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Saturday, November 18, 2017

Favorite Tunes #204: The Most Adorable Little Robot

If you came to hear music featuring a sumo wrestler, a diminutive robot, a blue hedgehog and a fox, then you've come to the right place. For this week's Favorite Tunes, we've got kinda a modern and retro vibe going on with songs from the 16-bit era, the sixth console generation and stuff from today.

Chibi-Robo! - Chibi-Robo! (GCN)

Pikmin, Splatoon and now ARMS are often thought to be the only new Nintendo IPs released in the last 16 years. There have actually been more than that, though not all of them have been received anywhere near as well as the aforementioned. One such franchise is the Chibi-Robo series. The first entry hit the GameCube in 2006. Had Zip Lash not been released after started bringing out amiibos, fans probably wouldn't have any sort of merch for tiny robo.

Ghost Town - Sonic Forces (PC, PS4, XBO, NS)

Naofumi Hatauya (Sonic CD, Sonic 2 8-bit) is a veteran Sonic music composer so bringing him in as an additional song writer for Sonic Forces was a smart move. Some of Classic Sonic's music tracks are definitely bad (that Green Hill song is atrocious) but then you've got major winners like Ghost Town. With those distinct Genesis claps, drum rolls and that bassline, Ghost Town is a track I listen to regularly on repeat.

Macbeth - Star Fox 2 (SNES)

For the longest time, Star Fox 2 was an unreleased SNES. Oh sure, you could play the dumped ROM or get a reproduction cart but it wasn't unitl Nintendo release the SNES Classic Edition that Star Fox 2 was finally given an official release. I just bought one of those little SNES marvels so I'll be checking out the game myself sometime. From what little of the music I've heard, I enjoy.

Phantasy - Phantasy Star II (GEN)

We gripe about games costing $60 today but in 1989, Phantasy Star II set consumers back a whopping $90! Collector's Editions weren't a thing back then so that was just for the standard game. Many would argue that it was worth every peny as Phantasy Star II is often viewed as one of the best games on the Genesis, thanks in no small part to the outstanding soundtrack. Fun fact: the music is slightly different between the Japanese and American versions.

E. Honda Stage - Street Fighter II (SNES)

Yoko Shimomura did an amazing job composing much of the music from one of the most revered fighting games ever made. Each fighter has a unique stage theme that reflects them and the part of the world they hail from. As much as I enjoy the CPSI and CPSII versions of Street Fighter II's soundtracks, when it comes to certain character themes, I prefer the console versions over the co-op. For me, E. Honda's theme has never sounded better than it does on the SNES.

Boss - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time (SNES)

With the reveal that the four famous turtles are joining the roster of Injustice 2, this is as good a time as any for more Turtles music. This port of the arcade game is widely considered to be superior to it's stand up counter part even when you take into account the max number of players is two instead of four. Man, this game needs to be re-released.

Favorite Tunes Database

Friday, November 17, 2017

Unpopular Opinions Vol. 4: I Like Sonic Forces

Every single Unpopular Opinions post has had more than one topic of discussion. Well, for Vol. 4, I've only got one game to talk about and wouldn't you know it, it happens to be a current generation title.

I Like Sonic Forces

I kinda feel liked I need to go down into a bunker when talking about this one. If I don't seek some kind of protection for what I'm about to say, Sonic fans that did not like it are going to be calling for my death. Or at the very least, they'll say that I have horrible taste. And to that I say, well, it wouldn't be the first time I've heard it and it definitely won't be the last.

Sonic Forces released last week. Before the official release date, however, the entire game was leaked. I'd also caught wind of Polygon's review. Reception of the game was negative. I didn't seek out the leaked footage nor did I read the Polygon review (I don't frequent that site to begin with or most gaming sites for that matter) because I did not want my opinion on the game to be influenced by them. Still, the negative press surrounding Forces did concern me. What if this game I was really looking forward to was a horrendous piece of crap? No matter the outcome, I decided that I was going to play the game through and make up my mind for myself. I finished the game a few nights ago and to my surprise, I had a really good time playing Sonic Forces.

Sonic Forces' story is nothing special but there are things I like about it. Eggman winning, at least for a time was nice to see. I also liked seeing a good deal of Sonic's friends. The fact that Knuckles, the idiot, was the commander during this global crisis was odd, but he took the role seriously. A little too seriously. As a character I've heated for years, Amy has been growing on me from here appearances in Sonic Lost World, Sonic Boom (the show) and now here in Sonic Forces. It's good to see her do something besides having the hots for Sonic. I know that is always going to be a part of her character but having her be more than a love interest makes her a lot more interesting and tolerable.

There are lots of cheesy lines from the heroes and villains. Sonic spouts something about friendship, soul and love being undefeatable so if you ever thought he read Shonen manga, that all but confirms it. Infinite is the ultimate of ultimate edge lords and he is very one dimensional.  His reasons for becoming Infinite are facepalmingly dumb. On the other hand, I can't help but like that he's dripping with edginess and Liam O'Brian does a fantastic job voicing him. Even with the darker tone, I was not expecting a grand story from Forces. Heck, the story in general for Sonic games, 3D, 2D, modern or classic, is nothing to write home about. I'm not just saying that about Sonic games but Mega Man games and Super Mario games. More often than not, the story is just a means for why I'm running, stomping and shooting.

Sonic Forces drew a lot of ire from fans and critics due to the custom character, or avatar as the game calls it. Deviant Art is widely viewed as the cesspool of the Sonic fanbase. Apparently if you've made your own Sonic OC, you're "a horrible human being that indulges in sexual acts with anthropomorphic hedgehogs and foxes." I'm paraphrasing but in recent years, I've come to find out that "Sonic OCs and the community that creates them are a blight upon the Sonic fandom, a disease that must be cut out." Again, paraphrasing. Perhaps there is something I'm missing on the whole Sonic OC thing, but I just don't understand why it and the people that make them are such a horrible part of the fandom. I doubt every person that dabbles in Sonic OCs are as despicaple as people claim.

As someone who has never made a Sonic OC, the avatar was one of my favorite things about Sonic Forces. The number of species you can use may be limiting (dog, bear, wolf, rabbit, bird, cat, hedgehog) but the game still gives you lots of options from hairstyle, eyes, eye color and more. When you start out, there isn't much in the way of clothing you can put on your character, but as you play, you can unlock a ton of different shoes, glasses, caps and other items to outfit your character with. Getting a better rank gets you more avatar gear. I got an S rank on a mission I previously had an A rank on and one of the items I was rewarded with was a cute Chao backpack. Thankfully, the game lets you save multiple outfits so you can don't have to constantly go in and change your avatar's outfit when you piece together a look you really like. Or, if you want to opt for the more minimalist look, you can have your avatar save the world naked. Well, unless you go with the female gender. Not sure why they can't be naked.

Level design has come under heavy fire and while I don't think these are by any means the best stages in a Sonic game, they aren't the worst either. I had a lot of fun running through most of these stages as Modern, Classic and the custom character. There were about two stages I just plain didn't like in a grand total of 30 or so main story stages. As shallow as boosting through a horde of enemies or homing attacking a group of goons is to a lot of critics, I had a blast doing it. My favorite Wispons to use were the Burst and Lightning either to propel myself upwards or run ahead, mowing robot mooks down like I were in a Contra game.

Most stages even have branching paths, what so many claimed the game lacked. Maybe SEGA and Sonic Team didn't feel like showing off every level's alternate route or maybe they wanted players to discover them on their own. I was missing a few red medals on Classic Sonic's first stage, Ghost Town and found even more alternate paths the more times I played. Many of the levels are on the short side, most of them not even clocking in at over the three minute mark. However, since the levels are brief, I find them fun to replay, blasting through them to get seconds shaved off my previous time.

Sonic Forces is not a game for everyone. If you aren't into creating a character, short levels, levels on rails, this game isn't for you. I'm well aware that I am in the minority. I dug Sonic Lost World and Star Fox Zero, the later being an entry that many said suck due to it's polarizing motion controls. Perhaps my opinion on Sonic Forces will changes as the years go by, but for now, I'm glad I picked this game up. As the saying goes, one man's trash is another man's treasure.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

7 Reasons Why Super Mario Odyssey is Awesome

I. LOVE. Super. Mario. Odyssey. No, scratch that. I FREAKING LOVE SUPER MARIO ODYSSEY!!! Seriously, when I'm not playing this game, I'm thinking about playing it. When I am playing it, I feel like a starry eyed child, dreading when I have to turn my Switch off and do other things. Boring things. I already gushed over Super Mario Odyssey last week, but more gush is still in my system and it needs to be expelled. Those of you that are already shoulders deep in Super Mario Odyssey probably already know what I'll be talking about below but feel free to stick around if you like. Those of you that have not played Super Mario Odyssey for some strange, incomprehensible reason, read on, as I have seven reasons detailing why Super Mario Odyssey is a game you cannot miss. Be warned, there are some spoilers.

01. You Get to Travel the World

Or a Mario equivalent, at least. Most plots that involve stopping a wedding rarely, if ever involve a  globetrotting chase. Mario's journey to stop Bowser from making Peach take on the Koopa name leads him to the prehistoric Cascade Kingdom. The Metro Kingdom is home to New Donk City, one of the most lively cities in any video game. You can bounce of taxis, hang from street lights, jump rope (seriously, how do some of you have over 6000 on that mini game?) or ride around town on a scooter. If you prefer the ocean side, the Seaside Kingdom can't be beat it. Yeah, it's a water level, but it's a water level that doesn't suck.

02. Mario's Crazy-Good Jumping

Mario's original name was Jumpman, so of course he's pretty much the king when it comes to pulling of a technique that is essential in platformers. Long jump, double jump, triple jump, wall jump; all of Mario's moves from Super Mario 64 are at your finger tips. The introduction of Cappy, Mario's travel companion, further enhances Mario's already stellar jumping prowess.  Cappy can be thrown and used as a platform to clear wide gaps. However, you can do so much more the the little sentient cap. In the hands of a skilled player, Cappy can be used to greatly cut down the time it would take to reach higher, farther platforms and is sure to make speed runners swoon.

03. The Capture Mechanic

Most call it possession (let's be real, that's what it is) but since Nintendo isn't too fond of that term, I'll call it capturing. Along with being a platformer's best friend, Cappy possess (heh) the unique ability to take control of just about any enemy he's thrown at. Capturing an enemy also grants you access to their skill set. Wanna become one of the biggest headaches in gaming since 1985? Capture a Hammer Bro. You can even capture a freaking T-rex and shut down the barks of a Chain Chomp like the glares from the boss and his yesmen at a business meeting kill any and all sound ideas.

04. Mario's Many Costumes

In Mario games of the past, if we wanted to see our hero sport something other than his usual overalls, it would be in a spin off title, or he would have to get a power-up. Super Mario Odyssey lets Mario wear a ton, and I mean a ton of different clothing. Mario can dress up like a dapper fellow from the Cap Kingdom with a black, classy suit and a top hat, or he can rock the look of chef. These costumes aren't free, so grab as many coins as you can. In every kingdom, you can hit the Crazy Cap store and outfit Mario in some sweet new wear. Even Mario's white wedding tux can be unlocked without the use of amiibo, a practice, I'd love for Nintendo to implement in more of their games. Be sure to collect the currency of whatever Kingdom you're in so you can nab kingdom specific costumes. By far one of the best things you can put on Mario are the boxer shorts. These babies aren't cheap as they will set you back 1000 coins. The cost for seeing Mario's nipples? Priceless.

05. Snapshot Mode

What good is traveling around the world if you don't take any photos of the places you've been to? Super Mario Odyssey's Snapshot Mode not only lets you take photos, but you can use all sorts of different filters as well as adjust the camera angle to a varying degrees. You can even post your photos on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. The text options gives this game some great meme material. Photos can also be used as wallpapers for your phone. Truly, Snapshot Mode is the gift that keeps on giving.

06. Post-Game Content

You know that sad feeling when you beat an absolutely amazing game? Well kiss it goodbye because after you trounce Bowser for the millionth time, your adventure is far from over. There are more kingdoms to explore, more moons to collect and more outfits to have Mario run and jump in. Even kingdoms that you've already visited will get more Power Moons to find. If you fund things to be too easy, some of the post-game moons will really challenge you. Toadette even has a host of achievements for you to check off.

07. The Wonderful Music

When you are happily humming or whistling the music from a game, that is always a good thing. Super Mario Odyssey is filled with so many great tunes, from the booming orchestral piece that is Fossil Falls, the finger snapping, toe tapping Steam Gardens, to the jazzy New Donk City, the music in Odyssey is among the best in the Super Mario series. There are even chiptune versions of each kingdom theme. No doubt you're bouncing around one kingdom, wishing you could hear the music from another. Or you long to hear a music track that only played during a certain section in the game. Well, worry not your explorer little head. Upon beat the game, you unlock the Music List. This lets you listen to any song from any area of the game you've been to at any time. You can have the 8-bit version of Fossil Falls playing as you roam the Mushroom Kingdom or the second night version of New Donk City play as you jump all around the Big Banana. For a game music lover like me, this is one of the best post-game things ever.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Favorite Tunes #203: Join the Uprising

In this week's Favorite Tunes we've got no longer plumbers, hedgehogs, ninjas, and demon slayers that slay to sick heavy metal. Fun times for everyone!

Spaceport - Sonic Forces (PC, PS4, XBO, NS)

Sonic Forces has finally dropped. It isn't great but it hardly drags the series back into the mud as so many critics, YouTubers and fans claim it does. The Avatar stages have vocal tracks and this one been stuck in my head since playing the first custom character stage.

New Donk City: Night 2 - Super Mario Odyssey (NS)

I'll bet you couldn't wait to get to New Donk City, the happiest, most happening place on Earth! When you finally arrive, the city has seen better days. In advertising his wedding, he's taken over the city, infesting it with bugs, tanks and one huge Mecha Wiggler. Along with the nighttime atmosphere and the rain, the music really captures the the sad state New Donk City is in.

Sunrise Blvd. - The Revenge of Shinobi (GEN)

Also known as The Super Shinobi over in Japan, The Revenge of Shinobi is one of those early Genesis titles that still holds up on all fronts. Composed by Yuzo Koshiro, the music is a real treat. The man had a real hand on how to use the Genesis sound chip. To this day, it still blows my mind just how amazing the music is in this game.

Boss - Ninja Gaiden (NES)

They say that suffering builds character. If that's true, then Ninja Gaiden on the NES pumped plenty of character into all who played it. I've touched softer concrete than this game. Even if you can't beat the game (there is no shame in not being able to) you can at least enjoy the soundtrack.

Rip & Tear - Doom (PC, PS4, XBO, NS)

In 2016, Doom made a huge comeback. This year, the unthinkable happened: it was announced that Bethesda would be bringing Doom 2016 to the Nintendo Switch. Sure, some sacrifices had to be made to get the game to run on the Switch but 30FPS is a small price to pay to be able to do your demon killing anytime, anywhere. With this track blaring, they don't stand a chance.

New York City - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Hyperstone Heist (GEN)

SEGA's Shinobi series isn't the only one ninja getting some music love this week. I've always found it interesting how video game music transfers when the same game hits multiple platforms, or at least the same music. Much of the score for Turtles in Time sounds amazing on the Genesis and this is coming from someone who has listened to the SNES score for years.

Favorite Tunes Database

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Game Over Part 7

Two words that signify that you're a failure at video games and should pick up a hobby where you won't suck so much. Welcome to Game Over, an on-going feature where we take a look at the numerous screens that show you've reached the end of the line. You might find some of these to be humorous while others can be quite unsettling.

Cuphead (PC, XBO)

Like a lot of games are doing these days, Cuphead wisely gets rid of the life system. Make no mistake, no matter how much you improve at this game you will die. A lot. As is the case with most run 'n gun titles, bosses have invisible life bars but when you inveitably fail trying to take any of them down, you not only get to see them taunt you, usually with a pun, but you get a to see how close or how far you were from being victorious. There's plenty of them, so check the video above.

Metal Gear Solid (PS)

The quality of voice acting for video games (as well as anime) in the mid to late 1990s outside of Japan were for the most par, pretty low. Even some of the most critically acclaimed games of the time such as Star Fox 64 and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, had some pretty bad voice work. To the surprise of many, Metal Gear Solid released with some exceptional voice actors, among them being David Hayter, Cam Clarke and Jennifer Hale. It helped that the crew had an excellent voice director at the helm. Without proper voice direction, even well trained VAs can turn in a pitiful performance. Fortunately, that was not the case for Metal Gear Solid. Thanks to the amazing voice work and direction, every game over you get feels like it carries extra weight to it. Die in this game and you get to hear the cries of Snake's off the field allies via codec call out his name, but to no avail. Depending on the circumstances of the game over, it might not be your friends that you hear from. The above video has every line of dialogue from all the game overs.

Ghosts 'n Goblins (ARC)

If you thought Mario had his hands full saving Princess Peach, you haven't seen the sheer BS Arthur has to put up with to save Princess Prin Prin. Peach may have been kidnapped a dozen times in comparison to Prin Prin's handful, but the odds are stacked against Arthur much more than they are Mario. Sections of literally endless zombies, ghosts that can appear out of nowhere at any time to kill you, red, flying demons that will make your life even more of a living nightmare and that's just the first level of the game! There are some that can actually beat this game, no sweat. For the rest of us mere mortals, well, we've got that death jingle and this game over screen greeting us over and over and over again. There really isn't anything special about the first Ghosts 'n Goblins game over screen. However, there are a great deal of players that will see it more than they will the rest of the game.

The Amazing Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin (SCD)

This one is actually more of a bad ending but I think it still qualifies. Spidey has been framed for the umpteenth time and he's out to clear his name. Raising the stakes even higher, Kingpin has taken Mary Jane Watson-Parker, whom unbeknownst to Fisk, is Spider-Man's wife. Or at least, she was until some stupid story involving a deal with the devil, but we don't talk about that crap. Ahem. In a display of cliche villainy, Kingpin dangles the redhead over a pool of acid and she slowly descends at he and Spidey duke it out. Should you fail to take down Kingpin in the final showdown, he'll tie you up along with Mary Jane. At least the two get to die together. Oh and were you expecting the camera to pan away as he dips the two lovers in acid? Nope! With a big, evil grin plastered on his mug, he lowers them into the vat, right before you horror filled eyes.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Favorite Tunes #202: Grand Odyssey

November is here, the temperature is dropping further, and Super Mario Odyssey has finally, finally released! The game is freaking incredible and while it is tempting to have all six spots for Favorite Tunes filled with music from the game, I've only occupied one. The rest are tracks from other titles. What are they? Hit that scroll to find out.

Cascade Kingdom (Fossil Falls) - Super Mario Odyssey (NS)

I hope you're ready for the invasion that is Super Mario Odyssey music here on Favorite Tunes. I haven't posted any music from this game since June (which was the AMAZING Jump Up, Super Star!) but now that Odyssey has released and I've been spending plenty of time with the game, I can tell you that the music is out of this world. Cascade Kingdom is just a taste, a very wonderful taste of the music to come in Odyssey.

Bomb n' Bass - Tiny Barbarian DX (PC, NS)

This game came to my attention not long ago but apparently it has been around since 2013. Spanning four episodes, Tiny Barbaina DX is a throw back to old action platformers. As fun as the game can be, it can also be pretty dang difficult. The music is full of catchy chiptune goodness. I spent so much time on the boss of this track that it is now permanently stuck in my brain.

Heat Wave - Bionic Commando Rearmed (360, PS3, PC)

It was nice to see Capcom shinning the light on it's other IPs in the late 2000s that wasn't Street Fighter or Resident Evil. If you're a fan of the NES version of Bionic Commando, you'll love Rearmed's soundtrack, which is arrangements of themes from that game. This one even has chiptunes sprinkled in.

Battle on the Railway 2 (Round 2-2) - Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi (GEN)

Probably the least famous of the Shinobi games to hit the Genesis, Shadow Dancer is nonetheless, a fantastic action platformer with an amazing soundtrack. There is an arcade game called Shadow Dancer that is part of SEGA's Shinobi series, however, it is a completely different game.

Your Final Examination is About to Being - Heavy Nova (GEN)

So I'm looking through various soundtracks for Genesis games and the box art for this one catches my fancy. It has a sweet-looking robot on the cover, so naturally, I listen to some of the tunes. This one really wowed me. Granted, I've never played the game so I don't have any context to this track, but if the name is indeed a giveaway, test music has never sounded so cool.

Ranking - Mercs (ARC)

This is actually the sequel to the Capcom's Commando, which is a part of the Bionic Commando series. Mercs is a three player, top down run and gun shooter for the CPS1 hardware. Precussion tends to be on the heavier side for CPS1 games, but I've grown to like it over the years. Nice to have some cheery music after slaughtering countless waves of goons.

Favorite Tunes Database

Friday, November 3, 2017

Globetrotting with Mario

Now that the game is a week old, has sold 2 million copies in it's tree day launch window and I've spent ample time with it, I feel comfortable talking about Mario's latest adventure, one so many of us have been impatiently waiting for, Super Mario Odyssey.

Incoming unpopular opinion. I enjoyed Sonic Unleashed. I don't just mean the day stages but the night stages as well. The Japanese title for Sonic Unleashed is called Sonic World Adventure because all of that game's stages are based on real world locations. I loved the world traveling aspect of that game and it is one of the reasons I love Super Mario Odyssey so much. It is one of the main reasons I avoided spoilers as much as possible because I wanted to discover the kingdoms on my own.

The Switch is not as powerful as the PS4 or XBO. That is no secret. And yet because Nintendo knows the ins and outs of their own hardware, they are able to make games for their systems that look stunning. Kingdoms in Super Mario Odyssey are an incredible sight to behold. I cannot tell you the number of times I stopped in Cascade Kingdom to look at the blades of grass, the details in the mountains, that triceratops fossil, or gaze out at the many beautiful waterfalls. New Donk City is filled with towering skyscrapers, surrounded by a backdrop of buildings that, sadly you cannot go to. Even so, New Donk City itself is one big, metropolitan playground that is every bit as fun to run and jump through as the trailers for Super Mario Odyssey suggested.

I am a huge fan of any game that lets you change your clothes. As iconic as Mario's overalls getup is, it is extremely welcoming to be able to mix and match so many different costumes. I can triple jump as Dr. Mario. I can run around the dessert in a sombrero and a poncho. I saved New Donk City from Bowser's crazy Mecha Wiggler as an aviator. Mario has always been skilled in many areas in the numerous spin off titles, so it's nice to see him sport the clothes of so many different professions. 1000 coins is very much worth the price to run around in boxer shorts. You haven't truly lived until you've done it.

The little things make about Super Mario Odyssey make it infinitely more fun for me. Little touches such as Mario dancing whenever he's close enough to a stereo. Or that he sit down and take a breather whenever you've got him standing on a chair. You can play fetch using Cappy with the friendly pups you meet. The Odyssey, Mario's ship can be decorated on the outside with stickers from each kingdom traveled to and the inside with statues, plushies and other memorabilia. Just going from kingdom to kingdom, exploring and Power Moon collecting is fun on it's own and would have warranted all the praise Super Mario Odyssey is getting, but this kinda thing gives you an incentive to hunt down each kingdom's currency. I think the Dorrie plush is my favorite.

I'm not saying Super Mario Odyssey is the best Super Mario game ever. It is also way too early to call it my favorite Mario game or the best game of all-time. However, it is certainly one of the Switch's best games, one of 2017's greatest releases and could very well be the best sand box style Super Mario game we've had thus far. Super Mario Odyssey is a grand adventure in ever sense of the world and I really, really want/need to get back to playing it. It could be years before globetrotting gets any better than this.