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Nintendo Power's Top 10 Reviewed Games of 1995
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on March 15, 2016   |   Episode 95 (Show Archive)  

The year is 1995. Microsoft was winning the war with Windows 95, Drew Barrymore couldn't wait to flash David Letterman and 150 million Americans tuned in live to see if OJ Simpson could get away with murder. But we're not here to ruin the ending of The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, because today we're counting down Nintendo Power's top reviewed games of 1995.

The Lion King
Between Aladdin and The Jungle Book, Virgin Interactive had made a name for itself with high-quality Disney adaptations. This continued with The Lion King, which offered "great graphics created by Disney animators," as well as "creative stages and an excellent soundtrack from the movie." That said, they worried that this 2D platformer might be too challenging for younger players, and complained that some moves are incredibly difficult to make. Game Players went even further, giving it a 96% and saying that the animation is so smooth, "you'll swear it's a movie." Next Generation also liked the game, saying that it's even better than Aladdin. I'm not sure I would go that far, but The Lion King is pretty great.
After singing the praise of both Flashback and Out of this World, I think it's safe to say Nintendo Power has a thing for rotoscoped action games. This love affair continued well into 1995, when they gave Nosferatu high marks for subtle effects and a great atmosphere. The editors loved the "excellent animation" and the "good play control." Their only criticism was the lack of a save feature, which works against the challenging adventure. Electronic Gaming Monthly wasn't as sold on the concept. Danyon Carpenter complained about the game's long development cycle, ultimately concluding that a game that took this long to develop should have more to offer. Both GamePro and Super Play agreed with this sentiment.
Long-time readers of Defunct Games will remember that Nintendo Power surprised everybody by scoring SimCity higher than Super Mario World. While the same cannot be said about Civilization, it's clear that the magazine loved the strategy elements and replay value. They were a little disappointed by the graphics and controls, but did note that it's one of the few games to take advantage of the Super NES mouse. Next Generation liked the game, but preferred the PC original. "It's one of the best of its kind," they concluded, "and if you don't own it, go out and buy it." Game Players agreed, giving the game an 89% and calling it the kind of game that will keep you up at night.
Secret of Evermore
Don't be confused by the name, style and even publisher, Secret of Evermore has nothing to do with Secret of Mana. Nintendo Power wasn't interested in this information, as they quickly linked the two unrelated games together, forever confusing a generation of Super NES fans. That said, they were excited that this was the first (and only) Square game developed in North America. They were impressed with the lengthy story and great graphics, as well as the all-important battery back-up. The rest of the press largely agreed, with Electronic Gaming Monthly giving it mostly 8s. Magazines like GamePro and Die Hard Game fan also chimed in, praising the music. Why isn't this game better remembered?
Nintendo may have doomed the game with bad marketing and a high price point, but their magazine loved the quirky style in Earthbound. Calling it "fruity," Nintendo Power raved about the fun graphics and sound effects. They were also impressed with the story, which was not your typical role-playing game fare. On the other hand, the editors complained about the Frequent, sometimes tedious battles and poorly designed inventory system. Game Players was not as kind. "RPG addicts looking for a quick fix (like me, for instance) could do worse," notes Jeff Lundrigan, "but without a doubt, the younger you are, the more you're gonna like it." GamePro echoed those thoughts, concluding that "the humor is too mature for little kids, and the gameplay is too immature for older gamers."
Killer Instinct
1995 was going to be a big year for Killer Instinct. After conquering arcades, Midway and Rare hoped their 2D fighter would lead the charge at the Ultra 64's launch. But then Nintendo pushed the system back a full year and renamed it, leaving the arcade hit with only one option -- flee to Nintendo's 8 and 16-bit systems. Nintendo Power loved this Super NES port, calling it the "best tournament fighting game ever." They loved the graphics, challenge and soundtrack, going as far as to say it's the "Super NES game of the year." Next Generation had a different take, calling it "a far cry from ground breaking" and complaining about the combo system. Other magazines were more kind, such as Die Hard Game Fan, who gave the fighter near perfect scores.
Donkey Kong Country 2
Seeing the instant success of Donkey Kong Country, Nintendo returned with a sequel that improved on the theme in nearly every way. This massive 2D platformer was a big hit with Nintendo Power, who raved about the "awesome graphics, gameplay and sound." They loved the new characters, improved AI and the fact that Donkey Kong Country 2 came with more than one hundred new areas to explore. That's a compelling argument, which is why Electronic Gaming Monthly also gave the game high scores. Andrew Baran called it a great sequel, noting that the "technique is much more refined." Super Play also agreed, giving it an 82% and calling it a "better game than Donkey Kong Country."
Yoshi's Island: Super Mario World II
Speaking of sequels to popular 2D platformers, Nintendo Power couldn't stop gushing over the beauty of Yoshi's Island: Super Mario World II. "Super graphics and gameplay. Excellent play control. Tons of variety." Nintendo Power couldn't get enough, even in a year packed with big name sequels. After reading the review, one is left to conclude that they would have rated it even higher if Baby Mario didn't spend the whole game crying. This was a big hit with critics around the world, with GamePro and Super Play giving it high marks. In fact, Die Hard Game Fan and Next Generation ended up giving Yoshi's Island perfect scores. Some gamers may have soured on the charm of Yoshi's Island, but two decades ago everybody agreed it was one of Nintendo's best games.
Wario Land
Wario Land has the distinction of being the first (and only) Virtual Boy game to break into Nintendo Power's top ten reviewed games list. If you were looking for a game that justified owning a Virtual Boy, Wario Land is the closest you're going to get. It was an addictive platformer that used the system's 3D graphics in creative ways. Nintendo Power ended up giving the game a 4.3 out of 5, scoring higher than all but one Game Boy game. GamePro agreed, giving the game a perfect score and calling it a must-own. However, Next Generation had a strong disagreement with these two magazines. Calling it "innocuous enough," the editors at Next Gen concluded that "the game doesn't feature any significant advancement in gameplay beyond the classic Mario game structure." They gave it two stars out of five. Ouch.
Chrono Trigger
After a strong showing in 1991 with Final Fantasy II and the sequel narrowly making the top ten 1994 list, Square has finally taken the crown. Chrono Trigger is a wildly imaginative role-playing game filled with humor and time travel. Giving it a 4.5 out of 5, Nintendo Power gushed over the "excellent graphics, depth, sound and replay value." They jokingly complained that the game is so good that it will spoil every other RPG for you. I'm not sure I would go that far, but it's clear that everybody loved Chrono Trigger. Electronic Gaming Monthly gave the game near perfect scores, calling it "a must-have for your RPG collection." Super Play agreed, but felt that it was more lightweight when compared to Square's Final Fantasy series. Even with that note, they concluded that it's an essential purchase for RPG fans. Twenty years later, I have a hunch of a lot of Chrono Trigger loyalists would argue that the lighter tone is what makes the game so memorable.
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