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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Favorite Tunes #146: Short and Sweet

Don't have a lot of time to listen to same video game music today? No problem! This edition of Favorite Tunes is on the short side with themes that don't take long to loop around.

Battle Mode - Super Bomberman (SNES)

Some of my fondest childhood and teenage memories involve blowing up my friends in Super Bomberman's ridiculously fun battle mode. The classic Battle Mode theme is used in most Bomberman games and while it has been remixed to death, the short looping SNES version is the best, at least for me.

Character Select (CPS I) - Street Fighter II (ARC)

Back in my day, Street Fighter games came with an arcade mode! OK, all jabs at Street Fighter V aside, this is an awesome character select theme, but I don't need to tell you that. Anyone that was there for the Street Fighter II craze is more than familiar with this tune. My entry into Street Fighter II was with the SNES version. The music from the arcade version wouldn't get stuck in my head until well after a decade of the game's release.

Boss - Mega Man 2 (NES)

Mega Man 2 soundtrack is so darn good that it is often labeled as some of the best video game music of all time. While the original Mega Man had two boss themes, Mega Man 2 has only one but its so good, that you won't mind hearing it over and over again. It's an intense piece of music that also makes you wanna head bop.

Stage Select - Mega Man 8 (PS, SAT)

Moving on from one Mega Man game to another, people like to bemoan Mega Man 8 for not being an 8-bit game. Mega Man 8 certainly isn't flawless, but there's a good game under the so-bad-its-good voice acting and really like a lot of Mega Man 8's music and I love the chill vibe of this stage select theme so much.

Title Screen - Super Mario 3D World (Wii U)

Oh Super Mario 3D World, I love you so. The game's levels are many, the Cat Suit is crazy awesome and the music is on the level of greatness of the Super Mario Galaxy titles. Super Mario 3D World's Main Theme is the kinda music that you can't help but smile to. If I ever do a top 10 for Super Mario Title themes, expect this one to be pretty high on the list.

Select - Virtua Racing Deluxe (32X)

We have a rare treat, an entry from a 32X game. A port of SEGA's popular Virtua Racing, the music survived the trip to the add-on device pretty well. Virtua Racing had jingles a plenty but the one I remember the most was the Select theme. I would always hold off on making my picks just to hear the music. The 32X version ain't too shabby.

Favorite Tunes Database

Monday, May 23, 2016

Outstanding Openers Vol. 5

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.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES)

The first console Turtles game gets a bad rap, much of which is undeserved. Sure, the game is hard. Really hard. Like, excruciatingly, rage quite hard. But it isn't as awful as the haters would lead you to believe.

If for some strange reason, you picked up this game and had no idea who the four heroes are, the game introduces you to them. The game even goes a step further and not only tells you the weapon each one posses, but shows you the weapon in action as well, using the in-game sprites. Nice. After the turtles finish giving the demo of their weapons, we cut to April being kidnapped by Shredder. Now, this may lead you to believe that your key goal of the game is rescuing April, but that's only the first mission. The game continues long after she's been saved,

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on the NES has an incredible soundtrack and graphics that are impressive to this day. The game is based off of the 1987 cartoon series, but the art style comes from the original 1984 Mirage Studios comic series, giving the game a dark, gritty tone.

Mega Man 7 (SNES)

Something incredible happened when Mega Man defeated Dr. Wily at the end of Mega Man 6. The mad doctor was actually caught! Having gave Mega Man the slip five times now, Mega Man planned ahead and brought a rope with him and acted fast enough to prevent Wily from escaping. With Wily finally behind bars, the world is at peace. Well, for six months, anyway.

Mega Man 7 does a really good job of handling Dr. Wily. He uses Mega Man's all-too-trusting nature to grant Bass and Treble access to Dr. Light's lab later in the game and in the game's opening, we see that Wily is quite the advanced planner. Wily knew he'd eventually get caught and planned for such an scenario. Having the next line of Robot Masters hidden away in his lab, four of them activate since Wily hasn't checked in in months. These robots wreak havoc on the city, looking for Wily, ending half a year of peace.

Tekken 3 (PS)

Namco always went the extra mile when it came to bringing their arcade games over to the PlayStation. New modes, arranged music and sick intros that you wouldn't see in the arcade. 20 years have passed since the previous King of Iron First Tournament. Heihachi is no longer rocking that black hair, Paul is in his mid 40s, Law has a son and we've got some new players stepping into the ling like Eddy Gordo and Jin  Kamaza, the son of Jun Kamaza. I still think Tekken 2's intro is better than 3's but it like the previous game, it was enough to get me hyped.

The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening (GB)

Storms and boats can't seem to get along. If you're on a boat in any fictional medium, a storm has it out for you and Link is no exception. Link's ship is torn to shreds and his unconscious body rests on an island where Link's next adventure will soon begin.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Favorite Tunes #145: Pokemon Walk into a Club

Four more entries and we'll hit Favorite Tunes #150. I'm still in the process of making my music selections for that one, but I've already got some choices in mind. This week's edition has music from one of gaming's most adorable robots, a jackrabbit, ninja turtles and some heroes from DC's rival. Enjoy!

Boss Theme 1 - Mega Bomberman (GEN)

While we may never get the chance to blow up our friends in a new Bomberman title, at least can reflect on the good times. Mega Bomberman was release in 1994 on the Genesis and is a port of the TG-16 game, Bomberman '94. Jun Chikuma worked wonders composing music for this series over the years and this boss theme translated quite well on the Genesis sound font.

Colonius - Jazz Jackrabbit 2 (PC)

One of the first games I was exposed to when my family got our first PC was Jazz Jackrabbit 2 via demo. It felt a lot like someone gave Sonic the Hedgehog a gun, but the levels were so much fun to run through and the music immediately stood out to me. Why Epic Games hasn't brought this rabbit back is a mystery to me.

Boss Battle - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (ARC)

The Turtles latest game, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan releases on May 24, so this seems as good a time as any to show some Turtle love. One of Konami's most popular arcade beat 'em ups, TMNT was based of the 1987 cartoon, even using some of the voices from said TV series. The music took cues from the famous opening theme sound and the original music was fantastic.

Wrestler Boss - The Simpsons (ARC)

What do The Simpsons have in common with Konami, both were once pretty good. In all seriousness, The 1991 Simspons arcade game is often regarded as the family's best video game outing. Using the engine of the 1989 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game, players embark on a beat 'em up journey to rescue Maggie. The voices actors from the show lent their talent to this game and as usual, Konami's sound division was on point.

Neos City - Pokken Tournament (Wii U)

Pokemon battles in real time? Now that's different. The idea of Pokemon in a fighting game was enough to catchy my interest but when I found out that the developer behind Pokken Tournament was Bandai Namco, I knew I had to give this game a serious look. Being developed by the same makers of the Tekken series not only ensures that the fighting is fast and fun, but we also get some sick beats to go with it. It's like Pikachu and company just stepped into a club.

Gambit - Spider-Man and the X-Men: Arcade's Revenge (SNES)

Released during the era where the wall-crawler and everyone's favorite mutants were still getting crappy licensed video games, this one was no different from the rest. It suffered from jarring level design and lots of cheap hits from enemies. Tim and Geoff Folin's music was the only thing the game got right with long, funky, rock inspired themes.

Favorite Tunes Database

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Licensed Games That Don't Suck Vol. 1

How's that for a catchy title?

Licensed video games have certainly come a long way. While it is far more common to see some TLC being put into most licensed products these days, there are still stinkers mucking up the video game scene. But we won't be talking about those crappy games here (for the most part, anyway). No, this is all bout the licensed video games that are actually good.

DuckTales (NES)

You have no idea how hard it is to resist singing the DuckTales theme song as I type this. Even back in the NES era and even before that, there were tons of crappy licensed games. Jaws, Back to the Future, Friday the 13th, all of those were on the NES and didn't do their licenses justice at all. That's why DuckTales was such a rare breed. Developed by Capcom using a modified Mega Man engine, players controlled Scrooge McDuck, traveling across the globe to collect even more riches because 3 cubic acres of cash just isn't enough for fiction's greatest cheapskate. Possessing the most durable cane ever made, Scrooge can use what is usually a means to help old folks get around easier to bounce on enemies, travel across spikes and hit blocks.

The pogo stick gameplay mechanic is what players remember the most about DuckTales. So much so that players that used Cranky Kong in Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze or played Shovel Knight immidiately flashed back to this 8-bit classic. As simple as it is, using the cane to bounce Scrooge higher or combo off of enemies is truly one of gaming's greatest pleasures. DuckTales is also loaded with hidden money and diamonds to find. The amount of money you finish the game with determines the ending you're rewarded with at the end. Can you believe that? An NES game with multiple endings. They don't differ too much, but the fact that such a game from this era had more than one ending was kind of a big deal.

Like the Mega Man titles on the NES, you can select any of the five levels in the order of your choosing. DuckTales isn't a very long adventure, but it is a great time while it lasts. Also, like the Mega Man games, the music of DuckTales is insanely good.

Batman Returns (SNES)

What, you thought one of the Arkham games was going to be listed here first? Chill, son, I'll get to those down the road. While it is true that the Arkham games are some of Batman's best outings, Batman was one of the few super heroes to have good licensed games before gaming went 3D.

Konami had shown that they knew how to craft successful beat 'em ups in the arcade and on home consoles with The Simspons and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games, so placing the Dark Knight in familiar territory was a perfect fit. Batman Returns delivers one of the most hard hitting beat downs on the SNES. The impact of every punch and kick Batman dishes out to the Penguin's circus goons feels like a million bones being broken and it is such a gloriously satisfying sound.

When you're not giving Batman's fists a good workout, you'll be driving through Gotham in the Batmobile with some killer Mode 7 effects or marveling at the game's soundtrack, which takes cues from Danny Elfman's magnificent score. There are several different versions of Batman Returns including one on the NES and Sega CD, but they don't get any better than this one.

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

The first Budokai was good. Budokai 2 made some additions to the original but was ultimately a disappointment. Budokai 3 is the best of the trilogy. The game avoided the missteps of the previous game while improving upon everything that made the original so good and then some. Budokai 3 has a huge cast of Dragon Ball characters, including a few from before and after the Z era like Kid Goku and Omega Shenron.

Bringing the fighting that much closer to DBZ, Budokai 3 introduces the high speed teleport counter system. If you're on the receiving end of a beating, you can quickly teleport behind your opponent to counter them. Of course, they can counter your counter. This system does an excellent job of capturing the lightning fast fights of the series.

Since the DBZ cast consists of some of the most powerful characters in anime, manga history, you can expect plenty of planet destroying moves like devastating Kamehamehas, the Big Bang Attack and so forth. These moves even come with their own cool cinematics and depending on the massive beam you fire off, you can see the coming destruction via space view.

Budokai 3 was initially released on the PS2 in 2004. The HD re-release. Dragon Ball Z: Budokai HD Collection comes with Budokai 3 and the original Budokai but since DBZ game music artist Kenji Yammamoto had copyright infringement claimed on his music, the HD Collection doesn't have the music featured in the 2004 release so if you want to hear the original themes, you'll have to track down a PS2 copy.

Astro Boy: Omega Factor (GBA)

Super fighting robot! Mega Man!  Oh, wait, wrong character. Nevertheless, Astro Boy is a robot, he does fight and he most certainly is super. You know what else is super? This sweet licensed game co-developed by Hitmaker and Treasure that is not only the best Astro Boy game, but one of the GBA's best titles.

As Osuma Tezuka's most recognized creation, you punch, kick and blast your way through hordes of enemies foolish enough to think they actually stand a chance against Mighty Atom. Released in 2004, one year after the 2003 incarnation of the Astro Boy anime, Omega Factor is largely based of off said anime series, carrying with it the overreaching conflict of humans and robots striving to co-exist.

You power up Astro Boy's system, his Omega Factor by meeting and understanding the many characters Astro encounters throughout the game. Yes, you heard right. Rather than fighting to become stronger as most games would have you do, Astro grows from socializing. Character interaction in this game is quite literally a powerful thing. With it, you can upgrade Astro's laser, his rocket boots, arm cannon and of course, those freaky, but cool butt cannons.

Being a game that was partially developed by Treasure, Omega Factor blends genres extremely well. Most stages are of the action, beat 'em up affair, but there are also shooting areas thrown into the mix. The game also looks and sounds excellent. Omega Factor is one of the most visually stunning GBA games and more than 10 years after it's release, the sprite work still holds up remarkably.

Omega Factor is not only a splendid Astro Boy game, but also serves as a sort of encyclopedia to the characters of Tezuka's works. All of the characters Astro comes across in the game are part of Tezuka's Star System. From Phoenix to Big X, the gangs all here.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Unpopular Opinions Vol. 2

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.

Star Fox Zero is Not a Bad Game

One cannot discuss Star Fox Zero without bring up what has become the major sticking points for critics, the controls.

Like many, I was stoked to hop back into the Arwing with Fox McCloud and the rest of the Star Fox gang for a brand new outing as it had been 10 years since they'd last took flight. I had already pre-ordered the game, paid it all off and could not wait for the weekend to be over so I'd have some off days to sit down with it. But then, I caught wind of what players were saying from reviewers. The motion controls made Star Fox Zero a horrible game. Hones Game Trailers said the game was the final nail in the coffin for the franchise. Jim Sterling gave the game a 2/10. This had me worried that I wouldn't like Star Fox Zero due to most critics blasting the game.

Since I already forked over my $60, I decided to see for myself if I'd like the latest re-imagining of Star Fox. I failed the first mission because I wasn't used to the setup for all-range mode and I couldn't juggle looking at the GamePad and TV screen. But after a second go, I was looking at the words "Mission Accomplished" with a smile on my mug. Most of my fears of the motion controls were for not as dogfights now feel perfectly natural and all-range mode is a walk in the park for me.

I guess I was one of those people that took to Star Fox Zero's controls rather quickly. But not everyone is going to adjust as fast as I did. For some, it will take time before they get used to it, or "get good" as the kids put it these days. However, it seems quite clear that most critics weren't willing to put that time in and simply wrote Star Fox Zero off as a bad game for not using a standard control scheme. Not every critic had this mindset, but you can tell there are those that already came in with their pitchforks raised. Clearly crying about a new way to control a game and saying it sucks because you aren't used to it is much easier than taking some time to learn.

Mega Man 2 Has Flaws That No One Points Out

Ask any critic or fan what their favorite Mega Man game is. More often than not, the answer will be Mega Man 2. I am fully aware of this game's importance in the Mega Man series and the 8-bit gaming era. It was the first Mega Man game I ever played and I love it. But I will not let that love blind me to it's faults that often go by unnoticed by fans and critics alike.

Critics say the Mega Buster (introduced in Mega Man 4) is a game breaking weapon, that makes the special weapons obtained from defeated Robot Masters useless. It's Mega Man's default weapon so it never runs out of energy so it can be used to your heart's content. So are we just going to pretend the Metal Blade in Mega Man 2 isn't absurdly broken? It absolute mercs most common enemies, is the weakness of several Robot Masters, can be thrown in eight different directions and is spammable. In case you haven't figured it out, the Metal Blade craps on every other weapon in Mega Man 2. Yeah, it uses weapon energy but the odds of you running out are pretty freaking slim since it doesn't use much ammo.

Speaking of special weapons, one is required to take out the final boss. But what if you used up a ton of weapon energy fighting all the Robot Masters again and during that Wily battle in the previous stage? You say you'll just grab some weapon ammo in the final stage? Surprise, sucker, the last level of Mega Man 2 has no weapon energy for you to refill your weapons with. The only way to gain that energy back is to get a game over, which brings me to my next problem.

Mega Man 2 gave us the oh-so-useful Energy Tanks to replenish Mega Man's life energy when on the verge of death. But if you get a game over, kiss your E-Tanks goodbye. This is especially problematic for newer players who may struggle with the game's tougher bosses. This combined with the previously mentioned fault means the game ends up screwing you over on two counts. How? How is it that these flaws are never mentioned? I know love can be blind sometimes but come on!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Much Needed Re-Releases Part 4

Through compilations and the rise of digital gaming, replaying the games of yesteryear has become quite the easy task. Want to play Super Mario Bros but don't own an NES? That game has been ported to nearly every Nintendo platform under the sun. Ditto for the original Sonic the Hedgehog. Sadly, not all games have been so lucky. Welcome to Much Needed Re-Releases, where we'll discuss games that should get an extra shot at life.

Astro Boy: Omega Factor (GBA)

I love Astro Boy. For a long time, he's been one of my favorite robots in any medium. There have been a number of games staring Osamu Tezuka's most popular character, but 2004's Astro Boy: Omega Factor for the GBA is really the only one you should bother caring about. 

Part beat 'em up and part shooter, Omega Factor not only gives you access to Astro's amazing abilities, but you can power them up, too. By increasing the strength of Astro's Omega Factor, you can turn Mighty Atom's dinky finger laser into Ususke Urameshi's Spirit Gun. This is also one of the prettiest games on the GBA and among the handheld's best. That bit of scenery porn when you drop down in Metro City is still breath taking to this very day. If you needed anymore reason to want this game on the Wii U eShop, it was co-developed by Treasure. Also, butt cannons! 

Panel de Pon (SNES)

Since Nintendo no longer holds the license to Tetris, what was originally Tetris Attack (which had nothing to do with Tetris in the slightest) would have to be re-released as Panel de Pon, the name it originally was titled before Lip and her friends were booted out and replaced with Yoshi and company when the title left Japan. 

For me, this is the greatest puzzle game ever. Multi colored blocks rise from below the screen and you arrange them so three or more of the same color matches up either vertically or horizontally, making the blocks disappear. The brilliance of Panel de Pon lies in it's simplicity. Lining up three or more blocks is easy but setting up chains and combos to make your score skyrocket or send a huge garbage block crashing down on your opponent is the stuff that intense games are made of. Panel de Pon has seen re-releases as Puzzle League and Planet Puzzle League but those were on the GBA and DS respectively. It was also released as Pokemon Puzzle League for the N64 and GBC. Never has the SNES version of Panel de Pon been released outside of Japan under its original title. 

Contra (NES)

It really is difficult to think of Konami now a days and reflect upon how great they once were. Before the company was the butt of internet memes and hate news, they once put out some of the finest third party titles and the NES version of Contra is not just a shinning example of a port done right, for many, this is the definitive version of the game to play.

Super C and Contra III: The Alien Wars saw digital releases on the Wii's Virtual Console but mysteriously, the NES version of Contra was never added. Yeah, Contra III is my favorite but it feels a little odd having digital versions of Contra III, Super C but not the NES version of Contra. This is the game that introduced many a kid to the run 'n gun shooter as well as the Konami Code. Alas, given Konami's current fool-hearty mentality of mobile only games and micro transactions, the odds of us seeing NES Contra aren't looking too hot.  

Star Fox (SNES)

The original Star Fox may seem slow and a bit clunky compared to the titles that would succeed it, but this game still holds up pretty dang well. Much of the stuff we experience in Star Fox Zero, Slippy always getting himself in trouble, Falco being a jerk and whatnot, all started in the first Star Fox game. Instead of branching paths that lead to other levels, you get to choose between a beginner, intermediate or advance difficulty of three different routes from the get go. So why hasn't Star Fox hit the Wii U's eShop? Well, from my understanding, Nintendo doesn't own the  Super FX chip that would be required to bring Fox's first mission to the Wii U. So until that gets straightened out, SNES Star Fox is grounded.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Favorite Tunes #144: Robots and Fish

This edition of Favorite Tunes sees the return of music from Undertale, music from Star Fox Zero and Bomberman 64 to list half of the music here. As always, enjoy!

Corneria - Star Fox Zero (Wii U)

At long last, Star Fox has returned! And there was much crying about the controls. Would a more conventional control method have been welcomed? Yes. Is SFZ a bad game because it lacks this? Of course not. In any case, it's another Star Fox game, which means another trip to Corneria, which is once again, under attack. For the most part, I did my best to stay away from being exposed to the music of SFZ because I wanted to be surprised. I am SO glade I got to experience this theme during gameplay.

Finale - Undertale (PC)

By Miltonholmes

The PC RPG taking the gaming world by storm, Undertale is not like most games in the genre. Combat is turned based but you can still move about to avoid in coming attacks. Your weapons also handle differently so you can't just sleep your way through fights. You don't even have to defeat the foes you encounter. A cast of wonderfully charming characters and a very catchy soundtrack that spans numerous eras of gaming make Undertale a tale to remember.

Kimera II - G-Darius (ARC)

The Darius franchise has been around for a long time now but I've only played a handful of games in the series, with G-Darius being my favorite. You can convert enemies to your side for extra firepower or sacrifice them by turning them into a huge, powerful blast which you can use to duel the huge bosses with beam struggles. The soundtrack to G-Darius is another reason I adore the game. Its got some opera, some industrial, ambiance and haunting music that works really well to the stage backdrops, which are a marvel in and of themselves.

Blue Resort - Bomberman 64 (N64)

Bomberman 64 had quite the ambitious single player mode with challenging levels, puzzles and tough bosses to boot. It seems most of the effort was focused on solo player as what Bomberman is mainly known for, multiplayer, was quite weak in comparison. Bomerman 64's soundtrack rates among some of the best jams to blow stuff up to.

Metalopod - Splatoon (Wii U)

Splatoon is almost one year old and I'm still playing the game headily to this day, trying out new weapons, maxing out my gear and learning new strategies in Turf War. Not only was Splatoon one of my favorite games of 2015, the game's score ranked pretty high as well. Even when I'm not playing the game, the tunes are stuck in my head.

Wood Man - Mega Man Soccer (SNES)

If only the people at Capcom had folks like Nintendo handling some of Mega Man's spin-off titles. Mega Man Soccer could have been so much better. Instead, its an average soccer game with crap controls that has Mega Man and some Robot Masters in it. Fun fact, Enker, Mega Man Killer #001 was actually in this game. Of all the things Mega Man Soccer did wrong, the music wasn't one of them.

Favorite Tunes Database