Q*bert 3, Super Nintendo

Q*Bert 3 was developed by Realtime Associates and released in 1992, and it was a bit of a missed opportunity in some respects.

The SNES could’ve done a great follow-on from Q*Bert, but instead we get an animated technicolor yawn… The first backdrop – the blue skies and clouds – is brilliant. Love it. After that it’s a procession of mind-bending colour schemes and patterns – it’s just too much! Every now and then you might get a less garish backdrop, but they’re rare.

Which is a pity because the underlying mechanics of Q*Bert 3 are fine. A bit dull maybe, but still fine. I just don’t think that the game is as imaginative – or as good – as it should have been. Especially graphically. Whoever designed (most of) the backgrounds was out of control… Jeff Lee – creator of Q*Bert himself – worked on the graphics for this game. Maybe it was him? ūüôā

Never mind. Q*Bert 3 is what it is. An alright game. Certainly no classic, but fun for a short while (ie. until it leaves you blind…)

More: Q*Bert 3 on Wikipedia

Frogger, Arcade

Konami‘s Frogger was released into video game arcades in 1981 and was an instant hit with gamers.

The basic premise of Frogger is to guide a hopping frog over a road and a river, to reach a safe haven on the other side. The road is full of dangerous traffic that will squish the frog on contact. The only way of crossing the river is by jumping on a series of floating logs that move from left to right at varying speeds. It’s basically an amphibian assault course…

Get five frogs to their homes on the other side and you complete the stage. Bonus points are also awarded for catching and guiding other frogs home.

Every new stage sees the introduction of new and more dangerous hazards. The first stage is relatively easy, with a quiet road and fewer dangers on the river (there are diving turtles that you can only stand on for a limited time). By the second stage, the road is much busier, and there are now alligators to contend with on the water. Later stages also introduce otters and snakes as frog predators. There are so many ways to die in this game…

Frogger is a very simple game to play (requiring only a single joystick – no fire button needed), but feels very satisfying – the game is a masterwork of timing and design and is both challenging and absorbing. Frogger has seen a number of sequels over the years, plus the usual torrent of clones and tributes. It is undoubtedly one of the best and most fondly-remembered games of the early arcade years, and is still worth a play today.

More: Frogger on Wikipedia

Final Fantasy VI Advance, Game Boy Advance

Final Fantasy VI Advance was released in Japan in 2006, and 2007 in English language territories. It’s a remake of the Super Nintendo original, developed by a Japanese company called Tose.

It has to be said: Tose did a great job with the remakes, and this final, fourth release cements that fact. The 4:3 screen ratio of the original has been replaced by the 240×160 widescreen ratio of the Game Boy Advance, which means that the graphics have been re-drawn and re-scaled to fit the new screen ratio. They’re essentially the same, though, with some colour enhancements. The story, plot, and other original elements all remain the same.

The best enhancement in Final Fantasy VI Advance is the menu system, which is fast, compact, and easy to navigate. It actually makes the original looked dated and shows you the power of good fonts and text alignment.

Again: if you want to play the early Final Fantasy games – including this one – I’d recommend the¬†GBAAdvance” remakes over the SNES originals. Together they make a brilliant set.

Final Fantasy Advance remakes on The King of Grabs:
Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls, Final Fantasy IV Advance, Final Fantasy V Advance, Final Fantasy VI Advance

More: Final Fantasy VI on Wikipedia

100 Best Level-Grinders Of All-Time

100 Best Level-Grinders Of All-Time

Final Fantasy VI, Super Nintendo

Final Fantasy VI (six) is where the series started to move away from its ‘cute’ roots and into darker story-telling territory, foreshadowing the distant¬†Final Fantasy VII. It was initially released on the Super Nintendo in 1994.

In part six there are fourteen playable characters, and you begin the game as a woman –¬† a half-human girl called Terra Branford. Terra is on a mission to chew bubblegum and to kick ass, and… to cause the ruling Empire as much trouble as possible by being a bit of a rebel. It’s epic storytelling, as you can imagine… But seriously: Final Fantasy VI goes for a character-driven, Steampunk-influenced storyline, and is much more emotional and ‘deep’ as a result. The party customisation features alone make this sixth instalment worth playing, and that’s without even touching upon the game’s many other qualities.

Graphically, Square went for a more detailed, realistic looking this time around. Whether you prefer it to the rather bright (some would say “lurid”) look of previous games or not is a matter of taste. At the time it was good to see the series go in a new direction.

Gameplay-wise, there’s little to fault in Final Fantasy VI – it is the culmination everything the developers had learnt from making the previous five games, and it of course has Chocobos in it (and Moogles!), which are worth the admission alone.

Final Fantasy VI was the first Final Fantasy game not to be directed by Hironobu Sakaguchi, who had directed all the previous Final Fantasy games, instead the role of ‘Director’ on Final Fantasy VI was shared by Yoshinori Kitase and Hiroyuki Ito, who it has to be said did a sterling job.

A number of remakes of Final Fantasy VI have appeared over the years since its initial release. Of particular note is the Game Boy Advance version which I think is even better than the original. It’s also been ported to the PlayStation, to iOS, Android, and Windows.

More: Final Fantasy VI on Wikipedia

Final Fantasy V Advance, Game Boy Advance

Final Fantasy V Advance is the third Tose-developed remake for the Game Boy Advance and was first released in 2006.

Again: it uses the same refined interface and beautifully-drawn and coloured graphics of the previous two Tose remakes and somehow manages to make the Super Nintendo original look a little drab in the process.

Story-wise: all you need to know is that you play a guy called Bartz and your mission is to stop an evil sorcerer from breaking the four seals that hold her.

An extensive “job system” (as initially seen in Final Fantasy III) allows customisation of playable characters, and Final Fantasy V has been rightly praised for its customisation features – it helps keep the game interesting.

Given the choice I would play this over the SNES original, because it’s quicker, and because it looks better. And because the English translation is official, and obviously much better than the unofficial fan translations found littering the internet.

Final Fantasy Advance remakes on The King of Grabs:
Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls, Final Fantasy IV Advance, Final Fantasy V Advance, Final Fantasy VI Advance

More: Final Fantasy V Advance on Wikipedia

100 Best Level-Grinders Of All-Time

100 Best Level-Grinders Of All-Time

Final Fantasy V, Super Nintendo

Final Fantasy V (five) was released in Japan for the Super Nintendo in 1992 although it did not get an official English language translation until it was later re-released on the Sony PlayStation in 1999.

Which has led to a variety of fan translations appearing to fill that gap. I think the one shown here is an unofficial English translation, because the text looks a bit dodgy to me… Square wouldn’t have used such large, chunky text in an official release. It just looks unprofessional…

Unfortunately this is what you have to accept if you want to play the game in English on a Super Nintendo. Either that or you could instead play Final Fantasy V on the Game Boy Advance (which is the superior version in my humble opinion), or iOS, Android, or Windows, which I believe it’s also been converted to.

In spite of Final Fantasy V never having been released in the West, it did manage to sell over two million physical copies in Japan. Which is a pretty big middle finger to those who decided it wasn’t worth translating (“Yeah! That’ll show ’em!“).

More: Final Fantasy V on Wikipedia