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Monday, January 15, 2018

Nintendo Switch, AKA Port City

You know, I was thinking of making a list of games I'd like to see ported to the Switch from the Wii U and other game systems. Yes, I'm aware that I did say that begging for Switch ports is pretty dang dumb, but wanting and actually begging (the later of which a company that screwed over Wii U owners was actively encouraging) are two different things. The recent Nintendo Direct Mini revealed the Switch has plenty of ports coming its way and that is by no means a bad thing.

The Switch has been on a roll since launch, with over 10 million units sold and it doesn't appear to be slowing down anytime soon. The amount of ports the Switch has and will be getting has been cited as a complaint for some. I'd like to counter that argument by stating that both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 were home to a plethora of ports, remasters and definitive editions earlier on in their life spans. Yes, the Switch is getting a lot of port love, but it has a major advantage that the XBO, PS4 and even the PC does not have: not only is it a home console, it is a portable one. Yeah, yeah, a laptop is also portable but it is nowhere near as convenient as the Switch is. That portability factor is what makes the gaming on the Switch and the ports all the more enticing. 

I have been wanting to get into the Dark Souls series for a some time now. My plan was to start with the first one via the PS3, but upon hearing the announcement of Dark Souls Remastered, well, I'll gladly fork over extra cash for the ability to not only get bodied at home but also while I'm up at laundromat across from my apartment. 

Hyrule Warriors was my first venture into the Dynasty Warriors style of games and I got a big kick out of it, repetitive as it was. Slaying wave after wave of foes as Impa, Midna and host of other Zelda characters that you normally don't get to play as really made that game for me. There was also a ton of content from the get go, which gave you a lot to do. I didn't stop playing Hyrule Warriors because I got bored of it. No, as usual, other games came along and I never got around to picking it back up. I didn't even purchase all of the DLC or Hyrule Warriors: Legends on the 3DS. Now that Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition is Switch bound and will include all of the content from the Wii U and 3DS versions including DLC, I'll just cop that version and call it a night. I'm itching to go out into the field using Toon Link (the GOAT Link) and Marin to to show fools what's up.

With Dark Souls Remastered heading for the
Switch, you can now die on the toilet. If you're
into that sort of thing.

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze was a fine, fine 2D platformer and in many ways, it one-up Donkey Kong Country Returns. It was one of the games I was wanting to see come to the Switch and lo and behold, my dream has been made reality. I got all the way up to the final boss, Lord Fredrick but died on him so many times that I stopped playing, never resuming. Yes, I'm aware that I'm a wimp and need to get gud and all that. Whatever. I would have bought a Switch port even if nothing else was added but they are giving us another Kong to play as in the form of Funky Kong, so there's that. More than that, Tropical Freeze is a wonderful game that deserved to sell much more than it did on the Wii U.

I as well as many others have said it so many times that we're beating a dead horse, but the Wii U was a flop. At over 13 million in lifetime sales, not a lot of people bought the system, meaning a wealth of people have did not play the games it had. Yet in spite of the Wii U failing, the system had some outstanding games and with some of them making the jump to the Switch, this will give them a new lease on life. The Switch is a huge success so it only makes sense to get those Wii U greats to those that didn't play them in the first place. The Switch is a such a mega hit that third parties are practically breaking down Nintendo's doors to able to make games for the thing or port games over to it. With the system being a home console as well as a portable, I fail to see how that is a bad thing. 

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Kirby25: A Chiptuned Retrospective

2017 was an anniversary year for a multitude of games, so much so that it was hard to keep track of them all. I was aware that it was the 25th anniversary of gaming's most adorable pink puff, Kirby, but the existence of this 25th anniversary album is something that I was completely unaware of.

Kirby25: A Chiptune Retrospective is a digital album consisting of 34 tracks from numerous Kirby games. The album is dominated by main line platform entries like Kirby's Adventure, Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards and Kirby's Return to Dream Land (my personal favorite Kirby game) among a plethora of others but spin off titles such as Kirby Air Ride and Kirby's Block Ball get some representation as well.

A Kirby arrangement album done exclusively in chiptune form is strangely refreshing but fitting since Kirby's audio roots are heavily planted in chiptune hardware. A total of fourteen different artists contributed to this album and their love for Kirby really shines through with this project. I get the impression a lot of these arrangers were fans of SUNSOFT's NES sound font because plenty of these tracks have that undeniable SUNSOFT punch. I think that's a good thing because the majority of NES games with the SUNSOFT name attached have outstanding soundtracks (Batman: The Video Game, Gimmick!). The drum samples and baselines throughout many of these tracks ring of SUNSOFT quality. I'm not saying these guys just copy pasted  SUNSOFT's audio and called it a day, though. Every track on this album has that Kirby charm and you can hear bits of the sound font taken from Kirby's old chiptune titles.

Most of the songs you would expect to get arranged do get arranged. If there wasn't an arrangement for Green Greens people would undoubtedly cry fowl. You've got your Factory Investigation, Rainbow Resort, King Dedede's Theme, Sky Sands and C-R-O-W-N-E-D to name a few. Strangely, there isn't an arrangement of Gourmet Race. As much as that song as been remixed over the years, perhaps the artists didn't feel like covering it. As much as I adore that song, the absence of it isn't really a big loss. Some of my favorite Kirby tracks that don't get as much love as the aforementioned tracks have been given some time in the sun here. Marshmallow Castle, Grass Land 2, Cappy's Stage (Kirby's Block Ball), White Wing Dyna Blade get some long overdue appreciation. Some of my more recent favorites are also covered here as well. White Office March sounds every bit as awesome as the 3DS original and Lovely Yellow Va-Va-Vrooms sounds like it was ripped right out of Kirby's Adventure, perfectly capturing the lively, chipper feel of the original tune. 

Look, if I haven't made it abundantly clear already, Kirby25: A Chiptune Retrospective is an album that I cannot get enough of. It is not only a tribute to Kirby's long history but also his chiptune sound origins. The album is a pay what you want download, so you can give a few bucks or get it for free. Your choice. Whatever you do, just get it.

Kirby25: A Chiptune Retrospective

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Favorite Tunes #210: The Snowman Cometh

We had a major snowfall here in Virginia. We got so much snow that it feels like the kind you'd get back in Ohio during the winter time. Though the snow came three days ago, there is still a lot of the white stuff on and ground and unfortunately, the side streets. Stay warm and safe.

40 Below Fridge - Wario Land 4 (GBA)

One of the most visually and audio-ably impressive GBA games was released early in the handheld's life. The plentiful SNES enhanced GBA ports were great and all but original titles like Wario Land 4 made me a happy that grabbed the handheld early on. If you missed out when it first released, Wario Land 4 is on the Wii U's eShop.

Sendai Outpost - FAST RACING NEO (Wii U)

Released as a digital only game (except for you lucky gamers in Europe). FAST RACING NEO was another one of those stellar Wii U titles you could bring up whenever someone said that the system had no games. If you never owned a Wii U, pick up FAST RMX from the eShop on the Switch. For $20, you're getting yourself one fine racer with some really good beats.

Red Out - After Burner (ARC)

Another one of SEGA's super scaler games released in the 1980s, After Burner saw plenty of home ports as well as an enhanced version of the game in the form of After Burner II. The game's original music was wrtitten by Hiroshi Kawaguchi, often going under then name Hiro. Like his music for Out Run and Power Drift, much of his tracks on on the long side, often going for over a minute before they loop around.

My Happy Sweet Time - Kirby: Planet Robobot (3DS)

I am really looking forward to the upcoming Kirby game for the Switch this year as it marks his return to traditional Kirby platforming on console since 2011's excellent Return to Dream Land on the Wii. On the 3DS, Kirby has been going strong with Triple Deluxe and the even better Planet Robobot. My Happy Sweet Time indeed.

Adventure Mode Konoha - Naurto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 (PS4, XBO, PC)

I have not played a Naurto game since Ultimate Ninja on the PS2. Since that time, dozens of Naruto games have been released in the west. I've been watching videos of Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 and one of the things that really grabbed my attention is the music. There's plenty of good battle themes but I really like the Konoha music that plays during the adventure mode.

Get Rid (Boss) - Blazing Star (ARC)

The 1998 sequel to Pulstar, Blazing Star (thankfully) has your ship respawn after you die, making for a slightly easier and even a bit faster paced game. Though the game does thrown a lot of enemies and even more bullets at you so it can still be quite challenging. The lady behind the music is Harumi Fuijita and she's turned in mostly jazzy score.

Favorite Tunes Database

Friday, January 5, 2018

Remix of the Week: Mute City (F-ZERO)

I've heard many a Mute City cover throughout the years. I gotta say, Nestalgica's metal cover is pretty dang awesome. Bonus points for covering that sick SNES Mute City opening as I have always loved that.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Now is the Perfect time for F-ZERO to Return

Art by AzureBladeXIII
Thirteen long years. That's how much time has passed since the last F-ZERO game was released on a home console. Its been twelve years since the last portable F-ZERO entry. Since the release of F-ZERO GX and F-ZERO: GP Legend, Nintendo's futuristic racing series has been sidelined, stuck in whatever high tech garages they use in Mute City, waiting for the day it can finally rev up it's engines once again. Well, in my humble opinion, that time is now.

F-ZERO GX was the last time we saw a console release in the series and that
was way back in 2003.

Mario Kart 8 sold well on the Wii U, reaching over 8 million in a period of a little over three years. However, the upgraded Deluxe edition on the Switch has sold over 4 million units and the game hasn't even been out for a full year yet. Splatoon 2 is already shaping up to outsell the original game with over 3 million and like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, a year hasn't even passed since it released. People that missed out on Mario Kart 8 and Splatoon on the Wii U were probably experiencing these titles for the first time and existing fans also helped move sales. Let's not forget that ARMS, a brand new Nintendo IP, managed to to sell more than 1 million copies in June, the very month that it was released. For a new IP, that is highly impressive.

What I'm getting at is that the Switch is yet another Nintendo system that prints money. It also helps that Nintendo's ads are seriously on point. Switch ads are short, simple and to the point, showing off the system as a home console and a handheld and with more than 10 million Switch units sold, people are loving what Nintendo is selling. Combine the Switch with Nintendo's killer ads and there is no better time for Captain Falcon and the gang to return in their home franchise.

I can already hear some of you saying that we've got Shin'en Multimedia's FAST RACING series, which has similarities to F-ZERO. Both are insanely fast, futuristic racers. Heck, FAST RACING NEO and FAST RACING RMX  have the very same announcer from F-ZERO GX. I've heard some people say NEO and RMX are "basically F-ZERO". Similar as these two franchises may be, they are still different animals.

The FAST games let you change phases to get boosts when passing over the appropriate color. F-ZERO lets you boost whenever you please after completing the first lap at the expense of machine energy. You can bump into your opponents in FAST and send them off course but there is little in the way for you to hurt the opposition. F-ZERO gives you two options for attacking other racing outright, spinning and side attacks. Another key difference between the two series, and this is a big one, is characters. F-ZERO has Captain Falcon, Samurai Goroh, Pico, Dr. Stewart, Blood Falcon, Black Shadow and a host of other crazy comic book inspired fellows. Characters are one of the main reasons Nintendo's games are so universally loved. You could make the argument that they may not be as developed as lots of other story driven games, but Mario is loved by many despite Luigi having far more depth to him than his older brother (who also happens to be adored by throngs of fans). In contrast, the FAST games have no characters to speak of.

By no means am I trying to cite the FAST series as a lesser franchise by saying all of these things. I'm merely pointing out the differences between two similar games. The FAST games are highly enjoyable with a lot to offer and I'm glad they have a home on Nintendo systems. Having said that, the FAST games are not F-ZERO and in spite of those similarities, it never will be.

FAST RMX is great, but F-ZERO it ain't. 
Perhaps the biggest obstacle standing in the way of F-ZERO's return is Nintendo itself, or to be more precise, the the man who had a major hand in creating the series, Shigeru Miyamoto. The man has made it clear that he does not simply want to release another F-ZERO game. I'm all for innovation but not every game needs to reinvent the wheel. A new way to play has hardly stopped the company from releasing new entries in the New Super Mario Bros. series, one that is heavily criticized for being too samey. The Mario Kart franchise, while outstanding has hardly had much in the way of mind blowing ideas in years. Hasn't stopped Nintendo from cranking them out. Miyamoto is a genius but genius doesn't make you right all the time. That he can't understand why fans want F-ZERO to return is very puzzling to me.

Metroid made a comeback without doing anything radically different from what we saw from the games before. Why does F-ZERO have to do something bold or new to warrant a return? If Nintendo is unsure of making a new F-ZERO, they could outsource it to another developer, F-ZERO GX, what many to consider to be the best of the series was developed by Amusement Visions, one of SEGA's now defunct second parties. If any company should be tasked with handling Nintendo's anti-gravity racer, it should be none other than Shin'en Multimedia. They have more than proved themselves worthy of making a competent, blistering speed racer. With the Switch being a runaway success, Nintendo has nothing to lose and everything to gain from bringing F-ZERO out of its long retirement.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Favorite Tunes #209: 2017 Was Really Somthing

Man, oh man, 2017 was quite a year, both in terms of gaming and in general. The PS4 continued to sell well throughout the year while Nintendo made a huge comeback with the Switch. There was no shortage of good to great games to play so unless you're an extremely picky person, that's the only way I can see 2017 sucking for games. With so many games to choose from, that also meant there was plenty of memorable music to go around.

City Ruins : Rays of Light - NieR: Automata (PC, PS4)

Yeah, yeah, it took me this long to post music from NieR: Automata. What is wrong with me? In my defense, I did start the game pretty late. NeiR has engaging combat and a wealth of SHMUP sections and both control magnificently. Oh and then there's the game's soundtrack, which is just, well, wow. I mean, listen to this theme.

Maverick - Tiny Barbarian DX (PC, NS)

Originally released on PC in four episodes, now you can get Tiny Barbarian DX in physical form on the Switch for $30. It takes a few hours to complete each episode so the game isn't as short as you might think. From the retro visuals to the chiptune soundtrack, this game wears its old school vibe loud and proud and that goes for the game's difficulty as well. Challenging bosses, platforming and enemy placement are plentiful in this game.

Die House - Cuphead (PC, XBO)

Have I mentioned how freaking awesome the soundtrack to Cuphead is? Because that stuff is baller AF. Between the fantastic jazz and swing numbers, you've got the occasional vocal number. In case the message wasn't clear in this song, King Dice is not someone you want to trifle with.

Shrine - The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Wii U, NS)

There was very little in the way of dungeons in Breath of the Wild and personally, I didn't mind this one bit. So much of the experience came from explore the game's massive overworld. The game's numerous shines serve as mini dungeons and often times there is more than one solution to the puzzle driven ones. Some say this is an arrangement of a musical track from Link's Awakening, but I'm not hearing it.

The Abyssal Seas - Blaster Master Zero (3DS, NS)

The original Blaster Master was a pretty tough game. Blaster Master Zero will leave players far less frustrated while placing far more emphasis on the story than the original game did. The majority of the music is brand new, which may rub fans of the original the wrong way, but I've got no complaints from everything I've heard.

Staff Roll - Super Mario Odyssey (NS)

When I finished Super Mario Odyssey, I couldn't help but smile as the credits rolled and I was treated to a collage of all the locations Mario and Cappy visited. It truly did feel like the adventure of a lifetime. The Staff Roll theme is an arrangement of Fossil Falls, one of the game's very best music pieces. It seemed like the best choice to end of 2017. In spite of all the crap that happened this year involving the medium, 2017 was still one of the absolute best years in gaming. Here's hoping 2018 is just as good, if not better.

Favorite Tunes Database

Friday, December 29, 2017

Remix of the Week: Bonneton (Super Mario Odyssey)

As much as I love Jump Up, Super Star!, the song's overwhelming popularity means that other great tracks from Super Mario Odyssey are getting screwed. Simply searching for remixes from said game will net you a ton of results for the jazzy musical number. Nevertheless, I did come across several tracks that remixes the numerous kingdoms. This particular remix comes from Neku, who gave Bonneton the chiptune treatment. Very head bop worth stuff.