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Saturday, October 29, 2016

Favorite Tunes #162: Bonus Edition

As promised, here is the bonus Favorite Tunes. It was tempting to make this one all Halloween themed, but I decided to just stick with one tune from a game that would fit the spooky holiday. Enjoy.

Demitri Maximoff Stage - Night Warriors: Darkstalkers' Revenge (ARC, SAT)

I wonder when Capcom is gonna wake up and realize that they do have other fighting game franchises besides Street Fighter that they can do. I mean, when was the last time the Darkstalkers crew showed up in a game that wasn't a spin off or crossover? Anyway, Demitri brings with him some sweet beats.

Bonus Screen - Super Mario World (SNES)

I've beaten Super Mario World dozens of times, but this year was the first time I ever cleared all 96 level exits, thus finishing the game 100%. The Bonus music in this game is so good it's a shame you don't get to hear it unless you're in a hidden bonus area or a Switch Palace. This music is accessible for use in Super Mario Maker via the Sound FX tools.

Armed Ghost - Cybernator (SNES)

Take control of a giant mech that is armed with gun and melee combat abilities. The missions that use zero gravity change things up a bit and the objective isn't always as simple as get from point A to point B. Despite the game's brevity, Cybernator is a blazing adventure that doesn't let up until the credits roll.

The Last Springsteen - Contra: Hard Corps (GEN)

The road to the final boss of Contra: Hard Corps isn't hard. It is absolutely ball busting, tear your hair out, break your controller, rage quit hard. But press on and you'll be treated to this sicker than sick heavy metal jam. Or you could just, you know, hear it on YouTube. That works, too.

Shadow Man's Stage (Demolished Area) - Mega Man: Network Transmission (GCN)

When people think of Mega Man: Network Transmission, often frustration comes to mind. Oh and Fire Man's killer theme. But Blazing Internet isn't the only badawesome music from that game. Really, the whole soundtrack is pretty boss, but if you're looking for some more stand out themes, Shadow Man has you covered.

Guile Stage (Arranged)

Closing out this bonus edition, I thought I'd treat you all to something special. This smooth rendition of Guile's theme was part of the Hyper Street Fighter II ~The Starting Over~ Remix Tracks that was part of the Insanity DVD release line. These DVDs usually contained a bonus disc of music that was either original music from the game or remixed tunes. It may not go with everything as the CPS-II theme does, but dang it if it doesn't sound freaking sweet.

Favorite Tunes Database

Remix of the Week: In The Mushroom Forest 8-bit Remix

The original Mario Party, ruining friendships and hurting hands since 1999. After more than ten games in the series, the first Mario Party still has some of the most memorable tunes. Yasunroi Matsuda is known for his work on Chrono Trigger, Chrono Cross and a wealth of other high profile titles, but you might be surprised to see his name was attached to the debut Mario Party and he hammered out some very Mario-esque music. Bulby has given In the Mushroom Forest the 8-bit remix treatment and was more than kind to supply a download link as he does with all his other remixes.

Friday, October 28, 2016

NS Not Being Backwards Compatible Isn't a Bad Thing

When the Nintendo Switch was unveiled last week, some of our questions were answered but there are still things about the Big N's console, handheld, tablet hybrid that we don't know. Price has yet to be revealed and the spec of the NS are still a mystery. As I watched the reveal trailer, one thing I did suspect is that the NS would not be backwards compatible with Wii U games. Nintendo was quick to confirm my suspicious by stating that the NS is in fact not a backwards compatible game machine. And I'm actually OK with that.

I was never planning to shelve my Wii U when I picked up an NS. It may have been a bigger failure than the GCN, but I still love the thing and I have plenty of reasons to keep it hooked up. We have no idea when Splatoon 2 is being released for the NS so the original Splatoon will more than likely remain a highly replayed game for a few more years. The same goes for Super Smash Bros. Wii U, Super Mario Maker, Pokken Tournament and other high profile online Wii U games.

Want to play Super Mario Maker on a console
in HD? Gonna need a Wii U for that.

Quite a few people are bummed that the NS won't run 3DS games. Call me crazy, but the NS doing 3DS games never even crossed my mind. Yeah, the NS runs on game cards, but I was of the mind that Nintendo wanted to keep the 3DS games on the 3DS. Nintendo may have struggled with the Wii U but the 3DS continues to outsell all of the big three home consoles.

I'm one of those weirdos that never did a system transfer to dump all of my digital Wii downloads on my Wii U. Heck, my Wii is still hooked up and whenever I play Wii games, I do it on the Wii. I still have plenty of space to fill on my Wii U hard drive so I'd rather save that for other Wii U downloads. I'm all about saving space but the Wii takes up so little of it, that I'm in no hurry to unhook it and box it in the closet.

Will Nintendo distribute games on the NS digitally? Without question. Just because the system is card based, doesn't mean Nintendo is saying goodbye to digital distribution. The 3DS runs on game cards and that thing has enjoyed a wealth of digital games, both old and new. But I didn't see anyone using a stylus during the NS reveal trailer so Nintendo could very well be planning to leave the Wii U behind. As much as its gonna hurt to see the Wii U go, it is looking like the only way to play Wii U games will be on a Wii U, giving gamers a very valid reason to pick one up if they haven't done so.

By leaving out backwards compatibility, Nintendo is sending out a message. And that message is that they are focusing on the NS, strictly the NS. As much as I enjoy having a system incorporate backwards compatibility, I don't see Nintendo's neglecting it as a bad thing. It will help keep the system cost down and Nintendo needs all the edge they can get if they want to sell more NS units the Wii Us. For two console generations, Nintendo has used backwards compatibility but with the NS, it seems like Nintendo wants to make a fresh start by leaving the past behind. Completely.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Favorite Tunes #161: Paint the Town

This Favorite Tunes is a bit late. I was supposed to have this up on the 22nd, but I slacked off, time got away from me and I never got around to getting it up at the appointed time. To make amends, a bonus Favorite Tunes will be added later this week. For now, enjoy some beats from the latest entry in the Paper Mario series, Super Mario RPG, Rayman, Street Fighter III, Ape Escape, and Portal.

Sketchy Corner - Paper Mario Color Splash (Wii U)

Before Color Splash was even released, some fans already made up their minds that they hated the game because it took some aspects from Sticker Star. Having invested hours into Color Splash, I can say that it isn't the awful game so many make it appear to be. The writing is funny, the batlles, while on the easy side are fun, the HD visuals a marvel and the soundtrack is audio heaven. I almost regret getting the water wheel going in Port Prisma because once you do, this jazzy beat no longer plays.

Nimbus Land (Let's Do The Fooka-Fooka!) - Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars (SNES)

While fans await for a *ahem* "proper" Paper Mario sequel (whatever that means), fans also wait and wait for a sequel to Super Mario RPG. With 20 years after the game's release, I think it could be safe to assume that a sequel to the SNES classic just ain't gonna happen. As much as I love that game, I'm perfectly fine with Nintendo carrying on RPGs with the Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi titles.

Good Fighter (Ryu Stage) - Street Fighter III: 2nd Impact Giant Attack (ARC, DC)

Street Fighter III as a whole was a major shake up for the SF series. The majority of the cast from the SFII series was gone in favor of a lot of new faces. The soundtrack was also quite different with hip hop and jazz being the dominate music genre. I didn't get into the SFIII titles until 3rd Stike but I liked the new fighters and different style of music.

Specter Land ~ Flying Fortress - Ape Escape (PS)

The first PS game that needed to be played with the Dual Shock controller, Ape Escape put both analog sticks to good use as you took control of numerous inventions to capture the rambunctious monkeys. The game's vibrant, cheerful and atmospheric soundtrack is some of Soichi Terada's best work.

Still Alive - Portal (PC)

If you ever had reason to be suspicious of cake, look no further than the innovative PC game, Portal. Any gun that lets you turn the enemy into Swiss cheese in a second is cool and all but a portal gun? Now that's the bee's knee. Also cool is the end credits theme to the game, a song so famous even those that haven't played Portal (like me) have heard it.

Band Land - Rayman (Multi)

The limbless wonder was quite the thing in the mid to late 1990s. When every other platform hero under the sun was going 3D, Rayman was keeping it 2D and pretty, too. Even after all these years, the original Rayman still looks drop dead gorgeous.

Favorite Tunes Database

Friday, October 21, 2016

Nintendo Switch Reveal Thoughts

Yesterday, the Nintendo NX was at long last revealed to the world under the title, Nintendo Switch. On a very rare occasion, I'm not late to the party, so I've decided to strike while the iron is hot and offer up some thoughts on the Nintendo Switch reveal.

The trailer for the NS was freaking great. As much as I love the Wii U, Nintendo failed on letting the public at large know what the system was. Many still look at the Wii U as an add on and not a successor of the Wii. With the NS reveal. this clearly isn't the case. No one is going to question what the NS is or mistake it for something it isn't.

Home consoles are great but we need a TV to play them and hauling them off for travel can be cumbersome. This isn't going to be the case with the NS. The off TV play of the Wii U has always been one of my favorite features about the system and I'm glad Nintendo is going to continue this with the NS, but taking it a step further. We can take the NS anywhere and enjoy it thanks to the tablet. On a bus, on a train, on a plane, on the beach. Even on the can if you're into gaming in the bathroom.

Look, ma, no wires! The NS has no cords attached to it. We're looking at a completely wireless game console. How cool is that? I thought it couldn't get any better than wireless controllers but a wireless console? I never thought I'd see the day. For a company that is often accused of being the dinosaurs of gaming Nintendo has shown that they can get with the times when they want to. Our phones and tablets, things that we use in our daily life are wireless so why nit make a console that is free of wires? I've been calling the NS a console but in truth, the thing is a handheld portable device as much as it is a home console. Nintendo has dominated the handheld market for over 25 years so it makes perfect sense to have the NS function as not only a home console but a portable device as well.

And the NS looks sexy to boot. I mean, just look at that thing and try to tell me it looks ugly. After digging the compactness of the Wii, it sucked to go back to a bigger Nintendo console with the Wii U. The NS looks stylish, slick and is smaller than the Wii U. Oh and that logo is simple but straight and to the point.

As excited as I am for the NX reveal, I do have some concerns. The detachable controllers are on the small side, which I can see being an issue for those with large hands. Nintendo likes to have their consoles be affordable but for what we've seen the NS do with that trailer, I have a hard time believing the NS will be cheap. With a price yet to be revealed, all we can do is guess, but I'd say $400 or more is a safe bet. Nintendo's history with third party developers/publishers on consoles has not been great since the Nintendo 64 days and while the list of third party companies for the NS looks impressive, I'm hoping Nintendo doesn't screw it up and many of these third parties abandon the system. The fact that the NS is portable will hopefully play in the consoles favor since again, Nintendo kills it on handhelds.

Remix of the Week: Cornered Mega Man X Remix

If you do not think the Cornered theme from the first Phoneix Wright game is one of the most badawesome things ever, there is something seriously wrong with you. Like, get professional help if you don't like it for some strange reason. But seriously, the song is freaking great. My New Soundtrack gives the theme the Mega Man X remix and it is every bit as awesome sounding as you'd imagine.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Introducing Nintendo Switch

Long code named the Nintendo NX, Nintendo has finally revealed its next generation console, officially named the Nintendo Switch. Gonna miss that NX code name but the Nintendo Switch name is rather fitting for what the console can do. Play on the TV, play on the tablet, play at home or on the go. 

Street Fighter II The Animated Movie Re-Release

In 1994, what is widely considered to be the greatest film adaption of Street Fighter was released. No, not that awful live action travesty. I'm talking about Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie. While the film mainly centers around Ryu, Ken, Guile, and Chun-Li get the most screen time, all sixteen fighters from the Street Fighter II games are featured in some form or another. While browsing around on Amazon, I was surprised to see Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie would be getting a re-release on October 25th, 2016.

SFII: TAM could not have been released at a better time. The early to mid 1990s was the peak of SF's popularity. 1994 was also the same year the box office live action bomb, Street Fighter came out, so the animated movie was a great way to wash the taste of that travesty out of our mouths.

A marvel on multiple fronts, SFII: TAM has gorgeous animation, stunning fight scenes, incredible music and a surprisingly good dub. Anime hadn't exploded in America at the time, so a good dub in 1994 was incredibly rare. Although, considering the talent on board, Steven Blum (Cowboy Bebop Samurai Champloo), Beau Billingslea (Cowboy Bebop), Lia Sargent (Trigun, Big O), Tom Wyner (Gun Grave), I guess it shouldn't come as that much of a shock. A lot of SF fans saw this movie around the time it was originally released. I didn't see it until 2004 when I purchased Street Fighter II Anniversary Collection on the PS2. Even thought it was edited, I was taken back by just how good this movie was.

There have actually been several re-releases of SFII: TAM. The uncut 2006 DVD release, the Street Fighter Anniversary Collector's Box, in 2012, containing an edited Blu-ray release,  and the Kaze, France Blu-ray release in 2013. This 2016 re-release makes will make the Blu-ray version more easily obtainable. While the DVD version can still be picked up, I'm happy to see this film get the Blu-ray treatment. If for some reason, you haven't seen this film, pick it up.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Making New Super Mario Bros. Feel New Again

When New Super Mario Bros. released on the Nintendo DS in 2006, it was a pretty huge deal. This wasn't just the release of a new Super Mario game. No, this was the release of a new 2D Super Mario game. Despite it's title, Nintendo does not count Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island as part of the Super Mario series and has effectively grouped it with the Yoshi games. Before New Super Mario Bros. released, the last 2D Mario we had seen was Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins, which was released in 1992. Twelve years is a long time to go without a new 2D Super Mario adventure. So of course we ate it up. Fast forward ten years and four games later and the NSMB series doesn't feel so new anymore.

The NSMB games were made to cater to fans of 2D Mario. As great as Mario's 3D exploits were/are, backtracking through non liner levels wasn't to everyone's liking, especially when you consider a great deal of older fans grew up playing 2D Mario. The biggest criticism labeled against the NSMB games is that they feel too samey. And as much as I enjoy the NSMB games, it is kind of hard for me to find fault in that argument.

It was like 1985 all over again
when New Super Mario Bros. released in 2006.

Trying to keep a series that has been around for ten years fresh can be a daunting task. You can keep doing the same old, same old and have one set fans continue to come back or, you can change things up and risk upsetting another set of fans. Its a tricky business and if we've learned anything about Nintendo fans and gamers in general, it is that they can be quite the fickle bunch. As much as they shout for innovation and new, game changing features, we've seen them slam the door on that stuff with the quickness. But that's a discussion for another time.

I honestly don't think Nintendo needs to reinvent the wheel to keep NSMB feeling fun and exciting. Case in point, Super Mario 3D World. I've seen some people scoff at the praise SM3DW has received, saying the game was not innovative. And to them I say, well, duh! And then I shake my head in disappointment because of how grossly misinformed these people are. Of course SM3DW wasn't innovative. Anyone that thinks SM3DW garnered the accolades it did for being innovative is not paying attention. SM3DW got the wondrous recognition that it id because of the level design. The game's levels are insanely fun, charming, creative, imaginative, and most important of all, unfamiliar. It is incredibly rare to play a course in SM3DW that plays just like one you've played before. One course has you speeding across boost pads in a level that was clearly inspired by the Mario Circuit courses from Super Mario Kart, another one has you sneaking past Goombas in an Japanese-like dojo. The only time you'll start to get a sense of deja vu is when you reach a few of the brutally hard special worlds.

Super Mario 3D World doesn't bring anything new
to the table but that game is so much more fun than the last few
installments of the New Super Mario Bros. games.

If you were to ask me if the NSMB games should incorporate some of SM3DW's non samey level design, the answer would be a resounding "Yes!"That game may have had the token, fire, ice, grass and sky levels on the surface. But once I set foot into some of those levels, I was taken by surprise. I thought for sure that World 3 was going to be nothing but slip sliding slopes, but only one level (the first one) was an actual ice themed stage. It was a pleasant surprise to have my expectations played with and that one ice level of World 3 was pretty dang fun. Just because the overworld map is all desert doesn't mean every stage has to be nothing but sand.

SM3DW was so much fun because it took elements from previous games. Some of the best things of the Super Mario universe came from the black sheep of the series, Super Mario Bros. 2. Mario, Luigi, Peach and Toad all play differently from one another and I was so happy to see that brought back in SM3DW. I think it is high time the NSMB games make each character control differently from one another. Actually, New Super Luigi U already did this by giving Luigi his higher jump and poor traction. The two Toads and Nabbit all controlled the same. I'm aware that this might take away from NSMBs simplicity a bit. but as it stands, the NSMB titles could stand to take some more risks and break away from that simplicity.

Only Luigi plays different but giving at least
one character different skills was a step in the right
direction for New Super Luigi U.

The NSMB games are also in desperate need of some new tunes. And I'm not talking about overworld map music. The sad truth is, the map music has changed far more than the stage music has. I love the Beach theme from New Super Mario Bros. Wii, but it's been used  in every game since its inception . The same goes for the Tower, Castle and Boss music from said game. We were fortunate to get a new Ground and Athletic Theme for New Super Mario Bros. U. Using the same themes since 2009 wreaks of laziness. Nintendo has some of the best musicians in the business. There is no reason for us to hear the same music in the next NSMB game.

One of Super Mario Maker's updates was keys. I love using keys as a means to get people to fight bosses, explore a level or block the path. Keys were a thing in SMB2 and to get one in that game, you had to run from Phantos. Why not bring that freaky mask back? He could be way more aggressive, shoot beams from his eyes and be a lot faster. Bring the Sniffets back while we're at it. We should be clobbering Shy Guys, too. What makes Pokey so special that he's one of the only SMB2 enemies to be included in the NSMB games?

On the subject of old enemies returning, how about some old power-ups? In New Super Mario Bros. 2, we saw the return of the Super Leaf. The Squirrel Suit is't too shabby but that let us glide, not fly. I can kind of see Nintendo's reluctance to not bring back the Cape Feather seeing as how broken the thing is. As busted as the Hammer Suit is, it doesn't let you skip entire levels and stay air born. And yes, I'd love to see the Hammer Suit come back.

A NSMB game will undoubtedly release on the NX. Despite all I've said, I really do enjoy the NSMB series, but I do hope Nintendo takes some more risks with the NX version.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Comic Book Fans Never Had It So Good

I have never been more excited to be a comic book fan than I am now. My love for comics has been renewed with a new perspective on the medium and I got another favorite super hero. There are a ton of reasons to be stoked for comic books right now. The only reason I could see someone not getting hyped is if they are dead.

There are a smorgasbord of high quality live action movies and TV shows for comic fans looking to get their super hero fix. CW has four nights in a row of comic book shows with Supergirl, The Flash, Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow. From what I hear, Arrow is getting better after the suckfest that was season four. Superman is finally making actual appearances on Supergirl and he's a really likable character, leaps and bounds better than than Zack Synder's version of Superman.

Marvel is killing it with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Captain America: Civil War was so much better than the comic book that it was inspired by. It probably helped that it was a loose adaptation of the graphic novel. Spider-Man was *ahem* spectacular in the movie and I cannot wait to see his solo movie next year. Dr. Strange looks like it's going to drop jaws and it already has me looking into picking up that sweet-looking Dr. Strange Funko Pop figure.

I should probably start watching Luke Cage already. My dad has already seen all of it and I'm the one that told him about it. Daredevil and Jessica Jones really impressed me and I already know Marvel is working their way up to the Defenders with Iron Fist dropping in 2017. And what I've wanted to happen finally is. Daredevil season one will release on Blu-ray in November. Nice to see Marvel's killer Netflix shows will be getting physical releases.

But it isn't just live action comic book adaptations that are making things great for comic geeks. Better availability of comic books always helps. DC has started releasing trade paperback golden and silver age versions of their key franchises like Superman, Batman, the Flash and the Justice League of America. The price of these books are pretty reasonable, too, ranging from $19.99 to $24.99. Not bad considering you get from over 300 to 400 plus pages of golden age/silver age comic goodness. I've been making my way through The Flash: The Silver Age Vol. 1 and I like it a lot. True, it is Barry Allen heavy, but DC has brought Geoff Johns Wally West Flash run back into print with books one and two already available and book three releasing in November. Mark Waid's run on the Flash will begin being collected in TPB format with the first volume dropping in December. Cannot wait.

Marvels TPBs tend to be more pricey. Most books in the Epic Collection line run the $34.99 to $39.99 route and are roughly the same amount of pages as DC's aforementioned golden age and silver age books. I find these are better purchased online as opposed to in stores to save some cash. At least some of Marvels older works are becoming more easily accessible. The Amazing Spider-Man Epic Collection: Great Power collects a good chunk of the Stan Lee & Steve Ditko Spidey run and is a much cheaper alternative than buying The Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus Vol. 1.

I feel I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the ever rising age of digital comics. After seeing ads for Comixology, I finally payed the site a visit. They've got tons of comics both new and old. I bought Spider-Man: Parallel lives and The Flash (vol. 1) #139 for chump change. I've always wanted to read Parallel Lives and I didn't feel like waiting until DC eventually made it to The Flash: The Silver Age Vol. 3 to read about the first appearance of The Reverse Flash. I can even snag a few books from Mark Waid's run if I get impatient and can't wait for December.

So we got stellar comic book shows, sweet flicks (on Marvel's end, at least) and comic book access has never been easier. I don't think there has ever been a better time to be a comic book fan than there is now. I'm off to read some silver age Flash stories and count the seconds until the next episode of the Flash hits the CW app.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Favorite Tunes #160: Here Comes a New Challenger

Aw yeah. You know what those five words mean. A new opponent has entered the ring. Yup, we've got music from fighting games this week. The only thing better than kicking the crap out of your opponent is doing it to some dope beats.

Those Who Fight (Version 2) - Ehrgeiz (PS)

This 3D fighter, released in 1998 and was famous for it's Quest mode. It was also notable for including Cloud, Tifa, Yuffie and Sepiroth from Final Fantasy VII as playable characters. It didn't get a digital release on the PSN outside of Japan and it isn't easy to track down a physical copy so expect to pay through the nose if you do. The game has some really cool and memorable music tracks, including an arrangement of FFVII's killer random battle theme. This track could have been in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. Totally missed opportunity.

Jun Kazama - Tekken 2 (Arcade)

The first Tekken game I played, Tekken 2, left a huge impression on me, helping me fully embrace 3D fighters. The PS had some killer arranged tracks from the arcade versions music, but the arcade score was also quite good. Hearing this kinda makes me wish Tekken's composers would go back to this style of music.

Hitohira Reminiscent of Ketsui No Toki - Dead or Alive 2 (ARC, DC, PS2)

Talk about girl power. DOA is primarily known for it's hot chicks with huge boobs and said boobs jiggle physics. I haven't played a DOA game since DOA2 so I've been out of touch with the series for a long time. I can still recall that game's fantastic soundtrack, however, which let to the first inclusion of music from the DOA games in Favorite Tuns. Kasumi was always my favorite of the DOA gals.

An Empty Tome - Castlevania Judgement (Wii)

Back on the Wii, Konami took a stab at turning Castlevania into a fighter. The results proved to be disastrous, but hey, at least they were doing something with the franchise back then. Besides, that game gave us some pretty sick remixed tracks.

Theme of Jeffrey - Virtua Fighter (ARC)

I wouldn't really get into Virtua Fighter until the release of Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution on the PS2, an updated version of VF4. The game included a bonus 1VF 10th Anniversary game as a bonus, which was how I became familiar with the classic VF themes. Pai is my VF main, but I love me some Jeffrey theme music.

Flash Train - Street Fighter EX2 (ARC)

With the subtitle for this Favorite Tunes, you'd think I would have gotten to Street Fighter a lot sooner. It was really tempting to fill this Favorite Tunes with Capcom fighters, but I thought I'd be more diverse and give fighters from other companies some time in the sun. The EX series are Capcom's 3D fighters co-developed by Arika, a company that unfortunately owns the rights to the non Capcom fighters. This is why we've never seen Skullomania or Doctrine Dark in SF games since SFEX3 in 2000. Anyway, the music in the EX games is nothing short of fantastic. EX2 Plus has arrangements of EX2's music, but EX2's original themes are still incredible.

Favorite Tunes Database

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Remix of the Week: Fear Factory Industrial Hysteria Remix

Newsflash: the music in the Donkey Kong Country games is awesome. I've heard a number of fan arrangements from the series over the years. This Industrial Hysteria Fear Factory remix has been on YouTube for over seven years but I didn't come across it until a few weeks ago. Bravo on this one, Vincent Rubinetti.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Memories #21: Street Fighter II

Being a kid, or just being alive and old enough to really experience some of the things that happened in 1991 was a pretty huge deal. Sonic the Hedgehog graced the gaming world, taking the number one spot from Nintendo and consumers realized the Sega Genesis was a thing. The Super Nintendo was released, I got one for Christmas and Super Mario World wowed me like no Mario game ever had before. And in the arcade scene, a fighting sequel was making waves so huge that the ripple effect can be felt to this day. Of course, I'm talking about Street Fighter II.

Capcom's revolutionary fighter set the world on fire. 8 fighters, each one playing different from the rest (except Ryu and Ken initially, that is), special moves, combos; this stuff was freaking amazing! Kids and adults alike were dumping quarters into SFII arcade cabinets to either beat the CPU or more than likely, beat the crap out of each other in the game's very competitive Vs. mode. Man, what a time to be alive! If there was an arcade machine to crowd around in 1991, SFII was it.

The iconic opening.
Just seeing this title screen is enough
to make fans overflow with nostalgia.

And while SFII was lighting up arcades, I was not on the scene. I  did visit my local arcades, but only rarely. Most of my gaming was done at home, I was unaware of SFII's existence during 199, but SFII fever did still manage to hit me during the peak of the SFII games popularity.

My friends Justin and Matt had gotten a SNES and one of the games that got to play with it was Street Fighter II. Justin and Matt were always really cool about letting me borrow their games, some that I wouldn't even ask to borrow. After Sunday school, Justin approached me with his copy of Street Fighter II, telling me I could borrow it for however long I wanted. At the time, I'd never even heard of SFII, but I thanked him for letting me borrow the game and the cover art of a KO'd Ryu and Chun-Li looking nervous at the attacking Blanka looked really freaking cool.

Look at this screen. You can already hear themusic in your head, can't you?

There are games you play that are unlike anything else you've ever seen. I didn't truly understand what Justin had placed in my hands that Sunday afternoon until I popped it in my SNES and started playing it. Super Mario World was impressive in many aspects, especially in the visuals, but SFII was like having an arcade machine in my house. Home console games had no business looking this good in 1992.

I didn't even bother playing the Vs, mode with my dad or my sister. In fact, I thought it was a while before I had even realized players could fight against each other. I went into the arcade mode and was blown away by the number of characters I could choose. Eight characters is a super tiny fight roster today, but in 1992, that was freaking huge. Super Mario Kart hadn't been released yet, so the most playable characters I was used to seeing at the time was four thanks to Super Mario Bros. 2. Most of the fighters all came from another country. Chun-Li was from China, Guile and Ken were from America, Ryu and E. Honda were from Japan, Zangief from Russia, Blanka from Brazil and Dhalsim was from India. I liked the idea that these fighters gathered from all over the world to throw down.

I guess you could say Honda is... hard headed. No? OK.
Typical first fight with Bison. You always end up getting screwed.

Making my way through the Arcade mode, I just mashed buttons like a scrub. I had no idea that you could block and knew nothing of executing special moves or that special moves even existed. I was so amazed that you could move across the screen, punching and kicking your opponent. The concept of low, medium and highs were things that wouldn't become part of my SF knowledge for a few more years, but not knowing the intricacies of the game didn't stop me from loving it.

Every now and then I'd run into an opponent who would give me a hard time. Zangief with his numerous graple moves was always something of a hurdle for me to jump over, but the eight world warriors weren't too tough to take down. It was when their character portraits were all grayed out and four new contenders showed up that I really began to struggle.

The four bosses of SFII, or the Grand Masters, Four Devas as they are sometimes referred to, were the toughest bosses I'd ever faced in gaming at that stage in my life. Anyone that's set out to conquer SFII's arcade mode knows full well what I'm talking about. Before I'd even touched an SNK game, I'd gotten a taste of how SNK bosses operated thanks to SFII. Balrog, Vega, Sagat and M. Bison. These names are firmly etched into the minds of gamers all over the planet due to merciless beatings they dished out.

With his headbuts, and dash punches, Balrog would fit right in with the Punch-Out!! cast. I don't think I ever avoided by caught by Vega when he leaps from the fence. Much as I hated Balrog and Vega, I hated Sagat even more. That freaking Tiger Shot would always keep me at bay and when I tried to get close Sagat would unleash a Tiger Uppercut. But worse than all of them, was SFII's big bad, M. Bison. Scissor Kick, Head Stomp, Psycho Crusher; this guy had a move to counter everything you used on him. The bosses of SFII make me glad I didn't try to complete the Arcade mode on a coin-op machine.

If you didn't throw your opponent when they were
dizzy, you were doing it wrong.

Maybe its because the bosses were so tough that beating them felt so darn good. One of the many things I love about SFII was the beat up character portraits of the fighters when the battle is over. Seeing Balrog, Vega, Sagat and Bison bloodied and bruised is enough to fill anyone with glee. After all that taunting they did, I finally got to gloat and see them look like I beat

In 1993, I heard about Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting in Nintendo Power. The third version of SFII, the reason I was looking forward to this game was because I could play as the four bosses. Since they handed me so many Ls, I couldn't wait to step into their shoes. This was still during the time where I didn't really look into the character's special moves, but I still had fun playing as Sagat and Bison as they suited my play style far more than Vega and Balrog.

1993 was also the same year I saw a SFII arcade machine for the first time, I believe it was Champion Edition, the first SFII update. This was also the first time I saw the game's opening. You know the one, where two guys are about to go at it and the white back decks the black guy? Good stuff. I distinctly remember the music sounding different from what I was normally used to since my SFII experience was primarily console based. The CPSI soundtrack was much heavier than the SNES score and it would take years before I actually started to like it.

Beat up Sagat is best Sagat.
You don't look so handsome now, Vega.

Speaking of SFII music, it is impossible to talk about SFII and not touch on the game's soundtrack. Yes, SFII's music did sound different on the SNES, but I loved it. SFII's score played a huge part in making me appreciate video game music just as the Mega Man, Super Mario and Sonic games did. With all of the figthers coming from different parts of the world, it felt perfectly natural to give each warrior a theme that reflected their country. Ryu, the SF mascot, had a heroic, yet ancient Japanese theme to go with his level, Blanka's music had used bongo drums to give it a primal air, but the flute gave it a feel of elegance as well. Chun-Li's theme was jovial, meshing well with the busy market place of China. You fought Balrog in Las Vegas, so it isn't too surprising that his music was as lively.

By the time 1994 rolled around, Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers was coming home to the SNES and Genesis. I was wondering what was Capcom's strange obsession with the number 2 and why they wouldn't just stick a III at the end of Street Fighter. I remember being at Matt and Justin's house spending the night. They had rented the SNES version of SSFII and this is when I finally saw one of the game's endings and heard Cammy's amazing theme. After all these years, I still think the SNES version of Cammy's theme is the best one, even better than the arcade version. SSFII was the first game in the SFII series to be made on Capcom's CPSII hardware and as  result, the music is pretty different from CPSI hardware. This also meant SSFII on the SNES and Genesis sounded different as well. Matt had beaten the game on four stars with Sagat and it was hear that I found out that Sagat had a serious beef with Ryu, giving him that huge scar on his chest.

In the early to mid 2000s, SFII fever hit me all over again with the release of Street Fighter Anniversary Collection and Capcom Classics Collection Vol. 1 and 2. Street Fighter Anniversary Collection was released to celebrate the 15th anniversary of SFII and contained Hyper Street Fighter II, a game that let you choose each version of every fighter from every version of SFII. This meant SFII Ryu could fight Super Turbo Ryu, Champion Edition Sagat could Fight Hyper Fighting Bision and so on. Great for playing with a friend, but not so much solo. Trying to beat HSFII's arcade mode was an exercise in frustration because the computer would always default to Super Turbo and ST's AI is relentlessly cheap.

With Capcom Classics Collection Vol. 1 and 2, I got my first major exposure to the arcade versions of SFII, Champion Edition  and Hyper Fighting and Super Turbo. Capcom Classics Vol. 1had some cool options such as the ability to change the audio from CPSI to CPSII. I'd always keep it on CPSII because at the time, I hadn't adjusted to the CPSI sound font. Still a few more years off before that would happen. Capcom Classics Vol. 2 had Super Turbo, which my friends and I got a lot of fun out of. In particular, my friend Justin Sivak really honed those fighting game skills. I could never beat him in all our Super Turbo fights but he always be up for a game regardless.

I've never played SFII or any of its updates competitively. I tried, but just didn't have the patience to invest all the time and energy it takes to get that good. My adoration for SF didn't lessen, though. Because of SFII, I became interested in fighting games. I know some competitive players might be reading this and scoffing, but fighters don't have to be played on a tournament level to be enjoyable. Because of SFII, I looked into the numerous spin off SF titles like the Alpha series, EX, and numerous Capcom crossovers. Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike is one of my favorite SF games despite the fact that I don't play on a pro level. I don't even wanna think of what my gaming life would be like if I never touched SFII all those years ago. The SFII series hit 25 years old this year and I really hope SF sticks around for another 25 years to keep those new challengers coming.

Friday, October 7, 2016

That One Boss Vol. 2

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

Boobeam Trap - Mega Man 2 (NES)

I love Mega Man 2 but I've made mention that the game's faults are not pointed out nearly enough. It has some positively splendid level design, memorable Robot Masters and a ridiculously catchy soundtrack. But the game us also very cruel to players that get a game over and it has one boss in the Dr. Wily stages that is just flat out badly designed. Aggravation, thy name is Boobeam Trap.

Make it past the invisible floors over spike pits, elevator rides surrounded by Tellys, a gauntlet of Sniper Joes and you'll come face to face with the boss of Dr. Wily Stage 4, Boobeam Trap, a highly unusual boss. Boobeam Trap consists of five turret-like guns that fire off unbelievably fast, near unavoidable shoots at you every few seconds. It doesn't matter where you are in the boss chamber, the shots will always lock on to you. As far as I know, the only way to avoid being hit by these things is to use Mega Man's teleport whenever you pause the game at the right time. Doesn't make Boobeam Trap any less annoying, though.

This is the first boss in the game that can only be defeated with a specific weapon, in this case, the Crash Bombs. None of your other weapons, including the Mega Buster, will work. If you aren't aware of how many Crash Bombs you can use before the weapon's ammo is depleted, the answer is seven. Wanna know how many Crash Bombs you gotta use to defeat Boobeam Trap? Seven. That basically means, no screw ups here. While there are only five targets you need to destroy to defeat the boss, you have to use a few of your Crash Bombs to get to said targets. Not all of those barriers need to be destroyed so beginners can get tricked into wasting valuable Crash Bomb energy. Bear in mind that Crash Bombs take a few seconds to detonate so you will be vulnerable to attacks. Oh, and these things cause a lot of damage when they hit you.

If you die on this boss, which is more than likely to happen for novice MM2 players, you'll be sent back to the stage's midway point and have to farm for Crash Bomb ammo and Dr. Wily Stage 4 is not a particularly fun stage. When I found out that I needed all my Crash Bombs to beat this boss as kid and that I had to farm for more energy, I was silently livid. I had no more Energy Tanks and any desire I had to press on further to beat the game was gone. I turned off my NES and walked away. I don't care how much you love this game, Boobeam Trap is just a poorly designed boss that should in no way be defended.

Moldorm - The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES)

Often considered the greatest game in the long running Legend of Zelda Series, this is certainly one of the overhead or 2D Zelda's best outings. But as great as it is, it also has a few things I detest. The Water Dungeon in the Dark World can suck it and Moldorm is the type of boss that no one should ever have to deal with, especially in a game as polished as this one.

Moldorm, a big worm-like creature, awaits Link at the end of the Tower of Hera. The Tower of Hera is an interesting dungeon. The game already established that Link can at times access floors below him without taking stairs, but in this dungeon, it really becomes pronounced. You see, it is the floor falling mechanic that makes tangling with Moldorm so frustrating.

The battle with Moldorm takes place on the top floor of the Tower of Hera with an inconveniently placed hole in the center and no walls surrounding the combat arena. Moldorm's only weak point is his tail. Touch any other part of him by attack or from collision damage and Link gets knocked back, which can easily fling you into the hole in the center or off the side of the platform. Now you actually won't die from falling off the arena. You'll have to climb to the top floor again, which is pretty painless. What is not painless, however, is when you get back to Moldorm. Whatever damage you inflicted on Moldorm will be reset and you'll have to start the battle from scratch. This happens each and every time you fall off the platform. To make matters worse, Moldorm moves faster the more damage he takes. When he's almost kaput, his movements become really erratic and you really don't want to fall off that platform when he gets like this. Moldorm really isn't even a tough boss, The conditions that you have to fight him under make him a chore even for players that have run through the game numerous times.

Mr. Sandman - Super Punch-Out!! (SNES)

Seeing someone use their incredible, well honed skills in a Punch-Out!! game is really something. These kinda of players can knock out the toughest of opponents in seconds. To the rest of us that aren't Punch-Out!! masters, guys like Aran Ryan and Great Tiger are still going to give us trouble. Mr. Sandman has always been a nightmare for me to face in both the NES and SNES version of Punch-Out!! (haven't faced him in the Wii game yet), but he really left his mark on me in Super Punch-Out!!

Of all the characters that could have been the final opponent of the Major Circuit, they just had to choose Mr. Sandman. The Punch-Out!! games are full of fierce fighters, but Mr. Sandman wears that tough exterior all around him. I forgot he was from Philadelphia, which actually explains a lot. A lot of hard cases came out of Philly, so it all makes sense that Mr. Sandman is mean personified.

Mr. Sandman can take a punch just as well as he can give one. You may as well be hitting the guy with crumbled up paper because your punches do so little damage to him but his punches do a lot of damage to you. Unless you mix up your punches from highs to lows, you'll have a hard time connecting. Mr. Sandman doesn't unload everything he has right away.  No, he saves the really hard hitting stuff for later. The big guns I speak of are three nasty uppercuts in a row. I've never had a boss make my arms hurt from just trying to topple them but Mr. Sandman is a special kind of opponent and as much as I hate him, I must give credit when it is due.

Jinpachi - Tekken 5 (PS2)

Heihachi has seldom been a pushover when he's a boss in the Tekken games. So I guess it only makes sense that his old man, Jinpachi is one tough bruiser as well. But where as Heihachi took some degree of skill to topple and wasn't possessed by an evil entity, Jinpachi is not only revved up on some of that evil energy mojo, he's really, really cheap, too.

Jinpachi's blows are like a bomb going off right in front of your face, taking off huge chunks of damage if they connect. You may think keeping your distance would be a wise idea, but I've often found that when you put distance between yourself and Jinpachi, you're screwed. Jinpachi has a devastaing projectile that can spread across the whole screen for anyone that likes to play keep away. This thing does so much damage that it's on par with M. Bison's Psycho Crusher from Street Fighter Alpha 3. You wanna win against this cheepo, stay on top of him an don't give him a chance to breath.

Remix of the Week: Stage 1 (America) Double Dragon 3 CPSII Re-Arrange

Double Dragon III is, well, how shall we say, not a good game. What is good, however, is the music. The game's soundtrack may not get as much attention as the beats from the first or second game, but unlike the game itself, the music isn't something that should be slept on. McQueen has an arrangement of the game's first level theme in stellar Capcom CPSII format.

Download the remix here.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Favorite Tunes #159: Rise of the Super Heroes

Tonight, season three of one of my favorite shows begins, The Flash! I've eagerly been anticipating it since the finale of season two and look forward to seeing how the show's version of Flashpoint will turn out. In honor of the occasion, this Favorite Tunes is super hero themed.

Theme of Captain America - Marvel vs. Capcom: Clash of Super Heroes (ARC, DC, PS)

Red, white and blue will turn you black and blue. Who doesn't love playing as Cap, throwing that shield around like a giant boomerang? Before Super Smash Bros. released, Marvel vs. Capcom was the biggest video game crossover. Mega Man and Spider-Man on the same team against Ryu and Wolverine? How awesome is that?

Fight! Alkaiser - SaGa Frontier (PS)

The SaGa games have never received the acclaim that the Final Fantasy titles did. Those Final Fantasy Legend games on the Game Boy? Actually SaGa titles under a different name. Regardless, the SaGa titles do have their good points, like splendid music. Kenji Ito is responsible for much of the series music and he did the first PS title a world of justice. Red, one of the seven playable characters has a super cool alter ego known as Alkaiser that he can change into during battle as long as his party members aren't watching.

Blade Master (Electric Sword Demon Alastor's Theme) - Viewtiful Joe (GCN, PS2)

Viewtiful Joe was a wonderful and punishing treat for old-school gamers. This cel shaded game was a throw back to beat 'em up fans that threw in some new elements to the genre like speeding up and slowing down time to have different affects on Joe's combat abilities as well as the certain parts of the levels themselves. The game was also a little harder than it needed to be by not giving you the option of saving after every level.

Boss - Sonic Blast Man (SNES)

Even by super hero standards, Sonic Blast Man is a weirdly dressed dude. I mean, boxing gloves? I guess that makes sense with punching being his thing. He also has no idea how to do the whole hero thing. Rather than remove people from oncoming danger like trains and trucks, he destroys said vehicles, killing the people in them in the process. And he still gets thanks every time for his actions.

Savage Land (Theme of Wolverine) - X-Men: Children of the Atom (ARC, SAT, PS)

Are the X-Men still getting good licensed deals on games? I haven't been keeping up with the mutants much these days. You really couldn't go wrong with an X-Men fighter back in the day. Well, unless you were playing the PS version. I know Wolverine is overexposed these days and I was hesitant to put his theme up here at first, but after hearing it again for the first time in a long time, I had to give Snikt Bub his due.

The Won-Stoppable Wonderful 101 - The Wonderful 101 (Wii U)

Some people seem to be under the belief that The Wonderful 101 is a third party game because Platinum developed it. This is a Nintendo IP. Yes, Platinum did make it, but the game, characters and whatnot are all owned by Nintendo. Sadly, the game was not advertised well and because of Nintendo fans not knowing it was a first party title, it was a retail bomb.

Favorite Tunes Database

Monday, October 3, 2016

Splatoon: Snipers

Stop me if you've heard this one before. You're in inking turf, getting the whole area nice and covered. When all of a sudden, SPLAT! Your Inkling lets out a cry, returning to the spawn point. What happened? No enemy Inklings were near you and the game was showing no signs of lag. Then the camera pans over to show you the cause of your discomfort. 

Oh. You. We meet again. You, you, you, you! It's always YOU! 

Snipers are the bane of my existence in Splatoon. Having them on your team is great, especially if they happen to be quite adept at the talent. But when you're going against a skilled sniper, it can make for an unpleasant experience.  

Snipers have the greatest range of any weapon in the game, capable of splatting you without entering close confrontation. Even if they don't land a lot of kills, you should never take a sniper lightly because of what they bring to the team. A sniper can keep you at bay or worse, locked into your own base, allowing the enemy team to keep turf on the outside. Disposing of an especially skilled sniper can turn the tide in your favor and should become a high priority if they keep giving you trouble.

R.I.P. Unsuspecting Inkling. Splatted because he
didn't turn around.

I see a plethora of videos on YouTube about tips on sniping, but I've hardly seen any that offer advice on how to counter a sniper. I get it, lots of people love to snipe in this game, but it isn't everyone's bag so how about throwing us non snipers a bone? No? Oh, um, well, OK then.

I'm no Splatoon master but I do have a year's worth of experience under my belt and a B- on Rank that I sweat blood and tears to get. The least I can do is give my two cents on handling snipers.

Pay attention. I know that should go without saying but many snipers in Splatoon catchy their prey because they aren't paying enough mind. They can be so caught up with inking turf, splatting an opponent or getting on the tower, that they are totally unaware that a sniper has them in their sights. You get to see the enemy team before the match begins for a reason and that is to eye what kind weapons you'll be up against. The type of charger a sniper is using should be taken into account. The E-Liter's are a pain because they boast the greatest range of any charger. And the width they cover with a fully charged shot is nasty. You can quickly veer to the left or right to try to avoid being hit but more often not, you'll end up shot because they already saw you and it was too late. The one saving grace is that E-Liters has the laser sight so this can give you a rough estimate of their position. Splat Chargers are arguably worse than the E-Liters. The view of the Splat Charger is narrow and it doesn't have as much range, but because they don't have a laser sight, its very easy for these kinds of snipers to be close by and go undetected. 

As Peppy Hare once said, use bombs wisely. Bombs are an invaluable sub weapon in Splatoon and are my favorite to fight with. If you're using bombs, Bomb Up is a must for Gear. That extra range really comes in handy for chasing off snipers and really just in general. My preferred bombs are Splat Bombs but I can Suction and Burst Bombs are good too. If you've got Bomb Rush as your Special, you can always force a sniper to flee. Sometimes making a sniper back off is just as good as eliminating them because it can give your teammates a chance to move in. If you manage to somehow combine your Special with your a teammates, you might have a better chance of splatting them. On Moray Towers, a sniper was trying to keep us from taking over the middle area and advancing up the enemy side. I used activated my Splat Bomb Bomb Rush Special and force him to jump towards the center. Then, my teammate used his Ink Strike to bomb the center, meaning I had a front row seat to see the enemy sniper get splatted. 

If you've never used a Dual or Jet Squelcher, I recommend learning because these things are great for picking off snipers. The Dual Squelcher doesn't have the fire rate of the Jet variety, but the range is freaking awesome. On the other end, the Jet Squelcher has less range but a higher rate of fire. Alternatively, Splatlings are also effective against taking on a sniper's range, but they may take some more getting used to with the charge times and movement.

Snipers may want you to think that they are these unstoppable, team-killing juggernauts. They aren't. While the snipers posses incredible range, these players are squids like the rest of us and can be splatted like anyone else.