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Friday, April 29, 2016

Outstanding Openers Vol. 4

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 Galaxy (Wii)

Wii owners, thankfully did not have to wait long for the first Super Mario title on the Wii, which made its debut in 2007, just one year after the Wii launched. Super Mario Galaxy starts off all happy delightful with Mario being invited to Peach's castle during the Star Festival. The good times are short lived as Bowser crashes the party with some of his best acts of villainy ever. He wages a full scale assault on the castle, encasing the Toad citizens in crystal and rather then settling for just Peach, he takes her AND her castle. Yeah, he did it in Paper Mario, but here, it looks so much more freakin' cool. Kamek sends Mario hurtling towards the Earth below where he would have had a not so smooth landing had it not been for the Luma Peach sent to help Mario. I haven't even played the first galaxy and I'm already jazzed after seeing that!

Contra III: The Alien Wars (SNES)

One night in the year 2636, in a nameless city, a light pierces the skies, leaving the city below and absolute ruin. The aliens are back and apparently, they are pretty butthurt about those last two Ls they've had to hold from the previous Contra games. Bill Rizer and Lance Bean gear up to take revenge on the invaders, followed up one of the most badawesome title drops accompanied by explosions ever. Michael Bay would be proud.

Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 3 (PS2, PS3, 360)

The original Budokai is often herald as being the first good DBZ game to hit American shores. Budokai 2 added some improvements but was a disappointment overall with it's single player board game structure. And then there's Budoka 3, which is easily the cream of the crop. We open with a gorgeous anime cut scene where our heroes are facing off against Freeza, Cell and Kid Buu and even Cooler. Goku holds his own while everyone not named Goku gets the snot beat out of them. To take on the rampaging Broly, Goku and Vegeta fuse and form Gogeta and send Broly to another dimension. Just another day in the life of the Z Fighters.

*Note: The Music feature in this intro is from the PS2 version. 

Tekken Tag Tournament (PS2)

Tekken Tag Tournament was originally an arcade game but when it arrived on the PS2, it recieved an extreme graphics overhaul along with some remixed music that outclasses the original score. As is the case with most console versions of Tekken, TTT was given it's own exclusive intro. We begin with Kazuya leaving his office to take an elevator ride. Moving from the Mishima son with serious issues, we see Brian Fury, still up to no good, Lei Wulong still being a cop and Nina Williams is getting all gussied up for who know's what. Capping off the opening, Kazuya has gone outside to deal with his inner demons and in the case of this dude, I mean that quite literally. Title drop!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Top 5: Nintendo Franchises That Need a Revival

Star Fox Zero releases at long last today. For the three of you that weren't aware that Nintendo's long dormant shooter series once again takes flight, well, I'm happy to make you a bit wider with that news. But seriously, Star Fox coming back is freaking huge. It was a Nintendo franchise many were championing to return. Nintendo has a plethora of other franchises that I'd like to see revived and if I had to select five to come back, these are the ones I'd choose.

5. Ice Climber

Had it not been for their inclusion in Super Smash Bros. Melee and Brawl, most people probably wouldn't be aware of who Popo and Nana are. The duo have one stand alone game under their belts
with an objective of scaling 32 mountain peaks to reclaim your stolen eggplants. Sounds simple enough but the trek was treacherous with everything from slip sliding ice physics to shade wearing polar bears standing in your way. Don't even get me started on Popo and Nana's weird arc jumps. Even so, I think Ice Climber could do quite well brought back in today's gaming world. Keep the basic premise of climbing a mountain to reach the end of a level in tact along with familiar and new foes. A new Ice Climber would make for a sweet co-op experience and the allowing players to make their own levels really opens up the possibilities for endless frozen fun.

4. Excite Series

Or Excitetruck, Excitebots, whatever. Put the word "Excite" in front of a noun and you've immediately got my attention. The last game in the Excite line, Excitebots Trick Racing was sent out to die when Nintendo didn't even bother to advertise the game. To make matters worse, the game never saw a release outside of America. No surprise, the Excite franchise has been left to collect dust ever since. Nintendo can use cars, scooters, unicycles and I'll be perfectly OK with any of them. Just as long as the Excite games come back and we can create courses, I'll be very excited about that.

3. Custom Robo

Spoiler alert, I love robots. Some of my favorite characters in various mediums are made of metal and are all the cooler for it. The first game to be released outside of Japan in the Custom Robo series was the GCN's Custom Robo Battle Revolution and it was simply titled Custom Robo. It was my first time playing the game and while the story was nothing to get jazzed about, I really liked the aspect of combining different parts to make your own robo and send it in to battle where you'll hopefully slaughter the opposition. Fighting in robos is cool. Fighting in customizable robos? Even cooler. The last game to give the series any buzz was the DS Custom Robo Arena, which was released back in 2006. We are in serious need of customizable destruction.

2. Balloon Fight

"Balloon" might sound like the most sissy thing to put in front of "Fight" but believe me; Balloon Fight is anything but. In the first Balloon Fight, you take control of an unnamed balloon fighter and clear stages by popping the balloons of the enemies. You can stay afloat with one balloon but you'll find that its a but more difficult to do so. You could take on the main game alone or with a friend, but having a buddy in the mix does mean you'll have to avoid collide with each other. Balloon Trip was a fun little mode where you fly through a sea of sky hazards, going for the top score. The follow game, Balloon Kid, kept much from the original game but still did quite a bit to change things up. The side scrolling levels were different from what you'd find in Balloon Fight and there were even bosses, something the first game didn't even have. Like Ice Climber, Balloon Fight really lends itself as an arcade style game and it baffles me why Nintendo has just sat on their hands with this series. No those Balloon Fight games with Tingle don't count. Balloon Fight is still one of my favorite NES games to go back to and I'd love to see it get a new lease on life.


Man, do I miss me some F-ZERO! The comic book style characters in all their cheesy glory and the futuristic setting. We have gone more than ten years without an F-ZERO game on both Nintendo consoles and handhelds. I need my insane speed fix! I want to zip around Mute City, Port Town, Red Canyon, Silence and other F-ZERO locals in glorious HD. The reason we haven't seen Captain Falcon, Pico and the rest of the gang in action? Shigeru Miyamoto doesn't want to make just another F-ZERO game. That hasn't stopped Nintendo from releasing New Super Mario Bros. titles and those are some of those most samey titles out there. Look, I don't care about some new way to race around the track. Give me uncomprehendable speeds, sick rock music and challenging course layouts and I'm good to go.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Favorite Tunes #143: Welcome Back, Star Fox

You know what this Friday is? The Splatfest of Sponge Bob vs. Patrick! No, that's actually on Saturday at midnight. This Friday marks the return of something we've all been waiting for, Star Fox! The day is almost hear and I cannot wait to get back in that Arwing with the Star Fox team! Meantime, enjoy these Star Fox jams!

Main Theme - Star Fox (SNES)

While Star Fox 64 is often regarded as the best in the series, the original Star Fox was a marvel of a shooter that actually still holds up quite well. It may not be as polished but the fact that the SNES was able to even have those polygonal visuals and deliver such an incredible shooting experience is nothing to scoff at. And of course, the music was pretty bangin'. The remix of this theme used in Super Smash Bros. Brawl is amazing but even in original SNES form, this is an outstanding theme.

Star Wolf - Star Fox 64 (N64)

"Can't let you do that, Star Fox." With this line, one of gaming's most memorable rival teams entered our hearts. Star Wolf makes their debut on one of the game's first all arrange mode missions, trying to keep the Star Fox team distracted before a bomb at HQ goes off. If you don't defeat them here, they'll show up during a later mission. Star Wolf is so fondly remember not only because they are the counterpart of the Star Fox team, but also because they got this baller theme.

Space Battleground - Star Fox Assault (GCN)

Fans and critics alike mostly agree that Star Fox works best in an Arwing. Which is likely why Star Fox Assault fared about as well as Star Fox Adventures. Sure, the game had dogfights, but it also had a ton of foot missions. The game wasn't terrible but as Falco puts it "I prefer the air." Assault did give us a breathtaking orchestral musical score with familiar themes sounding more powerful than ever along with new ones to match.

Great Leader, Fox McCloud - Star Fox Command (DS)

For a long time, Star Fox Command would be the last time we saw the Star Fox crew take flight. The game kept Fox in the skies but the formula still wasn't like that of the SNES and N64 game, thus it did not garner the fame the 16-bit and 64-bit games did. And fans and critics wonder why Nintendo plays it safe with it's franchises so often. The music in Star Fox Command has the feel of Star Fox 64, albeit, sounding a bit more enhanced.

Thorntail Hallow Night - Star Fox Advemtures (GCN)

What is often seen as the black sheep of the Star Fox series, Star Fox Adventures originally wasn't a Star Fox game, but had the Star Fox team inserted into it along with fresh faces like Crystal. Assault and Command may not have garnered the acclaim the of Star Fox or Star Fox 64 but at least they didn't get the redheaded stepchild treatment that Adventures often does.

Star Fox's Theme - Star Fox Zero (Wii U)

"It's about time you showed up, Fox!" These were the words spoken to General Pepper before beginning the first mission of Star Fox 64. They fit well seeing as how Fox hasn't had a game all his own in nearly 10 years. This a beautiful recreation of the Main Theme from Star Fox 64. So far it is the only piece of music from the game that I've heard. I'll hear the rest of the music when I start playing Star Fox Zero this Friday. Welcome back, old friend. We all missed you.

Favorite Tunes Database

Friday, April 8, 2016

That One Boss Vol. 1

World of gaming is full of bosses and as expected, not all bosses are created equal. Some boss fights are easy while others are hard but still doable. And then you've got bosses that make you want to let out a Super Saiyan rage scream. Sometimes it can be bad programming, a bug, a glitch or sometimes the boss is just stupidly hard. Much like That One Level, That One Boss is something to dread.

Yellow Devil - Mega Man (NES)

The original Mega Man is still regarded as one of the toughest games in the series and for lots of good reasons. There are no E-Tanks, Mega Man's increased falling speed is a bummer and a few of those Robot Master stages holding nothing back. Then you've got the Dr. Wily stages, which aren't exactly a breeze either. The true measure of skill comes not from besting the mad doctor. No, that is reserved for the boss of the very first stage of his fortress, the Yellow Devil.

When the first boss of a villain's lair is harder than anything else inside the place, you know you're in some serious trouble. The Yellow Devil makes his way into the chamber by assembling himself piece by piece. You are not invulnerable as he's doing this so you must avoid his fragments until his complete. Once the Yellow Devil is whole, you'll see his weak point, a single red eye. His eye isn't exposed for very long. More than likely, you'll only have one chance to damage him before he disassembles himself to move to the other side of the room.

The most difficult part of this fight is when the Yellow Devil breaks down to move to the left or right side of the chamber. Every time he does this, you have to avoid his fragments, which come flying at you at alarming speeds. Many of your attempts to take this guy down are more than likely to end in failure until you figure out his pattern, which is thankfully the same every single time he switches sides. But while knowing that his pattern never changes does help, actually getting the pattern down is the tricky part. Knowing which fragments you need to jump over, which ones fly just over Mega Man's head without hitting him, making suure you hit him when his eye is vunerable and of course, being quick on the controls are all key to defeating the Yellow Devil. Jump too soon, jump to late or not jumping at all when you need to are all fatal mistakes.

There are plenty of Mega Man players that still struggle to take this boss down without resorting to the pause glitch. Variations of the Yellow Devil would appear throughout the series, but none of them came even close to matching the challenge brought forth by the original.

Mike Tyson - Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! (NES)

The road to Kid Dynamite was a long and hard one. Mr. Sandman and Super Macho Man were some heavy hitters but even they don't have anything on the former heavy weight champion, Mike Tyson. You are truly in for the fight of your life.

Just as every other opponent has done throughout the game, Tyson telegraphs his move with a gesture. In the case of Iron Mike, winking. Unlike every other boxer, however, the speed of Tyson's punches are ridiculous. Nobody throws punches as fast as this guy. If you do not immediately dodge when Mike winks, you're going to have a very uncomfortable date with the boxing mat. The first 90 or so seconds of the match has Mike doing knockout punches, meaning with just one punch, all of your health is drained. One. Punch.

Knockout punches make trying to survive the first minute and half of a round sheer torture. It doesn't get any easier when Mike stops using one-hit KOs. Even his jabs, body blows and regular uppercuts hurt like you wouldn't believe. Little Mac's punches do so little damage to him and you probably won't have any Star Punches since Mike is using you as his punching bag.

Losing against Mike is an automatic Game Over. It is extremely rare to win this fight by decision. Mario will almost always rule in Tyson's favor. Mike probably threatened to punch the Mushrooms out of him or something.

M. Bison - Street Fighter II: The World Warrior (Multi)

Ah, Street Fighter II: The World Warrior. This game revolutionized the fighting genre. Because of this game, there's a huge tournament scene for fighting games. I guess you could say that this game is also the reason final bosses in fighting games are what they are. Before Shao Khan and SNK bosses, there was M. Bison, the boss that stole countless quarters and induced controller throwing fits of rage.

Your journey to reach Bision is no easy task. The three bosses that stand before him, Balrog, Vega and Sagat are worthy enough to have their own spots here on this very feature. But Bison is in a class all by himself. You know terms like owned, wrecked, destroyed, bodied, no holds bared beat down? All of them and every other word that sums up utter defeat is what Bison will do to you.

If various mediums have taught us anything, its that antagonists wearing capes are bad news. When the villain throws off the cape, it is very bad news because it usually means a serious beat down is about to ensue, Oh, look, Bison is wearing a cape. And he just took it off. The words "Oh crap" spring to mind.

Bison has a move to counter whatever you throw at him. Use a projectile? Head Stomp. Going for the anti-air move? Scissor Kick. Try to distance yourself away from him? He'll use his Psycho Crusher to clear the gap. Try to block his melee attacks? He'll throw you, breaking those lovely statues in the process. On top of always being prepared, Bison is extremely aggressive. If you don't come at him, he will come after you. You'll need some skill and a lot of luck to beat this guy.

The End - Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (Multi)

Metal Gear Solid 3, arguably the best game in the Metal Gear saga has some pretty cool boss fights. Each one is an encounter different from the last so no two fights feel the same. The "fight" with The Sorrow is different depending on how many soldiers you killed, if any. The Finale battle with The Boss among a field of white flowers can either be fought from a distance or up close and personal with CQC. And then there's the fight everyone seems to go ga-ga over, the fight with The End. I see so many claiming this as one of gaming's greatest boss battles. Whenever I play Metal Gear Solid 3 and I know the fight with The End is coming I let out many frustrated sighs.

You search four huge forest areas to find The End. He's quite the elusive fellow and how he manages to be so spry for a man of his advanced years is beyond me. I mean, the guy is wheelchair bound when the game introduces him and yet he gets all jazzed at the prospect of one final hunt. Eh, it isn't like this is the first time something in a Metal Gear game hasn't made a lick of sense.

My problem with The End isn't that the actual fight against him is hard because, in all the times I've fought him, I found nothing difficult about beating him. Hunting for this old man is BORING. I've been angry and frustrated during many bosses fights in all the years I've been playing games, but rarely have I felt bored out of my mind. You go around the the woods looking for this old geezer, spot him, shoot him and he runs off so you can do the whole thing all over again until he's dead. The End is so good at hiding and so quick at getting away that the fight against him drags on and on. I cannot fathom why anyone can find the fight against this decrepit old man enjoyable. But I know I'm in the minority, so more power to those people. I just wanna put a bullet in his brain and be done with him.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Fantastic First Level Themes Vol. 5

They say you never forget your first. First kiss. First car. First level of a video game. We're here to focus on that last one. The first level of a video game can say a lot about the rest of the game. It can be a great way to grab the player for invested play time. For a lot of us, not only do we remember the first level because it is the start of a game, but because the music with that beginning level really stayed with us.

Challenger 1985 - Gradius (ARC ver.)

Almost every Gradius game after this one starts out with a track that uses a quicker pace. The original Gradius starts things out a bit slower and I'm perfectly fine with that. Challenger 1985 is one of the more cheerful Gradius themes and will have you humming along as you blast enemies and power up the Vic Viper. I love the old synth the first Gradius game uses.

Lakeside - Sparkster (SNES)

Sparkster is a follow up to the Genesis Rocket Knight Adventures game, which was a Genesis exclusive. Sparkster, however, is on the SNES and Genesis, But while the share the same title and music, they are both two completely different games. The SNES version of Sparkster opens with this beautifully triumphant, heroic theme. If Sparkster was given a designated tune, I think this should definitely be it.

Got2BAStar - Mighty Switch Force! 2 (3DS, Wii U)

The good news is that the Hooligan Sisters have reformed. The bad news is that they are still getting into trouble. You've got a whole planet on fire and like a bunch of dumb blondes, all of them are smack dab in the middle of the inferno. Everything is burning to a crisp and the game starts off with this oh-so-lively beat. Well the original Mighty Switch Force was known for it's upbeat music, so, no surprise that this one keeps that same quality.

Corneria - Star Fox (SNES)

Do a barrel roll! Oh wait, that phrase came about one game later. Regardless, barrel rolls, could still be done in the original Star Fox. I can still hear those garbled out voices just listening to the game's opening theme. You can pick from one of three routes, with each path serving up different stages, you'll always begin on some version of Corneria.

Splash Hill Zone Act 1 - Sonic the Hedgehog 4 Episode I (Multi)

Sonic 4's music may not have been Jun Senoue's best work, but it was hardly terrible. It has a distinct
Genesis flair but with a modern touch. The opening act of Splash Hill Zone is like a homecoming to the blue blur and no whinny fans complaints about the physics not being like the Genesis games is ever going to ruin that for me.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Favorite Tunes #142: After April Fools

I wanted to have this installment of Favorite Tunes up on April Fools day, but alas. Nonetheless, a most of the tracks I had in mind for April Fools still make the cut so enjoy some jams from the likes of WarioWare and Katamari, Tekken and We Love Katamari.

One of the earlier 3DS games, Tekken 3D: Prime Edition didn't set the world on fire but it was nice to have another Tekken experience on the go. The music turned out to be quite good. Next to Lotus Hall, Dessert Wasteland is my second favorite piece of music from the game.

Moving on from one Tekken game to another. Tekken 4 brought a few new characters to the Tekken family like Steve Fox and Christie Monteiro. A few of the stages also included some destructible pieces to the scenery a la Dead or Alive. It would be a Tekken game without some killer beats and Tekken 4 delivers that and then some. 

The first in the popular WarioWare series, and still my favorite entry. Tons of mini games in rapid succession with tons of quirk and Japanese weirdness and a wonderful cast of characters make the WarioWare games a joy to play. This staff roll them starts off upbeat but sometime after the one minute mark, it takes a bit of a sad turn before it makes with the beat again.

We go from one Wario game to another, and yet another staff roll theme, no less. A Wario platformer made by Treasure? Where do I sign up?  The GameCube may have been a commercial failure, but it still had a plenty of games to choose from and 2003 was a very good year for the system with Wario World being among the games available for the platform that year. I've always enjoyed the slight oddball nature that this theme holds.

Not just any Turrican theme. THE Turrican theme. This theme is to Turrican what the classic Ground Theme is to the Super Mario series. The Genesis rendition in Mega Turrican makes great use of the system's sound chip. Sound say its even better than the Amiga and SNES versions. 

Katamari Damacy was one of 2004's biggest PS2 surprises. A $20 game that was strange, innovative and amazingly fun. Imagine my surprise when a sequel dropped a year later. Like the original game, We Love Katamari had a wonderful soundtracks with some outstanding vocal performances.