Search This Blog

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Nintendo 2DS: WHY?!

I would have had my say on this two days ago, but a coffee spill on my laptop forced me to go out and grab a new keyboard. So whether the iron is still hot or not, I intend to strike anyway.

With Nintendo's history of upgrade their handhelds, I knew there would be more than one version of the 3DS before the system even dropped. Sure enough, the first 3DS model was followed up by the 3DS XL, a unit that offered a larger screen, slightly longer battery life but not quite as sharp resolution as the standard 3DS. And yet, I knew that wouldn't be the end of the 3DS upgrades. Nintendo just can't help themselves. But much to my and every one else's surprise, the newest edition to 3DS systems isn't an upgrade, but a downgrade, the Nintendo 2DS. No, that 2 isn't a typo. Nintendo really is releasing a 2DS, a 3DS that plays 3DS and DS games but lacks the 3D slider, which means no 3D. My heard hurts, too, so you're not alone.

Why does this even exist? I don't even...

When I read about Nintendo's latest reveal on Wednseday, one question kept popping inside my head: WHY?! The 3DS and 3DSXL can play games just fine with the 3D slider turned off. In fact, I hardly even use the 3D on my 3DS because I've never seen the appeal of visual objects popping out at me in games or movies. Outside of those instances where enhanced depth is required in certain games, I keep the eye straining 3D off. So as you can see, playing 3DS games without 3D is quite simple and many of us won't need to pick up another system to do it. 

It isn't just the no-3D of the 2DS that gets me. One look at the above image and I think you'll see what I mean. That's right, the flip design that has been a Nintendo staple since the Game Boy Advance SP is being kicked to the curb with the 2DS. Again, why? The flip design keeps the screens look so much nicer, allowing for much less wear and tear. Why go back to a time where it was so much easier to scratch the screen of your handheld? I guess Nintendo just has to get those 2DS cases and storage backs to sell. Maybe they were going for more of a tablet design, but I still don't see this as a good thing.

On the flip side, the 2D is the cheapest of the 3DS models available It carries a retail price of $149.99 so I guess I could see someone picking this up at that cost if they didn't already one of the two existing 3DS models. If you can get over that questionable cosmetic design, that is.

The 2DS is set to launch in North America on October 12. Do you know what else comes out on October 12? That's right, kids, Pokemon X and Y. No doubt Nintendo will see another huge spike in sales with the latest generation of Pokemon games hit and these titles could be just the thing to help move 2DS units. 

The 2DS is backpedaling in every sense of the word. I'm not too keen on the 3D that the 3DS uses, but why take out a feature that was one of the system's biggest selling points? It would be like getting rid of the tablet for the Wii U after Nintendo talked it up so much. It wouldn't make any sense and neither does Nintendo's newest 3DS "upgrade."

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Play Hard Part 3

They say that gravity is a harsh and bitter mistress. Well guess what? Certain video games are the same way. Welcome to Part 3 of Play Hard where broken dreams, dismantled egos and shattered controllers dwell.

Part 1
Part 2

Donkey Kong Country Returns (Wii, 3DS)

The return of side scrolling Donkey Kong was meant with thunderous applause. Sure drum and racing games were fine but gamers were hungry for platforming action. Placing Retro Studios in charge of development was a very wise decision on Nintendo's part. After their success on the Metroid Prime series, who better than to revive Donkey Kong's 2D exploits? Donkey Kong Country Returns feels familiar but fresh at the same time. It even has that skull crushing difficulty of the SNES trilogy and in some respects it's even tougher than those games.

Gaining extra lives in this game is, to put it bluntly, stupidly easy. You may even scoff at the addition of hearts to allow you an extra hit. Don't be deceived into thinking DKCR is being soft on you, because it isn't. Those hearts and all those extra lives are justified when you see how easy it is to part with them.

New to the game are rocket barrel sections. These areas pit Donkey Kong on a jet powered barrel where he has to maneuver through obstacles and enemies. Now these areas may look fun in screen shots or in videos but when you're holding a controller in hands they seem like a means of torture design by Satan himself. The controls of the rocket barrels are incredibly sensitive and if you so much as collide with anything that isn't a coin, or a DK barrel and its curtains and like a SHMUP, everything is out to get you in these sections.

Remember the mine cart sections of the SNES DKC games? Those are back and somehow, Retro Studios managed to make them even more fiendishly difficult. You have to duck, jump and bounce off enemies at just the right moment to stay on track. In some cases, the mine cart sections get even wilder when rails aren't involved. One level has the cart rolling on a cracking egg while avoiding flaming enemies and sharp objects. It's every bit as crazy as it sounds and it can be murder when playing with a friend. Just ask Matt and Pat.

Just like New Super Mario Bros. Wii and Super Mario Galaxy 2, DKCR has a Super Guide. Lose seven lives and you'll get the option to turn on Super Kong to help you finish a level. Yes, Super Kong shows up to inform you of your suckitude. He's completely optionally but just having a reminder of how often you've died only adds insult to injury. You can visit Cranky Kong's shop to buy extra lives and even invincibility power ups. You may feel like some of the items he offers borders on cheating (Cranky even lampshades it) but once you see just how punishing some of these levels can get, you'll be dropping your hard earned cash on his store goods without hesitation.

You may have heard about DKCR's controls on the Wii. Yeah, it can be a bit bothersome way rolling and ground pounding works but they seldom caused me any deaths. Sure the game is unquestionably hard and at times it may even seem unfair, but most of the deaths you suffer are your own fault. The 3DS version makes things slightly easier by giving you an extra heart but even then, the game is still freaking difficult even if you aren't going for 100%, I'm sorry, 200% completion.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES)

Bashed by the Angry Video Game Nerd early on in his career, these days, this game is often ridiculed for being one of the most brutally hard and just plain awful NES games. But it is it really deserving all the negativity it gets? I'm going to say yes.. and no.

The story starts off with April getting kidnapped by Shredder and the Turtles having to go save her. A common plot of the 1987 cartoon series, but once you rescue April, the game is far from over. In fact, saving your busty human friend is only the first mission. Once that's done, you'll have to prevent a dam from exploding, save Master Splinter and fight your way to and through the Technodrome and peace out Shredder. It won't be an bad trip like so many critics claim, but you can bet the farm that it won't be an easy one.

Let's get into makes Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles the face puncher that it is. When your turtles get hit, they have zero mercy invincibility so you need to get them out of the danger zone, or dispatch of the enemies quickly, lest you lose a turtle and losing a turtle can be crippling, even if it's a turtle you aren't too fond of. You can get a captured turtle back but the game doesn't give you a whole lot of opportunities to do so and if you know that you're going to lose a turtle, you're better off picking and choosing who goes and who stays. Leo and Don are great for long range fights while Mike and Raph are better off dealing with the small fry like Mousers.

The Turtles are quite the high jumpers, reaching heights that Mario and Luigi would be proud of. Unfortunately for our heroes in a half shell, this game has some pretty nasty gaps to cross and it can be very easy to flub them. You either jump correctly or you're gonna miss the mark. Even the sewers have their fair share of tricky jumps and don't think you'll be safe just because water is below a jump. Oddly enough, the Turtles lose their natural ability to swim when it comes to making jumps over water.

What many gamers and critics site as the game's biggest frustration is the Dam. Taking place below the surface of Manhattan and giving the player sucky swimming controls, you have to disarm eight bombs within a time limit of two minutes and twenty seconds. The biggest hindrance here are the crappy swimming controls mysterious sea life that reaches out and eats the Turtles alive if they get too close, and ton of electric seaweed, which is quite the nuisance to swim through. This mission is a pain to be sure, but it's certainly doable and once you get past it, you'll find that the Dam is a cakewalk compared to everything that comes after.

Once you make it to the Technodrome, a battle ensues. Yes, unlike later TMNT games, you actually have to fight the Techodrome. The one eyed tread machine tries to electrocute you, riddle you with bullets and even throws Foot Soldiers at you. The Technodrome may look small on the outside but once you go inside, you see that it's actually quite spacious. The fight with Shedder can either be one of the easiest final bosses on the NES or the Yellow Devil of the game. If you have the scrolls or know just when to attack, Shredder is a joke. If not, well, have a nice death.

Is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles one of the hardest games on the NES? Without a doubt. Is it a bad game? No way. It is a flawed game, yes, but it doesn't deserved to be lumped in with so many terrible licensed NES games like Back to the Future and Fester's Quest. Give it a shot. Just keep a pillow near by so you can have something soft to punch.

Super Mario Sunshine (GCN)

Nintendo's games frequently get labeled as kiddy despite being some of the most enjoyable titles in the medium. Sadly, catching the kiddy label also carries with it the belief that it must be easy because it looks kiddy. Nintendo's games have always been accessible to people of all ages but they also don't treat the players with kid gloves as you press on further. On rare occasions, some titles slap you in the face early on. Super Mario Sunshine may not be as evil with it's difficulty as Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels, but it's pretty freaking close.

If anyone is in need of a vacation, it's Mario. He's one of the hardest working men in the gaming world. Do you recall what happened the last time Mario tried to take a vacation in Super Mario World? That's right, he ended up working. In Super Mario Sunshine when he lands on Isle Delfino's airstrip, he's accused of a crime he didn't commit and forced to clean up the real culprit's mess. Oh, and the ruler of the Mushroom Kingdom gets kidnapped for the umpteenth time. Mario just can't catch a break even when he wants to.

The second major 3D Mario game, Sunshine introduced us to FLUDD, a mechanical talking water pack invented by Professor E. Gadd. FLUDD assists Mario on his quest to clean up Isle Delfino. With the aid of FLUDD Mario can hover in the air, rocket to into the sky and clean up all the filthy messes that his doppelganger (which is really Bowser Jr.) left behind. Since FLUDD is powered by water, your supply of H2O is plentiful.

As much as the game was designed around FLUDD's use, his inclusion was one of the most common complaint's among fans and critics. So it's rather ironic that a plethora of hidden areas in the game must be completed without him. Most of the courses in the game have one or two episodes where Bowser Jr. goes GTA on FLUDD and Mario is left to rely on his famous acrobatic jumping skills. This may sound simple but these levels are very liner and fiendishly designed, featuring fast moving blocks, disappearing platforms and rotating platforms where you have to keep moving or fall to your doom. Your one saving grace in these levels are the two 1-up Mushrooms you can pick up along the way, but at times these things are placed in spots that place your life in even greater danger. Interestingly, these levels have an a Capella version of the famous Super Mario Bros. Ground theme.

Those FLUDDless sections aren't Sunshine's only method of frustrating you. Picture if you will, a giant sandbird soaring through the sky with seven red coins in the area. The sandbird twists and turns as it flies through the air and you have to be careful not to fall off while trying to collect the red coins. Even with FLUDD on your back to help you stay in the air a few seconds longer, this red coin mission is enough to test the durability of the often thought indestructible GameCube controller.

If you thought Super Mario 64's camera was bad in later courses, wait until you see the camera work of Sunshine. To put it mildly, this game's camera is atrocious. Yeah, you get a silhouette to see just where Mario is when you can't get the desired angle, but in a few episodes, the shoddy camera work will get you killed. The game's horrendous camera work is demonstrated quite well in Pinna Park Episode 5: The Runaway Ferris Wheel. In this episode Mario has to climb atop the ferris wheel to reach the Shine Sprite. Electric enemies stand in your way as you try to ascend but the camera fights you more than anything else and it's easy to lose your place and fall down, forcing you to make another attempt. Several tries of this will make you think the camera wants you dead more than any electrical adversaries.

Super Mario Sunshine remains one of Mario's most controversial games. The camera work is headache-inducing the platforming sections where you don't have FLUDD are some of the toughest levels of any Mario game and many of the games later episodes can leave GameCube controller marks in your walls. It isn't really a bad game but it is quite challenge, even though some of the challenge is artificial.

Castlevania (NES)

The Belmont clan and anyone else in this series that has risen up against Dracula are in my humble opinion just as much BAMFs as Bill Rizer and Lance Bean from the Contra series. Sure, Simon and company may not be packing heat but when you can save the world with a whip, you've earned yourself the respect of throngs of gamers, especially when you can go through a huge castle that throws such an unfathomable amount of obstacles at you. There's no one thing that makes NES Castlevania the ball buster that it is. Everything about Castlevania is the reason it will make you see red.

Our vampire slayer, Simon Belmont feels as stiff as a board. I know it was 1987, but even Mario felt like he had more freedom in his movements in Super Mario Bros. Not only does Simon feel like a moving plank, but his jump is sadly true to real life jumping physics. When Simon jumps left or right, he's stuck going in either of those directions until he hits solid ground. Someone also forgot to tell one of the world's most revered heroes that it's OK to jump off of stairs because he lacks the ability to do so. This is especially bad when you see some oncoming enemies that are headed your way. Simon also suffers from knock back when he gets hit, but it has got to be the worse knock back I've ever seen. My guess is that all of Simon's pain receptors are activated all at once when he takes damage and the pain he experiences is magnified times 100 because he really, and I mean really flies back when he gets hit. God have mercy on your soul if you get knocked by while trying to make a jump over a bottomless pit.

The enemies. These have got to be some of the most tenacious mofos in the history of mooks! Hardly anyone or anything in Dracula's army is a C or even B lister. This game is the reason a gamer can't think of Medusa without cringing in horror. The Medusa Heads that fly by continuously in their wavy patterns have cost many a Castlevania player countless lives and game overs. The small but annoying Fleaman love to tackle you and sometimes they do it in groups and their erratic patterns make them very hard to hit. Ax Armors may as well be mini bosses. They take more hits to kill than any other normal enemy in the game and they just love to mix it up between high and low ax throws. These guys get really aggravating near the end of the game where you have to deal with a long hallway full of them.

Now some of you that have never played Castlevania may be thinking, "The levels sound insane, so the bosses must be easy, right?" Ha ha ha, NO! With the exception of the first two bosses, Konami decided to give the player the finger from stage 3 onward. The end of stage 3 has you going up against two, two mummies who each take quite a fair bit of punishment before going down. If you have the Stop Watch for your sub weapon, this fight is so much easier. Stage 4 ends with you going up against Frankenstein's Monster, who is actually quite easy but he's accompanied by Igor, who's constantly pounces on you make the fight the annoyance that it is. The game even throws Death (the Grim Reaper if you prefer) at you, a boss so unbelievably hard that most players just opt to use the Holy Water and III power up to cheese the fight. Dracula, the lord of all vampires isn't any easier, especially once his head flies off and he transforms into his second form.

It's as if the designers at Konami went over every conceivable thing that could make a gamer rage quit and put it into Castlevania. And yet it is widely viewed as one of the greatest games of the 8-bit era. Yes, it can cause controller throwing fits, but it's still a well crafted game and every bit worthy of the praise it gets.

Final Fantasy (NES)

The game that kept Square in the game making business has been ported to more systems than I care to list but for this feature, we'll be sticking with the original NES version. Extremely light on character development (read: none), the first Final Fantasy charges the do gooders with saving a decaying world from four elemental fiends. Well that sounds simple enough. In fact, saving the world is ultimately the goal of just about every RPG in existence. But the baddies of Final Fantasy have every intention of bringing your world saving shenanigans to a screeching halt. When I say baddies, I mean the standard random encounters just as much as I do the boss battles.

Final Fantasy is an old-school RPG in every sense of the word. Items and equipment are terribly expensive, which means you'll spend a good amount of your time on the world map fighting to gain money to just to get your band of light warriors the best goods. Getting into a fight in this game is extremely simple due to the abnormally high random encounter rate. It isn't uncommon to walk four steps, get into a fight, win the battle, walk two steps and get into another random battle. I hope you like Final Fantasy's Battle Scene tune because you'll be hearing it a lot. The designs of the dungeons, save for the Temple of Fiends in the present are rather large with lots of dead ends. (I did mention Final Fantasy's ridiculous random encounter rate, didn't I?)

The monsters on the world map and especially the ones in the dungeon don't screw around. If your levels aren't high enough or you don't have the proper healing or recovery items it is easily possible to meet your demise at the hands of a common group of monsters. You can never have too many items to cure status aliments, especially in a place like the Marsh Cave. If you're halfway through a dungeon and your White Mage his kicked the bucket, turn around and high tail it back to the nearest town to get her back up and running. You have to use caution in targeting enemies in battle. If you had your characters select to attack an enemy that is no longer there, they won't automatically target the next enemy in line, but will swing at the spot of the fallen enemy, resulting in a strike that will always miss.

Would you believe that there's an enemy you can encounter in normal battles near the end of the game that's more powerful than the final boss? Even with your whole party at level 50, WarMech can still wipe you out. Fights with WarMech, if they can even be called such quickly turn into struggles just to stay alive, whether you came in prepared or not.

I really do love the original Final Fantasy but this particular version isn't my favorite, and this is definitely not the version I'd recommend to new comers. The random encounter rate is likely to drive novices insane and it isn't hard to get a gamer over in the middle of a mad dash back to town to revive fallen party members. However, if the aforementioned things don't deter you, proceed with extreme caution.

Part 1
Part 2

Friday, August 23, 2013

Favorite Tunes #67: Maximum Pink

This month marks Kirby's 21st anniversary. Over here in the states, anyway. In Japan, Kirby hit the big 2-1 back in April. Anyhoo, in honor of the occasion, here's ten tracks dedicated to gaming's cutest, most hardcore pink blob.

Ending - Kirby's Dream Land (GB)

You can finish the original Kirby's Dream Land in about 20 minutes, probably less for some speed runners. To say the game is easy may be an understatement. It was designed with entry level players in mind. Even so, it was still a fun romp while it lasted with an exceptional soundtrack thanks to Jun Ishikawa. The Ending theme in particular doesn't get enough credit, usually being overlooked in favor of songs like Green Greens.

Grape Garden - Kirby's Adventure (NES)

Kirby's second outing is still one of my favorites, giving him is trademark Copy ability. Kirby's Adventure was also much longer than Kirby's Dream Land and with the reveal of Nightmare at the end showed us that even in a kid's game, not everything is black and white. A few of Jun Ishikawa's themes from Kirby's Dream Land were used in Adventure but all of the new music came from Hirokazu Ando who's contributions to the Kirby series would be as equally legendary as Ishikawa-san's. Grape Garden is almost like a lullaby in the form of NES music.

Trees in the Depths of the Earth - Kirby Super Star (SNES, DS)

Racing while eating food, taking down a huge flying fortress and... treasure hunting? Eh, why not? There's so much to do in Kirby Super Star but the Great Cave Offensive is by far the longest of all the games the cart contains. I know the word epic gets used a lot when describing music but really, this is some epic treasure hunting music.

Miracle Matter - Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards (N64)

Every now and then a song will crop up in a Kirby game that surprises me by even being there in the first place. Kirby Air Ride has Machine Passage and Kirby 64 has Miracle Matter. Just listen to this beat. It's freaking crazy awesome.

Light - Kirby Air Ride (GCN)

The gameplay may be incredibly simplistic but Kirby Air Ride offers more modes of play and so much to unlock than a great deal of more complex games. When taking that into account, one can spend years playing it. Every single race track has multiple shortcuts that can be taken to get ahead of the competetion, including races in Top Ride. The course Light has rails that, when lit up can be used to give you a good lead on other racers. I could say that makes it one of my favorite courses to race on, but the music also has a lot to do with it.

Cloudy Park (Stage) - Kirby's Dream Land 2 (GB)

It may not have been developed by Masahario Sakurai (many Kirby games made without his involvement have actually been quite good) but Kirby's Dream Land 2 was a worthy follow up to the original. It also began the trend of King Dedede being possessed by the true evil behind all the shenanigans. This theme was arranged and used as menu music for the excellent Kirby's Dream Collection to celebrate Kirby's 20th anniversary last year.

Boss Battle Medley - Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Wii)

It has tripping and other controversial things, but I still adore Brawl. It also has sick arrangements of some of some of gaming's most well known and lesser known themes. Hats off to Kentaro Ishikaza for this amazing boss medley that throws together music from Kirby's Adventure, Kirby's Dream Land 2, Kirby Super Star and Kirby 64.

Rainbow Falls - Kirby's Epic Yarn (Wii)

Are you feeling down? Play Kirby's Epic Yarn. Have you lost faith in humanity? Play Kirby's Epic Yarn. Are you full of rage? Play Kirby's Epic Yarn. It's impossible to be in a bad mood when playing this game because the thing is just so darn happy and cute. This game really is the cure for any and all forms of negative emotions.

Tree to Tree - Kirby Mass Attack (DS)

In what can be considered one of the more difficult Kirby games, Kirby has been split into ten different versions of himself. Getting 100% completion is no simple task and in some levels it can be quite easy to get all of your Kirby's killed in one fell swoop. Even so, Kirby Mass Attack was one of the last great DS games and made excellent use of the touch screen, with the game being played entirely with the stylus. There are are some delightful mini games that can prove to be quite distracting from the main game.

Cave Area (Current Stage) - Kirby's Return to Dream Land (Wii)

After more than ten years of being my favorite Kirby game, Kirby Super Star was at long last dethroned when I played through Kirby's Return to Dream Land, a game that had a development cycle of 11 years. The game packed solid four player action, fantastic boss battles and new Copy abilities for Kirby to play around with. Jun Ishikawa and Hirokazu Ando returned for the music honors to give us original and remixed music.

Favorite Tunes Database

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Latest Purchases #56

The Sandlot was one of my favorite movies and I really should have picked it up on DVD years ago. It was only $4.75 at Target. Been a few years since I've seen it so the next time I get a day off or maybe one night after sit down and give it a watch. 

The Iron Giant is an animation masterpiece. At least it is in my eyes. I've always been fond of robots and this is flick would certainly earn a spot on my list of top robot flicks. The animation is still very nice in this one.

In the early 1990s my family used to rent videos from Block Buster Video all the time. One weekend we rented a movie called What About Bob? It's about a crazy patient that goes sane and drives his doctor insane. This movie left my family and I in stitches and is one of Bill Murrays best films. It's been a long time since I've seen this movie and I was really surprised to see it for $5 at Target. Nothing in the way of extras but I'm not complaining. 

I love Independence Day. When the VHS came out I would watch it religiously. This version contains the special edition with the bonus material and the theatrical release.

I've never read the comic book mini series that Just League: The Flashpoint Paradox is based off of but after I watching this incredibly awesome movie, I just may have to check it out. Essentially a Flash movie, it explores an alternate reality after something in the past changes the future. The animation is easily some of the best among these DC animated films and that makes for some incredible action scenes. It's also one of the few DC animated features on Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack that I've been able to pick up for under $13. I usually end up forking over $20 for these so that was plenty nice.

That Spidey cup was actually in the kids section but I've always considered myself a big kid. That and I love Spider-Man. 

I've finally added The World Ends With You to my library. I'm so caught up with the awesomeness that is the 3DS that sometimes I forget that I still need to track down DS games. I got this off Amazon for $20 brand new.

Speaking of 3DS, that's three more games to the collection. I wanted to get Code of Princess for my birthday but no stores had it in. It is an Atlus game, after all. So I hoped on Amazon, and bought it for $30.

The Year of Luigi continues with Mario & Luigi: Dream Team. I absolutely love that cover with Luigi dozing off, dreaming of a bunch of other Luigis. There are times when I think Nintendo really does adore the man in green over their own mascot.

I picked up Fire Emblem: Awakening just for the $30 eShop credit, which I already used. This is actually the second Fire Emblem game I own. Years ago I picked up Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones on the GBA, which, surprise, surprise, I've yet to get around to playing.

Darkwing Duck: Campaign Carnage is actually the fourth TPB from the Boom! comic book series. So I still need to pick up F.O.W.L. Disposition, which seems to be the mostly costly on Amazon for some reason. 

I've been reading Hardcore Gaming 101 for years and I was really surprised to see they'd put out a book. This particular book focuses on SEGA's arcade games. That's over 160 pages of SEGA arcade goodness. I'm gonna have to get caught up on my books soon and get around to reading this one.

The Sonic and Mega Man Worlds Collide crossover has finished. I like it but I'm glad it's over. The adaptation of the Mega Man 3 story, which picks back up in Mega Man #28 is looking good. Spoilers: Roll gets shot by Break Man and all the robots across the world shut down because of Ra-Moon.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

New Leaf Custom Designs #2

Check out more awesome custom designs for you to wear and or decorate your home and town.

Classic Link Tunic
Isaac Tunic

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Nintendo Franchises That Need to Return Part 1

Like SEGA, Nintendo has a plethora of gaming franchises in it's catalog. Sadly, just like SEGA, only a handful of Nintendo's properties are seeing any action these days. Mario, Zelda, and Pokemon are all fine and dandy but it would do wonders for the company if they reminded us that there's so much more to them than the familiar name brands. These are a few of the games in Nintendo's library that could use a lot more love than what Nintendo currently gives them.

Ice Climber

Lately, Popo and Nana have been slugging it out with other Nintendo stars in the Super Smash Bros. series and while it's great to connect their mallets to Jiggly Puff's skull, I'd love to see this duo return to climbing frosty mountain peaks.

The original Ice Climber was released as an NES launch title in 1985, meaning it's been nearly 30 years since the Ice Climbers had a game to call their own, not including the GBA port that releases in 2004. Ice Climber placed you and and second player in the parkas of Popo and Nana with vertical scrolling levels. The goal was to reach the top of the mountain and get to the bonus stage where a jerkish condor hoards your eggplant. Ice Climber had some pretty frustrating jump mechanics even for an early NES game, which made an already tough game even harder to play. Even so, this is was always one of my favorite NES games as a kid, and I still have fun coming back to it from time to time.

While Ice Climber may not have been the most fondly remembered NES game, I still believe the franchise is worth revisiting. Think of all the cold inspired levels that could be designed on the Wii U or even the 3DS. Even those troublesome jumps could be fixed in favor of a more preferable method of leaping on platforms. Nintendo could put one of their development teams in charge of a new Ice Climber like Next Level games or Intelligent Systems. I'd kill for a chance to go up against those shade-wearing polar bears on new hardware either in 2D or 3D. Heck, I'd even settle for a new digital version of Ice Climber.

Custom Robo

Custom Robo (N64)
Custom Robo (GCN)
Custom Robo Area (DS)

Show me a man that doesn't like tearing stuff up in sweet-looking robots and I'll show you a liar. I mean, what could be more fun than using piloting a huge robot to wreck other huge robots? Customizing your huge robot to wreck another customized robot. That is what the Custom Robo games are all about.

There are tons of RPG elements in the Custom Robo series and sometimes they border on generic.
But if you don't mind such a thing or can pace through it, you're rewarded with some incredible customization options. There's nothing like spending hours customizing your Robo, taking it to the field and then laying waste to your friend's custom Robo. Assuming you have buddies to play with, that is. You may easily overpower CPU opponents but playing with humans is a totally different ball game. With the Wi-Fi options and Street/Spot Pass functionality of the 3DS, I'd say this franchise is due for a revival.

Though there have been five games in the Custom Robo series, only two were released outside of Japan. Custom Robo on the GCN was the first game to see a localized release and the DS Custom Robo Arena, released in 2006 was the last time Custom Robo title to see the light of day outside of the Land of the Rising Sun. Nintendo didn't even give Western or PAL gamers the Virtual Console release of Custom Robo V2.

Drill Dozer

You're familiar with Game Freak, right? Of course you are. They dish out those wonderful Pokemon games and make you hang up your social life in a closet so can you catch and raise X amount of new critters. With X and Y on the horizon, you're gonna do the whole shabang all over again! But Game Freak has tapped into other gaming series that don't involve yellow electric rats. In 2006, a wonderful gem of a GBA game called Drill Dozer was released. Like so many good things, it was overlooked.

No mater how costly or fancy the drills of today are, they will never come close to Jill's Drill Dozer. For one, she can actually pilot the thing like some mini mech and she regularly trounces robots more than half her size, as seen in the screen shot above. When has your puny drill ever done that?

Drill Dozer has a bit of a Metroid fell to it. Each of the games seven areas are massive, containing hidden chips and gears that can be found to upgrade the Drill Dozer, giving it even more functions. Naturally, some backtracking is involved when you acquire a new piece. There's also some puzzle solving elements to go along with all the action platforming. Drill Dozer is also one of the most visually stunning games ever to be produced on the GBA, showing off amazing sprites and background visuals.

Since it wasn't a Pokemon game, Drill Dozer met with mediocre sales and Jill's last appearance was in Super Smash Bros. Brawl as a sticker and an Assist Trophy. Nintendo, get Game Freak away from those disgustingly cute rats for a while and set them to work on a new Drill Dozer, OK? I could certainly go for some drill action on my 3DS.

Wave Race

Wave Race 64 (N64)

Three. That's the number of games that make up the Wave Race series. "But wait, weren't there only two Wave Race games?" is what I'm sure most of you are thinking. In truth, Wave Race began life as a top down racer on the Game Boy. Wave Race 64 was the second Wave Race title, with Wave Race: Blue Storm being the third.

The most popular entry in the series, Wave Race 64 did a tremendous job of emulating the physics of water and it got me to think of racing games outside of anti-gravity and the wheeled variety. It's still regarded as one of the N64's top notch titles. Wave Race: Blue Storm was developed by Nintendo Software Technology and featured some super twitchy controls. A special touch was downright necessary to get any long term enjoyment out of the game. Blue Storm was a launch title for the GCN in 2001 so it has been over ten years since we've had a Wave Race.

Just imagine a new Wave Race on the Wii U with HD visuals and online multiplayer. Heck, even local multiplayer could be a hoot. Nintendo doesn't even need a fancy jet ski license. They didn't have one for Blue Storm and that certainly didn't stop them from re-releasing Wave Race 64 on the Wii's Virtual Console in 2007 when the contract with Kawasaki Jet Ski had long since expired. I long to race on Sunset Bay and Dolphin Park with Ricky Winterborn or even some fresh faces.

Excite Series

Excitebike 64 (N64)

Excitebots: Trick Racing (Wii)

For a while, it seemed like the Excite series was back in all it's glory. Excite Truck was a Wii launch title in 2006. Excitebots: Trick Racing came out in early 2009 and later that year, Excitebike: World Rally was released for Wii Ware. Nintendo has certainly shown the Excite series more love than another one of it's racing franchises, but after the abysmal sales of Excitebots (which was Nintendo's own fault due to a lack of advertising), one has to wonder what the future holds for the Excite games, if anything at all. Excitebike 64, one of the best sports games from Nintendo, didn't even get a Virtual Console release on the Wii. We already know all those licensed properties could be swapped out for Wii brand names a la the Virtual Console version of Wave Race 64. Maybe Nintendo will right this wrong by releasing Excitebike 64 on the Wii U's Virtual Console service.

Part 2

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Favorite Tunes #66: Hail to the Koopa King

He may not have been the first antagonist that Mario's gone up against (that would be Donkey Kong) but he's unquestionably the most famous. Bowser, the king of Koopas has been Mario's arch nemesis for nearly thirty years. His castles are among some of the most cunningly designed stages in gaming and he's got some sick musicians serving up background tunes. Bowser, you may never defeat Mario, but you'll always win out as far as audio is concerned.

The Evil King Bowser (Super Mario World) - Fortune Street (Wii)

A modern take on a classic boss theme. Koji Kondo's original tune carried a heavy rock and roll vibe to it that was evident even on the SNES hardware and it made for a great final showdown track. In Fortune Street, this track gets arranged, taking advantage of the Wii's superior audio capabilities. It's a sick arrangement that I'd love to see in the new Super Smash Bros.

Bowser Castle - Mario Hoops 3-on-3 (DS)

Who could forget that never wrecking castle music every time you went through a fortress in the original Super Mario Bros. It was a simple, repetitive tune, but it made you feel so uneasy as you ran under those Fire Bars and made those painfully trick jumps to make your way to what usually turned out to be not Bowser. Never imagined I'd shoot hoops to this song but it sounds even better with an electric guitar and an organ.

Bowser's Castle (New Super Mario Bros.) - Fortune Street (Wii)

Wallpaper by Mariovspeach

New Super Mario Bros. on the DS has my favorite main castle them out of all of the NSMB titles. Fortune Street does a great job on the remixes of Mario themes. So Fortune Street music + NSMB castle music = so much win.

Rookie and Popple - Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga (GBA)

That Yoko Shimomura. She really is one of the video game music greats. While she's most recognized for her work in Kingdom Hearts these days, she's also the one behind the scores in the wonderful Mario & Luigi RPG series. This frantic, yet upbeat song plays when you fight an amnesiac Bowser going under the name Rookie.

Demon King koopa - Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES)

No axe or switch to hit to send Bowser to a fiery demise. Fireballs? They won't work here. If you want to beat Bowser, you have to use his own massive weight to create a pit for him to jump in each time he tries to crush you. Those bongo drums from Super Mario Bros. 2 are glorious.  Fun fact: this song was remixed for Mario and Bowser's fight in the beginning of Super Mario RPG.

Bowser's Lava Lair - Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii)

In case I haven't made it clear with the numerous times I've mentioned the game in Favorite Tunes, I LOVE Super Mario 64's soundtrack. I was delighted to hear a remix of Koopa's Road each time I prepared to face off with Bowser in Super Mario Galaxy. The Mario Galaxy Orchestra knocked one out of the park a second time with an another arrangement of the theme for Super Mario Galaxy 2. Some fans like to debate that the original Koopa's Road theme from Super Mario 64 is better, but I love them all.

Koopa Castle (Second Time) - Super Mario RPG (SNES)

Don't you just hate it when you're minding your own business, fighting your arch enemy for the zillionth time when all of a sudden, a huge sword smashes through your fortress, kicking you out and forcing you to team up with said arch enemy? Super Mario RPG would mark the first time Mario and Bowser were forced to work together to defeat a mutual threat. The Koopa King made for quite the powerful ally. One of his attacks, if you got the item, involved throwing Mario at the bad guys!

Bowser's Castle - Mario Sports Mix (Wii)

A sequel of sorts to the 2006 DS game Mario Hoops 3-on-3, there was far more than basketball to play this time around. Tough most have negative things to say about Mario Sports Mix, just like Mario Hoops, the music in Sports Mix was one of the better things about it.

Bowser's Galaxy Reactor - Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)

As much as I enjoyed hearing that Koopa's Road arrangement for the first two Bowser levels, I'm glad the Mario Galaxy Orchestra gave us a new piece leading up to the final battle. And what a piece it is. I can still clearly see all the crazy things this level threw at me every time I hear this tune. The shifting gravity, the bullet bills, trying to keep from being burned by all the lava. It was a grand final level, leading up to a climatic confrontation and one of my favorite endings to any Mario game.

Koopa's Theme - Super Mario 64 (N64, DS)

Now here's a theme that needs to be remixed. Slider was arranged, Koopa's Road was arranged and the Main Theme from this game was arranged. Why is this tune getting no love? Oh well. I can always listen to this over and over until someone at Nintendo decides to give this gem some appreciation.

Favorite Tunes Database