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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Dualshock 3: Out of Order

So I turn on the PS3 to get some gaming in. I'm feeling like I need some more Sonic Generations in my life. I go through a few levels as Classic Sonic with no problems. I decided to do some levels as Modern Sonic and this is where I encounter some hiccups. Sonic starts drifting around curves when I'm not even wanting him to. Why am I going off in directions I don't want to go? It occurs to me that something I feared when I got my used PS3 is indeed a reality: my Dualshock 3 is wonky.

I first suspected I may run into problems with the controller when I heard a light rattling sound coming from inside the controller the night I took my PS3 out of the box. It didn't heavily concern me since the control worked fine. For the most part. There were times when I was on the PlayStation store when I would get booted off it and back to the PS3's main menu. This perplexed me since I clearly remember not exiting the shop. This is something that happened to me on more than one occasion.

I tried playing some Skullgirls Encore. I couldn't even navigate the menus. Next I tried jumping on the PlayStation Store just to do some digital window shopping. Any form of menu navigation was kaput since it refused to read any controller input. Strangely, I could play Galaga Legion DX but my controller was so screwy that I couldn't stop firing, giving me the impression that the game came with some auto fire feature. Much as I hate it, I have to accept the fact that my Dualshock 3 controller is on the fritz, which puts PS3 gaming on hold.

What gulls me is that this isn't the first time I've come across problems with Sony's Dualshock controllers. The Dualshock 2 on the PS2 has a messed up left analog stick, which has lead to steering mishaps in racing games, characters moving when I don't want them to and other kinds of headaches that I really don't want to talk about. With the PS2, it wasn't so bad since it was backwards compatible with original PS Dualshock Controllers. But every now and then, I'd pop in a PS2 game that had to be played with the Dualshock 2, like OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast.

Now I have to plunk down cash for another Dualshock 3. I don't really think I've mentioned it anywhere on this blog before, but the cost of controllers in this day and age is insane. I used to think $34.99 for N64 controllers was expensive. I'm still not crazy about paying $40 for a Wii Remote. The price for a Dualshock 3? $54.99. That's right. We've reached a point in gaming where our controllers cost just about as much as the freaking games. And this is the era of HD gaming. We're lucky if a game retails for $50 on launch day. $50 is a lot of change to part with for a video game. $60? That's not a tough pill to swallow, that is a freaking suppository. And now our controllers cost just as much dough. The DualShock 4? Sixty bones, the price of a new PS4 game. An Xbox One Wireless controller? Sixty clams, the exact same price you'll pay for an Xbox One game. I'm not letting the Wii U off the hook either. Sure, it may only cost $50 for the Classic Controller Pro, but that's still the price of a lot of Wii U games.

Since controllers now carry the same price as the games, I think you can understand why I'm feeling just a tinny bit peeved when my controller, my first party controller, mind you, stars malfunctioning. That's money that could be spent on a new game or something else entirely. I'm guess I'm a little more than irritated since it's another Dualshock that's gone south for me.

My NES controllers still work. My SNES controllers have a few buttons that stick, but that's the only problem I get out of those. The memory to save data on my SEGA Saturn died a long time ago but the controller? Still works. What is it with Dualshock 3 controller, a controller that isn't even close to being as old as any other controller that I mentioned, that makes them fizzle out so easily? Granted I don't know what the thing went through with the previous owners, but a first party product should be able to stand up to a fair amount of abuse before buckling under the pressure. I guess Nintendo and SEGA really did build controllers better than Sony when it comes to long term durability. Thar or I just have lousy luck with Dualshocks.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Latest Purchases #67

Lots of stuff I picked up recently so I'm just gonna dive right into it.

The LittleBigPlanet has turned out to be one of Sony's best new IPs.  The series combines two of my favorite things: platforming and customization. I figured I'd pick up the Game of the Year Edition to get all the bonus content that became available after the initial release. So of you may be wondering why I didn't just skip to LittleBigPlanet 2. I usually like to start with the first game in a series whenever possible. When I do pick up the sequel, I know I won't play it right away due to my enormous backlog.

Metal Gear Rising: Revengenace has been hailed as one of the best action games on the PS3 and 360. I didn't know the game was a joint effort between Kojima Studios and Platinum Games. Kojima Studios has been doing an incredible job on the Metal Gear franchise and I love the work Platinum Games did on House of the Dead: Overkill. That and Platinum Games was originally Clover Studios. Anyway, K-Mart had Revengenance on sale for $22.99 so I had to jump on that.

With all the hoopla over the PS4 at E3 2013, it did my heart good to see that Sony would still be supporting the PS3. So when I saw the trailer for Puppeteer, I was really excited for this game. I could have picked this up for $20 on Amazon, but I felt like giving developer Digital Studios their full money's worth  so I forked over the full $40 at Target. When I finish some of the other platformers I'm running through, Puppeteer is definitely going to be next.

Gran Turismo 6 recently came out but since I didn't own a PS3 when Gran Turismo 5 was released, GT5 XL Edition seemed like a better choice. That and it was $40 cheaper than GT6. I thoguht GT4 looked jaw droppingly gorgeous so I can't wait to see GT5 in motion. XL Edition comes with all the extra DLC and bonus content that was later added to GT5.

I decided I'd pick up Tekken Tag Tournament 2: Wii U Edition when I saw the exclusive content for this version of the game. Mushroom Battle and customizable Nintendo clothing. Heihachi in Luigi's clothes? Sign me up! Tekken has always been a fighting series that's easy for me to jump back into no matter how long I've been away from it. K-Mart had one copy of TTT2: WUE and it was on sale for $14.99. Score!

I wasn't sure if Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze was going to retail for $50 or $60. To my surprise, it was $50 so I decided to grab it on launch day. K-Mart didn't have the game in stock (maybe they ran out) but fye had a single copy left and with my discount, I saved a few bucks. I can't say anything about the game because I haven't opened it up yet. I'm still making my way through other games.

That Nintendo 3DS Card case is something I ordered from Club Nintendo a little while ago. It's one of the better Club Nintendo items as it holds 18 3DS or DS game cards. For 400 coins, it's on the cheap side as well.

Max Fleischer's Superman was one of the earliest animated incarnations of the character that I'd ever seen. It's quite old but these theatrical shorts are still classic. This is actually the second version of these shorts that I own. This set is remastered and has some cool bonus content like the origins behind the series. fye lowered the price on this from $26.99 to $7.99.

The first time I saw South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut was on Comedy Central on Thanks Giving Eve of 2003. There were commercial interruptions but the film was shown completely uncut. I laughed out loud so many times that I can honestly say this is one of my favorite movies to watch. It's a hilarious film some some great musical numbers. Target had it $5.

Speaking of Comedy Central, I caught a few episodes of Dilbert on the network years ago. I was a big fan of the comic strip and I thought the show was a nice edition to the Dilbert name. I never set out to purchase the whole series on DVD but when the asking price is $5, how can one say no to that? Also got this from Target.

Space Balls for the uninformed is a Star Wars spoof by film director Mel Brooks. It originally released in the late 1980s but I didn't see it until 2009 and I laughed my head off. I didn't know there was a 25th anniversary Blu-Ray edition of the film and for $7.50, no less. Target has been very good to me as of late.

I have not seen The LEGO Movie, but from what I hear, it's really good. As a big LEGO fan, I'll more than likely pick up the movie when it releases on DVD/Blu-Ray. I have caught wind of the movie's them song, Everything is Awesome, which I haven't heard in full yet. This soundtrack has four versions of the song so I'm guessing the composer was quite fond of it. I got this at Barns & Nobles for %40 off the original price. I'm really interested in hearing the score, but perhaps I should see the movie first.

The third volume of Floyd Gottfredson's Mickey Mouse comic strip. I ordered volume 2 and 4 sometime last year because they were so cheap on Amazon. I figured I'd fill in the gap and order volume 3. Like the previous volumes, volume 3 is filled with well over 100 pages of Mickey Mouse comic strips from the 1930s and tons of bonus content. I haven't even started reading these books yet but I thumb through them from time to time and I really like what I see. So I'm hoping Fantagraphics Books keeps pushing this line of Mickey Mouse comics so we eventually get the whole collection.

I've been looking at the numerous Sachhi bookmarks in Barns & Nobles and since my collection of books has been growing and growing, they seem like a good excuse to get some shinny new bookmarks. These are all made of light weight metal and have a message written on them. The first one on the left says "Never, Never, Never Quit," which was spoken by Winston Churchill. The one in the middle says "Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars," said by Les Brown. The one on the far right says "May happiness flow through every door." The quote isn't spoken by anyone in particular but the top of the bookmark has a key that reads "Happiness" since the lower half of the bookmark has a keyhole. Needless to say, I really like this one.

So many t-shirts! The Regular Show tee is something I picked up in Target when I was out shopping for a friend's birthday. It has Mordocai and Rigby sporting shades, looking like a couple of bosses. Not the first Regular Show tee I've seen but easily on fav thus far. Paid $12.99 for this.

The Adventure Time and Mac Miller tees were 2 for $10 at fye.. I'm a big fan of Adventure Time but I've never even heard of Mac Miller. However, I do really dig the design of the Mac Miller tee.

I think the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles tee is an old cover of the Archie Comics series since the turtles are sporting their 1987 cartoon series look. Also, you can't see it in the photo, but there's an issue number on the left side near the sleeve. The tee that reads "Drop It!" and has a cute little critter working the turntable that looks like a Pokemon is apparently from a series called Bravest Warriors. Never seen it but I love the design of this shirt. fye was having a sale on tees where if you buy one, you get a second for $10. I picked up this along with the TMNT tee.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Favorite Tunes #82: Tekken Edition

I've gushed over a few Tekken tracks here and there over the long course that Favorite Tunes has been going. Well now I'm really gonna gush over some Tekken beats because this installment is all about everyone's favorite 10-hit combo fighting series.

Paul Phoenix (PS Arrange) - Tekken 3 (PS)

Paul Phoenix has always been one of my favorite Tekken characters. To my surprise, it was revealed that Paul was one of Tekken's joke characters. I seldom enjoy playing as joke characters in fighting games but Paul always connected with me for some reason. In the first two Tekken games, Paul was in his 20s but by the time Tekken 3 rolled around, he was in his mid 40s and still busting heads. Respect. Double respect for always giving Paul awesome music themes.

For Hidden Characters - Tekken 3 (PS)

Tekken 3 marked a major shift in focus in the music department for the series. Some feel the audio peaked with Tekken 2 and that the electronic infused music the series opts for is a bit too much. As a huge fan of electronic music, I don't really mind it. Tekken 3 still had plenty of rock elements in it's soundtrack. I prefer the arcade version's one theme for hidden fighters over the PS version's individual hidden character themes.

Emotionless Passion (PS Arrange) - Tekken 2 (PS)

After defeating dear old dad in the first Tekken, Kazuya dropped his papi off a cliff. Needless to say, that really peeved the old man off because he climbed out of that cliff so he could have a go at ringing his son's neck. Kazuya's victory over his father promoted him to final boss status in Tekken 2. In the end, Heihachi bested his son and tossed him into a volcano. This didn't stop Kazuya from coming back to life. Moral of the story? If you toss someone off a cliff, you better make sure they can't climb back out.

The Headshaker (PS Arrange) - Tekken 2 (PS)

Without a doubt one of the coolest-looking swordsmen in all of gaming, Yoshimitsu's appearance changes with each Tekken game. He actually sports far less details in Tekken 2 than he does in later releases. While I don't take any issues with his subsequent designs, I really dig his Tekken 2 look. His theme music is also one sick beat, build up, main course, everything.

Moonlit Wilderness - Tekken 5 (ARC, PS2)

When Tekken 5 was released, one of my friend's favorite levels to play was Moonlit Wilderness. The stage us set among a gorgeous field of flows with the full moon glowing bright. It was some eye candy setting for sure, but the music really helped complete that stage.

Dragon's Nest - Tekken 5 (ARC, PS2)

Moonlite Wilderness was an awesome-looking stage with awe-inducing music. Dragon's Nest was another one of my favorite places to fight in Tekken 5 for the stone dragon statues and the pounding beat. I always associated Raven with this level for some odd reason.

Opening Movie - Tekken Tag Tournament (PS2)

When Tekken Tag Tournament was brought to the PS2, it was given a major visual overhaul. There were extra modes like the strangely addictive Tekken Bowling and the game also recieved a spiffy new opening cut scene, complete with this killer piano piece.

Nina - Tekken Tag Tournament (PS2 ver.)

Arriving late to the party as ever, Tekken Tag Tournament marked the first time I ever played a tag battle fighting game. I was particularly glad to see every the cast from all three Tekken games present (sans Gon). It also has one of my favorite Tekken soundtracks, the PS2 version in particular. Nina's theme is very electrifying, filled with so much energy.

Aim to Win (Character Select) - Tekken Tag Tournament 2 (PS3, 360, Wii U)

Tekken 2 had some great fighter select music as did the original Tekken Tag Tournament. Killer character select themes for the Tekken series came back with a vengeance in Tekken Tag Tournament 2.

Night Falls (Ending) - Tekken Tag Tournament 2 (PS3, 360, Wii U)

The music in Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is very aggressive. So after all the kicks, punches, throws and bloodshed, it's nice to hear a relaxing, mellow theme.

Favorite Tunes Database

Monday, February 24, 2014

Memories #15: Ice Climber

Winter is almost over but while it's still here, I thought that now would be a good time to reminisce about one of the earliest NES games I've ever played, Ice Climber. Ironically, Ice Climber was my first encounter with what has often been one of my most hated environments in video games, ice worlds.

When my sister and I were kids, my father, like all fathers do, would occasionally bring home surprises for his children. This would range from candy, to movies and if we were really lucky, video games. One night after work my father brought home with him not just one, but two NES games. The first was Donkey Kong Classics, a compilation release that contained Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr. The second one was Ice Climber.

Those words in the top right corner of the
screen? I saw that A LOT.

There were no princess to save in Ice Climber. The only thing that was in peril here was some eggplants that were abducted by a condor. The Ice Climbers were tasked with climbing the mountain, reaching the bonus level, collecting all of the fruit and finally catching the condor that caused the pair so much grief. Something that I found out early on is that Ice Climber is not an easy game. You could say Ice Climber has an arbitrary difficulty due to the way Popo and Nana's jumping functions. The two cannot alter the direction of a jump once you choose to go left or right and the weird arc associated with each leap can make precision platforming more challenging than it needs to be. Failed leaps were more common in Ice Climber than in any other game I've played on the NES but when I did successfully pull off a jump, it felt pretty good.

Vertical platforming was certainly different from horizontal platforming, the later of which I was far more accustomed to after playing Super Mario Bros. Even though I did get used to the jump mechanics that Ice Climber used, there was still plenty of other things to make mountain climbing a chore. Nitpicker, a small pink bird, was your typical airborne nuisance that was easily disposed of with a well-timed mallet strike, but could still be trouble. Toppies would fill in any open patches in the floor with ice, essentially giving you more work to do. This really became annoying in later mountain peaks where you'd have to deal with small platforms, fast moving platforms and other enemies all at the same time.

The salty, salty tears of failure.

Ice Climber has some pretty aggravating enemies but by far the biggest headache was the Polar Bear. Wearing shades and a pair of pink trunks, the Polar Bear was the game's way of saying I was taking too long to complete a stage and they would pound the ice, which forced the screen to scroll up, which resulted in some frustrating deaths. Needless to say, I took great pleasure in killing that bear whenever the opportunity presented itself. The Polar Bear was hands down the most satisfying enemy to get rid of.

The bonus stage at the end of each peak weren't much easier than the regular levels. Unlike the mountains, you only had 40 seconds to collect each piece of fruit. The moving platforms combined with the odd jumps made these sections the bane of my existence. Not only did you have to collect all the fruit to even get a bonus, but you had to catch the condor, 40 seconds may seem like a lot of time, but it really isn't. I don't think I ever completed a single bonus stage as a kid.

Everything is worse with bears, especially
if you're at the bottom of the screen.

I was never a major arcade goer. I mean, I had visits to the arcade, but most of my gaming was done at home or at a friend's house. Ice Climber may have been developed on home consoles but looking back at it, the game's arcade feel is more than apparent. The levels are short and you didn't have to reach each mountain the old fashioned way. The game's 32 mountain peaks was selectable on the title screen. This was especially helpful when I felt like playing a certain stage or seeing what later mountains had to offer. Since I tended to get scrubtacular at around mountain 4 or so, a stage select that was accessible right off the bat was a gift from the heavens. It was one of those rare instances in a game where my lack of skill wouldn't restrict me from seeing the whole game. Perhaps the folks at Nintendo took this into account when they were developing Ice Climber.

One of the many spirit crushing bonus stages.

Time went on and as I played the numerous sequels to Super Mario Bros. that were released over the years, Ice Climber seemed to be one of those games that was forgotten by both myself and Nintendo. It wasn't until the summer of 2001 that I would remember the parka pair. When the E3 trailer of Super Smash Bros. Melee was shown and I viewed it in school with some friends,  my face lit up like a Christmas tree when I saw Popo and Nana. No surprise, I was the only one in my circle of friends who knew who they were.

It was fitting that my father brought both Donkey Kong Classics and Ice Climber together. Mario uses a hammer as a weapon in Donkey Kong and in Ice Climber, the 'mallets are their sole means of defending themselves. Both games also had you ascending rather than having you go through side scrolling levels. But beyond that, these were two vastly different games. Whereas I had actually conquered Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr. I never even came close to beating Ice Climber. Not only was Ice Climber a much longer game than Donkey Kong Classics, it was far more difficult. And yet, I still got a lot of fun out of Ice Climber. Like Contra, the game schooled me hard, but I kept coming back to it. My sister, my friends and I were all quite fond of the game. I fired it up it recently via Animal Crossing on the GameCube and I can honestly say that I still get a kick out of playing it. As happy as I am to see Popo and Nana get time in the sun in the Super Smash Bros. series, I'd love for this duo to take to the mountains with their mallets once again.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Winter Wonder Lands I Actually Like

Cold temperatures, snowy landscapes and controls that want to fight you every step of the way. I find it ironic that video games, a hobby that allows us to escape reality, portrays one of life's most frustrating forms of physics oh so well: ice physics.

It's not secret that most of the gaming community loathes winter themed levels. It seems to be the one type of stage design where the terrain itself is an even greater threat than any enemy you can run into. Brawl in the Family summed up ice levels quite well. But not all winter levels are gloom and doom. There may not be many but there do exist a few snow levels that I actually get some pleasure out of romping through. Since it's currently colder outside than I care to think about and some of the white powder is on the way, this seems like a perfectly good time to talk about the winter stages that I don't mind visiting.

World 3-1: Snowball Park - Super Mario 3D World (Wii U)

May as well start with a recent game. Super Mario 3D World boasts some of the most creative levels since the Super Mario Galaxy games. That should come as no surprise since 3D World was made by the very same team responsible for Mario's galaxy hoping adventures. When you reach World 3, a land covered in ice, you're lead to believe the whole world is going to be filled with slippery slopes. In truth, 3-1: Snowball Park is the only winter level in the entire world.

Not only is Snowball Park a well designed winter level, but there's plenty of things to distract you from just racing through and collecting the green stars and stamp. Usually I find the mere presents of Pokey's to be annoying but Snow Pokey's aren't that bad. For one, these guys are sporting pails on their heads, but the way they wear them makes them look like a fez. Once Snow Pokeys have been disposed off, you can use the discarded pieces of their bodies to attack other enemies a la a snowball fight.

About midway through the level, you'll come across an ice skating rink where Goombas are using Ice Skates that's sure to send memories of Goomba's Shoe from Super Mario Bros. 3 flooding back to you. Like Goomba's Shoe, you can go grand theft auto on the Ice Skates simply by getting riding the Goomba that's using it to skate around on the ice. But even without an Ice Skate, it's still fun to see your Mario, Luigi, Peach and Toad jump through the air like figure skaters. We could definitely use more winter levels like Snowball Park.

Ice Cap Zone - Sonic 3 & Knuckles (GEN)

When exiting Carnival Night Zone, Sonic uses a canon to shoot to his next destination, the Ice Cap Zone. Sonic lands on a conveniently placed snowboard and begins a descent into the frosty climates of Angel Island. Your snowboarding stint is brief as Sonic is quickly introduced to a towering wall that sends him to the cold depths of the Ice Cap Zone, capped off with an avalanche.

Ice Cap Zone is probably most famous for the piece of music that accompanies the first act, which is often viewed as one of the greatest winter video game music tracks of all-time (deservedly so in my opinion), but just taking the whole zone into account, Ice Cap is a riot to blast through. This may be a ice stage, but the fast paced gameplay that Sonic is known for does not let up here. You'll hitch a ride on ice bergs down steep slopes, dodge ice crushers, use large icicles to platform over spike pits, and catapult through ice caverns to make your way back to the snowy surface. Hard to believe it took Sonic Team four console games to introduce the ice level to Sonic's world but man, did they ever nail it on their first try.

Snow Land - Kirby's Epic Yarn (Wii)

Snowy Fields, Frosty Wheel, Mt. Slide, Frigid Fjords, Evergreen Lift, Cozy Cabin. The sixth world of Kirby's Epic yarn is bursting at the seams with creative ice levels and sine there really isn't one that I don't enjoy, I've decided to list Snow Land as a whole.

Anyone that's played Kirby's Epic Yarn knows that the game is overflowing with enough disgustingly cute to cure any and all forms of negative emotions. Somehow, Snow Land manages to crank up the cuteness factor to 11. You know how Kirby and Prince Fluff turn into cars that make those adorable little honks? In certain levels they transform into sleds! Sleds that can skid over water! You can travel on or in the snowballs that the Waddle Dees throw at you and in Cozy Cabin you can get out of the snow and go through a a delightful cabin that's overflowing with the feels that you'll almost forget that the ceiling is trying to crush you.

What really makes Snow Land shine is that it goes nuts with the Christmas theme. The Christmas trees are loaded with beads for you to collect, which makes taking the decorations off the trees fun. Even the way you enter Cozy Cabin, via chimney is very Santa-like. Much of the music has a Christmas feel to it. All of this makes Snow Land an absolute joy to run through and perfect for playing around the holiday season.

Cool, Cool Mountain - Super Mario 64 (N64)

There are two snow worlds in Super Mario 64 and even with a few frustrating missions, Cool, Cool Mountain is easily the lesser of two evils. There's much to to do in Cool, Cool Mountain. You can slide down the snowy hills, ride the lifts, make a snowman, race a giant penguin and even reunite a mother with her lost child. Cool, Cool Mountain is one of the earliest courses in the game and it does present a fair set of challenges, it's still a pretty cool ice level and not even that whining penguin kid can ruin that.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Latest Purchases #66

I've fallen a bit behind on Retro Gamer. Not just in reading but in collecting them. I've missed the last two issue and while this certainly isn't the first time it's happened, I always hate having gaps in the collection. Nonetheless, I have resumed my purchasing of the magazine. Load 124 has a Making Of on Metropolis Street Racer, one of my favorite Dreamcast titles, a Bluffer's Guide to Arcade Racers, and a Classic Moments feature on Star Fox 64 or Lylat Wars as it's called in PAL regions.

The Land Before Time is one of my all-time favorite animated features and in my humble opinion, Don Bluth's best film. There are a dozen sequels, but for me (and I suspect many others) the original, will always be the best of the lot. I haven't seen this movie in over a decade and it still holds up just as well as it did in 1989. This is the Anniversary Edition that has some special features that are mainly for kids. Sadly there's no commentary and from what I can tell, there hasn't been any remastering, but I'm not too bummed out about that stuff.

The Snoopy plush was actually something that was on sale at my local Wallgreens for Valentine's Day. As you can see, he's meant to hold cards, and I may use him for that from time to time, but I really just like the way this thing is made. Snoopy has always been such a cool character and I never thought of owning any sort of Snoopy toy until I saw this thing.

Speaking of Snoopy, Snoopy's Reunion has the honor of being the first Peanuts TV Special I bought on DVD and it was only $5 on Amazon. This remastered special is a little over 20 minutes long, tells a story of how Snoopy and Charlie Brown meant and as the name suggests, is about Snoopy reuniting with his brothers and sisters. It's a nice little special but the main reason I picked this up is for It's Flashbeagle, Charlie Brown, which is a bonus TV Special included on this DVD. It's Flashbeagle, Charlie Brown is one of my favorite Peanuts TV Specials and is what cemented Snoopy's eternal coolness factor in my eyes when I was a child. The whole special is great, but the main attraction is when Snoopy goes to a disco club, takes over the dance floor and dances the night away. It's undoubtedly the best part of the special. I used to have this special recorded on VHS and I watched it religiously. You can bet the farm I'll be doing it all over again now that I have it on DVD.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Downloads #29

Star Soldier games on the TG16 are titles I pondered picking up on the Wii Shop Channel a number of times in the past. They sounded like terrific shooters (spoilers: they are) but there were always other games on the service that kept me from getting them. I was going to pick them up on the PlayStation Store, but for some odd reason, Final Soldier isn't on the PSN, which is why I decided to grab Supper Star Solider, Final Soldier and Solider Blade on the Virtual Console. One Wii Points card got me all three. Not too shabby.

I gushed over Skullgirls soundtrack more than a year ago. When I purchased a PS3, I was really looking forward to playing the game. When I browsed through the PS Store and couldn't find it, well, you can imagine my heartache. It was one of the many PSN games that had the misfortune of being removed from the store. Thankfully, it came back as Skullgirls Encore with more content. I cannot say enough how much I love the audio and visual style of this game.

River City Ransom is one of my favorite beat 'em ups and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game is very much designed like that title. I was so jealous of 360 and PS3 owners back when this game dropped. Well now that I have a PS3 some of those feelings are starting to fade. Like RCR your character can get stat upgrades and you can purchase store items to restore lost health. I'm also loving the shout-outs to other video games like the Mario Kart and Super Mario series.

Galaga is in my humble opinion, one of the greatest shooters of all-time. Not every reimagining of Namco's classic shooter have been good but Galaga Legions DX is certainly one of the better attempts. I downloaded the demo and after just playing through a few waves, I hopped right back on the PS Store to grab the full game. It's that good, boys and girls.

Let's Have a Look at the Super Mario 3D World Soundtrack Booklet

Everything about Super Mario 3D World is awesome. The level design and the music are among the finest the Super Mario series has to offer. Can things get any better? Yes. Yes, they can. It turns out the booklet that comes with the Super Mario 3D World Original Sound Track is every bit as awesome as the game itself.

I am a huge fan of hand drawn artwork and the soundtrack booklet for Super Mario 3D World is filled with hand made illustrations. These aren't just any old doodles of Mario and company however. We've all seen the above soundtrack cover, which is hands down one of the best soundtracks covers in the history albums. Beyond that lies even more zaniness.

Mario's got his saxophone and he's ready to jam. I just love that smile on his face as he's about to take that sucker out of the case.

After meeting up with Luigi, Mario goes to meet Peach. I guess Toad is too cool to come in through the front door so he's making his way via clear pipe.

Bowser a and MagiKoopa are also part of the band. Interestingly, Boweser's drum set has Bowser, his American name written on it. It's a well-known fact that Bowser was originally called Koopa in Japan. I'm not complaining. I'm still bowled over by the awesomeness of the image that is Bowser with a drum set.

Mario checking with a Luma to see if Rosalina is going to be able to make it. Not only is Rosalina on her way, she's bringing friends.

It looks like the gang is just about fully assembled all that's left to do now is...

Let's get this party started! This two page splash is the best thing EVER! Bowser getting down on the drums, Plessie on the bongos, Captain Toad with the maracas, the trio of Goombas singing away. Even the Sprixies are having a grand old time. I cannot tell you how much I adore this image. I hope this soundtrack becomes a platinum award for American and European Club Nintendo members this year because I'd love a physical copy just so I can pull this booklet out and thumb through these wonderful pictures.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Sonic Boom Character Designs: I'm Digging Them

"Those are the character designs for the upcoming Sonic Boom show?! Why is Knuckles all Hulked out?! Sonic's legs are too long! Why do all of the characters have wraps?! Tails is wearing a belt! These character designs are the WORST thing to happen to the Sonic series! RUINED FOREVER!!"

-Sonic's very vocal, unpleasable fanbase

Silhouettes for the designs of the characters from Sonic Boom have been on the internet for a while now. It wasn't until recently that SEGA went ahead and lifted the curtain and showed the world what Sonic and the gang would look like for the new animated series and game debut. Reactions to Sonic and company's new look played out just about the same way things always do with the Sonic community. What did 1987 Raphael say in Turtles Forever?

"Some people just can't handle change." 

Yeah, the designs for Sonic and pals in Sonic Boom are different from what many of us have grown accustomed to over the past decade and a half with Knuckles sports the most radically different design. I'm gonna take the side of the minority and say that I like the character designs for Sonic Boom.

Let's star off with Sonic. His legs seem longer than ever but I have no problem with that. His arms are blue now but he was mostly blue anyway so that doesn't bother me in the slightest. The ascot? I approve. What's it covering up? The neck that Sonic doesn't have?

Tails has goggles and a belt that he uses to carry around tools. He's always been a gear head, so this works for him.

Knuckles is bigger and taller than everyone so it's no surprise that his design has been greeted with the most fan outcry. He must have been hitting the gym while he was guarding Angel Island's Master Emerald. Knuckles has always been about brute force so I don't have a problem with him having a look that matches his strength. Does it go against the "mighty is light" thing? Yes. Do I care? No one iota.

Amy has never looked better. No, really. The biggest beefs I had with Amy in both her classic and modern incarnations were the clothes they stuck her with. Well OK, in the case of her classic version, I didn't care for her design either but modern Amy looked like she stepped out of the 1960s. The outfit she's styling in Sonic Boom is the best she's ever worn and she's no longer wearing boots that I'm amazed she's never tripped over.

Everyone is rocking the wraps. Personally, I LOVE this. I don't know if the gang's been tacking up some kind of martial arts or if it's simply a design choice, but I really like it. Rock Lee wear's wraps and he's a fan favorite Naruto character. Wraps are prominent in Nickleodeon's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles designs and they only serve to make the turtles look that much more awesome.

These guys were already cool in previous
incarnations. Wraps have been added for an
infinite amount of cool points.

It's not like these are the standard designs for Sonic now. Sonic Boom, like the Sonic Story Book series is going to be a spin-off franchise so we'll still see Knuckles more traditional design and Amy's 1960s get up. Besides, are these designs really the worst thing that's happened to SEGA's mascot? If anyone thinks some new character designs are worse than Sonic the Hedgehog 2006, I'd have to say they are a bit loony upstairs.

In this medium, your appearance is not the only thing that makes you who you are. Mario and Luigi have long since swapped the colors of their overalls and shirts and they lost nothing when they made such a minor change. The world didn't stop loving Mickey Mouse when he put on a pair of shoes and gloves and despite what so many stuck-in-the past fanboys want the world to believe, Sonic is still Sonic regardless of whether he has a pot belly, green eyes, some wraps and an ascot (which is all kinds of awesome). I'm looking forward to both the animated series and the game and when figures for these designs drop, you better believe I'll be picking them up.

Monday, February 3, 2014

That One Level Part 2

You're trucking along in a game just fine and then, IT happens. What is IT, you ask? Why, it's the level that trips you up over and over again and makes you wanna crack your controller in two. TV Tropes likes to call these areas That One Level because despite all the colors these levels may or may not have, the stage has you seeing only one color: red.

World 6-5 - Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES)
Super Mario All-Stars ver.

Whenever I play through Super Mario Bros. 3, I usually play through nearly every stage in the game. I say "nearly" because there are a handful of levels that leave me sighing in frustration. Of course one such level would have to be in the token ice world. Ironically, very little of the stage has to do with the cumbersome ice physics and more to do with the nature of reaching the exit. 

You've encountered Buster Beetles before but their presents here is especially annoying because they are everywhere. You need these guys out of the way so they won't rob you of your Raccoon powers or interfere with your flight path to reach the top of the stage where the exit pipe lies. If you lose your Raccoon powers, you can take one of the two warp pipes over and over again for  infinite power-ups. Keep in mind that this means you'll have to deal with those Buster Beetles all over again. You may have already tried flying to the top to reach the warp pipe that leads to the exit, only to find that there's a pair of Nipper Plants blocking your path. You obviously can't use a Fire Flower to kill them because it's already been established that the only way off this rock is Raccoon Mario. There's a lone Koopa Troopa at the bottom where the Buster Beetles are roaming around and you'll need to fly up to the Nipper Plants with the shell to take them out. Sweet, sweet freedom! This stage is aggravating because you have to jump through so many hoops just to finish it. Levels like World 6-5 are the very reason Lakitu's Cloud was invented. 

Snow Barrel Blast - Donkey Kong Country (SNES)

Ice and snow themed levels aren't favored all that much among gamers mainly due to the slip-sliding controls that accompany theme. But like World 6-5 in Super Mario Bros. 3, the slippery terrain isn't really an issue in Snow Barrel Blast. Oh sure, you slide around, but I can assure you as well as anyone else that's played Snow Barrel Blast, some slippery slopes are the least of your concerns here. Snow Barrel Blast is the very first level in the Gorilla Glacier area and it's one dozy of starting level.

Things start out deceptively simple. You've got some easily disposable mooks to get ride of. Nothing too complicated. That snow-covered background is quite beautiful to look upon, isn't it? As you travel onward, it begins to snow. The further long you go, the snow gets heavier and heavier until it becomes a full on blizzard, which hampers your visibility. Since the words "Barrel Blast" were used in the title, you know what that means, right? If you thought working with those Blast Barrels was tricky before, just wait until you use them in Snow Barrel Blast. Some of these barrels spin so fast that aiming them correctly seems like an impossible task and again, that blizzard isn't doing you any favors. As if things couldn't possibly get any worse, you've got some unkillable Zingers to contend with as you try to blast your way through the storm. 

Unruly Blast Barrels, Zingers and one nasty blizzard combine to make Snow Barrel Blast one of the most frustrating levels I've ever encountered in a video game, winter themed or otherwise. Even the sadistic level designers took some pity on players because there's a shortcut near the end that allows you to completely bypass the final barrel blasting section, which is a section that even Satan himself shudders to think about. 

The Dam - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES)

It isn't a perfect game, but I do feel some of the hatedom Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles gets is unwarranted. That said, one of the earliest levels in the game, while passable, more than deserves the negativity that it gets.

Shredder placed some bombs under the Manhattan waters and if they blow, the dam goes to pieces and New York is going to get a lot wetter. An underwater mission? This should be a cakewalk. I mean, the heroes of this games are turtles! Unfortunately being turtles doesn't prevent the green machines from being immune to the curse that plagues just about every single video game that has water: crappy swimming controls. The swimming controls for this game are stiff and this is a large part of what makes The Dam such a difficult level. What makes things even worse are the loads of electrical jolts that the turtles can get hit with and the plethora of electrical seaweed that will surly cost you a few turtles. The turtles have no mercy invincibility when they take damage so the longer they staff in the seaweed, the quicker their life is going to plummet. Worse still is the type of seaweed that can reach of and swallow the turtles whole. You know, letting that dam explode doesn't seem like the worse thing that could befall New York. 

Clock Tower - Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse (NES)

Clockwork levels have been a staple in the Castlevania franchise but I don't think they've ever induced rage quit like the one in Castlevania III. This was the first game in the series to allow you to play as multiple characters as well as offer branching level paths. Upon completing the first level, you're offered a choice between going underground or journeying through a massive clock tower. If you picked the Clock Tower, you've got one nasty pill to swallow. 

As to be expected, the Clock Tower is filled with moving pendulums and spinning gears. I'm guessing those stiff jumping controls are hereditary because Trevor Belmont's jumping sucks just as bad as his descendant, Simon. Your jumps have to be incredibly precise in this level because if you're off by even a pixel, you're not going to make it. Often times you'll have to make jumps while standing on moving gears and pendulums and the vast majority of your deaths are going to come from attempting these leaps. The Medusa Heads littered about these stage don't make things any easier and they just love to attack while Trevor is on the stairs, which are just about as much of a headache as the freaking Medusa Heads. It isn't uncommon to get stuck on a set of stairs and miss a jump just by walking off a cliff.

Event 51: The Showdown - Super Smash Bros. Melee (GCN)

By finishing all 50 events, you'll unlock Event 51, which is by far one of the the most arduous things Super Smash Bros. Melee will throw at you. This event pits you against Giga Bowser, Mewtwo and Gannondorf with a stock of three lives for everyone, yourself included. All three of these guys have a high AI setting and there are no stage gimmicks to assist you. It's quite easy to become overwhelmed since you have three opponents to deal with, and one of them is a gigantic version of Bowser. You do no't want to get surrounded by these guys as they will make absolute mincemeat out of you if they do. Stay on either the left or right side of the stage and attack from there, taking out Giga Bowser first if you can. A lot of people like to use Jigglypuff but I found success in Marth, finishing this challenge with two lives to spare after many attempts.

Part 1