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Friday, February 5, 2016

Outstanding Openers Vol. 2

Not every game immediately thrusts you into the gameplay. While its common place to have some kind of introduction scene in games these days, even before the HD era, we had games that took a bit of time to provide some plot before placing you in control. Outstanding Openers centers around intros that managed to grab my attention, make my jaw drop or say, "Wow, that was neat." Just click on the title of the game to see the opening unfold.

Rage Racer (PS)

Bet you weren't expecting to see an opener from a racing game on here, were ya? Oh you were? Oh, well, never mind then. Ahem, released in 1997 on the PlayStation, Rage Racer was a radically departure from the first two Ridge Racer games. Your performance on the track determined how much cash you were awarded to buy new cars and upgrade them with more horse power. Rage Racer sports a slick FMV opening cinematic, showing off some of the game's tracks, cars, music numbers and even some of the announcers praise and snarky commentary.

Bomberman 64 (N64)

The opening demo gives you a glimpse of the worlds you'll be traveling through in Bomberman 64 as well as the adversaries you'll be facing. The actual opening shows that Altair and his crew, the bad guys of this game, don't screw around. Their first order of business when they invade Bomberman's world is blowing stuff up. Laser beams blast the planet as Bombermen scurry away for their lives, with a few of them being unsuccessful in their attempts to escape. White Bomberman arrives to see his world under siege and after some words from Sirius, he charges into battle. Gotta love it when cute games turn real dark, real quick.

Mega Man 4 (NES)

You'd think the origin story of the main character would be divulged in the first game. OK, well it was in the instruction manual, but, let's be real here, who actually didn't lose those? Kind-hearted, house hold robot Rock volunteers to stop Dr. Wily's mad ambitions, becoming the super fighting robot, Mega Man. As Mega Man prepares for his fourth adventure, we see one of the most badawesome train rides in the history of video games.

Sonic Unleashed (Multi)

This game opens with a bang. We see Sonic, single-handed taking on a swarm of Eggman's robots, and even taking on big cheese himself, outrunning machine gun fire and missiles. Just when Eggman gets a grip on our blue hero, Sonic goes super, breaking free and making short work of Eggman's latest toy in Super Sonic glory. Eggman flees and Sonic gives chase. Just as he has egghead cornered, the man with the 300 IQ springs his trap. Turns out this was all part of Eggman's plans to use the energy from the Chaos Emeralds to tear the planet apart and free Dark Gaia. As a side effect, this also turns Sonic into a Werehog at night that fans continue to bemoan to this very day. Still, a great opener!

Final Fantasy VIII (PS, PC)

How does one describe the intro to Final Fantasy VIII? In a word, whoa! In more words, a promise is made that won't become clear until you've advanced considerably further into the game and we see Squall and Seifer clash swords. Its only training but from the way these two are going about it, you can tell this is no mere sparing match. We get to see just how Squall got his scar and he promptly returns the favor to Seifer.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Game Art #75: Open Gallery

Game Art makes its long awaited return! There are so many talented people and this great, big world of ours and weather they come up with their own artistic takes on video game characters or stick to the already established style, its all good as it makes for some interesting art pieces to look at. This one is an open gallery, meaning you can expect to see fan art from numerous game series. Enjoy.

By aoki
By popoco
Pixiv ID
By Maesato
Pixiv ID
By kakuri

By Neriusagi

By comet 
By Genzoman
By Oro
By Mocha
By so-bin
Unknown Artist
By Frog
By Frog
By Yo no
By lulu
By Poo

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Favorite Tunes #135: Happy Hedgehog Day

Today is Groundhog Day, the day where we stuff a rat with fur down a hole to see how much longer winter will last. When this holiday rolls around, I think of two things, the hilarious Bill Murphy movie, Groundhog day and Sonic 3 & Knuckles, my favorite Sonic game. So

Marble Garden Zone Act 1 - Sonic 3 & Knuckles (GEN)

Sonic the Hedgehog 3 was released on Feburary 2, 1994. The day Sonic 2 on the Genesis was released was know as Sonic Tuesday. When Sonic 3 landed, it was known as Hedgehog Day. The later half of Sonic 3, Sonic & Knuckles was released on October of 1994 and combining the two games together creates Sonic 3 & Knuckles, the behemoth Sonic 3 game it was originally intended to be. Masato Nakamura may not have composed the music for Sonic 3 & Knuckles as he did the first two Genesis Sonic titles, but SEGA's in-house musicians still delivered a bangin' soundtrack.

War (Armon Ritter) - Sin & Punishment: Star Successor (Wii)

"The Wii has no games for the hardcore gamer!" Sin & Punishment: Star Successor is one of the many games from the Wii's extensive library to tell people that make these claims "Hi and shut up." If for some strange reason, you missed out on this glorious on-rails shooter on the Wii, it can be downloaded on the Wii U's Virtual Console. It looks spectacular, plays great and sounds awesome.

Once Upon a Time - Undertale (PC)

How did I come to find out about Undertale? From Splatoon. In the game's plaza, so many squids were talking it up. I've yet to play it, but I have heard the soundtrack and its some pretty amazing stuff, stretching across multiple genres and gaming eras. Undertale has a positively charming main theme that can be heard in numerous tracks, including this one.

Blitzwing - Transformers: Devastation (PS3, PS4, 360, XBO)

If you haven't heard, the latest Transformers game was developed by Platinum, makers of god-like action games. To give it that extra 1980s touch, much of the soundtrack is old-school rock and there are so many killer themes in this score.

Peaceful Rest Valley - EarthBound (SNES)

Compared to EarthBound Beginnings, EarthBound is a much easier game. Still, there are a few areas in the game that can give you trouble, one of them being the mission to rescue Paula. Making your way through Twoson and you'll be in Peaceful Rest Valley, If this theme gives you a "wrong part of town" vibe, that's because this place houses some pretty tough foes that can be more than a handful for Ness, who is still traveling solo at this point in the game.

Force Majoure - Dragon Ball Z: Tenkaichi Tag Team (PSP)

When DBZ game music composer Kenji Yammamoto  had his music changed for copyright reasons, music from different DBZ titles was put in place. DBZ: Budokai HD Collection features a few tracks from DBZ: Tenkaichi Tag Team. I don't agree with all of the songs in place of the old ones, but with Force Majoure now serving as the battle theme for the Plains stage, it's tough to argue.

Favorite Tunes Database

Thursday, January 28, 2016

That One Level Part 3

You're trucking along in a game just fine and then, IT happens. What is IT, you ask? Why, it's the level that trips you up over and over again and makes you wanna crack your controller in two. TV Tropes likes to call these areas That One Level because despite all the colors these levels may or may not have, the stage has you seeing only one color: red.

75cm - Donkey Kong (ARC, NES)

Even by arcade standards, Donkey Kong is a short game, consisting of only four levels, three if you're playing the NES version. By far, the hardest level of the game is the third level 75cm. You've got small, moving platforms, Fire, the game's most prominent mook that can move up and down ladders and the stage lacks the Hammer, so Mario is completely defenseless. But the moving platforms and Fires are the easiest things to deal with. The most infuriating obstacle on 75cm is the freaking Jacks that bounce across the screen. When you work your way to the right side of the screen and get closer to Donkey Kong, these things become a serious threat. Jacks bounce in the exact same pattern each time they cross the screen but this knowledge does little to help you on that last ladder climb to reach Pauline. If you climb the final ladder at the wrong time or are in the wrong position, you're taking a Jack to the face. This single item makes 75cm a game stopper for a lot of new Donkey Kong players. In the NES version of Donkey Kong 75cm is the second stage. 75cm is a stage in Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and unsurprisingly, its a much loathed stage.

Supply Lines - Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (PS2, XB, PC)

If you ever tire of being a taxi driver, popping off rival gang members and increasing your wanted level, there are plethora of missions to do in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, many mandatory, some optional. One such optional mission is Supply Lines, one of Zero's missions, a good buddy of CJ's. In Supply Lines, you take control of an RC plane to shoot down five moving targets in San Fierro, the San Andreas version of San Francisco. Sounds like an easy job, right? The only thing standing in your way of completing your objective is the shoddy controls of the RC plane.

Picture if you will, the most difficult flight based controls in a video game that you've ever played. Now those awful controls of whatever game you're thinking of? That's Heaven. The RC controls here are Hell. Whatever game burned you with bad flight controls has nothing on Supply Lines. Oh and because garbage controls weren't enough to deal with, the RC plane has a limited amount of fuel, placing a time limit on what is already a highly stressful mission. But you're likely to crash and burn the plane a few hundred times long before you come close to getting the hang of the crappy controls. Why are we doing this mission, again? Oh I said Zero was a good friend of CJ's, did I? I don't even like Zero all that much. Screw 'em.

Scrambled Egg Zone - Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (GG, SMS)

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 on the Game Gear and Sega Master System is one of the most difficult games in the entire character's history. The Acts have no checkpoints and every single boss act gives you no rings, meaning failure really stings here. But the real sledge hammer to the face comes in the form of Scrambled Egg Zone. You know those tubes in Chemical Plant Zone in the Genesis version of Sonic the Hedgehog 2? Scrambled Egg Zone is full of these things, taking up most of the level, in fact. These tubes are the primary means of transportation around Scrambled Egg Zone and as you may have already guess, it is very easy to get lost. Take a wrong turn and some of these tubes will send you to your death. If you're searching for trial and error gameplay at its worst, look no further.

King Stage 2 - Mega Man & Bass (SNES, GBA)

Mega Man & Bass is one tough costumer all around. It gives you no E-Tanks, the Robot Masters are some heavy hitters, and depending on whom your playing as, the severity of the migraine this game will give you has varying degrees at specific points. The game has more than its fair share of BS for both characters but King Stage 2 is straight booty no matter how you slice it. For whatever unholy reason, King Stage 2 is a a marathon level. It drags on and on, thanks in large part to the bosses, four of them to be exact, including King himself. King isn't what will make you rage quit. That honor goes to the tank boss and his three forms, more specifically, the first two forms.

Even with the proper weapon equipped, these thing take forever to kill and the first two forms have no life bar, which gives you the impression that these are mid bosses, but they are not. As aggravating as the first form is, the second is unquestionably the worst. You have to contend with the tank's second form while jumping on moving platforms over a bottomless put. That's a challenge in and of itself but Capcom didn't think that was exciting enough, so they decided to have the boss shoot a fist at you, which can destroy the platforms you're jumping on. Oh yeah, and we can't forget about that flash bang attack that whites out the whole screen, blinding you for a second, making it very easy for you to screw up and die. Bass has more options for avoiding the fist attack due to his double jump and Treble Boost but Mega Man? Oh, he is so shafted. King Stage 2 is the main reason some players haven never even finished Mega Man & Bass, myself included.

4-2 The Wild Red Yonder - Kirby and the Rainbow Curse (Wii U)

Most Kirby games are pretty easy. These are, after all, designed with entry level players in mind. Even so, some levels can prove more than a little challenging even for the experienced player. The Wild Red Yonder is one such level. Throughout the course of the stage, a ship frequently blasts Kirby and his Waddle Dee pals with bombs. You can see where these explosives are going to hit but steering clear from the blasts is still some tricky business. These booms from the bombs linger on the screen for several seconds so its very possible to take multiple hits from a single bomb blast. Often there's several bombs hitting the screen at once. To compound the problem, this is an auto scrolling level. The Wild Red Yonder brings the frustration for solo or group parties.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Favorite Tunes #134: Serene Weather

I've got more posts of Favorite Tunes than anything else on this blog. Chalk that up to my love for gaming music. Anyway, among today's selections are beats from Bomberman 64: The Second Attack and Tales of Phantasia.

Zvil Race Way - Fast Racing NEO (Wii U)

If you're missing F-ZERO and Wipeout (I know I am) then the Wii U eShop's Fast Racing NEO should hit the spot. It offers futuristic racing at breakneck speeds and is quite the challenge. Fast Racing NEO also sports a bangin' soundtrack. I'm a sucker for some techno, trance and electronica.

Aquanet 2 - Bomberman 64: The Second Attack (N64)

Yasunroi Matsuda is more known for his work on Square's games, but he actually did some work on a few N64 titles such as the first two Mario Party games as well as Bomberman 64: The Second Attack. This game has a masterful soundtrack with many themes often having a second variation.

Force Your Way - Dissidia 012 [Duodecim] Final Fantasy (PSP)

Final Fantasy heroes and villains kicking the crap out of each other in real time combat? Yes, please! Say what you will about the game's story but you can't deny how awesome it was to see different heroes and villains from different FF games interacting with one another. The Dissidia 012 arrangements don't get any better than this rocking remix of Force Your Way.

Staff Roll - For the Frog the Bell Tolls (GB)

Before the Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, there was For the Frog the Bell Tolls, which released on the Game Boy one year prior only in Japan. The game's share a lot of similarities and Kazumi Totaka wrote music for both games. Prince Sable does appear as an Assist Trophy in the Wii U and 3DS versions of Super Smash Bros. He's the cute little guy that turns into a frog and a snake and beats the crap out of opponents, cartoon style.

Serene Weather - Tales of Phantasia (SNES)

It never ceases to amazed me just how rich the SNES sound chip is. The thing was made by Sony, so I guess I shouldn't be too surprised, but still. It makes so many genres of music shine. I'm not sure I should listen to the GBA and PS versions of Tales of Phantasia music because the SNES tracks have spoiled me so much. This one one beautiful sounding track.

Recollect Continent (Theme of Rock) - Soul Edge (ARC, PS)

The recent Soul Calibur games may look light years ahead of the original, but I'm not quiet sure they sound better. Not that the last few Soul Calibur games have had terrible music. Its just that Soul Edge music was just that freaking good, I know the opening vocal theme, The Edge of Soul gets a lot of attention, but the character themes are pretty boss in their own right.

Favorite Tunes Database

Monday, January 25, 2016

So Long, Mega Man (Archie Comics)

True to form, I am once again late to another party. I recently picked up Archie Comics Mega Man #55 and upon looking through the issue, I was shocked to discover that this would be the last issue of one of my favorite comic books, placed on an "indefinite hiatus." What was news to me was announced on the internet in the summer of 2015. 

Man, it really has been difficult being a Mega Man fan over the last six years. He's hardly had anything in the way of new games and what releases he does get are re-releases of his old titles. Mega Man's monthly adventures in Archie's comic book series was absolutely enthralling and it breaks my heart to see it coming to an end. Yes, they say all good things come to an end but this is a premature ending if ever there was one.

The comic had some pretty
amazing covers.

Mega Man had some truly wonderful characterization. Dr. Wily is a bitter man, fueled by his jealousy of Dr. Light's overshadowing success and this drives him to be recognized as the superior in the field of robotics. He wants to humiliate Dr. Light, not kill him and that alone paints in a different shade from a villain like Dr. Eggman. Blues feels that Dr. Light replaced him with Mega Man and sides with Wily, only to decline coming back to Light Labs to be with his family due to his past transgressions. Xander Payne has a pretty good reason to despise robots with a passion seeing as how it was Elec Man (under Wily's programming) took out his left eye. In this comic series, Xander is actually Mr. X and he urges Wily to cause as my chaos and destruction with his robots so humanity to see robots for the same menace that he does. Even Mega Man himself is a complicated individual, wanting to save anyone he can and questioning why he feels joy in the destruction of something as sinister as Ra Moon.

Anything I could write here to describe this
wouldn't even come close to doing it justice.

Speaking of Ra Moon, what a story line, that was! Super Adventure Rockman is not a high point for the classic Mega Man series but the adaptation of it here was superb! Ra Moon caused a planet wide blackout. When it occurs we see all of the robots of the world shut down, planes going down, an entire hospital blackout during surgery among other things. Its a pretty grim scenario and one of the darkest turns the comic has taken.

The exploration of robots and their programming is something I loved so much about this series, When Dr. Wily is thought dead after the conclusion of the Mega Man 3 story arc, the Robot Masters from Mega Man 2 and 3 are all given new purposes. Not all of them are fine with this, however, as it clashes with what they were programmed for. Quick Man was designed to be a weapon and he'd rather be shut down than be a speedy mail man because he wouldn't be himself, much to Mega Man's dismay. Earlier in the series this even one point where Elec Man gets fed up with the mistreatment he receives from a few humans to the point to where he wishes he had Wily's coding in him. I am going to miss this stuff so much.

Mega Man was a well written, thought provoking comic with some colorful characters and it pains me to see it go. Yes, they said "hiatus" but they also said "indefinite"so for all we know, Archie's Mega Man could be gone for good. I don't want to torture myself with false hope. Goodbye, Mega Man. The last four plus year have been an unforgettable ride. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Do Let the Door Hit You on Your Way Out, Konami

By StarWarriorRobby

Konami is dead. Yes, I know I'm rather late stating that but I feel that I need some type of closure on this whole deal so that's what this little editorial piece is for. So again, Koanmi. Is. Dead. "Oh, they aren't dead. They've just gone the mobile and pachinko route." That's not what I'd call living.

Oh, Konami, what happened to you? I'd love to be a fly on the wall so I could hear moronic after moronic decision that was being made within the confines of what used to be one of the greatest third party publishers in the video game industry. I was never a Silent Hill fan, but a plethora of other gamers were. Still, I was really surprised to hear that Silent Hills was canceled, but it was one of the many games that shared the unfortunate fate of this new era of Konami. Contra, Castlevania, Gradius, some of my and your favorite franchises won't be getting any new entries and no, that mobile pachinko crap does not count.

The death of Konami has been a long time coming. For years, we've watched them wither away. I may not keep my eyes on all the gaming news as much as I used to but Konami's missteps were too big to go unnoticed. That Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zero was quite the red flag. Selling a small sliver of a game for $40 just because Konami wanted cash with the quickness was not a slap to the face but a kick to the junk.

Many were outraged by the fact that Hideo Kojima couldn't accept his award for best action/adventure game for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain at the the 2015 Game Awards. He was actually bared from appearing at the show by lawyers represented by Konami. While I do think that is all kinds of effed up, the stink brewing at Konami goes well beyond Kojima because as much as I love the Metal Gear series, Konami was so much more than that. Konami's cancellation of long running series, awful treatment of their employees and hitting YouTube videos with copyright claims to shut up anyone who tries to call them out on their BS has earned them every single ounce of wrath gamers dish out.

Detractors love to say how much Nintendo is dead, irrelevant and how they abandon their fans, when all that nonsense isn't even true. Nintendo still makes great games and they still cater to the hardcore crowd. The Big N is very much still alive and kicking. Konami, however, is about as alive a roach that just got hit with some Raid. When the company decided to dump the console business and just do pachinko and mobile phones so they can rape your wallet with micro transactions, they have given up on living in the gaming industry. Konami has transformed into such a horrible company that they are close if not on the same level of EA and Ubisoft. That's how far Konami has fallen. Konami, you'll be missed but at the same time, you won't be missed.