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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Memories #2: Rayman

1996 was a very memorable year for me in gaming. There was such a buzz in the air for the coming generation of consoles from Nintendo, Sony and Sega, each system loaded with it's unique brand of games with polygonal graphics. Back in those days, you could count all the polygons on one hand, but it was still an impressive sight, nonetheless. During these times, my father and I would rent a PlayStation from Blockbuster Video until he brought one later that year. I find it ironic that one of the first games I played on Sony's first home console, which was big on 3D graphics, was a 2D game.

The first time Rayman was ever brought to my attention was the pages of GamePro magazine. I was reading the review for the Jaguar version of the game. It scored high marks and sounded like a game that I would really enjoy. But since I didn't have a Jaguar and wasn't able to rent one, I'm grateful that Ubisoft ported it to the different platforms, including the Sony's PS1.

What caught my eyes from the very beginning was Rayman's visual style. Until that point, I had never seen such a beautiful 2D game. As impressive as the polygons in Tekken, and Virtua Fighter were, Rayman's  graphics were positively jaw-dropping. The animation was equally astounding. Despite the fact that none of the characters have limbs, they manage to pull off incredibly fluid movements. From Electoons to the enemies to Rayman himself, each sprite is teeming with life.

Even by today's standard's, Rayman looks amazing.
Being raised on Mario platformers, I was a bit taken aback to find that not only could Rayman not jump on enemies, he couldn't even do anything to defend himself. At least not at first. The first few levels in the first world see you avoiding enemies all together until your first encounter with Betilla the Fairy. Betilla grants Rayman the power to punch. It has to be winded up and it doesn't go very far at first, but hey, it's something.

Those mean-looking musical notes aren't
the only bad thing about this world.
If it's not a power up, it's out to kill you.
On the subject of Betilla, I must comment on the game's music. Rayman's audio is very pleasing to the ears. Whenever I encountered Betilla for a new power-up, I would wait before approaching her just so I could hear her soothing theme tune, which has a place on my portable MP3 player. There's also a rocking boss jam hat plays when you're fighting the second mosquito. That track was so awesome that I almost didn't mind that the battle could drag on for a bit. Some stages had musical themes that would change during the course of the level. You could be listening to a lighthearted them as you're jumping across platforms, punching out foes one minute, the next, the music takes a turn for the dark and sinister, the most evident example of this is in Band Land, which is fitting considering that was the game's difficulty spike.

Rayman has no idea of the horrors that await him here.
Ignorance truly is bliss. 
Some stages have Rayman doing his best Simon Belmont
Rayman was much more slow paced than other platformers, but it was just as hard as any game from the 8-bit NES era. By the time I got to the aforementioned Band Land, the game stopped pulling it's punches. Tricky platforming and evil enemy placement were standard fare. You wouldn't think a stage full of musical instruments could be so unforgiving. You'd be wrong. Band Land was so hard that I was never able to pass it, not when I rented the game in 1996 or when I bought it in 2000.  Even with passwords and being able to save, Rayman is still soul-crushingly hard. Once all five of your continues are used up, it's game over. If you are prone to breaking controllers, I don't think I can recommend Rayman to you.

While I do have some fond memories of Rayman, said memories are also mixed with some bad ones. I actually haven't gone back to play this game for some time since I got stuck on Band Land. Still, I would like to tackle this game again someday. As challenging as it is, Rayman still remains an audio and visual masterpeice. It may be cast in the shadow of the Marios and Sonics of the world, but it's still a solid platform game, albeit one with no remorse for the player.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Jazwares 10" Sonic the Hedgehog Figure

You know, I really have to hand it to Jazwares. They make some truly magnificent looking figures. I was highly impressed with their Metal Sonic figure and their 10" Sonic the Hedgehog figure is also a sight to behold.

Based off of Sonic's modern design, this figure looks absolutely fantastic. Sure it isn't as detailed as Metal Sonic, but since Metal Sonic is a machine and Sonic is flesh, that's to be expected. Still, I love the paint job on this thing. He's an exact replica of his modern in-game counter part and has over 12 points of articulation just as Metal Sonic does.

Unfortunately, just like Metal Sonic, you have to be really careful with this figure. From what I've read, he can come apart even easier than Sonic's metallic foe if you aren't super careful. So like Metal Sonic before him, this figure is gonna stay in the box. Besides, the packaging for him alone is pretty sweet and I really don't wanna ruin it. Someday I might get a second one and take it out of the box. For a better look at this 10" Sonic figure, check out this video here.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Guinness World Records 2011 Gamer's Edition

Anyone that's been on the planet Earth has heard of the Guinness World Records. These are are series of books that house all kinds of records such as the largest amount of Big Macs consumed or the most money spent on plastic surgery. And while those would no doubt make for fascinating reads, I think we should all turn our attention to the records that matter the most in this world: gaming.

Once again, I owe a huge thanks to Mark from Classic Game Room. He brought the Guinness World Records 2011 Gamer's Edition to my attention in a video review. Up until that point, I didn't even realize that Guinness had Gamer Edition books. I picked up the 2011 Gamer's Edition earlier this year, slowly making my way through it at first, but I've been reading through it a lot this week. This baby is chock full of records for games across every genre both old and new. Like the regular Guinness World Record books, the Gamer's Edition gives you the lowdown on records you'd expect and maybe some you wouldn't even think of.

It's probably no surprise that Madden is the longest running sports franchise, but did you know that Mafia II holds the world record for the biggest number of f-bombs in a video game, clocking in at nearly 400? The previous holder of that title was House of the Dead: Overkill, which dished out close to 200 uses of the f-word in just a few hours. Annie Leung racked up a score of 789,349 points on Guitar Hero III on the song "Through the Fire and Flames" on the Expert difficulty. Chun-Li holds the unbreakable record of being the first female character in a fighting game. And speaking of Street Fighter, the SNES version of Street Fighter II: The World Warrior is the highest selling home version of any Street Fighter with over 6 million copies sold.

I never imagined that reading through a record book could be so much fun but it truly is. There's even a quote at the bottom of every page from a game for you to see how big of a gaming nerd you are. I've recognized some of the quotes, but quiet a few of them are lost on me. The Guinness World Records 2011 Gamer's Edition is a book that I think any gamer will enjoy. It's cheap and is available in both paperback and hardcover formats. I'll be waiting for the 2012 Gamer's Edition with open arms.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Latest Game Purchases #11

I didn't get all of these in the same day or even in the same week. Well OK, most of them I did get this week, but I had some extra cash and ended up buying more games than usual and rather just make multiple posts, I decided I'd wait til I was finished shopping and do a single blog post.

Donkey Kong Country Returns. I own the entire SNES Donkey Kong Country trilogy and invested sometime into Donkey Kong 64 before I stopped playing it (too much collect-a-thon stuff for my tastes). When I heard Donkey Kong Country Returns would be a return to form, I was very excited. Not only would it be a side scrolling title like the SNES games, but much like those games, it also brought with it a Nintendo Hard difficulty, maybe even moreso than all the SNES games combined from what I've seen and heard. Anyway, K-Mart was having a sale and I picked this one up for $34.99! I could not believe that price because the game is selling for the standard $49.99 everywhere else. I'm sure Donkey Kong Country Returns will be a Nintendo Selects title someday, but since the day has not yet come, I consider what I paid for it a bargain.

After spending  alot of time with the DS version of Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing, I wanted to play the console version even more. K-Mart had a few copies months back for $20 but I always passed on it and when I did decided to buy it for the Wii, they were all gone. Lucky, GameStop had a used copy for $17.99. It was't complete, missing the instructions, but it's an easy game to play and I already know about drifting and tricks so I'm good to go. I played some of it last night and it's every bit as good as the portable game. Kinda makes me wanna buy Mario Kart Wii now. Yo, Nintendo, how about putting that on Nintendo Selects and saving me $50, huh?

Wario World. How many times did I pass on this game when I saw it at numerous GameStop stores? Not this time. They had a used, complete copy for $9.99. This is another game by Treasure. I love me some Treasure games and while it probably won't be on the same level as a platformer made by Nintendo I'm still very intrigued to see Treasure's take on Mario's fat rival.

On Wednesday I was killing time before work, talking with one of the store clerks and she told me they had Metroid Prime 3: Corruption used for $9.99. I was like "Seriously? I didn't see it anywhere." So she pointed it out to me and it turned out to be in a generic GameStop case, but she said they might still have the original case. Not only did they have the original case, but they had the instructions as well. So I finally have the entire Metroid Prime trilogy in my library. I just need to sit down and play them all someday.

While picking up Metroid Prime 3, I also got NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams, used and complete for $4.99 This is my second time buying this one as my first copy had a manual that was in really awful shape. Yeah, I know that sounds insanely petty getting the same game to with a manual that looks brand spanking new, but the game was dirt cheap. I still haven't finished the original NiGHTS or even played Christmas NiGHTS so I gradually work my way to Journey of Dreams.

My trio of shrink wrapped $9.99 games, Sly 2: Band of Thieves, Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves and Shadow of the Colossus all came from K-Mart. It took me forever to finish getting the Sly Cooper trilogy and I may have to pick up another copy of the original Sly. The last time I tried playing it, the game disc couldn't be read. I know from my good friend Lucas Stephens that Shadow of Colossus is an awesome game because it was all he could talk about when it released in 2005. I got my brother-in-law a copy months ago and watched him fight the second colossus. Words fail to describe how beautiful the game looks and the colossus bosses more then live up to their namesake. Nice to have a copy of this game for myself. I'll probably grab ICO if I see a copy. I wonder if I'll ever be finished buying PS2 games. The system has so many awesome games.

Capcom Classics Collection Vol. 1 is one of my absolute FAVORITE compilation games. I played it on a regular basis when it released years ago. Console access to Final Fight (my favorite beat 'em up) is just too good. Of course it has a lot of other great games too like Super Ghouls 'n' Ghosts (even if it is unfathomably hard), Street Fighter II: Hyper Fighting, Commando, Mercs and more. I let a friend borrow this game, he moved and I never got it back. Thankfully, video game Heaven had a used copy for $7.99 and it was complete.

And speaking of video Game Heaven, they had a bin of used PS2 games for $4. In that bin, I found Jak & Daxter: The Precurssor Legacy, Jak II, and Destroy All Humans. I've yet to play any of the Jak games but have always wanted to give them a go. Years ago I played a demo of Destroy All Humans and loved it. $12 for 3 PS2 games even if Jak & Daxter and Destory All Humans were missing manuals is a steal in my book.

I can't remember the last time I bought a Genesis game but I do remember beating my friend's copy of Thunder Force III back in 2006. He loaned it to me and I spent some quality time with what I consider one of the greatest SHMUPs on the Genesis. There was a used copy in Video Game Heaven for $7.99 and I knew I had to have it. With that, I now have all three Genesis Thunder Force games.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

More Shirts, Figures & a Water Bottle

My collection of gaming shirts continues to grow. This week I picked up a t-shirt based off of a game pretty much everyone has heard of, Angry Birds. I actually haven't played this game yet, but I've caught wind of it in reviews and dorkly's awesome flash videos. It looks and sounds like a lot of fun. There were actually two Angry Birds shirts to choose from. Another one said "Wingmen" with a red bird being launched but the only sizes they had for that one was in medium and small (I buy all my t-shirts in large). There also weren't very many of them, and since Angry Birds is insanely popular, I figured I better pick up one of the shirt types while they were still there. The other shirt I picked up was a Green Lantern symbol. Yeah, I know it's not a game related shirt, but I figured I'd still mention it. Some people may think my decision to pick this up is because of the movie, but it isn't. I haven't even seen the GL lick and I'm not the biggest GL fan. However, I am a fan of Green Lantern John Stewart, who I was introduced to in Justice League and because of that series, he's my favorite Lantern. I didn't realize until after I bought it, but on the back of the shirt is the Green Lantern oath. Pretty sweet.

I happened to spot this Sonic water bottle and since it was so cheap, I gave it a good home. This particular picture of Sonic has long been a favorite of mine. I already have a hand me down water bottle from my dad that works pretty well, so I'm not sure I'll use the Sonic model just yet. It wouldn't be the first thing that just sits on a shelf if left unused.

Tomy Gacha recently released the Sonic the Hedgehog Buildable Figures toys. There are six of these total and like most Tomy toys, they come in capsules so you have a hard time seeing what you've got until you pop that sucker open. I bought three. I wanted to get a Super Sonic and despite being in a capsule, I was able to see some yellow in the tiny holes so I had a feeling one of the three had to be Sonic in his super form. Turns out I was right. Twice. I ended up with two Super Sonic figures and one Knuckles. I was hoping to get a Metal Sonic, or a standard Sonic, but maybe next time. Opening these up made me think back on all the times I got Happy Meals at McDonalds. I'd eagerly open the box to see what toy I got and it was nice to get that feeling again.

Jazeware's 10" Metal Sonic is something I've had my eye on for months. Out of all the robotic Sonics that Robotnik has built, Metal Sonic is by far my favorite. He just looks so evil and cool. The packaging says ages "4+" but after reading up on this figure, I'm not really sure this thing should be played with. That's just a heads-up for anyone planning on getting it for their child. In fact, I'll be keeping mine in the packaging because despite Jazeware's reputation for quality work, I hear this thing can come apart easily if you're not careful. Maybe I'll buy a second one some day and take him out of the box. For a much better look at this Metal Sonic figure, I recommend checking out this video.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Virtual Console Purchases #6

Sonic the Hedgehog 4 Episode I
I'm still on a big Sonic kick. I'm at the final level on Sonic Colors (Wii ver.) and I'm in the process of collecting all the Super Emeralds for Sonic, Tails and Knuckles in Sonic 3 & Knuckles. After thinking it over for a few weeks, I finally made the decision to part with 1500 Wii points and download Sonic the Hedgehog 4 Episode I. This is actually the first episodic game I've ever picked up. I've never been to keen on episodic games, but since this is Sonic, I figured, I'd give it a shot. Yes, I'm fully aware that the game's physics aren't like that of the 16-bit Sonic games. But you know what? I'm still enjoying this game. I like how it looks and sounds (LOVE that title theme and Splash Hill Act 1.) It's wet my appetite for Episode II, which I hope will be longer.

Beyond Oasis (GEN)
This game is also known as the awesomely titled The Story of Thor. I remember seeing a review in GamePro years back when this game came out and they thought very highly of it. I never played it and one of the draws of the VC is the chance to play games I missed out on. It may look like a Zelda clone, but Beyond Oasis is actually far more action oriented. That's all fine and dandy with me. I could always use a good over head action game. Plus Yuzo Koshiro composed the music for Beyond Oasis *swoons*. I haven't played it yet, so I can't say much, but I'm looking forward to spending some quality time with this sexy-looking Genny game.

Final Fantasy II (IV) (SNES)
Yes, this is actually Final Fantasy IV and this is a widely known fact these days. I didn't play FFIV until early 1998. I paid nearly $40 for a used copy that was actually complete. I still have the instruction booklet and maps. Sadly, I tossed the box out, but I digress. It's not my fav FF, but FFIV still blew me away from the very beginning. The trials and tribulations of Cecil have made him one of the most memorable heroes in the Final Fantasy world. Sure, all the characters deaths may seem like overkill here, but FFIV is such an awesome game that this actually makes the fourth time I've bought it. It's just that good. Also, FFIV has my absolute favorite version of the prelude theme. It's 16-bit audio poetry. Were you expecting me to say something about bards? You spoony fool.

Final Fantasy III (VI) (SNES)
At the risk of sounding horribly predictable, I have to say it: this is my all-time favorite Final Fantasy. Final Fantasy VI is such a rich game. It's characters are very complex, charged with more emotion and depth than many characters of modern day RPGs. It's story is gripping, sucking you in with a movie-like opening, and it's antagonist, Kefka, has rightly earned a seat at the table of the most memorable villains when it comes to nasty, vile people. Oh and FFVI also has some of Nobuo Uematsu's finest work. Like Chrono Trigger, this is another 16-bit game I bought on my 16th birthday and paid far less than what it would sell for in eBay years later. I also own multiple copies of this game, but it's been ages since I played through the SNES version. Once I'm finished with some other games and FFIV, I'll set aside some time to world-saving with Locke, Celes and the rest of the gang.

Games Bought: 3
Total Number of Virtual Console Games: 70

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Shirts, a Figure, and Some Bobble Heads

I planned to pick up some more Sonic-related figures of the 12" variety, but once again, unexpecting stuff turned up. The one Sonic figure I did end up buying was pretty special, though. It's a Jazeware's 1991 Sonic the Hedgehog figure. He's short, has the pot-belly and has no green eyes. He also comes with a Moto Bug, one of the mooks from the Green Hill Zone. Now if only he'd point his index finger upwards, we'd be in serious business. I haven't opened him yet but he doesn't seem to have much points of articulation at all, which doesn't really bother me. I also really like the packaging that he came in. Behind him is part of the background for the Green Hill Zone. I may end up getting another one just so I can keep this one in the packaging. I'm not one to buy figures and never open them, but I like this one a lot. I would have picked up a modern Sonic but upon looking him over, I could tell he was the exact same modern Sonic figure that I bought a while ago but in different packaging. If Jazewares would put out classic Robotnik and Tails, I would love them forever.

fye has a nice selection of t-shirts with a nice blend of comic and gaming related material. I went ahead and bought my second Mario-themed shirt, which has a lot going on against the blue background. Next up was my first Sonic-themed shirt with Sonic and the ultimate life form, Shadow, representing. fye had a buy one get one half off on the t-shirts for a few weeks but when I bought these, it was no longer going on, but since the sign that advertised the deal was still up, the lady at the register went ahead and sold me one of the shirts for half off anyway. Sweet!

A few weeks back I picked up the Wacky Wobbler Sonic bobble head in fye. It didn't take me long to find out that there were also bobble heads for Tails and Knuckles, but fye didn't have them in the store at the time. I planned to order them online but fye had a good supply of both Tails and Knuckles in stock and for pretty cheap as well. So I went ahead and picked up both. Interestingly, all of the Sonic bobbble heads were sold out. Not much of a surprise since all Sonic merchandise was 20% off when I bought mine weeks ago. By the way, Tails even has his full name written on his stand, Miles "Tails" Prower, very nich tough, I must say. Like the Sonic bobble head, I'll be keeping the boxes they came in.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Latest Game Purchases #10

The bulk of these games came from GameStop and as a result, I'm getting Game Informer magazine again. After reading a few articles in the magazine that I got with my games, I have to say that I like what I'm seeing. Since I haven't read GI in so long, it's like welcoming back an old friend. But I digress.

I missed out on Samba De Amigo on for the Dreamcast and I'd been meaning to pick up the Wii version. I saw it for $20 at K-Mart a few times but I'm glad I held off because I was able to score a used, complete copy for just $4.99 at GameStop. As fun as using maraca controllers on the Dreamcast might be, I think I'll manage just fine with the Wii Remote and nunchuck.

Before I moved out from Ohio, I passed up a chance to pick up House of the Dead 2 & 3: Return for $19.99 at a GameStop. Days later when I went back, it was gone. I've kicked myself ever since. As luck would have it, I saw the game again for the same price and in a GameStop, no less. Seriously, what were the odds? Oh and it was also complete. Green-blooded zombies and stiff, wooden voice acting, here I come!

Mario Golf, Mario Tennis; I've really enjoyed the Mario line of sports titles. I saw Super Mario Strikers used a few times for $17.99 but I just wasn't willing to part with the cash. GameStop had it used and complete for just $9.99. Super Mario Strikers was made by Next Level Games (Punch-Out!! on the Wii) instead of Camelot so it'll be interesting to see what their take on Mario-style soccer (or football depedning on where you're from.)

Sonic Unleashed is the only game that I didn't buy at GameStop, but instead, I got it from fye. This is another game I've been wanting to pick up and was wondering which version to get. It's kind of ironic that of all three next gen systems Sonic Unleashed was released for, the Wii version, released on inferior hardware in comparison to the 360 and PS3, ended up being the best one. Now I've heard that Sonic Unleashed is not the best 3D Sonic game and the Werehog stages are a deal breaker for some. However, I've also heard that the day stages were pretty good. Besides, I got it used and complete for $9.99.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Thoughts on 3DS Price Cut

I wasn't going to say anything about this simply because a lot has already been said. But, my thoughts on this didn't seem to leave my mind, so I figured I'd post a blog entry and get it off my chest anyway.

Last week Nintendo announced that the price to the Nintendo 3DS would be dropped. No small price cut, as of August 12th, 2011, the 3DS will be sold for $169.99 as opposed to the off-putting $249.99 launch price. I gotta say, I did not see this coming. Heck, I think a lot of us didn't see it coming. An $80 price drop for a handheld that isn't even six months old? Wow. Again, that's a huge price slash.

I'm sure a few early 3DS adopters were feeling peeved at this news. Dropping 250 bones on a handheld that most people will be able to get for $170? Yeah, I'd feel like I got the short end of the stick, too. Thankfully, Nintendo is giving those that paid the original price for the 3DS some form of compensation. 10 free NES virtual console games and 10 free GBA games from the eShop. I find the 10 free eShop GBA games interesting because up until this point, there was no news if GBA games would come to the eShop. Unfortunately, Nintendo does not plan to release the 10 listed GBA games to the general public, which is yet another bonehead move for Nintendo.

So now the 3DS is looking like a more attractive buy in the price department. I've wanted to get a 3DS but the price was a huge turn off for me. $250 is a lot of money to fork over. Of course another reason I was reluctant to buy a 3DS was the current lineup of games. The 3DS launch was really nothing to write home about and as much as I love Ocarina of Time, an enhanced port is not enough reason to run out and put down $250. Granted there are some 3DS games I do want to play like Pilotwings Resort and then Mario Kart 7, Kid Icarus: Uprising and Super Mario 3D Land are supposed to release in time for the holiday season. However, along with releasing great games, Nintendo is also known for their delays. I will eat a goat's fur in all three of those games actually come out at the end of this year.

There's talk that Nintendo hasn't moved as many 3DS units as they'd hoped. More than 830,000 units in the USA alone is a pretty impressive number but maybe Nintendo was hoping for more than that after nearly four months. The PSP Vita is on the way so maybe they want to get a leg up on Sony. Sure, the 3DS came out first, but if we learned anything from Sega, head-starts don't mean jack in this business.

I've personally never been fond of the 3D effect in moves and games. From what I've heard on the 3DS, the 3D is more trouble than it's worth. It's cool that it can be done without the need for glasses, but I'm thinking I'll more than likely keep the 3D turned off most, if not all of the time. I could care less about an added 3D perspective.

I think Nintendo can count me as a later adopter of the 3DS. The price cut is a huge incentive to buy one now and I do want to play the awesome games that will no doubt hit the 3DS. The original DS didn't have the greatest launch and it ended up having an incredible library, one that I'm still amassing. Who's to say the 3DS won't turn out the same way?