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Monday, September 1, 2014

Game Art #69: Mario Gallery

It's a-me, Mario! Been playing Mario Kart 8 along with going for 100% completion of Super Mario 3D World. Yeah, I'm in a Mario mood, so Mario art is the order of the day. Enjoy.

Pixiv ID
Pixiv ID
By GoshaDole
By Scribblehatch
By rom
By ZehB
By JamesTheRagenold and EarthGwee
By Kinashi
By Kayako
Pixiv ID
Unknown Artist
By Natsuuka
By Sun
By Sun
Pixiv ID
By Love
By Kyuu
By Luis Mario
Pixiv ID
Pixiv ID
By Angel-0A7
By kusa
Pixiv ID
By Creamsouffle
By Uguisuse

Friday, August 29, 2014

Summer Gaming: 1993

Summer is winding down. I haven't hammered out as many of these as I'd have liked to, but here's the third installment of Summer Gaming. This time, were taking it back to 1993.

Tetris (GB)

Lots of other gamers were exposed to this game in 1989. For me, I wouldn't touch the game for another four years. Tetris has the honor of being the first portable game I ever played. Largely viewed as one of the industry's first casual games, Tetris was quite a pack in game to just give away with the system and it ensured that the GB flew off the shelves. While it really wasn't the game I was dying to try out, it made for a nice diversion. I think the first time I played Tetris, I didn't even break 30 lines. I wouldn't appreciate the true beauty of Tetris until I I got older, though B-Type music immediately clicked with me, more so than A-Type.

Mega Man III (GB)

This is the GB game I coveted most. After reading all about it in Nintendo Power, it was THE reason I wanted to own a GB. Despite playing the NES version of Mega Man 3 countless times, I still had to have Mega Man III on the GB. The lack of color didn't deter me, nor did fighting familiar foes. Actually, playing Mega Man III on the GB was fresh and nostalgic at the same time. I no longer had an NES so Mega Man III served as sort of a remixed version of Mega Man 3 and 4. The levels weren't complete copy and paste works and the GB's sound chip gave some slightly new spins on favorite themes. I especaially was quite fond of the game's rendition of Snake Man's theme. I had to wait for my dad to get off of work so he could drive me up to Meijer to get this one. The wait nearly killed me, but when you're a kid, 30 minutes seems like an eternity. Mega Man III provided me with some of my fondest memories on the GB and was an excellent 12th birthday gift.

Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins (GB)

Mega Man III was all kinds of awesome and Tetris was nice to have around. But it was the 4th of July weekend and I was a new GB owner so I was always on the lookout for new titles to add to my collection. Before nightfall came and the fireworks began, I was in Meijer with my family and my mother gave me some cash to go get something. I cannot remember what it was, but she gave me enough moola to pick up the game that introduced the world to Wario, Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins. By the time, I got my hands on it, it was about a year old, but I still remember that creepy commercial where Wario was trying to hypnotize the viewers. It sure left an impression on me, that's for sure. My mom was quite peeved when she found out I blew 30 bones on this game. I felt bad about it for about a minute. Then I heard the game's athletic themed and didn't give it much thought afterwords.

Despite not being a Miyamoto game, Super Mario Land 2 was no less a strange game. The game was packed with all sorts of oddball locals, each classified under zones, much like the Sonic series. Mario Zone was always an interesting place for me because it took place inside a giant Mario. The final level was actually the crotch, which was filled with, I kid you not, balls. This was also the only game to feature Rabbit Mario, which let Mario glide with a pair of, you guessed it, rabbit ears.

It was very easy to get lives in this game. In fact most of Super Mario Land 2 was quite easy. Right up until you reach Wario's castle. Holy crap. The difficulty spike here was completely unexpected especially since most of the game was a cakewalk. I've never actually beaten Super Mario Land 2 because of this stupidly hard final level.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (GG)

I wonder if my having a GB had anything to do with it, but my dad ended up plunking down some cash for a Game Gear during the summer. SEGA's big claim to fame for it's handheld was color and while it certainly looked nice, it sucked down batteries like a kid does Caprisuns. I think the six double A batteries my dad used for it on the first day died within two hours. Fortunately, he shopped smart and bought his with an AC adapter. My dad, bless his heart, let me play his GG whenever he wasn't using it and I treated it like it was my own.

Even I found the color of the GG attractive and more importantly it had some games that caught my eye, mainly the Sonic titles. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was a game he picked up the day he bought his GG and it was vastly different from the Genesis version. For one, Tails wasn't even playable and the usual green first level areas found in  Sonic 1 and 2 on the Genesis were 86'd in favor of what I think was my first experience of a mine cart level in the form of the Underground Zone. The big kick to the crotch was the third act. I made it through the first two acts with little trouble but Underground Zone Act 3 was my first brick wall, not only due to the boss and the screen limitations, but the fact that Act 3 contained no rings. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Lack of rings made what was already a frustrating battle far more difficult. As I progressed through the later zones, I caught on that each third act was ringless, which in turned forced me to get better at the game. 

So, provided you were alive and kicking at the time, what games were you playing during the summer of 1993?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Favorite Tunes #95: Sonic Boom

Last week's Favorite Tunes was all about Mario. Since Sonic and Mario are like two sides of the same coin, it only feel rights to have the fastest thing alive follow after the plumber.

Eggmanland Night - Sonic Unleashed (PS3, PS2, 360, Wii)

The day portions of the game are awesome. The night portions of the game suck. Says the majority of the Sonic fanbase. I'll admit that the night levels of Sonic Unleashed can dragon on, but they aren't all the game destroyers that so many make them out to be. Of course if everything I hear about Eggman Land is true, then this level can go screw itself. At least the music is pretty rad. That's gotta count for something.

Sonic Boom - Sonic CD (SCD)

Come on, you knew this was coming. How can I reference one of the most recognizable songs in the history of Sonic and not have said song featured here? As everyone knows by now, when Sonic CD was being brought over to the United States, SEGA of America made the decision to change the music, something that has since divided the fanbase to this day. We would never have gotten Sonic Boom if SEGA hadn't done this and the rest of the American soundtrack is certainly nothing to scoff at. Sonic Boom was included as an unlockable song in Super Smash Bros. Brawl as well as Sonic Generations.

Green Hill Zone Act 2 - Sonic Generations (PS3, 360, 3DS)

Past meets present in Sonic Generations, the game that allowed players to play as two different versions of the hedgehog each with their own style of play. Classic Sonic's levels are 2D affairs while Modern Sonic blasts through 3D stages. The soundtrack featured tons of remixes and arrangements from the updated levels from all the previous Sonic games. Long time Sonic music composer Jun Senoue took a stab at remix the famous Green Hill Zone theme. There's lots of trademark Jun guitar goodness but it still sticks close to the original theme.

Terminal Velocity Act 1 - Sonic Colors (Wii) 

A modern Sonic game that had a host of 2D gameplay. Despite not being on an HD console, Sonic Colors still posts visuals that are on par with it's HD brothers. I had more than enough time to get Terminal Velocity stuck in my head because I kept failing the first act over and over again. There's been an abundance of rock music in Sonic's long history and this baby ranks right up with the best of 'em.

Work It Out - Sonic R (SAT)

As part of Sonic's 23rd anniversary SEGA gave Sonic R's soundtrack the digital release treatment. The original album was released in 1998 so it has long since been out of print, making this re-release extremely welcome. The lyrics can be a bit cheesy, but Sonic R has always had some of my favorite vocal performances in the series. For me, Work It Out is every bit  as good as Can You Feel the Sunshine and Super Sonic Racing.

Intro - Sonic Mega Collection (GCN, PS2, XB)

This wasn't Sonic's first anthology release. Far from it. But being available on more platforms maid it far easier to own than Sonic Jam. Featuring all of Sonic's platforming Genesis adventures along with the spin-offs, Sonic Mega Collection was a hefty dose of Sonic goodness. Originally a GCN exclusive, this compilation eventually made it's way to the PS2 and XB in the form of Sonic Mega Collection Plus. Outside of the mostly great selection of games (Sonic 3D Blast sucks on unimaginable levels), there was some sweet, original music. The nostalgic is magnified tenfold when you hear the intro/title music while watching the demos of these games.

Favorite Tunes Database

Friday, August 22, 2014

Latest Purchases #74

I think I'm approaching otaku status in terms of collecting Dragon Ball manga. I already have Viz's 16 volumes of Dragon Ball and the 26 volumes of Dragon Ball Z, yet hear am I, buying the whole series all over again in the form of their Dragon Ball 3-in-1 volumes. I love the spines on these and those red covers taken from the Japanese perfect editions is just soooooo awesome. I ordered the third edition Dragon Ball 3-in-1 off of Amazon in late July but it never arrived. This is actually the second time I've ordered something off of Amazon and I haven't gotten it. Worse, this was ordered from Amazon Prime, so I'll definitely think twice before ordering from them from now on. I just went ahead and picked up book 3 along with 4 and 5 from  my Barns & Nobles. If the book ever does come in the mail (doubtful since it's been over a month), I'll just give the extra copy to a friend or something.

Wrapping up the Dragon Ball purchases is the Blu-Ray of Dragon Ball Z Kai season one. I already have all nine seasons of DBZ in the form of Funimation's orange bricks and while I do intend to pick up the Blu-Ray nine season set as well, I've been meaning to start recollecting Kai for a long time. I picked up Part seven of the DVD release about two years ago and then realized that I'd be better off just nabbing this series in season form.

It's been years since I've picked up a physical copy of an imported game. When I was writing my editorial about the printed instructional manuals being phased out, I came across scans of Sonic the Hedgehog 2's Japanses manual on Sonic Retro. I was so enthralled by it that I went looking on Amazon to see how much a Japanese copy of Sonic 2 would set me back. Much to my surprise, the cost was quite low, as in only $15 or so including shipping. This thing is in very good condition and even includes the European and Chinese instructions in addition to the Japanese manual. I'm thinking I'll pick up a Japanese copy of Sonic 1 sometime down the road and perhaps Sonic 3 & Knuckles.

Batman: Assault on Arkham. There are more DC animated Batman flicks than of other DC super hero. I caught a preview of this when on the Blu-Ray of Son of Batman and I gotta say, I liked what I saw. This one looks like it's pretty bad guy-centric, which is fine with me, because Bat's rogues gallery can easily carry a comic or TV episode when written correctly. As I am in the middle of Dragon Ball season four, blogging, gaming and work, I haven't watched this thing yet.

The last water bottle I bought was in 2011 and the image of Sonic the Hedgehog has long since faded from it, sadly. Be it cartoony or serious, I'm all over Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles merch. The sandwich containers is something I'll probably use for storing small things. No way I'm going to use it for what the manufacturer intended at my age.

Well, would you look at that. Books! And neither one of them Dragon Ball related. The only Alice in Wonderland things I've see are Disney's 1957 movie and the Batman: The Animated Series episode Mad as a Hatter. I've passed by this book numerous times in Barns & Nobles and I've been wanting to see just how differently the book is from Disney's film. $6.98 for a hardcover book isn't shabby at all. There's even some artwork in here.

The hardcover edition of The Fault in Our Stars is usually somewhere around $20 or so. My local Krogers had it for $13.99. I was a bit worried there wouldn't be any copies of the hardback edition left when I got paid, but sure enough, there were three sitting on the shelf.  The first time I saw this book is when I was getting checked out at fye a few months back. The praise and summerization on the back intrigued me, so I thought I'd give this one a look. I'm backed up with a ton of other books but I plan to make room for this one.

So apparently there's this whole World of Nintendo toy line going on, ranging from figures to plushies. The plushies were $7.99 in Target and I had slim pickings between a Yoshi, Toon Link and a Red Pikmin. I went with the Red Pikmin because he was the only one left, I already have Toon Link and Yoshi plushies and the thing is just so dang adorable. I always knew Pikmin would make great plush toys and the very sight of this thing sends me in daaaaw mode. I can't wait to get the remaining Pikmin colors. The mini figures were $3.99 and they nearly had the whole set of six was there for the picking. Of Diddy Kong, Ice Luigi, Wario, and Waluigi, the Donkey Kong and Fire Mario appealed to me the most. I've always been a fan of Waluigi, so maybe I'll grab him  next time.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Favorite Tunes #94: Do the Mario

Favorite Tunes has been MIA for a little too long for my liking so I've decided to bring it back. As the subtitle suggests, this is a Mario-centric edition, specifically, the Super Mario series.

Slider - Super Mario 64 (N64, DS)

Super Mario 64 may feel a bit aged in the control department when compared to Super Mario Sunshine and the Super Mario Galaxy titles, but it's still a fine game and did a exceptional job of propelling the plumber into the third dimension. Slider, is usually a theme heard during racing segments such as the one with that huge, annoying Penguin in Cool, Cool Mountain. It's actually an arranged version of the game's Main Theme.

Clock Tower - Super Mario 3D Land (3DS)

One of the most anticipated 3DS games in 2011, Super Mario 3D Land was a much needed title for Nintendo's then fresh 3D handheld that was lacking in killer apps for the unit's launch. 3D Land took many inspirations from Super Mario Bros. 3. Not only did it feature the return of one of my favorite power-ups, the Tanooki Suit, but the levels were also on the short side. The last time I did a clock tower stage in a Mario game (Tick-Tock Clock in Super Mario 64) the frustration I felt was almost on par with that of Castlevania III's Clock Tower level. Thankfully, the Clock Tower stage in 3D Land is far more tolerable.

Special World - Super Mario World (SNES)

Mario's first 16-bit title on the SNES and a launch title, Super Mario World unfortunately had fewer power-ups than it's predecessor, but this didn't prevent it from being another benchmark Super Mario title. The familiar Super Mario Bros. Theme seemed to become more and more hidden with each successive game. In Super Mario Bros. 3, if you wanted to hear the tune, you had to use the Music Box to put enemies on the world map to sleep. Make it to the Special World in Super Mario World, a world which houses the most brutal levels in the game, wait a few minutes and that music we all know and love kicks in.

Comet Observatory 3 - Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)

Releasing in 2007, just one year after the Wii was on store shelves, gamers were treated to the next 3D adventure. After the somewhat disappointing Super Mario Sunshine, Super Mario Galaxy had a lot to make up for. It did that and a thousand times more. The planetary gameplay mechanics of Super Mario Galaxy, coupled with some awesome level design, rivals that of Mario's best 2D exploits. It was the first Mario game to use a fully orchestrated musical score. It also gave us Rosalina, my favorite female character in the Mario universe. The third version of the Comet Observatory theme uses more instruments than the previous two, making it sound as if the theme has been fully fleshed out.

Athletic - New Super Mario Bros. U (Wii U)

New Super Mario Bros. U's soundtrack can certainly be accused of being lazy. Most of the tracks are ripped straight from New Super Mario Bros. Wii. Much of the new music came from the world map themes but the game did give us Acorn Plains and the pretty head bobbing Athletic theme, which of course, is an arrangement of Acorn Plains. I actually prefer this over the original theme.

Bowser's Highway Showdown - Super Mario 3D World (Wii U)

A sequel to 3D Land, Super Mario 3D World greatly expanded upon 3D Land in a plethora of ways. It added multiplayer, Rosalina as an unlockable character, gave each character their own style of play a la Super Mario Bros. 2, introduced the Cat Suit and featured some of the best level design not just in the Super Mario series but in video games as a whole. 3D World deserves each and every ounce of praise that it gets. Bowser has always had a history of being associated with rock music. As great as his orchestral themes in the Galaxy games were, it was great to hear Bowser rocking out once again, and with an awesome set of wheels, no less!

Favorite Tunes Database

Monday, August 18, 2014

Best Levels Ever Vol. 1

Meet the sister series to Frustrating Levels in Gaming. Where as that feature bemoans the level aspects that make them a chore to go through, Best Levels Ever is all about giving props to awesome, fun, well-thought out level designs. 

World 3-6: Mount Must Dash - Super Mario 3D World (Wii U)

Super Mario 3D World is bursting at the seems with brilliant level designs, with just about every stage having its own unique feel to it. World 3-6 incorporates elements from what is arguably the plumber's best spin-off series, Mario Kart. Using the classic Mario Circuit tracks from the original Super Mario Kart as the level layout, Mount Must Dash is all about moving at break neck speed. Boost panels are scattered all throughout the level, discouraging slow movement. This level can be a little tricky when three or more players are involved, especially if everyone isn't on the same page. But when it's just one person or everyone playing is in sync, blasting through Mount Must Dash feels as cool as a summer breeze. Then speedy nature of this level makes it great for time trial purposes.

Magnet Man Stage - Mega Man 3 (NES)

Mega Man games have been lauded for the exceptional stage designs. Egoraptor even pointed out the the Classic Mega Man games have been excellent teaching tools for players without holding their hands. Magnet Man's stage is a shinning example of this. Magnets obviously play a big roll in this stage and you're introduced to several of them early on. These magnets fly through the air as you traverse over bottomless pits while avoiding the magnetic pull. Once you get below the surface, more magnets are introduced but instead of pulling you upward, these are wall mounted, so they pull you left or right. Nothing too threatening, but you can get pulled into a few enemies if you aren't careful. At the level's midway point, those blasted disappearing blocks make an appearance and this is by far the most challenging portion of Magnet Man's stage. The disappearing blocks are divided into mini sections. The first section is easy to pass through but by the second section, those wall mounted magnets make a return to screw up your jumps. By the time you reach the third section, you'll have to deal with those infernal blocks, the magnets and bottomless pits. This last block section is usually the one that has players seeing red. It can be difficult, but the level slowly introduced you to every single one of these hazards one step at a time. You really can't say it's unfair because the game didn't spring it on you. Not only is Magnet Man's stage fun and challenging, but it comes with a super catchy, upbeat musical theme.

Stage 4: Dice Dance Days - Gunstar Heroes (GEN)

Treasure's first game is arguably their best. Of the first four levels the game let's you choose in any order, the fourth one is easily my favorite. It begins with your standard run and gun fair, complete with a few mini bossers, but when you reach the halfway point, the stage throws you what has got to be one of wildest curve balls in the history of gaming. On the wall is a giant board, not unlike the fold out ones you see in board games. Each square on the board is it's own mini level and when you go depends on what number comes up when you throw the die. You could be sent to do battle with a Pong-inspired boss, a creepy-looking smiley face, a tiny shoulder with insane strength, a maze, the list goes on and on. Gunstar Hereoes was already a stand out game in the genre with it's combined weapon mechanics and melee moves in addition to the gun play. Dice Dance Days just helped further cement it as one of the most astonishing run 'n game games ever.

Grassland Groove - Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (Wii U)

A savanna in Donkey Kong Country? This may seem out of place, but considering all the jungle and forest locals in the series, it really is surprising that it took them this long to place this kind of environment in the DKC games. When you're not admiring the lovely scenery set against a sunset backdrop, you'll be platforming on dancing trees, climbing across swaying giraffe necks and moving down stone, grass covered snakes. Grassland Groove has oh-so-crystal-clear inspirations from The Lion King. The only thing missing is the Circle of Life playing as background music, but considering what David Wise came up with, it's highly unlikely that you'll miss it.

Stage 3 - Contra ReBirth (Wii Ware)

All out action is par the course for a Contra game but each entry always has a level or two that is just flat out crazy awesome. Such a level from Contra ReBirth comes in the form of the third stage. You start out on a supply truck and are soon assaulted by mooks, a barrage of missiles and a ninja robot that throws so much ammo at you, you'd think you stepped into a Cave shooter. At several points in the stage you'll have to quickly platform across robotic camels while making your way back to another supply truck. One misstep during these segments can end up costing you many a life. The third stage of Contra Rebirth is undoubtedly the most adrenaline filled stage of the whole game and is an excellent contender for the most outrageous level in the history of Contra titles.