I recently finished building a little portable game emulator called a Piigrrl 2. Using a Raspberry Pi 3 computer, some components, and following some instructions very closely, I was able to create something really special. With it, I can play many of my favorite games from back when I was a child and what I've come to realize is my taste was kinda bad and very obscure. I'm not sure at what point I started following video game news closely online but up until a certain point, I found games by walking into the local GameStop or Bestbuy and going up and down the game section looking for anything I recognized or looked cool. The result was I bought and enjoyed a lot of games that no one really knows or cares about so, when I go to find some of the games I truly loved I suddenly realize a lot of them were fairly obscure and more than a couple of them are truly bad. Here are a few games as a kid I truly loved and now playing them back, are either bad, obscure or probably both.
Medabots AX, Gameboy Advanced Release 2002
My Original Experience:
Medabots is a now defunct IP which finds its origins as a video game franchise in Japan in the late 90's and was eventually adapted into an anime which aired in the US on Fox Kids every Saturday in 2000-2001. I watched it with my brother religiously. Honestly, I don't remember a ton about the premise but fighting robots, collecting pieces to modify your robot and bright colors. A nearly infallible recipe for a young me to be absolutely smitten. So when I saw Medabots AX in the store, I copped it without even really knowing what kind of game it was.
It turned out to be a 2v2 brawler of sorts it kicked my natural born ass because I'm not good at brawlers. After really no time at all I threw the game into a bin and forgot about it. I actually ended up having an alright time in the end after finding it maybe a year or two after I originally bought it. I remember really wanting to build my robot to look cute and somehow doing alright with that thought process in mind?
Firstly I want you to click on the video I embedded and listen to this 2000's localized anime classic in all its stunning horror because that is the intro music to Medabots AX. It's kind of great. You play as Ikki the anime's main character along with Medabee, your Medabot and the premise of the game is literally just, "Hey Ikki let's whoop some other Medabot's asses." And they let you loose.
From that point on you bounce from location to location battling other bots, kicking their asses and stealing parts to add to your arsenal so you can better Optimize your Metabot so it can kick ass more easily. Though simple, this is a passable formula for a game but, it's just incredibly tedious. The starting equipment you get isn't all too good and the only way to get anything else is to fight a gauntlet of teams on any one of the various maps. Before you get half decent parts winning these matches amounts to trying to hide from the opponent, charging your special ability, and hoping to god you can kill the enemy before your computer partner messes everything up. That isn't in and of itself a bad thing, except the CPU fighting seems smarter than your robot assistance by leaps and bounds and it's hard to play to your partner's strengths, they don't really have any. The good side is once you get some momentum and fall into a groove, its hard to lose it.
I remember I beat this game and I don't know how or why, because I just doesn't seem worth the time.
Impression: Obscure and kind of Bad
DemiKids Dark & Light Version, Gameboy Advance Release 2003
My Original Experience:
I was walking through Gamestop in when I saw two games that looked right up my alley, Demikids Light and Dark Version for the Gameboy Advanced. When you look at the box art, it suggests a Pokemon-like experience. There are ton of demons featured and the box art on its own was very enticing. I bought light version at first and then later got Dark version.
I really liked these games but they were too hard for me. I got to certain point and I didn't understand the story and couldn't figure out how exactly to build the best demon team so I eventually sold them off. But I've always remembered these games because they felt pretty good and I really liked the art style. If I had hung onto them for a little longer I have no doubt that I would have beat them at some point. So I was really excited to get back into this game.
The first thing I realized when I got back into DemiKids was that it belongs in the Megami Tensei universe. The Megami Tensei franchise is a long running and beloved collection of games which most notably responsible for the Persona Series but has also originated great games such as, Devil Survivor, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE, and many other spin-offs. It is also a series known for its difficulty so it's not ridiculous at face value that I had a hard time on later levels of play, though this game is clearly geared towards a younger set.
What strikes me about this game is that the story actually seems pretty interesting. There's a Dark vs Light trope going on here but they don't necessarily focus on that as the crux of the plot-line at least from the beginning. There's a rebellion and initially the suggestion of quite a bit of intrigue. It's a average set but then it branches out in a promising way. There's a lot of familiarity in the mechanics of this game. It's a simple turn based JRPG format with demon recruitment mechanics to add more monsters to your team as well as demon fusion in order to get stronger demons fast. You are also joined by a companion demon either the little lion that appears on the front of DemiKids Light Version or the dragon on Dark version.
Everything about this game is passable. There're good graphics, decent story, the audio is decent I actually really like their concept overall but it's just not that great by modern standards. That doesn't mean there isn't good here. It's an alright game which is bogged down by a ridiculous amount of grinding. It's required, you won't be strong enough to get past the boss fights if you don't grind and this starts from the second damn boss fight. It's a bit of a design flaw but, after you get a grasp of the basic mechanics the grinding gets easier by leaps and bounds. I'm definitely going to finish this game at some point. Because it's pedigree is really good and it does seem to have potential.
Impression: Obscure, Actually Pretty Good
Zoids Legacy, Gameboy Advanced Release 2003
Zoids is a series shows about animal robots with personalities in various story lines fighting against each other in order to do anything from make a living to save the entire world. It is a huge franchise with about a thousand models and toys more than a few shows and a few games. I was really obsessed with zoids when I was a kid. It had everything a small me could want: action, animals, weird ass plotlines, weeboo romance, and tons of shit to collect. My brother and I would watch the show whenever it came came on, which was at goddamn 5:00AM at one point. But if you watched Toonami on Cartoon Network you may be familiar. So when I saw there was a turn based strategy game in the store one day, I snatched it up and I wasn't all too disappointed.
You play as Default name: Zeru as he goes on some sort of adventure that I didn't pay too much attention at the time because, ZOIDS. What I do remember was there was some time traveling, dimension hopping, a woman with a mysterious past and oh did I mention Zoids? A also never beat Zoids Legacy and I don't know why. I probably just lost interest or lost the game entirely. What I do remember is the dumbass things the Zoids pilots would say whenever they would attack. Seriously. Every time a certain type of generic pilot would attack they'd say "THIS IS HOW I PILOT ZOIDS." It was so silly I remember at the time rolling my eyes so I wonder what my experience will be like as an entirely less patient adult.
When I get going about the things that irritate me about this game I know it's going to sound like I hate Zoids Legacy but, I actually don't. It's a fairly solid turn-based JRPG with decent mechanics, alright story, good visuals and audio and everything I liked about it as a kid, I still like about it today mainly, the focus on collecting and customizing Zoids. Throughout the game the player is able to amass a collection of Zoids to rival their wildest dreams from the incredibly iconic Liger series of zoids to the homely Molgas, Zoids Legacy's Pokemon-esque collect them all mechanics on their own are enough motivation to get through the lukewarm story and the occasionally awkwardly translated dialogue. But oh my god there are a lot of things about this game that are just badly designed.
Turned based combat is a difficult thing to balance. On one side players really ought to watch the combat animations and they should be stylish enough that you want to watch them. Zoids Legacy does this with arguable success. You get to see each Zoid either fire their guns or charge for a melee attack and then the opponent try and dodge the strike. It's not half bad the first few moments of play but, holy shit for an entire game with no way to shorten the animations like in Pokmeon where you can turn them off, it adds a lot of idle time watching the same boring animations over and over again while the pilots scream the same battle cry repetitively. It's contrary to fun. Speaking of the pilot's stupid, repetitive lines, the writing in Zoids Legacy is really pretty bad.
I stopped paying attention to the story after a bit because I just didn't care too much. I went through story quests to get access to more Zoids. But that also meant I missed important information about where to go next. And if you miss the one time they told you, good luck figuring it out because there's no progress tracker of any sort. Once you forget what you were supposed to be doing, it's gone forever and while this isn't as unique flaw for the era of gaming this game was created, it's still irksome indeed. But if you can get past those couple of things it's actually a pretty pleasant game which brings back all of the characters from an old nostalgic series and lets them play together in this odd cross-over.