Shape Shifter

Despite its myriad frustrations, I was able to find a bit of joy in Shape Shifter, at least when I look at it as doing research and catching up on a platform I never got to grow up with. The platforming is an absolute nightmare, the RPG elements are basically nonexistent, and the inclusion of lives combined with an obtuse means of healing only makes the game needlessly stressful, but its impressive presentation and strange world do a lot to make it interesting enough to push through. While I can’t recommend Shape Shifter as something most people would enjoy, I can recommend it as something that I think people would find fascinating.

Tokyo Crash Mobs

Tokyo Crash Mobs is the kind of game that’s emblematic of Nintendo’s digital download services. It’s a small, bizarre, yet charming experiment that you rarely find elsewhere nowadays, especially from a company as safe as Nintendo is. It clearly wasn’t a high budget production and it suffers from steep difficulty and unreliable controls, but it’s the kind of game that ends up being greater than the sum of its parts. I was honestly kind of fed up with its gameplay even before the end and that bug I kept encountering only made things worse, but because of how it all comes together, I find that it remains steadfast in my memory.

Stellar Assault

Stellar Assault is a game that makes a great case for the 32X - it's gorgeous, technically impressive, robust in its features, and plays very solidly. The action is smooth and exciting while also being easy to get into and there was tons of care put into its visuals, both in the personality of the ships and how the beauty and vastness of space is depicted. The 32X isn't a console that gets much love at all, but Stellar Assault is the kind of game that'll make you re-evaluate its place in history and learn to think of it as more than just a "failure"...

Ardy Lightfoot

It’s rare that a game in this genre can evoke so many different emotions, from pleasure to shock to excitement, even displeasure and discomfort, and it’s worth commending this game for how easily it manages to invest players in its wordless narrative. Even hot off the heels of moments that I found annoying, the game was able to bring me right back in with a well animated cutscene or a gorgeous environment that made me instantly forget the uglier parts of the game I had just experienced. “Experience” really is the key word when it comes to Ardy Lightfoot – one could just boil it down to a series of mechanics and how they compare to the big shots like Mario and Sonic, but to do that would undersell the game...

Shadow Brain

The Famicom had a ridiculously large library and I get the impression a lot of people outside of Japan still have yet to dig deep into its JRPG library beyond the usual suspects. That’s because most people get turned off by their difficulty, their obtuseness, or their slowness, but Shadow Brain defies all of those expectations. Shadow Brain is an exceptionally thoughtful game that offers some of the best world building on the platform alongside convenient and smart features that wouldn’t become commonplace in the genre until years later. It’s rare that we see something so ambitious that actually works out, so this game is worth celebrating for that reason alone.