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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Latest Purchases #61

I could be cheating on this one since I bought all of the things in this post weeks ago, but that's still fairly recent, so I suppose it counts.

The Super NES Book by Retro Game is actually two books in one. On the other side reads The Genesis Book or Mega Drive Book when you open it up since the system went under it's original Japanese title in Europe and Retro Gamer is a UK based magazine. The Super NES/Genesis Book is a compilation of features from the pages of various issues of Retro Gamer. Well, I think most are from different issues because I have the issue where the 20th anniversary Sonic the Hedgehog was featured. Most of the contents of this book, however, are new to me. I've never read their Complete History of Mario feature or the Making of Toejam & Earl. Not a bad way to spend $20 and in my opinion, a must of the SNES/Genesis lover.

The latest issues of Retro Gamer pays tribute to The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. This year marks the games 10th anniversary and the game has the honor of being the first game Nintendo has re-released in HD. Other things to note in this issue include an interview with Smooth McGroove (type his name in YouTube and prepared to be amazed if you've somehow missed this guy's amazing vocal talents), a retrospective on the Fairchild Channel F, and the Bluffer's Guide to RPGs.

The RC Mario Kart Wii car is something I've had my eye on for a while now. I first saw it at Barns & Nobles for $24.99 along with a one of Yoshi. When I was looking in K-Mart for a gift for the toy drive for my job, I saw these for $19.99 and they had two left, both of Mario So, I bought one as a gift and another for myself.

I can't seem to get enough Mario Kart toys. Next to plushies and Sonic figures, I think Mario Kart stuff may be my favorite game-related toys to buy. These Tomy Gacha pull back Mario Kart 7 racers were originally in capsules, leaving you wondering which one you got until you opened it up. At five and below I was able to nab Koopa Troopa and Toad for $5 each. I'm fairly certain you can get these in a full set, but all I'm missing is Mario, Luigi and Peach. Maybe I'll grab a few more when payday arrives.

Nickelodeons Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles actually turned out to be a really good show. I really like the design of the turtles so when I saw the figures, I had to pick up at least one to get me started. I went with Leonardo because he's my favorite turtle and because he was also the very first turtle toy I owned as a kid when the 1987 cartoon show came out. I'm leaning toward's picking up Donatello next. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Favorite Tunes #75: FINAL BATTLE

This is it. Everything you've worked for has lead up to this last battle. The final showdown! And wouldn't you know it, the final boss usually has more than one form. Well, that's video games for you. Welcome to this milestone edition of Favorite Tunes. I've selected a small portion of some of my favorite background themes used for final battles.

Dancing Mad - Final Fantasy VI (SNES)

Nicknamed "The Psycho Clown" by fans, Kefka is arguably the greatest antagonist in the Final Fantasy series. Initially a court jester that can use low level magic, at the end of the game Kefka rules over the world and is the source of all magic. I cloud list more reasons why Kefka is a such an intriguing villain, but I'll just say that his final battle theme is four movements of 17 plus minutes of awesomeness and leave it at that.

Last Battle - The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64, 3DS)

After making a harrowing escape from Gannondorf's collapsing castle, Link and Zelda are ready for some sighs of relief. But the prince of evil rises from the wrecked and transforms himself into Ganon, knocking the Master Sword out of Link's hands and he doesn't intend to make the sword easy for our hero to get to. Koji Kondo really outdid himself with this final battle theme.

0² Battle - Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards (N64)

By collecting all the crystal shards in the game, you're able to face the true final boss, 0² (actually pronounced "Zero Squared") and he's actually a lot easier than Miracle Matter. All of the crystal shards are used to create a crystal gun so Kirby and Ribbon can attack 0² in it's eye, which bleeds upon being shot. 0² is also one of the most disturbing things seen in a Kirby game. I guess HAL just loves their nightmare fuel.

The Final Battle - Chrono Trigger (SNES)

Lavos fell to the Earth in 65 million BC and has laid dormant for centuries. In 1999, he awakens and plunges the world into darkness for years to come. Using time travel, Chrono and his friends can confront the creature before he takes over the world and prevent the awful future that is 2300 AD. Yasunroi Matsuda always creates final battle music that goes far beyond merely being intense. There's a whole lot riding on the outcome of this battle and it really shows in this musical piece.

Assault - Front Mission 3 (PS)

Front Mission 3 was actually the first Front Mission game to be released outside of Japan. Rather than repeat all that Final Fantasy re-numbering nonsense, Square went ahead and kept the original title. This game would pave the way for future Front Mission games to get localization, include the DS port of the original Front Mission. The music in most Front Mission games is generally very militaristic but Assault is that and so much more.

Last Boss - Super Mario Bros. 2 (NES)

The dozens of bosses throughout Super Mario Bros. 2 could be attacked at almost any give time. The same could not be said for Wart, the game's final boss. You get a hefty supply of his weakness (veggies) but he can only be hit when his mouth is open, at which point he will always spew bubbles, which can take out your vegetables if you throw them at the wrong time.

Meridian Festival - Secret of Mana (SNES)

To save Mana from annihilation, Randi and his friends must slay the Mana Beast, a creature with good intentions, but is unfortunately ruled by it's uncontrollable rage. If the Beast destroys the Mana Fortress it will be the end of Mana. This is by far the best battle theme in the game, reserved for a creature that is unfathomably huge.

Father and Son - Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (PS2, XB)

The Metal Gear games are famous for having unusual boss battles and MGS2 is no different. There are no guns or giant mechs in the last battle but instead a sword duel. Since Solidus has been a, how shall we say, less than admirable father to Raiden, you can't help but feel good about slicing him up.

Sigma 2nd - Mega Man X5 (PS)

This was originally intended to be the finale of the X series and it would have been a grand send off. X and Zero fighting, Zero more or less confirmed to be the source of the Maverick virus and one jaw dropping final battle with Sigma. This theme truly does scream "THIS IS IT!"

Super Sonic vs. Perfect Dark Gaia - Sonic Unleashed (PS2, PS3, Wii, 360)

It's a pretty well known fact that just about every single Sonic game, regardless of quality has astounding music and Sonic Unleashed was so good that it rivals, maybe even surpasses the compositions of Sonic Adventure 1 & 2 and Sonic Colors. The music really is that amazing. Not only was the final showdown a sight to behold, but the orchestral/rock version of Endless Possibilities could very well be the best piece of final battle music in Sonic history.

Favorite Tunes Database

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Sonic CD: Temporal Duality

20 years ago, Sonic CD was released on the Sega CD (Mega CD for you Japanese and European gamers). The game introduced to the series time travel, Amy Rose and fan favorite robotic knock off, Metal Sonic. By no means was Sonic CD a perfect game (don't let the fans and the press fool you, this game has it's flaws like occasionally screwy level design) but it was still a fantastic entry to the series.

When SEGA of America was localizing the game for Western Audiences, as is often the case, changes were made to the game, but this altercation would split the fanbase on a level that would rival the views of the quality of Sonic's classic and modern game outings. For Sonic CD's American release, the bulk of Naofumi Hataya and Masafumi Ogata's compositions (excepet the Past mix level themes) were 86'd and in their place a new score composed by Spencer Nilsen and David Young. This change has caused fans to get into mindless debates about which soundtrack is better. The defunct GameFan called Nilsen and Young's audio "elevator music" while some fans feel the Japanese soundtrack is too loud and in-your-face. I think both soundtracks are awesome so I can honestly say that I didn't have a problem with the soundtrack change. How many games are fortunate enough to get two badawesome soundtracks? Thankfully the community at OverClocked Remix also recognizes both scores because Sonic CD: Temporal Duality pays tribute to both the Japanese and American soundtracks.

Sonic CD: Temporal Duality marks OverClocked Remix's fourth Sonic album and their 45th album release to date. It's split across three digital CDs (plus one  bonus CD), consisting of 38 tracks that cover much if not all of the music from each version of Sonic CD. The first disc, PAST, is comprised entirely of remixes from the Japanese soundtrack. Night of the Ninth is an arrangement of one of my favorite tracks from the Japanese version of Sonic CD, Little Planet, a track some may argue is undeserving of being arranged when compared to the likes of Palmtree Panic, Collision Chaos and Stardust Speedway, but I really like what Theory of N did with this track. Speaking of Palmtree Panic, Paradise Paraodox is a wonderful techo/trance arrangement of a song that took years to grow on me (I originally never cared for either version of Palmtree Panic). Chips out of Water has, as you might expect, a hint of chiptunes thrown in but uses samples from the Game Gear. The Game Gear isn't the first system I think of when I imagine chiptunes, but it's very appropriate here and somehow adds to the tranquility of the song. You can hear some Genessis drums at the start of Timekeeper and the song keeps the upbeat flair of the original theme (Quartz Quadrant) quite well. Even that kickin' Special Stage got some lovin' in Bass for a Better Tomorrow, complete with voice samples from Sonic and Eggman. Time Traveller's Delight is a lyrical track and done in the style of 1990s rap. Considering the vocal tracks from the Japanese version of Sonic CD, this remix of Stardust Speedway doesn't seem out of place in the slightest and neither does the Wacky Work Bench remix, which I fully plan on listening to the next time I play the zone in Sonic CD.

Disc 2, PRESENT, focuses on the American soundtrack. Titillating Tempest is one of the songs I heard during the trailer and I can safely say that the whole song is incredible with saxophone work that is to die for. I'm certainly glad I warmed up to Palmtree Panic over the years, otherwise I may not have enjoyed Palm Beach SEGA Tan as much as I did. I was eagerly anticipating the remix of Collision Chaos, quite possibly my favorite track from the American soundtrack and Ion Storms Above the Mechanical Forest does not disappoint. It even has a guitar riff very much like the one in the original. WORK IT! was another track that was teased at in the trailer and while it's sadly much shorter when compared to the other tracks on this album, it still holds it's own with being one of the best tracks presented here and that's saying a lot. The Hero of Time, a track based off the Invincibility and Zone Clear themes really stands out from everything else, with a heavy emphasis on wind instruments. If you didn't think that boss theme couldn't get any creepier, you'd be wrong. Remember how the original had that maniacal laughter? Well Yours Truly, Satan has an even more dreadful feel to it and sounds a thousand times creepier using Mark Hamill's Joker laugh near the end. Definitely not a track you want to listen to at home alone at night with no lights on.

The third disc, FUTURE is a mixture of both Japanese and American tracks. Two Futures is a combo of the Bad and Good Futures of Stardust Speedway in the Japanese version, Whack It is even more chiptune-centric than Chips Out of Water, Gotta Go Faster is probably a nod to Sonic X in it's title and combines the Japanese version of Collision Chaos and Sonic - You Can Do Anything. The final track of disc three, has got to be some kind of jab at GameFan, or at least, that's what I'm taking away from it's title, which is called, I kid you not, Elevator Music, which if you've been keeping up thus far, is precisely what they called the American soundtrack. Ironically, this is actually a remix of the Japanese version of Palmtree Panic.

So you may be wondering, why haven't I said anything about a Sonic Boom arrangement? For some Sonic fans, this was the first Sonic vocal track they ever heard and it would be criminal for there not to a be a single remix of one of the most popular Sonic tracks on this album. Actually, there are three versions of Sonic Boom here. One on Disc 2, A World in Motion, Take it All the Way at the end of Disc 2, which is actually a jazzy non-vocal version and The Boom (Undeleted), which is easily the best of two vocal versions of the course. If you count the instrumental version of A World in Motion on the fourth bonus disc, I guess there are a total of four versions of Sonic Boom.

After spending hours listening to this album, I have the urge to go back and listen to both the Japanese and American Sonic CD soundtracks and I'd love to see OCR tackle other games in the Sonic series. Here's hoping they do a Sonic Adventure album in time. Sami Briggs also deserves a round of applause for his gorgeous album artwork. I came across a clean version of the cover a few months before the album came out and I was floored.

So here's to another 20 years of celebrating Sonic CD and some of the best music in the series. Which soundtrack is better? I can't hear the debaters because I have the volume cranked up as I'm listening to Sonic CD: Temporal Duality and I highly recommend you do the same.

Sonic CD: Temporal Duality

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Great Villains of Gaming Part 2

It's time, once again to rap about some of my favorite characters in video games. The heroes? Get outta here with that noise. I'm talking about the bad guys. We've got plenty of familiar faces for Part 2 of Great Villains of Gaming as well as one unfamiliar baddie. I shouldn't have to say it, but SPOILERS AHEAD!

Kefka Palazzo - Final Fantasy VI

What is it about clowns? Despite their goofy outward appearances, they do a bang up job causing trouble for the good guys. Take The Joker and The Green Goblin. They've given Batman and Spider-Man more grief than any other foe in their respective rogue's gallery. Kefka, also known by fans as "The Psycho Clown" due to his jester clothing and psychotic nature is without question the greatest villain in the history of the long running Final Fantasy series, managing to rack up more atrocities midway through the game than most villains spend their whole careers trying to achieve.

During the Gestahlian Empire's quest to gain more power through the revival of the lost secrets if magic, they began experimenting with the process of infusing human beings with magic through technological means. Two people underwent this process, Celes Chere and Kefka. Celes was actually the second to undergo this experiment and by the time she did, all the bugs were worked out so not only could she use magic, her sanity was well in tact. The same could not be said for Kefka, who went through with the experiment in the infancy stages. He could wield the power of magic, but his mind went bye-bye and it only got worse as time went on.

Many villains in the Final Fantasy series start off with god-like or nearly god-like powers. By the time the heroes meet Golbez, Exdeath and Sepiroth, these guys are already far above the capabilities of the heroes. On numerous occasions, Exdeath makes it more than apparent that he can easily dispose of Bartz and company without much effort. Kefka does not fall into the all-powerful character type when we meet him. In fact he and the heroes are on  a level playing field in the beginning. Exdeath and Sepiroth already posses inhuman strength and powers when the player is introduced to them, yet they thirst for more. Kefka is a power-hungry lunatic but we actually get to see his ascension to godhood and I think he's a far more interesting villain because of this. One could argue that because he hasn't reached the status of omega-level threat that he has a right to grab power. Did I mention that Kefka is also a subordinate? Sure he can order imperial soldiers around, but he starts out answering to Emperor Gestahl. So not only is Kefka initially under-powered, he's also under someone else's thumb, something all of us can identify with.

We first catch a glimpse of Kefka in a flashback scene where he puts the Slave Crown on Terra and delights in her killing his own imperial soldiers. Kefka's actual introduction scene where we see him walking through the desert to Castle Figaro is unlike most villain introductory pieces the series is known for. He's complaining and telling the soldiers accompanying him to dust the sand off his boots, to which the quickly oblige and Kefka gives us his trademark cackle. It's a very stand out character intro that does absolutely nothing to tell you that this clown will bring absolute ruin to the world later in the game. The only thing most would take away from this scene is that Kefka is a little off.

Kefka's theme music is vastly different from other Final Fantasy adversaries. Golbez, Exdeath, and Sepiroth? All of these guys have character themes that scream "I'm the bad guy of this story, flee in terror!" But kefka? If we're just talking music, you'd have a hard time getting someone to believe he's a complete monster. Kefka's theme starts out rather jovial with wind and string instruments heard throughout. The light nature of his theme begins to dissipate as the drums and cymbals begin to dominate the song. His theme seems like a reflection of his further decent into madness. The upbeat part of the course represents how little power he has but later in the game, he becomes completely unhinged and has more power than he ever had before and the clashing drums and cymbals mirror this. Quite frankly, it wouldn't feel right if Kefka were given a character theme that immediately paints him as the prime antagonist.

Another contrast that Kefka has to other series antagonists is that while many of them are merciless, driven by mad ambitions and distant, Kefka is loud, flamboyant, short-fused to the extent that would make Donald Duck blush and posses frighteningly destructive tendencies. Just about every Final Fantasy baddie is a nut job, but none of them come close to the maniacal nature of Kefka which is very much on par with that of the Joker and on some levels, Kefka's even worse.

Kefka's one joy in life comes from destroying and he takes great pleasure in ending lives. I mentioned earlier how remorseless he was when he had Terra burn his own imperial soldiers alive. Well he was just warming up then. He brings the Doma conflict to a screeching halt by poising the entire kingdom through the water supply. Among the victims are Cyan's wife and child. Much later he obtains enough power to outmatch the Espers, tuning them into Magicite and using their powers to add to his own. General Leo tries to slay Kefka, but he's just too strong and after a sound defeat, the noble general gets his neck snapped. Shortly after this, Kefka and Gesthal find the Waring Triad and on the Floating Continent and it's here that the emperor finally realizes that Kefka is out of control, but by this time, it's far too late. Gesthal's magic is useless against Kefka because he's standing between the Waring Triad statues. Kefka has his former emperor struck by lightning and to make him deader than dead, he then proceeds to toss Gesthal off the Floating Continent. Once that's done, Kefka moves the Waring Triad out of alignment, upsetting the delicate balance which unleashes surges of magic so powerful that it results in reshaping the geographical structure of the planet's continents, along with killing countless people. Of all the horrific things Kefka has done, this one is by far his finest act of villainy.

Some argue that Kefka didn't destroy the world, saying that if he truly did, there would be nothing left. To me, this seems like nitpicking. Compared to what the planet once was before Kekfa moved the statues and created the World of Ruin, a world that has positively putrid living conditions and decays day after day, many people giving in to despair and committing suicide while the remaining survivors live in fear that Kefka may one day kill them with his Light of Judgement, well, I'd pretty much call that destroyed. At end game, Kefka is so far off his rocker that he develops a case of nihilism, seeing no value in having life, hopes or dreams when all of it will eventually die. And since he's become the god of magic by this point, he has more than enough power to make that happen, but the heroes prevent this.

Kefka really is something. He started out at the bottom and worked his way up. For all the awful things he does, you can't help but love him. Kefka is a terrible, despicable human being but you have to admit, he's very good at it. As Alfred told Bruce in The Dark Knight when referring to the Joker, "Some men just want to watch the world burn." 

Bowser - Mario Series

The Mushroom Kingdom's greatest antagonist and frequent (boy do I ever mean frequent) kidnapper of Princess Peach, Bowser has been locked in a struggle with Mario since the mid 1980s. Bearing the appearance of a combination of a dragon and a turtle, this behemoth has the strength to match his size, fire breath and commands the Koopa Troop, the most iconic army of minions in gaming. And he always gets his shell handed to him by those plumbers.

Cool and strong as this king is, he always, always loses to Mario in the end. Whether it's something as illogical as placing an ax on the wrong side of bridge or jumping in the same spot one too many times, Bowser seems destined to always get the short end of the stick. One thing I've always admired about the koopa king is his unbreakable determination. No matter how many times Mario thwart's Bowser's plans and rescues Peach, Bowser gets up off his spiked, kicked shell and gives it another go.

For all his failings, Bowser has had some pretty good moments. He bested Mario in combat at the beginning of Paper Mario thanks to the Star Rod. In Super Mario Bros. 3, the Koopa Kids kept the plumber busy while Bowser laid plans to kidnap Peach. In Super Mario 3D Land, Bowser not only abducted Peach but he also stole a whole tree's worth of Tanooki power-ups and bestowed them upon his troops. Taking Mario and Luigi hostage in Super Princess Peach was arguably the best move he ever made. Bowser has attacked the Mushroom Kingdom more times than I can count, but his assault on Peach's castle at the Starbit Festival in the opening of Super Mario Galaxy? That was awesome! You've got the Airship's blasting away with cannon fire, Toad's being crystallized and the whole thing reaches it's climax when Bowser takes the whole castle and Kamek swats Mario away like a fly. No long was Bowser content with just kidnapping Peach, he had his sights set on the whole galaxy. I dare say the villainy that Bowser exude in the first Galaxy was Bowser's finest hour.

Much as he hates Mario, he can team up with him when faced with a mutual enemy. When Smith invaded and took over his keep, Bowser reluctantly joined forces with Mario and proved to be a very powerful ally. Still, Bowser never forgets that he and Mario are sworn enemies and once the enemy of his enemy has been taken care of, it's back to business for Bowser. He may get foiled time and again but Bowser is one big bad I never get tired of.

Dr. Albert Wily - Classic Mega Man Series

What do all mad scientists what to do? Why, rule the world of course! Well that's what my many years of playing Mega Man games have taught me, at least.

In his younger days, Dr. Wily attended school with Mega Man's creator, Dr. Thomas Light. Light is often seen as the father of modern robotics and has received a plethora of recognition for his work. Out of jealousy, Wily has tried to achieve world domination through the use of robotics either through the reprogramming of Light's creations, blackmailing Dr. Cossack by kidnapping his daughter, and framing Proto Man for his crimes among others.

Like Bowser, Wily's schemes often end in failure and even though Light gets all the attention, there lies a brilliant scientific mind behind that whacked out hairdo. The man somehow managed to make Magnet Man able to generate a magnetic pull without causing any harm to Magnet Man himself. With Flash Man, he gave a robot the power to halt time. His Roboenza virus can either make robots fall ill or cause them to run amok. Bass, while unruly was one of his finest works, but he was surpassed by Zero, by far his crowning achievement and long after Wily had died, his influence could be felt in the Mega Man X series.

Wily is generally good at escaping capture but when Mega Man succeeded in apprehending the doctor in Mega Man 6, he already took measures to ensure a breakout at the start of Mega Man 7 by having Robot Masters activate in the invent that he doesn't check in. These Robot Masters proceed to tear the city apart as cover for Wily's jail break. Wily also took advantage of Mega Man's trusting nature through Bass and had him fake injure to get access to Light's lab where he stole plans for the Super Adapter for Rush and Mega Man. Bass showed his thanks for allowing him access by leaving the lab in ruins. Needless to say, Mega Man was not pleased and this was the one time Mega Man considered ending Wily's life.

Dr. Ivo "Eggman" Robotnik - Sonic Series

Call him Robotnik (my preferred name) or Egaaman, but he has and always will be Sonic's arch enemy. Like all crazy scientists, Robotnik wants to rule the world. Unlike a lot of other crazy docs, however, this one sports a snazzy red jacket and an IQ of 300, which helps him invent all sorts of inventions like his army of Badniks that house cute little animal critters when smashed and the multi-functional Eggmobile, that Sonic and Tails wreck over and over.

Even with a massive IQ, Eggman has tasted defeat time and again. Many of these loses result from his overconfidence, overlooking details and being betrayed by a far greater power he sought to control and in the case of that last one, he'll form temporary truces with Sonic and company to deal with a threat that's grown beyond his control. Some may view his repeated team-ups with Sonic as a fall from villainy grace, but I like it when a villain can see that there's a greater evil that needs to be stopped and can stomach working with their hated enemy long enough to do so.

You do have to give Eggman his props for stepping up his game over the years. In Sonic Adventure 2, he blew up half the moon. In the horrendous Sonic the Hedgehog 2006, he pretty much abandon his affably evil traits and was straight up sinister. In Sonic Unleashed he lured Super Sonic into a trap, uses his power to awaken Dark Gaia and tear the Earth into pieces. This threats to the Zeti in Sonic Lost World at the end of Frozen Factory Act 2 makes you wonder if some of the old SatAM Sonic the Hedgehog Robotnik are in there somewhere. Even Sonic and Tails are shocked by his words.

Jade - Breath of Fire

Two Capcom baddies in one entry? We're diving into obscure territory on this one, but Jade is certainly worth mentioning even though he only appeared in a single game. The most powerful general under Emperor Zog's command, we get our first look at Jade when he leads the assault on the Light Dragon clan in Drogen where he defeats Sara, Ryu's sister, in combat. Rather than kill her, he has her placed under mind control as a servant for the Dark Dragon clan.

Zog's plan is to obtain the Goddess Keys to release Myria and make her power his own and rule the world. Jade, thinks this is a sound idea, but has no intention of staying under Zog's rule and in disguise helps Ryu throughout their journey, most likely so he can release Myria for himself.

Jade could have easily killed Sara at the start of the game, but why not have a little fun by tormenting her brother by using her against Ryu with mind control? Sara slips in and out of Jade's mental grasp long enough to inform Ryu what's going on but Jade works his magic on her again, causing her to take the form of a dragon and engage Ryu and the rest of the party in battle. Why kill Sara when he can have Ryu do it for him? Jade even mocks Ryu by stating that he thought he would have finished Sara off a lot sooner.

While Jade is ultimately defeated by Ryu and the gang, he was able to awaken Myria and grab greater power and Sara was one of the many casualties in his trek to the top. Zog also dies without any knowledge of Jade's betrayal. In the Japanese version of Breath of Fire, Jade's name is Judas, this could be a reference to the Biblical Judas that betrayed Jesus.

Part 1

Friday, November 15, 2013

Mega Man Remade

The soundtrack of the original Mega Man made it into the first part of my Essential NES Soundtracks feature and I still stand by it being a noteworthy score. RushJet1 must have thought so as well or at the least, thought it could be improved upon because he gave it the same VRC6 treatment that he gave Mega Man 3 and with that, we have the album Mega Man Remade.

Like Mega Man 3 Remade before it, Mega Man Remade takes advantage of the extra sound channels that the VRC6 chip provides, allowing for enhanced audio. The result is a soundtrack that feels familiar but new at the same time. I especially like what RushJet1 did with Ice Man's theme, giving it an even faster pace.

The soundtrack also takes plenty of cues from Mega Man: Dr. Wily's Revenge on the Game Boy. As the original NES Mega Man game had no title theme, RushJet 1 decided to use the Title music from the former game. Cut Man and Elec Man also take a few audio cues from Dr. Wily's Revenge as does the Boss theme and Dr. Wily Stage 4 and the Boss Gauntlet with the final four Robot Masters, which is a sick cover of Dr. Wily Stage 2.

Mega Man Remade offers 24 tracks of VRC6 Mega Man goodness all at a name your price download. So you can donate or get it for free. Here's to hoping RushJet1 covers the entire Classic Mega Man series in VRC6 format. I'm loving what I've heard thus far.

Mega Man Remade

Monday, November 11, 2013

Favorite Tunes #74: Wind Waker 10th Anniversary Edition

10 years. Can you really believe it's been that long since The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker released? This game that so many in the gaming community once bared it's fangs at due to it's radically different art style is now regarded as a classic and a lot of fan's favorite Zelda games. It's certainly one of my favorites. This game was drop dead gorgeous a decade ago but Nintendo saw fit to give it an HD overhaul. To commemorate the ten year anniversary of the Wind Waker and the release of Wind Waker HD, this entire edition of Favorite Tunes features music from the game that gave birth to Toon Link. Enjoy.

Title - The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (GCN, Wii U)

Zelda games have always had great title themes, but something about this one really gets me. Being a game with a heavy focus on wind, the game's soundtrack makes use of lots of wind instruments. You've heard people say "dat bass" and what not. Well now it's all about dat flute and dem bagpipes.

Outset Island - The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD (Wii U)

Ah, Link's hometown. The outset of Link's adventure is aptly named Outset Island. On Link's birthday, his ordinary life is turned upside down when a bird kidnaps his sister. If he's to get her back, he must leave the island and his friends and family behind. I get especially choked up when Link waves goodbye to his grandmother. This track got some remastering work done to it.

The Great Sea - The Legend of Zelda: The Wink Waker (GCN, Wii U)

What was a bothersome chore to many, sailing, was actually an aspect of the game I didn't really mind. Unlike past versions of Hyrule, this one was flooded, which meant a lot of overworld exploration would be done by ship. It was a new element to the series to be sure, but you couldn't just jump onto the King of Red Lions and go in any direction. First you had to set the wind in the direction you want to go, make sure you had your sail equipped and then set off. Sailing the vast ocean in Wind Waker was honestly one of my favorite experiences in a Zelda game.

Mini-Boss - The Legend of Zelda: The WinD Waker (GCN, Wii U)

The Wind Waker had more dungeons than Majora's Mask but still far fewer than most Zelda games. Combat was more fun in the Wind Waker than in any other Zelda game at this point and who couldn't get in the mood to hack and slash with this mini boss theme? There may have been a low dungeon count in this game, but they sure kept the mini bosses coming.

Windfall Island - The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD (Wii U)

Who doesn't love this island? Lots to see and do, a gang of kids walking around like they own the place and Link doing his best Frank Welker cat meow. Windfall Island is also home to lots and I do mean LOTS of side quests.

Gohdan - The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (GCN, Wii U)

The Wind Waker was a notable Zelda title in a lot of regards, in terms of visuals, sound and even the bosses. One thing that certainly helped the bosses stand out was giving each boss their own theme. Gohdan here has to be one of the coolest looking faces and pair of hands I've ever seen in a video game and this is all caped off with an engaging boss theme.

Phantom Ganon - The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (GCN, Wii U)

The last time we saw Phantom Ganon, he rode on a horse and jumped through paintings. It seems he's sincle sold his steed and got a fantastic makeover and I must say that I approve. Phantom Ganon confronts like just before he sneaks inside the Forsake Fortress and the battle is a reminiscent of the first battle with Ganondorf in Ocarina of Time. Interesting note, the intro to this course is an updated version of the jingle that plays when Link encounters Ganon in the original Legend of Zelda.

Molgera - The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD (Wii U)

Molgera isn't one of my favorite boss battles in Wind Waker, but I cannot get enough of his theme. In Super Smash Bros. Brawl, it's set to the highest so I can hear it frequently in Toon Link's stage. For the HD version of Wind Waker, this song was remastered. There's a bit more piazza to the flute and trumpet.

Ganondorf Battle - The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (GCN, Wii U)

I think this is the first time in the series where Ganon was portrayed as being more than just a power hungry, laughing maniacal madman. He's actually got reasons for doing what he's doing other than just being the bad guy, reasons that I won't spoil for those that have not made it up to this point in the game.

Staff Credits - The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (GCN, Wii U)

How many themes can you hear mixed in with this glorious staff roll theme? Well, there's the Title theme, a bit of The Great Sea, Zelda's Theme, a bit of The Legend of Zelda theme and maybe some that I missed. I usually don't get to attached to medley staff roll themes, but this one really grabbed me.

Favorite Tunes Database

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Awesome Boss Battles in Gaming Part V

Boss fights. Some say they aren't worth the trouble, but I always think they'll be a much needed part of gaming. Awesome Boss Battles in Gaming represents some of my personal favorite battles in the medium. If you've been reading the past few articles, you may note that some of these boss fights are quite easy. Each boss that's made the cut is here for some reason on another. Sometimes the challenge is a factor and sometimes it isn't. Besides, it's my list anyway so, neh!

Mr. Freeze - Batman: Arkham City (PS3, 360)

Much like Batman: The Animated Series did for Batman in animation, the Batman Arkham games has given the Dark Knight a new lease on video game life. The animated hit worked wonders both for Batman and his rogues gallery. It was this series that transformed Mr. Freeze, a largely forgettable gimmick villain into the tragic figure we know him as today.

"I learn from my mistakes, Batman. Do you?"

Of all the lines of dialogue Mr. Freeze spouts in this fight, this one has got to be my favorite, not only for it's chilling delivery, but for the truth behind it. Did you enjoy hiding in the vents in the lab, waiting on Freeze to get near, springing up and unleashing a combo on the emotionless man? I hope so, because you won't ever be able to use that tactic on him again. Mr. Freeze is what I like to call an adaptable boss. He never falls for the same tricks twice, which forces you to find new ways to strike him. Fortunately there are a plethora of ways to get he drop on Mr. Freeze. Explosive gel, use a window take-down, or hang from a ledge and wait for Freeze to come around and pounce. The variety of methods you can use to take down Freeze combined with not being able to use any of them more than once makes for one of the most memorable boss fights not just in Arkham City, but in gaming in general.

Kraid - Super Metroid (SNES)

The last time Samus crossed paths with Kraid was in the original Metroid and he wasn't much bigger than her. As far as size, he wasn't very intimidating. But as they say, size isn't everything and in spite of his diminutive stature, he was a colossal pain to defeat.

In Super Metroid, you come across a Mini Kraid that's easily disposed of with Missiles or even better, Super Missiles. Anyone that thought this smaller version of Kraid was the real deal was in for a huge surprise. Beyond him lies the genuine article and he's had a few growth spurts since you last saw him. Kraid is now so large that a single screen can't contain him. After taking enough punishment, he'll spring from ground, forcing Samus to use platforms just so she can land a hit on his weak point: his open mouth. While Kraid is large, he's not as in charge as he was in the original Metroid. A few Super Missiles can end this fight rather quickly. When I first tried to take on Kraid I didn't know this and lost to him many times. But even with the Super Missiles making the fight a cakewalk, I still think Kraid is a pretty cool boss.

Mecha Dragon - Mega Man 2 (NES)

Don't you just hate it when you're jumping across very small platforms, the screen goes on auto scroll and then all of a sudden this huge frickin' Mecha Dragon teleports up behind you? It's enough to scare you out of your wits to the point where you send poor Mega Man plummeting to his death. That's what happened to me years ago, at least.

The Mecha Dragon is the first Dr. Wily stage boss that you face and as I described above, it's possible to die before you even get a chance to fight him. You have to continue jumping across the tiny platforms as he flies behind you and make it to the battle location. It isn't really far but when you arrive, you'll see that all you've got to stand on are the tiny platforms that have kept you from dying thus far. The Mecha Dragon only has one vulnerable spot, it's face and you'd be wise to keep that mug as far away from Rock as possible because touching it kills him instantly. The mechanical beast is weak to the Quick Boomerangs but you can still mash down on the fire button with the Mega Buster and take him out quickly. His fire blasts can knock you off the platforms especially if you happen to be standing on the one in the back row. For this reason, you should stand on the top platform.

Drill Mobile - Sonic 3 & Knuckles (GEN)

Tails could fly in Sonic 2 (so long as the computer was controlling him) but it wasn't until Sonic 3 & Knuckles that the fox's ability to take flight really came in handy. Not only could the player take control of Tails flight but without Sonic's unkillable sidekick, the fight against Dr. Robotnik in Marble Garden Zone Act 2 would be unwinnable.

Eggman uses his drill to destroy the very ground Sonic and Tails are standing on and then takes to the air. Sonic and Tails give chase with Tails carrying his best friend. When they catch up to Robotnik, you have to hit the fat man but be careful to avoid landing on the drill or the flame from the jet engines. Don't worry about falling below because Tails swoops down and picks you right up so there's no need to fear death via bottomless pit. Robotnik does like to come at you in different directions after being hit. He'll go off screen and return to attack from either the top, bottom or the back of the screen and that drill can change to suit the direction he chooses to attack from. So if he assaults you from below, the drill will be pointed upward, making it unwise to try to land a hit. You really don't want to lose any rings due to an ill-time jumped here because once they scatter, you have very little hope of getting even one back and that makes this fight a whole lot tougher.

Speaking of tough, facing this boss when playing only as Tails can be an exercise in frustration. This is still an aerial battle but without Sonic and Tails can't perform the spin jump while flying. This means Tails must use his tails to hit the Drill Mobile from underneath and between the flame in the back and the drill in the front, the hit box under the Drill Mobile is ridiculously tiny.

Shredder - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time (SNES)

A port of the arcade game, I find the SNES version to be the superior game for a number of reasons despite it being only a two player experience rather than four. The Turtles don't talk nearly as much, making them far less annoying. There are bosses exclusive to this game like Bebop and Rocksteady and of course, the Technodrome level, complete with a very unique confrontation with Shredder.

Being the third level of the game, most players probably caught on to the ability to grab a Foot Soldier and hurl him at the screen and see some cool Mode 7 effects. This move is your only means of taking out Shredder's battle tank. An endless wave of Foot Soldiers come at the Turtles as Shredder attempts to polish the mutants off with gunfire. By tossing Foot Soldiers at the screen, they'll hit Shredder and with enough hits, he'll be defeated, sending our heroes through a time warp in which he claims they'll never return. Spoiler alert, they make it home.

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Game Art #63: NiGHTS Gallery

One of SEGA's most truly unique franchises, it kills me to see NiGHTS go so unused the way it has. Anyone that missed their chance to play the original could experience the enhanced port on the PlayStation network and Xbox Live arcade but there hasn't been a new NiGHTS title since Journey of Dreams on Wii in 2008. This series is long overdue for some appreciation so enjoy some NiGHTS fan art.

By That child
Unknown Artist
Unknown Artist
By kiaraneko
By MidnightCambion
By tsurupokiporutsu

Friday, November 1, 2013

Awesome Boss Battles in Gaming Part IV

Another installment of this feature is long overdue so without further delay, welcome to Part Iv of Awesome Boss Battles in Gaming. This time we've got apes of wrath, walking mechs that love blowing things up, highly skilled boss ladies, metal rodents and a college frat?

Andross - StarFox (SNES)

Polygons. You remember when those things were all the rage? In the 16-bit days you could count the number of polygons a character had on one hand, but it was still wow worthy, none-the-less. Those now archaic polygons made for some impressive-looking bosses with the final baddie, Andross being among them.

Just before the climatic confrontation, Andross tries  the old break them by talking technique as our furry hero flies through one final, narrow obstacle laden hallway, spouting the typical "you cannot defeat me" villian speech before Fox reaches his chambers. Thankfully, it's brief. When you arrive, you see this huge, white face. This can be a bit off putting since you clearly saw a talking monkey on your way here. Regardless, that big mug is Andross and he starts off by shooting some rectangles at you. These can easily be dodge, but he likes to recycle his ammo by inhaling it and if possible, you along with it. If you get sucked up, any fire power upgrades you have will be lost and it's possible to lose a wing or two in the process. Should you find yourself on the verge of getting sucked in, use the boost. The eyes are the weak point and once both take enough damage, a cube is revealed to be Andross' true form. If you have any bombs on hand, now is the time to chuck those sucker while the cube is exposed. You want to deal as much damage to the cube as possible before it's facial shell reforms and you have to take out the eyes again. Depending on which path you took to reach Andross will determine the difficulty of the fight. On Hard mode, Andross' facial shield take the form of a bull over time.

WarMech - Final Fantasy (NES, PS, PSP)

Before Omega, Ruby and Emerald Weapon, there was WarMech, what could be considered the first super boss of the Final Fantasy series. Before fighting Tiamat, the final of the Four Fiends, you must cross a long narrow bridge to get to him. This is the only place in the entire game that you can encounter WarMech and even then, you only have a 1/64 chance. In the NES version of FF, he's the strongest foe in the game. There are tougher enemies in the remakes and enhanced ports, but make no mistake, WarMech is not an opponent to be trifled with no matter which version of FF you happen to be playing.

I believe I've made it clear that WarMech is one tough customer and this is compounded further by the fact that he almost always gets the preemptive strike on you. His physical attacks hit hard and his specialty, Nuke, hits the whole party for massive damage. If you're lucky, only two of your party members will be dead from that attack but if you ran into this guy with low HP, you're probably looking at a game over. You need at least one person designated to healing the party with every turn so if you have a White Mage, this shouldn't be too difficult as long as they're kept alive. You should also cast Haste. Anyone not dishing out spells need to hit WarMech with everything they've got because once it starts attacking, it does not let up. You need to kill WarMech before it kills you. You can be high in levels and still get your anus handed to you by this things.

The Boss - Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (PS2, 3DS)

In a game that's all about camouflage, the attire that the boss chooses to wear, white, makes her seem like a very shootable target. You'd think she was a big fan of Snow Job. But the area of the last throw down is set in a field of white flowers. All of a sudden her choice of clothing doesn't seem so dumb.

The Boss was Snake's mentor. She taught him everything he knows and together, they developed CQC, Close Quarters Combat. Each time he's encountered her during his mission, he's never had it in him to take her on due to his emotional attachment to her. This time, however, he has to fight  her. Fight her and defeat her in 10 minutes. If The Boss is still breathing by then, a pair of MiGs are prepared to blow the place sky high and everyone in the area makes the news.

Being the one who raised Snake, The Boss is unquestionably a formidable opponent. And her choice of camo can make spotting her difficult if you're aren't using an equipment, but it can still be done. Her weapon of choice is her Patriot gun and CQC and if she gets off any CQC on you, you can look forward to losing some of your gear. If you're CQC is pretty good, it's entirely possible to take out the boss with nothing but that, but if you don't have a lot of faith in your CQC, well, there's no harm in shooting her or trying to blow her up. All is fair on the battlefield, after all.

Metal Sonic - Sonic CD (SCD)

The second in the line of robotic Sonic knock-offs, Metal Sonic is the cream of the crop. Making his debut in Sonic CD, his first order of business is kidnapping Amy Rose. I'm a bit surprised it took them this long to get a damsel in distress in the Sonic series. Rather fan fight Metal Sonic in a head to head battle, Sonic is pitted against Dr. Robotnik's creation in a bid to beat the hedgehog at his own game: speed.

Boss fights in Sonic CD are mostly a joke, but the race against Metal Sonic is certainly one of the better conflicts. Overtaking Metal Sonic isn't the toughest thing to do by any means but whenever you do get ahead of him, he'll catch up to you and emit an electrical attack. It's best to just jump over him and let him get ahead for a bit whenever he does this. But you still want to stay ahead because Dr. Eggman follows behind you the whole way with a laser beam that will kill you instantly upon contact even if you are carrying rings. Failure to beat Metal Sonic means getting fried by egghead's laser. Win and Metal Sonic will turn into spare parts and Amy Rose will be freed. I'm not sure if that last one can be considered a win.

Sigma 2nd - Mega Man X4 (PS, SAT)

After taking down Sigma's first form, you drop down a floor for the final showdown. Sigma 2nd is composed of two forms each with their own seperate life bar and Sigma can switch back and forth between each body. One form is a deranged Sigma head that attacks with gusts of wind that attempt to push you into a wall of instant death spikes. You can easily dash against the wind gusts and get in close to attack the Sigma head but blue, red and yellow heads are also scattered about the area and each have their own attacks. The red mask is the most lethal since it comes equipped with spikes and we all know how dangerous those are by now. When Sigma switches over to his second body, composed of a torso with  a long gun, you'll need to jump on top of the heads to shoot the second body in the face. When you hear Sigma say "The End" he's going to fire off a floor sweeping laser blast that you do not want to get hit by.

This probably all sounds really nerve wrecking for a first time player and it is, but once you get things down, this final bout is quite easy, but that doesn't take anything away from this being one of the most creative boss fights in the X series and the Mega Man games as a whole. That metal track that plays during the battle is sick on so many levels.

Part I
Part II
Part III