If you’ve been following me for around 3 years, then you already know that I’m a huge fan of Derek Alexander and his character of the Happy Video Game Nerd. In a time in which most people copied off James Rolfe’s persona The Angry Video Game Nerd where they reviewed bad video games, Derek did something different and decided to cover video games that he considers to be underrated in a very humorous and analytic way. Besides reviews, he also did other great things such as his band Starship Amazing, his series “Is It Really That Bad?” where he plays a game that critics consider to be the worst of all time and sees if it deserves its reputation, “Retro Beats” where he features soundtracks from video games that don’t get much recognition for their music (this music podcast series is one of the reasons why Nick Jukebox is born), “Getting Super Nerdy” where he plays a demo of a game and compares it to the final project”, and “Stop Skeletons Live” where he plays various games for at least an hour or two. In the 7 years he started doing his reviews, he became a stand out among all the other imitators and, in his own right, became an innovator.
Just recently, he decided to drop the Happy Video Game Nerd name and move on to other projects such as “Stop Skeletons Live”. I know he’ll do great and I wish him all the luck in the world! But with that, it’s time to look back on what I consider to be my top 10 HVGN reviews. Game Quickies will not count for this list.
10. Final Fantasy Mystic Quest
Final Fantasy Mystic Quest is considered to be the black sheep of the Final Fantasy series. Around the late 80’s and early 90’s, RPGs were not very popular in the U.S. compared to Japan compared to platforming games like MarioÂ and adventure games like Zelda. Thinking that Americans were too stupid to understand RPGs, Square released Final Fantasy Mystic Quest as an easy RPG by featuring a linear world, a paper thin story with one dimensional characters, simple puzzles, monsters that can be fought by approaching them, and the health bar that shows only bars and not numbers. Most people who reviewed this game felt insulted and thrashed this game, even to this day. However, the HVGN actually loves Mystic Quest and discusses on why. But what makes this review great was not only being one of the few reviewers to say some positive things about the game, but his hypothesis on how the failure of Mystic QuestÂ to capture an audience was the one of the reasons on why more complex RPGs were able to release outside of Japan making it one of the most important games ever made.
I do agree that successes are born from failures. When doing the Nickelodeon tribute, I sometimes see comments on my videos on how the shows that featured on Nickelodeon during the 80’s don’t count since they were acquired programs and the network starting out as a dumping ground of sub-par education shows essentially being a poor man’s PBS. I disagree. Nickelodeon wanted to be a network dedicating to educating kids despite having a very low budget and starting off local in Ohio. They did have a rocky start, but were able to find their stride when they created their own content with what little they had. It’s like the old saying goes “In order for you to know the future, you need to know what happened in the past”.
Also, this was the first video that showed Derek’s beard and would stay within the rest of his videos.
9. Mega Man 9
This was actually the very first review of the HVGN that I ever saw. When I heard the news that Mega Man 9 was out, I wanted to check out some reviews to see if it was worth downloading on my Wii. I was a huge fan of the Mega Man series and was skeptical on it since I hadn’t seen a good game from the franchise in years.Â I saw ScrewAttack’s review and GameTrailers’ review of the game and became satisfied, but wanted to check a regular reviewer as oppose to a game site. The first that popped in my search of YouTube was the HVGN review of Mega Man 9. As soon as I saw his review, I became an instant fan of his work. I loved his review as well as his personal story on how he grew up with the Mega Man series as a kid and how happy he was that Capcom was able to return the series back to basics making it 8-bit. A few days later, I downloaded Mega Man 9 and absolutely loved it! It’s easily on my top 5 Mega Man games next to Mega Man II, III, and Mega Man X. I became super excited on Mega Man 10 and couldn’t wait for it to come out. Unfortunately, it became a lackluster game and Capcom pretty much killed the franchise again mostly due to Keiji Inafune leaving the company and starting his own. But Mega Man 9 is still an amazing game and to quote HVGN “It makes up for at least 15 years of disappointment”.
8. The Castlevania Gameboy Trilogy
The Angry Video Game Nerd’s Castlevania marathon reviews around 2009 was my all time favorite review that he did around Halloween. Being a huge Castlevania fan and seeing his history of the franchise was so amazing.Â Unfortunately, in my opinion, he hasn’t done a better Halloween episode since (I’m looking at you Alien 3). However, the Happy Video Game Nerd’s Halloween reviews were always excellent and actually improved year after year. So when I heard when he was reviewing the Castlevania Gameboy games, I became excited and watched it. I was not disappointed. Similar to the Mega ManÂ Gameboy games, these games have been hugely overlooked. However for two out of the three games that he discussed, there’s a reason why especially Castlevania: The Adventure or The Castlevania Adventure like JonTron said. The third Gameboy game Castlevania Legends was the last 2D game released before Symphony of the Night became a huge influence on the series and the side scrolling ceased to exist which is a shame.
His final thoughts on Konami no longer taking risks on the Castlevania series and how we didn’t need them to bring back the classic style of the old games due to the rise of indie developers. When he said that no matter where our favorite franchises went, we still had the old ones to go back to. This meant a lot to me when I played Metroid: Other M and absolutely hating it when I finished the game. I immediately went back to Super Metroid (my favorite game of all time) and read the Metroid: Zero Mission manga (my opinion on Samus’ true backstory) afterwords.
7. The Parasite Eve “Trilogy”
The HVGN’s review of the Parasite Eve trilogy was very intriguing discussing one of Square Soft’s most underrated series. The first game in the series was great with memorable characters and an interesting story line, the second was ho hum at best with iffy controls, a boring story, and a nonexistent villain, and I didn’t even know about the third one until I saw this review. I’m glad since they treated Aya the same way Team Ninja treated Samus in Metroid: Other M being overwhelmed by everything that’s going on around her. That’s horrible since Aya in Parasite Eve was a great female protagonist being tough, yet relatable.Â The HVGN’s detailed review on the “trilogy” is truly one of his best videos and it had gotten more people to play Parasite Eve including Manic Expression members The Cartoon Hero featuring it on the top 10 games you should play on Halloween and Lotus Prince’s Let’s Play of the game. Parasite Eve is definitely worth checking out if you’ve never played it.
6. All of the Disney/Capcom games
According to the HVGN, Capcom is the greatest 3rd party video game developer of all time! One of his first reviews of the HVGN was DuckTales for the NES, one of the best games based on a TV show ever made. Afterwards, he reviewed another great NES game Chip n’ Dale Rescue Rangers. Then, he finally buckled down and tackled most of the Disney/Capcom games on the NES and the SNES. Each one of these games are the truest definition of nostalgia being not only great games, but games based on TV shows we watched when we were kids. Either way, they’re classics that shows that video games based on movies or TV shows doesn’t have to suck. I wish that today’s developers would take that to heart.
5. Eternal Darkness and follow-up review
Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem is considered to be one of the most overlooked games on the Nintendo Gamecube and has gotten a huge dedicated cult fanbase. I’ve seen this game on numerous top 10 Gamecube games and best horror games of all time lists. When I saw the HVGN’s review of pointing out the major flaws of the game and concluding it with not being a big fan of it overall, it shocked many viewers. Many people who loved the game hated his review, but some told him to give it another try saying that it was an overlooked masterpiece. Then there were some people who listened to his review and understood that it was his review and he wasn’t going to change his mind due to the backlash of the Eternal Darkness fanbase. This is not a review that you see all the time and it became really refreshing to see.
In my opinion, this was his most honest and riskiest review he’s ever done! I know what it’s like since I went through a similar situation on my Roundhouse review in which the dedicated fanbase hated it due to my opinion saying that it was a unfunny, inconsistent mess of a sketch comedy show. Just like the HVGN, I wasn’t going to change my mind just because the fanbase didn’t like my opinion. I would love to see a remake ofÂ Eternal DarknessÂ on the WiiU. But due to Silicon Knights being bankrupted due to poor decisions on the founder, it seems that it won’t happen. But who knows? Maybe another developer can take the best things ofÂ Eternal DarknessÂ and refine it.Â He gave a fair explanation on why he didn’t care for the game very much and understood that Eternal Darkness wasn’t for him. It may have been very risky for him, but it was very well worth it.
4. Sweet Home
Capcom once again proves to be a great developer.Â Sweet Home is one of the greatest games ever, especially since this is another game based on a movie. Not only that, it’s one of the most influential games ever made being the granddaddy of survival horror games being a precursor to Resident Evil. The HVGN never reviews imported games, but Sweet Home was the exception. It was a brilliant review and it was a great treat to watch. It had a great story with plot twists, game play that’s the best aged compared to classic RPGs like Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy, and amazing music. While we will most likely never see a Virtual Console release of the game, it’s required to check out for anyone who’s a huge horror fan. I’m not a horror fan and I want to play this game. While the HVGN didn’t dedicate any full episodes on import games, I think the game he chose was a great one.
When the HVGN first started his reviews back in 2007, he did a ton of jokes that were shown on the AVGN. Many people who saw his work at first saw him as a typical AVGN clone. That’s what I thought when I first started seeing his earlier videos after seeing his Mega Man 9 review. But then he began his Halloween reviews and it started with Splatterhouse.Â Splatterhouse debuted on the arcades in Japan and was ported in the Turbo Grafx 16, a console that came out around the same time as the SNES and Sega Genesis. The game, much like the console, was overlooked and obscure. But then the sequels came out on the Genesis where it started building a small cult fanbase. This was, in my opinion, the HVGN’s first genuine review as himself with no AVGN gimmicks. It felt like he was saying his own personal story with the series and talked about why these games were so great like the way the AVGN did with the Castlevania series. It was informative, funny, and intriguing from beginning to end. The retrospective concluded with saying how much he wanted a remake.
3 years later and it came out! The HVGN did a fantastic and fair review on a game that the critics hated and discussing on the pros and cons of Splatterhouse 2010 and concluding it on a somber note on how due to the negative reviews, we may never see another game on the series again. But, let’s hope that’s not the case.
2. The Gargoyles Quest Trilogy
This is hands down my all time favorite HVGN Halloween episode. This episode gets everything right: informative facts, a detailed look on a series long forgotten, the return of Ben Hall from Video Game Take Out, and showing once again on Capcom’s brilliance during their golden era of game developing. It’s one of his longest episodes and each minute does not waist anytime on showcasing the genius behind this obscure spinoff series to Ghosts & Goblins. Each game in the trilogy pushed the benchmark on their respected consoles and became stand outs for their time. While they each had flaws, the things they got right are very right, especially on how they were able to mix things up on the game play preventing it from becoming stale which most sequels can’t even accomplish. One of the best things about the games is the soundtrack. Derek features the songs on Retro Beats and they’ve become some of my favorite songs to listen to now whenever I’m relaxing or writing reviews. It was killed before its time and became forgotten for years, but people like the HVGN revived it for gamers to see and the main protagonist Firebrand became a character inclusion in Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Nowadays, the games are all on Virtual Console and I’m seeing more people talking about it now thanking the HVGN introducing them to this great underrated trilogy.
It’s not just a typical Earthbound review. It’s more or less like a documentary and thanks to the extended version, it’s the longest video he’s ever done clocking in at around 33 minutes. He discuss the history, why Earthbound is better than most RPGs, Earthbound Zero, the game that was never released outside of Japan, the cancelled Earthbound 64, and the dedicated site starmen.netÂ trying hard to get Nintendo to release the Mother series to America. While it seemed hopeless at first, especially towards the end of the video when it was reported that Earthbound would never be released on Virtual Console due to copyright reasons, the HVGN didn’t give up hope. Eventually, a few years later, Earthbound was released on Virtual Console due to the millions of fans begging Nintendo releasing it. The ending turned out to be a happy one unlike for Eternal Darkness or Splatterhouse. It was a well crafted review that has gotten many people into the series as well as reminded people on why they loved the series in the first place. It was the HVGN’s finest hour.
Let me know on the comments below on what your favorite Happy Video Game Nerd reviews are. Also, if you haven’t checked yet, please listen to episode 36 of Casual Chats where I interviewed Derek.
That’s all for now. Hope to see you around Old School Lane soon. Thanks for reading.