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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Review: Astro Boy Omega Factor

Genre: Action
Platform: Game Boy Advance
Developer: Hitmaker/Treasure
Publisher: Sega
Release: August 18, 2004

Birthed in the pages of Captain Atom in 1951, Astro Boy (or Tetsuwan Atom for those of you in the Land of the Rising Sun) has become Osamu Tezuka's most popular character. Since his creation, Astro has gone on to star in numerous incarnations of his own series, appearing in other numerous works by Tezuka and becoming a pop culture icon in Japan in the same manner as Superman has become a world wide phenomenon. Like the man of steel and other fictional super heroes, Astro has seen his share of video games and sadly, most of them have been pretty forgettable. But the one game starting Astro that you don't want to pass up is Astro Boy: Omega Factor. Developed by Hitmaker and Treasure, Omega Factor is one of best titles on the Game Boy Advance, one of the best licensed games ever made and quite possibly one of the greatest games you could ever play.

With stunning backgrounds and spectacular sprite animations, Omega Factor is a visual feast.
You're invincible when you use your standard dash. Naturally, you'll want to spam this for all it's worth.

Playing as the eternal child android, Astro gets locked into the struggle between humans and robots, a battle that escalates to the point of threating the entire planet. The game is comprised of two chapters. Birth, the first chapter sees Astro trying to stop humans and robots from fighting but ultimately failing to do so. Rebirth, the second chapter allows Astro to time travel via stage select. Astro still works to keep the peace for both races but having lived through the events of before, he now tries to right the wrongs from the previous timeline to keep history from repeating itself. Omega Factor certainly isn't the first game to use time travel gameplay but it's clear that a lot of thought went into it. Because of Astro's knowledge of the past and future, conversations with characters he interacts with may play out differently from before.

In addition to the standard beat 'em up levels, there a several SHMUP stages.

Say hello to my BOOM STICK!!!
The actual gameplay is the stuff that makes old-school gamers giddy all over, blending elements from shooters and beat 'em ups. Astro can deal damage to his enemies in an assortment for ways. Hand-to-hand combat is Astro's means of close range fighting. You'd be tempted to just keep punching away since punches work as a combo attack but a single kick sends your foes flying into other enemies. Three of Astro's abilities run on Supers, which can be amassed by taking damage and dishing it out. Astro's Machine Guns work great for hitting all enemies on screen at once and leaves them temporarily stunned. The Finger Laser is good for hitting a straight line of enemies, but it's not as good as the the Arm Cannon, a powerful beam that would make Mega Man X jealous. EX Dash lets Astro plow through enemies. On the non combative side, Astro is also equipped with Hyper Sensors and Jets. Hyper Sensors basically function as super hearing and enhanced sight while the Jets enable Astro to dash and fly in shooter levels.

Atlas, like any other anime rival has a huge chip on his shoulder.
You wish you had machine guns coming out of your butt.
Each of Astro's abilities are useful so you won't find yourself relying on just one throughout the whole game. All of these skills can be upgraded but not in the way you'd think. In most games you get stronger through combat. Astro Boy upgrades through his Omega Factor, what is known as his soul. Every time Astro encounters a character be they good or bad, they are added to his Omega Factor and after this, most of the time you're given the chance to pick which ability you'd like to upgrade. Since you grow stronger by meeting characters you'll always be on the lookout for new faces, some are in plain sight, others are hidden so well that you may need a guide to find them. Regardless of how you choose to upgrade Astro, you'll have a chance to max out all of his abilities because every character in the game must be found in order to complete the Rebirth chapter. What's interesting about the characters in the game is that every single one of them comes from Tezuka's other works. The game incorporates the Star Stystem in the same way Tezuka did with his manga creations. Needless to say, Tezuka fans are sure to geek out on more than one occasion.

The bosses and even the mooks are much bigger than Astro himself.
You can choose any of Astro's stats to upgrade but you'll eventually be able to max out each one.
New to Tezuka's world and don't know any of the characters that appear in Omega Factor? Don't sweat it. A nifty character database details who is who and where they originally came from is accessible for each new character you encounter.

No one should have much, if any trouble completing the game on the easy difficulty. On easy you can stock up to 99 Supers, disposing of the hordes of enemies with no problems at all and you can spam your Arm Cannon attack on most bosses. Easy is still fun but probably not enough to satisfy those looking for a serious challenge. Playing on normal limits you to stocking only 5 Supers so you'll have to be less trigger happy and more patience about winning your battles. If you're into pain hard mode is enough to make grown men weep, giving you only 3 Supers and the enemies beat on you like you owe them money.

Even for a handheld game, Omega Factor's visuals are positively jaw dropping. The backgrounds are gushing with detail. The first level sees Astro enter by dropping into Metro City with flying cars and tall buildings  behind him. It's all very impressive. Sprite animations are also just as gorgeous to look at. The lighting effects from Astro's Arm Cannon and Finger Laser reflect beautiful off of Astro. The audio is no slouch either. Being a game made with Treasure's involvement, fans of Gunstar Heroes are sure to recognize a song or two. If you actually watched Big X, you might be surprised to know that his them made it into the game. There's even a sweet rendition of the Astro Boy theme song as the game's title music (as well as the actual title screen itself being a direct homage of the 1963 Astro Boy series).

Astro Boy: Omega Factor is an outstanding game on every front. It has a surprisingly complex story, rich visuals, tons of characters to find, and fantastic old-school gameplay. It's no stretch to say this game ranks right up there with Ikaruga and Gunstar Heroes, two of Treasure's best efforts. If you happen to be a fan of Osamu Tezuka, you're going to love this game. It's a touching love letter to one of the finest creative minds that ever lived and to his many fans. But even if you've never read Astro Boy, Phoenix or any other Tezuka story, it won't hurt your enjoyment of Omega Factor in the slightest. Along with the layers of fan service, this is a game that was made with great care. Next time a discussion comes up for the best Game Boy Advance game, don't be surprised if someone mentions Omega Factor. Pick up a copy so you'll know just what everyone else is talking about.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Trading Regrets

Regrets. Everyone has them. In life, in relationships and even in gaming. But more than passing up that air bubble, jumping too soon or jumping too late, many of my gaming related regrets comes to trade-ins.

I once picked up a copy of Einhander at KB Toys for $14.99. This was one of the few times Square branched outside of the RPG genre and it did not disappoint. It had some amazing music, one of my favorite pieces being one of the boss themes, "Shudder." For whatever reason, I traded Einhander in and have since regretted doing so, big time. I think it became one of those rare PS1 games because it rarely appears in stores that sells old games and usually goes for $60 and up on eBay.

There was a time when I traded in nearly all of my Game Boy games, save for Mega Man I-V, but the rest included titles such as Donkey Kong, Super Mario Land 2 and Metroid II. Donkey Kong on the Game Boy is easily one of the best handheld games ever and one of the best Mario titles so I'm not sure what possessed me to trade it away. Thankfully, I was able to buy it back years later along with Metroid II and Super Mario Land 2.

Speaking of Game Boy, I traded in my Blue GBA SP model along with some PS2 games and a ton of other stuff to get the original Nintendo DS. Much as I love the DS, I found out the hard way that it doesn't play original Game Boy games. That'll teach me to not to read up on new hardware, but even so, my GBA SP was just such a wonderful handheld device. From the flip design, extra lighting , being compact, it was a marvel. OK, so Nintendo screwing us over on the headphone jack sucked, but dang it, I should never have given it up! The 3DS will support downloadable games for the original Game Boy games, but I have no idea when I'll get around to buying one and picking up a GBA SP is a heck of a lot cheaper.

Thinking of all the trade-ins I've done over the years has made me realize that I have quite a few that I wish I'd never have let go. Sure, I got some good things like my DS, Mario Kart Double Dash!! (even if that blue shell is freaking annoying) and some others but I've got far more regrets than anything. It's made me think twice about all the games I currently have and will have in the future. So I guess what I'm saying is, I'm going to be more of a packrat now more than ever. Yeah, crappy games will more than likely be tossed aside, but for the most part, I'll be hanging on to all the good stuff.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Posters: What's on Your Wall?

Nice little bonus features that we get with games and magazines are posters. I've amassed a decent collection of them over the years and had just about every poster I owned hanging on my wall back in my first apartment.

At the moment, though, the only things on my wall are some holes from nails, a clock and ant remains after I kill them. I thought about putting my posters up but we've only got a few more months here before we make a move to a better place so I'm trying not to get too attached, which has worked out greatly.

One of the many things I've noticed about the Angry Video Game Nerd's rooms are the abundance of game posters he has from Nintendo Power. I have a good helping of Nintendo Power mags but I never once took the posters out of any of those books. I was afraid I'd rip them trying to tear them out and it turns out, I was right. Even the sweet Mega Man X poster is still in my issue 55 of Nintendo Power.

So what have you got?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Licensed Games: What Are Your Favorites?

Licensed games are a strange lot. They can be very exceptional or they can be horrible abominations. I'll be focusing on the former because I have played some pretty awesome games that had a license attached.

When most gamers think of good licensed titles, the N64's GoldenEye 007 usually is the first to spring to mind, and for good reason. At the time, it was one of the finest first person shooter offerings on the consoles. However, despite the acclaim that Rare's hit received in 1997, more than a few gamers will freely admit that it has not aged well, but for many that have fond memories of it (myself included), it's one of their favorite licensed games.

As fun as GoldenEye was, I have not played it recently so I cannot comment on whether it has aged gracefully or not. I can, however, talk about one of my favorite GBA games I've been playing a lot of again recently, staring one of the coolest fictional characters, ever. Astro Boy: Omega Factor is without question one of the most noteworthy games Sega has ever published and they've published a lot of great games. Omega Factor stands out for a lot of reasons. Along with the superb audio and visuals, the gameplay and story are among the best you'll find on a handheld or any game for that matter. It has a healthy blend of beat 'em up and shooter play styles so you can defeat your foes with hand-to-hand combat, finger lasers, arm canon-like Kamehamehas, or machine guns. Astro can be upgraded by finding numerous characters throughout the game. I'll be reviewing Omega Factor soon so I'll have more in depth thoughts on this portable masterpiece then. Omega Factor may very well be my all-time favorite licensed video game. Yes, it's that good.

Other licensed games I like can be found on the NES courtesy of Capcom. Chip 'N Dale's Rescue Rangers is a lot of fun alone or co-op. DuckTales is still a lot of fun to go through and even though Darkwing Duck is a Mega Man clone, it still rocks. I wish Capcom was given the Disney license again as the odds of of seeing these games on the Virtual Console are non existent.

Konami did Batman and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Justice. Batman Returns on the SNES was a good beat 'em up and nearly every Turtles game they put out was a riot. Why does Ubisoft of the TMNT license? Outside of some lackluster efforts, they haven't done anything good with our favorite reptiles and the company is basically preventing Konami's TMNT games from ever getting a Virtual Console release.

On a side note, the reason I haven't updated the blog in the last few days is because work has taken a lot out of me. I think I'll eventually get into the groove of things and have more energy and I'll try to keep this blog updated more often.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sonic Generations = Here We Go Again

Unless you've just been unfrozen from cryogenic suspension, you've already heard of the upcoming Sonic game, Sonic Generations. This game will let gamers play as classic Sonic who will have 2D levels, and modern Sonic who will have 3D stages. I'm excited about this one, but at the same time, I can't help but feel that there was an explosion of anger caused by the Sonic fanbase when the trailer hit the web.

I'm sure the fans of old-school Sonic are stoked but as my friend Sonichuman said, "Sega seems to be oblivious to the fact that they're forcefully driving a wedge into the fans." While I admit that being able to play as two different versions of Sonic sounds intriguingly cool, the mere inclusion of classic Sonic could very well ignite a fury from Sonic fans the likes of which we've never seen. 

Across the interwebs, fans are already bemoaning the game and it isn't even out yet. "Classic Sonic looks fat." "Classic Sonic is too short!" "Modern Sonic gameplay segments will suck! Classic Sonic gameplay will be awesome!" Cripes. 

Just why does modern Sonic get such a bad rap? I think it has to do with modern Sonic being associated with some less-than-stellar 3D outings over the last decade. Not everything 3D Sonic has been bad. The recent Sonic Colors received high accolades but that's just one game versus the numerous titles that have ranged from adequate (Sonic Heroes) to horrendous (Sonic the Hedgehog 2006). Of Course Modern Sonic has been in good 2D games as well. There's the excellent Sonic Rush and before that, there was the Sonic Advance Trilogy. They may not have surpassed the Genesis games, but they were not bad titles. 

And what about classic Sonic? Though the fanbase may like to pretend otherwise, he's been in sucky games, too. Sonic 3D Blast looked and sounded amazing but those are the only positives I can speak of on that particular isometric adventure. Sonic Blast on the Game Gear, which was a straight up 2D Sonic platformer was an embarrassment to the Sonic name. Then you've also got the Sonic Drift titles, which put Sonic in a go-cart in an attempt to copy Mario Kart, but without all the fun aspects. Some fans might say "But most of the bad classic Sonic games were on the Game Gear." My response to that is, a bad Sonic game is a bad Sonic game, regardless of what platform it's on.

Do not enter Sonic message boards discussing Sonic Generations, even out of curiosity. The hate coming from the classic Sonic side is so raw, so unfathomably powerful that you'd think these people got coaching from Emperor Palpatine. Mind you, there are rational classic Sonic fans out there, but they are outnumbered by the louder voices, voices that will no doubt get louder as we learn more about Sonic Generations.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Thinking of Getting an Atari 2600

The first vivid memories of video games I have come from owning an NES, but I still recall good times had with the Atari 2600. Some may think that the wood paneling on the side of the console makes the unit look silly, but I've always been fond of the design and think it adds to the charm.

Recently I've been thinking of picking up another 2600 ever since my trip to Video Game Heaven back at the end of March. They had a few 2600 units in and they looked like they were in excellent condition. Many Atari 2600 titles run pretty cheap and are easy to come by. I already have a good chunk of my favorite 2600 games on my PS2 via Activision Anthology, but the 2600 was still one of my first game systems and it'd be really nice to have one again. Even though it wouldn't cost much, I could still put that money towards buying other retro things like NES games. *Sigh*Ahhh, I just don't know.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Getting the Collection in Order

So I'm looking at some photos of the forum members retro gaming collection on the retro Gamer forums and I notice how most of them there have their extensive collections in a nice, manageable order. First off, let me say that while I do have a good number of games, my collection pales in comparison to the good folks at the retro gamer forums, and keep in mind, that's just their retro collections. I can only imagine what some photos of an entire collection would look like. Seeing those photos got me thinking about getting own game collection in order and it forced me to come to terms with a number of things.

I'm running low on shelf space. Back in 2002 I bought myself two wooden shelves. One was a brown medium sized shelf and the other was a long black shelf. While moving the brown shelf back at my old house, it feel apart (because my dad thought it would be fine to move it with all of the books still in it). Never got around to assembling it again because some of the screws were missing. My black shelf remained in tact and has kept most of my old games stored but there's not much room to put anything else on it. I knew I'd eventually have to get another shelf like it but I ended up filling it up much faster than I thought I would. Right now it's currently holding nearly all of my SNES games, all my NES games, all my Wii titles, my meager Saturn collection, my PS1 collection, my Dreamcast collection, the DS games, some boxed Genesis games, a few unopened Game Boy Color/Game Boy Advance games and my entire GameCube Collection. That's a lot of stuff for one shelf to hold and I'm not finished acquiring all the games I'd like for any of those systems.

Throwing away my N64 boxes is something I've come to regret. Yes, they took up space but I also knew what game was what. Now I have to pull out each game to find out what it is. Of course if Nintendo hadn't done away with end labels, I wouldn't be kicking myself for chucking my boxes. I'm trying to think of an alternative means to store my N64 games. I've even considered getting plastic cases and making up my own labels to put on the sides.

I've got over 40 Game Boy Advance games and for the last eight years I've been storing them in a mini Black Decker flip bin along with my classic Game Boy and Game Boy Color games. There's still games I want for all three incarnations of those Game Boy systems and that thing is already starting to fill out. It keeps my games nice and tidy but I still have to open it up because I can't clearly see each and every game. I'm a bit more stumped on what to do about this one since all Game Boy games were never made with end labels. Maybe I could get a put them in some plastic cases and display them on a turning rack or something.

The PS2 games are all in one spot on a DVD rack but like the rest of the games, there's still more PS2 titles I need to pick up. As of now, I'd say I have room for about 20 or more PS2 games on that rack before it's full and it's already housing nearly 80 games.

We have a lot of boxes that we've accumulated from moving and they've been great for storing controls that I'm not using but I'd like to upgrade to some plastic containers. That way I cannot only store the controls but my peripherals as well. I've already got my eyes on some controls that I saw when I went to Video Game Heaven so I know I'll be adding more to the lot. These big plastic containers will probably be good for storing game magazines as well. Yeah, I've taken up the magazines again and you'll hear about that in a future post.

Getting the game collection in order will cost me a bit more money and it may not be easy but I've always been passionate about my hobby. Like gaming itself, I'm sure organizing everything is sure to be a mix of fun and frustration.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Game Companies are Out to Make Money Pt. 2

Welcome to the flip side. My good friend Lucas and new pal dste made some comments on my previous blog post about game companies being in it for the green. This post was made out of response to all of the comments I'd seen on YouTube (I gotta stop reading comments from that site) about today's games being awful simply because the suits only care about the all mighty dollar. I did that post when I was extremely tired and had not thought about the more shady side of game company tactics for getting money from players. These companies need to make money, sure, but they also have ways of doing it that often irk the consumers.

Updated releases. Nothing new. Gamers got a lot of them in the '90s with Capcom's numerous Street Fighter II updates. Capcom can count. They just have a tendency to do it very slowly. Smart players pretty much expect Capcom to do updated releases since they milked SFII like a cow. When they finally got around to Street Fighter III, that game saw a number of updated versions, the best one being 3rd Strike. So when Street Fighter IV finally rolled around, I was actually a bit surprised that it also received it's first update with Super Street Fighter IV. See, I'd forgotten that Capcom just loves to update SF. When Street Fighter IV 3D Edition was announced, I wasn't really surprised, nor did I react much when Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition was announced. SFIV already has four games to it's name. Moral of all this? Never buy the first new Street Fighter entry. Unless you're a hardcore fighting fan, that is. As it stands, I have no clue which version of SFIV to go with. For all we know, another update could hit next year.

Nintendo's not off the hook either. How many versions of the GBA have there been? Or the original DS? If you honestly think there won't be an updated 3DS, I'd like to get the location of that fantasy world you're living in. Many of Nintendo's handheld updates improve upon the original model considerably. The second GBA model, the SP, had a marvelous flip design, which made storing the system that much easier. The rechargeable battery was a nice touch and so was the brighter screen. Of course, they did screw us out of a headphone jack. I mean, that was just plain bad system design right there. By the time the GBA era had ended, I was wise to Nintendo's system updating scheme and wisely stuck with my bulky, but still full functional original DS model. The DS Lite was surpassed by the DSi, which allowed for downloadable games from the internet. The next 3DS update will probably do something about the original's battery life. I've already decided to hold off on a 3DS for price but an inevitable update is my other reason.

Downloadable content. This one really sticks in gamer's craw. When we buy a game, it would be nice to get everything up front. The characters, the levels, the whole thing. Have you ever heard of paying for a harder difficulty? Capcom had the gull to ask that of players with Mega Man 9. Speaking of Capcom, there also adding more characters to Marvel vs. Capcom 3 via DLC. I didn't buy all of the DLC in MM9 because I didn't feel Proto Man was worth it. As much as I love the character, he really was a hastily added on extra as he has no involvement with story whatsoever. He can't even access the shop! Now in Mega Man 10, I've spent $8 on DLC. That includes bass, Endless Attack mode and all three special stages. I enjoyed all of MM10's DLC very much but that bumps the total number of dollars I've spent on MM10 up to $18. Capcom really seems to love pushing DLC as do other companies so I guess it's up to us gamers to decided if these extras are truly worth forking over more money for.

Game companies looking to make an extra profit have also set their sights on used retail chains. Not satisfied with the truckloads of cash they make from their initial sales release of new games, they want a piece of the used profits as well. I'm sure you've heard the rumors of Warner Brothers charging gamers $10 for a pass to get online with Mortal Kombat 9 when buying it used. Well that rumor turned out to be true. America is still in a recession and not everyone makes the money that they used to. Even if the country weren't in a bad financial  crisis, many people shop on budgets. When I bought my Wii last year, I bought Super Smash Bros. Brawl and a 2000 Wii points card with it. That was $270 I gave Nintendo in one day. A few days later, I picked up Super Mario Galaxy used and complete for $38. Nintendo is one of my favorite companies and I've given them much of my money and support of the years, but I didn't feel like paying $50 for Mario's galaxy hoping adventure when by that time, the game was two years old. Which reminds me, whatever happened to Nintendo's Player's Choice line?

Ultimately, it's up to us gamers to decided if game companies get to keep taking us for more money with DLC, updated sequels and the like. We have to vote with our wallets. Unfortunately many of us are like lemmings when it comes to this stuff. We jump at the chance for more content in a game we've already paid for, the hardcore fighting fanatic will get the latest SFIV and Nintendo has basically proven that the DS does in fact print money.

The TLDR version? (Too long don't read.) The end of greedy methods for gaming companies getting money is no where in sight.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Game Companies are Out to Make Money

*Sighhhhh* I really should stop reading YouTube comments. But when I see ignorant-laced replies like "Today's games suck because all we have are fat-cats that only care about making money instead of good games!" over and over, it's sorta hard to ignore. Mind you, I'm not shocked that there are gamers out there that have this type of mindset. No, it's more of a dull surprise to me. The old-schoolers with this type of mind set really are making themselves and the rest of us look like ill-informed peons.

So to all you gamers from tons of generations gone by that actually think that today's companies only care about dead presidents, NEWS FLASH! All companies in the gaming industry are out to make money! No exceptions! It was that way in the 8 and 16-bit eras and the same holds true to this day! The gaming business is not a charity organization. Oh, sure some companies may occasionally host a charitable event. But if you honestly think your favorite company from the past was not in it for the money, you are in some seriously deep denial.

"But there are tons of crappy games out today!" Hey, Sherlock, there was a ton of crap for the best consoles back then. Quick cash-ins were the order of the day for many developers/publishers in the golden age of gaming. Total Recall, Batman Forever, Cheester Cheetah: Too Cool to Fool were nothing but licensed drivel. But it's not just licensed games that sucked. Sonic 3D Blast was a pitiful excuse for a Sonic game long before the gimmicky 3D outings came along (for the record, I don't think all 3D Sonic games are bad). The Nintendo 64 had a ton of racing games, but only a handful of them were any good. Sony's PlayStation was the most successful of the 32-bit consoles and because it of that, it had some of the worst titles you could ever imagine.

These "Money grubbing fat-cats" that certain idiotic old-schoolers speak of didn't crop up in the current gaming generation. They've been around for decades. Now there are lots of companies that are first and foremost concerned with giving gamers a quality title and appreciative of their fans. However, for these same corporations, making games for a living is what they do, so yes, they are in it for the Benjamins.

Sometimes despite a developers best efforts, a game just doesn't end up being good. Maybe the idea behind the game was executed poorly. Maybe the developers wanted more time to work on the game but their superiors wanted it out the door and on the shelves ASAP, which sped up the development. That last one happens more often than you think and would be a case of said fat-cats doing a little thing called executive meddling.

There a tons of great games across all platforms in the current generation of gaming and all the companies that put out these superb titles want money because without it, they can't keep going and entertaining us. There's no them without us. Sadly, the money grubbing execs do get their way sometimes, which can lead to bad games. It happens. Sucky games are inevitable, but honestly, why would any gamer have the stupidity to say that all the games of today are bad? The market may be saturated with FPS and war games but there's still a lot of variety out there, which is why it helps to own all the consoles if you can. I'm still missing out on a lot of cool games by not yet owning a PS3 and 360. It's not gonna make me say the games for those system suck because I only own a Wii and cannot play the exclusives on those platforms. That's fanboy ignorance of the highest caliber, which, ultimately is what I believe a lot of it boils down to.

Favorite Tunes #1 What's in a Title Theme?

I personally feel that title music in video games are highly underated. A memorable title theme can go a long way. Rather it be a looping piece of music or a short 15 second piece, the value of a good title track is not to be underestimated. These are some of my absolute favorite title themes I've been privlaged to hear since I've been gaming.

Title - Mega Man 3 (NES)

The title music to Mega Man 2 was accompanied by an intro tune, which is a redone version of part of the ending theme of the original Mega Man game. As awesome as Mega Man 2's title music is, Mega Man 3's is far and away the superior track. When you turn on Mega Man 3, there's no intro scene to go with the title music. If you're patient and let the music build up to the main course, you're treated to one of the finest pieces of video game music ever composed. With the very first track you hear, composer Bun Bun already cemented his status as a fan favorite Mega Man music maker. Not only does Mega Man 3's title theme get you pumped to play the game, it's an amazing tune on it's own.

Wings For My Way (GX Advertise) - F-Zero GX (GCN)

Talk about rocking out. When I first turned on F-Zero GX, I had no idea the title music would grab me by the face in the same way the rest of the game did. Over 3 minutes had passed before I hit the start button. GX's title music is lengthy, sure, but it stops at around the three minute mark and already my jaw had hit the floor. I was just as impressed with the music as a I was the visuals but the title music is what really sold it to me. Called "Wings For My Way (AX Advertise)," F-Zero GX's title music is even more hardcore than that of F-Zero X on the N64 and sets the tone of the entire game and the game's soundtrack. Repeatidly listening can actually melt your face clean off. It's that awesome.

Title - SimCity (SNES)

I've played a PC version of SimCity before but the SNES version is special to me. Mind you, I suck at the game and get removed from my mayor duties pretty quickly, but it's still fine. Interestingly, I didn't play the SNES version of Will Wright's city builder until the year 2000. The game's endearing title music plays over a city backdrop at night. It's a short looping tune, but it's so relaxing. Makes me wanna lie down and star up at the stars. If SimCity's SNES title theme doesn't move you at all, you're probably dead inside.

Title - Mega Man X (SNES)

For those of us that don't live in Japan, (which is quiet a lot), Mega Man X's title theme was probably the first time a rock element had been added to the soundtrack. Mega Man X's music is heavily rock based and what better way to demonstrate that than with the the game's first song. It's short but it's very, very sweet. Of all the title themes for the X series, this one is undoubtedly my favorite.

Theme of M.U.S.H.A. Aleste - M.U.S.H.A. (GEN)

Being one of the games in Compile's popular Aleste series, MUSHA's title them isn't new but the rendition done with the Genesis sound processor really make this version stand out. It's a little dark in tone so it's definitely not an upbeat theme, but it still sounds epic.

Title Screen - Contra (NES ver.)

Clocking in at only 8 seconds long with an explosive sound effect to add to it's awesomness, Contra's NES title music rendition is one of the most memorable jingles on this planet. It screams "Let's do this!" Play this track and watch a room full of gamers swoon with nostalgia.

Title Theme - Double Dragon (NES ver.)

I'm going to come right out and say it: the original arcade music for Double Dragon sucked. It sounded like early Genesis music where the sound composer had no clue how to really take advantage of the the unit's sound chip. The NES version is light years ahead of it. Double Dragon's NES title theme is one of the most fondly remembered tunes in video games and lets you know that Billy and Jimmy Lee are going to bust some heads.

Title Theme - Adventure Island II (NES)

A very short jingle, but still one of the greatest. It's upbeat, catching and is entertaing from the first note to the very last.

Title - Pilotwings (SNES)

This is another short title theme and the developers of the Pilotwings series must have known they'd hit gold because it's been used in every Pilotwings game ever since.

The Prelude - Final Fantasy IV (SNES, PS, GBA)

With a few exceptions (FFV, FFVI, FFVIII and so on), Final Fantasy games have been using a title theme known as "The Prelude" since the very first installment on the NES. Of all The Prelude themes, Final Fantasy IV is in my humble opinion, the pinnacle of the bunch. Just something about the way Nobuo Uematsu composed the SNES version in FFIV that make it sound positively beautiful, yes, even moreso than the one in Final Fantasy VI, which is my all-time favorite FF.

Fear of the Heavens - Secret of Man (SNES)

Along with the Squaresoft logo on the screen (long before the company merged Enix), howls can be heard in the background. The title drops and three youths are seen looking at an enormous tree as the stunning "Fear of the Heavens" title theme plays. Oh, yeah, this game is going to rock. Fun fact: Secret of Mana was originally developed for Nintendo's SNES CD add-on but when Nintendo backed out of the deal with Sony, the game was developed for the SNES instead. One can't help but wonder if this would have altered the audio of the game, but as it stands, the entire game's score is incredible. Another fun fact: Secret of Mana is one of the few games that saw a soundtrack release in the United States.

Title Theme - Super Metroid (SNES)

If Super Metroid's title theme were to be summed up in one word it would be "creppy." Those shots of the lone Mertoid hatchling surrounded by dead scientists only adds to the haunting nature of the piece. Super Metroid's title them wouldn't feel out of place in the least bit in a survival horror game.

Theme of Fire Emblem - Fire Emblem: Seisen no Keifu (SNES)

That subtitle translates to Geneaology of Holy War for those that don't speak Japanese. Like the Final Fantasy series, the Fire Emblem games have used the same title theme in it's many sequels. Of the numerous versions of "Theme of Fire Emblem," Geneaology of Holy War gets my pick for the best one, and considering it's been a superb track in each Fire Emblem game, that's saying a lot.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Game Art #4: Chrono Trigger Showcase

Chrono Trigger by potatofarmgirl 

Tribute by vanillaDICE
Chrono Trigger Tyrano's Lair by Chyioo
Chrono Racerball Z by dchan316
Glenn by raoxcrew
Chrono Trigger by cyberunique
Chrono Trigger by narudino
Terra Arm and Wondershot by robotnicc
Chrono Trigger by Bisart
Bad Ending:1 by JC-Of-The-RedFlame
Chrono trigger color by chilin
Chrono Trigger vs Chrono Cross by BobboWonder
Lavos Core by haikuninja
First Time in Zeal by cre8vsteph

Monday, April 11, 2011


A simple elevator ride. No, really.
Gamers are an impatience breed. We want to turn the game on and get right into the action ASAP. For a while we were able to do this without fail. The press of a button would allow us to skip cut scenes (when they were still pictures) and intros if we'd seen them already or just didn't care. But as CD-based gaming became more of the norm, gamers were forced to endure parts of the game that were essential and thus, could not be bypassed by pressing the start button. I'm of course talking about the load screen.

Sometimes it just says "Loading." Other times it may read "Now Loading." And then there's my personal favorite "Now Loading, Please Wait." Regardless of what words the game uses, loading is a necessary inconvenience that, depending on the game, can range from minor to downright painful.

On the tolerable side, two of my favorite instances of loading come from the PlayStation ports of Ridge Racer and Ridge Racer Revolution (known as Ridge Racer 2 in arcades.) The first Ridge Racer lets you play a game of Galaxian, while the game loads. Ridge Racer Revolution lets you play Galaga '88 while loading. Not only are these nice diversions, they also serve as a means to unlock eight of the game's cars. All you have to do is shoot each alien ship down. On top of that, the loading was pretty brief and would finish before you killed off all the alien invaders. Even the occasional loading of tracks was short for both games. The loading for both titles was so short they easily could have done without throwing Namco's famous shooters in, but many gamers welcomed them with open arms.

On the flip side, the original TimeSplitters for the PlayStation 2 had some of the worst loading I'd ever encountered in any video game. We're talking nearly a minutes worth of loading for multiplayer matches and my friends and I loved us some multiplayer in TimeSplitters. I'd often strike up a conversation about carpet whenever the game was loading, which was pretty frequent. Man, I'd have killed for some sort of mini-game with TimeSplitters loading.

Loading is something we will always have to deal with. Any console manufacturer that says the system will not have any load times is lying through their teeth and should immediately be called out on their bull. If we have time to go the bathroom (number one, in case you were wondering), come back and the game is still loading, that's way too long, and no, disguising the load screen with an elevator ride (Mass Effect 2) is not clever, it's absurdly transparent. More mini-games for long load times, please and thank you!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Return to the Animal Forest

92 months. That what all my friends in CUBE tell me. It has been 92 months since I last played Animal Crossing for the GameCube. I knew it had been a while, but I never expected to get an exact numeric total.

So what got me to turn Animal Crossing on after seven years? My nieces. I was looking for games they could play when I eyed Animal Crossing. Since I was the only one playing my copy from years back, there were three empty files. I figured I'd start up a file in their names. Nakiah, my oldest niece, really seems to enjoy Animal Crossing and Ava is also itching to start up her own file after watching Nakiah play.

I'd forgotten how much time I'd put into Animal Crossing when it was originally released and about how much fun I'd had. Yes, it was a very repetitive game and could be described as The Sims lite, but it was still some of the best times I ever had on the GameCube. Yeah, dealing with Tom Nook was a headache, but it was worth it to make my house bigger and fill it with all sorts of cool stuff like an Ar-Wing , Mario & Luigi trophies, NES games and countless other cool items. I've got so much money and so many things in my catalog, I've decided to help Kiah and Ava out by sending them furniture, clothing and leaving things in front of their houses for them to pick up.

Playing Animal Crossing reminded me that there's Wild World on the DS and City Folk for the Wii that I still haven't picked up. I hear the formula for those titles hasn't changed much, but I don't think I'll care much. Who knows, maybe I'll become addicted to those titles like I did the first Animal Crossing.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Impressions: Elite Beat Agents & NiGHTS

After being preoccupied with other games, I finally opened up Elite Beat Agents. I consider that impressive since I have a few games from 2001 that haven't been opened yet, but I digress.

EBA is my very first portable rhythm & music game and I have to say, a fantastic DS game. Playing as the Elite Beat Agents, you show up whenever someone is in trouble and help them out by cutting a rug via tapping markers and touching balls (wow, that doesn't sound right at all) on the DS touch screen with the stylus. I've founding that depending on your timing, you're awarded a set amount of points with 300 being the highest for a single marker. The longer you keep hitting the markers without messing up, the higher your combo string. It also helps to have good knowledge of some of the songs you're working on. It was a little easier for me to tap the markers on "Rock this Town" because I'd heard it a zillion times before I even played EBA. On "La La," I did terribly in part because, not only is that song tricky, I'd never really heard the whole song before, and it was one of those tunes that was never firmly implanted in my brain. After multiple attempts, I still only have a C ranking on it. The only song I've gotten an S rank on is the very first song, "Walkie Talkie Man." Now I'm not 100% sure what you have to do to get an S rank, but I'd wager that you can't have a single foul up and have to hit each marker perfectly. Easier said than done. Even on "Sk8er Boi" I always end up with a B rank.

Along with a good selection of music and killer gameplay are some hilarious manga-style cut scenes that play in between tapping of the touch screen, which shows a step-by-step resolution to whatever predicament of the character you're helping. One of my favorites is a taxi driver that has to get a pregnant women to this hospital. From the game's cover art, I could tell there would be some funny bits in the game, but I had no idea there would be enough to make me grin like an idiot each time I play.

I was playing Crossword DS off and off but it looks like my game time on the DS is now back in full force and I owe it all to Elite Beat Agents. I'm gonna put in some time on that bad boy a little later on tonight.

A few weeks back I was finally successful in finding a copy of NiGHTS into Dreams, a game I have always wanted to play after hearing so many good things about it. Even when I wasn't really sure of what I was doing, or what the overall goal of the game was at the time, I knew NiGHTS was something special and that it was a lot of fun. Well now I know that NiGHTS is more of a time attack game than anything else. You're timed in levels and boss fights and finding the quickest way to the goal definitely requires multiple plays. I think the best I've done is rank C. Other than the sequel , Journey of Dreams, there really isn't anything like NiGHTS. It's not for everyone but for those that like bettering themselves and flying about, NiGHTS is a really in a league of it's own. One of my favorite Saturn games for sure.