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Nadia's Midboss Musings: The Shameless, Beautiful Creature That Was the Classic NES Series (Plus: Meet Luca Blight!)

Before there was the Virtual Console, there was the option to pay $20 for Super Mario Bros on the GBA.

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Big news: I'm working on a Broadway show tune that simultaneously celebrates and derides Nintendo's history and products.

I already have the opening. It uses same rhythm and measure as Beauty and the Beast's "Gaston" song.

Here's what I have so far:

Noooo onnnnnne

Jokes like 'Tendo

No one sues like 'Tendo

No one makes you weep for green squid girls like 'Tendo

Yeah, it needs work. I can tell you this much: The next verse will have a line about how no one flaunts unbridled chutzpah like Nintendo. It always has, and it probably always will.

"No, see, this movie script needs a story thread about a meteor fragment -- and how does 'Dinohattan' strike you as a city name?"

There's the issue of overpriced re-releases, for example. I don't mean the spate of Wii U games being retooled and re-released for the Nintendo Switch, as I've already talked about why I don't have a problem with the likes of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and the freshly-announced Pokken Tournament DX.

No, the brazen remakes I refer to arrived in North America 13 years ago today: The Classic NES Series for the Game Boy Advance.

In 2004, Nintendo ported a handful of NES games to the Game Boy Advance. While a couple of these titles fixed a translation error here and there, they were mostly one-to-one data dumps distributed for your handheld gaming pleasure. If anything, they were diminished ports, thanks to the Game Boy Advance's low screen resolution. The Bomberman port even yanked the original game's multiplayer support.


The asking price for each Classic NES title was about $19.99 USD. Whew. Steep.

If you want to be super-generous, you can argue $19.99 is a fair price for easy access to classic handheld games in an era where (legal) digital game distribution was not a thing, least of all on a handheld game system. Mind the key word here, though: "Classic." Super Mario Bros, Castlevania, and The Legend of Zelda cost twenty smackers, but so did Ice Climber, Pac-Man, and the NES release of Donkey Kong. Not that Donkey Kong NES is bad, but asking us to pay $20 for the NES's stripped-down iteration of Mario's breakout game in a world where Donkey Kong '94 was available for the Game Boy required – what was that word, again? Oh, right. Chutzpah.

I can look back on the Classic NES Series and laugh in this age of dirt-cheap portable game purchases, but I admit the prospect of playing classic Zelda games on my Game Boy Advance was mighty tempting 13 years ago, $20 price tag or no. True, Nintendo offered many of the games in the Classic line-up as e-Reader cards, and you could play some of them for free in Animal Crossing for the GameCube. But the e-Reader bombed in North America, making stock hard to find, and Animal Crossing wasn't exactly portable. Paying $20 for a portable black box NES game seems silly now, but in 2004, it almost seemed like a sensible impulse purchase (albeit a costly one).

Pac-Man's smile quickly faded when he realized he'd taken a wrong turn and driven into the heart of the ghosts' neighborhood.

Anyway, happy(?) anniversary, Classic NES Series. By the way, don't feel ashamed if you caved: A boxed Classic NES game currently goes for $200 to $300+ on the aftermarket. Congratulations, you got the last laugh.

Featured Midboss of the Week

It feels disingenuous to profile Suikoden II's Luca Blight through a couple of paltry paragraphs. When I started featuring midbosses in this column, however, I knew I'd be helpless not to talk about the White Wolf of the Highland Army. Here we are, then.

It even feels disingenuous to call Luca a "midboss," though you literally fight him around the halfway point of Suikoden II's story. I've talked about this skirmish at least once on Axe of the Blood God, and with good reason: To date, I've yet to experience a boss battle as intense as the fight against The Mad Prince.

What a nice young man.

Luca's mind was twisted at an early age by a traumatic event, but his deteriorating mental state only serves to sharpen his blade as he ages – and to heighten his bloodlust to an insatiable frenzy. From its opening moments, Suikoden II puts its arm around you and gestures to incident after incident of Luca Blight slaughtering innocents with blood-curdling efficiency. "There," it says, "this is the guy you're going to wind up fighting. It's going to be awesome."

And it is awesome. Luca Blight is no pampered noble, but neither does his pride make him stupid. He champs at the bit for the opportunity to fight you, but not before his elite forces have softened you up a bit. After all, there's six of you and one of him, and he knows it.

But your own army comprised of fools, either. Before the fight commences, your head strategist surrounds Luca by archers, and they nail the gravely wounded prince as he attempts to stagger away. Even as Luca is bleeding to death and bristling with arrows, he remains haughty, vicious, free of regrets, and utterly, utterly unrepentant.




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