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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Matter of Opinion

I was watching a new episode of Game Grumps where Arin and Jon are playing Contra III: The Alien Wars. Jon brought up Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time and Arin went off about how he can't stand the game. While I was surprised to hear this (Turtles in Time is one of my favorite beat 'em ups) I can totally respect Arin's opinion. He even stated reasons why he hates the game, the main one being that it's very repetitive. Beat 'em ups are by nature, the same thing over and over and I can see where that may sour for some people. And speaking of sour, the taste Arin's comments about Turtles in Time left in the mouths of a some viewers was exactly that.

Grump fans lived up to the name when
Arin announced his disdain for Turtles
in Time.

Now every video on YouTube no matter how popular is always going to get it's share of dislikes. But the sheer number of dislikes for this video (currently over 1,150) mostly came from Arin's dissing of Turtles in Time. If you don't want to take my word for it, just check the comments section. The video in question can be viewed here. Bear in mind that Game Grumps is not a show for kids. As much as I love Turtles in Time, I have to say, disliking the video just because Arin hates the game is pretty petty. However, the world we live in is one where you're viewed as an individual that needs to be hauled off in a straight jacket because you're mentally ill upstairs. If you don't share the popular opinion, you're a certifiable nut job, unfit to mingle with the normal people of society. Sad, but that's what so many people think. Movies, music, even games are not exempt from this way of thinking.

As Jon predicted, Arin is taking quite a bit of heat from Game Grump fans. Arin is fine with it and I salute him for sticking to his guns. Thing is, I know where Arin is coming from. I've made it no secret that I hate Chrono Cross, a game many say is one of the best RPGs ever made. While many will praise the game until the end of time, I stand by my opinion that the game is garbage. My opinion. You know, something that isn't set in stone. Not fact. A few years back on the DigitalPress forums, I think we were talking about overrated games and I listed Chrono Cross as a game I couldn't stand. Sure enough, someone could not believe that there existed someone in this world that didn't share their opinion of the game everyone and their dog loves. Like Arin, I stated why I hate Chrono Cross, lack of time travel, too many characters, said characters have no personality, and the confusing story. And wouldn't you know, the poster still couldn't see how I could hate the game. At that point I just agreed to disagree and let that be the end of it.

One of the best RPGs ever?
I beg to differ.
You've probably heard of Zombi U. It was one of the most anticipated Wii U games. Then some negative reviews came out and it was labeled as an awful game. But there were some positive reviews, too. Heck some gamers even bought the game and ended up liking it. Are you one of those gamers? You're a lunatic.

Sonic CD is one of the Sonic games Sonic fans fondly talk about as one of the best games in the hedgehog's career. While I do think it's a good game, in no way do I think it's the pinnacle of Sonic gaming that so many claim it is. The game's level design is some of the worst I've seen in a Sonic game. There are way too many springs that can send you into hazards like spikes and the pinball elements in this game are just plain overkill. The overabundance of springs makes getting out of the first two levels of Stardust Speedway a huge headache. Yet these glaring flaws rarely get mentioned by fans or in reviews. But if you don't view it was one of the best Sonic games ever? Expect the white coats at your door real soon.

I'd like to know just what makes one crazy for not agreeing with someone else. Where is it written that we all have to like or dislike the same games? Why is one person perfectly normal and the other is ready for the loony bin for not seeing things the way they do? Someone please explain it to me because I'd really like to know.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Favorite Tunes #37: Super Smash Bros. Edition

SUPER SMAASSSHHHHH BROTHEEEEEERSSSSSS!! The title scream from the first game is still the best. Even at a mere three games in, the Super Smash Bros. games are one of my favorite Nintendo properties. Masahiro Sakurai and HAL have crafted a super fighter. Well, is this series a fighter? You know, I really don't care. It's just a lot of fun. Notable for it's chaotic gameplay, the Super Smash Bros. series has fantastic original music and some of the best remixes around.

You wouldn't think a hand would be too threatening but the Master Hand hand assaults the player with a barrage of attacks and shows just how nasty five fingers can be. There are no gimmicks to the battle arena, Final Destination, which is a flat surface, making it easier for the player to focus on evading Master Hands attacks. Hirokazu Ando's original version of Final Destination is a perfect representation of Master Hand's savagery. If I recall, this thing handed quite a few gamer overs when I first started playing.

Bonus Game - Super Smash Bros. (N64)

Super Smash Bros. did much to differentiate itself from other fighters. It's gameplay style was set up so that platforming elements didn't feel out of place. This could be the reason why the bonus games felt so right. Bonus games came in two different flavors: Break the Targets and Board the Platforms. Each character had their own stage layout for both bonus games and mastery of each character's double and triple jump was needed to successfully complete each game. Break the Targets has appeared in all three Super Smash Bros. games while Board the Platforms hasn't been seen since.

Mute City - Super Smash Bros. Melee (GCN)

A hidden character in the first game, Captain Falcon was lacking his own stage. This was remedied in Super Smash Bros. Melee. Mute City is the Captain's hometown and this version of Mute City is modeled after the one in F-Zero X. The battle arena contains a rising platform that scrolls across the race track and every so often, the 30 F-Zero racers will come speeding by. If you don't get out of their way, you risk becoming Mute City roadkill. Mute City is one of my favorite arenas to battle in when I play Melee. I love this stage for it's design and the excellent Mute City remix that comes with it.

Hyrule Temple - Super Smash Bros. Melee (GCN)

Zelda II: The Adventure of Link is often looked upon as the black sheep of the Zelda series. It was radically different from the original game, featuring loads of side scrolling and a hefty dose of RPG elements. Zelda II was also much harder than it's predecessor. And yet, it's one of my favorite Zelda titles. This game introduced elements that the series would be all the poorer without. Can you imagine the Super Smash Bros. games without Link's downward thrust? Yeeshh. I don't wanna live in a world where Link can't perform that move. It was quite the wonderful surprise to hear an arrangement of Zelda II's magnificent Temple theme.

Metal Battle - Super Smash Bros. Melee (GCN)

I wanted to pick an original song from Melee to include on this list and Metal Battle won over Multi-Man Melee 2. When you pick up the Metal Cap item, your whole body is covered in metal. Due to the increase in weight, you become much harder to knock back. One of the battles in Melee's single player mode pits the player against a metalized Mario and Luigi  except their metal forums are permanent so you have to send them flying as metal. On the lower difficulty settings, the fight isn't really hard. Playing on Hard or Very Hard? Get ready for some frustration.

Fire Emblem - Super Smash Bros. Melee (GCN)

For many, then first time Fire Emblem was brought to their attention was through the characters of Marth and Roy in Melee. Their appearances sowed the seeds that would help bring the first Fire Emblem to America and Europe in 2003's GBA Fire Emblem, which was actually the seventh game in the series. This theme is an arrangement of the original Fire Emblem's Encounter theme and the Fire Emblem Main Theme, the later which has been heard in every single Fire Emblem game. HAL wisely choose to include this theme in Super Smash Bros. Brawl.

Main Menu - Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Wii)

Like the original and Melee before it, Brawl was given a brand new Main Theme. The new theme that played during the incredible opening sequence was accompanied by Latin singing. You don't need to know the language to appreciate the brilliance of the musical piece. Brawl's first version of the Main Menu theme may drop the lyrics, but it's no less of an epic song. There would be times where I would leave the game idle on the Menu just to hear this music. Very few menu themes sound this superb.

Battleship Halberd Stage - Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Wii)

The third Smash Bros. games offers far more music than the first two games combine. Even if you don't take into account that some themes are reused from Melee, Brawl still has plenty of brand new remixes. To unlock some songs, you have to keep an eye out for music CDs that drop at random. Thankfully Battleship Halberd is available from the get go. An arrangement of the Halberd themes in Kirby Super Star, anyone that hears this theme is sure to be hit with waves of memories from taking down Meta Knight's warship.

Airship Theme (Super Mario Bros. 3) - Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Wii)

Say what you will about Bowser's incompetence. He constantly keeps the thing that can defeat him within Mario's reach (an axe/switch). But he really knows how to build an airship and trick it out you cannons and Bullet Bills. This certainly isn't the first time the classic Airship theme has been arranged in a Nintendo game. Even before Super Mario Galaxy, an arrangement can be heard in the N64 classic, Paper Mario.

Tunnel Scene (X) - Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Wii)

One of the many great things about the Smash Bros. series is it's homage to so many Nintendo franchises, those that are well known, have cult classic status, and those that aren't really recognized outside of Japan. Many of the lesser known properties are given respect in the form of trophies and music. Take the Japan only Game Boy game X, for instance. The first level of that game, Tunnel Scene was given a spectacular remix for Brawl and can be heard on one of the Star Fox stages. Despite never playing X or even known about it's existence before unlocking this song, this Tunnel Scene arrangement is one of my favorite pieces of Nintendo music. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Final Nintendo Power Should Hit Stores on Dec 11

It was announced months ago that the December issue of Nintendo Power would be the final issue. With the month right around the corner, it looks like we're ever closer to the end of an era. Nintendo Power staff writer Phil Theobald posted on his Twitter that the final issue of Nintendo Power should hit new stands on December 11. 

Sad to see such a great magazine go. Nintendo Power was the first game mag I ever picked up but as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. Much as I don't want to see Nintendo Power go, I will be picking up the final issue and will look forward to reading it. Are you a fan of Nintendo Power? Then make sure you pick up the last issue while you're out doing your Christmas shopping. Make the final issue one of the best selling in the history of video game mags.

Currently Playing #6

Here's what games have been keeping me busy over the Thanksgiving weekend.

Donkey Kong Country Returns (Wii)

As usual, I'm late to the party to play this two year old Wii platformer. I've had Donkey Kong Country Returns for about a year now. I was looking for a Wii game I hadn't started yet and feeling a bit nostalgic for a platformer that I played around the holiday season (the original DKC also released around Thanksgiving), DKCR won out. As they say, it's on like Donkey Kong.

DKCR feels a bit different from the first two DKCR games and that's to be expected. With Rare gone, the handling of DKCR was passed down to Retro Studios and after what they did with the Metroid games, I think Nintendo chose wisely. While DKCR may feel a bit different, it also feels familiar. Donkey Kong can roll, slap the ground and shoot out of barrels just like he did in 1994. Good stuff all around and gives me the warm and fuzzies. I even got to ride Rambi in one level! Diddy's back and it's about time, too! (Sorry) Sadly, you can't control him when playing solo but he'll assist you with his jet pack as well as giving you an additional two hearts. That's right, you have a heart counter to give you two hits before you die.

DCKC is very much a Nintendo Hard game. In just first world alone I've died so many times. Heck, I ended up dying on the first stage, much to my embarrassment. I'm ever so thankful for each extra hit I'm allowed to take and in some levels, there are things that are instant death. I was already sweating bullets on the level Crazy Cart. A mine cart stage in the first world? Really? After what the first few levels put me through I was not looking forward to it. Just because there are no rails that doesn't mean it's the end of the carting section. I was surprised to see that thing was still riding along as if it were on rails. Thankfully Crazy Cart wasn't too difficult but I just know the later mine cart levels will pull no punches.

Finding everything in each level requires finding all the Kong letters and puzzle pieces. A few puzzle pieces are hidden in bonus arenas and to successfully complete a bonus area, you have to get all the bananas and coins. In a time limit, no less. I had to redo the levels in the first world numerous times before getting everything. Not sure if I'll be doing DCKR 100%, but I'll do my best.

I'm still getting used to the controls. I'm playing with just the Wii Remote and I keep mixing up blowing with DK's ground slap move. Rolling is also a bit weird. You have to press forward and shake the Wii Remote to roll. It's not a huge deal but it takes me out of the game a bit because I have to stop and remember what does what.

Cranky Kong was always one of my favorite characters so it was great to see him come back. He has a shop on each world where you can use your banana coins to purchase all kinds of goodies like extra lives (oh do I NEED all those extra lives) Squaks to help you find puzzle pieces, and extra hearts. Just like the days of old, Cranky Kong is still a grumpy old Kong and I love him for that.

Monster World IV (GEN)

In an effort to add more Virtual Console games to my collection that I didn't already own, I decided to finally get around to buying Monster World IV. Part of the Wonder Boy series, this final entry was never released outside of Japan, leaving American and European gamers in the cold. Thankfully, Monster World IV was given a new lease on life on the Virtual Console and the game has been fully translated! It's also on PlayStation Network and XBLA.

I'm really, really liking Monster World IV. The visuals are spectacular and that reused main theme is super hummable. Most importantly, the action/RPG gameplay is topnotch. You play as Asha, a young girl who wishes to be a warrior. As fate would have it, the world is on the verge of going down the crapper so it's up to the newbie to save everyone.

Thus far I've cleared one dungeon and I'm nearly done with the second dungeon, which is kicking my butt hard. It's a fire-based temple and the last section of it is a dozy, requiring precise jumps and avoiding the leaping fire balls that come out of the lava. The boss of this temple is much tougher than the first two bosses, which were push overs. I need my revival medicine for the boss fight but the final dungeon section is so tricky that I always end up using it before I can get to him.

Monster World IV seems pretty liner. Once you're finished with a dungeon you can't go back inside of it and you seem to always know where you need to go next. Since I hate getting lost in these kinds of games, I have no problem with that.

Despite saying very little (I'm thinking Asha is another silent protagonist), she's becoming one of my favorite video game heroines. Pepe is not only helpful (you can use the little guy to double jump and float downward), but he's adorable to boot.

La-Mulana (WiiWare)

And we have the game I've played the least of. OK, I've played less than an hour but I do like it. La-Mulana does not really hold your hand. I'm in what I think is the first temple but I'm not sure if I'm supposed to be here yet. There's a ton of text that I can't even read and I think I need some better equipment. I hear there are tons of ways to reach the game's ending but I want to try to avoid consulting any sort of guide until I can complete this game on my own. Then maybe I'll do a second run through and get what I missed. I have found a few secrets just by guessing, which is always fun.

New Super Mario Bros. 2 (3DS)

I beat my old record of 10,938 in coin rush mode. Several times. Thanks to downloading the Gold Rush coin rush, my new record is 30,000 coins. You get more than enough time and more than enough coins to grab and touch the very top of all three stage flagpoles is cake. I just wish the Gold Push didn't stop your cash flow at 30,000 because anyone can easily get higher than that amount. And I'm positive that someone somewhere has exceeded 30,000 in a few courses on coin rush mode. But the Gold Push is probably just a means to get your overall coin total closer to 1 million. I'm already near 700,000 coins thanks to this baby.

I really should go back to single player and unlock the rest of those hidden stages and get every star coin. I nearly have them all and I know I'm missing a few levels in coin rush because I haven't played every single player stage.

Still Playing: Kirby Air Ride, Mario Kart 7

Friday, November 23, 2012

Downloads #17

How long has it been since I downloaded games from the Wii's Virtual Console service? Too long. Well I picked up a Wii Points Card and fixed that. I only bought two games but both are some real winners. These are also titles I've never played prior to purchasing them.

La-Mulana (WiiWare)

I think I read a preview of this game a year ago in Nintendo Power. Looking at it now, it seems vaguely familiar to me. I haven't played much of it so I'll talk more about this one in the upcoming Currently Playing post.

Monster World IV (GEN)

This, ladies and gentlemen is one of the many reasons the Wii's Virtual Console rocks. The final game in the Wonder Boy series, Monster World IV was never released outside of Japan. This year, all that changed. Back in May, the game was added to the Wii's Virtual Console lineup and it's been fully translated. This isn't the first Wonder Boy game I've played, but if what I've played so far is any indication, it may very well be the best in the series. It's been a long time since I've played a really good action/RPG and Monster World IV is really hitting the spot.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Think For Yourself, Play It Yourself

Opinions. Everybody has one. Reviews and critics are all over the place to tell you what they think about a game. In this day and age, everyone has a voice and can be heard. And those voices WILL be heard, because thanks to the almighty powers of the echo and ripple effect, you're going to be informed of those opinions whether you want to hear them or not.

When you get down to it, a review is nothing more than a detailed opinion. And an opinion is what someone personally thinks. It is in no way shape or form fact. Yes, reviews can contain facts about the game in question, but an overall review is not fact. But somewhere down the line, reviews came to be treated as the gospel, the ultimate source, the fountain of knowledge to inform you if a game is worth your time or should be ignored completely. This has resulted in gamers having less of their own opinion and taking the opinion of a professional reviewer or critic, meaning the opinion they carry isn't truly their own. There's great power in popularity and no matter what you may personally think about sites like IGN, plenty of gamers still trust that site to tell them what to play.

This game was awarded a great score
and gamers still aren't satisfied with the rating.

The reviews from professional reviewers and critics from the viewpoint of most gamers tends to carry a lot of weight behind them because of the reviewer's status. They are a paid video game journalist a popular critic or have a sizable amount of followers on Twitter. If the person is that popular their opinion must be valued above Johnny Regular, right? Of course not! Writers for GameSpot, Game Informer and IGN may be paid to write what they write but at the end of the day, they are gamers just like you and me. They play a game and tell you what they think. Just because they get paid for it doesn't make their opinion anymore valid than yours. "But these guys are professionals!" So? I actually don't like putting that label on them because it elevates them above other gamers when in reality, these guys and gals were fortunate enough to get paid to play video games.

Don't wanna blow $50 or $60 on a game? No problem. You can still rent the game if you're interested in it. Don't be discouraged from trying out a game just because Game Informer gave it a score you weren't expecting. Not every game lives up to the hype that surrounds it. Doesn't mean you still won't get any enjoyment out of it.

Kirby Air Ride scored mixed reviews for it's
simplicity. It's one of my favorite GCN games
in spite of that.

I used to be a slave to reviews myself. Slave may sound like a harsh word, but I think it best describes the point I'm trying to get across. Any game that was given glowing reviews got my money. The 6.0ish club? Didn't touch those games. But as time when on and I regularly read Game Informer and Electronic Gaming Monthly, I found my opinions clashing with theirs. Something incredible had happened. I gained the ability to think for myself, thus forming my own opinions. I don't even look to reviews for game purchases anymore because I have a pretty good idea of what I like and what I don't like. I liken it to a robot gaining self awareness, because when you start thinking for yourself, you become so much more than a machine. Thinking on your own is a very wonderful thing. I've experienced so many more games as a result. Not every game I own is some triple A blockbuster and not every game needs to be.

There was a time when listening to the critics came back to bite me. Everyone and their mother slobbered all over Chrono Cross, the sequel to Chrono Trigger, one of my all-time favorite games. There are critics that site Chrono Cross as one of the greatest games ever made. While I think Chrono Trigger is very much deserving of being called such a game, I firmly believe that Chrono Cross is a steaming pile of feces. In spite of the many characters the game had, so many of them were devoid of any personality, making them bland, soulless characters. The story was a convoluted mess. I'm sorry, but when I'm 20 hours into the game and I don't have a clue what's going on, there's a problem. There was only two worlds to travel to, making time travel nonexistent. The tech attacks were also nerfed significantly. I don't mind when a sequel tries something different because the industry does need innovation, but in the case of Chrono Cross, I don't think trying something new really worked. I'm aware that I'm in the minority with my opinion and if you like the game, I'm totally fine with that. Personally, I don't see what the fuss is about.

Then you've got gamers that overreact when a game gets a score that they feel should be much higher. GameSpot has a history of this with the Legend of Zelda series. Back in 2006, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess was given an 8.8, a very good score and the fan base lost it. I guess there's some rule that all Zelda games must be given scores of 9s and 10s because they are the pinnacle of gaming. Ocarina of Time 3D was scored an 8.5. Again, a very good score but Zelda fans wanted something higher. And after that, Skyward Sword score a 7.5, causing a huge uproar among fans. I guess since every other game reviewer went nuts over the game, GameSpot had to do the same thing. Even if you don't agree with Tom Mc Shea's opinion, you can still respect it. Heh, try telling that to the rabid Zelda fans.

A lot of gamers take the number more seriously than the words associated with it. 7.5 isn't a bad score at all and neither is an 8.0 or a 8.5. Games that score in the area of 7 and 7.5 are considered good games while games that get 8.0 are seen as being great. I can't see why anyone would throw a fit over that. I guess games that get 9s and 10s are the only ones that matter. Does a game have to score in that range in order for a gamer to feel justified in playing it or buying it? Is that really what this industry has come to?

It may seem a bit hypocritical to write this since I post reviews on this very blog myself. Am I saying gamers should stop reading reviews? Of course not. Being a regular reader of Retro Gamer, the review section is one I always look forward to, even if my opinion may differ with the reviewer on certain games. All I'm saying is that you shouldn't be afraid to think for yourself and try a game out on your own. Will you always find winner? No, because no matter what, there's always gonna be games that you just don't mesh well with. I thought I was going to love Chrono Cross but I couldn't have been anymore wrong. On the other hand, I was afraid I wouldn't dig Kirby's Air Ride because it was overly simple but I ended up loving it. The mixed reviews and my overall dependence on them was the reason I didn't play the game for nine years.

I know money is very tight for a lot of gamers. $50-$60 is a lot of money to invest in a game and you want it to be a worthy pay off. If you aren't sure about a game, give it a rent. Who knows, you may end up liking the game more than what the critics did but you won't know unless you take a risk. There's always the chance that you may be disappointed with the game. Not every game I've played was one I've liked but at least I formed my own opinions and didn't just side with that a reviewer said.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Favorite Tunes #36: Other Nintendo Games Edition

Nintendo. Famous for giving us characters and franchises like Mario, Zelda, F-Zero, Kirby (yes, I know HAL created Kirby but since the company is owned by Nintendo, he also counts as a Nintendo property) and other famous games. But Nintendo has also made games that haven't gotten as much time in the sun or are as huge as Mario and Zelda. This edition of Favorite Tunes is giving a few of Nintendo's other stars time to shine.

Tunnel Scene - X (GB)

Released in Japan in 1992 for the Game Boy, X was an ambitious 3D style shooter with some excellent music by Kazumi Tokata and Hirokazu Tanaka. X received a sequel decades later on DSi Ware in the form of X-Scape. Tunnel Scene, the background music for the very first level was featured was arranged for Super Smash Bros. Brawl. The arranged version of Tunnel Scene is one of my favorite Brawl songs, but the original is still quite impressive.

Heaven - Custom Robo (GCN)

The first game in the Custom Robo series to be released in America. You collect parts, customize your robot and then take it to the arena to pound the crap outta other robos. Simple concept, really and one I enjoyed immensely. Heaven lives up to it's name. I should track down the DS Custom Robo.

Balloon Trip - Balloon Fight (NES)

Once upon a time, I received Balloon Fight as a game in Animal Crossing. I took the game back to my house, set it down and fell in love with the Joust-like gameplay. But Balloon Trip, the game's other mode that let you navigate your Balloon Fighter through a hazardous spark-filled sky was as challenging as it was fun. Balloon Fight, while simple, is one of the best early NES titles. Oh and Balloon Trip is one of the happiest themes to come from a Nintendo game. Balloon Trip could also be heard on the Ice Climber's stage in Super Smash Bros. Melee.

Machine Select - Wave Race 64 (N64)

I really wish Nintendo would resurrect this franchise. Wave Race 64 is still one of the best games for the system and the best representation of the sport. With the upcoming Wii U, the graphics and water physics could be better than ever. Just get Kazumi Tokata to be in charge of the music again and were golden. Seriously, has there been a more awesome select theme?

3rd Gear - Drill Dozer (GBA)

Dear, Game Freak. Drill Dozer was a superb GBA game. Jill was a great female lead and I loved all the different functions of her drill. Oh and Drill Dozer's music was some of the best sound to come out of the GBA. Would you be so kind as to take a break from Pokemon and make another Drill Dozer? Please and thank you.

Snow Theme - Mole Mania (GB)

Mole Mania? What's that? I'm sure more than a few of your are asking that question. Mole Mania is a late GB game designed by Shigeru Miyamoto. You play as Muddy trying to rescue your family. It's a game where you navigate the surface and underground, figuring out the solutions to puzzles to advance to the next area. Mole Mania's gameplay still holds up well today and you can experience it on the 3DS Virtual Console for a mere $2.99. Huzzah!

4th Race - Uniracers (SNES)

Before Tony Hawk and all those other extreme sports games of the 32-bit generation, there was Uniracers, the only game to make the unicycle look so unfathomably cool and adorable at the same time. You can get quite a bit of speed in this game for only having one wheel. Provided you flip, twist and roll your unicycle when you catch some air. Tricks were the key to gaining speed and beating the CPU racer. Uniracers is long overdue for a Virtual Console release, but that may not happen due to some stupid claims made my Pixar. The game has one of the best rock-based soundtracks you'll ever hear. Uniracers also has one of the most hilarious instruction manuals I've ever read. The writing in it alone justifies the existence of instruction manuals.

Bein' Friends - Mother/EarthBound Zero (NES)

The first time I heard Bein Friends was on the Onett Stage in Super Smash Bros. Melee and it remains one of my favorite arrangements of the track. Years later, I would hear the 8-bit original, which is one of the game's field themes, the second one if I recall. In Japan, the Mother games have some of the most bland box art you can imagine. As fine a series as it is, it really does deserve more than the Mother logo splashed on a red box.

Chapter 1 - Fire Emblem Gaiden (NES)

The first time Fire Emblem was brougth to my attention was when I unlocked the characters of Marth and Roy in Super Smash Bros. Melee. While the Fire Emblem series had been going strong since the Famicom days in Japan, there wouldn't be a Fire Emblem game in American and Europe until the 2003/2004 release of Fire Emblem on the GBA, which was actually the seventh game in the Fire Emblem series. I suppose I could be cheating by placing a Fire Emblem game on this list, but the series still doesn't carry the same fame as other Nintendo franchises, though it has gained tremendous popularity. Just about every Fire Emblem game since the 2003/2004 Fire Emblem has been getting released in America and Europe. You'd think Nintendo would release earlier installments on the Wii's Virtual Console. If Monster World IV could be translated into English, there's no reason the first few Fire Emblem's can't be.

What's Your Name - EarthBound (SNES)

A hard to find SNES game, EarthBound is actually the second game in the Mother series. I was fortunate enough to be given this game for free from a very good friend of mine. After seeing so many mid evil RPG settings, it was nice to see one set in modern times. This of course meant your characters were prey to attacks from just about everything you can imagine, like ants. I kid you not. EarthBound seems like another unlikely Virtual Console release so if you wanna play it legally, good hunting.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Currently Playing #5

Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins

Months back, I downloaded Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins on the 3DS Virtual Console. It was among the first Game Boy games I bought back in 1993 and it was one of my favorite games for the handheld. I don't think I've played this game since the early 2000s and I have to say it still holds up pretty well.

I've currently collected four of the six golden coins. The only zones left are Pumpkin Zone and Space Zone, the later of which I'm really dreading. Space Zone only has two levels and the second one, which I think is called Star Maze, is an auto-scrolling nightmare, consisting of stars that may as well be spikes. You have to keep Mario from touching the stars throughout the stage until you reach the boss. The best part about Star Maze? The music. Kazumi Tokata wrote a heck of a score in Super Mario Land 2, but Star Maze is easily one of the game's best tracks. OK, the game's Athletic theme is pretty awesome, too. I never could beat Super Mario Land 2. Wario's Castle was a platforming nightmare for me and I always lost on Wario. This time, I plan to get Mario's castle back and land that final head stomp on Wario.

Oh and Rabbit Mario is still one of the best "float" Mario abilities ever.

Mega Man X

My favorite entry in the X series, I've started up a game last night on the Virtual Console. I'm about to tackle the Sigma stages, but first I'll be getting the Hadoken. After all that smack Vile has been talking, it always feels so good to shut him up with one hit of Ryu's signature move. Maybe I'll download Mega Man X2 when I get paid. X3 isn't one of my favorite Mega Man games but I still hope it comes to the Virtual Console. Same with Mega Man 7, though it actually is one of my favorites.

I'll probably be playing more Mega Man games in the coming weeks. Perhaps because it's Mega Man's 25th anniversary and I'm in a Mega Man mood. I'm not sure. I thought about going through the whole X series but then I'm forced to remember how much X6 and X7 suck. Maybe I'll just skip those games.

Still Playing...

Mario Kart 7

Why is it so freaking hard for me to win first overall in the Special Cup of this game? I have tried time and again to win gold but I always have my hopes dashed by item bombardment or just plain sucky racing on my part. When the former happens, it is especially infuriating. Getting hit with that Blue Shell is bad enough but when the rest of the racers drive by and pummel you with their items, that's just rubbing salt into the wound. It really makes my blood boil, to the point where I know I need to stop playing.

Thankfully Time Trial does frustrate me like the Grand Prix mode does. I've made some good times, but I could probably make even better ones if I had all the car parts. When I'm not trying to ace my own times, I can always compete against the numerous times from other players, something I find great joy in. There are a lot of good Mario Kart 7 racers out there and just knowing that I've been able to keep up with a few of them feels pretty good.

New Super Mario Bros. 2

It's all about the coins. Coin Rush mode keeps me coming back. As much flack as this game gets for the coins, no other game in the Super Mario series packs this kinda replay value that will have you coming back long after the main quest is over. I ran into someone with Street Pass and challenged his record. I beat him and got a Crown Coin for my victory. I'm still trying to beat my own record, which is at 10,938 coins. I just found out that I can challenge my own record by replaying the exact levels that I achieved that score on. All this time I was waiting for a good set of levels or hoping I'd randomly get those levels again.

Kirby's Epic Yarn

I'm trying to get all golds and unlock every level, but decorating Kirby's pad is getting to be quite addicting. I never spent a lot of time on this when I played it last year, but now I see that there is a ton of stuff you can furnish the place with. It may not be as much as say, Animal Crossing, but you still get a lot to work with. I have a Moon Clock on my wall, a Helicopter, and on the Magic Carpet, I have a Waddle Dee and Waddle Doo. On the sofa sits a King Dedede toy that became available in the shop after I defeated him.

Kirby Air Ride

This is now one of my favorite GameCube games. Simple as it is, the racing is a lot of fun. Speaking of the racing, while the Copy Powers are helpful, you still need to race well to stay ahead and in the weeks I've been playing Air Ride, I've improved significantly. I'm much better at taking sharp turns and making smoother landings.

I unlocked more air ride machines and even unlocked King Dedede and Meta Knight. King Dedede is heavy but has some good speed. His hammer also makes him dangerous to try to trade blows with. Meta Knight doesn't ride on anything but instead uses his wings to fly across the track. Using Meta Knight is like using the Sword ability in the game. Any riders that are close to you are going to get cut up something fierce.

I really love the Checklist. It's sort of like achievements, giving you something to shoot for. In fact, Super Smash Bros. Brawl's list of unlockables seems to be based off of this one. What's more, The menu layout of Air Ride is very similar to the one used in Super Smash Bros. Melee. I guess it shouldn't be too much of a surprise seeing as how Masahiro Sakurai was behind all of these games.

I'm enjoying City Trial a lot more than when I initially started playing. Powering up in the city and then competing and some random event is quite entertaining. Though I've never been able to defeat King Dedede. You get a minute and thirty seconds to take him out, but no matter how much I damage him, he won't go down. I'm starting to wonder if he's even beatable. Quite a bit of events in the Stadium have opened up since I've been playing City Trial, but from the look of it, there's a lot more.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Downloads #16

[GB] Mario's Picross

Went to Club Nintendo's website to see if there was anything of interest for me to do with my coins and low and behold, for just 100 coins, you can get Mario's Picross on the 3DS Virtual Console. At least until Nov. 18th. I picked up this game back in 2002 and became addicted to solving puzzles. The first game in the Picross series, it has over 250 puzzles. That may seem like a staggering amount but when compared to Picross DS or Picross 3D, it isn't nearly as much. Still, this was one of my favorite original Game Boy games and I was pleased to see it get a Virtual Console release. Now if only they'd give us Western gamers Mario's Super Picross on the Wii's Virtual console.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Latest Purchases #40

Even with last week's (very) poor paycheck, I was still able to cop some good deals on games. A routine trip to fye and I came away with the following goods. A 10% discount helped me saved some green.

I never did pick up the first Battalion Wars on the GameCube even though I saw it for dirt cheap numerous times in my hometown of Dayton, Ohio. I was gonna make the same mistake when I saw a used copy of Battalion Wars 2 on the Wii for $4.99. It was complete, missing the manual, but for the price and the disc doesn't look too shabby, I can't really complain.

I don't even know how many Guitar Hero games there have been. Guitar Hero: World Tour makes the fifth Guitar Hero game I own and at a price of $1.99, it's also the cheapest I've ever paid for one. The song list is what encouraged me to pick this one up. Beat It and Everlong are among the songs featured and there are no covers. It's been years since I've played a Guitar Hero game so maybe I'm due to break out my guitar controller.

One look at Bomberman and I'm saddened that Hudson is no more. I don't really know what this PSP version of Bomberman is like but for $4.99, I figured it couldn't hurt to find out. This makes my 11th PSP game.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Memories #11: Super Smash Bros. Melee

The original Super Smash Bros. for the N64 was quite the surprise game. Given Nintendo's heavy family friendly stance at the time, the last thing you expected from the company was a game that threw twelve characters from The Big N's history in a game that had them whaling on each other with no explanation. But we ate every bit of it up. It probably helped that it was a four player brawler and that it was vastly different from anything we'd seen at the time. Instead of simply depleting your opponent's life bar as you would in a normal fighting game, you had to build up their percentage meter to knock them off the stage. The inclusion of items like Pokeballs and Mario's Hammer made the fighting all the more chaotic as did the interactive arenas. I played a lot of great games in 1999 and Super Smash Bros. was certainly one of them.

During E3 2001, I found out that a GameCube sequel to Super Smash Bros. was in the works under the title Super Smash Bros. Melee. In keeping up on the E3 coverage, our teacher let us log on to GameSpot and check out videos. One of the videos on GameSpot's website was the opening to Melee and it made the wait for the game unbearable. It was great to once again see my favorite Nintendo icons in spiffy visuals (a big step up from the N64) but Melee brought in a slew of new fighters like Peach, Zelda, Falco and Gannondorf. I vocally expressed my excitement as I saw Popo leap from platform to slippery platform, slip and nearly fall, only to be caught by his partner, Nana. Yes, Virginia, the Ice Climbers were back and I was the only one in my circle of friends that even knew who they were. 

These Nintendo characters are too busy
pummeling each other to care about
a little thing like impending doom from
the Moon.

Before gamers even got their hands on the game, word was quickly spreading that it was the same Super Smash Bros. with some new characters and a brand new paint job. Perhaps this was due to demo impressions from the press. Regardless, it seemed like everyone and their mother was screaming "REHASH!" at the top of their lungs. Because we all know the gaming press is never wrong, right? When Super Smash Bros. Melee was released on December 3, 2001, I went to my local Toys 'R Us to pick up my copy before work. I quickly opened it up marveled at the opening and started playing through the Classic mode of beating up Nintendo characters, similar to the single player mode of the original Super Smash Bros. After a few rounds of that, I tried out that new Adventure mode, which was a completely different animal. Adventure mode consisted of classic Nintendo themed stages, playing like a 2D platformer. Adventure mode played surprisingly well given Melee's controls and gameplay style. Not once did it feel akward or out of place. One minute I was stomping on Goombas in the Mushroom Kingdom, the next I was escaping Zebes, as a clock ticked town to the planet's imminent explosion.

The more hours and days I spent with Melee, it quickly became apparent that it was 1000 times the game it's predecessor was. Not only did Melee have a wealth of content, but the fighting was vastly improved over the original. Melee birthed the Smash Attack, a move that could be performed by pressing forward and A to send your opponent flying. What's more, the Smash Attack could be charged. The longer the charge, the further knock back that your adversaries would suffer. It was a brilliant new move and one players would come to rely on consistently.

Link avoids being roasted by Bowser.
Kirby isn't so lucky.

Melee was packed with so many modes and unlockables that it became overwhelming at times. New to the series were Trophies, little figures of classic Nintendo characters and items. Trophies could be acquired by playing through the different modes or by using the coins you've amassed to win some in the Lottery. There were Trophies of all 25 fighters and even tropies of characters that had nothing to do with the game. These characters and item Trophies ranged from well-known to obscure. What's more, each Trophy had info that you could read about it in the Trophy Gallery. I'm positive more than a few gamers had no idea who the Ice Climbers were at the time and the same could be said for Fire Emblem characters Marth and Roy, so having info to go along with the Trophy was quite useful. Collecting these Trophies became quite addicting and with nearly 300 to obtain, that alone was enough to keep me busy. The Trophies made Melee feel like a Nintendo museum, a tribute to Nintendo's wonderful games and history. It's still fun to look at the these collectibles and read up on them.

The inclusion of Trophies was one of
Melee's biggest draws.

Event mode tasked me with performing objectives under certain conditions. These started out pretty simple but reached rage quite levels of frustration later on. Time for a Check Up made me want to jump into my TV and choke Dr. Mario and Peach. I'm possivite the AI for this Event challenge had to be on 9 because it took me forever to take them out and even then, I think I won by dumb luck. This was only Event 35 out of 51 and I already couldn't believe how insane it was getting. And Event 51, The Showown? That was CRAZY! I had to fight Giga Bowser, Mewtwo, and Gannondorf on three life stock! Oh and and all three of them were on a team against me! I tried numerous methods to beat this challenge. Everyone says Jigglypuff is awesome and to use her, but she just didn't really work for me. Plus I hate her. I worked the ledge of the Final Destination stage with Marth and managed to win losing only one life. It was one of those times where accomplishment felt so good. Looking back, I'm amazed I cleared all 51 Events. I hear there are some out there that still haven't been able to do it.

Popo is about to find out what Kirby's
digestive system looks like.

Twenty five fighters was a sizable step up over the original's 12. There were familiar faces as well as not-so-familiar faces. Everyone knows who Mario and Luigi are, but Popo and Nana, the Ice Climbers hadn't been seen in a video game for fifteen years when Melee was released. Again, I was overjoyed to see the due return. It was even better that the Ice Climbers worked as a team and their jump sound effect was taken directly from their own game. Mr Game & Watch's inclusion was a wonderful tribute to Nintendo's first handheld gaming device. He even had stilted animation movements and used the same sound effects from the old LCD Game & Watch games. Some characters I could do without. Pichu was a weaker version of Pikachu who injured himself every time he attacked and Dr. Mario was just Mario in a doctor's coat.

Super Smash Bros. Melee is a game that gave me so much to see and do. One could literally spend years playing it and still not see everything it has to offer. I could go into Home Run Contest to hit the Sandbag as far as I could, endure all I can stand in Endless Melee, or just go to VS. mode and have a blast fighting with friends or the CPU. I still haven't unlocked every Trophy or got every notification. Considering that Super Smash Bros. Brawl wouldn't come out until 2008 and that I didn't get a Wii until 2010, it's a good thing that Melee was packed with so much stuff. I really did spend years playing it and having come back to it recently, I can still say that it's my favorite GameCube game. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Favorite Tunes #35: Sit Down & Relax / Get Down Edition

Jazz, contemporary jazz and any style of music that helps me relax or sounds soothing is among my favorite type of music. Of course, getting down and getting funky is also great. So naturally, I love it when I hear this kind of music in video games.

Bye-Bye Mars -Take.II- (Stage 3G) - Border Down (ARC, DC)

Released in arcades and later on the Dreamcast, Border Down was a successor of sorts to Taito's Metal Black. The game was never released outside of Japan, leaving G. rev's shooter to be imported among SHMUP fans. The game tends to fetch a high price so if you come across a copy, expect to pay $100 or more. This one could definitly use a digital release on PlayStation Network or Xbox Live Arcade. The sound duties were handled by Yasuhisa Watanabe, Ayako Saso, Yousuke Yasui so Border Down is very rich in the audio. I particularly love this piece of jazz.

Birdman - Pilotwings 64 (N64)

The original Pilotwings was a launch title for the SNES. Likewise, Pilotwings 64 was a launch title for the N64. After skipping both the GCN and the Wii, Pilotwings returned as a launch title for the 3DS. While you can play the first Pilotwings on the Wii's Virtual Console, the N64 version has been left out in the cold for reasons unknown. Birdman was quite the lovely bonus in Pilotwings 64. As fun as it was flying in gliders, rocket belts and gyro copters, you were always flying to earn medals or for the best score. Birdman gave you the chance to explore various areas at different times of the day without any the baggage. On top of that, composer Dan Hess gave us this delightfully smooth jazz theme that's heard while you're playing as Birdman.

Ripple Star - Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards (N64)

The second Kirby game I've ever completed 100%, Ripple Star strikes the player with a nasty case of mood whiplash. The first level is happy and cheerful with bright colors and even brings back the famous Kirby 64 Pop Star theme. Then you go down to Ripple Star stage 2, the Catacombs and one of the most disturbing pieces of music in the Kirby series is playing here. Even Kirby is freaked out by the Catacombs music when you listen to it in the sound Test. Then those feelings of despair vanish when you go to Ripple Star's third level and hear this crazy beat. It's got a bass solo, a drum solo and a flute solo. How awesome is that?

From the East - Gran Turismo 2 (PS)

Much of Gran Turismo 2's licensed soundtrack was underwhelming to me. Outside of My Favorite game, I didn't care for most of it. The original songs composed for the game, however, really took me by surprise. Each area you could purchase cars from had it's own theme music. Shopping in the eastern area played From the East. I came here often just so I could hear this track.

Medici Tower - Skullgirls (PSN, XBLA)

I plan on picking up a PS3 soon so I'll finally be able to play this much talked about game for myself. Thankfully, I've been able to hear the game's soundtrack and it's one of my favorite jazz/electronic scores. Michiru Yamane (of Castlevania fame) was one of the composers for Skullgirls and she really let her creativity show with the jazzy themes, especially Medici Tower.

Jazzy NYC '99 - Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike (ARC, DC)

As great as the classic Street Fighter II themes and the remixes are, I really like it when composers take risks and create new themes. This was done for the Street Fighter EX series and results brought us some fantastic original music. When it came time to do the music for Street Fighter III, the composers opted for jazz, hip hop beats and some drum & bass. Radically different from the music in Street Fighter II to be sure, but it was another bold move on the composers part, one that gave the Street Fighter III games some truly stand out music. It only got better with each updated sequel, hitting the audio peak with the third game in the Street Fighter III series, 3rd Strike.

Air Strike - Command & Conquer (PC, PS, SAT)

I liked the first Command & Conquer even though I played very little of it. Never was too big on the RTS genre but that didn't stop me from picking up a copy on the original PlayStation on the cheap some years ago. The music from the first few Command & Conquer games are my favorites as I found myself liking the music less as the series went on. Act On Instinct, Industrial, Just Do It Up, Hell March, Prepare for Battle; you really can't beat those themes. And of course, there's Air Strike, the perfect Command & Conquer song to wage war to when you feel like mellowing out.

One Night in Neo Kobe City - Snatcher (SCD ver.)

Snatcher has always had some of my favorite music to come from the Japan-only MSX home computer. A game designed by Hideo Kojima, it baffles me that Konami hasn't re-released the game. Pairing it up with Policenauts (Kojima's other baby that isn't Metal Gear) would make for an excellent compilation title, but the way Konami is working these days, it just doesn't seem likely. Snatcher received plenty of love when it came to soundtrack releases (in Japan, that is) and some of the most memorable themes were given gorgeous arrangements. One arranged album, The Cyber Punk Adventure Snatcher -Zoom Tracks- featured a lively jazz version of Snatcher's opening theme song. This same track was used for the opening on the Sega CD version of Snatcher, which marked the first and only time Snatcher was released in America and Europe.

Monkey Billiards - Super Monkey Ball (GCN)

A super simple but increasingly difficult arcade game, Super Monkey Ball was ported to the GameCube and launched along side the console. You might think you're merely moving the monkey towards the goal, but you're actually tilting the level to move him/her. It starts out easy but can reach controller throwing levels of frustration later on. There was plenty to keep gamers busy in the arcade mode but developer Amusement Vision added unlockable mini games that were so fun it was quite possible some would spend more time playing these instead of the main mode. A game like Super Monkey Ball is the last place you'd expect to hear smooth club jazz, but play a game of Monkey Billiards and that's what you'll be treated to.

Competition Menu - Sonic 3 & Knuckles (GEN)

Most players probably spent their time with Sonic 3 & Knuckles hunting down the Chaos Emeralds and turning those into Super Emeralds to access Hyper Sonic/Hyper Knuckles and Super Tails rather than going into the 2 player competition mode. It may not be as meaty as the single player game, but it runs a lot smoother than Sonic 2's 2 player mode. The addition of Time Attack was also quite nice. I can still remember Friday nights as a teen listening to this music as I took my time setting things up.