Anthony Frisina’s Retro Gaming Pickups Episode 1: From Aero to Odin Sphere

With vintage gaming reaching new heights in popularity each year, it seems fitting to discuss some of the gems found both online and in retro shops. Regardless of the console, as a collector, it is easy to see the simplistic joy found in looking at your video game library. Cartridges especially help to beautify a gaming room, even if systems such as the Nintendo 64 lack end labels on their loose cartridges. Nonetheless, being a collector of older systems is an art form in of itself, with even greater attention to the canonical aspects of organizing software. More a reflection of consumer trends rather than a boisterous meandering, this is a highlight of some of the recent games found on my collector’s journey into the world of classic games.

Aero The Acrobat (Sega Genesis, 1993)

One of the defining platformers of the 16-bit generation, and an absolute gem by its creators Sunsoft, Aero the Acrobat symbolizes everything that era of gaming stood for in the 1990s. A multiplatform title during its initial release, the game follows the titular protagonist, Aero, on his journey from the circus to his final confrontation with the malevolent and rich Edgar Ektor. Each level is displayed in a lush 2D background environments that utilize Sega’s parallax scrolling technology. Sunsoft was still in its infancy at this point and relatively new to the at-home console market, but yet they still managed to deliver an unparalleled platforming adventure that foreshadowed its future releases on the Nintendo 64. This is a special game and not because of the genre tropes it sticks so heavily to but because of its visual style that left players imagining what it is like to accomplish acrobatic feets. Aero incorporated aerial drill attacks and magical stars to fight his way through a malaise of 2D environments that took the fantasy of the circus into the realm of organic natural landscapes. A gem to have in anyone’s Sega collection. 

Quest 64 (Nintendo 64, 1998)

It seems odd to find a complete in box Nintendo RPG for such a dirt cheap price online but that is exactly the case with this much-underrated classic. THQ did not deserve all the flack is received two decades ago for this 3D adventure. Granted its lack of variation, HUD, and singular protagonist did little to enhance the game’s standing amongst its competitors at the time. Simply put this is a game worthy in being in anyone’s software library. Brian, the protagonist of Quest, never achieved the same adulation that other RPG characters were given on the PS1 or Sega Saturn, but that does not matter when looking at the game’s lush production value and landscapes. Quest is the hidden gem on the Nintendo 64, the one title that everyone should have played especially since it existed on a console that starved for high fantasy role-playing experiences. If anything, at least try to find this game complete in the box since the packaging, manual, and cover art is a gem in and of itself. 

Odin Sphere (Playstation 2, 2007)

More a visual novel than just a simple action RPG, Odin Sphere symbolizes everything the Playstation 2 could achieve with simple aesthetics and lush visuals. Atlus studios, known for its avant-garde visual style, produced this masterpiece. With five different characters to choose from and six scenarios to play it, Odin Sphere has high-level replayability. Atlus brilliantly revamped the experience point-based system and used elemental psypher spheres that grew stronger with each battle to increase one’s player stats instead of the rudimentary EXP mechanic. The continent of Erion feels like it is ripped right out of fairy tale and its subcontinent Titania is as organic as desert ash. Vast trees of emerald groves and snowbound mountain tops combined in a culmination of hyper-reality that pushed the boundaries of the imagination as any great work of fantasy literature can do. A gregarious homage to the myths of ancient times, Odin Sphere is a joy to have in one’s collection regardless of which iteration one buys it for on their PlayStation console. 

The Elder Scrolls V Skyrim (Nintendo Switch, 2017)

At times buggy, at times laughably spoken, the world of Skyrim is mesmerizing to behold even on Nintendo’s handheld hybrid console. Granted, one can buy this game cheaply on other platforms, but the Nintendo Switch holds something special. There is something aesthetically pleasing in being able to venture into the grandiose world of Skyrim at any time and at any place. The amiibo system also adds an extra sense of worth to the Switch re-release of this decade old game. Even though the Switch is not necessarily starving for any RPG’s, it still is a blessing to see a company such as Bethesda studios grace every system in the past two console generations. Link’s armor set and Master Sword is another additive in the Skyrim mix, with Nintendo throwing everything it has at aligning this third-party title with the company’s mainline games. Skyrim Switch is the title one should add to their current Nintendo console’s library and not because of its uniqueness but because it is the absolute version of this role-playing masterclass. 

Final Fantasy VII: The Dirge of Cerberus (PlayStation 2, 2006)

This game holds a special place in any FF7 fans heart because it is based on one of the series most iconoclastic character Vincent Valentine. A Playstation 2 exclusive in every way, this spin-off adventure game has never seen a rerelease in over a decade since it first graced our shores back in 2006. The plot picks up right where its predecessor leaves off and follows the journey of Vincent Valentine to the heart of the Shinra corporation’s operations that culminate in the exposition of the protagonist’s complete back story. If ever there is more of a game worthy of a remake it is definitely this one as it represents a love letter to fans clamoring for more of Valentine’s biography. The town of Kalm is a great addition to the landscape, as Valentine’s opening act is to protect the settlement from encroaching soldiers from the World Regenesis Organization (WRO) and thus ensures an action mystery adventure into the heart of Valentine’s history and his involvement with Shinra. From its beautiful matte finish cover art and highly detailed manual, Dirge of Cerebus is one of the best titles to have ever graced the Playstation 2 during its lifetime and a true gem to own for any retro collector. 

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About Anthony Frisina 63 Articles
Anthony Frisina is a graduate of the City University of New York-Brooklyn College with a BA in Political Science with a minor in Psychology. After finishing his undergraduate degree, Anthony went on to attend Brooklyn College's Film Academy and Writer's workshop program, achieving an interdisciplinary degree in Screenwriting and Film theory in the Fine Arts. Transforming his love for classic American cinema, Anthony went on to adapt a number of his own works into different mediums, including his well-received Western novel The Regulator. Anthony likes to spend his free time writing articles for magazines and periodicals that cover a wide range of topics, from science fiction to popular culture. As a screenwriter, Anthony has had his screenplays featured at numerous spec script writing competitions across the country where he one day hopes to write the next great American film.

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