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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Top 5 Games I Got as Christmas Gifts

What's this, a Christmas themed article on Christmas Eve? Truth be told, December has been lacking in posts on Gaming Rocks On due to work and a lack of sleep. This baby popped into my head the other night so I present to you, my top five games that I've revived as Christmas gifts from Christmases gone by.

5. Chip 'N Dale's Rescue Rangers (NES)

If memory serves, this was the Christmas of 1989. After playing and loving DuckTales on the NES, a game based off of the succeeded cartoon show, Chip 'N Dale's Rescue Rangers seemed only natural for Capcom. And sure enough, they delivered. 

When that commercial hit the TV screen, I wanted this game like I wanted my next breath. Rental stores had quickly become my best friend, allowing me to play all the latest NES games or at leas the ones the peaked my interest. Whenever my family and I went to the our local rental chain, Chip 'N Dale was always out. No surprise, really, I mean, what kid didn't want to play as the world's most popular pair of furry detectives? The one time the game was in, my dad denied me the chance to play it. Parents always have their reasons for telling you you can't do something or you can't have this or that? Even so, my father's refeusal to let me play I game I'd been dying to experience felt like a gut punch. 

On Christmas day it became all too clear why my dad didn't want me renting Chip 'N Dale. Among the many Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures I'd received, there's was also a copy of Chip 'N Dale's Rescue Rangers staring right back at me when I opened my presents. Looking back, I'm glad my father didn't let me rent the game all those years ago.

I did terrible on the first level, but once I called over a good buddy of mine, the play mechanics became routine stuff. Grad a box and toss it at the oncoming mooks, hide under a box and for some strange reason the box hurts them and they go flying off the screen. I think I had the most fun with Chip 'N Dale when a friend was there to experience it with me.

4. Banjo-Kazooie (N64)

Christmas of 1998. I was in my late teens and thus was at the age where I'd keep my Christmas list small. I can't remember everything I asked for that holiday season but I specifically remember two things that I asked my folks to get for me: F-Zero X and Banjo-Kazooie. One item I got was a nice, big, dark blue winter coat, which I got more than 10 year's use out of. My parents, clever ones that they are, tucked another gift inside one of the front pockets. When I stuck my hands in them, I felt a box and quickly pulled it out. It was Banjo-Kazooie. No sign of F-Zero X, but one out of two wasn't bad.

The timing on Banjo-Kazooie couldn't have been any better. You see, I'd just spent Christmas Eve beating The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and not having a large selection of N64 titles, that meant I would have had nothing to play. With huge worlds to explore tons of puzzle pieces and other collectibles to find, Banjo-Kazooie kept me busy for a long time. I've never actually finished this game. I think I played through about 7 worlds or so before other games sidetracked me. Still, it was a wonderful Christmas gift and an amazing game, one that I still own today. I don't have an Xbox 360 so I still can't play the remake. Maybe one day I'll fire this sucker back up.

3. Super Metroid (SNES)

You remember newspapers? Those things that come with rods and pictures on them that you can actually hold and contain lots of info. Well, whenever we'd get the Sunday paper, I'd make sure to flip through the Best Buy section and see the prices on games, Best Buy was always good for marking down games, even first party stuff. Over a year after it's release, Best Buy was selling Super Metroid for $15. Talk about a deal! Some of my most fondest memories of the summer of 1994 was playing through Super Metroid. During the summer of 1995, I'd gotten farther in the game than I'd ever gotten. Had we not had to return the game to the Blockbuster, I might have finished it.

For whatever reason, I never got around to picking up Super Metroid at the $15 bargain price. My father must have seen that ad in Best Buy because come Christmas 1995, I opened up a copy of Super Metroid in the same gift wrapped box of Vectorman (which was also $15 at Best Buy).

Now I could play Super Metroid in earnest. No rental period to worry about. Only school and the occasional chores kept me from the likes of Kraid, Ridley and Mother Brain. I played this game so much that shortly into the new year, I had it finished with an item completion rating of 88% and under 3 hours. That save file is still on my Super Metroid cart to this day.

2. Super Mario Bros. / Duck Hunt (NES)

If there was a gift on any kid's list for Christmas in the late 1980s that didn't have one, it was an NES. Though I have to say, I'm not even sure if I was aware of Nintendo until I unwrapped this box. Still, I knew a game console when I saw one and I knew that this was no ordinary game machine.

Two games on a single cart? Madness, yes, but the good kind of madness. Super Mario Bros. was my entry into the platform genre and what a fantastic place to start! The Mushroom Kingdom was big, it scrolled and it was filled with all kinds of crazy enemies like Goombas, Koopa Troopas, Piranha Plants and more. The levels were also quite diverse. Some levels were suspended in the air by bridges that you had to cross while being harassed by annoying Cheep-cheeps. A few stages were regrettably aquatic, with sucky swimming controls. Every fourth level was a dark fortress with no shortage of obstacles and no cheek points.

Super Mario Bros. made me love a lot of things. The platform genre, Mario, Nintendo and video game music. Even when I wasn't playing the game, the music was still in my head.

Super Mario Bros. was the main attraction for me, but I still enjoyed shooting down those ducks in Duck Hunt. Whenever I missed, I'd forgo skill and just give those birds a pointblank shot. Did I feel a little shameful in doing so? Eh, not really. I mean, that dog wasn't laughing at me

1. Super Mario World (SNES)

In 1990, news reached me of a new Nintendo console, a Super Nintendo. The 8-bit Nintendo was cool and now they were adding a super to the title? I had to check this out. In our daily newspaper, I'd read about the SNES and Super Mario Bros. 4, which we all know as Super Mario World. Those purple switches on the console, the cartridge going into the top of the console instead of the front. Even more brighter, crisper visuals then the NES. Mario was riding a dinosaur? Do want! Unfortunately for us living in the states, the SNES wouldn't hit our neck of the woods until the summer of 1991 but when it did reach our shores, I wouldn't shut up about it. It was the only thing I wanted for Christmas and it came packed with Super Mario World!

During this period, Nintendo and SEGA were at each other's throats. Nintendo had Mario and SEGA had Sonic. This war affected kids all across the planet. You either championed the plumber or the hedgehog. Whichever side you favored gave you ridicule from the other. Since I'd come to adore Nintendo from owning an NES, of course I praised Mario and trashed Sonic. This feud that waged across the globe only increased my desire to own a SNES with Super Mario World and those TV ads did not make me not having the system any easier to deal with.

My dad really knew how to mess with my head back then. He knew how much I wanted a SNES and he told me he'd gotten me a SEGA Genesis for Christmas. I was so utterly disappointed. I mean, I was getting a game console, sure, but it was not the one I wanted. I was so convinced that I'd have to force myself to like Sonic, which would later ironically became a lot easier than I could ever imagine since my friend got a Genesis and he showed me Sonic the Hedgehog.

With two big boxes sitting under the Christmas tree, one for myself and the other for my sister, I thought for sure I was going to unwrap a Genesis and was all set to pretend to like it. But when the wrapping paper hit the floor, it was a big, rectangular, SNES box, complete with Super Mario World. Ah, Christmas 1991 was soooooo freaking awesome.

By this time, I'd taken to Mario games like butter to bread. The SNES controller didn't seem foreign at all to me. I quickly grasped the new spin jump, riding Yoshi, gobbling up enemies, dismounting the dino and using the new Cape Feather power up. SNES systems were set up in stores all over the country with a demo for Super Mario World firmly nestled in the cartridge slot, yet this was my first time playing Super Mario World and I'd already blown through the first two worlds. True, I missed a lot of secrets because I was unaware of how many waiting to be discovered, but at that time, that wasn't what mattered to me. I was a proud owner of a SNES and Super Mario World. Best Christmas ever? The 10 year old inside me would have to say so. 

Monday, December 22, 2014

Favorite Tunes #103: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Did you do your Christmas shopping? No? Well stop slacking and hop to it. The stores are a madhouse on Christmas eve. I waited a little longer than I should have, but mine is all taken care of. All that's left to do now is enjoy some Christmas tunes.

EV03-2: Shopping A - Bayonetta 2 (Wii U)

Pleasant surprises. These are much more preferable to the nasty kinda surprises, but that should go without saying. Anyhoo, I was not expecting the first shopping theme in Bayonetta 2 to sound so jolly and Christmas-like. This is the kinda music that makes me linger a little longer so I can hear it loop a few more times.

Snowball Waltz - Sonic Lost World (Wii U)

Sonic Lost World is either a solid entry in Sonic's 3D exploits or another blight upon the franchise depending on whom you ask. The game is currently $30 at Target so one of these days I'm going to pick it up and decide for myself. Having heard select songs from the game, I can say for certain that there are some real winners in the music department. The second act of Frozen Factory has you collecting rings via snowballs all the while some splendid wintry jam plays.

Snowman - Mother (Famicom)

The first game in the Mother series, Mother, also known as EarthBound Zero, was never offically released outside of Japan. This hasn't kept fans from experiencing the series' origins, however, as a fan translated version of it can easily be found via web search. The first Mother game introduced many series stables like off the wall humor and many familiar musical themes like Pollyanna, Bein' Friends and of course, Snowman.

Welcome to Christmas NiGHTS - Christmas NiGHTS into dreams... (SAT)

The holidays are here, so I once again find myself listening to the music from Christmas NiGHTS. The title theme for this game is w NiGHTS style edition of the Christmas favorite, Joy to the World. If you want to check out Christmas NiGHTS but are unable to find a physical copy, the PlayStaion Network and Xbox Live Arcade services have the HD edition of NiGHTS, which comes with Christmas NiGHTS as an unlockable bonus, albeit with some of the content cut out.

Rosalina's Ice World - Mario Kart 7 (3DS)

Rosalina, intergalactic traveler, quite possibly the god in the Super Mario Galaxy series games. And they give her an ice themed track? Well since they already had Rainbow Road take place in Space for Mario Kart 7, they had to give the winter environment to someone. The track itself isn't a favorite of mine, but at least it has another good winter audio piece.

Favorite Tunes Database

Saturday, December 20, 2014

8 Reasons Why I Love Super Smash Bros.

Fifteen years ago, Super Smash Bros. hit the Nintendo 64. The game had a low budget and not too much in the way of advertising or hype for its release (the one TV is still hilarious, though) but it was one of the system's best titles and has now gone on to be a cash cow franchise for Nintendo.

I freaking LOVE the Super Smash Bros. games. I fell in love with this series on day one all those years ago and the series has just kept getting bigger and improving ever since. We've seen the release of the fourth game in the series on the 3DS and Wii U and I've been investing ample play time in both entries. With my mind focusing heavily on Super Smash Bros., I thought I'd present to you my reasons why this crossover series is so near and dear to me.

01. Characters

Let's not beat around the bush. Mario, Link, Pikachi, Samus, Peach, Captian Falcon and Zelda to name a fraction of them. Nintendo has some of the the most loved and most recognizable characters in the video game medium. Super Smash Bros. is the only series where you can have Mario give Peach a well-deserved punch to the face for all the times she's been kidnapped. Not the biggest Pokemon fan in spite of the series throngs of fans? Give Jiggly Puff a beating. 

The first two Super Smash Bros, games were exclusive to Nintendo characters. But when Super Smash Bros. Brawl was revealed, the floodgates were opened for third party characters and Solid Snake and Sonic the Hedgehog joined Nintendo Legends. At long last, Sonic and Mario could settle their old rivalry in style. That right there was cranking things up to eleven. For the 3DS and Wii U versions of Super Smash Bros, the hype meter was cranked so high that any attempt to measure it in numerical format would result in an exploding scouter. The fourth edition of Super Smash Bros. was history in the making as it not only stared Mario and Sonic, but also Mega Man and Pac-Man, four of the biggest names in gaming were all in the same game. And then you've got all the other new comers like Villager, Wii Fit Trainer, and Bowser Jr. Is it any wonder Super Smash Bros. is the greatest gaming crossover series?

02. The Stages

More often than not, fighting arenas are nothing more than background imagery for you to take in as you beat down your opponent. Occasionally you'll find you can bash your adversary against part of the scenery, but little else. This is not the case for Super Smash Bros. If you're fighting on a Mario Kart stage or Mute City, you'd better pay close attention to the race going on. The Shy Guy and F-Zero racers could care less about your fight and will turn you into road kill without giving it a second thought. The dragon that appears in the Find Mii stage will give you stat increases or decreases depending on the mood he's in. Want to opt for a more serious-looking battle ground? Take it to the Boxing Ring. You can even jump off the ropes. Wanna bring down those lights that totally aren't just for show on unsuspecting players? Go nuts. Living Room may seem innocent enough with the dog playing in the background, but the falling blocks can hurt almost as much as the Smash Attacks opponents unleash.

On the default settings, the arenas in Smash keep things plenty lively. Of course if you just want to worry about fighting your opponents and not contend with stage hazards, the Wii U and 3DS versions of Smash introduce an Omega, setting, which turns each level into a flat playing field, perfect for more competitive Smash play. No more going to Final Destination for the millionth time.

03. Remembering What Was Forgotten

Mario, Zelda and Donkey are still getting plenty of attention these days so they'll never be out of the spotlight. But I'm willing to bet that most people had forgotten all about or had zero knowledge of the Game & Watch series, which predated the Game Boy as Nintendo's first portable gaming device. They were reminded of them when the warning siren went off announcing an approaching fighter and were staring at a diminutive, flat figure with limited animation, making very primitive sounds with every move and attack. 

Ice Climber was one of my favorite early NES games when I was a kid so I lit up like a Christmas tree when I saw Popo and Nana in the game's opening cut scene. I hadn't thought of these two in eons, and Super Smash Bros. Melee brought them back to my attention.

Our hopes of a new Duck Hunt game on the Wii were sadly dashed. The motion controls made it a perfect choice to resurrect the dog so we could shoots some ducks down and fire a few rounds off at the pooch in the process. 3DS and Wii U Smash brought the dog and duck duo, make that trio, back in the form of Duck Hunt. Duck Hunt's very play style seems like they were design to anger those on the receiving end of his exploding cans and make you loose friends. One of his taunts is that stupid laugh from the NES Duck Hunt game, which is sure to make the blood of anyone Duck Hunt KOs boil. 

Ever play a game called Wrecking Crew? It was an early puzzle game and a Mario spin-off that only had one sequel with Wrecking Crew '98 on the Super Famicom. The Wii U version of Smash has a level based on Wrecking Crew so if you know how those games work, you've already got a leg up on the competition on how to use the level to dish out additional pain. 

04. Taking Pictures

Being able to rotate and zoom the camera when a match is paused may not seem like a big deal to outsiders but to any long-time Smash player, the possibilities are endless. During the development of Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Sakurai began sharing photos of the game each day. These photos would reveal items, characters, stages, or just some hilarious craziness that they happened to snap a picture of at the time, that last one happens to be a big draw to the picture snapping functionality of Smash. I can tell by all the picture a day posts Sakurai has done that he and his team had a blast taking all sorts of photos. Suffice to say, he wants us to do the same and Miiverse makings share photos easier than ever.

05. So Much to Do

The original Super Smash Bros game had an extended slot life in the N64 because it allowed up to four players to slug it out. From Super Smash Bros. Melee onward, the doors were blown off for the sheer amount of content it offered for those playing alone. Event mode has you fighting under set conditions such as putting some hyper kids to sleep with Jiggly Puff's Sleep ability or taking down the insanely powerful pair of Dr. Mario and Peach. Homerun-Contest lets you see how far you can send Sandbag flying. Want to test your endurance? Multi-Man Smash has various mini modes, one even letting you see how long you can last against an endless wave of fighters. All-Star mode has you fighting the entire fight roster with one life and a limited supply of recovery items with battles getting progressively tougher. If your friends aren't available, this series offers plenty to do for solo Smashers. 

06. Trophies

The opening of Super Smash Bros. Melee shows a child taking hold of a Mario figure that would become an all import part of the Smash series. Trophies can be found lying on the ground, collected as rewards from victory or purchased with your hard earned coins. These cool-looking collectibles can be viewed up close, far away and spun around. They even come with their own bio for you to read, filling you in for the trophies of lesser known characters. Whoever wrote the bios for the 3DS/Wii U trophies is my hero. I've lost count of how many times I've chuckled or laughed out loud. Ever since the Melee days I've yearned for Smash trophies and amiibos are basically just that except each one can be turned into a digital fighting machine in Wii U Smash.

07. Multiplayer

The majority of fighting games are two player affairs. But as it was already established when Super Smash Bros. was released way back in 1999, Smash wasn't like most fighting games. Four controller ports meant up to four players could pound the virtual crap out of each other. To anyone not in the know that takes a look at Smash, the four player brawler will more than likely been seen as a screen of pure uncontrolled chaos. To the resident Smash fan? Business as usual. It's the kind of madness that brings a smile to one's face and reminds of the glory days of blowing up my friends in the numerous Bomberman games.

Four players is manic enough. The Wii U version of Smash 4 can hold up to eight players for local smashing. You'll need at least one GameCube controller adapter to do this along with some GameCube controllers and it may be a little too much for some, but this video of Max and the gang having a blast was all I need to see to convince me that I need to give 8 player Smash a try at some point.

08. Music

Super Smash Bros. on the N64 was packed with arrangements of classic themes from the likes of Super Mario Bros. Kirby Super Star, Metroid and the like. Melee was for all intents and purposes a bigger and better game and brought forth an expansive soundtracks. Some themes could only be heard when you held the L or R shoulder buttons as you selected a stage.

Saying Brawl's soundtrack was massive would be an understatement. The game boasted over 300 tracks of original themes and remixes with tons of composers being brought in to write the music like Nobuo Uematsu and Masafumi Takada. From time to time, CDs would randomly drop and you could pick them up to add them to your music collection. Doing so meant you could listen to tunes such as Molgera, Dragon Roost Island (The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker) Castle / Boss Fortress (Super Mario World / Super Mario Bros. 3) as you battled it out in their respective stages. Like Melee, Brawl also payed tribute to lesser known titles in in the form of music. It's pretty unlikely that most of the Smash fanbase ever played the Game Boy Japan exclusive X, and yet there was an incredible remix of the Tunnel Scene theme that could be heard on Lylat Cruise. Even Panel de Pon got some love with a sick arrangement of Lip's Theme. With so much music, one might fear that they'd never be able to hear it all. The My Music feature Brawl introduced lets you toggle the frequency at which songs play on every battle stage. Have a song you really like? Crank it up so you can hear it regularly. A piece you aren't particularly fond of? Turn if off all together.

The Wii U version of Super Smash Bros. has over 430 themes of new music, arrangements and returning themes from Smash 64, Melee and Brawl. The composer talent is across the board for Smash 4 with some of my favorites Kenji Ito, Manabu Namiki, and ACE pitching in to name very few. The My Music feature that Brawl added makes a return and with even more tunes than ever before, you could spend hours just listening to and selecting themes.

I'm very pleased some of my old favorites from Brawl made a return but the plethora of new remixes is insane. Full Steam Ahead (The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks), Wrecking Crew Medley (Wrecking Crew), Dark Lord (Find Mii), Bubblegum K.K. (Animal Crossing: New Leaf), Love Theme (Mother 3) are already making Smash 4 one of my favorite video game soundtracks. As great as the gameplay to this series is, the music has been every bit as good. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Favorite Tunes #102: Settle it in Smash

I have been playing and loving Super Smash Bros. on the 3DS and Wii U. I've also been falling in love with the glorious soundtrack, spending more time than I probably should in My Music and trying to uncover more CDs to expand the music I can Smash to. This Favorite Tunes is all about the music in the fourth entry in Super Smash Bros. Happy Smashing!

Save the World, Heroes! (Find Mii II) - Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS (3DS)

The Wii U version of Smash 4 may be the better of the two, but I still greatly appreciate the fact that I can take Smash on the go.  As of this writing, I'm still playing it regularly. The 3DS version of Smash has stages that are unique to it, favoring levels from portable games. Even the Find Mii games got some acknowledgement in the form of a stage and two musical numbers. I already mentioned Dark Lord in a previous Favorite Tunes entry, so this time Save the World Heroes! gets a chance to shine. This theme always makes me feel more than a little heroic.

Coliseum Series Medley (Fire Emblem Series) - Super Smash Bros for Wii U (Wii U)

I've always been intrigued by the Fire Emblem games but to this day, I only own two entries in the series, Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones and Fire Emblem: Awakening and I've yet to play either of those. What I can say is that Fire Emblem games have absolutely amazing music. Smash 4 on the Wii U only has two Fire Emblem stages, one returning from Brawl and a new one made specifically for this game. The selection of old remixes and new ones combined is staggering. I guess it is quite telling when the music makes you want to check out a series even more.

Jogging / Countdown - (Punch-Out!!) - Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS/Wii U (3DS, Wii U)

Fans wanted Little Mac in Smash for the longest time. The closest we got to having him in Brawl was through an Assist Trophy. One of the earliest stages that was shown off for Smash 4 was a boxing ring more than a year before the game was released. This made some fans suspect that the pint sized boxer was in the game. When he was confirmed, the fanbase exploded. This track gives you two themes for the price of one, with a bit of the boxing theme music sprinkled in.

Bathtime Vocal Mix (Nintendogs) - Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS/Wii U

Ah, the Living Room, one of the few stages to take place in a house. You've got a cute little doggy playing in the background, all nice and homey. Then it starts raining. But this isn't any old precipitation. It's falling blocks and those suckers hurt. Thankfully you can climb on them and watch the drop shadows to avoid being hit. I've never played Nintendogs but I loved this remix to death on the 3DS version of Smash. It was stated that most of the 3DS tunes would make it to the Wii U version and thankfully, this song is present and accounted for.

The Great Cave Offensive (Kirby Super Star) - Super Smash Bros for Wii U (Wii U)

A mini game from Kirby Super Star, the Great Cave Offensive was getting stage love in Smash 4 on Wii U! Huzzah! Annnnnnd it turned out to be the biggest level in the game. Seriously, Temple is tiny compared to the Great Cave Offensive. I suppose it is being true to the game it's from in scope. I mean, that cave was quite massive. Not too many fans like this stage due to the over overwhelming size, which makes fighters microscopic. Nobody can hate on this outstanding orchestral theme, though.

Shadow Man Stage (Mega Man 3) - Super Smash Bros. for Wii U (Wii U)

Mega Man 3 is my favorite Mega Man but I know Mega Man 2 gets so much more attention. I was afraid Spark Man Stage would be the only theme that would get arranged from Mega Man 3, but as I scrolled through Wily Castle in My Music, my eyes grew wide as I was staring at a remix for Shadow Man Stage, who has one of the most badawesome themes in the whole series. I've always felt Shadow Man's theme was more jazzy, but I've no problem with rock versions. You better believe I have this baby set to play often.

Style Savvy: Trendsetters (Style Savvy: Trendsetters) - Super Smash Bros. for Wii U (Wii U)

Looking through the My Music list on Wuhu Island, I came across this song that was from a game I've never played or even heard of. After doing some research, I found out that this remix was from the 2012 3DS game of the exact same name. After giving it a listen and hearing how bouncy and catchy it was, I knew I had to hear it frequently. I just love how Masahiro Sakurai continues to dig into Nintendo's history with these games.

Light Plane Vocal Mix (Pilotwings) - Super Smash Bros. for Wii U (Wii U)

When I saw screens of a Pilotwings level, my heart jumped for joy. OK, so Pilotwings isn't my all-time favorite Nintendo series, but as I've said before, one of the many things I love about Smash is how it pays tribute to Nintendo's rich history, including the bits that don't get as much attention as the company's other franchises. With a Pilotwings stage, comes delicious Piltwings remixes. Flying over Wuhu Island, jumping from plane to plan, listening to this soothing theme. It's enough to make you forget about all those times you crashed your air rider so many years ago. Until you see the mode 7 section of the level, that is.

Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels Medley (Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels) - Super Smash Bros. for Wii U (Wii U)

Just seeing this song listed in My Music was enough to give me an unsettling feeling. Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels has the dubious honor of being the only Super Mario game that I HATE. Still, I was willing to put the negativity aside and give this one a listen. Oh it's good. Really, freaking good. While Lost Levels reuses a lot of the music from the original Super Mario Bros., the ending theme was more fleshed out, which is probably why this got the Lost Levels label attached to it.

Multi-Man Smash - Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS / Wii U (3DS/Wii U)

A new Super Smash Bros., a new Super Smash Bros. main theme. It's common practice to arrange the main them of a game the Smash Bros. series is no stranger to this practice. Smash 4, however may boast the most main theme arrangements of any previous entry. I loved this theme when the trailer for the game launched in 2013, which is now known as Battlefield. This disco-ish arrangement really brings the hype for me.

Favorite Tunes Database

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Memories #17: Super Smash Bros.

The year was 1999 and the Nintendo 64 was entering its third year of life, still holding second place to Sony's PlayStation. While the PS did have a diverse library of games that catered to everyone, the N64 had something the new, gray hip box on the block lacked: undeniably fun local multiplayer games. Oh, sure there were some four player titles on the PS, but you needed a multi-tap adapter to get in on that action and so many four player games were few and far between. But on the N64? You were constantly tripping over four player multiplayer masterpieces. It helped that the system had four controller ports staring you in the face at all times and Nintendo took full advantage of them. GoldenEye 007, Star Fox 64, Mario Kart 64, Mario Party, Nintendo's 64 bit baby was the go to machine for four player mania.

Fun as it was to gun down your friends, shoot them out of the sky or steal their power stars, the N64 was lacking in one of the best multiplayer genres: fighting games. The SNES enjoyed no less than three versions of Street Fighter II, but Capcom turned their attention to the less costly CD consoles to have their popular characters throw down. New IPs don't come often from The Big N, but when they do, people sit up and take notice. 1999 saw the birth of a new IP from the company that would not only use their pre-established character icons, but would also be a fighting game. That's right, a fighting game, from Nintendo. Well, the game was developed by HAL but Nintendo owns them, so that's kinda splitting hairs. The fact that Nintendo was backing such a game at the time was mind boggling.

News of this upcoming N64 fighter first reached me through the pages of Electronic Gaming Monthly. They had a nice two page preview of the game and just by reading and looking at the screens, I knew this would be a fighting game like no other. The concept still bewildered me. Mario, Yoshi, Samus, and Donkey Kong (among others) were going to be beating each other to a pulp. Oh sure, in 2014, this wouldn't make anyone in gaming raise an eyebrow, but in 1999, this was a shock to the system. Nintendo stars were throwing down in a N64 fighter called SOOPA SMAAAAAAAASH BROTHEEEEEEEERS!!! 

Anyone in denial that such a game involving Pikachu electrocuting Mario could actually exist were silenced by one of the greatest ads Nintendo has ever produced. I would pay good money just to see the look on the faces of people that found out about Super Smash Bros. from the TV ad.

That ad is BRILLIANT! Of the countless questions that commercial raised, the primary one had to be "Why are they fighting?" The only question that really mattered was "Who cares?!" You know how you don't realize how bad you want something until it was placed right in front of you? That's what Super Smash Bros. was. Until this point, I had never given thought to the idea of Link and Mario fighting out. Now that such a thing was possible, I had to have it.

Knowing that Super Smash Bros, would released on April 26, 1999, I saved up my 20$ weekly allowance and after school, I headed to my local Meijer and it was a Monday to remember. Being the age of cut scenes, Super Smash Bros. also had an open opening introduction and to my surprise, it even came with one of the most badawesome title shouts I've ever heard, not even topped by the game's sequel.

I'd played Street Fighter, Tekken and Mortal Kombat but I already knew that I was in for a completely different beast and If I was going to spend some quality time with this game, that would mean knowing how to play it. I learned much of what I needed to get by in the nifty How to Play Super Smash Bros. Demo that proceeded that sick opening, which, funnily enough, showed Mario kicking the crap out of Luigi, who was one of the four hidden characters. The controls for this game were amazingly simple, you had two buttons for attacking and another for jumping. In contrast to the simple controls, a myriad of moves were at your disposal. Taping the A button three times rapidly would execute a quick three hit combo. If your fighter ha d a projectile, it could be unleashed with the B button. Even controlling your fighter on the ground and in the air felt incredibly fluid with the analog stick, much to my surprise.

The small roster didn't bother me in the least.
I got to fight with Nintendo characters so I
was hype enough with that.

Like any other fighter the goal of Super Smash Bros. was ultimately to defeat your opponent, but this game went about reaching said goal differently. There were no life bars to speak of, only a percent meter over your fighter's avatar. You wanted to build your opponent's perfect meter up. The more damage they've taken on, the further they would get knocked back from attacks and the same went for you, too. The stages in Smash were't just backgrounds for your characters to fight in. No, staying in the stage was of vital importance. Most fighting games have you knock your opponent unconscious. Super Smash Bros. wants you to knock you opponent off the stage so they don't come back. As much as the game was about fighting, it was about platforming as well. Each character could perform a triple jump move to help them land back on the stage, provided they haven't been knocked so far back. If your percent numbers were still white, you probably had nothing to worry about. However, if those numbers reached the triple digits and turned red, one good attack would be all it would take to put you into orbit.

The method at which you went about achieving victory was new and intriguing and as fun as watching it play out in the demo was, it felt so satisfying to do it with my own hands. If you were there in 1999, you know how cool it felt to play as Mario and for once, not be saving that dumb blonde, but to be chucking fireballs at Link, uppercutting him and seeing coins come out, complete with the classic Super Mario Bros. coin sound affect and deliver the final blow to knock him off the stage and hear the announcer say "Game Set!" The whole gang fought in the style of the games they were lifted from. Link wielded the Master sword, the Bow, the Boomerang, Donkey Kong would pound the ground and knock opponents off their feet. Samus used her Screw Attack, Missiles and Bombs. It was just so awesome to see these Nintendo legends fighting each other with signature movies from their respective series.

Nostalgia meets four player madness.

Items also set Super Smash Bros. apart from other fighters. Throughout a matches, items would appear at random. The Beam Sword allowed those besides link to get in on the blade swinging action. Poke Balls caused just about everyone to panic, that is unless a Goldeen popped out and did an ineffective Splash Attack. The Hammer turned you into an unstoppable force and made everyone run in the opposite direct, lest they be KOed. But the grandaddy of all items had to be the Homerun Bat. This simple-looking, wooden bat was the most feared of all items. All it required was a good forward A connect to send you into space, even if you were at 0%. As if the action in Smash wasn't crazy enough, items introduced a whole new level of chaos, that I fully embraced.

Multiple opponents and items dropping at any time. How could things get anymore hectic? Well how about making stages that weren't just merely background scenery? Oh sure, levels took inspiration from the games the cast cane from like the Mushroom Kingdom, Hyrule and Dream Land. But each stage had it's own unique hazard that meant you'd have to not only pay attention to items appearing as well as fighters, but also be mindful of whatever obstacle the stage would throw at you. Planet Zebes was a small enough stage and one of the first things I noticed was what looked like acid below. Sure enough, every now and then, the level of acid would rise up and damage anyone not high enough off the ground. Sector Z was a pretty spacious level and seemed pretty harmless until Arwings fly by and shoot the fighters, would could be lethal for anyone at high percentages. Whispy Woods stood out like a sore thumb in the Dream Land stage and he would occasionally try to blow players off the the stage. Dream Land ended up becoming one of my favorite stages to go to, not only for it's simple design, but because of the kicking Run, Kirby, Run remix.

It doesn't matter what their beef is. Mario and
Link are fighting. That's the important thing.

Single player mode also panned out different from other fighting games. Yeah, you still had one-on-one matches against AI opponents, but the game mixed things up considerable. One minute you'd be pit against an army of 18 Yoshi's, then next you'd be trying to send a giant Donkey Kong off the stage with some help from a computer controlled fighter. Even the final showdown was unique. No evil dictator, no four armed freak show to contend with and no old men with crazy hair styles and family issues. The Master Hand couldn't be knocked off the stage. Unlike all the battles before, you had to take his percent meter down to 0 and he had no intention of making that task a simple one. You know you're in for a fight when an evil laugh actually sends a chill down your spine. Master Hand would slap you around, shoot bullets at you and attempt to crash into you, shattering your shield if you activated it at the wrong time. You might not expect a hand to fight with such ferocity, but Master Hand managed to be pretty intimidating for being nothing but a white glove.

Unlocking fighters to add to the roster has been a fighting game staple long before the first entry of Super Smash Bros. hit, but like the rest of the game, the method of unlocking charters was also different. If you wanted to add Luigi, Ness, Captain Falcon and Jiggly Puff to the original eight, you'd have to take them down first. I think the fights with these four was actually a lot easier than in the Smash games that followed were the AI was noticeably cranked up. I still find it pretty interesting that Captain Falcon was playable. Of all of the fighters, he's the only one that has been limited to a race track in his series, so all of his moves were made specifically for this game, including the famous Falcon Punch.

The hand that feeds you is sick of being bitten and now
it's going to fight back. 

For all the four player mayhem Super Smash Bros. offered, it was difficult to get my circle of friends to play it. Every now and then I'd manage a four player slug-fest, but for the most part it was just myself and a good friend for multiplayer sessions. Getting a group of buddies to punch out never damped my enjoyment of the game, though. I can't even recall how many times I'd battle it out against three AI fighters. Yes, any fan of the series will tell you that the best time you can have in a Super Smash Bros. game is with friends, but I'm certain Masahrio Sakurai and his team took into account that doing so wasn't always an option. After spending years being able to punch and kick just one fighter, having three others to contend with was a breath of fresh air, even if they weren't humans. And again, these were Nintendo stars I got to fight as and beat on.

This year marks the 15th anniversary of the Super Smash Bros. series and we saw the release of Super Smash Bros. for 3DS and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, the fourth installment in the series. What started out with humble polygonal beginnings has since exploded into one of Nintendo's most popular franchises. Super Smash Bros. is now so massive that each release may as well be treated like an event and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U was hyped up like you would not believe and the demand for the 3DS version was pretty high, too. I'll probably only return to the original Super Smash Bros. when I'm feeling nostalgic but I'll always be grateful for the wonderful memories the first game game me and for birthing one of my all-time favorite Nintendo franchises.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Latest Purchases #76

I've really been slacking on my LP posts and on this blog overall. It's a combination of having been sick, working a lot and other personal issues. I hate that I did so little posting throughout the month of November and as much as I'd love to do a post a day, I'm just one man, so that isn't possible. Still, I do want to get back to making more frequent posts, so if I gotta lose some more sleep and what no for the greater good, so be it. With that said, here's the combination of at least three different purchases done up in a single post.

I think it's safe to say that just about any fan of DBZ has picked up or at least watched Battle of Gods. Unlike previous movies and TV specials, this is actually a cannon thing, with the story being written by Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama himself. Having seen this movie  three times now, it's definitely one of my favorite pieces of Dragon Ball media. Love the action and love the comedy, though I do find it odd that some fans are complaining about the later, which strikes me strange since Dragon Ball has comedic roots. That 20 minutes of extra footage is all kinds of cool.

This 5 inch Mario figure is one of the most common toys in the World of Nintendo line. Unlike Link, Bowser and Donkey Kong, I didn't have to order him online as I've always seen him in Target and K-Mart. He really is a sweet-looking Mario figure with some excellent points of articulation. I'll try not to forget all about him when I open up the other Mario figure that I picked up...

Like Mario, this Yoshi World of Nintendo figure is pretty freaking cool. He's the first Yoshi toy I've picked up that isn't a plushy. I'd planned to get this thing sooner or later, but since I've been playing as the dino a lot in Mario Kart 8 and loving what they did to him in Smash 4, that might have hastened my purchase somewhat.

The K'Nex Super Mario and Super Mario 3D Land toys aren't anything too new. They've been out for a few years I believe, but these were marked down super cheap at K-Mart so I snagged them. I doubt I'll build the full sets they came with, but I've already had some fun posting pictures on Instagram with Mario and the mooks.

I was given 20th of November off from work, which meant I could attend the midnight release of Super Smash Bros. for Wii U (Man, that title sucks). It was my very first midnight launch and while my local GameStop wasn't super packed, it was still nice to feel the hype in the air. I wasn't aware that the amiibo figures were already available so I coped two while I was in the store. I may scan these just to see how they play and evolve but I really got these for display purposes. You can bet I'll be collecting all of them.

I had to get this guy through Toys 'R Us online store to get him, but man, was he worth waiting almost a week for. I didn't think the 6" inch DK figure would be this big. I was more than a little surprised when the UPS truck dropped him off and he was sealed in a box almost twice the size of the default packaging. I'm guessing Bowser is around the same size.

When I saw these S.H. Figurearts figures at Barns & Nobles months ago I fell in love. Mario looks like he has even more articulation going on than the World of Nintendo figure I mentioned above. Even the packaging is awesome, with the plumber in all types of poses on the back of the box. Goombas, easy as they are to do away with, are some of my favorite mooks from the Mario series. Sure, he's got no articulation to speak of, but he looks great and he comes with two sets of Pipes, a set of hands to go with the Mario figure, and a Koopa Troopa Shell. The text remains in Japanese and I never thought I'd see figures like this in Barns & Nobles. These things also cost more than the World of Nintendo Toys. The Goomba set was only $19.95 and despite being in smaller packaging, Mario went for $24.95. But it's hard to complain when you're getting something this good.

Taking a break from playing Smash 4 last week, we went to Wal-Mart and I almost had a stroke when I saw Gargoyles Season 2 Volume 2 on DVD. I'd heard that Disney completed Tailspin's DVD releases some time ago, but seeing Gargoyles get completed? That was a very welcome shock. I didn't think Disney had any interest in finishing their Disney Afternoon cartoons but it looks like I was wrong.There are no extra features like the previous Gargoyles DVD releases but I'm just happy to have the cannon series done.

Big surprise, I have always been a fan of Mickey Mouse ever since I was a kid. I loved those classic theatrical shorts, I started picking up the Mickey Mouse newspaper strip series in 2011 and I adored these newer Mickey Mouse shorts when they aired in 2013. This was sitting right next to Gargoyles Season 2 Volume 2 and until then, I had all but forgotten about this series. I couldn't help but notice the Season 1 on the packaging. Sure enough, season 2 already begun airing earlier this past year.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Mario Kart 8 DLC is the Bee's Knee

I think it's a pretty safe assumption that the Mario Kart franchise is the best spin-off series in the plumber's long history. You know you're doing something right when not only your main series is still going strong, but your chaotic cart racing series is going full speed ahead right long with it.

Martio Kart 8, the latest in Mario's famous racing series has been selling like hot cakes. The game was already jam packed with content right out of the packaging. 15 returning tracks from previous entries with fresh takes on them along with 15 brand spanking new courses, which have quickly become some of my most loved digital roads to race on. Then you've got all the car parts and customization that was returned from Mario Kart 7. On top of that, Mario Kart 8 brought in characters that had never been in a Mario Kart previously like the Koopalings. Even items have been balanced out the Blue Shell showing up less frequently and a way to destroy the accursed item with the Super Horn. All this and some pretty smooth online racing.

Mario used all those coins he collected from
New Super Mario Bros. 2 to buy everyone a stylish set of wheels.

Not long after Mario Kart 8's release, Nintendo dropped one word, three letters: DLC. DLC is nothing new these days. It became common place in the console gaming platforms during the Wii/PSX/360 era with the later two systems brimming with the stuff. It's no surprise that those three letters can make most gamers groan, especially how so many companies like to screw gamers over with DLC, with locking it on the disc and holding back content to release at a later time even when the game is still being worked on. Nintendo, for all of their faults, releases DLC properly, having a better handling on DLC than lots of other companies. 

The first DLC content came in the form of three Mercedes Benz automobiles. That's right, the Big N was gonna let us drive Mario and the gang around in stupidly expensive licensed cars. I originally thought these cars would just be a cosmetic thing but it turns out each Benz has it's own set of stats like all of the other carts in the game. It may be a little strange to see Mario and company in Benz cars in unrealistic environments, but Mario games have hardly ever been normal. The best thing about the Benz DLC? It came at the cost of zip, zero, nothing. We didn't have to pay a dime to see Luigi drive around Cloudtop Cruise in a 1934 W 25 Silver Arrow. 

Yet, there were fans that still wanted new characters and new courses out of Mario Kart 8 DLC. During one of their Nintendo Directs, the company revealed that they had much more DLC to give us. But unlike the Benz, we'd have to drop some cash for this stuff. When they showed us what they had in store, Nintendo already had our money. Cat Peach, Tanooki Mario, Link?! The Blue Falcon from F-Zero?! New tracks?! Sign me up!

Yoshi circuit from Mario Kart: Double Dash!!
was a track I was not expecting among the DLC
since I didn't stay up to date on things. 

If I may, I'd like to talk about Link for a bit. His and the upcoming inclusion of Animal Crossing characters to the Mario Kart series is kind of a big thing. Until now, only Donkey Kong and Diddy have been the only outside characters in the world of Nintendo to be able to drive along with Mario and company, at least as far as the consoles go (the Mario Kart Arcade GP games star Pac-Man) I've heard a few people actually complain that adding Link is just sad and spells the death of the series, which is just eye rolling on so many levels. If you want to get people stoked about some new characters in Mario Kart, dipping outside the Mario universe and choosing someone like Link is a pretty good way to go about it. How adding everyone's favorite pointed eared hero is killing Mario Kart is far beyond my comprehension.

Excitebike Arena is sorta like Baby Park. Except all
the hills which allow you to trick like a maniac. 

We had to wait until November to get the first Mario Kart 8 DLC pack, which contained three new characters, three new carts and eight tracks. After gawking at the screens, I was as excited as anyone but I was a bit miffed that we'd have to wait. I didn't watch the trailer for this DLC over and over again, nor did I really keep up with the screens that Nintendo released. Sure, I knew some good DLC was on the way in the first pack, but since I didn't really make it a thing to stay up to date on things, I didn't know just how good the DLC was gonna be until November 13 rolled around.

As November 13th drew closer, I started paying more attention to the upcoming DLC. A track based of off Excitebike? Cool! Wait, what's this? Mute City?! We haven't had an F-Zero game in 10 years so I welcome any homage to that series I want to see return someday. And a track based off of Hyrule? Come on, November 13, get here already!

Again, while I payed some mind to a bit more details of the DLC, I didn't look into all of it. Much of the pack 1 DLC was a surprise to me after I downloaded it. The B Dasher returning was a welcome surprise as was the new Tanooki Kart.

They say seeing is believing. Well, when it comes to gaming, there's a difference between seeing something and experiencing it. When I finally got my hands on the first DLC pack, I could not stop grinning it up.

I decided to roll with the Egg Cup first and like many of you, the first new character I chose was Link. And to have the Captain with me in spirit, I used the Blue Falcon. I really wasn't expecting Yoshi Circuit from Mario Kart: Double Dash!! to be reborn in glorious HD. I was never too fond of the track due to the abundance of curves, but playing it once more has taught me how to handle it, to the point that I don't mind it's inclusion at all. Dragon Driftway also took me by surprise. The concept of racing inside a huge dragon is cool in and of itself, but Nintendo somehow managed to blend rock with ancient style Chinese music. Freaking awesome!

The love I have for this track cannot be put into words.

As a long time fan of F-Zero, I wish for the series to be revived as much as the next guy and while a single track node doesn't make up for it's absence, the appreciation shown in Mario Kart 8's version of Mute City is just too good not to acknowledge. The entire course is anti-gravity since F-Zero is an anti-gravity racer. Meaning, you can bump other racers around you for a boost. And the pink strips used for refilling energy are also there, and they give you coins since the track has no visible coins on it. Every time you complete a lap, you get a free boost, like the original F-Zero gave you a boost to use for completing a lap. And then you have boost pads everywhere! Yeah, there are some sections of courses in Mario Kart 8 that have boost pads like the final stretch of Mount Wario but not quite like Mute City. There is a definite emphasis on speed here and that wonderful, sexy, jazz-rock arrangement of the Mute City them is crazy awesome. You better believe I'm gonna be mentioning that baby in Favorite Tunes sooner on later.

I've heard some gamers cite the inclusion of SNES Rainbow Road as a bad choice. It's always been one of my favorite courses and I used to be so awful at it all those years ago. I don't know if much has changed from the Mario Kart 7 version of it, outside of the lovely HD look and the fact that it now rests of Donut Plains III, a retro course in Mario Kart 8 that was also in Super Mario Kart. Nice touch, Nintendo.

Hyrule is about to encounter a whole new kind of
terror. The one known as road rage.

Iceice Outpost looks like it takes place on a crossing bobsled track and I really like how all the different paths intersect. And then you've got all those shortcuts, some of which I'm still finding out about. No doubt I'll find even more shortcuts here when I see racers speeding past me when I play online. Still, I fear this course may be overshadowed by Mount Wario if it ever comes up along with it in course selections. Players love them some Mount Wario.

Mario Kart 8 has been a title I've regularly been playing since I picked it up back in early June. Between breaking time trial records, beating my own times, trying to get three star rankings and online play, the game has so much to offer. Mario Kart 8 seems to be the game that keeps on giving. It kinda reminds me of those Special Words in Super Mario 3D World. That brutal post game content really did extend the length of an already fantastic platfomer. Likewise, this DLC breathes even more live into a game that is already teeming with it. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Favorite Tunes #101: Nintendo Train Hype Edition

Say what you will about Nintendo not doing things the way the competition does. They have been killing it as of late! 2014 has been one awesome year for the company with so many good titles being released on the 3DS and Wii U. Mario Kart 8 is still being popped into my Wii U, I've clocked almost 75 hours into the 3DS version of Super Smash Bros. and I still gotta find the cash to snatch up Hyrule Warriors and Bayonetta 2. I'm pretty sure you already know where I'm going with this so, enjoy the music.

ST01 Roll Out, Wonderful 100! Battle In The Blossom City Burbs - The Wonderful 101 (Wii U)

If you haven't picked up The Wonderful 101, I recommend doing so. At $30 brand new, it's one of the cheapest games you can pick up on the system and while it is by no means perfect, I think this is a game every Wii U owner should have in their library. I honestly was not expecting this the kind of musical score I'd heard when I fired this game up. This is one heroic, triumphant piece of music, the kind you'd expect to hear in a major motion picture. Those blaring trumpets heard throughout the course are as you defend a city under siege are the icing on the cake.

Captain Falcon's Twister Race: Mute City - Nintendo Land (Wii U)

For many of us, Nintendo Land was the closet we've gotten to an F-Zero revival. A decade has passed since an F-Zero title was released. So while the franchise may be gone, it is comforting to know that Nintendo has not forgotten about it, giving it a huge acknowledgement with it's own theme park section in Nintendo Land. This game has a catchy, charming soundtrack, with lots of chiptune takes on old classics. For good measure, Mute City is still sporting heavy traces of rock to go along with the 8-bit goodness.

Full Steam Ahead (Spirit Tracks) - Super Smash Bros. for 3DS (3DS)

Nintendo has already let the word out that the Wii U version of Super Smash Bros. is going to have even more music, including a plethora of tracks from the 3DS release. This is excellent news because the 3DS version has all kinds of sweet tunes. The Spirit Train has become one of my favorite stages to duke it out on, not just for the chaotic railroad nature, but for the music, accompanying it, in particular, Full Steam Ahead. This track has a very western vibe to it and considering the arranger of this track was Michiko Naruke, composer of the Wild Arms games, I guess that's to be expected.

GBA Mario Circuit - Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)

Wallpaper by MaxiGamer

Can't have a Nintendo-centric Favorite Tunes without dropping a track from one of Mr. Video Game's own titles, now can we? Originally the staring track in the Mushroom Cup in Mario Kart: Super Circuit on the GBA, this mode 7 track was given a gorgeous HD makeover with new boost panels added along with anti-gravity racing sections. Naturally, the music was updated, which now sounds like a lovely combination of jazz and funk.

Theme of Bayonetta 2: Tomorrow is Mine - Bayonetta 2 (Wii U) 

When Sony and Microsoft passed on Bayonetta 2, Nintendo stepped in and made the game a console exclusive. And there was much crying and death threats from fans that didn't have a Wii U or just hated The Big N. Bayonetta 2 on the Wii U even includes the original game to bring you up to speed in case you missed out on the first title. That's a pretty sweet deal. Also sweet is the music with some sick battle themes some feel good vocal performances. That main theme, tho!

Eclipse of the Moon (Guitar Version) - Hyrule Warriors (Wii U)

If Mario can have a dozen spin-off titles, why can't Link get in on the action? Enter Hyrule Warriors, which is what happens when the Legend of Zelda meets Dynasty Warriors. Having never played a single game in the later series myself, tossing in some Zelda characters makes Hyrule Warriors a good jumping on point for anyone curious about Koei's hack and slash series. The music in Hyrule Warriors is very expansive, featuring numerous versions of a single theme. The default version of Eclipse of the Moon is outstanding all by itself. Throw in some rock and increase the speed and your feels won't know what to do with themselves.

Favorite Tunes Database