This time next week I'll be smack in the middle of an Orlando vacation, and I've been spending most of my gaps of free time preparing for the trip (buying tickets, tidying up the place, and so on). It's also because of this that I plan on taking an extra week off before my next post (but I'll make that wait worth it, I solemnly swear). But with this post I thought I might share some bits and pieces of my collection.
Enter “The Middle Shelf”.
On my shelf, I have my more common games, end labels out, just lined up in a row. However, on the middle shelf are either my more rare games or games I have a story to. I might come back around and share a more detailed diatribe for these titles, others I might save for a review down the road, but I figured I'd leave you readers with a nice little treat.
Lunar 2; Eternal Blue Complete
I actually snagged this one at Vintage Stock, despite not being much of an RPG player. In fact, the idea of reviewing RPGs on this blog scare me a little. RPGs are a real timesink, a genre where the quality of the game can shift greatly at a very deep point in the game. Final Fantasy VII doesn't pick up until the death of Aries, which is a decent chunk of time into the game. Super Mario RPG keeps a lot of its best bits several hours in.
But despite that, this package was something I'd never seen before. Being a game from developer “Working Designs”, a simple “game, case, and instructions” doesn't cut it for these guys, e-v-e-r. I saw the large box in the store before and thought it was simply a large case and maybe a small book or some other trivial piece of memorabilia. In fact, the package came with that and then some. And most of it, upon inspection (“inspection” meaning “looked up eBay listings”), all of the components, sans one, were there and in great shape.
The game comes with both of the discs needed to play the full game, as well as a hardcover book that serves as not only the instruction booklet for the game, but a miniature strategy guide for the beginning of the game as well as a “behind the scenes” account of the game's development. I'm not too well versed in the Lunar franchise, but I do know this game is a re-release of a cult-classic (and VERY tough to obtain) Sega CD game. So for the small handful of people that had played or pursued that Sega CD game, this was likely a big deal to them. As if that wasn't enough, there was also a “making of” disc that runs in the Playstation that gives a neat behind-the-scenes look. Anytime I describe this game, I gotta stop myself from calling this disc a DVD.
But the real merchandise kicker is the “Omake Box”, a hard plastic box that carries a large amount of random trinkets. The star of this set is an amulet similar to the one the game's heroine wears with a carrying pouch. I later discovered this amulet and pouch is often missing in many eBay listings of this set. On top of that is a map and little standup cards of various characters in the game.
The only piece missing is a soundtrack disc that was included with the game when it was sold in stores. The case for the soundtrack is here, with two slots for two discs (the other slot is meant for a Lunar 2 demo disc that was included with the PS1 game “Vandal Hearts”). But the soundtrack CD itself is missing. This is apparently an easy enough piece to obtain, and I'm sure at some point I'll cave in and snag it, especially if the in-game music turns out to be really good and makes me want to listen to the CD proper.
Super Mario Bros. 2
Famicom Disc System
I'm sure I'm just repeating well-known history going over how the Japanese “Super Mario Bros. 2” is a completely different monster (and boy, is it a monster) from the version released in America. I would say the right decision was made, as Japan's Super Mario Bros. 2 (SMB2J, as it's often referred to) is not a very nice game and, unless you appreciate punishing difficulty, falls short of the original game and WELL short of the franchise's legendary third entry.
When I made my first trip to the Game Cycle store in Olathe, it stunned me how many imported games they had. Being a man who had pretty much only seen imports once in a blue moon, they were in this very store in bunches. Some of the prices on the games there seemed a little off (the one example that stuck to me was asking $35 for a loose copy of “Mutant League Football” on the Genesis at a time when the game complete-in-box was under $25). But I saw this on their shelf behind the counter. I had never even seen a Famicom Disc System game before, let alone this one. And while it was more than the other FDS games they had, it was still at a price that I was willing to roll the dice on.
Now, I don't own a Famicom, let alone the disc system attachment required to play this game. I plan on holding onto this game long enough to obtain one someday, and see what's on the disc. I emphasize that because, to my understanding, the discs for the Famicom Disc System games were often taken to kiosks around Japan and “reloaded” with new games. It's entirely possible there's another game on Side B of this disc. Who knows, maybe Side A is occupied with something else too and I don't have SMB 2 at all! The curiosity always pokes at me anytime I set my eyes on this game, and I hope soon I can sate that curiosity.
I already talked about this game ad nauseum not long ago. If you'd like to read my thoughts on it, check out my review right here:
Nintendo Entertainment System
Ladies and gents, the original “crown jewel” of my collection (I'll touch on the current "crown jewel" next time).
Obtaining this game was a slow burn. I was slowly getting back into retro games when I graduated high school, and I started visiting a local store, “GameCo” by the Metro North Mall. I've had some rollercoaster experiences there and have figured out what to get and what to avoid around there.
One day, between classes, I was just looking up old NES games I had growing up. I owned DuckTales growing up (and have re-obtained it since I started collecting), and looked it up on YouTube for old time's sake. However, I noticed a “DuckTales 2” in the sidebar of related videos. I had no idea there ever was a sequel to one of my favorite NES games as a little kid. I checked it out, and it looked very intriguing. It seemed to build on much of what I loved in the original game, while adding a lot of new wrinkles here and there.
So I started going to GameCo at least once a week and just “had to ask” if they had DuckTales 2. The store clerk would often tell me he didn't, and that he only saw it once or twice a year. He did tell me he sold it for around $20, which at the time was a lot for an NES game to me.
If only I had any idea...
One day, I finally walked in and noticed it for sale for $25. I knew I had to have it. Rental store stickers lined the label, so it's certainly rough. But we chucked it into an NES hooked up in the store, and it started up fine and dandy. So off I went. I'd never seen this game before, and I'd never see it again until about a year ago, when a better conditioned copy at Vintage Stock carried a $200 tag.
I don't think I could ever sell it at its near-$200 value now unless the price jumps so much people would pay $200 for a rough copy. I once brought it in to Vintage Stock to see what they'd offer for it, and they claimed they'd only sell it for $100 due to condition, and so they'd only offer $40. No way in hell. And now, I dunno if I ever would sell it anyway.......at least, not before reviewing it.
Besides, maybe a date with a bottle of Goo-Gone and a steady hand could make it a little more presentable.
Zelda II; The Adventure of Link
Nintendo Entertainment System
Growing up, I always sortof appreciated Zelda II. I thought the soundtrack was much better, in fact the Overworld theme of the game is the first videogame song I remember truly liking.
I did eventually fall into the “this game sucks” club that started to form on the internet. When I was younger, the main-console Zelda game quantity was “three”, so Zelda II didn't seem like so much of a red-headed stepchild in the Zelda family. Nowadays however, it sticks out like a sore thumb compared to the rest of the franchise.
And it sucks that this game gets flack from so many. I think it's a well made, well conceptualized game that knew what it wanted to be and, while not perfect, hits the nail on the head pretty well. Of course, the game itself is BRUTALLY hard, it might be the most difficult game I've ever finished. But boy, did it feel good when I did.
I had beaten this game on the Wii virtual console instead of on an NES (which I didn't have at the time). I had wanted a copy of it just to say I had one. A couple of Christmases ago, my friends Sam and Devin went in together and snagged me this as a gift. The instruction booklet and cartridge are damn near immaculate. To this day, I have never seen a Zelda I or II gold cart as shiny and well-kept as this one since I was a little kid.
I definitely plan on reviewing this one someday, but I feel like getting to the original game (or even the SNES follow-up) might need to be the first stop.
So that'll do it for Part 1. Check back in two weeks (when I come back from my Orlando trip) to hear the stories behind the rest of the games on "The Middle Shelf".