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Thursday, June 30, 2016

My Sonic the Hedgehog Story

June 1991. I was a kid with cartoons and games on the brain. The Super Nintendo Entertainment System was due out in American in August and it was the must have item on my Christmas list. Being the early 1990s, this was a time without the internet. During this time period news reached us via word of mouth, magazines and one of my personal favorites, TV ads. I wasn't an avid reader of video game magazines and while all of my friends played video games, my interest in the hobby far outweighed most of theirs. The Sega Genesis (Mega Drive to my fellow gamers from the UK and Japan) had already been on the market for two years but I wasn't even aware that it was a thing. The system had some good games but nothing available really seemed to be turning heads. Nothing, that is, until SEGA's new mascot came running across my TV screen.

Sonic's debut was a real eye opener for me. Back then, Nintendo was the king of games and couldn't be touched. But then this new kid comes waltzing in to shake things up. All of a sudden, Nintendo had serious competition and I was none too pleased that Sonic was stealing Mario's spotlight. Yes, back when I was young and dumb, my dislike for Sonic, SEGA and the Genesis, stemmed from the fact that Sonic was all up in Mario, Nintendo and soon to be the SNES's face.

Sonic vs. Mario was war and I was an unwavering member of Team Mario. I was quick to jump to Nintendo's defense, rattling off reasons as to why Super Mario World was a better game than Sonic the Hedgehog. Team Sonic would argue "Sonic is faster!" and I would retort "Well, Mario jumps higher!" Pretty sure that was an exchange between myself and my friend Mathew Moses from twenty five years ago. Ah, good times.

The first comic I begun reading regularly.

Sonic's arrival worried me a great deal. The Genesis was already sitting on store shelves years before Sonic arrived and after seeing the above commercial, who wouldn't want to check out what Sonic had to offer (sane people that aren't poopy heads and know that Mario is a hero and Sonic is a zero)? Whenever my family went to the mall, I would see the Genesis in Electronics Bouquet, the slick black console with the smooth, stylish Genesis controller and of course, the game that was being showed off was Sonic the Hedgehog. That special stage in the demo looked trippy but even I had to admit to myself, not out loud to others, that Sonic the Hedgehog looked really freaking good.

I was always happy to flip through the electronics section of newspapers to catch a look at the video games being advertised. With the Genesis being all the rage, of course, Sonic the Hedgehog and the system were heavily advertised. But the SNES had recently just dropped so the console along with Super Mario World were getting ad space in the paper as well.

The usual Sonic vs. Mario arguments would pop up in school with neither side giving an inch. I remained loyal to Team Mario and my resolve was only strengthened when my parents got me a SNES for Christmas, which came packaged with Super Mario World. My friend Justin Moses got a Genesis for Christmas, which meant I could go to his house and play the Genesis and vice versa. Of course, I still wanted nothing to do with that speedy blue rodent, but my opinion of him changed one Sunday afternoon in early 1992.

Some Zone Cards from Mattel's Sonic the Hedgehog Card Game.

As is usual for Church folks to do after Sunday school, we went out to eat. At Ryan's Justin was talking up Sonic the Hedgehog. I didn't want to be rude and tell him I had no interest in the game so I just ate and listened to everything he had to say. When we finally got to his house, booted up the game and he started playing it, that was when I became a Sonic fan. I was just watching him play and my mind was blown. Watching Sonic run through loops in Green Hill Zone, use the Spin Attack to destroy enemies, more of the special stages, it was such a sight to behold. It was the most I'd ever seen of the game beyond the commercial and the demo in stores. It was as if I'd been wearing blinders the whole time and someone took them off and I could finally see.

By the time 1993 rolled around, Sonic fever had hit me full force. I was playing Sonic the Hedgehog 2 on the Genesis regularly with friends, watching Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog and SatAM Sonic the Hedgehog. Archie's Sonic the Hedgehog comic book series was the first comic I begun buying on a regular basis. Sonic the Hedgehog #2 was the very first issue I picked up and I still own it to this day.

It wasn't just the comics, cartoons and console games that had my interest. That same year, my father picked up a Game Gear and he purchased Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic the Hedgehog 2 for the handheld. These games were rather different from their console brethren, but still enjoyable. I also ventured outside video games for my Sonic obsession. Mattel had a Sonic the Hedgehog Card Game that my mother bought for me. I didn't really know how to play it but I just loved the idea of a Sonic card game and the cards themselves sported nice artwork. It was nice that the card game didn't just include Zones from the Genesis version of Sonic the Hedgehog, but the Master System/GG Zones, too. Sadly, this card game is something I no longer have but if I came across another one, I snatch it up in a heartbeat.

Here we are celebrating Sonic's 25th anniversary this year. A character I initially didn't like won me over, becoming a huge part of my childhood and has managed to stay relevant in an industry where it doesn't take much to make you fade away. Sonic has certainly had some missteps in recent years (Sonic Boom) but it isn't like his reputation back in the day was spotless (Sonic 3D Blast). Sonic will more than likely star in some abysmal games in the future and while hating on him has become a popular thing to do, the naysayers sure do have selective memory when it comes to shedding light on his better games (Sonic Colors, Sonic Generations). Sonic is going to be running for a very like time. Thanks for speeding into my life, Sonic.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Favorite Tunes #150: Stay Determined

Here we are at long last, the 150th installment of Favorite Tunes. The road here was long, sometimes tiring, but without question, it was a road worth traveling on. I'm not the most musically inclined person out there, so describing music in rich detail is very difficult for me. Nevertheless, I love video game music, so I don't let my inability to talk about notes and chords in rich detail stop me from sharing that love.

I tried to be diverse with the tracks for this milestone edition. From the ten tracks presented here, you'll find music from the 16-bit era, the glory days of arcades all the way up to current gen consoles and handhelds. Here's to another 150.

Battle! Raikou  - Pokemon HeartGold/SoulSilver (DS)

Like Pokemon Red/Blue/Yellow, Pokemon Gold/Silver/Crystal was given the remake treatment, but on the fancy DS hardware. That meant beefed up graphics and of course, a considerable upgrade to the game's music. One of Gold/Silver's best battle themes had several variations in HeartGold/SoulSilver, but I gravitated towards Raikou's version as my favorite. Those guitar riffs, those drums, they all sound greatly improved over the excellent GB chiptune.

Crying World (6-1) - Ristar (GEN)

One of the dropped concept ideas for SEGA's new mascot was later revisited in the form of Ristar. Boasting some of the most impressive visuals ever seen on the Mega Drive, Ristar is a fun, challenging platformer that sees the titular character get around and defeat enemies by using his stretchy arms. Developed by Sonic Team and having the same composers that worked on Sonic CD's Japanese soundtrack, Ristar's music is audio bliss with bouncy, upbeat, soothing and funky tunes.

Crateria (Main Theme) - Super Metroid (SNES)

I almost envy gamers that are experiencing Super Metroid for the first time. The game is now more accessible than ever thanks to digital distribution and my mind is still blown that it can be played on the New 3DS. Super Metroid has a very ambient, atmospheric soundtrack and one theme you will never forget is this one. Not only do you hear it as you explore Crateria further, but it plays during the game's climax.

Rasterd Road - Kirby: Planet Robobot (3DS)

Another Kirby game, another vibrant soundtrack. I think it really is impossible to listen to the music in a Kirby game and not smile. Yeah, Dream Land has been overtaken by robotic invanders but there's still plenty to smile about. I mean, who wouldn't be happy about wrecking stuff in a mech? I get extra jolly when I do it to the sound of this music.

Old Ferrum Town (Winter) Pokken Tournament (Wii U)

Pokken Tournament is already shaping up to be one of my favorite games of 2016. This is one of the first fighting games I've really gotten into since Super Street Fighter IV. I came into this game expecting nothing but Pokemon remixes but what I got was a soundtrack that consists of splendid original themes. The standard Old Ferrum Town theme is quite good, but I prefer the little additions to the Winter version.

34 N, 12 E... for Mad Space - Sonic Adventure 2 (DC, GCN)

Sonic Adventure 2 was released as the 10th anniversary Sonic game. It was also the last Sonic title to be released on a SEGA system as the company had jumped out of the console business in 2001. Sonic Adventure 2's soundtrack has a plethora of rock but there are other genres throw in like drum & bass and then you've got this number, which sounds like a jazzy spy theme, fitting for a jewel hunter like Rouge.

No Escape - Super Contra (ARC)

Ported to the NES under the title Super C, the music made the jump the console quite nicely. Still, I have to admit, the arcade score pretty much aces it. The sound font of the arcade score has a more hardcore rock vibe to it and it is especially evident in tracks like No Escape.

Ending - Final Fantasy VI (SNES)

How do you cap off such an amazing RPG that has already dished out so many astounding themes? Why, with a lovely medley of all the character themes that leads into a grand send off that is the staff roll, of course! Dancing Mad, the final boss theme is over 17 minutes in length. This theme surpasses it by being over 21 minutes long. Both are worth every minute of listening.

Sigma 2nd - Mega Man X (SNES)

My second favorite Mega Man game, Mega Man X was a much needed shot in the arm for the overall Mega Man franchise. The formula is the same as the Classic series, but it adds enough to differentiate itself from Mega Man's more light hearted adventures. Survive the first battle with the saber swinging Sigma and you'll face his final form, a boss so large he nearly takes up the entire screen.

SAVE the World - Undertale (PC)

Undertale has already become a regular here in Favorite Tunes. The soundtrack is just that darn great. For me, the game's reoccurring theme is right up there with the Ground Theme of Super Mario Bros. Lots of games and movies arrange a main theme over and over but Toby Fox has done so many different variations of if that it never becomes tiresome. There's a chiptune version, an orchestral version, a dozen others and then you've got this badawesome rock version of it that fills you with boundless determination.

Favorite Tunes Database

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Favorite Tunes #149: They Call Me Sonic

You've heard of the fastest man alive, the Flash. SEGA's blue hedgehog is the fastest thing alive and he just turned 25 years old. So of course the blue blur gets his own set of Favorite Tunes all to himself. Next week marks the 150th edition of Favorite Tunes. I'm bumping the number of songs featured from six to ten so look forward to. Meantime, enjoy these Sonic jams.

Mechanical Resonance (Final Egg) - Sonic Adventure (DC, GCN)

Upon its release, Sonic Adventure was met with lots of praise. Critics have been far less kind to it over the years due to the game not aging all that well and a disdain for 3D Sonic games. It has its flaws, no doubt, but Sonic Adventure is by no means a terrible game. The soundtrack contains some of the franchises best themes ranging from jazz to ambiance and of course, lots and lots of rock.

Meta Junglira - Sonic Triple Trouble (GG)

Known in Japan as Sonic & Tails 2, Sonic Triple Trouble sees the duo up against a triple threat in the form of Robotnik, Knuckles (he still an easily duped idiot in those days) and Knack the Weasel (Fang the Sniper overseas). GG/MS can be something of an acquired taste. But get a composer that really knows how to take advantage of the sound chip and you've got some really catchy music. Case in point, Triple Trouble's soundtrack.

Wacky Workbench US - Sonic CD (SCD)

One of the harder to obtain Sonic titles became easily accessible once it was released on iOS and Android as well as the PSN and XBLA services. Sonic CD isn't my all time favorite Sonic game, but it is something I can enjoy. I really like both soundtracks and can appreciate that that contrast each other. The Japanese version is much ore loud, bouncy and in your face, while the American score is more laid back.

Aquarium Park Act 2 - Sonic Colors (Wii)

Largely seen as the end of the dark age for Sonic games, Sonic Colors was a welcome change after so many serious story driven Sonic games. Though some of the script is corny, a lot of it is laugh out loud funny. The levels are an absolute blast to barrel through and the soundtrack is phenomenal. Act 2 of Aquarium Park keeps the gentle feel of Act 1, while changing up the beat.

Big Swell - Sonic Rush Adventure (DS)

While critics and fans alike were bashing Sonic's mostly less than stellar console outings, he was thriving on Nintendo's handhelds. Not every game was perfect, but they were far and away better than trash like Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) and Shadow the Hedgehog. The Sonic Rush series has some of the best fast paced 2D Sonic gameplay and killer soundtracks to match. I'm not whether I should fight the boss or bang my head to this beat.

Time Eater [Modern] - Sonic Generations (360, PS3, 3DS PC)

While Sonic Generations mostly consists of excellent remixes, there are a few new tunes here and there. The Time Eater may be one of the most frustrating final bosses in a Sonic game, but at least he's got a sick theme.

Favorite Tunes Database

Monday, June 20, 2016

Sonic the Hedgehog 25th Anniversary Remix Album

Sonic the Hedgehog turns 25 on Tuesday. Whether  you still enjoy Sonic's company or think he's a relic that needs to be forgotten, Sonic has managed to endure when many gaming franchises have been cast to the wayside. To kick off Sonic's 25th anniversary on Gaming Rocks on, here are some splendid Sonic tunes for your listening pleasure in the form of the Sonic the Hedgehog 25th Anniversary Remix Album. 

From Audio Sprite, spanning six months of hard work, this album covers 25 tracks form Sonic's long history These arrangements don't stray far from the source material making for some easy and very enjoyable listening. And I should know. I've already listen to the album twice in a row before posting this.

The album covers a variety of genres like funk, rock, and orchestral. You may be expecting the Green Hill arrangement as well as one for Chemical Plant. And you're right, both of those songs are represented. But Audio Sprite also pays tribute to the lesser known Sonic tracks as well. Lava Powerhouse (Sonic Spinball), Sunset Park Act 3 (Sonic Triple Trouble), Final Egg (Sonic Adventure) and Secret Base (Sonic Advance) to name a few. Its always treat when artists give lesser appreciated tracks some love.

Sonic the Hedgehog 25th Anniversary Remix Album is available as free (name your price) download.

Sonic the Hedgehog 25th Anniversary Remix Album

Friday, June 17, 2016

Favorite Tunes #148: Kirby Gets a Robot

Kirby: Planet Robobot  came out a week ago and I just started playing it and I'm loving it. So in adition to a catchy Kirby theme, I've also included jams from Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Shinobi III and one of the greatest game soundtracks ever, Final Fantasy Tactics.

Patched Plains - Kirby: Planet Robobot (3DS)

Trouble always seems to find Dream Land. This time, the invaders of the the metallic variety. Along with his Copy ability, Kirby can use Robot Armor to give the artificial invaders a taste of their own medicine. Hirokazu Ando returns once again to sever us up some positively splendid Kirby themes. Patched Plains is where Kirby begins his journey to tack back his home and the music that plays here is every bit as bouncy and jovial as you'd expect.

Regi Ruins - Pokken Tournament (Wii U)

If turned based battles aren't you're thing, Pokken Tournament may be the kind of Pokemon battle you can get into. This arena based fighter features some of your favorite Pokemon in stylish, eye popping, jaw dropping combat. Pokken Tournament's soundtrack comes from Tekken series composers so you'd better believe the music is on point.

Ending - Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (GEN)

Guess who turns 25 soon? It seems like we were just celebrating Sonic's 20th anniversary yesterday. It isn't uncommon to hear a lot of fans say Sonic 2 is their favorite Sonic game. Bugs and some odd level design choices here and there aside, it's a good Sonic title but the other games still trump it in lots of areas.

Back Fire - Final Fantasy Tactics (PS, PSP)

I have gushed over Final Fantasy Tactics marvelous soundtrack numerous times in Favorite Tunes. No matter how many times I hear it, it just blows my mind. The music is calm when the mood calls for it and tense during the game's numerous scripted battles. Tactics has so many wonderful battle themes that its tough to pick a favorite but if I ever do manage to make a list, Back Fire will be pretty close to the top.

Mandara - Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master (GEN)

There have been some slumps in the series, but Shinobi has certainly fared better than some of SEGA's other franchises. The last Shinobi game was 2011's Shinobi on the 3DS. Characters like NiGHTS wish they were that fortunate. Shinobi III's music does not get the same level of praise that Revenge of Shinobi does. Yuzo Koshiro is a hard man to top, but for what Shinobi III does offer, it is more than admirable.

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

I think there's always going to be that Zelda game that's different. Zelda II is the side scrolling one, Skward Sword has sword swinging motion controls and then there's Link's Awakening. No Zelda or Ganon to speak of in this adventure. But there are tons upon tons of cameos from Mario to Yoshi and even Wart. The music is some of the GB's best chiptunes.

Favorite Tunes Database

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Missing Link

While E3 is a time of hype and excitement about the upcoming games for us to enjoy in the fall, I haven't been paying much attention to it. In all honesty, I've found my interest in E3 waning with each passing year. I suppose this could be due to overblown press conferences with game reps go on and on when we really wish they'd just show us some freaking gameplay but I'm getting off topic here.

The trailer for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was finally unveiled during Nintendo's Tree House event of E3 2016. Breath of the Wild's visuals look nothing short of stunning  and I am very much intrigued at the prospect of an open world Zelda adventure. For years players have been wanting to the mainline Zelda titles to feature a female version of Link and rumors were flying that upcoming Zelda for the Wii U and NX could possibly star a female Link for the first time. But the hopes of a female Link were dashed during the reveal as Link is one again male.

I could say I'm disappointed that Nintendo chose to keep Link as a male lead for Breath of the Wild, but in truth, I'm not bothered by this. Yes, having a female Link would be a great way to spice things up and it is something fans have been championing for for ages, but it just isn't in the cards for this installment.

Frustrating hopeful fans further is that the game's producer, Eiji Aonuma and his team did discuss the possibility of a female hero for Breath of the Wild. However, before that idea had a chance to get off the ground, they considered making Zelda the start this time. Now that would have been seriously interesting! A Zelda game where we actually play as Zelda?! Freaking cool! But since Link is once again the main character, that's another idea that was scrapped, but not without reason. According to Aonuma "If we have princess Zelda as the main character who fights, then what is Link going to do?" Well, I didn't say it was a good reason, now did I?

If I may be so bold and I am because this is my blog, Aonuma's reasoning for not having Zelda be the central character is a load of horse manure. He's basically saying that if Zelda is the hero, Link has nothing to do. You mean to tell me that Link doesn't do anything else besides save Hyrule? Even Mario finds other things to do when he isn't saving Peach. He races, plays golf, tennis and he's a physician. Heck, Peach has even tagged along on a few of Mario's platforming adventures because he was *gasp* saving someone else! If you're a game developer and you can't find something else for your poster boy to do than that creative well is really running dry. I'm not even mad that a female Link or Zelda herself aren't the main stars of Breath of the Wild. Aonuma's reason for it has me more annoyed than anything.

There's also the backlash that Aonuma's statements are going to bring about. Now he isn't saying that Zelda's role is to get captured so Link can save her. We know Zelda is far from helpless. In Ocarina of Time, she turned into the badawesome ninja known as Shiek. In Wind Waker she was on the battlefield with Link during the final battle against Ganondorf. Girl can take care of herself, but having said that, Aonuma's words are going to be taken the wrong way from some fans and feminists.

Link doesn't really say much outside of a few grunts and whatnot. His name is what it is is because he serves as a Link to the player in his world. Zelda, on the other hand is quite chatty. In any game she appears in, she always has far more to say than what Link probably ever will. While playing as Zelda would be welcome, I wouldn't want it to be at the cost of her becoming a silent protagonist.

Breath of the Wild would have been the perfect opportunity to let us choose Link's gender. It isn't like he has any major personality defining traits so the option of a female Link wouldn't be detrimental to the game in the slightest. The player would still be Link with the only difference being in the gender. Splatoon allows the player to play as a boy or a girl Inkling and that's working out great. We're actually seeing a lot of males playing as the female Inklings due to her design. Its like Nintendo is keeping Link a male out of tired old tradition. While I'm not that bummed out about the decision, I can clearly see why a lot of fans are and as it stands, the female remains the missing Link.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

That One Level Part 5

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. The level may not be awful. Sometimes it's just a few enemies types or hurdles that make it a chore to play. Other times, the level may just be poorly designed or highly unbalanced. 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.

Blaze Heatnix Stage - Mega Man X6 (PS)

It isn't exactly a newsflash that Mega Man X6 is one sorry excuse for a game. The game was rushed for the 2001 holiday season, the same year that Mega Man X5 was released, a game that was intended to close the door on the X series, at least originally. In a game with some truly horrid level design, Blaze Heatnix stage really stands out.

X6 has a Nightmare System that has different affects on the the the stages throughout the game. Some of these affects are minor while others can bring on enough stress to make you snap your controller like a twig. Blaze Heatnix level has one of the lesser Nightmare affects that is the silver blocks that move up and down and can cause crush damage. No serious biggy. The level also has some flame throwers that cause an insane amount of damage and you'll have to rescue Reploids and avoid the Nightmare Viruses while going through these sections. But all of that pales in comparison to the crown turd of Blaze Heatnix level, the mini boss of the stage, the Nightmare Snake, one of the most annoying mini bosses in the history of video games.

The Nightmare Snake makes his presence known early in the level. To defeat him, you have to destroy the four green orbs on his body. Mind you, you have to do this as the screen scrolls and dodging his attacks. Now I realize that may not sound difficult and, it isn't, really. But it becomes tedious especially given that you have to battle the Nightmare Snake not one, not two, not three, not four, but five, yes, five times. This mini boss also has an obnoxiously long life bar. If you're playing as Zero and you've already peaced out Infinity Majinion, then you can use his ability to make short work of this giant, red donut. If you're playing as X, you might fall asleep during the fight because X's attacks even with Inifinity Majinion's weapon does very little to inflict damage that the fight just drags on and on.

The fourth fight with Nightmare Snake takes places on a vertically scrolling section over instant kill rising fire. The Nightmare Snake likes to appear and then vanish  and you could get killed just for being on the wrong side of the screen when it suddenly pops up. Even if you are playing as Zero, it is no fun to fight the same mini boss over and over, which is what Blaze Heatnix stage basically amounts to.

Carnival Night Zone Act 2 - Sonic 3 & Knuckles (GEN)

I've said multiple times that Sonic 3 & Knuckles is my all-time favorite Sonic game. It has an awesome soundtrack and the levels are fun to explore. Having said that later bit, you may be wondering just why I'm placing Carnival Night Zone Act 2 in this feature. It isn't a bad level. I think it's well designed. I also think it overstays it's welcome.

In Carnival Night Act 2, it's easy to lose your way and cover ground you've already gone over, wasting valuable time or hit a spring and get flung backwards. Sonic 2 had large zones but the ones in Sonic 3 & Knuckles are larger still, with  Act 2 of Carnival Night seeming like the most sprawling of the lot.

This level feels like it was designed just to tick time off of the clock. You'd think 10 minutes would be more than enough time to get through any act but in Carnival Night Act 2, it isn't unusual to see the timer flashing to alert you of your impending doom. And to make matters worse, Knuckles shows up to be a jerk twice in this act, once to turn out the lights, the second to send you skyward. During both encounters, the clock doesn't stop. I've had so many runs on this act where I reach the boss with forty seconds left on the dang timer.

Carnival Night Act 2 is also infamous for the Barrel of Doom. No matter what alternate paths you take, you will always come across this barrel. While every other barrel could be jumped on, making it move up and down so you could be on your merry way, for some dumb reason, Sonic Team decided to make this particular barrel function differently. The only way to get this barrel to budge is to press up and down on the control pad. This odd design choice stumped so many players, bringing their playthroughs of the game to a screeching halt. It makes absolutely no sense to implement a new method of moving this one barrel when a way to do so for other barrels was already established. All this did was waste more player's time, which is what Carnival Night Act 2 excels at. I love Sonic 3 & Knuckles to death but this act can bite me.

Corona Mountain - Super Mario Sunshine (GCN)

This is not the first time a level from Super Mario Sunshine has shown up in That One Level. In fact, you can count on seeing more levels from the Super Mario series and Mario games in general cropping up here because, despite the family friendly nature of Mario games, they aren't shy about kicking you in the bum. I'll say again that I don't think Sunshine is a bad game. Glitchy yes, some artificial challenge, to be sure. It is by no means a game I hate. But I have to call shenanigans when I see them. Corona Mountain is the final level of the game and while that is expected to be challenging, that in no way excuses the amount of BS you have to put up with.

The first section of Corona Mountain has you jumping across platforms that not only contain spikes on them, but fire as well. Both of these are instant kill hazards so you've got to time your jumps so you don't land when the spikes are out and use FLUDD at the right time to douse the flames. And what are those platforms over? Why, instant kill lava, of course! Well, it wouldn't be a final Bowser area with out lava. But that isn't even the really hard part!

The fun really begins when you get on a boat. Now, you've been on boats several times throughout your Sunshine adventure. So you know that steering the lousy things sucks, but it was never a serious issue because you were surrounded by water. The worst thing that could befall you is that you'd get wet. In Corona Mountain what was once something of a headache is now the worst migraine you can imagine. You have to use FLUDD to steer your way through the lava lake but the controls here are fare more sensitive than they were when you had boats on water. There are all kinds of obstacles for you to bump your boat into and if that thing so much as grazes any solid object, it will drop like brick. Rushing through this section will only get you killed so you're on pins and needles trying to navigate through Bowser's private hell. Slow and steady is the only real way to make it through. And if you're going for the Blue Coins? Well then, congrats are in order because Corona Mountain just became even less fun! The blue money is scattered in the worst sections of this area where it is more than easy to screw up.

Mt. Itoi - EarthBound Beginnings (NES)

It took more than two decades but the first MOTHER game was finally, legally released for American audiences. One thing I was quick to learn is that if I wanted to stay alive, I would have to grind. Not only are the enemies beyond the second town tough, but just outside your front door lurk some heavy hitters. Nevertheless, I pressed on, narrowly escaping a few Game Overs and reaching the final area, Mt. Itoi. It was as if the game threw me to the ground and pulled out a nice, quality brand metal baseball bat as I looked back in sheer horror.

Every single random encounter on Mt. Itoi should be treated like a boss fight because that's how mean these guys are. Take extreme caution and set up spell to decrease the damage of physical and PSI attacks  and do your absolute best to not waste a turn by attacking an enemy that is already gone. Lots of the creatures here are resistant to certain PSI attacks so once you find out what works and what doesn't it becomes a little bit easier. Still, you can be level in the 40s and still end up slaughtered if you underestimate your foes or overestimate your abilities.

There is thankfully an area where you can rest to regain HP and restore your PP. Its a good idea to stick around that area for a bit before moving on. As you trek further, you'll uncover EVE, a robot built by Ninten's grandfather to aid him. EVE is awesome. She has infinite HP, she always goes first in battle and you can use her to grind for more EXP. Unfortunately, you aren't allowed to keep nice things on Mt. Itoi. When you reach a certain area on the mountain, you enter an unwinnable battle where EVE is destroyed, leaving you once again exposed to the cruelty of Mt. Itoi. Shigesato Itoi has said that Mt. Itoi is so brutal because it wasn't tested for balancing. Even with high levels, all the best equipment, and the best PSI powers, Mt. Itoi was still one of the most punishing final areas of an RPG I've ever played.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Favorite Tunes #147: Hopes and Dreams

We're getting ever so close to #150 here on Favorite Tunes. Also, it is getting really freaking hot outside. These are the times when you want to be at the pool or indoors with the AC cranked up. Whelp, here's some music from Mega Man X5, Super Bomberman 2 and Super Street Fighter II among mothers.

Izzy Glow - Mega Man X5 (PS)

The X games have always favored rock music and as pumping as the soundtracks were on the SNES, the audio quality that CD technology offered did X and company a whole world of good. Izzy Glow's stage them gives you some smooth rock to jam out to as you turn robots into scrap metal.

Hopes and Dreams - Undertale (PC)

To say that Undertale has a magnificent soundtrack would be a huge understatement. It plays like a love letter to video game music, consisting of chiptunes, modern game music and even fusing the two together. The main theme of Undertale is so good that you never tire of hearing the many numerous versions of it with this triumphant version being a huge fan favorite.

Dive Man - Mega Man 2: The Power Fighters (ARC)

The sound font that Mega Man 4 uses sounds a bit lighter than that of the first three games, but it still has some very good music. For me, Dive Man has always had one of the best stage tracks and he was one of the many Robot Masters to appear in the arcade game, Mega Man: The Power Fighters where his them received a sweet remix.

Battle 3 - Super Bomberman 2 (SNES)

Most Bomberman games have a single battle theme for Battle Mode. Super Bomberman 2 changes things up, having three different battle tunes with your stage of choice determining which theme is played. Battle 3 is an upbeat, slapstick style battle theme, perfectly highlighting the chaotic nature of Battle Mode.

Into the Labyrinth - Kid Icarus Uprising (3DS)

Pit was in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, but it wasn't until his 2012 game Kid Icarus Uprising that he made a long, long awaited return. The game has a plethora of weapons that can be upgrade and a ton of levels that can be played at varying degrees of difficulty. Among the composers of Uprisings outstaning soundtrack are Yuzo Koshiro and Masafumi Takada, to name a few.

Fei Long Stage - Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers (SNES)

The home consoles can make for some interesting arcade conversions. The numerous versions of Street Fighter II fared rather well both in terms of gameplay and music. I love just love the way the guitars are used in the SNES version of Fei Long's theme. If you ask me, it sounds better than Capcom's CPS II version.

Favorite Tunes Database

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Play Hard Part 5

Play Hard has been MIA for quite some time from this blog. Well, fret not because I've conjured up another list of tough games. These are all from the yesteryear, a time that most firmly believe offered games of the greatest degree of difficulty.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Mega Man: Dr. Wily's Revenge (GB)

At a mere six stages, Mega Man's first Game Boy adventure is his shortest. The truly dedicated could probably conquer the game in a little over an hour. But that's to be expected for an original GB title. What it lacks in length, it more than makes up for in brutal difficulty.

Dr. Wily's Revenge plays more like the original NES Mega Man. That means no Sliding, no Charge Shot and the big kick in the robot pants, no E-Tanks, the lack of which makes the two Dr. Wily stages pretty frickin' difficult. Compared to any Dr. Wily stage in Mega Man 1-6, Wily stages here are actually quite long and even pack a few blind falling areas over spike pits. Sometimes you might get lucky and fall the correct way but more often than not, you have to know instant death is waiting for you in order to avoid it.

The Robot Master stages themselves can present quite a challenge. If you're thinking these stages are a copy and paste job from the NES games, boy are you in for a surprise. The four Robot Master levels have been completely redesigned for a fresh on the go experience. While Cut Man's stage made for a good first pick in Mega Man on the NES, in Dr. Wily's Revenge, trying to take on this level without at least one of the special weapons is suicide due to the devious enemy placement in this level.

Make it to the first Wily stage and beat the second set of Robot Masters and you'll have to do battle with Enker the first of the Mega Man Killers. Enker can only be hurt with the Mega Buster and he absorbs the damage you deal him and sends it right back at you with his Mirror Buster. His erratic jump pattern can make him tough to defeat so gamer overs at the first Wily stage are common but man, do they hurt.

In spite of it's harsh difficulty, Dr. Wily's Revenge is a solid Mega Man game. It doesn't play quite at the same speed of the NES game but it still retains the spirit of its bigger brothers. It looks good, sounds good and its quite tough. Maybe a little too tough.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (MS, GG)

When most think of old school Sonic platforming, they think of the Genesis games. But Sonic's career on the Master System/Game Gear was almost as glamorous as his outings on the Genesis. Because the MS and GG had similar hardware, games on both platforms looked and play very much alike. If you fond Sonic's 16-bit games too tame, fire up the MS/GG version of Sonic the Hedgehog 2, arguably the hardest game in Sonic history.

Unlike the console games, Chaos Emeralds are hidden within the second act of each zone so you're encouraged to explore if you want to find them. Without all six Chaos Emeralds you cannot access the final zone and get the good ending

All of the zones in Sonic 2 are completely devoid of any checkpoints so if you die, you gotta do the whole stage all over again. This gets particularly irritating when you reach zones such as Scrambled Egg, a zone consisting of mostly tubes that you have to travel through to each the end. The big problem with this zone is that it is trial and error gameplay at its absolute worst. Some tubes can send you right to your death so playing this zone without some kind of map or guide is not recommended.

Boss fights can also test your patience as each act 3 gives you no rings, forcing you to fight without getting hit. Yes, this includes fights against Robotnik and Silver Sonic. This is actually Tails' debut game and in it, he plays the role of a hostage. I don't mind that Tails got kidnapped in his first game. I just wish he could have gotten himself abducted in one that wasn't so dang hard.

Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts (SNES)

Once again, Princess Prin Prin has been kidnapped and Arthur has to go a stupidly hard quest to save her. This is like, what, the third time Arthur has had to put up with this crap? And in G 'n G tradition, the adventure must be completed twice before you can get the true ending. Personally, I'd have let the demons have her, but Arthur is a lot more noble (and patient) than me.

Double jump. Double jump, double jump, double jump. I'm pounding those two words into your head because they will be the key to navigating the hellish lands of Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts. You double jump to avoid in coming attacks, to successfully reach high platforms and basically keep Arthur from being turned into a skeleton. Arthur is still locked in the direction of your choosing with hims jumps once executed, but the double jump does make things a tad easier.

Arthur's weapons can be powered up, meaning the Dagger can be made even more useful than before. The Torch still sucks on its own, but when powered up, it really is a force to be reckoned with. Even Arthur's armor can be upgraded to gold, allowing him an extra hit. It isn't much but in a game like this, you'll take all the help you can get.

Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts doesn't give you infinite continues like the first game but gaining more isn't tough to do. This game isn't as hard as the original Ghosts 'n Goblins but it is still more than capable of inducing fits of rage.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Unpopular Opinions Vol. 3

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.

Gamers Need to Stop Ignoring the Original Legend of Zelda's Faults

While Zelda II: The Adventure of Link is often viewed as the red headed stepchild of the franchise by the majority of critics, The Legend of Zelda, the first game in the series, is treated as some NES darling. Zelda II is pretty difficult, but it really isn't the terrible Zelda game so many say it is. What makes me roll my eyes is that these same people that are all too eager to point out Adventure of Link's faults turn a blind eye to Legend of Zelda's imperfections.

Zelda II is by far, the harder of the two NES Zeldas, but the first one is no Sunday stroll. When you reach Level 5, there is a considerable leap in difficulty. The more annoying enemy types such as Wizrobes and Darknuts start becoming more plentiful and you'll often have to kill all of them in one room before the next door opens. Death in late game dungeons can be particularly painful since you always restart with three hearts instead of maxed out life, forcing you to either go for your Red Medicine, farm for health with the enemies in the dungeon or retreat to a Great Fairy Fountain.

The original 8-bit version of Hyrule is loaded with secrets, many of which are impossible to unearth without a guide. Walls can be blow up with Bombs to reveal alternate routes in dungeons and certain bushes can be torched with the Candle to reveal underground caves hiding goodies. Problem is, you are given zero indication of what walls can be blown up and what bushes are flammable. No cracks in the walls that can be blown up and the bushes that are capable of going up in flames look the same color as the countless other bushes throughout the land.

It isn't just the gear that's hidden, either. the dungeons, the very places you need to venture into to reunite the Triforce, also start to become hidden later in the game, with their locations not being very obvious. I don't just mean finding the dungeons in a "Where do I go?" sense. You could be on the proper screen of a dungeon entrance and not even know it. That's how secret some of these dungeon locations get later on.

You can find a Goryia in one of the dungeons that says "Grumble, Grumble..." He's actually hungry but rather than simply saying "I'm hungry" or "Got any food on ya?" the game goes with the very cryptic "Grumble, grumble." For all we know, the guy is peeved that Ganon isn't paying him the same amount of Rupees that the other Goryias are getting and he's venting his frustrations.

Make your way through The Lost Woods and you can trade in that rusty Wooden Sword for the White Sword. "Master using it and you can have this," says the Old Man. That doesn't make any sense but I'm gonna take my shinny new sword, anyway. Wait, why can't I take it?!  By "Master using it and you can have this," what he actually means is that you have to have a certain amount of Heart Containers (6) before you can claim it. Why he doesn't just say that instead of dish out confusing info, I have no idea.

I am grateful that this game did kick off the Zelda franchise and I'm not saying that I think the first Zelda is bad. What I am saying is that it is not some flawless masterpiece, completely devoid of any wrong. Whenever this game is brought up by critics, rarely do they speak of it's bad points and it's quite unfair that Zelda II is constantly recognized for it's faults but the original never is. The lenses in those rose tinted nostalgia goggles surely can't be that thick, can they?

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

From Mighty Hopeful to Mighty Disappointmented

Mighty No. 9 was originally seen as a beacon of hope for Mega Man fans. With Capcom having not released a new game for the Blue Bomber in years, Mighty No. 9 was viewed as the next Mega Man. The project was even being spearheaded by Mega Man co-creator, Keiji Inafune. On August 31, 2013, the Mighty No. 9 Kickstarter was launched and was successfully funded only two days later, with all of its stretch goals soon following.

The success of Mighty No. 9's speedy fund raising were largely attributed to Capcom's treatment of Mega Man over the years and having a key player in the MegaMan games, Inafune serve as the game's producer. Gamers were more than happy to shower the project with money so it could be made into a reality. I myself was going to donate to the Kickstarter, but I never got around to doing so. Nevertheless, I was very excited for the massive show of support Mighty No. 9 had recieved and was looking forward to the game's 2015 release. All was bright and hopeful on the Mighty No. 9. Except it didn't stay that way.

A slew of behind the scenes shenanigans turned a plethora of Mighty No. 9 hopeful fans into an understandably bitter bunch. The game was met with several delays, even missing it's 2015 launch year. Throwing gasoline into the fire, Inafune had launched another Kickstarter Red Ash: The Incredible Legend, a spiritual successor to the Mega Man Legends series, before Mighty No. 9 was even out in digital or store shelves. Red Ash was a poorly handled Kickstarter and did not recieve the funds required to green light the game but was instead funded by Fuze. The debacles with Mighty No. 9 and Red Ash's horribly mishandled Kickstarter only served to damage Comcept's reputation.

For the amount of money that was given to Mighty No. 9, the game somehow looks worse now than it did two years ago. Explosions look horribly generic, even for a game with cartoonish visuals and the overall graphics look like a slightly above average PS2 game. Now of course graphics aren't everything but when as Kickstarter project gets $4 million, then the end result should look a lot better.

So here we are, June 2016. Mighty No, 9 has a release date of June 21st and it looks like the game will actually be released this time. Like a lot of you, I'm no longer hyped for the game. Every time I think about that disastrous Masterclass trailer, I shake my head. Could Mighty No. 9 still wind up being a good game? And if it is, will it make up for all the crap that went down with the horrific development? Guess we won't really know until the 21st.