in good with a governor, meet his daughter, and rack up some impressive titles and lands while you’re at it, you’re going to need to find out who that country is at war with and then start pirating the shit out of them.

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Which was the official term for it in pirate days. As in “surrender or we will pirate the shit out of you.”

In the time period we chose, Spain is at war with both France and England, with the Dutch having an alliance with France, but not the kind of alliance where they actually fight Spain together. I guess it’s more of an alliance where France comes over to the Dutch’s house to watch a game or something, and complains about Spain the whole time, while the Dutch just kind of nod sympathetically but never really get involved, because they don’t want to deal with all that nonsense. The Caribbean in the 17th century was a lot like high school – Spain is the jocks, France is the stoners, England is the preppies, and the Dutch are, well, the Dutch are whatever clique you had in your high school that there were only like two kids in, because seriously, the Dutch generally only get two or three cities in almost every scenario. On the flip side, they still have some of those colonies today in real life, making them the only European country with even a slim chance of ever winning the World Baseball Classic.

Pirates Gold037In a normal game of Pirates! Gold, it’s advantageous to side with the French and English and fight the Spanish, because the Spanish control most of the cities and have the most money, and  there’s more profit to be made robbing the guys who already have money, as opposed to robbing the poor on their behalf. It’s not a game about Wall St., after all. But the marriage aspect alters this logic a bit, because by having the most cities, Spain also has the most governors, the most governor’s daughters, and therefore the highest chance of being home to the hot redhead. The counterargument to that however, is that it’s going to be hard to impress the Spanish governors with so few French or English targets to choose from. The only people who have ever gotten famous from plundering Haiti over and over have been its presidents.

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Hmmm, Santa Claus is actually kind of mean.

The gameplay in Pirates! Gold is probably best described as inexplicably fun. There’s no reason for the game to be this enjoyable – it’s repetitive and a bit on the easy side, with each battle made up of two minigames – ship to ship (or ship to fort) battles, and sword fighting. Neither of these is particularly deep; the ship fighting is largely matter of reaching your target as quickly as possible to trigger the sword fight, and the sword fight, well, let’s just say it ain’t exactly Soul Calibur. And yet, it’s a lot of fun to do. While it’s tempting to claim that Sid Meier somehow figured out the two most fun things in the entire world, then boiled them down to their purest essence in minigame form, it’s probably safer to say that these action sequences are really a distraction, and the true game lies in the strategy that takes place between battles – managing your crew, figuring the best targets to attack at a given time, and knowing when to return to friendly ports to resupply and collect your rewards. Remember, time is always against you, so while swashbuckling and sailing the high seas might get all the attention, at its heart, this game is really all about cold, ruthless efficiency.

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And pirating the shit out of Spain.

In addition to plundering gold after a successful raid on a ship or town, you also have the ability to help yourself to their food, sugar, and trade goods. Sugar and goods are merely for reselling, while food is necessary for keeping your crew from starving, making it critically important. When you’re surrounded by professional murderers, it’s best to keep them from getting too hungry. For this reason, I usually just take all the food and leave the sugar and goods behind. While this is surely an additional disaster for the town I’ve just plundered, I like to imagine them using the sugar to bake a series of cakes to stay alive until the next harvest or  food shipment arrives. I am the notorious (not to mention charming and witty) Captain Sinise, raiding the Spanish Main, and leaving a trail of diabetes and tooth decay in my wake.

Pirates Gold009We could go on and on at great detail about the other features, visuals, music (which is amazing), and just how great this game is, but we’ve never really been that kind of a site. If you really want a thorough, serious review, here’s a good one. But really, all you need to know is this: Nearly five years ago, we decided to come up with a list of the Top 50 Genesis games, starting with a list of all 707 games that were released for the system in the US. We played all 707 games (except one), and 706 times we asked ourselves “Is this game better than Pirates! Gold?”. And all 706 times, that answer has been no. A few – very few – came close, but none ever managed to surpass it.

Pirates! Gold is the best Genesis game ever made.

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They still pick their governors this way in Florida.

Availability: Pirates! Gold isn’t available for download on any of the current-gen consoles, but there was a remake in 2005, called Sid Meier’s Pirates!  for the PC and Xbox (which works on the Xbox 360), and later the Wii, and iPad. The remake is actually really good, and mostly faithful to the source material, with nearly every aspect of the original gameplay intact, but also more fleshed out, so the game is a bit deeper. I honestly can’t say which version I like better – sometimes I prefer the quicker, simpler, and slightly more charming Genesis game, and sometimes I like to play the somewhat more complex Xbox version. Either way, it’s certainly a worthy remake and I would recommend it to anyone interested in the game but unable to play it on the Genesis.

Pirates Gold011Those of you looking for a Genesis version might have to do a little bit of searching. The game wasn’t really well-known back when it came out, so copies today are somewhat rare. That doesn’t mean that it will be prohibitively expensive, though. A decent used copy might cost as little as ten bucks, and even ones with the box and instructions can be had for about $25. There are certainly more expensive copies floating around out there, but for the most part, it looks like the days of selling a single copy of Pirates! Gold on eBay to fund your retirement are over. This is good news for gamers, though not necessarily for me and Stryker.

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This is pretty much what shopping in Stryker’s  game store was like.

One last thing: So that’s it – after nearly 5 years, we’ve now played and written about every single Sega Genesis game released in North America. Stryker and I just want to offer a big “Thank You” to all the readers who have stuck with since the beginning, as well as to the many others who have joined us along the way. I sincerely hope we made you laugh, mostly because the thought of anyone reading our poorly-written, barely researched, misshapen piles of words and thinking they were our best effort at serious journalism is pretty depressing.

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Summer Vacation

After almost 5 years of Genesis discussions, 707 games, and a Top 50 countdown that frequently made us question our sanity, on June 20th we’ll finally have gotten to the last game.

And after that? Who knows.

Just like in high school, BHG is taking a long summer vacation. And also like in high school, most of that time will probably be spent playing 16-bit games and listening to grunge bands. Unlike high school, I’m not sure if or when I’m coming back.

Sorry to leave all of our dedicated fans with that kind of uncertainty, but after all this time we need a rest. Quite frankly, we’re out of jokes. Plus we’ll need to play some more games, or else there’s not going to be much to talk about. I suppose a website where we talk about games we’ve been meaning to play but haven’t gotten a chance to yet, where we are never funny would be kind of unique and avant-garde, but it probably would be much fun to read.

Also, I want to take a quick moment to recognize two people. When a successful comedian talks about who inspired them to go into comedy, they almost always mention some famous comedy legends. None of them ever say “The kid who sat behind me in 8th grade Biology” or “the third baseman from my little league team.” Well, I am no successful comedian – I write an unpopular blog about Genesis games that about half of our readers (or in mathematical terms, three) don’t even realize is meant to be funny – and my biggest inspirations really are the kid who sat behind me in Biology class, Chris Palistrant, and the third baseman from my little league team, Drew Novak.

Prior to meeting those guys, I wasn’t someone who tried to be funny. But being around both of them, seeing how much fun they seemed to have, how much better they could make the people around them feel, and how they could turn something miserable, like a lecture on Gregor Mendel or a winless baseball season, and make it fun, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.

Anyway, I haven’t seen either of them in a long time (actually, I haven’t seen Drew since our last baseball game, and doubt he’d remember me), but if they’re out there, Googling themselves or whatever, thanks guys.

WCW Mayhem

Alright, WCW Mayhem is about as mediocre and uninteresting as wrestling games get, so rather than talk about that, here’s DDP’s entrance video – hey, it’s my website, so if I feel like posting a video of Diamond Dallas Page, well, that’s what you’re going to get:

You know, I don’t think I’d ever be comfortable with dressing myself entirely in stuff that has pictures of me on it to have ever made it as a pro wrestler. Also, I’m 99% sure that song was the result of somebody getting their first guitar, trying to learn how to play “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, screwing up, and then deciding hey, good enough for an entrance music, I mean who cares, it’s DDP.

Self High Five!

Alphabet-specific Eliminations in Brief

Today’s 10 Eliminations all come from the letters D through I. We apologize to our readers who prefer more alphabetic variety in their reading.

ESPN Sunday Night NFL – This is the worst thing to happen to Sunday nights since America’s Funniest People.

Frantic Flea – Hey, could you make a game where you play as a flea who stars in horrendous SNES games? Because according to these oddly specific surveys, that’s what our customers want.

GP-1: Part II – Believe it or not, not everything Atlus has published was a quirky RPG with a cult following. They also published terrible, terrible motorcycle games.

Family Dog – If this game was an actual dog, the people responsible for it would have been arrested for cruelty. And actually, they probably still should be.

Family Dog (U)000

Daffy Duck: The Marvin Missions – I think it’s safe to say that once you make a game based entirely on Daffy Duck’s “Duck Dodgers” character, you’ve mined that Looney Tunes license for about all that you possibly can.

Dragon’s Lair – This is what you would get if Castlevania was loosely based on an 80s arcade game nobody liked and then designed for gamers with no hands.

Final Fantasy Mystic Quest – If all the Final Fantasy games were the options in a JRPG battle, Mystic Quest would be “defend” – the one nobody in  their right mind ever picks off the menu.

GunForce – Even if this game was awesome (and holy cow, it’s NOT), naming it GunForce would probably still be a good enough reason to eliminate it.

HyperZone – Do you love video games, but hate they way they often make you, you know, do stuff? Boy, have we got the game for you!

Imperium – I understand that it’s hard for a shooter to stand out from the crowd, but “make it as boring as possible” probably wasn’t the best way for this game to differentiate itself.