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Saturday, February 25, 2017

Favorite Tunes #176: We're Back

If you were curious as to why there was no activity on the blog all of last week, it was due to work becoming all too consuming. It isn't often I work for eight straight days and I can assure you, that is never going to happen again. Blog posts have resumed, which means Favorite Tunes has returned as well.

Tribunal for the Devil - Yakuza 0 (PS4)


When I picked up my PS4, Yakuza 0 was one of the games I purchased along with it and it is actually my entry into the Yakuza series. I greatly enjoy the different styles of combat and there is just something about slamming a punk's head against a wall or showing him the heels of your kicks up close that is ultra satisfying. When you've got music like this playing, it's even better.

DUEL!! - Final Fantasy Brave Exvius (Mobile)


If the mainline Final Fantasy titles on mobile platforms seem a bit too pricey for you ($21.99 for Final Fantasy IX? No, thank you) the free games really aren't shabby. Final Fantasy: Brave Exvius took me by surprise with it's detailed sprites, humours interactions between the two main characters and the ability to fight alongside mainline Final Fantasy cast members. The soundtrack is also quite good. The main battle theme, Duel!!, always gets me pumped.

Tassel Town - Shantae: Half-Genie Hero (PS4, Wii U, PSV)



Shantae: Half-Genie Hero came out at the very end of the year and ended up becoming one of my favorite titles of 2016. Sure, that $30 price tag was awfully nice, but even better was the retro inspired gameplay and Shantae's various forms she could take to unearth hidden items and advance through levels. This funky beat made my numerous trips to Tassel Town very enjoyable.

Car Select - F-ZERO X (N64)


The second entry in the F-ZERO series, X was a considerable leap. The third dimension allowed for half-pipes, corkscrews, and even bigger air to be caught from jumps. F-ZERO X also upped the playable machine count from four to thirty. Said machines could be customized from color to speed and acceleration. All this and a spiffy musical track to go along with your car options.

Evil Clones Theme - Super Dodge Ball (NES)


Along with River City Ransom, Super Dodge Ball is the other beloved NES game in the long running  Kunio series to be released in America. A port of the arcade version, the NES version is unfortunately plagued by slowdown, but this didn't stop it from being a fan favorite, The soundtrack is full of catchy, memorable themes. The intro to this theme is freaking sick.

Magical Snow Day - Sonic Runners (Mobile)


Tomoya Ohtani has become one of my favorite people to write music for the Sonic series. A regular on the console Sonic efforts, the man gave it 110% when writing the music for Sonic Runners, the now defunct mobile Sonic game, with compositions on par with the music from a console Sonic entry.

Favorite Tunes Database

Monday, February 20, 2017

As Nintendo Switch Hype Builds, So Does Nintendo Switch Hate


We are less than two weeks away from March 3rd, the launch of the Nintendo Switch. I won't be picking up the console at launch because I couldn't pre-order it in time, but I'm just as excited for the system as anyone else. In fact, I've grown more hopeful for the Switch as more news has come out. But as we get closer to the Switch launch, Nintendo haters and console ware fanboys are coming out in full force 

It is no secret that the Switch is not as powerful as the Xbox One or the PlayStation 4. This is something haters are quick to throw in the face of anyone looking forward to getting a Switch. And yeah, said haters are correct. While the Switch is an HD console, the PS4 and XBO outclass it in the specs department. And yet, both the XBO and PS4 are outclassed by a little system called a PC. Even a low end PC will take both of those systems to school. The most powerful system for gaming is a device that pretty much everyone already owns. I wouldn't mind the Switch being more powerful but $300 for an HD console that can be played at home and on the go, I don't mind the compromises. Between the PS2, the GameCube and the first Xbox, the PS2 was the weakest of the bunch but it still outsold the competition because of the games, not because of tech specs.

The Switch comes with an initial 32 GB of hard drive space and I originally thought that was a diminutive amount of storage space. The Wii U also had the same storage space to start and unless you were buying all of your games digitally, it was a decent amount of space for storage. I still haven't exhausted all of the Wii U's 32 GBs. 500 GB seems like a huge amount of space for storage on the PS4 but the games have to be installed and some of those games take up a huge amount of space. Mind you, this is the case for both physical and digital PS4 games. Stories about PS4 owners having to uninstall games just to make space on the PS4 hard drive are all too common. The PS4 Pro is an attractive buy for the 1 TB of space alone for those that don't already own a PS4. If you feel you'll burn through 32 GB of space pretty quickly, SD cards made for the Switch are available to remedy the problem. Like the Wii U, Switch games will run off the game card, which will help save space.

Apparently, the Switch isn't a true portable because you can't fit it in your pocket. Huh. I was not aware that a portable system wasn't truly portable unless you could carry it around in your pants. You know what also didn't fit into most people's jeans? The original Game Boy. Not that that little hiccup prevented gamers from playing hours of Tetris or the first and second generation of Pokemon games. Heck, the Game Boy was inferior, hardware wise to the Game Gear and Lynx, both portables that boasted color and superior visuals but the Game Boy trumped both of those portables with a healthy 10 hour battery life and a much better library of games. Long before the Game Boy's Pocket and Color models were released in 1996 and 1998 respectively, the Game Boy was printing money for Nintendo despite being a brick. Hm, I guess the iPad isn't a true portable either because I can't fit it in my back pocket. And yet, people are always using them at home, on buses, trains, airplanes, etc. Last I checked, not being pocket sized has hardly been detrimental to a portable system's longevity. Did we suddenly start living in a world where book bags don't exist?

I very much doubt the Switch not being pocket
sized will be much of a problem. At all.
And the Switch costs too much! And if you want an extra Joy-Con that's an additional $70! The Switch doesn't come with a pack-in game so I'm already looking to spend over $400 on launch day! Oh noes! Sigh. The PS4 launched at $400 with no game included. An additional Dual Shock 4 did and still does cost $60. The 360 launched at $500 with no pack-in game and another controller was not cheap. So it's perfectly fine to fork over more than $450 at launch on other systems but suddenly it because far too costly when you might spend that much on a Nintendo system on launch day? I won't argue that the Joy-Cons are inexpensive but with the purchase of a Switch, you're getting two controllers right out of the box with much better battery life than what Sony and Microsoft are offering. Yes, the Joy-Cons are $10 more than a Dual Shock 4 but $60 is still pretty freaking pricey. Controllers for in general are expensive, not just the Joy-Cons.

The launch line up sucks! OK, so Splatoon 2 and Super Mario Odyssey aren't launch titles. Sure, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is at launch, but it is also hitting the Wii U on the same day. Was the PS4 and XBO launches really any better? Heck, even the 3DS launch, a system that is killing it, wasn't very hot. If we've learned anything from console launches it is that even a sub-par launch does not doom a system. And if you can't get excited for Super Bomberman R, you should probably see a doctor.

Gamers, both hardcore and casual alike are talking about the Switch. I think it's great that there is a great deal of excitement surrounding Nintendo's new machine. The Switch is easy to develop for and Nintendo make it easily accessible for third party developers, which is probably the reason we're seeing so many line up to make games for the thing. Do I still have concerns? Of course. That one "free" digital game a month deal sucks and I'm hoping online play is smooth and that third parties don't jump ship, but right now is a time to get hype. 

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Favorite Tunes #175: Flashback

You know those annoying anime episodes that recap the events of past episodes? Yeah, I'm not a big fan of them either. And yet, here I am, doing a Favorite Tunes that features music from past Favorite Tunes. It can be difficult to keep track of all the songs I've listed over the years and I've always wanted to give songs I've mentioned in the past even more recognition. With that said, this probably won't be the last time old favorites get used again but it will be done sparingly.

Battle Scene - Final Fantasy (NES)


The very first Final Fantasy battle theme. Battle Scene's first six seconds would go on to get reused in the next five Final Fantasy entries and return in Final Fantasy IX. Of course there's more to Battle Scene than those first few seconds. The song paints such a perfect picture of battle that even if someone heard it without context, I think the intent of the song would be quite clear. Even on the old NES hardware, Nobuo Uematsu crafted an intense battle theme and it is still one of my favorite battle tracks he's ever written.

Gusty Garden Galaxy - Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)


Mario's seventh generation console debut game did not disappoint, treating gamers to an out of this world experience. Who would have thought running around planets no bigger than a house could be so much fun. Sure, Spring Mario is a sucky power-up that needs to die in a fire, but Super Mario's pros far outweigh the cons. The orchestral score is certainly one of the game's biggest pros.

The Shinobi - The Revenge of Shinobi (GEN)


One cannot discuss great Genesis soundtracks and not mention Yuzo Koshiro's fantastic Revenge of Shinobi score. The Shinobi makes you feel like a badawesome ninja beginning his mission by infiltrating the enemy base, killing in stealth when needed.

The Road (Theme of Ryu) - Street Fighter Alpa 3 (Multi)


Ryu's Street Fighter II theme is so iconic that if often gets remixed in other Street Fighter and crossover games. I love his stage theme, but I was happy to see the composers of Street Fighter Alpha 3 break away from it and try something new. The result is The Road, a high energy theme that reflects Ryu's endless drive to improve himself through battle.

Eight Guitars (Sand Ocean) -F-ZERO GX (GCN)


Insert comments about how much one misses F-ZERO and how we need another entry here. In all seriousness, I'd love for Nintendo to just give us another F-ZERO. Even if it is a ball buster like the last console entry, F-ZERO GX, I'd be fine with that. Sure, GX was merciless, but it was a darn good racer to boot. I'm saddened that Eight Guitars, easily one of my top favorite tracks from GX, didn't make the music cut in Super Smash Bros. Brawl or the Smash on Wii U.

Rasdan - Threads of Fate (PS)


Released during a time where Square was more willing to take risks, Threads of Fate was allowed players to choose between Rue and Mint, each with their own story. The soundtrack was scored my Junya Nakano, who wrote Final Fantasy X's more atmospheric tracks. His work on Threads of Fare is still some of his best with Rasdan easily being my top pick from that score.

Favorite Tunes Database

Friday, February 10, 2017

Remix of the Week: Forest Interlude (Donkey Kong Country 2)

I have always loved the relaxed feeling of Donkey Kong Country 2's Forest Interlude. It is just such a soothing track. This piano and violin arrangement is jaw droppingly mesmerizing and you get to see the duo of Chris and Zorsy perform it in the video below.



Thursday, February 9, 2017

10 Reasons the First Final Fantasy is (Still) Awesome

I've been going through the first Final Fantasy game yet again. It is a simple, yet fun RPG that I love coming back to and with this year marking the 30th anniversary of the game and the Final Fantasy series as a whole, I thought I'd do a string of year long posts on Square Enix's flagship series. If for some reason, you have yet to play the game that kick off this juggernaut franchise or think it isn't worth your time, I've got 10 reasons why the first Final Fantasy is still good stuff after all these years.

01. The Battle Screen



In Dragon Warrior (the first JRPG) and in western RPGs, random battles were a frequent occurrence and every time you were thrust into one, you'd see some background imagery, command menus and of course the enemy. Final Fantasy was no different but managed to change things up considerably by displaying your party members in each battle scene. Common place now but in 1987/1990, this was a huge deal. Your party not only appeared on screen, but they would step forward to attack enemies with weapons and magic. The animation would also differ depending on the weapon or magic spell used. When low on HP or struck with a status aliment, your characters would slump down to visually display that they weren't feeling too hot. Also, the monster design for the original Final Fantasy was and still is impressive. Yoshitaka Amano, the art designer for many of the earlier Final Fantasy titles, drew up some killer designs and even in game, they look they were were ripped straight out of his sketch books.

02. Garland


Garland is the first boss you face and he really isn't tough at all, especially if you gain a few levels before going to the Chaos Shrine to fight him. He does have one of the best lines of dialogue any Final Fantasy character has ever spouted, on par with a famous line from Final Fantasy IV. For some odd reason, the above line was removed from the PS remake of the game but the GBA and PSP versions have thankfully restored it. Great villain line aside, you'll probably forget all about Garland once you slay him. He may fall like a brick, but Garland's role in Final Fantasy is much bigger than you realize...

03. You Can Choose Your Own Party



One of the reasons Final Fantasy is still such a good game is that you get to choose a party of four from the very start, selecting from six job classes.

The Fighter/Warrior is an all around great addition to any party, able to equip just about every piece of armor and weaponry as well as dishing out great damage and being able to take a hit.

Black Belts/Monks, can't equip heavy gear and don't dish at much damage from the start, but don't even bother giving them a weapon because soon enough, they will be handing out one shot blows to even the scariest of enemies like candy. Since stuff tends to get pricey in this game, Monks are also good for saving money. They may not be as customizable as other classes but you're a walking tank, who really cares?

The Thief is good for running away from fights but isn't as strong as the Warrior or Monk, nor can he much of the good weapons or armor. An upgrade is in order before he really becomes a force to be reckoned with.

If you want to keep your crew alive, having a White Mage is a must since they excel at all sorts of healing and protective magic. White Mages can also use the Exit/Teleport spell and given how ridiculous the first Final Fantasy game's random encounter rate is, a hasty exit is always a good thing.

Black Mages deal in strong offensive elemental magic as well as being able to use Fast/Haste to turn your Warriors and Monks into even greater killing machines. Since the second and third variation of every offensive spell they can use affects every enemy on screen, Black Mages are great for often slaughtering a whole flock of fools stupid enough to oppose your team.

The Red Mages is the character that is a jack of all trades but sadly, is a master of none. He can dish out some decent damage but don't expect him to be anywhere near as strong as the Warrior or Monk class. The higher level black and white magic spells are also out of his reach. Still, you could do a lot worse than the Red Mage.

You're probably thinking that you have to choose one member of each class, but nope! Final Fantasy places no limit to how many of the same character class you can have in your party. Want a squad of all Fighters? Go for it Feeling like making the game a serious uphill battle? Try an all White Mage run. Yes, people have actually done this. The ability to form you own party from the very start of the journey makes the experience different for everyone who plays.


04. The Title Screen

You know how it goes when you turn on a game. Usually you get some plot, the developer/publisher logo and then bam, title. In Final Fantasy you get the 411 on the Earth being screwed over and then, the option to start a new game or continue where you left off? In the original NES release there is no title screen to speak of when you boot up the game. I didn't play the first Final Fantasy until 1996 and I still thought this was strange. I mean, yeah, Square was on the verge of hanging it up in the video game business but were they in so much trouble that they could not afford to put the game's title within the game upon starting up? Nah, it turns out Square just went about bringing the player to the title screen differently and considering there was a distinct possibility that Final Fantasy would be their last game, I really like how they did this.

After outfitting your party with equipment to make sure they don't die on you, going through your first dungeon, fighting your first boss and then saving Princess Sarah, you get to explore other parts of world by crossing a bridge and when you set foot on said bridge...


You get the game's title screen and what a title screen it is. Saving the princess was just the warm up. Now the game really begins. Even in 1996, I still thought Final Fantasy's title drop was one of the coolest things I'd ever seen in a video game. If this really was to be the last game Square ever made, they were going out in style. Lucky for us, Final Fantasy was far from the company's final game. Re-releases give you a title screen each time you fire up the game, but the bridge scene with the title drop is still in tact.

05. Matoya's Cave


You visit kingdoms, towns, dungeons, floating castles and all other manner of fascinating locals but one of the most memorable places you reach early in your adventure is Matoya's Cave. Don't be frightened by the skulls as they only exist for decorative purposes. The cave is free of random encounters and not only home to Matoya, the friendly witch, but her sweeping brooms that speak backwards. Matoya's Crystal Eye has been pilfered and retriving it s the first in a long line of fetch quests that you'll need to do. Since she can't see a thing without her Crystal Eye, you can loot her cave and she'll be none the wiser. Unless those cool backwards talking brooms snitch on you, that is.

06. The Airship


Even in the original Final Fantasy, the world is a big place and hoofing it can grow quite tiresome. You get some other means to travel such as a canoe and ship for sailing but the best of mode of transportation Final Fantasy offers is the airship, which grants you access to the entire overworld. Getting the airship, even in the first Final Fantasy, feels freaking great and I love flying around in this thing. Airships are very common in RPGs today and you can thank Final Fantasy for inducting them into the genre.

07. Bahamut


Think the king of dragons was always a summon? Think again. In the original Final Fantasy, Bahamut is chilling in the Dragon Caves with his clan, awaiting the Rat's Tail as proof of courage. Going to the Citadel of Trials to retrieve this strange item and bringing it back to Bahamut grants your party class upgrades, giving them access to some of the best spells in the game as well as altering their appearances.

08. Warmech



Omega, Shinryu, Ruby Weapon, Emerald Weapon. Long before any of those guys were destroying the sanity of players, Final Fantasy had Warmech, a 1/64 chance random encounter on the narrow pathway to face the final fiend, Tiamat. Some translations give Warmech the title of Death Machine, which is pretty apt. See the above screen? That is usually the state mages find themselves in after Warmech uses Nuke, an attack that hits the entire party of insane amounts of damage. Warmech is far from being unbeatable but really, this guy is not someone or something you want to trifle with since he's more powerful than the Four Fiends and can give the final boss a run for his money.

09. The Music

I almost made a huge error in putting this list up without mentioning Final Fantasy's amazing soundtrack. The game has a soundtrack befitting for adventure with lots of peppy, upbeat music, focused battle and boss themes and dread inducing dungeon music. You may be used to the iconic Opening theme being played with real instruments, but even in chiptune form, it is really freaking moving. I can never get enough of the NES version's Victory theme and Matoya's Cave is so happy it hurts! Both the NES and PS soundtracks are great listening.

Opening (NES) (PS)
Battle Scene (NES)
Main Theme (NES) (PS)
Chaos Shrine (NES) (PS)
Victory (NES)
Matoya's Cave (NES) (PS)
Dungeon (NES) (PS)
Inside a Boss Battle (PS)
Boss Battle A (PS)
Sunken Shrine (NES) (PS)
Ending (NES) (PS)

10. The Final Dungeon


When I defeated Tiamat, I thought the game would be over. No more elemental instability, right? I mean, these guys were the ones behind the world's decay, no? Turns out someone else was is charge.

The Chaos Shrine or Temple of Fiends as it is refereed to in the NES version is the game's very first dungeon. It also serves as the last dungeon because it is where the true mastermind of the world's decay lies, In the present, the Chaos Shrine is a brief, single floor dungeon but in the past, it is a large, sprawling, multi floor complex. It also has some fixed encounter titles in the form of the Four Fiends. But didn't you kill them before? What are they doing in the past?  Once all four of them are defeated, you meet their leader... Garland?! How?! Due to a confusing time loop of the Four Fiends sending Garland to the past where he gets stronger over and over again, he's allowed to live forever. He transforms into the being known as Chaos and the final battle ensues.

I love how Final Fantasy brings everything full circle with the last dungeon. The first boss you fought, Garland, is the final boss as Chaos. The time loop may be really freaking convoluted and not make sense, but I have to give the game props for the twist. When you defeat Chaos and end the time loop, this makes it so none of the events even took place. Garland never became evil and the world never ended up in such dire straits. The only one with the knowledge of what occurred is you.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Nintendo's Switch Super Bowl Ad is on Point

There are a number of reasons the Wii U flopped so hard but one of the biggest was a server lack of advertisement. Outside of the hardcore gamers, very few people even knew what the Wii U was, often mistaking it for some kind of add on for the original Wii. With the Nintendo Switch, it is a completely different story.

From the design of the system to the name, Nintendo has made it clear that the Switch is a completely new console so even the casual gamer won't mistake it for something it isn't. So Nintendo gets some points for eliminating name confusion but they get major props for their first Switch ad.



Now that right there is a good freaking ad. It shows what the Switch is about while showing off some games for the system with Imagine Dragon's Believer playing as background music. It is a great ad on it's own, but Nintendo plans to run that sucker during the Super Bowl. 

I'm not a football fan but even a football challenged poser like me knows how popular the Super Bowl is. Every year, millions of people tune in to see the biggest football game of the year so it was a brilliant move of Nintendo to had an ad play during the Super Bowl, letting millions of people know that they've got a new console coming and you can play it anywhere. Anyone that may not know about the Switch is going to be informed very soon. 

Again, this first Switch ad is really, really good and Nintendo gets bonus points for running it during the Super Bowl. Its a sign of stronger advertising from Nintendo, which will help them a lot during the Switch's lifespan. The Super Bowl ad will be the first time a lot of people even catch wind that the Switch is a thing and with an ad this good, Nintendo is going to get a lot of people looking in their direction. 

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Favorite Tunes #174: Going Commando

Now that is a subtitle that is sure to raise some eyebrows. No,it isn't what you think but with one of the game's titles in this week's Favorite Tunes, I just couldn't resist.

Darius - Darius Twin (SNES)


My first entry to the Darius series, Darius Twin is certainly not the best Darius experience. Much of the enemies fly on screen and zip right out with not even much of an attempt to attack you. Still, there are worse shooters on the SNES and the music is't too shabby.

The Second Act - Tales of Phantasia (SNES)


The first American release of the Tales series was in the form of Tales of Destiny on the PS in 1998. Tales of Phantasia, the very first Tales game, wouldn't be released outside of Japan until 2006 on the GBA and unfortunately the music took a hit on the GBA hardware. It isn't awful, but the SNES version's music is just infinitely superior. The Second Act is the second overworld theme.

Sky, Ocean, and Earth - Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King (PS2)


Originally released on the PS2 in 2005. Dragon Quest VIII was recently re-released on the 3DS with new features, one of the best being the elimination of random battles. If you missed out on the PS2 version, make sure you grab Dragon Quest VIII on the 3DS and enjoy the lengthy quest, memorable characters and wonderful soundtrack Koichi Sugiyama is to Dragon Quest as to Nobuo Uematsu is to Final Fantasy. The music may not sound as grandiose on the 3DS, but it still sounds pretty dang good.

Main Theme - Commando (ARC)


My first time playing Commando was on the Capcom Arcade Classics Collection on the PS2 and I could not get enough of the game's Main Theme, which is very militaristic but fitting given the nature of the game. Run, shoot, duck, toss grenades, and keep moving. It actually isn't as easy at it sounds.

Saxophone Under the Moon (YAGAMI TEAM BGM) - King of Fighters XIV (PS4)


I love me some jazz. I have yet to play King of Fighters XIV but if the game if the music is anything to go by, I think I'll really enjoy it. Besides, it has been years since I threw down with Iori and company and I'm looking forward to getting back in touch with the old gang.

Sirius Theme #1 (Friend or Foe) - Bomberman 64 (N64)


I am SO excited for Bomberman's return with Super Romberman R on the Nintendo Switch. As much as I can't wait to go online with fellow Bomberman players and blow stuff up, I am a bit intrigued as to what the single player mode will be like. Bomberman 64 had one of the most enjoyable (if at times, too overly challenging) single player modes in Bomberman's history while the multiplayer mode was lacking. I'm hoping Super Bomberman R can achieve a good balance.

Favorite Tunes Database