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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Favorite Tunes #79: Celebrate Good Times, Come On!

Well, here it is, the end of of 2013. It's a time of reflection, but mostly celebrations and of course, good music! Don't overdo it on the booze, be safe and happy new year!

Stardust Speedway "B" Mix JP - Sonic CD (SCD) 

By GagaMan

When you first saw Metal Sonic, he kidnapped Amy Rose, or in this case Rosey the Rascal since we're talking about the Japanese version of Sonic CD. When you encounter him a second time, you battle it out to see who is truly the fastest thing alive. It's race of flesh against metal. Annnnnd they roll out this dance beat. Turn it up, get down!

Soft Collision - Mighty Switch Force! 2 (3DSW, Wii U)

The first Mighty Switch Force! was a splendid puzzle/platform game with a distinctively retro inspired soundtrack. The sequel is has you shooting water instead of ammo and the puzzle mechanics are slightly different but it's still more of the same goodness we fell in love with before. Like the original game, the soundtrack is also very dance-centric.

Growing Wings - NiGHTS Journey of Dreams (Wii)

After years of waiting and please from fans, Sonic Team delivered on sequel to the cult classic Saturn game NiGHTS into dreams with NiGHTS Journey of dreams. And there was much whining and complaining. Some said it was too long, other said there was too much dialogue and the voice acting wasn't needed. The game wasn't perfect but it's far from being the terrible game some fans make it out to be. The soundtrack had plenty of arrangements of familiar themes from the original as well as fresh music.

Zero Stage 2 - Mega Man X5 (PS)

What was originally intended to be the final game of the Mega Man X series. Rather than have a dark and ominous theme for the final level, the game assaults your ears with this kicking rave theme that is begging to be played at parties. It's an unexpected theme to be sure, but it's certainly a welcomed one.

Bitter Dance - Star Ocean: Till the End of Time (PS2)

What would you think if I told you this was actually a battle theme? Done picking your jaw up off the floor yet? This is one video game tune that probably isn't gonna win any sort of serious awards. It really feels out of place, but you know what? I love the left field nature of this tune. I guess this is one of my guilty pleasure songs.

Replay 2 - Rage Racer (PS)

The first game to truly shake up the Ridge Racer series, Rage Racer featured even more exotic cars than the previous games and a much longer grand prix mode where you earned cash and could upgrade your cars. Some fans may have bemoaned this new approach that meant far more time was needed in order to see everything the game had to offer, but I personally feel the gamble payed off and we were given one of the more standout entries in the series.

Buggie Running Beeps 01 - Rez (DC, PS2)

I don't mean to sound like "one of those types" but remember when SEGA was constantly innovating and putting out new IPs left and right? These days it seems as if Sonic is all that's left of the company since he's the only character that gets his own full fledged games. Anyway, Rez was first released on the Dreamcast and later ported to the PS2. The DC version was exclusive to Japan with the PS2 version seeing an American and European release. Rez also saw a digital release in the form of Rez HD for the Xbox Live Arcade. Rez is a very unique rail shooter with an incredible electronic soundtrack.

Degeneracy (Stage 4 - Plant) - Battle Garegga (SAT, Arranged Ver.)

A hard as nails old-school shooter that was released for arcades in the late 1990s, Battle Battle Garegga received a Saturn port in Japan and one of the most distinct features from the arcade version was the option to switch to an arranged soundtrack. Definitely worth adding to your collection of Saturn import titles if you can find a copy.

Expander - Streets of Rage 2 (GEN)

Yuzo Koshiro wowed Genesis owners with his brilliant work on the original Streets of Rage. His Streets of Rage 2 compositions are arguably his best work on the Genesis trilogy, pushing the Genesis sound chip to levels that were unheard of at the time. Expander in particular still amazes me to this day.

End Credits - Mighty Switch Force! (3DSW, Wii U)

When the Mighty series began, composer Jake Kaufman created a catchy reoccurring tune that I've dubbed "The Mighty Theme" it has since been used in every Mighty game, including both Mighty Switch Force! titles. I suppose it was arranged twice in the first game since you can hear it in Caught Red Handed and the End Credits theme, which is easily a contender for one of the best staff roll themes of all-time. It's perfect for parties that are winding down, relaxing after work or just plain chilling.

Favorite Tunes Database

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas Stuff

Just a quick post today. I thought I'd share a photo of the lovely things I got for Christmas from my sister and my folks.

I may be a grown man, but I LOVE me some cartoons and Adventure Time is one of the best reasons to watch Cartoon Network. Be it alone or with my nieces and newphew, I've seen many an episode of Adventure Time and my sister knows I'm a fan. So when I opened my present from her, I was so excited to see a familiar, stretchy yellow dog plastered on a XL t-shirt. Jake is probably my favorite character in Adventure Time (I suspect he's a lot of people's favorite) so I'll wear his mug with great pride.

I'm not a huge fan of plaid, but when it comes to plaid PJs, I can't get enough of it. I was down to my last pair of standard gray PJ pants so I got these ultra warm plaid PJ pants from my parents. These will help keep me nice and toasty over the cold winter months.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Tales of Gaming Christmas Past

I pride myself on having a pretty good memory. Case in point, I can recall a great deal of gifts I've gotten for Christmas in the past, be it clothing, or, *gasp* game related. Rather than talk about one particular Christmas memory as I did last year, why not share a smorgasbord of them?

Christmas of 1986 or 1987

Best. Christmas. Gift. Ever.

And here's where I look like a huge hypocrite. I just got finished saying how good my memory is, but for the life of me, I cannot remember which exact Christmas it was that I received a Nintendo Entertainment System. Personally, I think that's a pretty terrible thing to admit because not only was it my very first gaming console, but the impact this gift had on my life is beyond huge. It's the reason this very blog is here today and the reason so many people in the gaming community do what they do. Say what you want about Nintendo today, but the mark they've left on the industry is no small thing and in the late 1980s, they helped make a little boy's Christmas one of the best ever.

So in Christmas of '86 or '87, there was lots of stuff to unwrap. I mean, what parent doesn't love getting their offspring presents and seeing the looks on their faces when they open them? But for my sister and I (well maybe more me), the grandaddy of all gifts in 86/87 was a big, heavy box. What could it be? When we opened it up, we didn't react quite the way the N64 kid did but we were nonetheless STOKED. I think I'd seen and played my dad's Atari 2600 prior to getting an NES, but this baby was for my sister and I. Our very own gaming console to turn on and play anytime we wanted. My dad even shopped smart and got us the NES bundle that came with Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt. There's nothing like stomping on Goombas and killing ducks to fill one with Christmas cheer.

Once the NES was hooked up to the TV, we were good to go. Unlike today, there was no need for system updates and cumbersome installations. We just turned the thing on and we were ready to play. I'm certain that Super Mario Bros. was the first game we played. I think my sister and I sat next to my dad and watched him tackle World 1 all by himself. I can honestly say I'd never seen anything like Super Mario Bros. at the time. Mario started out small, yet when he smashed certain ? Blocks a Super Mushroom would come out and upon consumption, he would become twice the man he was. As Super Mario, he gained the ability to break bricks and take on an extra hit before he dies. But there were even more power-ups Mario could acquire. The Starman turned Mario into a walking seizure, capable of killing any enemy on contact and the Fire Flower allowed Mario to wield deadly flames with his bare... gloves.

Super Mario Bros. truly was a strange, new, yet fascinating new world. Super Mario Bros. 2 often gets harped on for being different and bizarre from the original and Super Mario Bros. 3, but when you think about, Super Mario Bros. is a pretty oddball game to. I think that's one of the main reasons I fell in love with it. Oh that and that catchy soundtrack that Koji Kondo came up with. My love for Nintendo, Mario, the platforming genre and video game music had been cemented in just one Christmas day. That's quite the one four punch!

Christmas 1989

By this time, the NES and I had become inseparable and I already had a reputation of being what is now commonly refereed to as a gamer. Along with Nintendo, Capcom had become one of my favorite gaming companies thanks to their work on the excellent Mega Man 2 and DuckTales. So when I saw the commercial for Chip 'N Dale: Rescue Rangers, I immediately wanted the game. I was a huge fan of the show and with Capcom being in charge of development, I knew the game would be gold.

I had rented my share of games for the NES by the time 1989 was almost over. Some good and some just plain awful. Whenever I wanted to rent Chip 'N Dale, the game was almost always out, much to my disappointment. The one time it was in, my dad wouldn't let me rent it, which killed me on so many levels. Of course the one time the game was in the rental store was around Christmas time and being a kid, I couldn't have guessed that this game was what my father had gotten me as one of my Christmas gifts.

When I opened my presents on Christmas day, 1989 and Chip 'N Dale was among them, I was as giddy as a school girl. Looking back, I was glad my father didn't let me rent the game. As much as I wanted to enjoy it more, the first level was kicking me in the butt. Playing so much Mega Man 2 and Super Mario Bros. 2, I had become accustomed to backwards scrolling and being able to shoot your enemies or at the very least pick up your enemies and toss them at other enemies. So a good friend of mine came over and we talked the game together, passing the first level and getting to the stage with those oh-so-cool flying squirrels!

Christmas 1993

In 1992 I would do something that I would later come to regret: I gave away my NES to my late cousin. It seemed like a good idea at the time. I mean, my SNES was getting all the action. Surely I could do without 8-bit gaming right? Well, a year later, I found myself missing out on some NES games like Mega Man 5. Not only that, I just plain missed owning the system. The game gave me so many fond memories in the form of Contra, Mega Man 2 and 3, Super Mario Bros. 3 and so many others. It was the first time I can clearly remember having one of those "What have I done?" moments

When my dad asked me what I wanted for Christmas in 1993, I told him that I wanted an NES and Mega Man 2-4.  I think he was a bit surprised when I told him this. I probably could have gotten a Genesis or even a new SNES game. But no, I told him with utmost assurance but the NES and the three Mega Man games was what I wanted.

Sure enough, an NES with Mega Man 2-4 was one of my Christmas gifts. I wasn't too surprised since I  went gift hunting around the house and found where my dad hid them, but I was nonetheless happy to have an NES again. This also marked the first time I owned used gaming goods as the NES and the games were second hand. The NES was picked up for $11 and the combined total of the Mega Man games was around $50 since I told my father where he could go to get the games on the cheap. I still own that NES and the Mega Man games to this day.

Christmas 1994

This was a huge, HUGE year for the SNES. Mega Man X, Super Metroid, Super Punch-Out!!, Uniracers, Final Fantasy VI, Demon's Crest and a plethora of other fantastic titles hit the machine. If you had a SNES, there was no shortage of awesome titles to play for the holiday season.

This was also the year that Donkey Kong made his big comeback. Earlier in the year Donkey Kong released on the Game Boy and in November, Donkey Kong Country graced the SNES. As grand as all the other games I mentioned were, this was the game that turned a lot of heads. Here we had a 32-bit game running on 16-bit hardware and it looked gorgeous. Not only that, the sound that the game was pumping out was incredible. Just as everyone was gearing up for the Saturn and PlayStation, Rare and Nintendo wow us with this thing. This was the SNES game to own for Christmas.

It's on like... you know the rest.

The funny thing is, as much hype as their was surrounding Donkey Kong Country, I didn't even ask for the game as a Christmas gift. Make no mistake, I was foaming at the mouth over the game like everyone else was, but I didn't nag my dad for it. And yet, he got it for me anyway. Maybe he was watching my reaction to the TV ads or he knew how much I loved platformers. Or he just had good taste. Whatever the reason, he got me the game, and I cannot thank him enough for it.

I spent hours playing that game after I opened it up. I think I made it to the third world on Christmas day and by New Year's Eve, I had finished the game. I wish I could say that was a pretty amazing feat, but it really wasn't. I was 13 at the time and the later levels of Donkey Kong Country got really brutal, especially the industrial complex that was Fear Factory. But I finished the game in seven days. I had time off from school and I adored the game so what else was I to do but play it to death? Thinking back on this makes me long for the days where I didn't have so many other things taking up my time. Oh well. At least I'll always have those fond memories of DK, Diddy, Rambi, and lots of bananas. Good times. Such good times.


When I was a kid, the best part of Christmas was getting presents. Now that I'm older and have some nieces and a nephew, I get a chance to see the sparkle in their eyes when the open up their presents, the same sparkle my mother and father saw in the eyes of myself and my sister. It really is better to give than it is receive. It's even fun to shop for kids I don't know when it comes to the toy drive that's hosted at my job each year. I've never been

Monday, December 23, 2013

Favorite Tunes #78: A Wonderful Christmas Time

Ah, Christmas time. A time of family, giving gifts, eggnog and cold. Lots and lots of cold. I'm not a huge fan of frosty climates in real life or video games, but in the case of the later, they usually serve up some extremely good tunes. With it being the holiday season, enjoy a round of Christmas themed video game music.

Frozen Factory Zone 1 - Sonic Lost World (Wii U, 3DS)

Sonic games have a ridulously good track record of having great winter themed music to go along with the stages. Ice Cape Zone in Sonic 3 & Knuckles, Robotnik Winter in Sonic Triple Trouble, Holoska in Sonic Unleashed and now Frozen Factory in Sonic Lost World. Opinions may be split on this particular entry in the Sonic series, but I think everyone will agree that the music still kicks in all the right places.

Frappe Snowland - Mario Kart 64 (N64)

The first Mario Kart to take the series into three dimensions, Mario Kart 64 has two winter themed race courses, one I adore and the other I despise. The track I love, Sherbert Island is home to some big penguins and has you driving across a huge sheet of ice through caves and across a fairly large sized lake. The track I hate, Frappe Snowland is a track that is (obviously) covered with the white stuff. What makes this track annoying is the plethora of snowman populated in a section of the track that bring your cart to a screetching halt if you collide into them. Both courses share the same musical theme, which is ironically named after lesser of the two tracks.

Christmas Eve - Animal Crossing (GCN) 

The original Animal Crossing consumed a huge chunk of my life and New Leaf on the 3DS is doing it all over again. But I can still remember sitting in my room in my early 20s on Christmas Eve, walking through  my snow-covered town, the trees decorated with Christmas lights, the town buzzing with Christmas cheer. I can't remember many holidays of the first game, but Christmas in Animal Crossing hit me so hard in the feel goods and this music had a lot to do with it. Since Christmas is all about giving, enjoy an extended version of this theme.

Jack Frost's Chime - Christmas NiGHTS into dreams... (SAT)

Released with select games in magazines in December of 1996, Christmas NiGHTS into dreams is a two stage Christmas theme version of NiGHTS. The Nightopeans are all decked out in their Christmas gear and the levels have a very holiday look to theme. The music is also fit for the occasion. Finding a physical copy of this game is not easy (I found one a few years back for chump change) but it's a wonderful unlockable bonus in the HD remake of NiGHTS into dreams when you complete the game once.

Diamond Dust Act 1 - Sonic 3D Blast (SAT)

The Saturn version of Sonic 3D Blast not only looked cleaner than the Genesis version, but it arguably sounded better depending on whom you ask. I think both versions got solid soundtracks, but the Saturn version of Diamond Dust Act 1 just overwhelms me with Christmas cheer.

Ice Cave Chant - Donkey Kong Country (SNES)

By Michi

After the nightmarish level that was Snowbarrel Blast, you get to take a breather. OK, so the ice cave wasn't a complete cakewalk but compare to what came before, passing this one was a breeze. Even today, the sparkling effects of the crystal ice levels continue to amaze me, just as the audio track does.

Snowy Fields - Kirby's Epic Yarn (Wii)

There sure are a lot of Nintendo and SEGA games dominating this thing. Eh, what can I say, both companies pimp out superb music. As I said in the opening above, snow levels are generally on the frustrating side, but the ice world of Kirby's Epic Yarn has got to be one of my favorite snow themed levels I've ever been to in a video game. I suppose it helps that said ice world comes from what is arguably the cutest game ever.

Cozy Cabin - Kirby's Epic Yarn (Wii)

What's this? Kirby and Prince Fluff? Again? The two are just that good. Cozy Cabin takes you through a quaint little cabin and by "little" I mean huge and by "quaint" I mean the ceiling tries to crush you as you move through the level. Even an advancing ceiling couldn't pull my thoughts away from Christmas, which was heavily on my mind since I was originally playing Kirby's Epic Yarn as the holiday was approaching back in 2011.

Dream Bells - Christmas NiGHTS into dreams... (SAT)

A few years ago, I started a tradition of listening to the music from Christmas NiGHTS during the holiday season and it has since been some of my favorite Christmas music to listen to. I don't know of anyone that will object to hearing hearing Jingle Bells and this version is as good as any other, even without lyrics.

Snowman - Mother 3 (GBA)

This piece of music is as much of a staple for the Mother/EarthBound series as Pollyanna, having been present since the original Mother game and appearing in each sequel as well as receiving an excellent Super Smash Bros. Brawl remix. So as you might imagine, it was quite difficult choosing which version to select for this Favorite Tunes. After much agonizing (because I'm dramatic that way) I decided to go with the GBA version from Mother 3.

Favorite Tunes Database

Latest Purchases #63

Super Mario 3D World has the honor of being the very first Wii U game I've ever owned. Ironically, it's one that I didn't actually pick up with my own money. I'm a designated trainer at my job and each quarter, your name is entered into a drawing to win a prize. As luck would have it, my name was drawn and I got the option to have the company pay for any one item between $50 or $100 at select stores and thankfully, one of those stores was Best Buy. After seeing that second trailer of 3D World, I had to have this game. Not just because I love Mario games in general, but this game brought back so much from Super Mario Bros. 2, one of my favorite Marios. For me, getting 3D World was a no brainer and it makes for a nice early Christmas gift. Now I just need to get a Wii U so I can play the darn thing.

Rhythm Heaven Fever. I have wanted this game ever since I read about it in a preview of Nintendo Power (RIP) and it convinced me to pick of the DS game Rhythm Heaven. The regular retail price of Rhythm Heaven Fever is $29.99, but K-Mart was selling it for $9.99, their last copy, I might add. Yoink!

I've never owned  Santa hat but when I saw these at Wallgreens, I just had to have one. That and wearing the Jingle Hat in Animal Crossing: New Leaf really sold me on having one of my own. I plan to wear it when I spend Christmas with my family in a few days.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Favorite Tunes #77: You Got Boost Power!

You know, I could have titled this one "Show me your moves!" or "Falcon Punch!" but I've always liked "You got boost power!" So for the uninitiated (all six of you) this Favorite Tunes is about one of the greatest racing franchises of all-time that has lain dormant for nearly a decade now, F-Zero. Will there ever be another game in the series and if so, will it see an international release? I can't say for certain, but someday, I hope I can race on crazy tracks suspended high above cities with the likes of Captain Falcon, Pico and yes, even you, Dr. Stewart.

Decide in the Eyes - F-Zero X (N64)

The original F-Zero showed off one of the SNES' many features: the mode-7 scaling. The sense of speed this game gave off was mindblowing and was proof that SEGA's blue hedgehog wasn't the only fastest thing alive. It would be a painful seven year wait before we saw a sequel to the SNES classic in the form of F-Zero X. Like Super Mario 64 did for Mario, F-Zero X brought the series into the third dimension with an incredible 60 FPS. The trade off for the speed was some rather blandish visuals. Totally worth it. In addition to the crazy new track designs was a rock inspired soundtrack, which ranks among the best audio on the N64.

Red Canyon - F-Zero (SNES)

Mode-7 heaven! True, this is easily the most bare bones of the F-Zero games, it's still a very playable game with superb sense of speed and track designs that will test gamers of all skill levels. Red Canyon is where Samurai Goroh hails from and I've always felt that this was one of the more under-appreciated F-Zero themes.

Empyrean Colony - F-Zero: Maximum Velocity (GBA)

The first F-Zero game on a portable device. Since the GBA didn't have the power of the N64, Maximum Velocity took the series back to it's mode-7 roots. By no means did this make the game any easier. On the contrary. It may have lacked many of the more three dimensional track designs of F-Zero X, but this game still boasted a difficulty that could make you toss your GBA out the window. Maxmimum Velocity also introduced an entirely new cast. Taking place eons after the original F-Zero, Captain Falcon and company were long gone.

Dr. Stewart - F-Zero GX (GCN)

I've made mention earlier that I am not a fan of Dr. Stewart. He has a nice looking machine but his shield is the worst. What good is a A boost if your shield goes down faster than a brick? But I must give honor when honor is due and Dr. Stewart easily has one of the best character themes in F-Zero GX.

Sand Ocean (Arrange ver.)

And now for something different. Way back in 1992 there was an album released in Japan that simply went under the title F-Zero. It was a jazz arrange of the SNES F-Zero music. The arrangements are quite impressive and even today. It's so rare to see gaming albums get fully jazzed arranged albums so this is something I'd love to see more of.

Lightning - F-Zero: GP Legend (GBA)

The second of three portable F-Zero entries. GP Legend was based off off the anime series, which brought in some fresh faces. The audio was a step up from Maximum Velocity (which wasn't terrible, mind you) and despite using MIDI instruments, the rock music game through loud and clear. There's a handful of arranged music from F-Zero X and the original F-Zero but Lightning is one of GP Legend's original compositions.

Port Town (X-Style Arrange)

SNES F-Zero music is classic, but the music to F-Zero X was a rock/metal fan's dream. Tony Thai combined both with F-Zero X-Style Arrangements, taking the music from the SNES game and arranging it with the sound of F-Zero X. It's every bit as awesome as you'd imagine and it makes me wish Nintendo had arranged more classic F-Zero songs the way they were done in F-Zero X.

Dream Chaser (Guitar Arrange ver.)

I've gushed about how awesome F-Zero X's soundtrack is, and well, I'm gonna gush some more. In 1999, F-Zero X Guitar Arranged released in Japan. Obviously it was a guitar arranged album of what was already a heavily infused rock/metal soundtrack. If you loved the N64 version of Dream Chaser, then there's very little chance of you disliking this arrangement.

Shotgun Kiss (Casino Palace) - F-Zero GX (GCN)

Being co-developed by Amusement Vision, at the time, one of SEGA's second parties, the soundtrack to F-Zero GX was given a lot of TLC. There was plenty of rock to be heard but also some techno thrown in for good measure and in the case of this track, there's a dash of jazz.

Cover for Mute City (Item Song 1) - F-Zero GX (GCN)

Come now, you really didn't think I'd finish things up and not mention the most iconic F-Zero theme of all, did you? There have been a ton of arrangements for Mute City over the years, but this special remix found in GX is the cream of the crop in my book. Super Smash Bros. Brawl took a few songs from X and GX but this version of Mute City remains exclusive to GX.

Favorite Tunes Database

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Happy 26th Anniversary, Mega Man

Well, today marks Mega Man's 26th anniversary and the end of the 25th anniversary celebrations. I wanted to remain optimistic about what Capcom had in store for the Blue Bomber's 25th birthday bash, but sadly, all the fan's fears were justified. Capcom didn't really go all out for such a monumental anniversary like they should have and outside of Street Fighter X Mega Man, there wasn't much in the way of new Mega Man games. Personally, I was never holding my breath for Mega Man 11 or Mega Man X9, but anyone thinking either of those was a possibility was just fooling themselves.

Yes, Mega Man's 25th anniversary was abysmal. There's no denying that nor is there any point in trying to defend Capcom on their handling of it at this point. Given Capcom's current state of business model, I'm not really surprised Rock's big anniversary was handled the way it was. Of course, this isn't going to stop a throng of fans from groaning about it. As much as I'm a firm believer in freedom of speech, the constant complaining from Mega Man fans is beyond old and the dead horse is nothing but a pile of bones.

But since the topic of this editorial has "happy" in the title, I do believe I should mention some positives. "But there's nothing to celebrate!" says the whining Mega Man fan. I disagree. Sure, there may be no new games to speak of, but that doesn't mean you can't find a reason to celebrate Mega's birthday. There's only been one Wizard of Oz movie, but that hasn't kept the film medium from celebrating time and again (and yes, I'm aware that said film is based off of a book). As much as a new Mega Man game would be awesome, it just isn't in the cards and there are plenty of other ways to celebrate. Design some fan art. Listen to the plethora of Mega Man music. Play the games. Anything is better than throwing the umpteenth hissy-fit about how much Capcom hates Mega Man.

If Mega Man is indeed dead because Capcom doesn't know what to do with the character, or because the talent to make a new game does not exist inside the company (it really is looking like this is the case), that won't take away what I got from this phenomenal series. I've been a Mega Man fan since I was a kid. I'm in my early thirties now and I'm still a die hard fan. Nothing will ever change that. If Mega Man is truly gone in terms of video games, at least he had a good run. And if I ever need a reminder of why I got so engrossed in this series, I have a ton of games to fall back on.

I've got some robots to bust up and some tunes to grove to. Happy 26th anniversary, Mega Man. You'll always be my number 001 when it comes to fighting for everlasting peace.

And Your Rank Is... Oh, Who Cares?

I've been playing Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon off and on and it's a solid follow up to the original GCN Luigi's Mansion. It looks stunning, it sounds amazing and it made me fall in love with Luigi's heroic cowardice all over again. After I finished my first mission in Gloomy Manor, I found I was being graded and my score was decided on various things like money collected and how speedy I took care of ghost busting business. For all there is to like about Dark Moon, I found that the ranking system's very existence was my least favorite of the new features.

Ranking the player is nothing new. Plenty of games do it these days. Ranking has been a staple of the Sonic series for a long time now and while I'm not overly fond of it in the hedgehog's adventures, I think it works more towards Sonic's gameplay, in which speed has always been a key factor.

After I received my one star rank in the first mission of Gloomy Manor, I decided to give it a second go and for moving at a faster pace, I was rewarded with three stars, the best rank you can get. Huzzah! I have to admit that I was more than a little elated to see my one star rank move up to three. However, I was did more and more missions, I felt less inclined to move faster and more at ease going about things at my own speed.

Ranking seems like a more natural fit for
this fellow.

This is just my personal feelings on the matter, but I don't feel a ranking system should even belong in Dark Moon. True, you aren't exploring one huge mansion so you could argue that ranking the player is more efficient since where you can go is more limited. But at the end of the day, you're still exploring a mansion and even though it isn't as grand in terms of scale as the original in the first game, these areas are still pretty freaking huge. Why on Earth would I want to haul plumber overalls in a game that is all about exploring just so I can get three stars? One of my favorite things about the original Luigi's Mansion was snooping around and finding as much dough as I could. In fact that's one of my favorite things about gaming as a whole; when you get rewarded for your curiosity.

I may not get the best ranking, but I have
more fun when I'm taking my time
in this particular adventure.

There's even more nooks and cranny's to search in Dark Moon than the first game and I found that I got far more enjoyment when I took my time looking around. I may not be getting those glistening three star ranks, but I'm having a lot more fun than I did when I was rushing, playing with the mindset that I have to move faster to get a better score. If there's something special that can be unlocked for getting the best ranking on each mission, cool, but I doubt I'll go the extra mile to unlock it.

In games that rank you I seldom go for the best ranking. Nothing against those that do put in the extra effort. Actually, I have a great deal of admiration for those folks. I'm pretty adept at games but I just don't have the patience to S rank or gold rank everything. I got a few gold medals on the challenges in Kirby's Return to Dream Land, but my mouth gaped open when I found out that gold is not the highest you can get. I was content with my bronze and silver medals and just knowing that I completed. I feel the same with Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon, but since the game is heavily based on exploration, I find the whole ranking system pointless.

Monday, December 16, 2013

I Need Some Animal Crossing Toys in My Life

So all the time I spent playing Animal Crossing: New Leaf, it finally occurred to me: I could really use some Animal Crossing toys, especially of the plus variety. I'm actually surprised it took so long for this to dawn on me. I've got Mario, plush toys, Sonic plush toys and even a Toon Link plushie, but not a single one for Animal Crossing, a series that is chalk full of fuzzy animals. Of course me being me, I was completely oblivious to the fact that there have been Animal Crossing plushies since Wild World, the one Animal Crossing game, I've never played.

Thankfully there are plushies for New Leaf, made by Sanei. Unfortunately, these plushies are not available in the states, which is rather baffling considering the popularity of the Animal Crossing series. I can walk into a store and pick up a Mario, Sonic or Pokemon plush toy no problem, but Animal Crossing? No go. Well, I'm an avid fan of shopping online and much of the New Leaf plushies an be purchased on Amazon. I'm pleased to see DJ K.K, Kicks, Porter and Isabelle are part of the set as well as Reese and Mr. Resetti. I'll get all of those for sure. The only reason I'd get Tom Nook is to strangle him whenever he screws me over in the next Animal Crossing game or if I really feel the need to complete this set. I'm a bit bummed that a lot of animals from New Leaf aren't included. I think everyone would love to see Marshall, but with as many animals that are in New Leaf,  maybe they'll release a second set.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Game Art #64: Mario Gallery

Oy. I know it seems like a beat Mario like a dead horse in Game Art, but Super Mario 3D World recently released, I just got my copy in spite of not yet owning a Wii U (I'll explain in a future post), there's some great Mario fan art out there and, well, I love Mario. So enjoy.