Playing through some of these Ambassador games, I'm starting to realize that a lot of NES games... aren't that great. A lot of them really don't hold up today- really, were they ever that great to begin with? Ice Climbers, for example, doesn't even really play that well. Why is it still celebrated today as one of Nintendo's classic franchises?
Of course, you also have games like Super Mario Bros. 3 or Mega Man that will always be great. Mega Man 9 was a genius move by Capcom- but I get the feeling that if Nintendo did the same thing with Balloon Fight, it wouldn't be quite as well-recieved.
Yep, "Ice Climber" for the name of the game, "Ice Climbers" for the characters.
I don't really agree that they haven't held up well--as a whole, I find that all the games still contain plenty of elements of good design, fun characters and solid music. Most of these are definitely older NES games too--besides Zelda II, Yoshi, and Open Tournament Golf, all the games are from 1986 or earlier. So most of them won't have the beefiness of Mega Man 3, Kirby's Adventure or Dragon Warrior IV.
From my playtime so far, I'd rate the games as such:
10) NES Open Tournament Golf - Seems pretty in-depth but I'm terrible at it. I've only played for 10 minutes so far, so this is up in the air.
9) Ice Climber - Cute characters and a nice concept, but the controls have a majorly negative effect on the game. With better controls, this would be a stand-out.
8) Donkey Kong Jr. - A surprisingly well-designed and clever game. The levels absolutely have that air of complexity that Donkey Kong '94 contained...but there're only four of them. Multiply that number of stages by 25 and you've got DK94.
7) Yoshi - I've always enjoyed this decent NES puzzler. It's a little on the easy and simplistic side, but there's definitely a thrill to stacking a Yoshi egg full of enemies to get the star Yoshi. Try doing two at once!
6) Balloon Fight - Pretty much immediately enjoyable, with two fun modes and nice controls. These old arcade games with multiple stages would've benefited from save features. Wrecking Crew and Ice Climber let you pick your stage, but that feels a bit like cheating to me.
5) Wrecking Crew - The surprise hit for me! Once you get a hand on the mechanics, it can get seriously compelling, particularly after the 10th or so floor when things start getting really hairy. The golden hammer is pretty much impossible to get, but once you nab it, it's crazy fun to use. 100 stages makes for a super-beefy game, and a lot of this game reminds me of DK94 (again). Nice action, nice puzzles. Some minor quirks mar the package slightly. But hey! Design mode!
4) Zelda II: The Adventure of Link - This black sheep has held up surprisingly well. It's actually pretty addictive jumping back in and maximizing your character growth, and the game as a whole is quite large and packed with gameplay. I don't think it really gets particularly hard until the very last areas, so give it a shot. Quite fun.
3) Metroid - This one shows its age a bit, but I still play through it every couple of years. The isolation and cold, alien feel of the environments is done even better than in its remake, IMO (although Zero Mission has the upper hand in pretty much every other area). The controls are actually rather fluid, despite some quirks, and a surprising number of creative power-ups and series standards started here. The maze-like design is kind of a bummer, but it's always rewarding entering a corridor playing the familiar elevator room music (that way you know you're close to an item).
2) Super Mario Bros. - Well obviously. Beaten this one dozens of times, I'm sure. There're countless things this game does right, and it's still enjoyable to play today. Unfortunately, the 3DS's controls don't help things, with the squeaky D-pad, tiny buttons, and start/select silliness. Not to mention the B/A nonsense. But hey, the game itself is still great, and a particularly fun challenge to run through without warps. Have you seen all 32 levels? They're good stuff.
1) The Legend of Zelda - I'll never tire of this game. There's just so much to do, and so many ways to do it, that it's the gift that keeps on givin'. What other game can you tackle stages in reverse order, do a minimalist run, play through (almost) the entire game without the hero's main weapon, then do it all again in its surprisingly detailed and challenging Second Quest? Not to mention all the innovation it brought with it, complete with the beloved cast of Nintendo's most legendary series. This game will always be a masterpiece, and I'm thrilled to have it on the go whenever I want to bomb some dodongos.
Yep, "Ice Climber" for the name of the game, "Ice Climbers" for the characters.
And now kris' post makes sense.
I need to play more of Open Tournament Golf, but for the most part I agree with your list. I'd bump Zelda II up to the #2 spot though. Wrecking Crew reminds me of Donkey Kong '94 too! You '94 fans need to play more Manic Miner!
Super Mario Bros. is timeless. Playing it now, though, I'm realizing how far 2D Mario has come, and how much has been added to the series in each game. It's still a quality game, but it feels kinda bare and straightforward compared to the games that came later.
The Legend of Zelda holds up because none of the other games in the series are quite like it. If Link to the Past had no sequence restrictions and required the player to draw/consult an overworld map, THEN the original LOZ would feel outdated. As it is, though, it's has an '80s old-school style that the rest of the series lacks (or has surpassed, depending on your preferences).
Dunno about Zelda II: Adventure of Link, I've only played for a few minutes.
I think Balloon Fight holds up fine, especially as a quick arcade-style multiplayer game. Easy to understand, simple controls, fast fun. It could use some more mode variety, but it's fine as it is.
Ice Climber definitely shows its age. The unclear edges and demanding controls are frustrating. I have to play some more of it, though, I think I stopped around the fourth mountain or so.
Wrecking Crew has surprised me. A friend was very disappointed with the game when I gifted it to him over the Wii Shop Channel, but I'm really enjoying it.
NES Open Tournament Golf is a golf game. It works like most golf games do. I guess that means it's fine.
I don't think Metroid holds up well at all.
Donkey Kong Jr. could use some more stages. Stiff controls aside, it's pretty cool.
I'm not big on puzzle games, and Yoshi doesn't seem especially notable or experimental in the genre. It plays fine though, I guess.
From the ones I've tried on the 3DS Virtual Console:
Super Mario Bros.: Holds up very well. Gameplay and music are awesome, and the graphics looks great (if dated). I can't get the 1up trick to work however.
The Legend of Zelda: This one holds up great too. It's still as fun but it's easier to beat since I remember most of the secrets.
Donkey Kong Jr.: It's cool but it's very short. I really want to play the original, though. I hope they give us the European Complete Version.
Metroid: I didn't play this game much when I was a kid, but I remember it being very difficult. Nothing has changed at all. For some reason, it feels better playing it in the 3DS screen too. The suspend feature also helps a lot. I can't wait to get save states.
I haven't played a lot of Nintendo's really old console games, mainly because they never seemed that interesting to me. I've yet to play Ice Climber or Excitebike or Balloon Fighter or any of those other games. I should play them though, just to see how I feel about them. Of the ones I have played, I really like Wrecking Crew and Super Mario Bros., and I recently warmed up to Zelda. I haven't played Metroid in a long time though, so it's possible I may not hate it the next time I try. Maybe I should give it another go. I should also give Zelda II a try someday, since it's one of the few Zelda games I have yet to beat.
I think a lot of the early games don't hold up particularly well. Wrecking Crew, Balloon Fight, Ice Climber, etc. They are (kinda) fun diversions for a few minutes, but I can't play them for much longer than that. Which I think is fine - that's all they were meant to be in the first place, I think. There are some exceptions to the rule, like Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr.. Donkey Kong 3 not so much.... at least IMO.
The classics will always remain classics of course. Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Punch-Out!... *maybe* Metroid. 3rd party classics still hold up today, too. Contra, Castlevania, Mega Man, Pac-Man, Bomberman, R.C. Pro-AM, Battletoads, Double Dragon, River City Ransom etc. And pretty much all the games that the Happy Video Game Nerd has covered. (Metal Storm, Nightshade, Star Tropics, Clash at Demon Head, etc.)
The "later-life" NES games hold up well. The stuff in the early, early days? Eh. Hit and miss.
Also, I found I really enjoyed Yoshi. That's a surprisingly fun puzzle game, and my favorite Ambassador Title.
The idea of games "holding up" is kind of foreign to me. The games that were fun for me back when I originally played them (SMB, Zelda, etc.) are still fun. The games that were boring for me back when I originally played them (Ice Climber, Excite Bike, etc.) are still boring. I guess the only thing that's different is there's more alternatives. If you had an NES and Ice Climber was one of your few games, you'd probably play it quite a bit despite its boringness. Nowadays you can recognize it from the beginning and there's thousands of better games to play out there, many for free.
For me, the NES was never my main source of gaming (PC was) so when I played NES at my friends' houses I would play the games that I found fun and steer clear of the ones that I found boring. So my opinion of Ice Climber remains pretty much unchanged.
I can think of one game I really liked back in the days that I tried to replay recently and really couldn't get into. Little Nemo the Dream Master. I was really into all of the animal riding and such but now it just feels like an uber basic game.
It's tough to nail down what makes a game pass the test of time. Having great controls is a big one, I suppose. A lot of NES games had controls that are tough to stomach now.
Ice Climber is probably the worst of the bunch for me. Out of the ones I haven't played, NES Open Tournament Golf and Wrecking Crew, they seem fine. The Golf seems a bit tough to get at first but it doesn't seem as if it's broken or anything once you get it. Wrecking Crew is also a fun arcade style game that controls well enough.
The only one I have a bit of a hard time getting used to is Metroid for its lack of crouching and shooting in other directions other than left right and up. The Legend of Zelda is a lot harder than I remember it being though.
Before you start your shot, you can choose the strength at which you swing. The higher it is, the faster the meter will move but when you swing slower, you lose quite a bit of distance. Kind of turned me off though and I'd much prefer to play the GBA Mario Golf game instead of this anyway.
@VofEscaflowne I was unaware of this. Anyhow, I doubt I'll play this game much. I love golf games, but I feel like they are one genre that has just gotten better and better with time, and there really isn't much of a reason to go back to this game.
DK Jr. is definitely still fun, but I think it doesn't hold up simply by being so short and with little replay value.
I also don't think Ice Climber is considered a classic, or even a franchise, by anyone who played the game back when it was new. Their appearance in Smash was pretty surprising, really, and did more for the profile of the Ice Climbers than the original game ever did. I mean, look, there are a bunch of hardcore Nintendo fans on this board who don't even get the name of the game right. That's pretty much all the proof you need that Ice Climber isn't being treated as a classic by any of us.
For myself, I played Ice Climber at my cousin's house back when I was a kid. I have fond memories of it, but the nostalgia doesn't blind me to the game's faults. If you ever hear me call Ice Climber a classic, what I'm really saying is the nostalgia for Ice Climber is classic, not the game.
In general, I don't think many of us suffer the delusion that those old black box games are better than they are. The better ones - Super Mario Bros, Metroid, Kid Icarus - are classics to varying degrees. But mostly the black box games are simply the connective tissue between the old Atari way of doing things and the oncoming Nintendo approach. Playing those games is sort of like listening to bootlegs of the Beatles playing at the Star Club in Hamburg. Primarily your interest is going to be historical.
In a way, I think Nintendo hurts their own reputation by rereleasing these ROMS. A cheap remake of Ice Climber that fixes some of the collision detection issues and adds some new gameplay ideas would do more for the Ice Climbers property than just porting the clumsy original ROM and letting the whole world see all the pimples.
I think you can have nostalgia for characters and games and such even if you didn't particularly like them. They just remind you of the era as a whole, and you get all warm and fuzzy inside. I think this is why Nintendo put the Ice Climbers in Smash Brothers. I doubt the game has many big fans, but I think the era has a ton of big fans, so why not throw in some of the lesser represented games?