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Saturday, September 22, 2018

Favorite Tunes #241: Comfort Zone

Have you ever found yourself trying to balance too many games at once? That's the situation I'm currently in. I'm greatly enjoying every game I'm playing but making time for all of them is a bit difficult. Still, its hard to feel too bad when you've got so many great titles to choose from. Anyway, just a bit of real game talk for ya. Enjoy the tunes.

Dirtmouth - Hollow Knight (PC, NS)
First released on the PC in 2017, Hollow Knight hit the Switch in 2018 and I have been loving this game. The soundtrack has a very, mostly quite, tranquil vibe and I find that can make exploring the ruined land feel quite peaceful. If you're looking for some more relaxed gaming music, Hollow Knight has you covered.

Menu - Capcom Beat 'Em Up Bundle (NS, PS4, XBO, PC)
The Capcom Beat 'Em Up Bundle has scratched an itch I've had for some time now. The genre has been on my brain and I was thinking about popping in Capcom Classics Collection Volume 1 and 2 to get a fix and then, this beauty of a compilation gets revealed during the September 13th Nintendo Direct. The Menu them is pretty dang awesome and gets you pumped to walk right and punch people in the face.

Museum - Captain Commando (ARC)
Speaking of the Capcom Beat 'Em Up Bundle, here's a track from Captain Commando. The first time I played this game was on Capcom Classics Collection Volume 2. I didn't play it as much as I did Final Fight or Knights of the Round, but I do remember enjoying my time with this one. I played it again after picking up the Beat 'Em Up Bundle and this game is absurd and as fun as ever.

Industrial Area - Final Fight (ARC)
This the last Capcom beat 'em up I'll feature in Favorite Tunes this week. Promise. I plan to make a list of my favorite beat 'em ups one of these days and you can bet that Final Fight will be near the top of the top of the list. The game offers some of the best two button action you can find even if it can be very cheap when it swarms you with enemies. The soundtrack is among the best of Capcom's CPS I arcade board. Some of the composers for Final Fight's soundtrack include Maname Matsume and Yasuaki Fujita, both known for the contributions to the classic Mega Man series.

Broforce Theme Song - Broforce (PC, PS4, NS)
If you want to play an over the top run 'n gun action game where everything can be destroyed, check out Broforce. The game was originally released on PC in 2015 and then the PS4 in 2016 and hit the Switch earlier this month. The game went by yours truly unnoticed until a fellow forum member started discussing his play through of it on the Switch. So I checked out the trailer and couldn't help but smile as this themed played.

Comfort Zone (Main Menu) - Sonic Mania (PS4, NS, XBO, PC)
The team behind Sonic Mania wowed many of us and while I'm still not ready to say it is the best Sonic game ever (sorry, GameSpot but you need more than a few days to make such a wild claim), it is nonetheless, an outstanding title, thanks in no small part to Tee Lopes amazing soundtrack. I know the level themes tend to get the most love (for good reason) but the menu tracks are pretty awesome in their own right.

Favorite Tunes Database

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Remix of the Week: Blue Resort (Bomberman 64)

This week's is a remix of one of my favorite songs from Bomberman 64, Blue Resort. The arrangement is from one of the best groups of remixers on YouTube, The Consouls, who specialize in jazz works. They more than did this great song justice.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Favorite Tunes #240: Turning Over a New Leaf

If you are in one of the areas that was called for evacuation for Hurricane Florence, I hope you're staying safe. We managed to get quite fortunate and have the storm pass over us here in Virginia. Anyway, for this week, there's a selection of tracks that reflects a few of the titles I'm currently playing and a few that I'm really looking forward to.

Home (Not) Sweet Home - 2064: Read Only Memories (PC, PS4, PSV, XBO, NS)
Do you like cyber punk? Do you like text based games? Do you like knowledgable, adorable robots with dome-shaped heads? If you answered yes to all of those questions, you should take 2064: Read Only Memories for a spin. I haven't played many games in this genre, but the pixel graphics and cyber punk setting were enough to stir my interest. It has an intriguing story, some wonderful characters and a really good soundtrack. This is far from the last time you'll see music from this game popping up.

Block Man Stage - Mega Man 11 (NS, PS4, XBO, PC)
If you've played the Mega Man 11 Demo, you've been exposed to Block Man's challenging stage. It keeps with the spirit of classic Mega Man with tough, but fair level design. It wasn't long before I was bobbing my head to the square one's level theme. True to most Mega Man songs, this one is pretty catchy.

Dwelling of Doom - Castlevania II: Simon's Quest (NES)
Perhaps it is because Halloween is coming up. Maybe it is because I've been listening to the Pixel Mixers latest release. Or maybe it could be that I'm stoked that the Belmont boys are in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. OK, its all three. Castlevania II is the black sheep of the NES trilogy with gameplay being a huge departure from the first, result in a highly cryptic title, one that is impossible to play without a guide. If any Castlevania game needs a remake, it is definitely this one. Music is aces, though.

#12 awake - Splatoon 2 (NS)
You do you need more annoyance in your life? Do you want to smash the nearest thing after the umpteenth attempt at a mission to end in failure? Well look no further than Splatoon 2's Octo  Expansion DLC. For a low price of $20 you can experience what it is like to lose your sanity trying to obtain a Golden Hairpin. Frustration aside, the Octo Expansion DLC is a very nice addition to what is already an outstanding game. The lore of Splatoon is expanded and you can get exclusive gear to use in the multiplayer matches. The sound team even went ham and gave us an entirely new soundtrack for this DLC.

Your Contract Has Expired - A Hat in Time (PC, PS4, XBO, NS)
I've been wanting to feature music from A Hat in Time here on Favorite Tunes but I haven't played the game yet, though I have been spoiled about some plot points thanks to a catch a videos on YouTube. This song came up in my recommended section and with the amount of views it had, I figured it was worth a listen. Rock on, Hat in Time. Rock on.

Town Hall - Animal Crossing: New Leaf (3DS)
This past Thursday's Nintendo Direct was either a roaring success or a huge disappointment. I feel like some people have insanely high exceptions for these directs and if/when they don't get what they wanted, they come out disappointed. Seriously, if you couldn't find anything to get excited about among all that stuff that was revealed, the hype gene may not be in you. There were a lot of good annoucements in the direct two of them being that not only is Isabelle gonna be a playable character in Smash, but a new console Animal Crossing is finally on the way.

Favorite Tunes Database

Thursday, September 13, 2018

2K Begs & EA's Shameless Defiance

Oh, Belgium. When it comes to the fight against loot boxes, you guys are my heroes. So far Belgium is the only country to declare loot boxes are a form of gambling. As a result, 2K has been forced to remove them from NBA 2K19, at least in Belgium. Everywhere else the game is sold those crummy loot boxes are still stinking up the place. Even though NBA 2K19 will contain loot boxes on every other corner of the world, 2K still wants to have that gambling, predatory practice pie. They've stooped so low as to actually beg gamers to contact their government so they can be allowed to keep loot boxes in their game. 

That is freaking hilarious to me. Every time I think about this story, I double over in laughter. Like, 2K wants us to to ask our government officials to make it OK to keep implementing crappy game mechanics and pay to progress tactics. The audacity of these fools is, if nothing else, quite comical.

For all of EA's horrendous business practices (as a cancer on the medium, there are many), I am a firm believer in giving credit where it is due. If they hadn't went ahead with loot boxes in Star Wars: Battlefront II, the whole issue with loot boxes wouldn't have become as widespread as it is. They aren't anything new in fact they have been in a several of EA's sports titles such as FIFA and politicians didn't so much as bat an eye, that is until EA crammed them into Battlefront II. Star Wars is such a mega popular franchise that it is known to everyone around the world, regardless of age. So when you place a form of gambling into a Star Wars game and the backlash is so enormous  that it reaches political ears, that's when you've well and truly effed up. So thanks, EA. Thanks for being so caught up in your never ending pursuit to nickle and dime us that some companies are thinking twice about putting loot boxes into their games in Belgium. Some, companies, that is.

EA being EA has decided that they are still going to push forward with loot boxes on Belgium soil despite the legal ramifications that come with refusal to comply with the country laws. Now the evil monster corporation is under criminal investigation for such shameless defiance. Hey, EA, Belgium doesn't care how much money you have or what your interpretation of loot boxes are. Your refusal to comply with their laws could very well lead to a court case and I'm hoping they win, chew you up and spit you out.

It isn't hard to make a compelling game and make bank off of it. We've had enormousness releases from 2017 and 2018 that were well received by gamers. Super Mario Odyssey, God of War, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Sonic Mania, Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, Spider-Man and other titles managed to turn a high profit. Of course all of those games did so without resorting to the much loathed implementation of loot boxes and that is where the problem lies for companies like EA and 2K. They have zero interest in making or publishing compelling games. Yes, everyone in the business of making and publishing games wants to make money. The issue with EA and 2K is that they don't just want to make money, they want to make all of the money and they are perfectly willing to use gambling and prey on those with nasty gambling habits to get it. Why make a game that is fun when you can just go after the gambling crowd and lock speedy progression behind a paywall? Thing is, as much as many of us despise loot boxes, there are those out there that buy into them. And as long as the gambling addicts keep buying them, greedy game companies will still resort to them. These trolls keep getting fed, so they don't die out.

EA and 2K games have become so dependent on loot boxes that they cannot help themselves. These guys need to use loot boxes like their need air to breathe. Gamers are nothing more than walking wads of cash for them to exploit, which is why games from both companies are built with short sighted the loot box formula in mind. The so called "grind" in these games only exists because they've been designed that way. When you make a game where you encourage the player to pay not to play it, something is seriously wrong.

Belgium's strong stance against loot boxes had made me the most proud of politicians that I have ever been. I only hope other countries follow in their footsteps. As it stands, the battle against loot boxes is only beginning and from here on out, it looks like things are gonna get pretty interesting. Here's hoping EA gets roasted like chicken.

Monday, September 10, 2018

I Cannot Wait to Play Mega Man 11 (Mostly) Blind

Did you know that the Mega Man 11 Demo actually has a game over screen? Well, it does. I've seen it. More times, than I'd care to admit.

Originally, I didn't plan on touching Mega Man 11 until the release date of October 2nd, which is fast approaching. But I noticed one of my friends online was playing the Mega Man 11 Demo, something I didn't even know was a thing. Normally, I skip demos of games I'm looking forward to but I just couldn't help myself this time. Mega Man 11 is the first new Mega Man game in years so I guess I couldn't wait until October to try a slice.

Oh, and demo impressions. I have them.

I dig Mega Man's abilities that let him temporarily speed up and slow down time, though they will take some getting used to. I do like Mega Man's look in this game. He's always had a simple, yet appealing design. The extra lining on his upper body and boots is a very nice tough and reminds me of his Super Smash Bros. model. As much as I enjoy 8-bit Mega Man, I'm glad to see Capcom once again take the character out of that era as far as looks go. His movement animation looks very stiff and I suspect this was to keep it more in line with the 8-bit games. The last time Mega Man was given more fluid movement (Mega Man 8), people complained. The Blue Bomber looks pretty dang good in HD and having Rush Coil on call at the press of a button is the best thing ever.

For all my struggling with Block Man's stage (as of this writing, I still haven't finished it), it is a pretty enjoyable level that incorporates a block gimmick quite well. Falling blocks over bottomless pits force you to time your jumps carefully, conveyor bets in horizontal as well as vertical sections further server to spice things up and the very unexpected return of one of my most hated enemies from the original Mega Man, the Flying Shell, make for a pretty challenging level. This was the level that was shown off during the reveal trailer  but demo was still the most I'd seen of it. Beyond the demo, however, I don't know much about Mega Man 11 and that's the way I wanna keep it until October.

When Mega Man 9 and 10 released, I knew pretty much everything about those games before I even played them. I knew what each level was like, what Robot Master was weak to what weapons, what the entire soundtrack was like for both games. I made the mistake of watching playthroughs for both games on YouTube thus spoiling myself of discovering the games on my own. Sure, playing a game is different from watching someone play it, but that whole sense of discovering the games on my own was completely lost. This (for the most part) was not the case when I played Mega Man 1-6 as a kid and 7 and 8 as  a teenager.

The first Mega Man game I ever played was Mega Man 2 and if I was a cocky kid that that he was hot stuff back in 1989, that game would have served as massive ego check. Time and time again, Mega Man 2 would wreck me. I didn't know what Robot Master I should go to first, who was weak against what. Heck, I didn't even know you could switch to a Robot Master's weapon after you beat him! It was a real learning experience for me and while I got wrecked over and over, I had a lot of fun (at least until I reached Boobeam Trap. That boss sucks). When I got Mega Man 3 the following year, I had to learn to get good all over again. This time, I had Nintendo Power to help with the Robot Master weakness, but that did me little good when I couldn't even get to less than half of the bosses. Like a shonen character that keeps getting knocked down, I kept rising back up for more. Having gotten so much better at Mega Man 3 and having played the game for years, it is now my favorite game of the entire franchise.

With Mega Man 11, I have a chance to experience a Mega Man game as if I were a kid again. I have been avoiding info like the plague. The only Robot Masters I know of are Block Man and Torch Man. The only stage I've seen is Block Man's and I haven't even seen all of it because I keep dying on the second mini boss.What's the rest of the soundtrack like? What are the other weapons? I don't have a clue and that has me grinning like an idiot that just got a kiss from his crush. Mega Man 11 is my chance to play a Mega Man game (mostly) blind for the first time in a very long time. I'm going to find out who is weak to what on my own. I'm going to pick my own path to Dr. Wily. And arguably most important of all, I'm gonna find out just how sick the beats are of Mega Man 11 through gameplay and not someone's YouTube playthrough. Block Man's theme is a banger and I'm drooling over the thought of what the rest of the music sounds like.

If Mega Man 11 is going to be your first Meg Man game, I'm very happy for you. The best advice I could give you is to play the game on your own for a while with no help. Self discovery is one of the most gratifying things about a Mega Man game and video games in general. October 2nd is gonna rock. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go off and lick my wounds because my failure to beat the Mega Man 11 demo still haunts me.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Remix of the Week: The Day of Fate ~Spirit VS Spirit~ (Dragon Ball Z)

I've been behind on episodes of Dragon Ball Z Abridged but when episode 60, Part 1, dropped, I figured I would give it a watch because the Cell Game episodes of DBZ are among my favorite. I was curious as to how TeamFourStar would handle Gohan's Super Saiyan 2 transformation and to my surprise, they tossed parody to the curb and treated the scene with every bit of seriousness as the original source material. From Gohan's raged inducing scream and even better, an outstanding cover of The Day of Fate ~Spirit VS Spirit~ which is my favorite vocal track from DBZ's original Japanese vocals. The song is sung in English this was actually the first time I've ever heard the lyrics translated. As a result, I have an even greater appreciation for the song. Thankfully. This cover can be purchased off Amazon for $1.29. I bought it and have listened to it on loop to and from work. Still not sick of it. Paolo Cuevas, Ani Djirdjirian, you guys done did real good.

Buy it on Amazon

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Building a Better Compilation

In times where digital media is making it easier to access what we want, especially when it comes to games, I must say that is is nice to see retro game compilation releases thriving, not just in digital format, but physical as well. As with anything, however, there is always room for improvement and I'd like to talk about a few things that have been done to improve compilation releases and what more should be done to improve them further.

One thing I see a lot of compilations doing these days is implementing screen filters to replicate the look of old CRT TVs. It's been used in Mega Man Legacy Collection 1 and 2, The Disney Afternoon Collection and it is a standard feature on all of HAMSTER's Arcade Archives titles. We're so used to our fancy HD TVs and picture quality that it can be easy to forget what our video games looked like on TVs from the the 1980s and early 1990s. As someone that grew up in those eras, I appreciate anything that allows me to step back further in time and be a kid again, if only for a little while. It has been used in so many compilations and stand alone re-releases that it is pretty much standard issue now and I am perfectly fine with that.

You get a plethora of emulator settings on SEGA Genesis Classics.
The SEGA Genesis Classics collection has gotten some flack both before and after it's release and I feel not all of it is deserved. Yes, it sucks that Sonic 3 & Knuckles is not included in this collection and I wish SEGA would sort out whatever freaking mess is stopping my favorite Sonic game from getting re-released as the mammoth game it was intended to be. But to dismiss the entire collection due to the absence of that game especially when there are so many other noteworthy titles on it? Well that's just not good form. Besides the usual titles that show up on SEGA compilations like Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic the Hedgehog 2, there's also Dynamite Headdy, Gunstar Heroes, Alien Solider as well as ToeJam & Earl and the sequel, Panic on Funkotron. The three Treasure made games have not been present on any compilation release outside of Japan and both ToeJam & Earl titles haven't enjoyed nearly as many re-releases as other SEGA games.

Along with a beefy selection of games and a really cool user interface, the SEGA Genesis Classics collection also sports the aforementioned CRT filters for a more retro gaming experience. This anthology takes it a step further than most, however, and lets you adjust the curves of the CRT TV. Playing the first Streets of Rage with scan lines and those curved edges made me feel super nostalgic. SEGA Genesis Classics also does something I feel other compilations need to implement: the ability to select what region of the game to play. Sadly, not every game  in this collection has this feature but quite a few of them do like LandStalker, Ristar, Streets of Rage 2 and 3, Alien Soldier, and Dynamite Heady. No matter what the regional differences are, be it slightly different level layouts, a different title screen, I always love it when we are given the option to play different versions of a game and see those differences on our own TV screens or computer monitors. I'm quite happy that the Japanese version of Ristar is on the SEGA Genesis Classics because we get to see the cute little guy smile more often. In the case of Streets of Rage 3, I will take Bare Knuckle 3 over Streets of Rage 3 any day. Sure, I can't understand a lick of the story because it is in Japanese but considering the difficulty settings actually make sense in this version, that is a small price to pay. Streets of Rage 3 is a case of difficulty by region as the easy setting in both the American and European versions of the game is actually normal and that setting is way harder than it should be.

The upcoming SNK 40th Anniversary Collection will
included arcade and home versions of select games.
What is usually always included in an Arcade Archives release are different regions of the arcade game, meaning when you drop you $7.99 down, you're getting the USA, Japanese and European version of the game including all of the major and minor differences that come with them. The European version of Gradius II not only has a name change in the form of Vulcan Venture, but it also mercifully lets you use continues, which makes it my go to version when I want to play the arcade version of Gradius II.

Some companies are still stubbornly insistent on not including different regions on compilation releases. The SNES Classic Edition also suffered from this. I was playing the system last week with my nephew and we were playing some Contra III. We only made it to stage four on the easy difficulty setting and since it was his first time playing a Contra game, he died a lot. I told him as long as I had extra lives, he could take them from me. Had the SNES Classic Edition included the Japanese version of the game, we would have had a ton of lives (that version uses the Konami Code) as well as unlimited continues. You'd think that with Nintendo making the Switch region free that they would be more open to included different regions of all the games on the SNES Classic Editions, but alas, if you want the PAL or Japanese versions of these games, you gotta fork over the cash for those versions of the box. In this day and age I don't think there is any reason we should be limited to playing only one region version of a game in these compilation releases.

Instruction manuals are now a thing of the past. Some games come packed with manuals (one of the many reasons Nicalis is one of my favorite publishers) but for the most part, they are a relic. Digitally manuals are all the rage now. With this being the case, you would think most of these retro compilations would include the original manuals with these games. The Sonic Mega Collection from the early 2000s did did this, packing page by page of the manuals from the original classic Sonic titles. Yeah, you had to zoom in to read them and what not but it was still pretty dang cool that SEGA was forward thinking enough to include the. Manuals of the past were often crammed with all kinds of cool original artwork while explaining how to play the game, the power ups and all the jazz. Including the manuals of each game is something I'd like to see featured far more often but I understand that for some companies, that isn't always possible because original work doesn't always get archived properly or at all. However, that's a topic for another day.

Sure, a compilation release with a sizable and worthwhile selection of games is fine and dandy but making the experience even sweeter is still something developers should strive for. The SNK 40th Anniversary Collection for the Switch is going to include arcade and home versions of more than a handful of games. Regardless of which version is superior, I gotta give SNK major props for including home versions alongside their arcade originals. Most primarily arcade base compilation titles would only include the co-op versions so this will help SNK 40th Anniversary Collection stand apart from other releases of the genre. Its one more thing that has me interested to check out some retro games I've never played and that's always a good thing.