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Thursday, November 15, 2018

EVERYONE IS DEAD


"EVERYONE IS HERE!" These are the words that kicked off the hype train for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate during Nintendo's E3 showing in June of 2018. Every single character that had been playable in the the Super Smash Bros. series prior to this game would be playable in Ultimate. Needless to say, this news was met with thunderous applause. Whether you had a favorite or a main from Melee, Brawl or Smash Wii U, every single character would be present and to throw down in what is shaping up to be the biggest crossover in the history of video games.

During the closing of the Smash Ultimate presentation, a character fans had been desiring for a long time was finally being added to the roster, Samus Aran's, arch nemesis. Ridley. The winged nightmare made his debut by killing Mega Man and Mario. Sure, the beast was probably just showing off and taunting Samus by offing her crew, but the following Nintendo Direct, which was Smash Ultimate focused had Luigi get taken out by Death from Castlevania. The same direct ended with King K. Rool offing King Dedede. Fans had come to the realization that with each Smash Direct, a character would be killing. With the final Smash Ultimate Direct scheduled for November 1st, fans were left to speculate who would die in this last Direct. Sakurai had an answer for us: everyone.

November's final Direct ended with one heck of a bang. We saw the entire roster, cliff side, about to wage the mother of all battles against an army of Master Hands. Beams of light assault our heroes and while the bravely try to fight against these unbelievably fast beams, it quickly becomes apparent that they are locked into a losing battle. When such heroes as Link and Samus are bested (quite hastily, I might add) many of the heroes try to escape. Alas, it is hopeless. Sonic is vaporized trying to help save a fleeing Pikachu only for the cute little rodent to meet the very same fate. Falco, swift of a pilot that he is, is quickly overtaken in when flying away in his Arwing. For some reason, Snake thought he would be safe if he hid in his cardboard box, but his vaporization proved to be one of the most amusing. We don't see how every single character was taken out (I shudder to think of how my dog waifu Isabelle was taken out) but we are shown how a good chunk of the cast got eliminated. It was pretty much a no holds bared beat down for our heroes (and villains). They did not have a freaking chance. EVERYONE IS DEAD.

Well, almost everyone.


The Galeem Light (what disposed of our heroes and Villains) was chasing Kirby, but thankfully he wasn't fleeing on foot, but on this Warp Star and he managed to escape. Now anyone that knows Sakurai can understand why Kirby, out of a cast that huge got away. The little pink blob is his baby and after everything he's done for Smash Ultimate, I have no problem with him showing favoritism towards his creation. Besides, somebody had to get away so everyone else could be saved.

It turns out killing everybody was Sakurai's way for introducing us to the game's adventure/story mode, World of Light. Starting out alone, it will be up to Kirby to reunite everyone so they fight back against this mysterious foe. I kinda feel sad for Kirby. All of his friends were killed and he's got to venture out into this big world. But then I remember that Kirby once went on a rampage because someone took his cake. This time, someone took his friends. So yeah, mysterious foe is gonna get it.

Killing off (almost) the entire cast? Now that is how you get someone excited to play adventure/story mode! I really liked Subspace Emissary in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, both the the many fights and the character interactions during cut scenes. We don't know if Ultimate will have as many cut scenes for the adventure mode as Brawl did but I really hope it does. Sakurai didn't do an adventure mode for Smash Wii U because the cut scenes for Brawl were uploaded to YouTube, but Brawl released ten years ago so perhaps he feels differently now. Even if World of Light doesn't have a wealth of cut scenes, the world we'll be traveling looks positively massive and there will be bosses to fight as well as a skill tree for us to upgrade our characters. It's pretty cool to see Sakurai do such an ambitious story mode again and I cannot wait to play World of Light.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Favorite Tunes #245: Vania Mania

I binge watched season 2 of Castlevania on Netflix (I thought it was freakin' good, FYI), and I've been playing through Rondo of Blood and Symphony of the Night on the PS4 via Castlevania Requiem. Needless to say, I'm in a major mood for Castlevania so this week's Favorite Tunes is all about Akumajou Dracula.

Castlevania II: Simon's Quest (NES)
The first Castlevania has been remade/re-imagined a few times over, yet the game that truly needs a makeover, Castlevania II, has yet to be touched. Unless you already know what to do, trying to get through Simon's Quest is impossible without a guide and as such, is often viewed as the weakest of the NES trilogy. Thankful, the music is still aces.

Beginning - Akumajou Densetsu (FC)
Known as Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse outside of Japan. The plot of the first two seasons of the Netflix Castlevania takes clear inspirations from this game. I really do like the NES version of this game's soundtrack but I cannot deny that the Famicom's extra channels do make the soundtrack have that extra pop.

Den (Stage 7) - Castlevania: Rondo of Blood (PCE)
What is widely regarded as the best traditional (non Metrovaina style) Castevania game, this game was stuck in no export for you status for the longest time. Over the past 11 years, it has recieved several re-releases outside of Japan, with the latest one being bundled with it's sequel, Castlevania Symphony of the Night on the PS4 until the title Castlevania Requiem. As fun as Metrovania style Castlevania games are, it's nice to return to the series more liner roots from time to time, which was one of the reasons Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon resonated so well with me. Rondo of Blood gives you multiple paths in many of it's levels, two characters to play as (as long as you collect the key and unlock Maria's cell in stage 2) and killer soundtrack.

Snake Head Medusa - Castlevania: Lament of Innocence (PS2)
From what I gather, most are in the camp that Castlevania should never go into the third dimension ever again. Leon Belmont, the protagonist of Lament of Innocence makes a portrait appearance in the Netflix Castlevania series on top of being mentioned by Trevor Belmont. If you've seen the dubbed version of Naruto and played this game, you might recognize Leon's voice actor. He also voices a famous copy night.

Marble Gallery - Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (PS)
The fact that this game is not going to be available on the PS1 Classic system coming out next month is criminal. Yeah, I imagine that you've heard countless others say something along those lines, but I do believe the game being omitted from the list is a travesty. I've been going through this game on the PS4 and despite not having played it in years, it still holds up beautifully. Michiru Yamane's soundtrack to this game is a wonderful contribution to the series outstanding music.

Ending Theme - Super Castlevania IV (SNES)
I've said it before and I'll say it again: Super Castlevania IV's soundtrack is INCREDIBLE! This is an early SNES releases and the music still sounds amazing to this very day. Well-loved tracks from previous games like Vampire Killer, Beginning and Bloody Tears sound great but the new music is also just as grand. And speaking of grand, check this finale track!

Favorite Tunes Database

Monday, November 5, 2018

How to Mega Man 11 (In 7 Steps)


I was reading a post from fellow blogger Cross-Up about his time with Mega Man 11. While I was delighted to find that yet another person had picked the game up, he wasn't having the easiest time with the game.

Saying Mega Man games are hard is like telling someone water is wet. Everyone already know this, bu there's a huge difference between being told something and actually experiencing it. Reading his post reminded me how much I struggled when I played a Mega Man game for the first time. It was death after death, after death. Nevertheless, I persisted and now, playing a Mega Man game is like breathing to me. In an attempt to lighten the load for up and coming Mega Man 11 players, I've compiled a seven step mini guide. Hopefully,

01. Slide and Charge
Sure, Mega Man is known for jumping and shooting but after having two of his mainstay abilities striped from him in Mega Man 9 and 10, they have thankfully been returned and our blue boy can Slide and Charge once more. Charged shots are better than they have ever been in any Mega Man game piror. Yes, you have to sacrifice a few seconds to unleash a fully charged blast, but it is well worth it. Enemies that have shields can be temporarily stunned and exposed, leaving them open for an attack. Sniper Joes and Mets, enemies that are notorious for hiding behind armor are now much easier to take down. Sliding not only lets you travel levels a bit faster, but it is great for avoiding enemy attacks or putting distance between you and an enemy and there are some speedy mofos in this game so anything that lets you go a bit faster is a muster. As much as you'll be jumping and shooting in Mega Man 11, make sure you Charge and Slide just as much.

02. Use The Double Gear System

Mega Man 11 has something that no other classic Mega Man game has. The Double Gear system a marvelous invention of Dr. Wily that is being used by all of the bosses. To level the playing field, Dr. Light installs the same tech into Mega Man. If you are struggling with Mega Man 11 or this is your first Mega Man game, use. This. Power. You can power up Mega Man's firer power with the Power Gear function, which really comes in handy for step 3 below, but by far, the best use out of the Double Gear system is the Speed Gear ability. Speed Gear let's you temporarily slow down time to spam hits so you can make mincemeat out of mini bosses or do away with that pesky mook that has been blocking your path. Speed Gear is also great for helping you navigate those really tricky sections of a level (like the instant kill scrolling fire in Torch Man's stage.) Yes, it is entirely possible to play Mega Man 11 without using the Double Gear system but it is so good that I can only see the most hardcore Mega Man fan that wants to play the game with as little assistance as possible wanting to do so.

03. Use Your Weapons
The special weapons in Mega Man 11 are some of the best in the whole series. Block Dropper is great for crushing those out of reach nuisances, Bounce Ball unleashes bouncy chaos that has a higher damage output than you might expect and Pile Driver lets you perform an air dash, great for skipping parts of those blasted Yoko Block sections. There's even more fun to be had when you factor in the Power Gear. Chain Blast turns into a huge bomb with explosive power that would make Michael Bay jealous, Tundra Storm becomes a freaking screen nuke and the powered up version of Block Dropper has you raining down so much concrete you may as dropping a building on some poor sap. It takes up more weapon energy when using special weapons with Power Gear but the end result is magnificent. Special weapons are great for making boss fights easier but I advise you to use them during your trip to these bosses to make the journey less stressful. Mini bosses are highly susceptible to whatever the boss of that stage is weak to and with the Power Gear in use, you can make short work of them.

04. Try, Try Again

If this is your first time playing a Mega Man game, the game over screen will become an all to familiar sight. It was something I was greeted with time and again when I first played Mega Man 2 and Mega Man 3 years ago. Like playing a fighting game, getting bodied is part of the learning experience. Defeat can be more instructive than victory sometimes. Reflect on your loss, get back out there and give it another go. You get knocked down so you can get back up.

05. Shop Til You Drop
The shop in Mega Man 11 holds more items than any other Mega Man game and bolt drops are much higher than in previous entries. Stocking up on lives should be a no brainer but I also think grabbing some E-Tanks and W-Tanks should be just as much of a priority. I've found myself using a few of those during boss fights, largely because I don't have a bosses strategy down just yet or I go overboard on the Power Gear and use up all my special weapon energy. Oh and pick up Beat! That metal bird has saved my can on so many occasions either because I didn't jump correctly or I was knocked into a pit. If you're looking for a good place to farm for Bolts (the game's currency) Block Man's stage is excellent.

06. Know Your Limits

If this is your first time playing a Mega Man game you've got the difficulty on Normal or Super Hero, you're gonna get your metal butt kicked over and over again. There is no shame on playing on Casual or Newcomer if you're fresh to the series. You gotta crawl before you can walk and when playing a Mega Man game, trying to prove how much of a man/woman you are should be the last thing on your mind.

07. Take Comfort

For a new player, Mega Man 11 may seem hard, and yeah, it does have some tough spots but as someone that's been doing these rodeos for a long time now, I can assure you that Mega Man 11 isn't even close to being the toughest game in the series. Mega Man 9 has a crippling overuse of spikes to inflate it's difficulty. In the first Mega Man game there are no E-Tanks whatsoever and there are some pretty hard hitting bosses as well as zero mercy invincibility on contact with spikes. Mega Man & Bass also has no E-Tanks, has bull-bull level design as well as bad game design making it one of the most frustrating experiences even for veteran Mega Man players. You can take some solace knowing that there are far crueler Mega Man games out there. I'd go so far as to say that Mega Man 11 is great for newcomers with the Double Gear system as well as adjustable difficulty settings, the later of which, very, very few games in this series even have.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Piranha Plants (and Other Things)


Pfffffftttt PA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!! Oh man. Sakurai, Sakurai, Sakurai. You are one of the greatest video game developers on this Earth. No, you are are one of the greatest people, walking this Earth. You and your very talented team work so hard on each new Super Smash Bros. game. For Ultimate, we have over 100 stages and over 70 characters to choose from. You've given fans characters they've wanted for years like Simon Belmont and Ridley. Annnnnnd you're also giving us Piranha Plant.

When you stop to consider that Piranha Plant, a basic enemy from the Super Mario series got in Smash over Waluigi, it's pretty freaking hilarious. Piranha Plant got into Smash Ultimate over that one character you desperately wanted. Salt is definitely in the air in the Smash community and I cannot help giggling like a school girl.

Like a lot of people, I was surprised to see Piranha Plant be revealed as a playable character. I stared back at my phone and said "WHAT?!" Sure, some people probably anticipated Ken being Ryu's Eco Fighter and an Alohan Pokemon rep. But Piranha Plant? That is something that nobody saw coming. Piranha Plant's inclusion in Ultimate is the definition of left field.

People wanted Geno and Banjo-Kazooie. They got a weed. You hear people across the Smash community screaming "NO ONE ASKED FOR THIS!!!" And yeah, on one did ask for  Piranha Plant. As much as the plant's inclusion makes me chuckle, the thing is yet another Smash reminder that Sakurai cannot please everyone.

Let's say we did get the character's mentioned above. Somewhere, someone would still be unhappy. I'm not saying to just accepting every single thing you are given. But when you've got a game like Ultimate, a game that is positively dripping at the seems with characters and content and people are still having a hissy fit because X character isn't in the game, well, those people really do seem like petty, entitled mofos.

Piranha Plant is a character I never knew I wanted until I saw it dodging attacks, shooting spikey balls and reaching across the stage to chomp fools. Real talk, Piranha Plant looks like mad, mad fun to play as and play as it I shall, no matter where it sits on the tier list.

As for non potted plant related things, I found it funny that Sakurai took several seconds out of the direct to blink and ponder if he'll ever get a break. I honestly hope he is sleeping well considering everything he does.

That killer cut scene where the whole crew is about to face off against an army of Master Hands before everything goes horribly wrong and everyone, save Kirby, gets vaporized? Man, that was awesome! Also awesome was that sweet vocal rendition of the main theme. That was about as unexpected as our sharp toothed plant newcomer.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is a month away and my excitement for the game grows by the day. I cannot wait to collect Spirits and familiarize myself with the new characters and stages. I've been playing the Smash on the Wii U and 3DS to help pass the time and I'm doing my best not to rely on rolling so much. I don't plan to be a competitive player but since rolling is going to be far more punishable in Ultimate, I'd like to break a bad habit. December 7th seems so close and yet so far.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Favorite Tunes #244: Time for Spooky

Tirck or treat, smell my feet, you know the rest. It is that spooky time of the year again and in the spirit of the season, here are some ghastly tunes to make you go bump in the night or some other Halloween jargon.

Battle for the Holy - Castlevania the Adventure ReBirth (Wii)
Three of Konami's top franchises were given ReBirth titles exclusively on the Wii via Wii Ware. Nintendo has since closed up the Wii Shop Channel so unless Konami re-releases the three ReBirth titles, they are more victims lost to the digital age. Castlevania the Adventure Rebirth was essentially a remake of Castlevania Adventure for the Game Boy, staring Christopher Belmont. This theme originally played on the game's opening stage but was nowhere to be heard in the ReBirth remake.

Cockatrice - Super Ghouls'n Ghosts (SNES)
The Ghosts'n Goblins games are known for their insane difficulty and Super Ghouls'n Ghosts is no exception. Hard as this game is, though, it is still easier than the two titles that came before it. Super gives you a double jump and you can power up your weapons. The game has the familiar level 1 Ghosts'n Goblins music as well as a slew of new songs that sound magnificent on the SNES hardware, making Super Ghouls'n Ghosts quite possibly my favorite soundtrack of the entire series.

Those Chosen by the Planet - Final Fantasy VII (PS)
A theme heavily associated with the main protagonist of Final Fantasy VII, Sepiroth, this theme is first heard during a flashback when he goes mad after finding out what he (assumes) are his true origins and makes orphans of Cloud and Tifa along with burning the town to the ground. At the time, the scene of Sephy walking away in those flames looked pretty badawesome. Now? Looks pretty dang dated.

Ceremony - Secret of Mana (SNES)
I imagine this track unsettled anyone that played Secret if Mana as  a kid. Heck, I was 15 when I first played the game and this tune still gave me the creeps. If you're looking for some horror inspired game music for something, you can't go wrong with this one.

Haunted House - Super Mario 64 (N64)
Since the introduction of Ghost Houses in Super Mario World, I have never liked the haunted house themes in Super Mario games. The nightmare fuel was cranked up to eleven in Big Boo's Haunt, the sole ghost house level in Super Mario 64. Going after some of the stars here was a pain and the less said about that freaking piano, the better.

Lavos' Theme - Chrono Trigger (SNES)
I sure have shown Square Enix a lot of love in Favorite Tunes this week. Lavos is unlike the big bad if most Square Enix RPGs. He doesn't boast about how powerful he is, nor is he the mirror counterpart to any of the heroes. Not a lot of detail is divulged about him. And yet, hundreds of years into the future he turns the world into a wasteland where what remains of the human population is starving, just barely clinging to life.

Favorite Tunes Database

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Castlevania: Scarlet Night


I'm beginning to wonder if the Pixel Mixers ever take breaks or if they are even human. 2018 alone has teen the group pumping out some truly amazing video game arrangement albums. These guys are stepping up to the plate and hitting one home run after another. I'm actually playing catch up on these album write ups. Castlevania: Scarlet Night came out some time ago (September 6th, to be precise) and if you're looking for some horror jams for Halloween or you just love Castlevania music, you need to give this free album a listen.

It cannot be understated just how great Castlevania music is. The fact that the Castlevania stage in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate will a whopping 34 music tracks is a testament to how outstanding the music in this series really is. Scarlet Night has a total of 29 tracks, spanning over  86 minutes of music. If you're wondering are there arrangements for Vampire Killer, Bloody Tears, The Beginning, Bloodlines and Aquarius, some of the most well known, Castlevania songs, the answer is a roaring "YES, THERE ARE!" I think most would agree that it would be criminal if those tracks weren't represented in some form or another here and each one gets their own track. Vampire Killer, which kicks off this album is a lovely piano piece, Wicked Child is heavy on the rock while Beginning is dripping heavy metal.

The Pixel Mixers have shown great appreciation for lesser arranged tracks on past albums and that trend continues here. Battle of the Holy (from Castlevania Adventure on the GB) is one of my favorite tracks on here and it certainly wasn't something I was expecting to tap my toes and bob my head to. The Legend of Dracula (also from Castlevania Adventure) is primarily a flute arrangement, making it really stand out from everything else on here, but in a good way. Cross Your Heart (Haunted Castle) is a tune I became familiar with thanks to buying the game it was from on the PSN so I was happy to recognize a track from one of the more obscure Castlevania titles.


There's also a hefty dose of funk as well as electronic music to be found here. All told, this is yet another top notch Pixel Mixers album and a wonderful tribute to Castlevania. The album is free, so there's no reason not to have it in your digital music collection. I'm just waiting for the day these fellows release a Mega Man album.

Castlevania: Scarlet Night

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Favorite Tunes #243: Over Being Sick

Last week, I caught a nasty virus. During one of the days I was sick, I was bedridden and the last time I was that ill was back in 2012. Thankfully, I've recovered and now I've just got a little cold.

Shana's Theme - The Legend of Dragoon (PS)
Once Final Fantasy VII brought RPGs into the mainstream, the PS saw a slew of them. Between both the N64 and the PS, my plate was quite full in 2000 so I never got around to playing this (Final Fantasy IX also came out that year). Recently, I was listening to some relaxing music to fall asleep and this track was featured in one of the many playlists I usually go to. It is quite the peaceful tune. Very lullaby-like.

Impact Man Stage - Mega man 11 (NS, PS4, XBO, PC)
I really like Mega Man 11's techno soundtrack. I gather some aren't used to it since eight of the ten classic Mega Man games used chiptunes but we can't stay 8-bit forever. It actually took some time for Impact Man's theme to grow on me (I died A LOT in this level) but now I find it to be a real banger.

Round 5 (Bay Area) - Mighty Final Fight (NES)
Released near the very end of the NES's life cycle, Mighty Final Fight is an SD take on the series. Its only a single player beat 'em up and most agree that it isn't the best of what the genre has to offer on the system, but this is still a pretty good effort. Being such a late NES release, it is quite a rare cart. It has had several re-releases with the most recent being on the Wii U's eShop.

Stage 3 Boss - Ghouls'N Ghosts (ARC)
The sequel to the 1985 quarter stealing, soul shattering Ghosts'N Goblins, Ghouls'N Ghosts, like the game that came before it is a merciless action platformer that has you do two runs through the game to fully complete it. Those that wish to hang on to their sanity will most likely give up after the first level or two. Despite not being the biggest fan of this series, I do enjoy the soundtracks, and I've been listening to various songs from the games as of late.

Danzen Dungeon - Dynamite Headdy (GEN)
The latest re-release of Dynamite Headdy is on the SEGA Genesis Classics. The physical release was back in May for the PS4 and XBO but it will be coming to the Switch. The version in SEGA Genesis Classics lets you play the Japanese version as well as the English version, which is a very good option since the American version is harder.

Load BGM - Akumajo Dracula (X68000)
If you've played Castlevania ReBirth on the Wii (the game so needs a re-release), then you may have heard this theme. What you may not know is that it originated in the 1993 Akumajo Dracula for the Sharp X68000, which would be released on the PS in 2001 under the name Castlevania Chronicles. It should go without saying, but this is some pretty sick load music.

Favorite Tunes Database