Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge, PC

Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge is the 1991 sequel to the classic The Secret of Monkey Island and is arguably even better than its fondly-remembered predecessor.

Created by essentially the same team as the previous game, Monkey Island 2 once again follows the exploits of Guybrush Threepwood and his adventures into pirating and comedy. And once again he is up against his arch nemesis, LeChuck, only this time LeChuck is a rotting zombie due to him having been killed in the last game and brought back to life in this.

Like all LucasArts point-and-click adventures, Monkey Island 2 features beautiful graphics and laugh-out-loud dialogue. The solutions to many of the early puzzles are not too difficult to figure out, but some do take a leap in imagination to make the link between certain items and locations.

Monkey Island 2 was the first LucasArts game to use the iMUSE music system, which basically adapts depending on the situation, and it also opens with dancing monkeys! And everyone loves dancing monkeys… Well, digital ones, anyway.

A HD remake was released in 2010 and is currently available in various outlets. These grabs show the original 1991 DOS VGA version.

Monkey Island 2 really is a belly-laugh of an adventure and is arguably the high point of the series. It’s well worth playing.

More: Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge on Wikipedia
Steam: Monkey Island 2 Special Edition on Steam
GOG.com: Monkey Island 2 Special Edition on GOG.com

Monkey Island 2 artwork by Steve Purcell.

Monkey Island 2 artwork by Steve Purcell.

The Secret of Monkey Island, PC

This is the original MS-DOS classic, as released by Lucasfilm Games (later to become LucasArts) in 1990. The Secret of Monkey Island is a humorous point-and-click adventure introducing wannabe pirate Guybrush Threepwood and his evil arch nemesis the pirate LeChuck.

The game uses the SCUMM system and uses a mouse to click on a list of verbs and objects on-screen, in order to carry out actions. Conversations play a big part in the game and there are always multiple answers you can choose from. Actually, the dialogue on The Secret of Monkey Island is one of the things that helps make the game so special – it’s very funny. Even the mundane characters have a life to them…

There are also a number of special mechanics in the game, like sword fighting, and… insulting. Both of which you learn by taking on a related quest and eventually beating the Sword Master. The insults are hilarious and play an active role in combat. If an opponent insults you and you give the wrong response (or don’t respond in time), you lose. Choose the correct response to an insult and it puts the ball back in the opponent’s court. And if they then don’t respond correctly, they lose… It’s tense stuff! But very much fun.

Playing The Secret of Monkey Island is a rite of passage for any self-respecting gamer. If you’ve never played it: rectify that ASAP and get it added to your gaming heritage.

A Special Edition was released in 2009, with updated graphics and gameplay.

More: The Secret of Monkey Island on Wikipedia
Steam: The Secret of Monkey Island Special Edition on Steam
GOG.com: The Secret of Monkey Island Special Edition on GOG.com

The-Secret-of-Monkey-Island-Cover

Tales of Phantasia, Game Boy Advance

This 2003 remake of Namco‘s SNES classic Tales of Phantasia was the first time the game had been officially translated into English.

While much of the game remains the same, there are a few differences. Firstly, the screen ratio has been changed from the 4:3 of the SNES original to the ‘widescreen’ 240 x 160 of the GBA screen. Which makes it look more modern, even if the resolution is actually lower (the resolution of the SNES version is 256 x 224). The lower resolution of the GBA is not an issue though as many of the in-game characters have been re-drawn to make them look bigger in the play window. This becomes most apparent during combat, when all the figures appear significantly larger than in the SNES version. This is not a problem, though, because most combat is fought horizontally, and not vertically, so making the main characters larger has not had a detrimental effect on gameplay. Quite the opposite, in fact.

The only real criticisms I’ve read about this game are that the random battles are too frequent (didn’t seem too bad to me), and the combat system is “unrefined” compared to the ‘Tales‘ sequels. Well… No sh*t, Sherlock. That’s bleedin’ obvious. And a bit unfair.

Tales of Phantasia is a lovely game that still has a lot of appeal now and is worth a play if you can find a copy. With this GBA version being an official translation, and with its updated graphics, I’d give it a higher rating than any of the fan-translated versions of the SNES original.

More: Tales of Phantasia on the Game Boy Advance on Wikipedia

Tales of Phantasia, Super Nintendo

Tales of Phantasia is an RPG developed by Wolf Team, and first published for the Super Nintendo by Namco in 1995. As JRPGs go, it’s quite memorable.

It’s a time-travelling, party-based adventure with real-time, random combat. Yes: real time combat. Which is quite rare in this genre. The combat sections play like a side-scrolling action game, with your party being attacked from either the left or the right, and the direction of attack dictating who’s closest to the enemy. So you learn to put your more vulnerable characters in the middle! The real-time combat system in Tales of Phantasia is a refreshing change from the usual style of turn-based JPRGs and is I think what gives this game its unique appeal.

That said: there’s more to Tales of Phantasia than just the combat. The story isn’t bad, and neither is the dialogue, and the six playable characters available for recruit are all fairly interesting. There are lots of great little touches too, like the ripples and reflections in the water. There’s a ton of stuff to see and do in this game and it’s frankly more than worth the investment of time.

A Game Boy Advance remake was released in 2006 and was the game’s first official English translation. It’s somewhat different to this, though, with a widescreen display and larger character graphics during combat. Background graphics and gameplay are the same though.

More: Tales of Phantasia on Wikipedia

Dragon Quest VI, Super Nintendo

Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation was developed by Heartbeat for Enix and released for the Super Nintendo in 1995 in Japan. It is the sixth instalment in the Dragon Quest series, if you aren’t familiar with Roman numerals.

Again: the writers of Dragon Quest have made a pretty good story to fit into an RPG. And again: it’s simple but effective. Without giving too much away: you appear to die a short way into the game! Haha. It’s hardly a spoiler – more an attempt to entice you to play the game… but it is part of the plot. I think Japanese RPG-makers may be obsessed with death, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing… As J.R.R. Tolkien once said: love and loss are inextricably linked…

Graphically, Dragon Quest VI is a bit more interesting than the previous game, although you don’t seem to be able to walk behind certain objects in this (that you should be able to walk behind, according to the isometric viewpoint), which is a little frustrating. All the houses, towns, and cute characters are beautifully drawn in that inimitable, colourful SNES style though.

Combat is a bit more interesting than in Dragon Quest V. You have more options available to you, including a ‘Skill’ choice that makes individual character skills available as they unlock. It does take a while to assemble a party, though, which isn’t ideal. Something else that bugged me: you can’t see how much money you’ve got in the status menus! Which is quite an oversight… The only time you see your current money count is when you’re talking to merchants. Dragon Quest VI practically requires you to grind to afford certain armour and weapons (as most RPGs do), and not being able to see your money totals in the field is frustrating at best.

One final thing to mention – a good thing: Dragon Quest VI was the first game in the series to introduce the concept of a “sack” where you can store items outside of your usual limited inventory. That made a difference. It also has a fairly complex class system, which is unlocked at a key point in the game.

Dragon Quest VI was the best-selling game of 1995 in Japan, shipping over 3.2 million physical copies in its first year of release (of which 2.5 million were sold in December, it’s month of release!) – an insane number, and indicative of the series’ popularity worldwide.

In spite of its shortcomings Dragon Quest VI is still a great game. It’s been remade a few times (Nintendo DS, Android and iOS) and is still worth playing if you love Japanese RPGs.

Note: These grabs are from the original Super Nintendo version, having been fan-translated. An official English translation of Dragon Quest VI wasn’t released until 2011.

More: Dragon Quest VI on Wikipedia