Search This Blog

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Memories #24: Toys "R" Us

Usually, Memories is a feature reserved for reflection upon my past experiences with older games. However, in light of the recent, tragic news that Toys "R" Us will be closing the doors for every single store across America, I felt it would be a huge disservice not to talk about a store that helped make my childhood a little awesome.

There are stores that have toy sections and there are dedicated toy stores. However, few of them even compared to Toys "R" Us. For many, Toys "R" Us was not just a toy store. It was the toy store. Video games, action figures, plushies, kid friendly movies, bikes, that store had everything a kid could want. The sheer size of the store and its content meant you could spend hours browsing.

Anyone that is into video games can remember browsing the gaming section at a Toys "R" Us. The selection was huge, which made it one of my favorite places to go for video games. Back in the day, you would grab the ticket for the game you wanted, take it to the register to pay for it, go to the booth and they would give you your game. Sure, it took a just a little bit longer to get the game in your hands, but just remembering the process behind how Toys "R" Us used to handle their games brought a big smile to my face as I typed this. I was fortunate to live close to a Toys "R" Us so I spent many times in that store including adult years.

Being a huge fan of Mega Man, I was so excited when I saw the commercial for Mega Man 3 in 1990. I knew I wanted it to be my next NES game and so one Friday evening, my dad took me to Toys "R" Us, we went to the game section and my face lit up like a Christmas tree when I saw that there were indeed tickets left for Mega Man 3. Nothing sucked more than going into the game section and finding that there were no tickets left for the game you wanted. The latest issue of Nintendo Power (R.I.P.) had extensive coverage of Mega Man 3 and the Blue Bomber was even on the cover! My dad was kind enough to buy the issue for me and the info from that mag has been firmly implanted into my brain. On a related note, one of my many trips to Toys "R" Us ended up being the first time I got a look at the first Mega Man's horrific box art.

I wanted to buy Secret of Mana from Toys "R" Us in 1995, but the game was over $60 and I only had some $20 on me. Staring back at the price tag in disappointment, I settled on F-ZERO for the SNES as it was within my price range. I got quite a bit of enjoyment out of that game and unlike my Mega Man 3 cart, the F-ZERO cart I got from my Toys "R" Us is still in my possession to this day.

The Nintendo 64 was being hyped beyond measure. My dad preordered one at our Toys "R" Us and we eagerly awaited the September 29th release day. Imagine our surprise when we got a call from the store on the 28th and they told us we could come in and pick the system up. I don't know what was with our Toys "R" Us breaking the street date, but we decided not to ask questions. We went in and grabbed the N64 with absolutely no hassle.

During the 2000 seasonal period, I worked at my Toys "R" Us and not to toot my own horn, but I was good at selling people on video games, which earned me a spot in the electronics department. This was a time when it was especially difficult to get a PS2. I was in the back helping unload the truck one afternoon when we had gotten a shipment of PS2s in. Thankfully, the store managers let me call dibs on one. A year later, I would stand outside my Toys R Us before it opened to get my hands on the GCN, Luigi's Mansion, Star Wars: Rogue Squadron II and Super Monkey Ball. My copy of Super Smash Bros. Melee was also bought from Toys "R" Us. I think 2003 was the last time I was in my Toys "R" Us in Dayton, Ohio and sadly, it would eventually close down and regrettably, this is now the fate of every single Toys "R" Us across America.

Shopping online certainly is convenient. Having said that, there are still some things that online shopping, no matter how much better it becomes, will ever be able to match when it comes to actually being inside a store. I love going into my Barns & Nobles and flipping through manga and graphic novels, seeing the new stuff and the older books. Last year, I learned that I wasn't very far from a Toys "R" Us in Virginia Beach and thanks to that store, I was able to get a copy of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild when so many stores were sold out of the game. I also got some World of Nintendo figures that I wasn't seeing in other stores I had been ton. Now that Toys "R" Us is going out of business, I'd like to go there one last time. Is it possible to be a Toys "R" Us kid without Toys "R" Us? Sure it is. Toys "R" Us may be gone, but you can bet that it will not be forgotten.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Favorite Tunes #219: Fast Lane

I'm still reeling over last Week's Nintendo Direct. A Switch version of Super Smash Bros., the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy is getting a Switch port and more Wii U games are heading to Nintendo's fast selling console/handheld. But, I still gotta make posts on this blog and despite my and everyone's excitement for Smash or Switch, this week's Favorite Tunes is not Smash nor is it Nintendo based.

Move Me - R4: Ridge Racer Type 4 (PS)

One of the more ambitious titles, Ridge Racer Type 4, had a ton of different car various to unlock and different racing teams to choose from. It made 100% completing the game a long and arduous task. The series has always had some outstanding music but R4 really elevates itself above other entries. It's a wonderful blend of rock, jazz, and numerous other genres, sometimes all in a single song. You'd be hard pressed to find a song to dislike in this game.

Ship Deck - Spot Goes to Hollywood (PS, SAT)

The mascot of the 7-Up cola was something of a rare breed for video games in the early '90s. Most licensed properties that made their way to the gaming medium crashed and burn. Spot was an exception. His 1993 above average platformer Cool Spot was on just about every system you can imagine. 1996 saw the release of Spot Goes to Hollywood. Gone was the 2D gameplay in favor of an isometric view with some clumsy controls. At least Tommy Tallarico was still doing the music and it is some phenominal stuff on CD-based hardware.

Shop - River City Ransom (NES)

I was looking through older entries and it occurred to me that I've posted very little in the way of music from this game in Favorite Tunes. That really is short sighted of me because I love this game's soundtrack. The game's Main Theme is easily the most remembered but since the baddies you KO drop cash, you'll frequently visit the shops to buy stuff to upgrade your stats. Meaning this jovial theme is sure to get stuck in your head.

Bay Area - Final Fight CD (SCD)

For years, the SEGA CD version of Final Fight was the definitive version of the game. Too bad not many people owned the thing. This version had a killer arranged soundtrack that I'd love to see get used as some selectable BGM for a Final Fight collection. You know, once Capcom stops and realizes that they have more game series that can be released in anthology formats besides Mega Man and Street Fighter.

Menu - Mario Tennis (N64)

The Mario Tennis games have been waning in quality over the last few years. They haven't been terrible but certainly not up to the snuff of the earlier entries. 2018's Mario Tennis: Aces looks to bring the series back on track. The RPG elements, features usually reserved for the handheld entries are being implemented and given the Switch's portable nature, that makes perfect sense. I had a lot of fun with the original Mario Tennis and with the release of Aces, I felt like taking a musical trip down memory lane.

Boss - Breath of Fire (SNES)

The SNES translation certainly isn't gonna win any awards and it can be infuriating not to know how much EXP is needed to reach the next level. Nevertheless, the SNES version of Breath of Fire is still a decent RPG. The music is especially awesome with composers ranging from Yasuaki Fujita (Mega Man 3), Mari Yamaguchi (Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts), and Yoko Shimomura (Kingdom Hearts).

Favorite Tune Database

Saturday, March 17, 2018

SEGA Genesis Classics is Nice and All But...

Ask any fan of SEGA what the best console from the company was. Most will answer that it was the Genesis or the Mega Drive for my fellow gamers in Japan and Europe. I get the strong impression that SEGA themselves firmly believes that with the Genesis, they were at their best and it isn't hard to see why. The system sold the most of any of the company's consoles and with the help of Sonic the Hedgehog, they showed the world that they were a force that should not be taken lightly, capturing the number one spot from Nintendo in 1991. There's no doubt that the Genesis made a huge impact in gaming back in the day and SEGA is going to remind us yet again why the system was so loved with the release of the SEGA Genesis Classics in late May of this year.

Anyone that's into retro gaming and has been on Steam probably already knows of this collection. You can either buy the ROMs for these games in bulk or individually. The PS4 and XBO releases are all of the games in one collection both physically and digitally. If you're thinking that this sounds an awful lot like Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection, an anthology that released in 2009 and contained many of the games that are in this upcoming release, you aren't too far off. However, the SEGA Genesis Classics has a much cooler user interface and some games that were not present in Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection like Alien Soldier, Gunstar Heroes, Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi, The Revenge of Shinobi, Landstalker as well as ToeJam  & Earl and ToeJam & Earl: Panic on Funkotron.

SEGA Genesis Classics is all fine and dandy and I'll be picking this one up come release day. However, I'd really like to see a SEGA compilation that isn't so Genesis focused. 

The SEGA Master System may have recieved thrashing to the NES but in Brazil and Europe, the system was extremely popular. The Master System version of Sonic the Hedgehog is a pretty compete platformer and Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap is heavily lauded as one of the best, if not the best game for the Master System. There are certainly better ports of OutRun but for some, the Master System version was their childhood and it would be great if they could legally play that version of the game on current hardware.

You've also got SEGA's extensive arcade catalog, which is nothing short of amazing. There's the big guns like OutRun, Space Harrier and Super Hang-On, but I'm dying for Turbo OutRun and OutRunners to get more recognition.

Sure, the Saturn  and the Dreamcast were failures but they had some really great games like Guardian Heroes, NiGHTS into dreams..., the Panzer Dragoon titles, Crazy Taxi 1-2, Jet Set Radio, etc. The Saturn is a system that is notoriously difficult to emulate games for, which could be the reason we haven't really seen a Saturn-esque compilation. There was a Dreamcast Collection but the number of games was abysmal, lacking some of the system's best games.

It has been almost 10 years since the release of Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection. Genesis compilations are easy, safe money. "Safe" being the key word here. That is the game SEGA has been playing for years now. Perhaps it is due to all the hardware failures after the Genesis but SEGA has not been the risk takers they used to be. They have so many IPs yet more often than not, the only ones they let come out to play are Sonic and Yakuza. I'd love for SEGA to give the many other IPs they have boxed up in a closet or non-Genesis compilations a shot, but I'll still be snagging SEGA Genesis Classics on day one.

And where the frick is the Switch version? Dumb move, SEGA. 

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Favorite Tunes #218: Inkwell Isle One

One of my favorite robots in gaming is getting some love in Favorite Tunes this week. No, it is not Mega Man. Or Proto Man. Or even X. There's also a rendition from Secret of Mana, the flying opossum, Sparkster and a lesser known Nintendo racer.

Fear of the Heavens - Secret of Mana (PS4, PSV, PC)

I have not read any reviews for this remake but I'm well aware that is has been getting blasted both by fans and critics. Nevertheless, I bought the game on release day and as a big fan of the original, I've really been enjoying it. The music seems to be a miss with most folks, but you have the option to switching over to the original SNES score. Not every arranged track is a winner but I've liked most of what I've heard.

Stage 3 - Sparkster (GEN)

There's an SNES version of Sparkster that released the same year as this Genesis version did. They are two completely different games, however. Both games do use some of the same themes so it is nice to see how certain tracks come out on their respective hardware. Much like the original Rocket Knight Adventures, Sparkster was largely overlooked.

Inkwell Isle One - Cuphead (PC, XBO)

Beautiful, cartoonish visuals, chaotic run and gun gameplay and a a plethora of bosses. Cuphead has done extremely well on numerous fronts. I picked up some Cuphead merch in the form of adorable plushies of the two main characters, Cuphead and Mugman. Just a few days ago, I snagged the Devil. If a physical release of the Cuphead soundtrack became available en mass, I would cop that with the quickness.

Mission 2 (Cilius Moon Weapon Factory) - Sol-Feace (SCD)

In the monumental Favorite Tunes #200, I posted the Genesis rendition of Mission 2 from Sol-Deace (no idea why the two versions go by different names). Well, here's the arranged SEGA CD (MEGA CD for my Japanese and European readers) version of that very same track. It does not lose a single ounce of bounce on CD quality audio.

Monster Dance - Famicom Grand Prix II: 3D Hot Rally (NES)

Released only in Japan, you'd think this baby would get more exposure on Nintendo's eShop but no such luck. At least not yet. That cool backwards hat and mechanic uniform Mario is sporting in Super Mario Odyssey is taken from this very game. The composer of this super catchy, highly upbeat track is Soyo Oka. You may have heard of her. She wrote the music to a little game called Super Mario Kart.

Planet Brainwave - Super Bomberman R (NS)

Hopefully last year's Super Bomberman R isn't the last we've seen of our favorite little blaster. But this is Konamiw we're talking about. The game may not have set the world on fire but at least Konami managed to not screw it up with microtransactions or charging for additional save slots. Heck, one of the updates included some Konami costumes such as characters from the Mystical Ninja Games and the Vic Viper from Gradius.

Favorite Tunes Database

Thursday, March 8, 2018

The Green (Greens) Album

I really should have had this write up done back in February because I've listened to this album several times since it was released (February 19th). However, the more I blog, the more I realize that being late isn't always a bad thing. Besides, we're not that far off into March to where this is super late.

The Pixel Mixers are at it again. They already blew me away with their F-ZERO: Boost Power! album back in January, and now they are taking a shot at Kirby and company with The Green (Greens) Album. 

Look at that album at work. You've got Sword Kirby (a big favorite of mine), Meta Knight looking like a boss, Waddle Doo and of course, a spear wielding Waddle Dee. He's not the best that is Bandanna Waddle Dee, but you can't have everything you want in life.

This album covers a hefty bit of games from the tough cream puff's history. No doubt one would expect titles like Kibry's Adventure, Kirby Super Star, and the game that kick off the entire series, Kirby's Dream Land to be accounted for and they are. However, titles such as Kirby: Canvas Curse, Kirby's Epic Yarn, Kirby Air Ride and Kirby Mass Attack are also represented here. Across the span of 19 tracks, eight Kirby games are covered over an hours worth of music.

City Trial was a much loved mode in Kirby Air Ride, so it is no surprise that that mode's track was arranged. I personally would have killed for a Machine Passage arrange, but the City Trial remix does suffice. The metal arranges of Gourmet Race and Marx's Theme from Kirby Super Star are baller and hearing another Marshmallow Castle remix is starting to make me think that more people love that song than I originally thought. One may not think of Forest Trail when they think of music from Kirby's Adventure, but I've always loved that tune and it has been give a vocal rock arrangement. Enjoy the Zero Two arrangement from Kirby 64, now with more A Capella. Kirby Collecting (Kirby Mass Attack) is a sweet jazz session piece, Grassland sounds like it could have been a bonus arranged track in Kirby's Epic Yarn and I never would have imagined that an acoustic guitar version of Grape Garden could sound so dang good.

The Pixel Mixers are truly something else. Whether I'm listening to a new album or one of their older projects, they continue to impress. Go and download this album right now. It is free and if you want some great gaming arrangements or that Kirby itch is getting hard to hold off scratching with the upcoming release of Kirby: Star Allies, grab The Green (Greens) Album.

The (Green Greens) Album

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Favorite Tunes #217: Hype Boss Music is Hype

I think it is only fair to warn you that this week's Favorite Tunes contains music from not one, but two, Konami games. If you are offended by any and all things Konami, turn back now. You have been warned.

Boss - Rocket Knight Adventures (GEN)

Sparkster had a brief and underwhelming revival in the form or Rocket Knight in the late 2000s. I'd love to see my favorite jet pack using opossum get a new game but I'd also love for more gamers to get the chance to play his 16-bit adventures. Konami has re-released several Contra and Castlevania titles but poor Sparkster has been on the side of the road. Seeing as how Konami is a shell of its former self, I'm not counting on Sparkster to return anytime soon. I'm amazed the Genesis game soundtrack received a vinyl release back in January. 

Eternity - Blue Dragon (360)

I've never played Blue Dragon, but even I was fully aware that Dragon Ball creator Akira Toiryama was behind the character design and that Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu was writing the music. Even without context, I freaking love this boss theme. Those cheesy lyrics, that blasting rock. It was love at first listen.

Tosterena Night -  Super Mario Odyssey (NS)

With the new update to Super Mario Odyssey, players the world over as finding as well as hiding balloons. Those new outfits ain't cheap and balloon hunting is a great way to earn some serious bank. One piece of music that I absolutely could not get enough of was the night version of Tostarena. It is so dang calming. I was super disappointed when I fixed the Sand Kingdom's problems and could no longer hear it in game. Thankfully, beating Odyssey unlocks the Music List so now I can turn this song on whenever I want!

Hi-Spec Robo Go! (Hard Boiled Heavies Theme) - Sonic Mania (PS4, XBO, NS, PC)

Sonic Mania, not without it's faults, is an outstanding game. I loved it so much, I ranked it 3rd in my Top 10 Games of 2017. Tee Lopes is a music composing god. The Hard Boiled Heavies boss theme is like the results of a Jest Set Radio theme combined with Cowboy Beebop's opening theme.

Thunder Landing - Super C (NES)

Konami is making more stupid decisions like charging 10 bucks for extra save files on Metal Gear Survive, but the rest of us are thinking back to the days when they were actually a worthwhile company. It truly is better to remember Konami for what they were rather than what they've become. I trend to favor the arcade score of Super C's soundtrack but the NES version turned out quite well. This theme plays on the very first level and it is a great way to kick the game off.

Title - Kirby's Return to Dream Land (Wii)

With Kirby Star Allies hitting the Switch this month, I thought it would be fitting to give the tough cream puff a showing in this week's Favorite Tunes. For years my all-time favorite Kirby game was Super Star. That title was at long last dethroned when I played Kirby's Return to Dream Land. I've lost track of how many times I've played through this game and I think I'm due for another play.

Favorite Tunes Database

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Top 10 Games of 2017

Man, oh man, 2017 was one incredible year for video games. The year was so freaking good that sadly, I didn't get around to every game I would have liked to. As such, some games you may have been expecting to see, might not be present on this list. Conversely, some games you thought may not be on this list, just might be in here. As is the case with any list for an individual, this is all my personal preference. No doubt some of my picks are gonna cause some upsets and all I can say to that is, I like what I like.

10. Sonic Forces (PC, PS4, XBO, NS)

I can already see some people rolling their eyes, flabbergasted by the inclusion of this one. Yes, critics and fans made their disdain for Sonic Forces known far and wide but as for me, well, I don't think Sonic Forces is the dumpster fire it has been made out to be.

You've got three different characters to play as in the form of Modern Sonic, Classic Sonic and the Avatar, your own custom character. Classic Sonic plays similar to the way he did in Sonic Generations only a bit worse but his stages are still perfectly playable. Modern Sonic uses boost gameplay and while his levels are littered with sections that you can just blow through, there are still plenty of paltforming sections where going fast will not be in your favor. The Avatar's stages outfit you with Wispons, a weaponized version of the Wisps, great for taking out the hordes of enemies in your way or cutting seconds off your stage time. With the Avatar you can choose from seven species and outfit him or her with a plethora of clothing items. Wanna dress your character robot hands? Knuckles shoes? A Metal Sonic shirt? Go nuts. Sonic Forces practically drowns you in new stuff for you to have your OC wear.

The levels in Sonic Forces are on the short side and that has drawn a ton of criticism. The game also has what very well may be the most automation from any Sonic game. In spite of this, I still found the levels quite enjoyable to romp through. The short length of the stages lend themselves greatly to replaying for better times and the Red Rings scattered throughout the stages give you a reason to explore and show that the levels aren't quite as linear as so many have stated.

Despite the grim scenario of Eggman taking over 99% of the world, Sonic and company are still their usual selves. Infinite isn't gonna win any villain of the year awards but he is still pretty entertaining. Some have called the Avatar character a case of pandering to the fans that create OCs. While there may be some truth to that, it is still one of Sonic Fores' greatest strengths. There's another Sonic game on this list that is guilty of pandering and while it is on a different level, it is still pandering all the same.

09. Battle Garegga Rev. 2016 (PS4, XBO)

For the longest time, gamers only had two options for playing this 1996 arcade shooter: MAME or the incredibly expensive Saturn import. M2, the masters of spot-on emulations of many a SEGA classic, are responsible for giving Battle Garegga a release outside of Japan.

Battle Garegga Rev. 2016 was released a year go to commorate the 20th anniversary of the co-op shooter. Being the definitive version of the game, Rev. 2016 gives you a slew of options. Do you love Manabu Namiki's original arcade music? You can play with that as your background music. Would you prefer the arranged Saturn soundtrack? Well, its here for your listening pleasure. Or perhaps you'd like the more remastered Rev. 2016 soundtrack that sounds a touch clearer than than 1996 jams. It doesn't just stop with the music options. You can use free play to make it through to the ending credits (once you play enough to unlock it, that is) as well  as turn on the M2 Gadgets to displays all sorts of helpful information like the song name and your current rank, that last bit, being extremely important.

Battle Garegga uses what can be called dynamic difficulty. Your actions are the deciding factor of what your rank is. Raising your rank sky high is as easy as shooting non stop, grabbing every single power up you come across  and having little to no deaths. If your rank is very high, the difficulty can get so bad that completing later stages can be impossible unless you're really, really, reaaaaaaallly good at this game and know it inside and out. If things are getting dicey and you want to turn the heat off, you can always die a few times to lower your rank. Battle Garegga's difficulty is controversial to be sure, but that doesn't prevent it from being an outstanding shooter. You can always play on super easy, which turns off the game's ranking mode entirely. There's still some challenge in playing on this mode because if you use a continue, you are disqualified from entering your intitials on the game's high score screen just as you would be the standard difficulty setting.

With four ships to choose from, several soudntracks and a plethora of other options, Battle Garegga Rev. 2016 is well worth checking out. $34.99 may make taking the plunge for this game a bit tough, but there's plenty of replay value here.

08. Mighty Gunvolt Burst (NS, 3DS)

You mighty be inclined to steer clear of any game involving Beck from Mighty No. 9. And if you did that, you'd be missing out on one of 2017's best 2D retro inspired action platforming games. Besides, not only is Beck in this Mega Man-like game, so is Gunvolt of Azure Striker Gunvolt fame.

Mighty Gunvolt Burst is Mega Man-ish but the game still does it's own thing. Level selection is non-liner, once you reach the end of the level, you face off with the boss, but rather than obtain the bosses weapon, you'll customize various weapon setups. From bullet size to wave and curved shots, how you take down the opposition is entirely up to you. The more parts you find, the great the scope of customization. Walls that look perfectly normal can sometimes be destroyed, hiding a custom part for you to tinker with. You can even get parts that allow you to do some wicked air dashing.

The bosses are pretty fun to take down and once you whittle down their health, they unleash more devastating attacks a la Mighty No. 9. You can go through the game in a could of hours and the last boss is a laugh meme riot, but there's still plenty of replay value for completing the game with both Beck and Gunvolt. And if you've already gone through the game with those two, Ray, Copen and Kurona are DLC characters to give you a new spin on what is already a fantastic game.

07. Blaster Master Zero (NS, 3DS)

As I was making this list, I realized that quite a few remakes are taking up space on it. If it is of amy consolation, the most time I've spent with an original of the remakes here is entry number four. But I digress.

There have been several games in the Blaster Master series but many would agree that the NES version is the easily the best of the bunch. With that in mind, it isn't too surprising that the NES Blaster Master is the one that Inti Creates would choose for a remake. And what a remake it is.

There have been many takes in the video game medium, all of them pale in comparison to the all mighty SOPHIA. For one, SOPHIA can jump, which already puts her above every single vehicle with treads ever. As killer as SOPHIA is, she can't do all the work. On many occasions, Jason Frudnick will have to leave his pride and joy to take out the mutants running a muck in the subterranean world. Unlike SOPHIA's 2D sections, Jason goes through mostly top down areas to defeat bosses, kill anything that moves and snatch chips to upgrade SOPHIA so she can do sick tricks like cling to the walls and ceilings.

Blaster Master Zero places more emphasis on the story than the NES version and for better or for worse, it isn't nearly has hard as the original, bearing one or two bosses. Most of the music is also brand new. If you're a fan of the original game and can get past these things or you've never played the original, jump into SOPHIA and do some mutant slaying. This game is so good that Gunvolt, Shantae and Shovel Knight joined the party as DLC.

06. Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap (PS4, NS, XBO, PC)

Originally released in 1989 for the Sega Master System and widely regarded as one of the system's best games, this oldie received a stunningly beautiful hand drawn visual remake. The game was also given an outstanding arranged soundtracks with real instruments.

Your quest beings at the ironically titled Last Dungeon. A confrontation with Mecha Dragon ends with you being cursed with the form of the Lizard Man. Your search for a cure leads you in conflict with other dragons that, wouldn't you know it, also have curses to bestow upon you. These curses, however, aren't without their benefits. As Lizard Man, you can duck and being able to breath fire gives you long ranged attacks. Mouse Man can cling to certain walls. Bird Man can fly, Fish Man can swim and so forth.

As you make your way through this strange land, you'll collect money to outfit yourself with better weapons and armor because even cursed critters need the best protection. Sunken ships, ancient Japanese Castles and dark forests are but a few of the memorable locals you'll trek through to regain your humanity. Being an old game, you'll probably get your butt handed to you on more than several occasions but The Dragon's Trap is certainly no controller breaker.

I have no nostalgic feelings towards the original game as I never played it until early 2017. Even so, I was highly engrossed in this adventure from start to finish. The hand drawn visuals and soundtrack are nothing short of superb but if those aren't your cup of tea you can switch to the old Sega Master System visuals and soundtrack with the press of a button or combine one with the other. Take notes, developers. This is how you do a remake to please both old and new players. You can even play as Wonder Girl!

05. Metroid: Samus Returns (3DS)

Would a brand spanking new Metroid game have been nice instead of a remake? Oh, most certainly. But when the game that is getting remade, or as Nintendo puts it, re-imagined, is the long overdue for the treatment, Metroid II: Return of Samus, which is, story wise, arguably one of the most important games in the series, you can bet your sweet booty that I have zero qualms with it.

Samus Returns wasn't developed by Nintendo or one of their second parties, but was handled by Mercury Steam of the Castlevania: Lords of Shadow games fame. As Nintendo always does with anyone that handles one of their IPs, they kept a watchful eye on development and Yoshio Sakamoto also served as producer for the game. To say Samus Returns turned out good would be a huge understatement. The game perfectly captures the look, feel and sound of a Metroid game to a T. SR388, is dark, hostile and the locals are nasty, especially the Metroids. You're on the Metroid's home turf so don't expect those cute, squishy looking things that are generally used to represent the Metroid species. Metroids on SR388 are big, mean and they can take a hit. They also come in several different types, the omega variety hit like a freight trains. Don't feel bad if you get some game overs.

The new melee counter is great for knocking enemies for a loop (Sakurai, make this a part of Samus' move set in the next Smash, please and thank you) but you still need to be able to dodge and competent enough to hold your own in a fight. Samus' crazy back hand skills aren't the only new abilities she's packing. Along with the Gravity Suit, Screw Attack and Morph Ball, Samus can find and use Aeion abilities like Scan to show you where destructible blocks are, or Lightning armor to reduce damage. Samus is also packing the ability to hang from ledges and full 360 aiming. It takes some time getting used to controlling with the thumb pad, but combat is all the better for it. I am all for Mercury Steam developing another Metroid game in the future.

04: Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy (PS4)

I have not played the original Crash Bandicoot trilogy since I finished those games in the early 2000s. Despite enjoying all three of those games, I don't think I hold the same fondness for them as many others do. Having said that, I was really looking forward to these remade games and they did not disappoint. The cover of the box may bill the N. Sane Trilogy as remasters, but all three of these games were remade from the ground up.

If you're new to the world of Crash and are craving some non liner platforming, you may be disappointed. However, if you don't mind tightly focused, liner precision platforming with some incredibly well design levels, then you've come to the right place. It matters not if you're running to the camera, away from the camera with a terrifying polar bear on your butt, doing some 2.5D platforming, all three of these games deliver the goods. Coco is even made playable. The difference is merely cosmetic, her optional involvement is appreciated, nonetheless.

It isn't all sunshine and roses, though. The original PS Crash 1 was a ball buster and that holds true for the remake. Crash 2 had spotty collision detection and every now and then, that rears it's ugly head hear. Oh and the jetpack controls are still awful. The good, far and away outclasses the bad. Considering Activtion was the publisher of N. sane Trilogy, they could have easily found a way to muck up Vicarious Visions efforts but instead, this game is one of the best things they've published. Box breaking, Wumpa Fruit collecting and all around bandacooting has never been better.

03. Sonic Mania (PC, PS4, XBO, NS)

There are some that firmly believe that Sonic's heyday was during the Genesis era and that everything that has followed since has been a steaming pile of poo. While that mentality is very eye rolling to say the least, it is still a very welcome treat to have Christian Whitehead, Head Canon and Pagoda West come together with SEGA to develop a love letter to the earlier Sonic titles in the form of Sonic Mania.

Playing as either Sonic, Tails or Knuckles, you're off to foil Eggman's shenanigans. Blast through mostly old zones like Green Hill, Chemical Plant, Stardust Speedway and the like. There are a few new attractions like the ultra lively Studiopolis, the beautiful but deadly Press Garden and the trudge of a zone that is Titanic Monarch. The eight old zones compared to the four new is a downer, and there are a few rare instances of flat out bad game design, but Sonic Mania gets far more right that it does wrong. The game's momentum based gameplay is just as good, arguably better than the Genesis games that inspired it and repeat levels aside, most of these zones are a joy to run through. There is no shortage of high speed thrills and callbacks and the soundtrack to this game just might be the best of 2017.

02. Super Mario Odyssey (NS)

Princess Peach has been kidnapped. Again. Bowser is forcing Peach to marry him. Again. Gameplay is sandbox Super Mario. Again. Nintendo is often criticized for their repeat performances with their games, but very few developers are as masterful at the craft when it comes to fine tuning a formula. Super Mario Odyssey may tread old ground but it does so in such a polished manner that it's really hard to knock the game too much.

The new addition to the sand box Super Mario is the overall-wearing Italian's latest ally, Cappy. Replacing Mario's ruined cap, Cappy can be hurled at enemies as well as acting as an extra platform for Mario to use. This combined with Mario's already impressive jumping adeptness allows skilled players to take some crazy shortcuts. Cappy can also capture enemies giving Mario powers and abilities he'd otherwise never have access to. After being tormented by Hammer Bros. for years, it's so nice to take over the body of one, chuck hammers at the enemies and then toss the Hammer Bro. off a cliff once he's outlived his usefulness. And we all never knew how much we wanted to take control of a T-rex until Nintendo showed us we could. Still one of my favorite things to capture.

For the first time in forever, coins serve a purpose not connected to lives. The plehtora of outfits you can have Mario parade around in will have you seeking out the gold every chance you get. A chef, a scientist, an explorer, a samurai, a freaking clown. Playing dress up has never been this much fun. Finish the game and you'll get to wear a Super Mario 64 costume! You gotta fork over a 1000 coins for the honor of having Mario expose his nipples and run around in boxer shorts. Worth it? You bet!

When you're not giving bad guys Mario's blue eyes and mustache, you'll marvel at the game's various kingdoms to explore. Cascade Kingdom is a beautiful, yet primitive land, the Ruined Kingdom is very Dark Souls-esque, and the hustle and bustle of New Donk City is one cityscape you won't soon forget. Kingdoms comes loaded with Power Moons for you to hunt down. Many of these are easy to collect but there are plenty you'll have to put in serious work for, especially if you plan on getting all 999 Power Moons. If I can rag on Odyssey for one thing, it would be that it doesn't handle 100% completion in the best manner. Trying to collect very Power Moon can be a real drag.

01. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Wii U, NS)

 The world of Hyrule has never been this large. It is so massive and there is so much to see and do that it can be overwhelming. You can have your sights set on a town only to wind up straying from your destination because you came across an enemy camp to raid or found one of the many Korok puzzles. What's over those hills? I cannot tell you the number of times I've gotten sidetracked from setting out to accomplish one objective by the countless things there are to grab your attention. And I have never found such a thing more welcoming. You can have so much fun exploring Hyrule that you just might forget that you're Calamity Ganon is brewing and Zelda needs to be rescued. Meh, she can wait. Ain't like the girl is going anywhere anytime soon.

There aren't much in the way of dungeons in Breath of the Wild, but if I'm honest,  I didn't really miss them at all. Sure, solving puzzles is a core part of Zelda's design but so is exploration and I'm glad that took priority over a ton of dungeons. I think a month or so passed before I set foot in one of them because

Combat is also a bit different from most Zelda games. Early on, you are gonna be looking at that Game Over screen quite frequently and rushing in to attack large groups of enemies, especially more powerful groups, is only going to get you killed. Not only are there a variety of weapons for you to find and use, there are many ways for you to fight. You can use the Magnesis to pick up metal objects and drop them on your opposition. Free foes with Stasis, whack them a few times to build up momentum to send them flying. If enemies are in water, you can use a Shock Arrow to stun them and then go to town. In the middle of a thunder storm? Toss them a metal weapon and let nature finish the job for you. You're only limited by your imagination. It can suck that your weapons break but I got to the point where

As predictable a choice as this is for my 2017 game of the year, Breath of the Wild has more than earned it's place at the top. There are times when I would have six to ten hour play sessions of this game on my days. Even during the times when I wasn't feeling well, I would lay in my bed and play on the GamePad. I've poured well over 200 hours into the Wii U version of Breath of the Wild and I'm itching to pick up the Switch version and explore Hyrule all over again.