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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Thoughts on PlayStation Plus Price Increase

Last week, Sony announced that on September 7th, the subscription for PlayStation Plus was going to increase form $49.99 a year to $59.99 a year. If you live in Canada, the price will go up to $69.99, making the burn a little more painful for our fellow Canadian gamers.

PlayStation Plus has kept it's $50 price tag since 2010 and it wasn't required to play online until the PS4. Most were bummed out to hear about this during E3 2013, but it didn't feel like much of a harsh blow because Microsoft was effin' up left and right.

I didn't really start gaming online until the eighth console generation. As a gamer that has never forked over additional cash to play games online, the very concept seems strange to me. Like, I have some serious reluctance to pay a subscription fee to play another game mode. The Wii U really spoiled me. Mario Kart 8, Super Smash Bros. Wii U, Splatoon, and Super Mario Maker have all provided me wtih some amazing online experiences and I haven't had to hand over a single extra dime outside of the price I paid for the games to get them. PC gamers are enjoying a copious amount of great online games without some yearly subscription fee hanging over their heads.

Now I know some of you are thinking "It's only a $10 increase and you only have to pay $60 for one year." You do get "free" games with a PlayStaiton Plus subscription. But the lot of those free games are garbage. As big as the indie scene is, they can put out just as much trash as any triple A or third party publisher. So no, I don't think gamers should be thankful, shut up and pay the $60 and take the "free" games that Sony is so generously offering.

Some are accusing Sony of become arrogant again and I can't help but wonder if there is some truth to that accusation. After Sony won the fifth and sixth console generation, their ego was the size of a small planet. Then the PS3 came out, the price was $600, Sony had the arrogance to think we'd want to pick up a second job just to pay for the machine, Sony had an uphill battle and even with its great library of games, came in third place, handing Sony their first loss. The PS4 is selling like hotcakes and has been since launch. Its enough to make Sony's ego swell once more, to make them feel that they are infallible.

Thus far, we have no reason for this $10 PlayStaiton Plus price increase. Is it because Ghost Busters sucked? Because Sony is struggling in so many of their other divisions? Or could it be that Sony's ego is so massive with all the PS4 units sold that they think the majority of gamers that want to game online with their console will pay the extra money, without thinking twice? Who really knows.

What the PlayStation Plus really needs are better games. Users still can't change their gamer tags. The PS4 has no PlayStaiton Classics. And what really baffles me is that the PS4 doesn't have folder support to organize games. Nintendo, the dinosaurs of gaming has folders on the Wii U, for crying out loud!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Favorite Tunes #156: 16-Bit Power

This month marks the 25th anniversary of what is arguably Nintendo's greatest home console, the SNES. The 16-bit machine was a remarkable step up from the NES in every aspect. SNES music still impresses me to this day so music from my favorite Big N machine is taking center stage this week.

Circuit Theme B - Top Gear (SNES)

I never played any of the Top Gear games but I can remember the cover to Top Gear on the SNES as if I saw it only yesterday. That sick looking sports car surrounded by flames is a simple but oh so effective image. I've only recently heard some of the music tracks in Top Gear in it has some really cool themes that stand out. Gotta love the continuous bass in this one.

Dhalsim Stage - Street Fighter II: The World Warrior (SNES)

Yoko Shimomura did a fantastic job of writing music to represent 12 fighters from other countries. The music carried over quite well from the arcade to the SNES, with some themes sounding better than the CPS-I counterparts. Those claps, though.

Counter Hunter - Mega Man X2 (SNES)

Moving along from one Capcom game to another, X2 wasn't on the same level as the original Mega Man X, but it was still a fine effort, nonetheless. The sound font for X2 is a bit different than that of X1, and while I do believe the first X game has the better soundtrack, X2 still has plenty of memorable jams. You gotta wonder if the guitarist lost a few fingers with the intro to Counter Hunter.

Guessing Game House - The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES)

The Main Theme, Hyrule Castle, and both the Light and Dark World Dungeon themes are among the game's most memorable tracks. But some of the game's shorter music pieces have also stood out in my mind.I don't think the Zelda games have had a better mini game theme than this one.

Fire Scramble - Gradius III (SNES)

The SNES conversion of Gradius III may suffer from slowdown and flicker when too many sprites are on screen, but it is a far more forgiving game than the arcade version. The music also sounds better. Fire Scramble sounds even more intense and rich on the SNES.

Save Them! - Final Fantasy VI (SNES)

The game that got me into the Final Fantasy series is my favorite of the lot. The game has an intriguing plot, a diverse cast of characters, and some of the best music Nobuo Uematsu has written. Save Them! is one of those themes that doesn't get used often, which sucks, but the few times it does play during battles, its always a treat.

Favorite Tunes Database

Friday, August 26, 2016

Chronology: A Jazz Tribute to Chrono Trigger

All of the wonderful things I could say about Chrono Trigger have already been said countless times. The game is a 16-bit masterpiece, one of my all-time favorite games and RPGs. Chrono Trigger's soundtrack is a smorgasbord of delicious music. There have been a number of Chrono Trigger arrange albums over the years but I don't think there's ever been an entire arranged soundtrack for it dedicated to jazz. I never even thought of such  an idea. Jazz is easily one of my top 3 genres of music and I'd love to see more jazz video game arrange albums. Until the pool for it gets deeper, however, Chronology: A Jazz Tribute to Chrono Trigger will will do more than nicely.

This is OverClocked Remix's 60th album, which is quite the milestone, but it is also the The OC Jazz Collective's album debut. I'd say this group came out swinging, but that would be a massive understatement. Chronology oozes professionalism and high production values. The music on this album sounds so good that each member could easily be a jazz club performing these pieces live. Just listening to some of these tracks makes me feeling like it's late at night in a club, the lights are dimmed and The OC Jazz Collective is on stage doing their thing as people look, sipping their drinks and nodding their heads to the music.

At only eight tracks, Chronology is a rather short remix album. Considering the exceptional quality of the music, that actually bums me out a but. The run time  is under 48 minutes. It would have been great to see more themes get The OC Jazz Collective's magic touch, but when what we've been given sounds this freaking good, you really can't complain all that much. You could have a jazz lover listen to this soundtrack that isn't even familiar with Chrono Trigger and they would love it. I'll be listening to Chronology over and over again and eagerly anticipating The OC Jazz Collective's next project.

Chronology: A Jazz Tribute to Chrono Trigger

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Remix of the Week: Studiopolis Zone 16-Bit (Sega Genesis Remix)

Anyone that's foaming over Sonic Mania has one music track playing in their mind on repeat: Studiopolis Zone. That beat is such a head boper. The music that we've heard in Sonic Mania thus far echoes the tone of the early 1990s Sonic titles, so a Genesis remix seems like a natural fit. Bulby, music lover and talented arranger that he is, has crafted a Studopolis Genesis remix that is ever bit as dance worthy as the original. As is the case with everything he uploads, he's generously included a MP3 download.

Studiopolis Zone 16-Bit (Sega Genesis Remix)

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Street Fighter II: Ultimate Edition Soundtrack

My first exposure to Street Fighter was on the SNES. Capcom did a masterful job porting it to Nintendo's 16-bit baby and  I grew quite fond of the SNES renditions of what are now iconic game music tracks. Years later, I would hear the CPS-I and CPS-II versions as well as the Genesis tracks. It's quite interesting to hear how the music from Street Fighter II sounds on different hardware. Sagat's theme on the SNES really spoiled me as I could never get into CPS-I or II versions of it. Indeed I do find some versions of Street Fighter II songs better on certain hardware. If only there were some way to combine the best bits of each version into one soundtrack. And that's where Karl Brueggemann comes in.

Known for his work on the Sonicesque soundtracks, Karl has combined different portions of the arcade, SNES and Genesis version of Street Fighter II's soundtrack into what he calls the ultimate edition. It may sound like a horrible mash up idea on paper, but Karl makes it work beautifully. The only downside of an otherwise excellent soundtrack is that Cammy, T, Hawk, Fei Long and Dee Jay's themes were't given the same treatment as the initial 8 world warriors and four bosses. But I guess you can't have everything. Street Fighter II: Ultimate Edition can be yours for free.

Street Fighter II: Ultimate Edition

Monday, August 22, 2016

Favorite Tunes #155: Tide Goes Out

I didn't intend for this to be a Nintendo themed Favorite Tunes originally but as I was making the list, that's the direction it took so I decided to roll with it. We've got music from two Kirby entries, a game that never made it outside of Japan, a gone but not forgotten series and Splatoon.

Rainbow Resort - Kirby and the Rainbow Curse (Wii U)

Rainbow Resort has been a Kirby theme I've held near and dear ever since I heard it way back in 1993. One of the best things about Rainbow Curse is all the unlockable remixed music from numerous Kirby games. The Rainbow Resort remix is vastly different from what you might expect. It's rock based but still keeps that soothing feel of the original.

Staff Roll - Famicom Detective Club Part II (SNES)

Originally released only in Japan, the second Part of Famicom Detective Club was ported over to the Super Famicom with a graphical and audio overhaul. The music was already fine to begin with, but the SNES gave it an added punch. The bass guitar is far more pronounced in the SNES version and that electric guitar is killin' it.

Arabic - Kirby: Planet Robobot (3DS)

I just resumed playing this game after not having touched it in a over a month for some strange reason. I left off at the beginning of the token desert world and was greeted by this super lively Arabian-themed tune. Granted Kirby has had a history of have some truly exceptional desert music in his games (Air Ride, Return to Dream Land) but this arguably tops them. It's hard to really appreciate how grand this theme is when playing the game without a set of headphones on.

Grasp Power!- 1080 Snowboarding (N64)

I love how critics and detractors give Nintendo flack for having only a handful or franchises. In truth, Nintendo has a ton of franchises. Sadly, they don't do much or anything with most of them. Take 1080 for example. The last 1080 game we had was Avalanche on the GCN and it wasn't nearly received as well as the first game. Listening to more of 1080's music not only makes me wish more music from the series had been featured in Super Smash Bros., but for Nintendo to bring the series back.

All-Star Rest Area - Super Smash Bros. 3DS/Wii U (3DS, Wii U)

What is this? Music from the Super Smash Bros. games being featured for the umpteenth time? Who could have seen that coming? In all seriousness, Each entry in the Smash series gives us even more music than the previous games. Brawl's soundtrack was huge but Smash 4 makes it seem tiny in comparison. Even when you don't include reused songs, Smash 4 has a lot of original tunes. Nothing like relaxing after a hard fought battle in All-Star mode. Which I still need to clear with all the characters.

Tide Goes Out - Splatoon (Wii U)

To all those people that said "The next Splatfest should be Callie vs. Marie," congrats! You got your wish! Annnnd it was the last Splatfest. I guess all good things really do come to an end. The final Splatfest was a blast. Splatfest may be no more but Splatoon goes on and the game's beats are still stuck in my head. Nintendo was even kind enough to give us two new songs from the Squid Sisters. Well, if you picked up the Callie and Marie amiibos, you get them.

Favorite Tunes Database

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Super Mario Adventures Manga to be Re-Released

If you were an avid reader of Nintendo Power from 1992-1993, you were probably exposed to the Super Mario Adventures manga. Written by Kentaro Takamura and art by Charlie Nozawa, Super Mario Adventures told wacky tales of the Mario, Luigi and Yoshi's quest to save Peach from Bowser. Peach is surprisingly pretty badawesome in this manga series, taking matters into her own hands and kicking all kinds of Koopa shell. However, Mario and company's journey to rescue Peach isn't the only thing taking up pages in this manga. Mario vs. Wario was always a favorite of mine and another story had the rivals trying to one up the other by getting Peach a Samus Aran doll for her birthday.

Super Mario Adventures was one of the best inclusions of Nintendo Power in the early 1990s and I was sad to see it go. When The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past manga was re-released by VIZ Media in 2015, I had hopes that Super Mario Adventures would follow suit. After being out of print for years and going for insane prices, Super Mario Adventures will at long last be re-released for old fans and a new generation of readers to enjoy.

Super Mario Adventures will hit stores on October 11th, 2016. Published by VIZ Media, this 112 page manga will retail for $14.99. I haven't read these comics in years and I've been dying for a re-print. Sure, you can read it online, but I'm so happy to have a physical copy. It'll make a great stocking stuffer for Christmas for anyone you know that's a fan of Mario and manga.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Remix of the Week: Giant Baby Bowser Battle (Mega Man X Remix)

Welcome Remix of the Week, a feature where I feature a fan remix each week from a fellow video game music lover.

One of the greatest boss themes of all time is Baby Bowser from Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island. That theme brings the rock hard for an edge of your seat battle with the king of the Koopas in infant form. My New Soundtrack has remixed this theme using the superb Mega Man X sound font and it sounds amazing. He even threw in the Big Boss theme, so you get two killer boss tracks in one.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Thoughts on Batman: The Killing Joke

Whenever the topic of the greatest Joker stories come up, you can bet the farm that The Killing Joke will be among the lot. Written by the famed Alan Moore and lusciously illustrated by Brian Bolland, The Killing Joke tells a possible origin of the Joker's past in between his scheme of proving a point that one bad day is all it takes to drive a sane person loony.

For all the hype surrounding it, The Killing Joke is a surprisingly low key tale compared to the other events in the Caped Crusader's life. Most huge comic stories span multiple issues but The Killing Joke is a one and done comic, clocking in at only 46 pages. By the standards that it was released in 1988 and even today, that's pretty darn impressive.

After DC started doing animated feature films of popular comic book stories like The Dark Knight Returns, I was hoping that they would eventually do The Killing Joke. When they finally announced that what is arguably the greatest Joker story of all time would indeed be animated, the internet erupted with thunderous applause. Kevin Conroy was returning to voice Batman, Mark Hamill would once again be the Clown Prince of Crime and the hype train was set into overdrive. Like many Batman fans, I was salivating for the Blu Ray release of this baby. And then the reviews came out. And well, they were not the rave reviews we were expecting.

It is impossible to talk about the animated adaption of The Killing Joke without  mentioning the first 30 minutes of the film and that infamous scene that has everyone in an uproar.

Batman and Batgirl's relationship is painful to watch and not
just because it gets sexual.
If the the film makers did a straight up adaptation of the comic, this would have been a forty something minute flick. Most DC animated films are over 70 minutes long. To add to the the movie's length, the film makers decided to give Batgirl a greater role. I was aware they were doing this for months and I was looking forward to what they would produce. I did not, however, know that Batgirl's involvement would take up 30 minutes of the movie. More on the lines of 10 or 15 is what I had in mind. Not only that, but it isn't really all that interesting, including her relationship with Batman. Yes, Batman and Batgirl have sex on a rooftop. They don't show the nasty being done, but it is something that happens and is this infamous scene along with the rest of the baggage that Batgirl brings that makes the animated version of The Killing Joke a deal breaker for so many people. But not for me and I'll get to why in just a bit.

In the DC Animated Universe, Bats and Batgirl also have a relationship.Not a great deal of it is played out on screen and certainly not to the extent of what was done in the movie we're talking about, but Bruce and Barbra were involved. Their relationship in the DCAU never really bothered me even after Barbra more or less told Terry how far said relationship went with a very suggestive look in Batman Beyond.

Despite the fact that Hamill isn't much of a singer, the
Joker's musical number is still in the film.

Having said all of that, The Killing Joke is not in the DCAU. I know Bruce Timm is very proud of the universe he helped create and he should be. The DCAU is among my favorite shows to watch. But there comes a time when you've got to have a disconnect from previous shows you've worked on. Batman and Batgirl's relationship in The Killing Joke feels like it's trying to hit the notes from the aforementioned series. People often bring up the age difference between Bruce and Barbra but people of their age have sexual relationships in real life all the time. Believing that all or most people only stick to their own age when it comes to relationships are in some serious denial. But being close in age or no, Batman and Batgirl's relationship in The Killing Joke is completely unnecessary and adds nothing to the movie. Seeing Batgirl act like an emotionally driven, whinny girlfriend really is hard to watch. In the end, I was just waiting to get to the second half of the moving, The Killing Joke stuff, which is the reason why all of us were here to begin with. Does it ruin the original story or rape your childhood like some overly dramatic fans say? Not at all. But I'd be lying if I said it didn't hinder the film. If the first 30 minutes had been executed better, I wouldn't have minded all that much. But as it stands, the first half is filler of the uninteresting variety.

The second half of The Killing Joke is the kind of stuff you can't take your eyes off of. It matches the comic book so closely, its like watching moving panels. How the book begins in the rain with Batman walking into Arkham to talk to the Joker about the possibility of preventing an murderous outcome between theme, all of it is here.

The scene where Batman makes a heart felt
attempt to help the Joker are some of Conroy's
best Batman lines.

What I really loved about this movie and one of the main reasons I wanted an animated version was to see my favorite scenes from the book brought to life on TV. Seeing the flashback where we get to see a possibility of what the Joker was like before he became the Joker made for one of Hamill's best performances. He makes the man who was just an ordinary, struggling comedian before his chemical bath sound like a completely different person from the Joker. He's a man trying to support his pregnant wife and you really do feel for him in these scenes. Hamill really knocked it out of the park here. While he's been my favorite voice actor to play the Joker, I've noticed age really taking a hit to his voice in the since the Arkham games. He's always handed in an admirable performance but you can tell the voice he once had voicing the Joker isn't there. Even so, the Joker he portrays in The Killing Joke is chilling. It's great to hear him deliver classic lines from the graphic novel like "Here's to crime," and "If I have to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice." And then you've got his first maniacal Joker laugh after seeing his new look.

Kevin Conroy gives us another solid Batman performance as always. Granted he doesn't have as many lines in the actual Killing Joke part of the movie as Joker, but when he does speak, he delivers the Batman voice. Just as it was with Hamill, I love hearing the lines from the comic delivered on screen. You can really feel the emotion when Batman reaches out to the Joker to help him only for the Joker to respond that its too late for that. And having Batman laugh at the Joker's joke is both cool and creepy at the same time.

The Joker does the impossible: make Batman laugh.

While the first thirty minutes of the film are filler and really bring down Batgirl as a character, the rest of the film is amazing and the first half ins't enough to make it a terrible film. If you've read the graphic novel and loved it, you owe it to yourself to pick up this animated feature.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Favorite Tunes #154: Sophia

The Olympics are on, which means it is one of the few times I turn from Cartoon Network. Its also absurdly hot outside, so unless I absolutely have to leave the house, I'm saying inside where its nice and cool and rooting for Team USA and grooving to game music.

Warrior - Guilty Gear Xrd Revelator (ARC, PS3, PS4)

The last Guilty Gear game I played was X2 on the PS2. I haven't really kept touch with the series in years but when I think of the games, the type of music that springs to mind is metal and hard rock. There are plenty of rocking vocal tracks in the game's soundtrack but I was surprised to hear songs like Warrior in the mix. Not a bad surprise by any means.

Duel - Metal Gear Solid (PS)

Even after all of the technological advancements the series has made, the original Metal Gear Solid still has a movie-like score that still manages to impress almost 20 years after its release. Duel is an arranged, more intense driven version of the Encounter theme.

Vento Brasileiro  - Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (Wii U, 3DS)

The Rio 2016 Olympics are in full swing. I've been a big fan of the Olympics since I was a kid and I've been watching as much of the events as I can when I'm not at work. The Mario & Sonic games have been a thing since 2008, but the 2016 version will be the first one that I pick up. The events look like a lot of fun (especially boxing) and the original music along with the arrangements have my ears burning.

Macho Grubba - Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door (GCN)

Fans want a Paper Mario game more line with the original and The Thousand Year Door. I've heard Sticker Star spoken of as if it were the spawn of Satan, while Super Paper Mario doesn't get nearly as bad of a rap, it still didn't get a warm reception from fans. I didn't finish Thousand Year Door, but I was very impressed by the hours I sunk into it, both with the gameplay and the incredible soundtrack.

Sophia - Gimmick! (NES)

How good is the music in Gimmick? Really darn good. Like, among the best chiptunes you will ever hear. Gimmick's soundtrack is bouncy, upbeat and deadly serious when the mood calls for it. Despite the cutesy looks, Gimmick! is also a very punishing game to any and all who dare to approach it.

Lava Dome - Final Fantasy Mystic Quest (SNES)

This spin off Final Fantasy game gets a lot of hate for being an oversimplified RPG to get newbies into the genre. It may be a bit dull and flawed, but hardly a turd. Now id you hear anyone dis the music, please punch them in the face. 16-bit rock and metal has never sounded this good.

Favorite Tunes Database

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Mario Kart: Double Dash!! Genesis Title Remix

The third console version of Mario Kart, Mario Kart: Double Dash!! is an entry that a great deal of the fanbase enjoyed. It wasn't my personal favorite MK game or even in my top 3, but I had some fun times with it. The game had a lot of good music tracks but I especially loved the Title theme. YouTuber Bulby has given the tune a splendid remix in SEGA Genesis form! It has that twang that some Genesis tracks are known and keeps the quick pace of the original song. After you get done snapping your fingers and bopping your head to this killer beat, download the MP3 in the description that Bulby has so  kindly provided.

Friday, August 5, 2016

How the Flash Helped Me Get Back into Comics

I first got into comics when I was a kid. The very first comic book I picked up was a single issue out of the Darkwing Duck Mini series in 1991. It was a comic adaption of the series premier, Darkly Dawns the Duck. I'd read it and looked through it so many times that if I still had the thing, it would probably get lower than a 2.0 grade.

The second comic book I would come across was Archie Comics Sonic the Hedgehog, issue #2 in 1993. I looked through my friend's copy and I just had to have my own and soon after, I did. Sonic the Hedgehog would be the first comic book series I would read on a regular basis. It had some elements from the video games, but by and large, the comics were largely different from the games.

In 1994, I begun reading buying Spider-Man and X-Men comics. I had always been fascinated by Spider-Man ever since I was exposed to Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends in the 1980s. The 1994 Spider-Man series sparked my interest in the character even further so picking up the comics seemed only natural. Ditto for the X-Men series that was airing at the same time.

Sometime in 1996, I would stop buying Spider-Man and X-Men comics and before that, I had already stopped purchasing Sonic the Hedgehog. It wasn't that I thought the comics had gotten dull. My first love, gaming was becoming even bigger. I was reading GamePro cover to cover and the N64 was set to release that year. I would still flip through issues of Sonic the Hedgehog and the numerous Spider-Man comics at the time to see what was going on, but they didn't get my money. 

My relationship with comics has been estranged for almost a decade and there were a number of contributing factors to this. 

After the Avengers: Disassembled story, I thought comic book events were the bees knee. But then came House of M, Civil War and World War Hulk. House of M was in 2005 Civil War in 2006 and World War Hulk in 2007. Event fatigue had hit me hard. Since I had an on again, off again relationship with comics, I wasn't aware that events were a yearly thing. By 2008, I didn't want anything to do with these huge, cataclysmic events that would "forever change the fabric of the !" How many times have we been told in comics that "Things will never be the same!" only for the status quo to eventually undo whatever mess was made? While Civil War did have a huge impact on the Marvel universe, the story had to have some of the key characters do things that were way out of character, like Spider-Man unmasking to the entire world, to name a few. When I heard Civil War was going to be the third Captain America movie, I was worried that the characters were going to do some repeat performances of their boneheaded moments from the comic, but from what I hear, the film is actually better than the comic it is based off of, leaving the idiot moments on paper.

In 2007, I read one of the most horrific Spider-Man stories I've ever read, One More Day. This train wreck of a story was devised so Marvel could have Spidey be single again and have things be "just like the good old days." Not only did Peter lose his loving wife, he lost most of, if not all of his common sense, becoming a huge imbecile, making stupid, rookie mistakes just about every single freaking issue. I hadn't picked up Amazing Spider-Man since One More Day and from 2008 and on, I would Byrne Steal it. There was no reason to undo decades of character development and make Peter a wifeless loser just because old comic book farts in power have a hard on for the days when Spidey wasn't married. They even started talking all this youth crap, saying that's what Spider-Man was all about. Spider-Man may has always been about responsibility and if the brass at Marvel couldn't see that when they were reading the books, they must not have been paying attention. 

Oh but the wife drops didn't end with Spidey, oh no. When DC relaunched their entire comic line, dubbing it The New 52, Superman was no longer married to Lois Lane and instead hooked up with Wonder Woman. Keep in mind, Supes has loved Lois since 1938. Pairing him with Wonder Woman just because she's a super heroin and also insanely strong is just stupid. The Flash also had his marriage to Iris Allen removed because according to DC, he's fast enough for all the ladies. Make of that what you will, but during this time of sweeping changes, it seemed as if anyone with a long history of comic book marriage was not safe unless your names are Reed and Sue Richards.

And then you've got comic book death. I'd just call it death, but then that would imply that dying in a comic book actually sticks and well, anyone that's read comics for a while knows better. Whenever someone in a comic book, hero or villain kicked the bucket, you're just counting the days until they come back. Comic book characters come back to life more times than the zombies in a Ghost 'n Goblins game and I want so much for writers to stop relying on comic book deaths to tell a story.

I was thrilled to hear about the revival of Darkwing Duck in comic book form in 2010 and I picked up a some of the trades in 2012, but my comic book purchases would sit on an extremely small scale for years with Sonic the Hedgehog and Archie Comics Mega Man being my main buys.

Then in 2015, something amazing happened. OK, actually it was in 2014, because that's when the show began airing, but I didn't start watching it until the following year. My father and sister watched the Flash and would frequently discuss it. Knowing how much I enjoyed super heroes, they would ask if I started watching it and always, my answer would be no. They told me that the first few episodes were up on Hulu and that they would air the entire first season to prepare for the coming second season. One night, I finally decided that it was time to sit down and start watching the Flash. My father and sister had hyped it up so much and I figured the only way to get them off my back was to see what it was all about.

Now I'm no stranger to the character that is Flash. the DC Animated Universe is among my favorite shows and I have all of the Batman, Superman, Batman Beyond and Justice League animated series that make up the universe. I thought Justice League and Justice League Unlimited's version of the Flash was a good, fun character and I was always delighted to see him in an episode. I liked Flash, but not enough to start buying comic books like I did Sonic, Spider-Man and Mega Man. The live action Flash TV show changed that in more ways than I can imagine.

I thought I would watch maybe an episode or two of Flash since the run time for a single episode was over 40 minutes. But before I knew it, I was hooked like a sea bass. The writing was intelligent, the way the show portrayed Barry's speed, that ultra cool lightning effect, it was all awesome. When the next episode ended, I ecstatic to watch the next one. I ended up watching the first six episodes in one night and continued to watch the rest of season one as more episodes were uploaded each week.

From Book 1 of the Usagi Yojimbo Saga.

I always thought the Reverse Flash was a pretty sinister villain from watching Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, but season one of the Flash sold me on Barry's arch nemesis even more. Yeah, hes grand scheme ultimately failed but the way he played everyone for nearly an entire season was brilliant. It helped that the writers let us know early on that there was more of Dr. Wells than what it seemed since he wasn't paralyzed from the waist down and he kept talking about the future as if he'd live there and seen some of it, which the Reverse Flash, of course, has.

It wasn't just Reverse Flash that made the show great in terms of villains. Captain Cold is another character I really came to enjoy seeing. I liked that he was a criminal but he had a strict code that he stuck to. He didn't believe in doing anything unnecessary and even thought he knew who Flash was behind the mask, he told no one.

Coming in to the the show late was actually a blessing for me because this meant that I didn't have to wait long before season two started airing. And man, season two was awesome! Arguably better than the first season! We got Zoom, more unexcpted plot twists, Earth-2 and the multiverse, Wally West and so much more.

Throughout season two and after it condluded, I found myself buying more and more graphic novels, both online and in my Barns & Nobles. I bought the first three books of the Usagi Yojimbo Saga. I haven't started reading them yet, but I've peeked at a few pages in each one and I'll be picking up the series as the books get released. I also bought Batman: The Long Halloween and the follow up store, Batman: Dark Victory, both of which are some of Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale's best work. I finally got around to buying DC: The New Frontier, a comic I have always wanted to read after watching the animated film back in 2008. I bought the first two volumes of Marv Wolfman and George Perez's New Teen Titans. I'm a little bummed that these New Teen Titans books aren't getting the same treatment as DC's other trades, but I'm just happy I can get my hands on these babies at an affordable price. Can't wait for the volumes contain the Judas Contract to drop.

From The Return of Barry Allen. Three against one?
That's so unfair. The three of them are totally outmatched.

The trades that most have my attention, however, are Flash trades. The Flash show made me a die hard fan. After watching so many outstanding episodes, I have to read about the adventures of the scarlet speedster. I picked up Grant Morrision and Mark Millar's Flash trade and from what I've gathered, there are some pretty crazy stories in this one, plus it introduces the Black Flash. DC has started reprinting Geoff Johns Flash run, which lasted five years. It looks like a year's worth of material is in a single book and I've got the first two books in my collection. I also have Flash: Rebirth, and since Flashpoint Paradox is one of my favorite DC animated films and season three of the show will have its own version of Flashpoint, I grabbed the Flashpoint graphic novel.

A story every Flash fanatic has heard or red about is The Return of Barry Allen. This tale came to my attention while I was making my way through season one of the show and it sounded like a really interesting story. I did some searching on Amazon and the prices are what initially kept me from picking it up. With Flash being so hot over the last few years, you'd think DC would capitalize on it by re-releasing this story. I mean, the Death of Superman gets re-released on a regular basis. Same for Dark Knight Returns. But early 1990s Flash stuff? Nope. So including shipping, I spent over $46 on Return of Barry Allen. I hated myself a little for doing so, but after reading it, the book was worth every penny. Return of Barry Allen is the first of Mark Waid's Flash work I've been exposed to so the bar has been set astronomically high. We got some great character development for Wally, we got to see Jay Garrick, Johnny Quick and Max Mercury all take on who they thought was a wacko Barry Allen and we get the origin of the Reverse Flash. The art was pretty impressive as well. I was slightly annoyed to find out DC will start reprinting Mark Waid's run on Flash later this year, so Return of Barry Allen will get reprinted on better paper, but its nice to have an original copy of the first trade in my possession. I cannot wait to read more of Waid's run on Flash in December.

Wally West dishing out some truth to the
Reverse Flash.

The Flash is on the way to becoming my favorite super hero, I haven't been this much into a super hero since Spider-Man, who just might be getting put in second place. Yeah, I still love Spidey, and Marvel has put out a few Spider-Man trades I want to pick up but with the first six volumes of The New 52 Flash books,  The Flash: The Silver Age Vol. 1 and The Flash: A Celebration of 75 Years, I'm fare more interested in the Flash.

It wasn't until I got back into comics again that I took a good, hard look at the things that got me out of it. Cheap deaths, events, reboots and so forth. As angry as those things make me, they are, for better or for worse, a part of the comic book industry. I'm not even sure how many times the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics have been rebooted. There are always going to be bad stories and really stupid decision making behind the scenes in comics but it isn't like all the good material will suddenly dry up. It's like with gaming or anything you enjoy: you take the good with the bad. The crappy video games I played, never made me stop gaming. Why should I let the usual comic industry woes ruin comics for me?

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Favorite Tunes #153: Hot Summer Days

We're well into summer and here in Virginia, it's getting hotter. The only relief from the heat is the rain or the coolness that night brings. Or if you're like me, you're probably staying in doors to avoid the blistering heat. Take my advice, listening to hot beats is infinitely better than dripping sweat.

Clawdaddy Beach - Yoshi's Woolly World (Wii U)

One of my favorite (as well as cutest) games of the current generation is Yoshi's Woolly World. This game is so dang good that it may very well be better than the SNES classic Yoshi's Island. The soundtrack may not be on the same level of Koji Kond's music from said game, but what we do have is some catchy, well composed tunes. I'll be listening to this one the next time I'm on the beach playing Pokemon Go.

Hot Reception - Super Adventure Island (SNES)

Yuzo Koshiro really knows how to write some superb beats. My favorite things about his Streets of Rage music is that so much of it sounds very late 80s early 90s. Super Adventure Island is dripping with 1990s music flair. The music is the highlight of what is a very cruel game.

Inferno ~ Descending - Mega Man X8 (PS2)

After two abysmal X games, Mega Man X8 put the series back on track. We even got to play as the title character from the get go! Huzzah! With a few exceptions, X8 sticks to the series tried and true 2D roots with plenty of bot busting action. The music is on point too, with a hefty supply of rock.

3DS DK Jungle - Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)

With its item balancing, compelling single player and online modes, Mario Kart 8 might just be my favorite Mario Kart game. The track designs outshine some of the best from previous entries and the soundtracks is some of the best music I've heard in a video game. Originally a track in Mario Kart 7, DK Jungle got the HD treatment. I thought the song sounded just find on the 3DS but it sounds even better in Mario Kart 8.

Scene 2 - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project (NES)

Disappointed with the HD Mutants in Manhattan? Fire up one of the older Turtles games for an infinitely more satisfying experience. You're probably thinking of TMNTII or TMNTIV, but why not give the often overlooked TMNTIII a try? It serves up a good challenge, impressive NES visuals and some sweet chiptunes.

Rock Star Select - Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards (N64)

2.5D gameplay, and cool weapon combos we sadly haven't seen since this game, Kirby 64 is one of the few Kirby games I've completed 100%. When I picked up Kirby's Dream Collection a few years back, I really sank my teeth into the game and music made a big impression on me especially Rock Star as well as the Select theme for Rock Star.

Favorite Tunes Database

Monday, August 1, 2016

So Konami Wants to Win Back Gamer's Trust

As someone who grew up playing Castlevania, Contra, Gradius and the late '80s and '90s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games, it sucks to see Konami devolve into the company that it currently is. Not only has Konami treated its own employees like utter crap, they've also given console and PC gamers a giant middle finger by focusing game development exclusively on mobile and pachinko machines. Nintendo, Capcom and Square Enix have made some pretty dumb decisions over the years but even at their worst, they aren't as bad as Konami. So you can imagine my mild surprise when I heard that Konami wanted to win back the fanbase that they went above and beyond to spurn so badly.

There's always that one, thankless job that someone has to do. For some people its washing dishes. For others it could be janitorial work. But look on the bright side, at least you're not in Ben's shoes. Who is this Ben? Why, he's Konami's social media man. He's been on Reddit defending Konami from the onslaught of criticism they've been receiving. I don't think there's a single sane person on this planet that is well aware of the mess Konami has made that would rally with Ben to defend them, but he has said that Konami wishes to win back those that they've pushed away.

Now we've all heard this kinda thing from numerous companies that have alienated fans at one point or another. While this is the first time Konami has made mention of setting things right, I, like I imagine many of you, don't really believe them. This is largely in part because Konami has royally effed up, but also because anyone can say they want to win you back and until we see some try strides to actually do so, all Konami is producing right now are some pretty unimpressive words.

Konami has made some of their best franchises live on through pachinko machines and after having some killer offerings on consoles in the past, that's hardly what I'd call living. Sure, there's a new Metal Gear game on the horizon for consoles but how do we know Konami won't find some way to screw that up? Even when Hideo Kojima was with the company, they managed to push out an incomplete game in the form of Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zero to make for a quick cash grab.

I do think it is good that Konami wants to get fans back but I'm looking at them with a glare and both arms crossed. I've already said more than once in this piece alone that Konami has pulled a lot of crap so going back to them is akin to Harley Quinn crawling back to the Joker after the countless times he's mistreated and abused her. It would be different if the Joker truly changed, but the sad fact is, the clown prince of crime is always going to treat her like a doormat. That isn't to say that Konami can't change, but they've got one seriously steep uphill battle ahead of them if they truly do plan to win their fans back and until they can prove that they mean what they say, I'm going to continue looking at them arms folded, glare and all.