For a child growing up in the 90s, the public library was the best (and often the only) place to get access to everything a child could want. Books, VHS, CDs… they were all there! Now that we are in the digital streaming age and the world is at our fingertips many people have forgotten that their local library is still a great source for all vessels of entertainment. Just recently I walked over, picked up a Wu-Tang vinyl and John Oates’ biography, and then went on my way at no cost! In my time spent rifling through various books and albums, I took notice of something quite interesting: the library has a TON of video games. And not just sports and licensed games, good ones! It took a little digging but within a few days, I had a huge stack of games on my table, all waiting to be tackled free of charge.
As we get further and further from the video store era, I realize that renting a game can be quite difficult. While options like GameFly or RedBox are nice, they can often be quite expensive, so why not get some use out of your tax dollars and support your town’s book depository? Below is just a sample of some great handheld games I got in my town and I implore you to go out and explore what’s available near you. Titles ranged from brand new PS4 games to old and rare PS2 and Wii Games and there was truly something for everyone. This is a great opportunity to try out old games or get your hands on an indie title you may not normally play, so do yourself a favor and take advantage of some free AC on the government’s dime and peruse the selection.
Kirby Planet Robobot (3DS, HAL Laboratory, 2016)
After playing the disappointing and oft-clearanced Kirby and The Rainbow Curse I was a little gun shy to jump back into the Kirby Universe. Luckily, Kirby Planet Robobot defied my expectations and rekindled my fondness of HAL Laboratory’s flagship character.
Released in 2016, it’s hard to believe that this is the fifteenth entry in the storied series. While most Kirby titles play somewhat similarly, Planet Robobot differentiates itself through the addition of specialized mech suits that can be worn by the titular hero. These suits not only give Kirby added strength and mobility but also can absorb powers creating robots with varying abilities. This opens the door to many different kinds of armor ranging from flame powered to buzz saw projectiles.
The graphics are top notch in this entry and definitely take advantage of the handheld console’s 3D ability. While I normally play games with the 3D feature off, I began playing Kirby Planet Robobot exclusively with the 3D on. The level design and immersive environments make this a must play for any platforming plan. Added bonus, there are three additional mini-games to unlock! Definitely worth picking up as we prepare for the upcoming Kirby for the Nintendo Switch.
Children of Mana (DS, Square Enix, 2006)
This continuation of Secret of Mana, a crown jewel of the SNES, fits perfectly in the RPG library of the DS. This overhead action-RPG plays a lot like your average Zelda or Star Tropics game, focusing on quick action and puzzles within a fantasy world. This entry into the World of Mana finds the player taking on the role of one of four heroes all with different abilities.
Designed by series creator Koichi Ishii, Children of Mana maintains the sword swinging action style of previous games while providing more focus on the dungeons and exploration. A cooperative multiplayer was introduced for the DS entry which added an online multiplayer element similar to Diablo or Heroes of Ruin. Once in the dungeon, the action takes the front seat as you work your way through hoards of enemies in real time battles. For Square Enix fans this was somewhat of a disappointment at the time as it was a drip in the ocean when it comes to RPGs on the DS. Fortunately, time has been kind to the World of Mana. In the wake of Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest releases fans have started to appreciate the older top down games that featured a more peaceful play style. Be sure to play Children of Mana as you wait to play the original Secret of Mana on the SNES Classic.
Kid Icarus Uprising (3DS, Project Sora, 2012)
I originally missed this game in its initial release during the launch of the 3DS and now that it’s out of print the price point has kept me away. Now, thanks to the generous folks at my local library, I’m able to tackle Kid Icarus Uprising in all of its three-imensional glory.
Although it seemed like an odd release at the time (there hadn’t been a Kid Icarus game since 1991), Kid Icarus Uprising epitomizes the graphical capability of the 3DS. Its beautiful backgrounds, character animation, and 3D all pop from the screen and show what a game with fully realized environments can do on a handheld console. Uprising volleys back and forth between aerial rail-shooter segments and ground-based free-roaming levels that allow Pit to do some sword swinging damage. Difficulty can be adjusted in game, with rewards to those tackling the harder levels, and bosses and enemies are just difficult enough to keep players coming back for more frenetic shooting action.
Unfortunately the control scheme proved to be quite divisive amongst players. Have to use the shoulder buttons along with the stylus is confusing at first and it takes some time to acclimate to the configuration. Some players even complained that the hand shape was damaging to their wrists. Personally, the inconvenience is well worth the reward. Once you find an easy way to prop up the console (for me it’s my belly but a special stand was also released with the game) it gets much easier. This is quite the unique game in the 3DS library and I recommend a play through if you can get your hands on it.
Shinboi 3D (3DS, Sega, 2011)
This is a must play bargain bin game for any 3DS owner. This unheralded return of Shinobi is a classic hack-and-slash style platformer that features top notch graphics and controls. Developed by Griptonite Games and released in 2011, the game’s story begins in 1256 before our hero is transported 800 years in the future to fight a dystopian technology based ninja society. Also, the main character of the game is Jiro Musashi, the grandfather of the hero from the original Shinobi game! Sounds pretty awesome, right?
The graphical presentation in Shinobi 3D harks back to the original Shinobi games for the Mega Drive and Genesis. The slow side-scrolling gameplay of the original series has been replaced with hyper-kinetic fast-paced action that sees enemies coming from all angles and environmental hazards popping off the screen. Levels all end with intense boss fights and are often preceded by beautiful anime segments. Another retro callback in this game is the difficulty which can be frustrating and unsympathetic. Jumps can often be hard to make and enemies shots travel long distances and can impede progress quite easily. While it may be hard to play through, Shinobi 3D is definitely a fun way to play an updated classic.
Rune Factory 4 (3DS, XSEED, 2012)
Of all of the games that I checked out from my local library this was by far the biggest pleasant surprise. This simulation-RPG expands beyond the genre and plays like a cross between The Legend of Zelda, Secret of Mana, and Harvest Moon. Similar to the preceding Rune Factory installments, Rune Factory 4 provides a balanced mix of action, farming, dungeon-crawling and story. My favorite aspect of the game is the ability to choose the level of activity you want. Don’t feel like farming? Then go check out some dungeons! Bored with fighting waves of enemies? Then take a peek around the town and meet some well written NPCs.
The art style is that of a computer generated anime, with realistic characters and mystical creatures bearing colorful and lively armor and clothing that helps round out their overall design. The action is very similar to Children of Mana, with various dungeons just begging to be explored and a variety of enemies waiting in each treacherous room. Weapons are abundant and vary from axes and swords to magical munitions, all providing different ways to crush your adversaries. Rune Factory 4 is a great time for action and RPG fans alike and could be a great gateway into the genre for gamers that have yet to play anything like it.
What’s the best game you’ve got from your local library? Are you ready to compile your summer gaming list? Comment below and stay tuned to GWW for all of your video game fun.
Special thanks to the Lake Oswego Library for helping me out with this list!