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Thursday, January 28, 2016

That One Level Part 3

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.

75cm - Donkey Kong (ARC, NES)

Even by arcade standards, Donkey Kong is a short game, consisting of only four levels, three if you're playing the NES version. By far, the hardest level of the game is the third level 75cm. You've got small, moving platforms, Fire, the game's most prominent mook that can move up and down ladders and the stage lacks the Hammer, so Mario is completely defenseless. But the moving platforms and Fires are the easiest things to deal with. The most infuriating obstacle on 75cm is the freaking Jacks that bounce across the screen. When you work your way to the right side of the screen and get closer to Donkey Kong, these things become a serious threat. Jacks bounce in the exact same pattern each time they cross the screen but this knowledge does little to help you on that last ladder climb to reach Pauline. If you climb the final ladder at the wrong time or are in the wrong position, you're taking a Jack to the face. This single item makes 75cm a game stopper for a lot of new Donkey Kong players. In the NES version of Donkey Kong 75cm is the second stage. 75cm is a stage in Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and unsurprisingly, its a much loathed stage.

Supply Lines - Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (PS2, XB, PC)

If you ever tire of being a taxi driver, popping off rival gang members and increasing your wanted level, there are plethora of missions to do in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, many mandatory, some optional. One such optional mission is Supply Lines, one of Zero's missions, a good buddy of CJ's. In Supply Lines, you take control of an RC plane to shoot down five moving targets in San Fierro, the San Andreas version of San Francisco. Sounds like an easy job, right? The only thing standing in your way of completing your objective is the shoddy controls of the RC plane.

Picture if you will, the most difficult flight based controls in a video game that you've ever played. Now those awful controls of whatever game you're thinking of? That's Heaven. The RC controls here are Hell. Whatever game burned you with bad flight controls has nothing on Supply Lines. Oh and because garbage controls weren't enough to deal with, the RC plane has a limited amount of fuel, placing a time limit on what is already a highly stressful mission. But you're likely to crash and burn the plane a few hundred times long before you come close to getting the hang of the crappy controls. Why are we doing this mission, again? Oh I said Zero was a good friend of CJ's, did I? I don't even like Zero all that much. Screw 'em.

Scrambled Egg Zone - Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (GG, SMS)

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 on the Game Gear and Sega Master System is one of the most difficult games in the entire character's history. The Acts have no checkpoints and every single boss act gives you no rings, meaning failure really stings here. But the real sledge hammer to the face comes in the form of Scrambled Egg Zone. You know those tubes in Chemical Plant Zone in the Genesis version of Sonic the Hedgehog 2? Scrambled Egg Zone is full of these things, taking up most of the level, in fact. These tubes are the primary means of transportation around Scrambled Egg Zone and as you may have already guess, it is very easy to get lost. Take a wrong turn and some of these tubes will send you to your death. If you're searching for trial and error gameplay at its worst, look no further.

King Stage 2 - Mega Man & Bass (SNES, GBA)

Mega Man & Bass is one tough costumer all around. It gives you no E-Tanks, the Robot Masters are some heavy hitters, and depending on whom your playing as, the severity of the migraine this game will give you has varying degrees at specific points. The game has more than its fair share of BS for both characters but King Stage 2 is straight booty no matter how you slice it. For whatever unholy reason, King Stage 2 is a a marathon level. It drags on and on, thanks in large part to the bosses, four of them to be exact, including King himself. King isn't what will make you rage quit. That honor goes to the tank boss and his three forms, more specifically, the first two forms.

Even with the proper weapon equipped, these thing take forever to kill and the first two forms have no life bar, which gives you the impression that these are mid bosses, but they are not. As aggravating as the first form is, the second is unquestionably the worst. You have to contend with the tank's second form while jumping on moving platforms over a bottomless put. That's a challenge in and of itself but Capcom didn't think that was exciting enough, so they decided to have the boss shoot a fist at you, which can destroy the platforms you're jumping on. Oh yeah, and we can't forget about that flash bang attack that whites out the whole screen, blinding you for a second, making it very easy for you to screw up and die. Bass has more options for avoiding the fist attack due to his double jump and Treble Boost but Mega Man? Oh, he is so shafted. King Stage 2 is the main reason some players haven never even finished Mega Man & Bass, myself included.

4-2 The Wild Red Yonder - Kirby and the Rainbow Curse (Wii U)

Most Kirby games are pretty easy. These are, after all, designed with entry level players in mind. Even so, some levels can prove more than a little challenging even for the experienced player. The Wild Red Yonder is one such level. Throughout the course of the stage, a ship frequently blasts Kirby and his Waddle Dee pals with bombs. You can see where these explosives are going to hit but steering clear from the blasts is still some tricky business. These booms from the bombs linger on the screen for several seconds so its very possible to take multiple hits from a single bomb blast. Often there's several bombs hitting the screen at once. To compound the problem, this is an auto scrolling level. The Wild Red Yonder brings the frustration for solo or group parties.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Favorite Tunes #134: Serene Weather

I've got more posts of Favorite Tunes than anything else on this blog. Chalk that up to my love for gaming music. Anyway, among today's selections are beats from Bomberman 64: The Second Attack and Tales of Phantasia.

Zvil Race Way - Fast Racing NEO (Wii U)

If you're missing F-ZERO and Wipeout (I know I am) then the Wii U eShop's Fast Racing NEO should hit the spot. It offers futuristic racing at breakneck speeds and is quite the challenge. Fast Racing NEO also sports a bangin' soundtrack. I'm a sucker for some techno, trance and electronica.

Aquanet 2 - Bomberman 64: The Second Attack (N64)

Yasunroi Matsuda is more known for his work on Square's games, but he actually did some work on a few N64 titles such as the first two Mario Party games as well as Bomberman 64: The Second Attack. This game has a masterful soundtrack with many themes often having a second variation.

Force Your Way - Dissidia 012 [Duodecim] Final Fantasy (PSP)

Final Fantasy heroes and villains kicking the crap out of each other in real time combat? Yes, please! Say what you will about the game's story but you can't deny how awesome it was to see different heroes and villains from different FF games interacting with one another. The Dissidia 012 arrangements don't get any better than this rocking remix of Force Your Way.

Staff Roll - For the Frog the Bell Tolls (GB)

Before the Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, there was For the Frog the Bell Tolls, which released on the Game Boy one year prior only in Japan. The game's share a lot of similarities and Kazumi Totaka wrote music for both games. Prince Sable does appear as an Assist Trophy in the Wii U and 3DS versions of Super Smash Bros. He's the cute little guy that turns into a frog and a snake and beats the crap out of opponents, cartoon style.

Serene Weather - Tales of Phantasia (SNES)

It never ceases to amazed me just how rich the SNES sound chip is. The thing was made by Sony, so I guess I shouldn't be too surprised, but still. It makes so many genres of music shine. I'm not sure I should listen to the GBA and PS versions of Tales of Phantasia music because the SNES tracks have spoiled me so much. This one one beautiful sounding track.

Recollect Continent (Theme of Rock) - Soul Edge (ARC, PS)

The recent Soul Calibur games may look light years ahead of the original, but I'm not quiet sure they sound better. Not that the last few Soul Calibur games have had terrible music. Its just that Soul Edge music was just that freaking good, I know the opening vocal theme, The Edge of Soul gets a lot of attention, but the character themes are pretty boss in their own right.

Favorite Tunes Database

Monday, January 25, 2016

So Long, Mega Man (Archie Comics)

True to form, I am once again late to another party. I recently picked up Archie Comics Mega Man #55 and upon looking through the issue, I was shocked to discover that this would be the last issue of one of my favorite comic books, placed on an "indefinite hiatus." What was news to me was announced on the internet in the summer of 2015. 

Man, it really has been difficult being a Mega Man fan over the last six years. He's hardly had anything in the way of new games and what releases he does get are re-releases of his old titles. Mega Man's monthly adventures in Archie's comic book series was absolutely enthralling and it breaks my heart to see it coming to an end. Yes, they say all good things come to an end but this is a premature ending if ever there was one.

The comic had some pretty
amazing covers.

Mega Man had some truly wonderful characterization. Dr. Wily is a bitter man, fueled by his jealousy of Dr. Light's overshadowing success and this drives him to be recognized as the superior in the field of robotics. He wants to humiliate Dr. Light, not kill him and that alone paints in a different shade from a villain like Dr. Eggman. Blues feels that Dr. Light replaced him with Mega Man and sides with Wily, only to decline coming back to Light Labs to be with his family due to his past transgressions. Xander Payne has a pretty good reason to despise robots with a passion seeing as how it was Elec Man (under Wily's programming) took out his left eye. In this comic series, Xander is actually Mr. X and he urges Wily to cause as my chaos and destruction with his robots so humanity to see robots for the same menace that he does. Even Mega Man himself is a complicated individual, wanting to save anyone he can and questioning why he feels joy in the destruction of something as sinister as Ra Moon.

Anything I could write here to describe this
wouldn't even come close to doing it justice.

Speaking of Ra Moon, what a story line, that was! Super Adventure Rockman is not a high point for the classic Mega Man series but the adaptation of it here was superb! Ra Moon caused a planet wide blackout. When it occurs we see all of the robots of the world shut down, planes going down, an entire hospital blackout during surgery among other things. Its a pretty grim scenario and one of the darkest turns the comic has taken.

The exploration of robots and their programming is something I loved so much about this series, When Dr. Wily is thought dead after the conclusion of the Mega Man 3 story arc, the Robot Masters from Mega Man 2 and 3 are all given new purposes. Not all of them are fine with this, however, as it clashes with what they were programmed for. Quick Man was designed to be a weapon and he'd rather be shut down than be a speedy mail man because he wouldn't be himself, much to Mega Man's dismay. Earlier in the series this even one point where Elec Man gets fed up with the mistreatment he receives from a few humans to the point to where he wishes he had Wily's coding in him. I am going to miss this stuff so much.

Mega Man was a well written, thought provoking comic with some colorful characters and it pains me to see it go. Yes, they said "hiatus" but they also said "indefinite"so for all we know, Archie's Mega Man could be gone for good. I don't want to torture myself with false hope. Goodbye, Mega Man. The last four plus year have been an unforgettable ride. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Do Let the Door Hit You on Your Way Out, Konami

By StarWarriorRobby

Konami is dead. Yes, I know I'm rather late stating that but I feel that I need some type of closure on this whole deal so that's what this little editorial piece is for. So again, Koanmi. Is. Dead. "Oh, they aren't dead. They've just gone the mobile and pachinko route." That's not what I'd call living.

Oh, Konami, what happened to you? I'd love to be a fly on the wall so I could hear moronic after moronic decision that was being made within the confines of what used to be one of the greatest third party publishers in the video game industry. I was never a Silent Hill fan, but a plethora of other gamers were. Still, I was really surprised to hear that Silent Hills was canceled, but it was one of the many games that shared the unfortunate fate of this new era of Konami. Contra, Castlevania, Gradius, some of my and your favorite franchises won't be getting any new entries and no, that mobile pachinko crap does not count.

The death of Konami has been a long time coming. For years, we've watched them wither away. I may not keep my eyes on all the gaming news as much as I used to but Konami's missteps were too big to go unnoticed. That Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zero was quite the red flag. Selling a small sliver of a game for $40 just because Konami wanted cash with the quickness was not a slap to the face but a kick to the junk.

Many were outraged by the fact that Hideo Kojima couldn't accept his award for best action/adventure game for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain at the the 2015 Game Awards. He was actually bared from appearing at the show by lawyers represented by Konami. While I do think that is all kinds of effed up, the stink brewing at Konami goes well beyond Kojima because as much as I love the Metal Gear series, Konami was so much more than that. Konami's cancellation of long running series, awful treatment of their employees and hitting YouTube videos with copyright claims to shut up anyone who tries to call them out on their BS has earned them every single ounce of wrath gamers dish out.

Detractors love to say how much Nintendo is dead, irrelevant and how they abandon their fans, when all that nonsense isn't even true. Nintendo still makes great games and they still cater to the hardcore crowd. The Big N is very much still alive and kicking. Konami, however, is about as alive a roach that just got hit with some Raid. When the company decided to dump the console business and just do pachinko and mobile phones so they can rape your wallet with micro transactions, they have given up on living in the gaming industry. Konami has transformed into such a horrible company that they are close if not on the same level of EA and Ubisoft. That's how far Konami has fallen. Konami, you'll be missed but at the same time, you won't be missed.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Favorite Tunes #133: Winter is Upon Us

The new year is well underway, and man, is it getting colder and colder outside. This Favorite Tunes is light on the winter themes, but not light on quality.

Ruins - Undertale (PC)

Odds are good that you've heard about Undertale whether you wanted to or not. This indie game has taken the gaming world by storm and it was all the work of one lone man, Toby Fox. He created the game, wrote the story, composed the music, the whole nine yards. Undertale's soundtrack is highly diverse and you can bet the farm this won't be the last time you hear me gush about it.

Instructions - Mega Man Zero 2 (GBA) 

After years of stealing the spotlight from the central character in the X series, Zero was finally given his own line of games in Mega Man Zero. Playing very much like the X games, Zero can dash and cling to walls. Also true to the heart of Mega Man, the Zero titles are ball bustingly difficult. Don't let the fact that the series is on the GBA lead you to believe these games have sub par music. Each entry has music that will stay with you long after the credits roll.

Mizzter Blizzard - Paper Mario: Sticker Star (3DS)

This is another one of those games I own, but have yet to play, but I'm well aware that Sticker Star is often regarded as the worst Paper Mario game. Combat relies heavily on stickers and if you run out, well, you're screwed. Even the game's detractors will still praise the game's soundtrack. Mario games could use even more jazz during boss fights.

Volcano Valley Act 1 - Sonic 3D Blast (SAT ver.)

Fans of the older Sonic games from the 1990s that think Sonic could do no wrong suffer from selective memory. The classic Sonic era had quiet a few clunkers, with the cream of the crap being Sonic 3D Blast. The isometric gameplay didn't do Sonic any favors but at least we got some awesome music out of this one. The Genesis and Saturn versions have entirely different soundtracks. Both are quiet good but if I had to choose one over the other, the Saturn/PC version wins hands down. The sense of urgency in Volcano Valley Act 1 always gets me pumped.

Password - Mega Man X (SNES)

Much of Mega Man X is on the edgy side of things when compared to its Classic series counterpart. From the story, the characters, even the music has a much more hardcore flair to it. So its a little surprising to hear the game's Password music sound like something out of the Classic games. This is the most upbeat piece of music in the whole game. Not that this is a bad, thing, mind you. Quite the contrary. Passwords were only used for the first three X games and the first one is the best of the bunch.

Frost Dragon - Brave Fencer Musashi (PS)

There was actually a time where Square was known for more than just Final Fantasy. During their PS1 era, Sony's 32-bit machine was home to numerous releases such as Parasite Eve, Xenogears, Vagrant Story and Brave Fencer Musashi, a delightful action RPG that is in serious need of a digital re-release.

Favorite Tunes Database

Monday, January 18, 2016

Outstanding Openers Vol. 1

Not every game immediately thrusts you into the gameplay. While its common place to have some kind of introduction scene in games these days, even before the HD era, we had games that took a bit of time to provide some plot before placing you in control. Outstanding Openers centers around intros that managed to grab my attention, make my jaw drop or say, "Wow, that was neat." Just click on the title of the game to see the opening unfold.

Super Mario 64 (N64)

Mario's trek into the third dimension was no small thing. I mean, this is Mr. Video Game we're talking about here. After getting an invite from Princess Peach via letter, the camera pans around her castle grounds to a lone green warp pipe where Mario makes his appearance with his signature move. Being renowned for his incredible jumping skills, its only fitting that Mario should literally leap onto the scene. This whole intro is made all the better with the opening music that Koji Kondo composed.

Mega Man 2 (NES)

Mega Man 2 opens with the game telling us Mega Man was created to stop Dr. Wily, who doesn't know when to quit because he created eight new robots to thwart the Blue Bomber. We then pan up to our metal hero, looking like a cute little 8-bit BAMF. Mega Man does a number of things well. Look awesome in blue, jumping and shooting and standing on roof tops with his hair blowing in the wind. Not too shabby for a boy robot. 

Sonic CD (SCD)

Thanks to digital distribution, Sonic CD is a much easier game to obtain. While I don't think this is 2D Sonic at his finest, its still a game work playing through. Sonic CD's opening is a true marvel, not just for the beautiful hand drawn animation, but for the way it portrays Sonic's speed. There's so much style to his movements in the game's opening cut scene that it isn't hard to see why Sonic is the dude with the 'tude. Fun fact: Sonic actually sneezes during the opening anime sequence.

Final Fantasy VII (PS, PC)

Its safe to say that anyone breathing was aware of the coming of Final Fantasy VII prior to its 1997 release. The hype force was strong with this one. Yet it's opening cut scene begins surprisingly on the quiet side. We see start with a breath-taking view of the starts, movie on to Aerith walking the streets of Migar and then the camera zooms out to show the city in full view as the game's logo splashes across the screen. Awesome! Now let's go blow some stuff up!

Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (PS2, XB, PS3)

There are two openers to Metal Gear Solid 2, the one listing all the cast members with scenes from the game spliced together like a movie trailer and the one that actually kicks off the game. I'm going to be focusing on the former. This sucker is so well crafted it could be the teaser trailer to a movie. Given that Metal Gear Solid games have you doing more watching as opposed to playing, that actually makes perfect sense. Harry Gregson-Williams, a man usually associated with cinema soundtracks, worked on the MGS2's soundtrack, including the superb arrangement of the Metal Gear Solid Main Theme, which plays during the game's trailer-like opening.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Mega Man II GB Remade

Mega Man II was the worst of the Game Boy Mega Man titles. When compared to any of the other four GB Mega Man titles, everything about it just feels off. The biggest, offender, however, was the game's soundtrack. While Mega Man 2 on the NES is often herald as one of the finest chiptune soundtracks and some of the best video game music ever, you won't get the those same warm and fuzzy feelings when thinking about Mega Man II's GB score. It isn't that the compositions were terrible. The instruments used to make the music made it a painful Mega Man score to listen to. Sound pitches are far too high to the point of being ear grating. RushJet1 has worked magic in remaking the first three NES Mega Man game soundtracks in chiptune formate and he returns to do the impossible, make Mega Man II's GB music pleasing to the ears with Mega Man II GB Remade.

While Mega Man 1-3 on the NES were perfectly fine as is, RushJet1's chiptune remaking of them was welcomed. But if a Mega Man soundtrack was in dire need of being remade, it's Mega Man II on the GB. RushJet1's rendition of Mega Man II's GB tunes are easy on the eardrums, making for a much better listening experience. If you've never played Mega Man II, the GB game used original music rather than shrunken down versions of the Robot Master stage themes you might expect from their NES counterparts. Mega Man II GB Remade is available at name your price download, so if you'd like to thrown the man some cash, by all means. Of course, you can always opt to pay nada and get it for free. Kudos to RushJet1 for another fine chiptune soundtrack and for making Mega Man II's GB music sound enjoyable.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Tetris Ultimate or Why You Should Stick With an Older Version of Tetris

I'm not the biggest Tetris fan, but every now and then, I do like to throw down with the world's most famous puzzle game. Like many, my first encounter with Tetris was on the Game Boy and while I've played numerous other incarnations of Tetris, it has always remained a game I can come back to due to the brilliance in it's simplicity. Tetris is one of those games that can stand alongside Pong, Pac-Man and Super Mario Bros. in gaming. Its one of those games that everyone has played.

There are some things that should be immune to sucking. Like, despite the best efforts to make the simplest of things suck, it should be impossible for the suckage to be so. But every now and then, the stars align and the unsuckable gets hit with the suck bat ad thus, mass suckery ensues. Some versions of Tetris are undoubtedly better than others but the idea of Tetris sucking is flat out inconceivable. Tetris, game about falling blocks that you use to make lines, is as basic a concept as it gets for a video game, so the mere thought that Tetris could suck is unfathomable. And yet somehow, Ubisoft has take a game and made what by all rights should be unsuckable suckable with Tetris Ultimate.

It may look decent now, but in motion, Tetris
Ultimate is an unplayable mess.

Tetris Ultimate may seem perfectly fine in screen shots by seeing the game in motion reveals that its a train wreck of a game. Picture if you will, frequent drops of frame rate in Tetris. What's that you say? There shouldn't be any frame dips in Tetris? You better your sweet booty, there shouldn't be! Dropping frame rates in Tetris? A game that was made in the mid 1980s on primitive hardware is struggling with frame rate issues on freaking high power HD consoles that is the PS4 and Xbox One? How the crap is that even possible?! Oh, but that's not all! Versus matches can somehow still continue even after the victory has been decided, skipping brought on by input lag that can cause blocks to fall in places you don't want to among other things makes Tetris Ultimate a nightmarish Tetris game.

Considering Tetris Ultimate has come from Ubisoft, I suppose no one should be too surprised. This, after all, is the company that loves to rush buggy games to launch and them patch them up when they should be more concerned about making sure the game is already running at an optimal level from the get go. But if they did that, I guess they wouldn't be Ubisoft, now would they? Even though Ubisoft had one easy task, they still manged to eff that up and in doing so, they did the unthinkable and made Tetris suck when such an act should be impossible. This is Tetris. TETRIS! Fro crying out loud, how do you royally screw that up?!

It may lack color, but at least it has better music
and is playable.

This whole deal would be funny if it weren't so pitiful but with Tetris Ultimate being such a crappy Tetris game, there is no reason whatsoever to invest in it, not just because Ubisoft turned out such an awful product. No, you also shouldn't give a rat's butt-ox because there are tons of superior versions of Tetris on every single machine that can run a video game. On NES, GB, PlayStation, Mac, PC, heck your phone can run a more competent version of Tetris than Tetris Ultimate, which are all much better options that you should pursue. Sure, the 3DS version is better than PS4 and XBO versions, but the presentation is still pretty drab and you could get far more enjoyable Tetris experiences elsewhere.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Unpopular Opinions Vol. 1

Are you in the small group of people that actually likes the Star Wars prequels? Perhaps you even like Micheal Bay's take on the Transformers or you actually enjoyed the 2014 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. Or maybe, just maybe, you think The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time isn't the greatest game of all time and that better Zelda games do exist that aren't subtitled A Link to the Past. Welcome to Unpopular Opinions, where perspective, mine anyway, greatly differs from the majority.

Sonic CD is Not The Best 2D Sonic Game

When fans and critics talk about the pinnacle of Sonic 2D Sonic adventures usually two titles come up, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and Sonic CD. Having finally played through Sonic CD in 2005 via the GameCube's Sonic Gems Collection, I found it to be a good, fun game. But it definitely had problems, problems that were far too big to overlook.

The level design in Sonic CD can be an absolute mess with an overabundance of springs and spikes, the later of which the game just loves to send you flying into. The game encourages exploration more than any other 2D Sonic outing but the level design did not go about it the right way. Stardust Speedway will fling you back and forth with its springs, making reaching your desired destination chore and someone obviously wasn't on standby to slap whatever pinhead with a rolled up newspaper when they thought Wacky Workbench was a good idea.

Sonic CD's flaws are staring the player in the face like a deer in the headlights but what really surprises me is that I've seldom seen critics address them in reviews. Its as if these people were so busy worshiping the (Japanese) soundtrack and marveling over the time travel aspects that they didn't think the game's often screwy level design warranted point deductions. The fact that Game Fan gave the import version of Sonic CD a perfect score is mind bobbling to me. Even with these hiccups, Sonic CD is still a good game, but its far from being 2D Sonic utopia.

Zelda II Isn't a Bad Game

Zelda II was different from the first game. Huge understatement. The only overhead perspective to be found was when you traveled on the world map. Everything was a 2D affair, which greatly changed up combat. Zelda II gave us towns, a great emphasis on magic, RPG elements like experience, lives and a much higher difficulty than the first Zelda. The side scrolling gameplay and high difficulty are what draw the most criticism from the Zelda fanbase and critics. While it is true that Zelda II is a one tough cookie, it isn't like the original Legend of Zelda was a breeze. Once you get to the fifth dungeon, the game difficulty climbs up considerably. But no one ever points that out. Sure, you need a guide to beat Zelda II but you also need one for the first Legend of Zelda because that game can also be very cryptic, but critics conveniently forget that little detail whenever they gush about how super mega awesome Zelda 1 is.

Yes, Zelda II throws everything and the kitchen sink at you but combat is much more fun in Zelda II than it was in the first game. The different slashes and thrusts Link can do went on to influence his move set in Super Smash Bros., and while Zelda II was pretty freaking hard, I still found it not only to be a playable game, but a really enjoyable one. I've heard fans complain that Zelda games have been so easy over the years. Well there's a reason for that. Nintendo did a hard Zelda game way back in the day and they are still drinking your salty tears.

Mega Man 10 is Better than Mega Man 9

Had Mega Man  10 come out before 9, I can't help but feel it would be the game of the two everyone swoons over. Mega Man 9 is a fine game but it feels like another Mega Man 2, a game that I adore, but also feel is highly overrated. Mega Man loses his Slide and Charge Shot abilities in order to make the game feel like Keiji Inafune and everyone under the sun's favorite Mega Man game. Mega Man 10 still has Mega Man without the aforementioned abilities, but it still feels like its trying to stand on its own rather than be a clone of Mega Man's second game. OK, so Mega Man 10 has some silly Robot Masters like Sheep Man and Pump Man. Are we really going to pretend that Bubble Man and Heat Man don't look ridiculous? The alternate paths most stages provided gave us more ways to go and with the game being far less jerkish (Mega Man 9 had WAY too many spikes), I have far more fun with Mega Man 10 than I do 9.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Favorite Tunes #132: 'Sup, 2016?

How was your New Year's Eve? Mine? Well, it had its good points but on the whole, eh, I'd rather not talk about. New Year's Day was so much better. Started a new game of Super Mario World, enjoyed my day off work, good times. So 2016 is here and here's the very first edition of 2016 Favorite Tunes.

Alien class.A "SZZU & CKRY / LLWO" - Black Rock Shooter: The Game (PSP)

Based on the manga and anime of the same name, Black Rock Shooter was released on the PSP in Japan in 2011. A Digital release followed in 2013 on the PlayStation store in America and Europe. The game's title may lead those that aren't aware of the anime and manga to believe that its a SHMUP, Black Rock Shooter is actually an RPG of the action variety. The game's electrifying score was done by none other than Manabu Namiki.

Moon River (Climax Mix) - Bayonetta 2 (Wii U)

When Microsoft and Sony turned down Bayonetta 2, Nintendo stepped in. This didn't stop a plethora of Nintendo haters from suffering from a nasty case of butt hurt, if it weren't for the Big N, we wouldn't have Bayonetta 2. What's even sweeter is that picking up a physical copy of the game nets you the original Bayonetta. Two games for the price of one. Like the original Bayonetta, Bayonetta 2 has some sweet remixes of old classics. Moon River has been covered dozens of times but the Climax Mix in Bayonetta 2 is among my favorite because its so dang lively.

Gonna Be Here - Trauma Team (Wii)

Two vocal numbers in a row? Truly, this is a special occasion. You might thing hospital work wouldn't make for a compelling gameplay experience. But you could always ask Trauma Center fans how wrong you are. Trauma Team is full of wonderful tracks but the crown jewel of the lot is Gonna Be Here, the game's closing number. In Japan, the game is known as Hospital: 6 Doctors.

Feldschlacht III - SaGa Frontier 2 (PS)

The sequel to 1998's SaGa Frontier. This is the first game in the SaGa series to not have any involvement of Kenji Ito, a man who had always been heavily associated with the SaGa titles. In his stead was Masashi Hamauzu, more recognized for his excellent work on the Final Fantasy XIII soundtracks. He gave SaGa Frontier 2 numerous battle themes, with the Field Battle music being variations of the game's main theme.

Fort Course - Yoshi's Wooly World (Wii U)

Yoshi's Wooly World could very well be the Yoshi game to surpass the SNES classic Yoshi's Island. The game features beautiful HD yarn cosmetics, inventive level design and tons of hidden trinkets to find. The game's soundtrack hits a lot of genres from rock to country and even a little funk. Chill, thy  name is Fort Course.

Title - Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)

Even before I jumped online and before the DLC, Mario Kart 8 wowed me. The slick controls, superb track designs, wealth of characters and item balancing make for one of the most memorable Mario Kart experiences. The music is also on point. If you've played the original Mario Kart, you're sure to recognize the theme that starts playing at 1:04.

Favorite Tunes Database

Monday, January 4, 2016

Memories #19: Donkey Kong & Donkey Kong Jr.

While Super Mario Bros. was my entry into the world of Mario games, I would later find out that it was not his debut title. Mario would make his first appearance in a game where not only were Princess Peach, Bowser and little brother Luigi nowhere to be found, but Mario himself wasn't even given title billing.

Parents are good for a lot of things like raising you and occasionally coming home from work with some gifts in tow. Even better when said gifts are video games. One night my father came home from a long day's work with two NES games, Ice Climber and Donkey Kong Classics, a compilation cartridge that contained Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr. The NES was still new to me and while I hadn't heard of either one of these games, I was more than happy to have more to play. It didn't matter that Mario's name wasn't in the title of Donkey Kong Classics. He was on the cover of the box, clobbering DK with a hammer and that was all I needed to know.

Having cut my teeth on Super Mario Bros., it really came as quite a surprise to find out just how different Donkey Kong was. Sure, both were platformers but that was the only two things the games had in common. I was still new to the gaming world of which I was quickly becoming enthralled with, so the very notion that other types of games outside of Super Mario Bros. did exist was strange, but intriguing.

It all started here.

The story of Donkey Kong was simple. Carpenter named Jumpman, who we'd later come to know as Mario, owns big ape named Donkey Kong. Jumpman mistreats Donkey Kong. To get back at his owner, DK kidnaps Jumpman's girlfriend known as Lady, who would later be called Pauline. Perhaps abduction is a little too far but the game needed to do something to warrant DK being the villain, so here we are. I think this was one of the first, if not the first damsel in distress plots for video games, making it a pretty groundbreaking thing for its time.

My struggle with Donkey Kong was very real. Each stage was a single screen and while that meant I could clearly see where the end point was, that didn't do me much good in the grand scheme of things because I was all kinds of scrubtacular. The first level alone was an uphill battle in more ways than one. Atop the construction site, DK had an endless supply of barrels that he would rain down upon me. Sometimes they would roll down the ramps that the steel girders made, other times they would fall straight down. The worst was when they would role down the ladders I was climbing. Add in sentient fire to the mix and you have one very nerve-wrecked kid. It wasn't long ago that I'd gotten the hang of jumping on turtles while walking right. Now I've got a game that tasks me with dealing with a revenge driven ape, barrels that come at you in multiple directions and fire all on the opening stage? It was enough to nearly send my child mind into overload.

Mario did not have the controls in Donkey Kong that Super Mario Bros. made me so accustomed to. His jump height couldn't be controlled, you could only walk, not run and he actually felt a lot stiffer in this game. What's worse is that Mario was noticeably weaker. Mario could not fall very fall at all or he would die. I'm guessing his legs were made of toothpicks because after falling from insane heights in Super Mario Bros. and surviving and then playing a game where Mario perishes from falling a few feet was incredibly jarring. I can clearly remember the "ARE YOU SERIOUS?!" look on my face when happened for the first time.

Where as Super Mario Bros. presented me with numerous opportunities for me to arm myself with power-ups enabling me to more than one hit before dying, I felt practically naked in Donkey Kong. Nearly every enemy had to be avoided or jumped over. Mercifully, the game did contain one means to defend yourself. It wasn't present in every level, but the Hammer made me feel like I was unstoppable. I always loved the short looping song that plays whenever picking up a Hammer and smashing an enemy with it was the best feeling in the world.

Before Fire Flowers and Super Stars, the
Hammer was Mario's weapon of choice.

With repeated plays, the first stage didn't give me much trouble anymore. It was the second level that became the bane of my existence. Those freaking bouncing trampolines were the stuff of nightmares. The trampoline would never change the height and speed at which it bounces and because of this, where you are when you attempt to climb that last ladder is absolutely critical. I think I lost more lives on this level than any other and it was probably one of the earliest sources of gamer frustration that I encountered.

The infuriating second level of Donkey Kong Jr.

Donkey Kong Jr. was a part of Donkey Kong Classics so I would often switch off between the two titles. DK was the antagonist of his self titled game but in Donkey Kong Jr., it was Mario who was the bad guy. This really perplexed me. As much of a jerk DK was in his own game, seeing Mario have the big guy all caged up, sending down all sorts of obstacles to hinder DK Jr. seemed like five different kinds of wrong. Seeing Mario as the villain was akin to seeing my childhood brutally murdered right before my eyes. Mario has played many roles but his stint as a villain never sat well with me as a kid.

Like Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr. was a platformer, but the game switched things up by placing an emphasis on climbing via vines. An advantage DK Jr. had over Mario in terms of climbing is that the little ape's climbing speed could be controlled. Climbing a lone vine made DK Jr. ascend slowly but stretch his hand out to another nearby vine and DK Jr. will haul ape butt upward. It was rather gratifying that I could go faster in at least one of these games. It was much more appreciated in the case of Donkey Kong Jr. since he felt even more sluggish than Mario due to his weight.

I don't know what it is about Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr, but both of these games seemed to have the most infuriating second levels. Like Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr.'s second level was a ball buster. If I wasn't falling into the bottomless pits below, I was getting hit by those blasted birds. One of the most annoying enemy types (flying) over a stage with bottomless is a recepe for disaster. Unlike the crocs and the like of foes in the first stage, the birds were much more mobile, which meant hitting them with the fruit required nothing short of perfect timing. By the way, what was up with Mario and all the animals, anyway? I'm guessing this little confrontation between the carpenter and apes took place at the zoo because Mario was sicing all manner of the animal kingdom on DK Jr.

Sometime in the early or mid 1990s, I can't exactly recall which, my dad and I went to a place called Hoagies Pizza with some friends from our church and I came across a Donkey Kong arcade cabinet. Having spent ample time with the NES version years before, I wanted to try my hand at the coin-operated version. It was when I played the original that I saw that it actually contained an opening cut scene, something the NES version lacked. When I placed my cents into the arcade machine, I saw DK carrying Pauline up two ladders and using his massive weight to bend the girders to create the first level. I remember this being a "Huh. Cool" moment.

All the time I spent on the NES version of Donkey Kong was for naught because I was terrible when it came to playing this game standing up. What really hampered me was the arcade stick. I was so used to playing Mario games with a control pad that controlling him with a stick felt so odd. I struggle to do the simplest of things like jumping over barrels. I'd only played a handful of arcade games up to this point and most of those were either fighters or beat 'em ups. If I've got to control my character in a 2D platformer with a stick, it never feels right to me.

I was given another chance to experience the arcade version of Donkey Kong in 1999. This was the year that Donkey Kong 64 released. In the game's fourth world, you could find a Donkey Kong arcade cabinet, which housed the complete arcade version of Donkey Kong. Playing this version of Donkey Kong showed me that the NES version was missing a full level, what is commonly refereed to as the cement factory. Playing the arcade version of Donkey Kong in DK64 was a much better experience for me since it supported the control pad. I actually managed to finish it and upon a second play through, Pauline was replaced with an N64 logo coin, one of which was needed to reach DK64's final boss. The re-release of Donkey Kong in DK64 is kind of a big deal. It marks the only time the arcade version of Donkey Kong was given a home release.

While Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr. gave me a lot of grief as a kid, I do still have some fond memories of them. I was introduced to Donkey Kong through these games and my perseverance paid off because these ended up being some of the first games I completed. Seeing DK take a dive as Mario and Pauline reunite and Mario take a fall as DK Jr. catches DK made all the blood, sweat and tears so worth it.