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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Latest Game Purchases #13

Work is slowing down all over, which means money is getting a bit tight once again. But even a small amount of dough can net you some good deals.

The last Mega Man game I bought was Mega Man 10 and that was more than a year ago. I always wanted to pick up Mega Man Powered Up and Mega Man Maverick Hunter X but I haven't seen either of them for a long time. So the Dual UMD Pack containing both Mega Man Powered Up and Mega Man Maverick Hunter X was a no brainer for me. Saves me the trouble of tracking down two separate games. I just happened to nab GameStop's last copy and from what I've been told, they haven't been getting a great deal of them in. Better to buy now than be annoyed later when I can't find a copy. This combo pack also has the honor of being the very first PSP game I've ever purchased and I don't even own a PSP. Yet.

I'm glad I waited on buying Super Paper Mario. One of the earlier Wii titles, it's been priced at $50 new ever since it came out, with most used copies going for $34.99. With it being a Nintendo Selects title, a $20 price tag was just the right incentive to finally buy this one. That and some talk from one of the GameStop clerks that I talk with regularly. Now if I can just find Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door.

Monday, September 26, 2011

It's Mario's 30th Anniversary and Nintendo Doesn't Care

In 1981, Donkey Kong hit arcades, giving the world it's first look at Jumpman, a character whose name would be changed to Mario. This humble carpenter would go on to become the most recognizable face in all of video games, nay one of the most recognized fictional characters in the universe with popularity that eclipses even that of stars like Mickey Mouse.

So here we are in 2011, thirty years after Mario's debut. 30 years. That's a pretty big anniversary for the biggest video game icon on the planet. And yet Nintendo has absolutely nothing planned for the plumber's big anniversary. No game, no anniversary soundtrack, no special figurines. Nada, zip, zilch.  No, only the Super Mario Bros. series get special attention. Hey, no disrespect to Super Mario Bros. The game is a classic and one of my favorite video games. But without Donkey Kong, Mario wouldn't even be here and neither would that groundbreaking 1985 platformer, nor Nintendo's American branch. For that matter, I shudder to think what the video game industry would be without Mario. Suffice to say, it would be a very different place.

I really don't get why Nintendo doesn't view Mario's 30th anniversary as a big deal. Many video game characters don't even stick around for five years, but Mario has lasted for three decades. That is a huge triumph and I firmly believe he'll be here for another 30 years. From doing some searching on the net, it's crystal clear that the fans view Mario's 30th anniversary as something monumental. I love Nintendo, but sometimes I really don't know what the head brass of that company is thinking.

Friday, September 23, 2011

I MUST Get a 3DS Now

I admit that I haven't been the most positive supporter of Nintendo's latest handheld. The situation with the 3DS is very similar to that of it's predecessor, the original DS. When it launched, it didn't have a big library of must own games. But it didn't take long for that to change. Meteos, Mario Kart DS, New Super Mario Bros., Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. All of a sudden I was so glad I purchased the system because I was able to play these awesome games. As I look at the 3DS fall/winter lineup, it becomes increasingly apparent that I'm gonna have to get the system and soon.

They brought back Boom Boom? WANT!
Nintendo has a habit or reeling me in like bass when it comes to buying their systems. When I saw screens and commercials of Super Mario World, I wanted a SNES. Reading about Super Mario 64 and seeing the game in action? Had to get a N64. I didn't really keep up on this year's E3 (blasphemous, I know) so I'd only seen a few screens of some of the upcoming games for the 3DS. About a week or so ago, I saw the trailer for Super Mario 3D Land. My jaw hit the floor. It looks like Super Mario Galaxy 2 and the New Super Mario Bros. games made sweet, sweet love and Super Mario 3D Land is the offspring of that beautiful union. The Mario fanatic in me demands that I buy and play this game.

If anyone can make go carts and gliders work, it's Mario.
But getting a 3DS allows me to play more than Mario's latest portable platforming adventure. I'm also stoked about Mario Kart 7, which looks to be another fine handheld version of Mario Kart. Mario Kart DS was one of my favorite games in the Mario Kart series and possibly one of my all-time favorite Mario games. The trailer from the game showcases some fun looking tracks to race on, new power ups, and I've recently learned that the infamous blue shell no longer has wings, but works the same way it did in Mario Kart 64. Huzzah!

Super Mario 3D Land and Mario Kart 7 already have set release dates and it's looking like both will actually make their releases this year, so I just may have to chow down on some glass like I said I would. Regardless, my anticipation for these games is high, high enough to make me want to buy a 3DS this year. Of course there are still games coming out later on that I'm looking forward to.

Luigi's Mansion gets a lot of hate I was actually a fan of it. So I was excited to hear that it's getting a sequel and on the 3DS, no less. I wonder if it will make use of the add on analog stick that's coming out, since the original game used the analog and c-stick.

Hard as the original Kid Icarus was, I did enjoy it and I even finished it's Game Boy sequel, Kid Icarus: Of Myths & Monsters. Fans went nuts when Pit appeared in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and they probably went even more nuts when Kid Icarus: Uprising was announced. Of Myths & Monsters was a far easier game so I don't think I'll be too miffed if Uprising isn't as hard as the original game to star Pit.

As far as third part stuff goes, I've already got my sights set on Sonic Generations. Unlike the console version, it will be a strictly 2D affair, and I don't mind that. The Sonic Rush games got a lot of praise on the DS and they were 2D speed fests.

In the long run, I'm hoping the 3DS turns out like the original. Great first and third party support. But for right now, Super Mario 3D Land and Mario Kart 7 have me foaming at the mouth to get a 3DS.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Review: Sonic Colors

System: Wii
Genre: Platformer
Developer: Sonic Team
Publisher: Sega
Release: Nov 16, 2010 (USA) / Nov 12, 2010 (EU) Nov 11, 2010 (AUS) / Nov 18, 2010 (JPN)
Players: 1-2
Rated: E (Everyone)

There's a firm belief that the Sonic franchise has fallen from grace, having not seen a good game since the 16-bit Genesis days. This notion is of course, false. The Game Boy Advance Sonic Advance trilogy did the blue streak justice, and there was also success on Nintendo's DS with the Sonic Rush series. Heck, even both Sonic Adventure titles weren't bad games. Unfortunately, many fans either forget or flat out fail to acknowledge Sonic's handheld triumphs and any good 3D Sonic games are overshadowed by the awful ones. Shadow the Hedgehog was a disaster and the less said about the 2006 version of Sonic the Hedgehog the better. Sonic Unleashed caught a lot of flack for it's abundance of Werehog stages, which ruined an otherwise good game for quite a few players. If you're a bit weary on whether you should buy Sonic Colors or not, jump off the fence. Not only is Sonic Colors a splendid 3D Sonic game, it's one of the best games that Sega's mascot has ever stared in.

Sonic and Tails are checking out Eggman's new amusement park in space. The theme park was built in atonement for the doctor's past evil deeds. Unlike Mega Man though, Sonic is certain that his old foe is full of horse manure, believing the park to be part of some sinister plot that he'll have to clean up. And of course, Sonic is right. Like the aforementioned Mega Man, the game doesn't even try to hide the fact that Eggman is up to no good. Eggman is using creature's called Wisps to power his latest invention, which happens to be a mind control device, which will help him to surprise, surprise, take over the world. If nothing else, the doc is persistent.

Unlike a lot of other 3D Sonic games, there aren't any real gimmicks here. Like the Sonic games of old, you run through the level, collecting rings and trashing robots to get to the finish. The homing attack from the previous games returns and Sonic also has a wall jump and double jump, but it only gives you a slight boost. While Sonic Colors is primarily a 3D game, there a plenty of 2D segments. When the game switches to 2D, often times you'll have to slow down and time your movements carefully or fall into the abyss. It hearkens back to the older Sonic games where just holding right to blast through a stage was not enough. Like the older Sonic titles, Sonic Colors is about precision platforming just as well as it is about speed.

One of the most aggravating foes in the game. To make
matters worse, he shows up more than once. 
The usual assortment of springs, dash panels, and rails for grinding are all present and accounted for in Sonic Colors, and it's a mostly on-rails platform game. A good portion of the on-rails bits take place in the 3D perspective and sometimes require super fast reaction time. Unfortunately, the heads up that you need to react isn't all that apparent most of the time and can lead to cheap deaths. Regrettably, this is Sonic Color's biggest fault and it occurs in a majority of the areas you'll explore.

The majority of  the Wisp powers are fun to use and don't
overstay their welcome.
Despite the game taking place in space, there are still plenty of down-to-Earth environments to zip through. In fact, one wouldn't be too far off in thinking that it drew some of it's inspiration from some of the galaxies in Super Mario Galaxy 2. Sweet Mountain, the candy themed stage is filled with so much cake and sweets that you'll probably have an enormous sweet tooth by the time you're finished playing it. Aquarium Park, the obligatory water area is surrounded with H2O, and yes, you can drown here if you don't get air bubbles or make it to the surface in time. There are seven areas in total, but after clearing Tropical Resort, the first area of the game, you've actually got a few options of which area you wish to explore next. It's not totally nonlinear, as some areas are still blocked off, but it's still a nice change of pace in a Sonic game. With the exception of the last area, each area of the game has 6 acts and take place on their own sub map screen. The game automatically saves your progress after a level is completed, so you don't have to finish an entire area all in one sitting. Like most 3D Sonic games, you're ranked based on how long you took to complete the stage, the amount of rings collected, special rings collected and so on. There's a good replay value in going for higher scores to increase your rank.

Just like loop-the-loops, it wouldn't be a Sonic
game without rails to grind on.

As you go through the game's areas, you'll gain access to Wisp powers, which let Sonic take on some pretty cool forms and use new abilities such as the drill, hover, and frenzy. Unlike the Werehog from Sonic Unleashed, the Wisp powers are only with you for a very short time and add to the gameplay rather than detract from it.

Above, we already touched on the cheap deaths as one of the game's shortcomings. Sadly, that isn't the only one. Sonic Color's bosses leaving something to be desired. Yeah, the look cool, but most of them are simple to defeat and even worse, they get used over again in the same way that the bosses from both Super Mario Galaxy games did. For as much as Sonic Colors has going for it, it's a shame that it's boss battles are rather disappointing.

The story of Sonic Colors is much lighter than what gamers have come to expect of 3D Sonic games. It's very much tongue in cheek and after far too many serious Sonic story lines, it's a breath of fresh air. Surprisingly, the plot was written by the writers behind the Wii's MadWorld and the flash cartoon series Happy Tree Friends, if you can believe that. Many of the game's cut scenes are chuckle-worthy to laugh out loud funny. Each cutscene is a joy to look forward just to see the interaction between Sonic and Tails or Eggman and his flunkies.

Most of the game's trickiest platforming takes place in 2D.

You might be too busy running around to really take it in, but Sonic Colors is jaw-dropping in it's visuals. Even by Wii standards, the game looks every bit as good as the best looking platformers on the PlayStation 3 and 360. Even Sonic's less than stellar 3D titles have had amazing scores and Sonic Colors is no exception. Tropical Resort is a fantastic first level jam, but it's just the tip of the ice berg. The later areas like Aquarium Park and Planet Wisp are sure to be fan favorites. Like Sonic 3 & Knuckles, each area has a remixed tune of the Act 1 theme, two remixes, to be precise. It all adds up to giving Sonic Colors one of the best soundtracks of the whole series. The voices are also up to par with the music. Tails actually sounds like a kid, but not an annoying one. This probably has something to do with him being voiced by Kate Higgins, who has done a number of anime roles. Sonic is voiced by Roger Craig Smith, better known as Chris Redfield from the Resident Evil games resulting in one of the best voices Sonic has ever had. But if English voices aren't your thing, you can switch the audio to Japanese with English subtitles.

In 2D or 3D, Sonic Colors shines in any dimension. 
In every 3D Sonic game and the later 2D games in order to fight the game's true boss you had to collect all the Chaos Emeralds and become Super Sonic. That has thankfully been placed on the back burner here. The Chaos Emeralds can't even be collected in the main game. Instead you have to collect all the Special Rings (those red rings with stars) in the single player mode so the Chaos Emeralds can be obtained in each third act of the stage in the Sonic Simulator, a game that can be played single or co-op with a buddy. Once all the Chaos Emeralds are gathered, you can play through the single play mode as Super Sonic.

Occasional screwy level designs and some bland boss fights aren't enough to keep Sonic Colors down. The wealth of good overcomes the bad and Sonic Colors is a game with more heart, thought and care than most of Sonic Team's past efforts. The 3D sections are fun to barrel through, the 2D sections require your best platforming skills and the Whips are a welcome addition to the Sonic world. If you want to play one of the best games that the hedgehog has to offer, do yourself a favor and pick up Sonic Colors.

European and Australian gamers were treated to a limited edition of Sonic Colours. The limited edition was packaged with a Jazwares Sonic figure and three of the Wisps from the game. Gamers outside of the aforementioned region were left ouf in the cold. The upcoming Sonic Generations is also getting a special limited edition release but on a much grander scale. Once again, it looks like Sega will be giving the finger to gamers outside of Europe.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Virtual Console Purchases #7

Super Mario 64 (N64) 
When I did my Memories blog entry on Super Mario 64, I stirred up a huge desire to go back and play the game again. And since it's Mario's 30th anniversary, what better excuse to replay one of the plumber's finest games? Visually, it looks smoother on the Virtual Console and it controls great with the GameCube controller. I'm planning on going for all 120 Power Stars just like I did in the summer of 2009. Right now I'm up to 54. I plan on getting a few more Stars before going to bed but many of the 100 coin Stars in courses 6 and onward are just so irritating to get. I'm glare at you, Haze Maze Cave & Rainbow Ride.

Super Mario Kart (SNES) 
I thought about picking this one up the last few times I bought Virtual Console games, but I always went with other games. Not that I regret my purchases, but Super Mario Kart is a classic and kicked off the whole cart racing genre. You really can't go wrong with this game. It's been a few years since I've played it, but the original Super Mario Kart is very much like riding a bike. You never really forget how to play this game. 150 cc races might make my blood pressure rise, but I always have a blast with this game. I'm stoked to play through it again.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Sonic Through Time Figures + Tails

Jazwares has already been doing an admirable job on the Sonic figures and the line of figures for Sonic's 20th anniversary are icing on an already splendid cake. Tuesday, I picked up the 5" Sonic Through Time figures of Classic Sonic (1991) and Modern Sonic (2011) at Barns & Nobles. As to be expected, these are some awesome-looking figures, capturing the look of each Sonic's design perfectly. I just may ending up buying a second set of each of these 20th anniversary figures. I don't plan on having a set to sell or anything, but it'd be nice to have some still sealed, while the rest are displayed out of the packaging.

When I bought my Classic Sonic 3" 20th anniversary figure weeks ago, I was hoping Jazwares would put out a Classic Tails figure. I was very surprised to see just that when I went into fye. Like Classic Sonic, Classic Tails is shorter than his Modern counter part and has black eyes. Also, he's sickeningly cute. Pardon the blur on the photo as this was a serious pain to take pictures of, and I'm still learning to use digital cameras.

With all the Sonic figures, I'm buying, I really need to look into getting a display case. There's still little room to put my figures on display in my current setup and it would really be nice to have all these figures in one spot.

I know I've bought a lot of Sonic figures over the last few months, but it is the blue streak's 20th anniversary, and it's one of the best ways I can think of to celebrate. The other is writing reviews and having special blog posts.

This year also marks the anniversary of another famous icon, Mario. Yeah, Nintendo isn't making a big deal of it, but 2011 marks the plumber's 30th anniversary and I plan to celebrate it the same way I have Sonic's anniversary. So expect to see more Mario related posts in the future.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Heavy Rain Sells 2 Million, Devs Upset Due to Used Sales

Here we go again.

Heavy Rain, the PS3 exclusive managed to sell 2 million copies. Bravo, Quantic Dream! That's quite an accomplishment. But Guillaume de Foudaumiere isn't happy because according the game's trophy stats, 3 million gamers played it "without giving me one cent", meaning a good chunk of Heavy Rain copies were sold used. Can I get a million gamers to give this guy one penny to shut him up?

You know how many developers would kill to see their game move 2 million units in just brand new sales alone? Zack and Wiki was one of the best third party games on the Wii and made great use of the motion controls, but it didn't even come close to selling 400,000 copies. That's just on a rival system. Competing with the numerous Call of Duty and Madden sequels on the PS3 is no easy task. And Mr. Cry-Me-a-River at Quantic Dream is mad because he didn't see that extra million? Pffft. Please.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. We're living in tough economic times. Money is tight for a lot of people. Most new games are $50 and on the PS3 and 360, usually $60. Not everyone can afford to put that much down on a new game. The option to buy used can be pretty enticing as it's often a money saver.

Selling things used is perfectly legal. Cars, houses, books, music, there's a used market for all of it. Yet, developers & publishers in the game industry are the ones crying foul more than anyone when it comes to used games. Some have went as far as comparing those that buy used games to pirates.

Punch-Out!!, Kirby's Epic Yarn, Sin & Punishment: Star Successor, Donkey Kong Country Returns, Super Mario Galaxy 2, and New Super Mario Bros. Wii. Those are all games that I bought brand new so the money went straight to the companies. Did I buy all of them for $50? Of course not. Punch-Out!! and Sin & Punishment were obtained at K-Mart for $20 and GameStop dropped the price or Kirby's Epic Yarn from $50 to $30 new. So yes, I do support video game companies but not 100% of the time. I've wanted Kirby's Epic Yarn since it released, but I knew it wasn't a long game, which made it hard to justify dropping $50 for it new so I figured I'd wait for a price drop.

I know video game companies work hard for their money. Well guess what? So do we, the consumers. Gullaume would get some sympathy from me if he didn't come off as such a greedy, money grubbing jerk. Despite the accolades, it's gotten, Heavy Rain looks like an incredibly boring game to me. And yet it sold 2 million units. Still not enough to appease Gullaume for losing that extra million. I have three words for you, sir: Get over it.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Dual Analog for the 3DS and It's Not Pretty

Everyone else has had their say on it, so why shouldn't I sound off, too? I'm a week late, but whatever.

There's been talk in Nintendo that releasing the 3DS without dual analog was a mistake and if the scans that surfaced in Famitsu are any indication, it seems that Nintendo wants to address the problem. But I'm not sure this add-on is the way to go about it.

The 3DS will be getting another circle pad, but at the cost of adding more weight to the system. On top of that, said add-on is butt ugly. I'm sorry, but I have to agree with everyone else. That thing is hideous. And I'm pretty much against anything that puts more weight on a handheld.

Seeing this new add-on for the 3DS made me think of the Handy Boy for the original Game Boy. Sure, it came with a light, magnifying glass to make the picture easier to see and louder speakers. But in doing all that, it tripled the weight of the system and the first Game Boy was no light weight. That thing was given the nickname "The Brick" for a reason.

You certainly aren't getting less, that's
for sure.
As much of an eyesore as the new 3DS add-on is, it may be better than the alternative. With Nintendo's history of releasing new handheld models of the Game Boy Advance and DS, the last thing people want to do is shell out more cash for a sleeker model with features that should have been built into the first one. Besides, making a new 3DS with dual analog could just make the thing even bigger and I quite like my Nintendo portables to be as compact as possible.

Maybe some third party will come up with a more sophisticated dual analog for the 3DS. As it stands, I'll be sticking with single analog when I pick up the system.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Memories #3: Super Mario 64

Mario has been with me through my childhood, teenage years, and well into adulthood. He's like a friend that I never get tired of hanging out with. We've gone adventuring, played doctor, and even raced go-carts together. I was even there for him when he would make my ears bleed with that ear-piercing scream as an infant with Yoshi. When I was 15 years old, I was also there to witness Mario take his next big step: into the third dimension.

The plumber redefined the 2D platform game in 1985 with the release of Super Mario Bros., which also worked as a much needed Phoenix Down to revive the North American video game market after it crashed two and half years prior. Since then, Mario went on to star in a number of other games but platforming would always be his forte, despite excelling in just about everything else. If Mario showed us 2D platforming perfection, he was the man to show us how it ought to be done in 3D.

Blah blah blah. CAKE? I'm SO there!
By the time the Nintendo 64 was nearing it's release, my dad had bought himself a PlayStation and he'd let me play games on it whenever I liked because I took care of my own systems pretty well. Being a hardcore Nintendo fan, I still wanted a Nintendo 64 but when I saw Super Mario 64, I wanted that system more than I wanted my next breath. The PlayStation and the Saturn had hit the scene before Nintendo's new console and for all those systems offered, the 3D revolution hadn't really hit me yet. It's like I didn't really see what the next generation of gaming had to offer until I played Super Mario 64. In case you couldn't tell, the impact this game had on me was huge.

I have all sorts of fond memories of Super Mario 64, all of which I'll get to in a minute. But to this day, one of my favorite scenes from the game, in any video game, is the opening cut scene. When I think about it, it's kind of ironic because it's not all that Earth-shattering, but it did a fine job of getting me exited to play the game. Well, even more exited. After we read a letter from the Princess Peach, the camera circles around her castle, taking us to the front entrance. Once there, a green pipe rises from the ground. Now we've seen Mario exit from pipes a million times. Even in 1996, it was nothing new because by that time, Mario had been doing the pipe thing for more than 10 years. But like so many other things, Super Mario 64 managed to make Mario's entrance via warp pipe look epic. When Mario jumped out of that pipe and shouted "YAHOO! Ha ha!" I thought it was one of the coolest things I'd ever seen. For someone lacking in attitude, Mario sure does know how to make an entrance.

A great deal of fun for me simply came from running around in any direction I wanted. So many times I would just screw around with Mario's different jump techniques, walking slowly, crawling, running in circles, you name it. Goofing off was just as fun as the main quest.

When I did focus on saving Peach, it was a lot of fun. Oh, was it a lot of fun. It may seem a bit more simplified when compared to both Super Mario Galaxy titles and Super Mario Sunshine, but for me, running, jumping and collecting in Super Mario 64 was some of the most fun I've had in a Mario game or any video game for that matter. Each of the game's 15 courses were massive and exploring them in three dimensions gave the game a much broader feel than the 2D Mario games. Exploring the castle was just as much fun as running through the Bob-omb Battlefield or any other course. Super Mario 64 brought an unprecedented amount of freedom that I had never seen in a video game at the time.

Mario's method of entering the courses also deserves a mention. To enter a course, Mario would actually leap through a painting. It's as if he jumped into the pages of a story book and each page was it's own world. No longer was going to point A to point B enough in this game. You actually had to make multiple trips to the course to retrieve the Power Stars. To obtain a Star sometimes you'd have to climb a mountain, hitch a ride from an owl, defeat a mini boss, win a race, or hop into a canon and blast off. Super Mario 64 contained 120 Power Stars and I was determined to find as many as I possibly could.

The first few courses were pretty easy for me. I had little to no trouble with Bob-omb Battlefield, though I died a number of times in Whomp's Fortress. Still, I was hungry for more Power Stars because as I found more of them, more of the game opened up. I remember coming upon a door on the first floor of the castle that had a huge star on it. When I tried to enter, I was told that I needed 8 Stars to open that door and proceed. I had to know what was behind that door so I raced off to get more Stars.

I can remember being as giddy as a school girl when I finally collected up to 8 Stars. I passed through the door, climbed up a short set of stairs and started running towards a picture of Princess Peach. As I got closer to the picture, I noticed it slowly began to change. The image morphed from Peach to Bowser! That was surprise in and of itself and before that shock could fully set in, a trap door opened and sent me to a course called Bowser in the Dark World. This was not what I had in mind when I opened up that door.

This area was pretty intimidating to me at first.
Bowser in the Dark World was a liner course with just one Star to obtain, but the main goal here was to defeat Bowser and get the key to unlock the basement portion of the castle. I wasn't expecting to tangle with Bowser this early in the game and I was really caught off guard. The painting, the trap door, the theme music (as good as it was, still is), and the course itself, all of it just threw me off balance. I struggled in this world a lot. It took me numerous tries before I made it to the green pipe that would lead me to Bowser. These days I can do this stage in my sleep. When I was 15 years old, that was not the case.

Nintendo Power had actually given away some VHS tapes to some of it's subscribers before Super Mario 64 was released in the United States. Some of the footage on this tape showed a lucky select few playing Super Mario 64 and one of the highlights of this tape was the fight with Bowser. He couldn't be stomped on. You couldn't shoot fire at him (no Fire Flower in the game) and there was certainly no ax to send him into a pit of lava. If you wanted to defeat the King of the Koopas in this game, you had to grab him by the tail, swing him around and toss him into one of the bombs surrounding the area. So I knew what needed to be done to beat Bowser. I felt like that tape had prepared me and victory was assured.

Someone's been hitting the gym.
Unfortunately, when I jumped down that pipe and saw Bowser as this menacing theme played, well, you needed a forklift to pick my jaw up off the floor. Bowser had always been bigger than Mario but here, he was freaking huge! It was like looking up at Godzilla! Just because I knew how to take down Bowser, didn't mean pulling it off would be easy. I was mostly crippled by fear and not knowing how to properly throw Bowser. Sometimes I'd throw him too short a distance, other times I'd throw him off the area, at which point he would jump right back up, scaring me out of my whits. Needless to say, I failed on my first try, but sheer determination sent me to fight him again. I didn't lose near as many lives fighting Bowers as I did going through the course to get to him. In fact, I found that getting close to him and grabbing his tail was very easy to do. When I threw him and finally connected him to one of those bombs, I felt like a champion. Seeing that explosion and Bowser land on his shell made the struggle all worth it. Save for the last battle, Bowser didn't really give me much trouble after that.

My enjoyment of aquatic levels in games tends to be hit or miss, but I favor Super Mario 64's water stages. The first time Mario flipped into Jolly Roger Bay, I was overwhelmed by the peaceful music that played. I always found it nice that another layer of music would be added as soon as Mario started swimming in the water and in some cases, drums would be added to it once you were back on land. Much as I loved the game's underwater segments, it wasn't all smooth sailing. I was horrified the first time I saw Mario drown. I know from experience that drowning in games sucks, but seeing Mario do the dead man's float is downright disturbing.

Rainbows mean nothing but misery in Super Mario 64.
Super Mario 64 had few power ups and they were limited, but no less awesome additions to Mario's growing array of abilities. The Wing Cap was awesome for allowing you to fly. It had it's restrictions and unless you were fired out of a cannon you didn't have as much speed, but it was still pretty awesome. Just flying around the Wing Cap course was so exhilarating. The Vanish Cap let you play the roll of the Invisible Girl, but what could arguably be my favorite power-up from the game would have to be the Metal Cap. Mario gets covered in a full suit of metal, is impervious to harm, his feet make this killer clang sound with every step and he gets this awesome remix of the Starman theme.

For a while, it bugged me that I was never able to get 120 Stars. So in the summer of 2009, I hooked up the N64 and started a brand new game. It took a lot of work, but I finally managed to get all 120 Stars. My friend Lucas Stephens has actually gotten all 120 Stars on all four save files of his copy. I wonder if it was one of his favorite Mario titles.

Super Mario 64 was ported over to the DS with Yoshi, Wario, and Luigi as playable characters with their own special abilities. There were also an additional 30 Stars, giving Super Mario 64 DS 150 Stars to collect. The visuals were also touched up. Even so, I still prefer the N64 version of the game. It controls a lot better and I don't have to switch out characters to get certain Stars.

After 15 years, Super Mario 64 is still one of my favorite Mario games, one of my all-time favorite games, and possibly my favorite of the 3D Mario games. The original Super Mario Galaxy may beat it out but I still have to play through it again several times to decide on that one. The only things you collect are coins and Stars so there's not an overabundance of collectibles, something that would kill my interest in other 3D platform games. When I think of Super Mario 64, I think of a great game that offers good times. For all of the boundaries this game pushed and doors it opened in gaming, when you get right down to it, Super Mario 64 is a absurdly fun game. When it comes to pure, concentrated fun, this game has it in spades.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Zelda: Skyward Sword & Sonic Generations Collector's Editions

Some games will get released with more than one version. There's the standard edition, where you get the game and that's pretty much all you get. Special Editions, however, are a bit different. You get the game and some goodies that serve to set it apart from the standard release. Whatever bonus contents you get depends on whatever the developers want to include. This can range from soundtracks, art books, action figures, etc. You'll also have to fork over some extra cash because the Collector's Editions always cost more. Do you think it's worth spending some more green on a Limited Edition? That all depends on you.

Normally, I just buy the standard editions of a game. The only Limited Edition game I own is the Wii version of Super Mario All-Stars and while I was initially excited bout it, I've since had time to reflect on things and have come to agree with everyone else that it could have been a  lot better. Super Mario All-Stars Limited Edition was Nintendo's way of celebrating 25 years of Super Mario Bros. While I love Super Mario All-Stars, the extra content included was pathetically bare bones, and did not do the Super Mario series justice. Nintendo's screw up hasn't done anything to really steer me away from buying a Special Edition game, though. In fact, there are a two upcoming releases, each with a Limited Edition that I'm planning to purchase.

Take notes, Nintendo. THIS is how you celebrate a mascot's anniversary.
Sonic Generations, the upcoming Sonic adventure celebrating the world's most famous hedgehog's 20th anniversary is getting a lovely collector's edition that will include a statue of Classic and Modern Sonic, a Gold Ring with an individual number, a 20th anniversary art book containing never-before-seen sketches, a 20th anniversary soundtrack, a documentary on the history of Sonic, DLC pack with the Casino Night Zone stage, and a theme for your console. Man, that's a sizable amount of goods! Good job, Sega! Well, almost. See, for whatever stupid reason, the Sonic Generations Collector's Edition is a European-only release. Great for our pals in Europe, but all the other regions get screwed. One word, Sega: WHY?! Seriously, this Collector's Edition will probably sell well in all regions. I may have to find a European website to buy this off of. Sega Also hasn't given any details on price but one look at that pic, tells me that it's easily gonna be over 100 bucks. 

I was going to get The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword eventually, but upon finding out that the first shipment will come with a 25th anniversary orchestral soundtrack, I decided to do something I haven't done in a long time: pre-order. The Limited Edtion comes with a Gold Wii Remote. I didn't think that was anything really special, but considering that Wii Remotes cost $40, and that I'd essentially be paying $20 for a Gold Wii Remote, I may as well just grap the Limited Edition. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

We Need Some Mario and Sonic Art Books

I don't own a great deal of them, but I do enjoy looking through video game art books. The Mega Man/Mega Man X Official Complete Works are without question some of the best books I own. Having easy access to Mega Man artwork is a dream come true. So why haven't Sonic and Mario, two of the biggest faces in gaming been given similar art book treatment?

Look, I already know there's a ton of art work for Sonic and Mario ranging from rough sketches to finished pictures. Sure, you can view it all on the net, but wouldn't it be nice to have all that art in one nice sized book? If anyone in gaming deserves complete works game art books, it's the world's fastest hedgehog and the most popular plumber. Since Mario is nearly 30 years old and Sonic is 20 years old, the amount of artwork for each book could easily amount to two of largest video game art books to date.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Games You're Sick of Hearing About

This isn't a bad game, but many hate it
because the hype it generates is
Special thanks to Alpha Omega Sin for inspiring this post.

Years ago there was a website called GamingFM. It was a website that worked as an online radio station that played nothing but video game music. There were numerous stations you could listen to but I usually stuck to the modern and classic channels. The site also let users submit requests from songs that were already in the station's database. On the modern station one song that I heard a lot was "One Winged Angel" from Final Fantasy VII. That's the theme that plays when you fight Sephiroth's second form. Anyway, I heard that song every day on the modern station. Every. Single. Day. Because I heard it so often, I stopped listening to the modern station and got fed up with that song all together. That song grated on my nerves so much that I can barely tolerate it today do to it's overexposure on that website. The thing is, I never really hated One Winged Angel until I heard it a million times a week. Hearing that song so often made me sick to death of it. Unfortunately, this can happen with songs we like that get played far too many times. It's not limited to music. It can happen with movies, shows, even video games.

If there's one game that's everywhere these days, it's Call of Duty. While it's sold millions and remains popular, a lot of gamers that don't even play the series are tired of hearing about it. Why? Because it's everywhere. It's in books, video game magazines, the internet, even on cars. No one is safe from this game's ever reaching shadow. They can't breath without being reminded that Call of Duty exists in the universe.

I've never played a single Call of Duty game, but I can attest to one of the people getting annoyed with constantly hearing about it (and hear I am, bringing it up, thus generating more talk about the series. Irony, I know). Call of Duty is such an in-your-face series, arguably the biggest out there, that I'm not even sure if I would play it if I was given the chance.

But it's not just limited to Activision's cash cow series. Somewhere out there is a group of gamers that are fed up with all the Madden hype. They probably wouldn't shed any tears if that series finally died. In just six years time, the Guitar Hero series has pumped out enough sequels and spin-offs to make Street Fighter II jealous.

This can also apply to retro titles. I love Mega Man 2, but I also think it's overrated. Dr. Wily Stage 1 has been remixed more than any other Mega Man track. The entire classic Mega Man series has superb music but all too often remixers do a track from Mega Man 2. Keiji Inafune loves Mega Man 2 so much (maybe a bit too much) that Mega Man 9 and 10 were maid to play more like that game, removing the slide and charge shot, something that irked more than a few players. I really enjoyed Mega Man 9 and 10, but in sort of feels like those games could never really stand on their own because they were trying to be too much like Mega Man 2.

So what games are you sick of hearing about?

Friday, September 2, 2011

Wii: Remembered as Another Nintendo 64/GameCube?

Nintendo surprised many when the company unveiled the Wii. It's design was even more compact than the GameCube, and it's controller, the Wii Remote, which resembles a TV remote with far less buttons, stood out from anything that came before it.  The Wii was also vastly under powered when compared to Sony and Microsoft's systems, being only slightly more powerful than it's predecessor. While this undoubtedly was a negative to some, this also kept the cost of the system down, making it affordable to just about everybody before the price drops that would come years later. Inferior specs did not stop the Wii from dominating. The accessible controller, marketing and pack-in game, Wii Sports made the Wii fly off the shelves. In terms of sales, I don't think anyone can really call the Wii a failure. With worldwide sales close to 90 million units, the Wii is easily Nintendo's most successful console. Bringing in the most green of all three current generation platforms, the Wii has placed The Big N back in the number one spot.

Game wise, however, is a different story. Many Wii owners will comment that their Wii doesn't see much play time and collects dust as a result. With it's motion-based controls granting more accessibility to a wider audience, the Wii has attracted a reputation for being a system for the casual gamer. Hardcore games do exist on the Wii but they aren't in the vast numbers of what one would find on the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360.

I didn't buy a Wii until March of 2010 and I've wanted one since it launched in the fall of 2006. My Wii doesn't collect dust because it's always being played, though this may be due to the fact that I was a late adopter. Currently I own 30 games for the Wii and there are still more I want to pick up. For me, the draw from the Wii comes from Nintendo's first and second party games. There's also the Virtual Console service, which is home to a plethora of fantastic old-school games. I have 70 games I downloaded for the Virtual Console and there's still more I want to add to the collection. Along with the regular Wii games, the Virtual Console is a great addition, even if there are dry spots between releases.

That being said, it's not hard to see why the Wii may be remembered as another N64/GameCube. Both of those systems had quality titles but the quantity was severely lacking when compared to the competition and it's previous systems, the NES and SNES. Nintendo has preached quality over quantity in the N64 days and that seems to be something that has lasted across three generations of home consoles. Quality games is fine but why can't there be a nice blend of both?

Well for one, as was mentioned above, the Wii isn't packing the same technical punch as the PS3 and 360. For this reason, a lot of high profile games get passed on the Wii in favor of it's rivals. The other reason, which kinda goes along with the first one, is a lack of third party support. The Wii gets most of it's good third party titles from Sega, Capcom and Ubisoft. Good companies to get support from, but when compared to the PS3 and 360, it's almost like a drop in a bucket.

It's funny. Both the Saturn and the Dreamcast died premature deaths outside of Japan, yet each of those systems is viewed in high regard as some of the best consoles one can own. The N64 and GameCube lived out full console lifespans and take heat for not being on the same level as the NES and SNES. Why is that? Is Nintendo held in a higher light than Sega? No, because the PSP is in a similar situation to the Wii. Yeah it has some awesome games, but not as many as the DS, which also received far more third party support than Sony's portable. But that doesn't make the PSP worthless, same with the Wii. Unfortunately we live in a gaming industry where if something is good, but not as good as what came before it, in some way, it's still inferior. So while the Wii has games that are worth owning, in the end, it will more than likely be viewed by most as a system that paled in comparison to the 360 and the PS3, despite outselling both by a wide margin.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Latest Game Purchases #12: Video Game Heaven Haul Edition

For some reason or another I decided to take a trip to Video Game Heaven on Tuesday, one of my in between days off from work. I could have easily gone on Thursday or Friday since I have those days off, too, but I thought I'd go on Tuesday just to be done with it. Turns out every Tuesday is 10% off on all purchases. Score!

The $4 bin of PS2, Xbox and GameCube games had some nice titles to offer again. I was able to pick up a complete copy of Jak 3 and complete the PS2 Jak and Daxter trilogy. I'm really looking forward to going through this series and I may pick up the spin off Jak X: Combat Racing someday.

I also bought Burnout 3: Takedown for $7.99. Burnout 3 is my favorite Burnout game and one of my favorite PS2 racers. It's complete, but the case is a bit worse for ware. I'll have to get a better case. One of the best arcade-style racing game deserves it.

I'm a huge fan of Robotech. I once owned the GameCube version of Robotech: Battlecry and it was another of those games that I traded. It may not have been the best licensed game but I did enjoy what I played some years ago. I'm happy to have it in my collection once more. For those of you not in the know, Robotech is an action/drama anime series that features transforming mechs that can launch a barrage of missiles. That's the short version. It would take way too much time to explain in depth about one of my favorite animes here.

There are still a few GameCube games I need to pick up before I'm finished buying games for that system but Chibi-Robo! was a game I didn't ever really plan on buying. It was there the last time I was at Video Game Heaven and I told myself that if it was still there, I'd pick it up. I'm not quiet sure how to explain it, but I felt compelled to buy Chibi-Robo! as if the self titled character was staring right back at me with those little eyes saying "Buuuuuy meeeeee!" The came was complete and the more I read about it on the back of the case and  in the game's manual, the stranger it sounds. From what I gather, it's not your conventional game and I'm really surprised Nintendo published something like this six years ago.

A good friend loaned me his copy of the SNES game Demon's Crest a few years back. It's a fantastic spin-off title in the Ghost 'n Goblins series staring Firebrand, who looks like one of the enemies that Arthur encounters during his quest to save his lady love. Demon's Crest is far more forgiving than any of Arthur's adventures and it has a dash of RPG elements. I liked Demon's Crest so much that I sought out Gargoyle's Quest II on the NES about five years ago. It's another game staring Firebrand that I need to complete. Both it and Demon's Crest need to see Virtual Console releases. Make it happen, Capcom.

Remember the Super FX chip on the SNES? It maid polygonal graphics possible on Nintendo's 16-bit machine. Mention that chip and most people will think of StarFox but there were a few other games that made use of it, such as Stunt Race FX. This game doesn't have the greatest controls but it's still fun and it hardly cost anything. Looking forward to playing it again.

I was told by one of the clerks that no one was buying their Genesis games, which is odd because they have a nice selection. They had the entire Phantasy Star Genesis trilogy for chump change. The only reason I bought Phantasy Star II and IV is because I already have a physical copy of Phantasy Star III. Both games were only $9.99. I'd always assumed both of those games would go for $20 or more considering the reputation they have. Oh well, I'm not complaining. Wonder Boy in Monster World was even cheaper, going for $3.99.

Back in 1998, I played a demo of Einhander. A few years later, I found a new copy of the game at KB Toys for $24.99. Then for some stupid reason, I traded it in. Einhander ended up becoming one of those rare PS1 games. So I was surprised to see it in Video Game Heaven for the exact same price I paid for nearly 10 years ago. The case was cracked but the clerk replaced it with a fresh one. Was mighty nice of him. Not only is Ehinder a unique shooter, it also has a stand out musicals core. One of the boss themes, Shudder is hands down, one of the best boss tracks I've ever heard.  

I remember reading about Silhouette Mirage on the PlayStation in 1998 in Game Informer and Electronic Gaming Monthly. I wanted to play the game but was never able to find a copy. Years later, I found out that the game was originally released on the Saturn in 1997 and ported to Sony's system a year later. Being an import, I was worried that Silhouette Mirage would be costly, but it turned out to be pretty affordable at only $34.99. It's also on Sony's PlayStation Network in Japan. The American version is actually a lot harder due to the changes Working Designs implemented. I guess I'm better off with the Saturn version after all. I ended up buying this because it was a recommended import on Retro Gamer's Sega Saturn Collector's Guide feature.

I've always been a huge fan of the Gradius series and it's spin-offs. The Gradius Deluxe Pack has arcade perfect ports of Gradius and Gradius II. I was never able to get the arcade rom of Gradius on MAME to work so it's nice to finally be able to play the arcade version on the Saturn. Much as I like the NES version of Gradius, it's nice to have easy access to arcade Gradius at last. Gradius II seems to be just as hard and relentless as the PC-Engine version that I have on the Virtual Console. Both games have English text, so no knowledge of the Japanese language is required. Salamander Deluxe Pack Plus has three games on it, Salamander, Life Force and Salamander 2, all arcade perfect. Salamander 2 is one of my favorite shooters to play on MAME and now I can fire it up on the Saturn whenever I like. What little text it has int he game is also all in English.

Each time I went into Video Game Heaven, I saw Power Drift. I've never played the game, but I'm aware that it was developed by Yu Suzuki, of OutRun, Super Hang-On, and Space Harrier fame. I was still unsure of whether I should pick it up or not. What talked me into picking it up was Retro Gamer's "Why You Must Play" feature on Power Drift. That magazine has no problem swaying me.