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Monday, April 24, 2017

Understanding the Nintendo Switch's Fast Success



The Nintendo Switch had a worldwide release date of March 3, 2017. In just a little over a month, Nintendo's console/handheld hybrid has already sold more than 2 million units world wide. Needless to say, that is no small feat.

The Switch making such big sales numbers in a very short amount of time is impressive for a number of reasons. Nintendo released the console during a time when it wasn't the holiday season, you know, the time that a lot of consoles launch. The GCN, the Wii, the Wii U, Nintendo's past previous three home consoles all released during the holiday season. I've seen numerous people say that the Switch launch was rushed and there is evidence to support this with some of the consoles features not up and running on day one, but rushed launch or not, the Switch is selling like hot cakes and has become Nintendo's fastest selling home console.

One of the main reasons I think the Switch has done so well right out of the gate is because it is different from what Sony and Microsoft are offering. The Switch doubles as a home console and portable game device. Any game you get on the Switch can be played anywhere. You can sit on the beach and play The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Oh, sure you can take your laptop with you and play games on that, but let's be real here: a laptop, no matter how compact it is nowhere near as practical. The Switch was built as a game device thus it is far more suited for gaming on the go. With our Andoids, iPhones, Tablets and iPads, we've fully embraced the convenience of portable technology. Now there is a console that delivers a home gaming experience that we can take wherever we go. You'd better believe the appeal of that is freaking huge.

The other reason the Switch has sold so fast? The almighty power of advertising. It has been said time and time again but Nintendo did an absolutely poor job of advertising the Wii U. I originally thought the Wii U would be a resounding success because it had the Wii name in it, but because Nintendo's ads for it were so abysmal, the majority populace had no idea what the Wii U was, often mistaking it for some kind of Wii add on. However, with the Switch? Everyone on the planet knows what that thing is. Maybe Nintendo had to take that hard L with Wii U to learn, but it is so nice to see so many ads for the Switch. The extended Super Bowl 51 ad is one of my favorite ads from the Big N.

While the Switch may not be as powerful as the PS4 or the XBO, it seems plenty of gamers, be they casual or hardcore, aren't really all that concerned that it doesn't pack the specs under the screen that the aforementioned consoles do. Access to home console gaming at any time is just too good to pass up and I think most are willing to deal with a system that isn't quite as powerful if it can deliver that, which is exactly what the Switch does.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Favorite Tunes #182: It's a Trap!

In this week's Favorite Tunes I actually managed to feature music that is not from a single Zelda or Gradius game! Go me! Instead, there is music from Ridge Racer, Saga Frontier 2, the NES era and stuff from today. Variety is the name of the game here.

Explorers - Ridge Racer 6 (360)


Riiiiiiidge Raceeeeeeeer! You may not be able to tell because this is the internet but I'm saying it like the announcer from the earlier Ridge Racer games and not like Kaz Harai during that E3 20006 debacle. I have always loved Ridge Racer's music, be it the rock, techno or electronica or a fusion of the genres. Ridge Racer is usually brought out to help show off new hardware as Ridge Racer 6 was a launch title for the 360.

The Last Dungeon - Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap (PS4, XBO, NS, PC)


The Dragon's Trap is a remake of the 1989 Sega Master System game featuring gorgeous hand drawn artwork.. But if long for the game's older sprite look you can easily switch between the graphical and audio styles with the push of a button. I like the music used in both the modern and SMS version of the game but this arrangement of this opening level them really blew me away. Despite the track's title, this is actually one of the first pieces of music in the game that you hear.

Rex Fury's Secret Base - LEGO City Undercover (Multi)


Originally a Wii U exclusive, LEGO City Undercover is now available on a myriad of platforms including the PS4 and the Switch. If you don't feel like shelling out $60 for the game, the Wii U version is available for a cool $20. You gotta love the groovy spy vibe of this theme.

Overworld 2 - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES)


The first TMNT game on the NES is unquestionably brutal but I don't think the game is awful. Yes, some turtles are better than others and getting no invincibility period when you get hit sucks but this is far and away from being one of the worst games on the NES. The music is super lit and I've always enjoyed the slower more downbeat nature of the second overworld music, which serves as a great contrast from the first overworld theme.

Todesengel - SaGa Frontier 2 (PS)


If you adore Final Fantasy XIII's three soundtracks, you should give the score from SaGa Frontier 2 a listen. It was written by Masashi Hamauzu, who played a huge role in FFXIII's music. All of SaGa Frontier II's tracks have German names. Todesengel means "Angel of Death."

Title Theme - Chip 'N Dale Rescue rangers (NES)


Due to licensing issues, I never thought this game would see a re-release but lo and behold you can now play Chip 'N Dale Rescue Rangers along with five other Capcom made NES titles on The Disney Afternoon Collection on PS4, XBO and PC. If you know the words to this song, sing along!

Favorite Tunes Database

Friday, April 21, 2017

Remix of the Week: Battle 1 (SaGa Frontier)

The games certainly aren't for everyone, but the music most certainly is. The first PS SaGa title has numerous battle themes but I'm still a huge fan of Battle 1. It was quite a surprise to stumble across this rad rock cover by Jonny Atma.




Thursday, April 20, 2017

If SNES Mini Becomes a Thing, Here are the Games I'd Like to See

Even though Nintendo has done an absolutely horrendous job of supplying retailers with enough units, that doesn't make the NES Classic Edition any less of a great little machine. The last shipments go out to US retailers this month and the system is being discontinued. Rumors are going around that Nintendo has its sights set on releasing a minature version of the SNES so if it does become a thing, here are some games, I'd love to see in the little box.

Super Mario World


Come now, you just know this game would have to be included. It would be criminal to omit it. For a lot of fans, Super Mario World is the pinnacle of 2D Super Mario games and arguably, Super Mario games in general and it isn't hard to see why. Super Mario World has some of the best controls of any platformer, which it implements greatly with the use of the Cape Feather power up and dino buddy, Yoshi. The level design is super polished and there are often times where there is more than one stage exit and finding the hidden route unlocks more courses. With seven worlds and a total of 96 level exits, Super Mario World is no small game, but if you want to cut corners, the game can be finished quite quickly. It rewards both the speedy and the player that like to see everything the game has to offer.

Mega Man X


The first Mega Man game on the SNES may not have been the Mega Man fans were expecting but dang, if he wasn't the Mega Man we never knew we wanted. Mega Man X has the same formula as the Classic series but spices things up by having you make X become stronger through the use of finding hidden armor parts that give him new abilities like the dash, an X-Buster enahcnement that lets him charge his special weapons, Heart Tanks for increasing health because trying to get through this game with that tiny life bar is an major uphill battle and reusable Sub-Tanks. Mega Man X also sports some really cool stage designs and a few of them change depending on where or not you've beaten some of the bosses. With a killer soundtrack, memorable bosses and one of the coolest side characters ever, Mega Man X is a SNES masterpiece.

Super Metroid


If Metroid Prime is the best of what 3D Metroid has to offer, then Super Metroid is Metroid in it's finest 2D hour. Even though the game can be completed in under three hours, planet Zebes is still a massive world to explore even if you aren't trying to fill out the game map entirely. No matter how many times I slay Ridley (dude is the cockroach that refuses to stay dead in the Metroid series), or get the Screw Attack, Super Metroid is always an incredible adventure for me. Which reminds me, I need to pick this game up off the Wii U eShop.

Axelay


If you want a good example of why sprites have aged better than polygons, look no further than Axelay. This is an early SNES title and it still looks mighty impressive and I don't just mean those mode 7 effects, although they are stunning. Axelay side scrolling levels are just as much as a marvel as the mode 7 scrolling stages thanks to excellent attention to detail Konami packed into the background visuals. Yes, I'm gushing all over the graphics, but the parts of the game where you fly around, shooting stuff is pretty awesome, too. You get to switch between a set of three different weapons, and your fire power can be powered up on all of them, but when you take damage, your weapons will be weakened. This also functions as a life meter of sorts, so you don't die in one hit. Throw in some impressive bosses and a very memorable soundtrack and you've got one of the SNES's best shooters.

Final Fantasy IV & VI



Two of the greatest RPGs of the 16-bit era, these games were originally released as Final Fantasy II and III respectively. While you could argue that better JRPGs and games in the Final Fantasy series have been released since Final Fantasy IV, the game still did a lot for the series like introducing the active time battle system and a lot more drama. Sure, the story could get cliche and hammy at times, but that stuff is also part of the reason Final Fantasy IV is so adored. Final Fantasy VI is considered by many to be the best game in the entire franchise. The game has one of the biggest, most developed cast of characters but they kinda get overshadowed by the Kefka, the psycho clown who slowly rises to power to become the game's big bad, bringing ruin to the world. Oh, sorry, spoilers. I'd include V, but Square Enix has yet to release a translation of the SNES version.

Donkey Kong Country 1-3


Yes, yes, we all know Donkey Kong Country 2 is the best of the SNES trilogy and Donkey Kong Country 3 is often seen as the tag along kid, but the first DKC game is still good and I'd argue that DKC2 wouldn't be as great as it is if not for what Rare learned when making the first game. And DKC3 is still a solid platformer. The DKC trilogy helped keep the SNES relevant at a time where CD based systems and 3D graphics were becoming the next big thing in gaming. Not only did these games look great (for the time), they played great and they still hold up.

Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts


The NES Classic Edition had Ghosts 'n Goblins, a sadistically cruel  port of the arcade version, which was already hard enough as it was. Giving the SNES Mini Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts, another game in the Ghosts 'n Goblins franchise that's really freaking hard seems only natural. But as tough as Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts it, it has some things going for it that make it more tolerable than the first game. Arthur can double jump, collect gold armor to give himself an extra hit before he's reduced to running around in his underwear, and all of his weapons can be upgrade to give the knight some major fire power. It still has that BS that makes you go through the game twice to get the true ending, but Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts is less likely to make you punch holes in your walls.

Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting


Street Fighter II has seen a number of upgrades but Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting is widely considered to be one of, if not the most balanced fighting games ever made. If you missed out on Champion Edition back in the day, the big draw of Hyper Fighting was being to play as the four bosses, Balrog, Vega, Sagat and Bison. Oh and that subtitle ain't blown smoke. The speed of Turbo is fast and if that isn't enough for you, Capcom included a code to make the fighting speed even aster. Hyper Fighting indeed. The SNES version of of Turbo is a fantastic port.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past


What many fans hail the best Zelda game, A Link to the Past has you exploring two worlds of Light and Dark, often switching between the two. Not at all unlike, 2013's A Link Between Worlds, which can be seen as a sequel or sorts to this very game. Besides giving Link pink hair and the much needed and appreciated ability to move in eight directions, A Link to the Past, introduced some key items like the ultra cool Hook Shot, which has gone on to be used in pretty much every Zeld title since. Sure, A Link to the Past has that one annoying boss in the form of Moldorm and the Ice Temple can go screw itself, but this game really does deserve all the accolades it has received.

SimCity


Running a city is no easy task. Believe me, I know. It is the only job I've been fired from. SimCity is available on other platforms, but the SNES version is unlike any other. You've got some soothing, catchy music composed by Soyo Oka that changes to suit the current state of your city. Instead of Godzilla appearing to wreak havoc on your city, Bowser comes in to demolish your hard work. I get the feeling Pac-Man, Galaga and Donkey Kong were included for the impact they had on gaming so SimCity could also be included for the same reason. That and SNES SimCity is really freakin' fun.

Super Bomberman 1-2


For good old SNES multiplayer mayhem, you cannot beat the first two Super Bomberman entries. Nothing quite like trapping your friends in a corner with a bomb and watching the squirm as the seconds count down before their inevitable doom. Super Bomberman R brought Bomberman back into the spotlight and his older titles have been getting digital re-releases so bringing some of his SNES adventures back would be a pretty safe bet.

Contra III: The Alien Wars


For a lot of fans, Contra III is the pinnacle of the series. While the alien forces have always been a threat in previous entries, they really showed that they meant business in this SNES title with them nuking a city in the intro and throwing dozens of mini bosses in the side scrolling levels. What other game lets you ride on missiles while taking down a boss? If there is another one that let's you do it, I doubt it is anywhere near as freaking cool as Contra III.

Final Fight 1-3


Sometimes you just gotta walk right and punch the crap out of everyone that gets in your way. Anyone stupid enough to abduct Mike Haggar's daughter, former pro wrestler and the greatest politician ever, pretty much deserves every last ounce of pain dealt to them. True, the first Final Fight is a watered down port of the arcade version and Final Fight 2 and 3 were made exclusively for the SNES. They may not bring anything new to the beat 'em up genre but there is some fun to be had with Haggar and company.

Chrono Trigger


An RPG that features time travel that's easy to follow, no random battles, a really cool battle system and one of the greatest video game soundtracks of all time make Chrono Trigger a SNES classic. If you're new to RPGs and don't feel like investing 60 hours into a game, you're in luck. Chrono Trigger can be completed in about 25 hours or less without taking on the game's numerous side quests. Although this game has been released on numerous platforms including the PS and DS, for a lot of fans, the SNES version is still the preferred one.

Panel de Pon


When this game originally arrived on American shores in 1996, it was titled Tetris Attack, which was strange since it bore no similarity to Tetris whatsoever. The name change was an attempt to get people to give the game a look. To this end, Lip and all her friends were kicked out like a tenant late on the rent and Yoshi, Poochy and the gang moved in. Regardless of the name, this is one highly intense, addictive puzzle game and it would be nice to have the unaltered version get an American release. Nintendo could just leave the game in Japanese and release it here. It wouldn't be the first time they've re-released a game with Japanese text in the west.

Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars


If you haven't guessed by now, the SNES was an RPG machine. Before Square parted ways with Nintendo, they teamed with them to help make Super Mario RPG, the plumber's first foray into the genre. While boasting numerous RPG elements such as turn based battles and leveling up, there were plenty of Super Mario staples such as platforming, hitting ? Blocks (even some hidden ones) and Warp Pipes a-plenty. All enemies on the field could be seen so you could avoid battles if you wanted but the combat system was pretty fun, using timed attacks to increase or damage dealt or decrease income damage. The writing for Super Mario RPG is also pretty hilarious and to this day, fans desperately want to see Mallow and Geno return.

Super Castlevania IV


Long before the series went all Metroidy, Castlevania was a more traditional action platformer with lots of whip action. It was also really dang hard and while Super Castlevania IV is viewed a one of the easier non Metrovania games, it can still heat up in plenty of places. It helps that Simon Belmont now sports eight way whipping and can slightly influence the direction of his jumps and the overall experinces is far more fun than frustrating. Whoever decided to use the whip to help with platforming deserves a medal.

Goof Troop


Capcom was able to re-release six of the Disney Afternoon shows on the PS4, XBO and PC so Goof Troop being brought back out is certainly a possibility. Working with very limited inventory space and an overhead view, Goof Troop let's you take cotnrol of Goof or Max as they go off to rescue Pete and PJ who were taken by pirates. This 16-bit gem is filled with lots of puzzles to solve and even more pirates to bash. Goof has the strength while Max has the speed and you'd be wise to make good use of both character's attributes in co-op play. Or just bash each other over the head with pots. 'Cuz you can totally do that.

F-ZERO


"Genesis does what Nintendon't," SEGA proclaimed with their memorable and aggressive ads. The Genesis might have had a faster processor but the SNES was hardly a snail and F-ZERO is proof of this. F-ZERO showed off some the SNES highly impressive mode-7 technology, creating an incredible sense of speed and pseudo 3D movement. This game introduced many to Captain Falcon and locals like Mute City, Port Town and Sand Ocean. Originally a launch title for the system, F-ZERO still holds up remarkably well.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Favorite Tunes #181: Angry Gravekeepers

This week's Favorite Tunes features music from 1990s era Sonic, the underappreciated Street Fighter EX series and music from a Zelda title that is not Breath of the Wild. All this and Deathsmiles, too!

File Select - Sonic 3 & Knuckles (GEN)


Though Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles were originally released as two separate games, the original intent was for them to be a stand alone title. I've always refereed to the duo of games as one, Sonic 3 & Knuckles, my favorite Sonic game. Among the game's outstanding tracks, the cool File Select theme is often overlooked.

Flash Train - Street Fighter EX 2 Plus (PS)


Everyone sings to high heaven about the classic Street Fighter II themes but what about the glorious music from the EX games? Music from EX2 and EX2 plus is so good that it can be tough for me to decide which version I prefer. But as spectacular as Flash Train is in EX2 it is a thousand times better in EX2 Plus. The saxophones kill it through most of the course but at the 2:19 mark, they get a sweet, sweet solo.

Stage 4 - Contra Force (NES)


The plan was to release this game under the title Arc Hound but the Japanese release was canned. The American release, however was still on and to give the game more exposure, it was released under the Contra name. But in 1992, the SNES and Genesis was what all the cool kids were raging over so Contra Force went on to become one of those rare NES titles. The music is friggin' killer.

SNES Rainbow Road - Mario Kart 8 (Wii U, NS)



Mario Kart 8 was one of my favorite entries in the long running series. But with the Wii U selling so poorly that means a lot of players missed out on it. The Switch is already faring much better than the Wii U so I'm pleased to see that Mario Kart 8 won't die off. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe will feature new playable characters such as King Boo, the Inklings from Splatoon and a battle mode much in line with the traditional battle modes of previous titles. Get ready to get your balloons busted on April 28th.

Ganon's Message - The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES)



What would go on to become  the theme of Ganondorf/Ganon was first used in A Link to the Past, a game that is highly praised as being the best in the series. Like the king of darkness, Ganon's theme is sinister and dark.

Fury of the Gravekeepers - Deathsmiles (ARC)


Another of Cave's bullet hell shooters, Deathsmiles has been given a new lease on life thanks to Steam. The soundtrack is a form of spooky rock from none other than Manabu Namiki, a man that works wonders on SHMUP soundtracks.

Favorite Tunes Database

Thursday, April 13, 2017

NES Classic Edition: Discontinued



The NES Classic Edition, a spiffy miniature edition of the Nintendo Entertainment System with 30 built in games that was originally released in November of 2016 has been notoriously difficult to come by. Nintendo suplied retailers with very small amounts of units and scalpers were all to quick to capitalize on  this, pick them up and try to resell them at dozens of times over the original $60 price tag. Scoring a NES Classic is going to get a lot more difficult because at the end of this month, the system will be discontinued. 

I'm puzzled as to why Nintendo would pull the plug on the NES Classic Edition so early. It isn't like demand for the thing dropped. Yes, Nintendo wants to go full throttle with the Switch but there is still plenty of people out there, hardcore and casual alike that would love to get one of these things.

I bought a Japanese version of the NES Classic Edition, the Famicom Mini, with no hassle off of Amazon for a reasonable price back in February and about a week ago, I got my local GameStop's only unit they received in months when I went in there to pick up some Legend of Zelda amiibos. I didn't plan on purchasing it because I had no idea they would even have one in stock. I just happened to be at the right place at the right time. Best of luck to anyone that is still trying to find one of these elusive little machines.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Brave New Massive Open Zelda World or, Yet Another Fan's BOTW Experience


Well this is long overdue. I meant to have this up in March but well, have you tried pulling yourself away from this game? It is no easy task.

I think I'm having the same problem my buddy over at Cross Up is in choosing titles for these posts. In truth, I haven't been exactly sure what to name my previous editorials. Do I go for the to the point titles or something more elegant? I tell ya, it is always an easy call. At the end of the day, this is one of the hundreds of posts about a game that has taken the industry by storm, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

My first few hours with this game started off the way, I imagine a lot of other player's did.

Already? But I just started!
By no means am I the world's best gamer but I'm not used to seeing the game over screen in any game so frequently, specifically in Zelda games. The last times those two words appeared on my TV screen in a Zelda game so often is when I was trying to complete the original Legend of Zelda and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. The later often is loathed for being a massive departure from the original and it's high difficulty while the former is praised to high heaven but I think a lot of gamers forget that the first Zelda game was no cake walk.

They say that there is no great teacher than the one called life. It is a harsh teacher and it does not play favorites. Life in BOTW is also a tough teacher, especially in the early stages of the game. And when you get more gear, more stamina and hearts, you get confident to take on other tasks. But just when you start thinking you're all that and a bag of chips. BOTW shows you what's up. In this game you don't live and learn.  You die and learn.

The many deaths that befell me in BOTW was a learning experience. I learned that blue Bokoblins not only had more health than their brown cousins, but were packing much more harder hitting clubs, enough to one shot me. I wanted the club one was carrying and he was hiding out in one of those skull caves. After many failed rush in and attack methods, I knew I had to go about things differently since I did not have the hearts or strong enough weapons to take on so many foes at once. This situation caused for some stealth. Instead of letting the goon on lookout keep summoning his buddies, I got close to him and when he was looking elsewhere, pumped some arrows into him. I drew the rest of the gang out of the cave with bombs, spacing them out, giving myself more room to move. After a different approach, I was the proud owner of a spiked club.

One of the shrines on the Great Plateau was located in a very cold area. There's actually a piece of clothing, the Warm Doublet, that you can get to help make this area a lot easier to travel. I found this out days after I trekked through the cold and completed the shrine. I hadn't even started cooking yet so I had no means of eating food with anti-cold affects. So how did I get through this cold climate? Well did have several bundles of wood on me and some Fire Arrows so I set up a few fires to keep warm and then sprinted off between them, eating food to regain health when needed. The enemy camps I came across had fires so I also used those to keep warm.

What I love so much about BOTW is that there are multiple ways to approach things. More often than not there is more than one solution to reaching your destination or taking out a camp of enemies. I've seen videos on YouTube where other players arrived at the cold shrine on the Great Plateau by taking a completely different path from the one I took. BOTW does not favor one player's style over the other, rather it is fair to both.

I didn't actually really keep up with BOTW over the years leading up to it's release. As a result, I came in to much of the game blind. I had no idea Hyrule had been destroyed and that the game takes place 100 years after said destruction, meaning Ganon scored a major W. Yes, there is an interesting plot to BOTW, but it for me, a lot of it took a back seat to exploring. Never have I wanted to go off and see what's out there in a game than I have in BOTW.

I love when video games reward me for my curiosity and BOTW always yields some sort of treasure for those that explore. Perhaps you'll find a cool weapon after raiding a Bokoblin camp? Maybe a sizable amount of rupees? There could be a Korok hiding behind that bombable wall. Because there was so much to find and so much to see, I didn't make story progression for weeks. No doubt some people miss the huge dungeons of past Zelda titles but I could honestly care less if I never set foot in one in BOTW and this is coming from a guy that loves the cleverness behind the puzzles in the Shrines and Divine Beasts.

When I look back on all the games I played in 2017, I'll be able to say that running around a vast world looking for treasure, gliding off mountaintops and wearing monster masks made for one of, if not the best games I played this year. I'm in no hurry to beat this game. Zelda has been waiting 100 years for Link to head to Hyrule Castle and defeat Ganon. A few more weeks or months won't kill her.