Search This Blog

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Favorite Tunes #194: The Platform Boys are Back in Town

Super Mario, Sonic the Hedgehog and Crash Bandicoot. Three of the biggest names in platforming, all of which had or have big games coming out this year, making 2017, a great year for platform fans. Besides, some platform kings, there's also music from Final Fight and Rad Mobile.

Level 4 (Venus) - Descent (PC, PS)

Descent was one of my earliest entries into 3D gaming. It was a one of the first FPS I ever experienced and it was the first time I ever got motion sickness from a video game. The AI could learn and adapt to your attacks, which was pretty impressive stuff for the times. And of course, the soundtrack was killer.

Fall Head Over Heal - Rad Mobile (ARC)

If Rad Mobile is remembered for anything, it would have to be it's killer soundtrack with a few, ahem, interesting track names that I'll probably get around to posting sometime in the future. The other thing Rad Mobile is famous for is that it is the first game that Sonic appeared in. It's a cameo appearance but Sonic was a air freshener before running around in Green Hill Zone in 1991.

Katana - Final Fight (SNES)

Originally concieved as part of the Street Fighter series, Final Fight broke off and became it's own animal, but was still set in the Street Fighter universe. When it came time to bring the arcade hit to the SNES, this version was hit some some serious santization. The two player mode was removed, among other things and the boss of the second level, Sodom, was changed to Katana. The SNES sound chip is understandably different from Capom's arcade boards, but I still dig the SNES renditions of Final Fight's music. Gotta love that guitar whaling in this theme.

Treetop - Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins (GB)

When thinking of some music to represent gaming's most iconic plumber, I was originally going to spring for something from his console releases, but decided to go for one his earlier handheld titles on the Game Boy. Super Mario Land 2 has a wonderful soundtrack that reuses it's main theme to great affect. This is still some Kazumi Totaka's best stuff.

The Eel Deal - Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy (PS4)

While Crash's long awaited return is in the form of remakes, it is no less a joyous occasion. The Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy has done remarkably well and could pave the way for brand new Crash adventures. Despite the copious amounts of frustration I've endured, I've really enjoyed my time with N. Sane Trilogy. The instrumentation for the sewer levels may not quite match that of the original game, but I find this version playing in my head more than the PS original.

Tabloid Jargon (Press Garden Act 1) - Sonic Mania (PS4, XBO, NS, PC)

I actively avoided hearing any remixed or brand new music in Sonic Mania leading up to it's release because I wanted my experience with it to be as fresh as possible. Tee Lopes blew us all away a year ago with his Studiopolis Zone Act 1 track and it's probably still his most popular track from the game. When I arrived in Press Garden Zone, I could not believe the music that my ears was being blessed with. More over, Studiopolis Zone Act 1, there's a new king of Sonic Mania tunes, at least as far as I'm concerned.

Favorite Tunes Database

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Sonic Mania Effect

When Sonic Mania was revealed a year ago, the reception was overwhelmingly positive. A brand new 2D Sonic game done in the spirit of the early Genesis era titles. Developed by the same team that brought us those outstanding iOS/Android Sonic the Hedgehog 1-2 and Sonic CD remakes, there was little to no doubt that Sonic Mania would be a phenomenal game. Now the game is out and it has been scoring 8s and 9s, which is of course, splendid news. Having spent some quality time with the game myself. I can say that it does live up to the hype. Unfortunately, Sonic Mania's success has caused some to once again hop on to the ridiculous notion that Sonic games have been terrible since the character entered 3D, leading to eye rolling, click bait videos like WhatCultureGaming's "Sonic Mania Finally Nails What Sega Messed Up for 23 Years."

Nostalgia, as warm a feeling as it is, can a be very blinding. It can cause one to focus on nothing but the good, completely dismissing or even failing to acknowledge any faults. Whether it is with critics or fans, many Sonic players suffer from one of the worst cases of selective memory that I have ever seen.

While Sonic's heyday may ave been the early 1990s, even those games had their fair share of flaws. Sonic 2, what many consider to be the best Sonic game puts the camera focus on Sonic at all times and Sonic's sprite is pretty dang large. because the camera is centered on the Blue Blur, enemies often get the drop on you. Mystic Cave Zone has an infamous spike pit that's easy to fall into, Metropolis Zone is home to to some of the worst Badniks in any Sonic game, often placed in the worst spots and the aforementioned camera focus only compounds this problem. The first Sonic game had level design and a speed cap that mitigated surprise enemy attacks, something Sonic 2 fails at.

It isn't unusual to hear Sonic CD being labeled as the best Sonic game ever. The game has some cool, interesting concepts like time travel and the levels encourage exploration even more than Sonic 2, but the zones in Sonic CD are some of the worst of any Sonic game. I'm not saying that to make a bold statement or get people riled up. I'm serious as a heart attack when I say that. Collision Chaos takes the pinball nature of earlier Sonic games and goes way too far, culminating with a boss fight that can either be finished in seconds or be drawn out. Wacky Workbench has a crazy floor mechanic that sends the player bouncing sky high, making it exasperating to play through. Metallic Madness is a maze that's irritating to navigate because so much of it looks the same. To make matters worse, Sonic CD's stages are loaded with more springs and spikes than in any other Sonic game and springs are often positioned to where they will launch you into said spikes or an enemy. Stardust Speedway is one of the zones from Sonic CD that was used in Sonic Mania and when I arrived there, I was met with a sense of dread. The same annoyances from Sonic CD cropped up when I played the level in Sonic Mania for both acts. Stardust Speedway is a mess of a level that has you bouncing back and forth from springs and curves more than anything else. I can appreciate Stardust Speedway from a cosmetic and audio standpoint, but that's pretty much it. It has always been a crappy level and as much as I like Sonic Mania, the level's inclusion (with the exception of the killer Metal Sonic fight) is a low point for me.

Do those mars make Sonic 2 and Sonic CD awful games? No. Sonic CD doesn't crack my top 5, but I certainly would never call it bad. However, these games do have problems, problems that have been ignored by both fans and critics time and time again. Any 3D Sonic game that has the issues I mentioned above are heavily scrutinized. So why do Sonic's earliest games get a pass on this stuff while his 3D games with camera troubles, cheap deaths and whatnot get crucified? Just because one style of games gives you the warm and fuzzies does not make them immune to criticism.

Things labeled against the early 3D Sonic titles are usually the voice acting and bad cameras. Sonic Adventure, Sonic Adventure 2 and Sonic Heroes like any other games released during the periods are products of their time. How many games released at the time actually did have good voice acting, good lip syncing or a camera that didn't suck? Mega Man 8's voice acting is well known for being atrocious at this point but Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, a game held in very high regard, had a lackluster voice acting. Even Super Mario 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of time had camera problems. Yes, the first Sonic Adventure is glitchy, but some of those glitches you have to go out of your way to trigger. Dunkey brought up the glitches of Sonic Adventure when reviewing Sonic Mania, and this struck me as odd because one of his favorite Mario games is Super Mario Sunshine, a game that is rife with glitches and a host of other problems. Not enough to make Sunshine bad, but you can tell that his bias is clearly showing when he's willing to let early 3D Mario get away with it, but not early 3D Sonic.

This lovely thing called "middle ground" gets tossed out the window for a lot of people when it comes classic and modern Sonic games. It's either good or bad, and when it comes to these games, often the case being good if it' a classic game and bad if it's a modern game and I've never understood that.

Sonic Mania is not perfect. It's still possible to suffer from some cheap deaths and due to SEGA's meddling, we've got numerous Act 1 stages that are basically ripped from old games, which means a good chunk of the levels are not original. It also includes one of the worst zones in a Sonic game. Despite those problems, though, Sonic Mania is still an awesome game. Best Sonic game ever? I'm not ready to make such a claim this early, but it is shaping up to be one of my favorite games of 2017. I'd love to see more Sonic games like Mania, but at the same time, I don't feel the entire franchise should be dictated by it because contrary to what many would have you believe, Sonic can be good outside of two dimensions.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Speeding Towards Adventure: 25 Years of Sonic the Hedgehog

OverClocked ReMix has done a number of Sonic albums over the years like Hedgehog Heaven, Project Chaos and Temporal Duality. The latest in the line of soundtracks to center around the Blue Blur is for his big 25th anniversary, which was actually last year, but whatever. Speeding Towards Adventure: 25 Years of Sonic the Hedgehog (whew, that's a long title) was released on June 22, so like just like this album and Sonic Mania, I, to, am late with this blog post.

What I really like about this album, outside of the excellent arrangements, is that it covers a good chunk of Sonic's history. Not only are Sonic's early days represented in the form of Sonic 1-3 and even the 8-bit version of Sonic the Hedgehog, but Sonic's later adventures like Sonic 2006, Sonic Heroes, Sonic Colors and Sonic Lost World get some love. There's a variety of genres covered across this three disc digital album including two of my favorites, jazz and rock. The third disc is the shortest of the bunch, consisting of a club edit and two instrumental tracks on the other two discs.

If you haven't checked this album out, give it a listen. A lot of effort went into this thing and I firmly believe it is near the top of the list of the best Sonic albums OCR has put out. Besides, you could use you sweet Sonic tunes to listen to while you count the hours down until Sonic Mania's release.

Speeding Towards Adventure: 25 Years of Sonic the Hedgehog

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Favorite Tunes #193: Surf Punks

Inching ever closer to 200, this week's Favorite Tunes is a dozy. There's from consoles, handhelds, the 8-bit era as well as current gen titles. I even picked out some music from a very infamous kickstarter title. Three guesses as to which game that is.

The Silence of Daylight - Castlevania II: Simon's Quest (NES)

Castlevania II has not enjoyed the same level of fame that the original or it's sequel has. While far from being one of the worst games on the NES, Castlevania II is rife with Guide Dang It movements that make it hard to enjoy the game. Bloody Tears is often the first track that springs to mind when music from this game comes to mind, but really, this game is filled with great tracks like Monster Dance and this town theme.

Surf Punks - Conker Live & Reloaded (XB)

One of the last games to be released for the N64, Conker's Bad Fur Day would later be remade for the Xbox, which fans are quick to label as an inferior remake due to swearing being censored even more. I'm not going to weigh in on that argument, but I will say that the original had some great music and a lot of it benefits from the real instruments used in the remake, especially tracks like Windy and another of my personal faves, Surf Punks.

What the Heck - Earthworm Jim: Special Edition (SCD, PC)

Much how shooters are everywhere today, back in the 1990s, platformers were in no short supply and after the debut of Sonic the Hedgehog, emphasis on mascots with attitude really kicked into high gear. There were copious amounts of also-rans, but there were some real contenders in the bunch like Earthworm Jim. The Special Edition release of the first game had an arranged soundtrack that took advantage of the improved CD-based hardware. Nothing like going through a level that is clearly meant to be Hell only to have the background music have the record scratch and turn to something peaceful. With a side of screams.

It All Begins Now - Mighty No. 9 (Multi)

You cannot talk about Mighty No. 9 without bringing up the controversy that surrounds it. What began as a very promising kickstarter that was funded in a few days back in 2013, spiraled out of control and led to a game that wouldn't be released for three years, a very flawed game at that. Mighty No. 9 certainly isn't Beck at his finest, but there's some good in there. You may not be able to tell during gameplay, but the soundtrack isn't too shabby.

Opening - Style Savvy: Trendsetters (3DS)

I found out about the existence of this game by scrolling through My Music in Super Smash Bros. Wii U. Style Savvy: Trendsetters is actually the second game in the Style Savvy series with the original being released on the original DS. The third game, Fashion Forward finally made it's release outside of Japan in 2016. You could dismiss these as casual games for girls (the series is actually called Girls Mode in Japan) but you'd be wrong. No doubt you've heard the remix of this theme in Smash, so here's the original.

Infinite Azure - Tekken 7 (PS4, XBX, PC)

Will those Mishima boys ever settle their differences? Probably not. If there's no Mishima drama going on, where's your Tekken story? Some have argued that Tekken music has gotten worse over the years, favoring the soundtracks from the earlier Tekken titles. Tekken 7's soundtrack can get quite drum 'n bass and dubstep heavy (the later genre, something most people tend to hate) but there's some good music to be found. This track is very much a throwback to the type of music you'd hear in Tekken 2.

Favorite Tunes Database

Friday, August 11, 2017

Tekken 7's Jukebox Mode is One of the Game's Best Features

By no means am I competitive fighting game player but I've been a fan of the Tekken series ever since I played Tekken 2 on the PlayStation in 1996. I've played just about every entry that has made it to consoles except Tekken 6 and while I'm a few months late to the party (as per usual), I finally picked up Tekken 7 earlier this week. The game has more Mishima drama then all the previous Tekken games put together, tons of old faces along with a few new ones (I'm liking Lars a lot), and as always, it feels great landing combos on your opponents. Maybe it's the sound effects used, but there's just something so satisfying about connecting hits. And for all the great technical and gameplay stuff Tekken 7 has going for it, I found myself getting super jazzed about the PS4 version's Jukebox mode.

Anyone that reads this blog knows how much I love video game music. Can't get enough of the stuff. Just as I became a fan of Tekken's 3D fighting back in the mid '90s, so too did I become a fan of it's music. When I booted up Tekken 7, I was met with a pleasant surprise in the form of Jukebox mode. This mode allows you to make playlists featuring the music from every single Tekken entry that was given a console release. That's Tekken 1-6, Tekken Tag Tournament 1-2 as well as the music from Tekken 7. This also includes the arcade versions of Tekken 1-3 as well as Tekken Tag Tournament. That's a whole lot of Tekken beats to choose from.

Tekken 7 does have some good music but a lot of it is on the "too loud" side, almost to the point of some tracks being not much else besides noise. So you can imagine what an amazing feature the Jukebox mode is. Not only can you replace Tekken 7's more grating tracks, but the music in previous Tekken games is just really freaking awesome. Some of my favorite tracks from past Tekkens include include Ring a Bell (Tekken 2), For Hidden Characters (Tekken 3), The Strongest Iron Arena (Tekken 4, and Poolside (Tekken 5). 

You can select whatever song you want from any of the above listed Tekken games to play on any of the stages in Tekken 7, two songs per stage. However, It isn't just limited to stage music. Like Tekken 2's PS arrange of the character select theme, Are You Ready? Or what about Tekken Tag Tournament's PS2 arrange of Character Select? You can throw down to both of those. Even the numerous Staff Roll themes can be selected. If you don't feel like going through Tekken 7's many stages and hand picking a bunch of tracks, you can just set it up so it only plays music from a specific Tekken game such as Tekken 5 or Tekken Tag Tournament 2.

The amount of music options Tekken 7 gives you is astounding. Well, for the PS4 release, that is. I have no idea why such a feature is exclusive to the PS4 and XBO and PC owners get screwed. Maybe Sony thew some money to Bandai Namco to keep the Jukebox mode on PS4. Your guess is as good as mine. Hopefully, this feature hits other versions of Tekken 7. Along with the fighting, having complete freedom of your music in Tekken 7 is an incredible feature, one of the game's best.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Favorite Tunes #192: Hard Road

Favorite Tunes is back to the usual Saturday slot. In time I may switch it to a later day, but for now, Saturday is it's home date. For this week, I've selected music from Rave Racer, ARMS, and Cave Story to name half the list.

Scrapyard (Mechanica's Theme) - ARMS (NS)

As much as I enjoy hearing ARMS Main Theme get arranged many times over, it was quite refreshing to hear some tracks break away from it. Battling in the scrapyard treats you to a funky, dance-tastic beat. If I had to pick a favorite stage theme in ARMS, it would be pretty close between Ribbon Girl and Mechanica.

Wrong Love - Rave Racer (ARC)

Unlike Ridge Racer and Ridge Racer Revolution, Rave Racer never received a PS port. Rave Racer's two brand new courses were included in the PSP Ridge Racer 2005 release as well as a few remixed tracks from the game. Sadly, none of the original songs from Rave Racer have ever been included in any Ridge Racer title outside of the original Rave Racer. Sucks because Rave Racer's soundtrack is really freaking good.

Gravity - Cave Story (Multi)

Originally released on PC in 2004, Cave Story later landed on Nintendo platforms starting with the Wii in 2010. The latest release is Cave Story+ for the Switch, a port of the 2011 Steam release with a remade soundtrack by RushJet1. One of the many great things about Cave Story+ is that includes it all of the remade soundtracks as well as Daisuke Amaya's original score.

Scene 2 Stage 3 - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (ARC)

Often hailed as one of the best Turtles and licensed games, Konami's beat 'em up  was a shell of a good time (I am not sorry for that). You could partner up with three buddies or three strangers in the arcades to show Shredder what's up. This bad boy finally recieved a home release in 2007 on Xbox Live Arcade but the game was removed years ago, making MAME the only option for anyone wanting to play this arcade classic. Much of the music was 1980s synth goodness, often arranging the main theme of 1987 cartoon show.

Korok Forest (Day) - The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Wii U, NS)

Exploring has never felt better in a Zelda game and there a numerous methods of taking out enemies, weapons in hands or not. After going through one of the coolest versions of The Lost Woods, you'll arrive in Korok Forest, home to the Korok race. There are a few arranged themes in Breath of the Wild, but most of the songs are original tracks and I'm all for new music. This just might be my new favorite Lost Woods jam.

Hard Road - Super Hang-On (ARC)

While being different games, Super Hang-On and Out Run do share some similarities. Both games take you around the world and offer an blistering sense of speed thanks to SEGA's Super Scaler technology. Like Out Run, Super Hang-On has a super soundtrack. The game let's you choose from four tunes and each song is quite lengthy. If you're picking the Expert course, which consists of 18 stages total, then you've just gotta have Hard Road as your listening music.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Cave Story+ Famitracks

Cave Story+ is the latest release of the hit indie game that was originally released on PC way back in 2004, though in truth, this is a re-release of 2011's Cave Story+ on Steam. The Switch version of Cave Story+ has all the content the Steam release had, plus a remade soundtrack by RushJet1, who did a fantastic job covering Daisuke Amaya's original chiptune compositions.

If you picked up Cave Story+ on the Switch, you may have been surprised to see that not only did the game come with a colored instruction manual (a rare sight these days) but also a soundtrack CD containing 13 tracks. Pretty nice bonus for a re-release priced at $30. Anyone that knows Cave Story, however, knows that the game's soundtrack is comprised of far more than 13 tracks, in actuality, more than 40. RushJet1 has the entire Switch soundtrack of Cave Story+ Famitracks up on his Bandcamp page at a name-your-price download. So you can pay nothing or throw some cash his way.

I actually haven't heard Cave Story music in years and listening to it all over again reminded me of how rich this game's soundtrack is. If you haven't heard this game's music in a while, give it a re-listen. If your ears haven't been exposed to Cave Story jams, you don't know what you're missing.

Cave Story+ Famitracks

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Favorite Tunes #191: Soy Sauce for Geese

Favorite Tunes on Sunday again? Yeah, buddy. This should be the last time you see this feature up on Sundays as I'm moving it back to Saturday this week. Anyway, we've got music from two Fire Emblem games, Bomberman 64 as well as two Street Fighter titles.

Comrades - Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones (GBA)

Sacred Stones was the second game in the long running Fire Emblem series to be released outside of Japan and is the eighth game in the mainline series. This excellent character recruitment theme was arranged in Super Smash Bros. Wii U and I've got it cranked up to play very often.

Staff Roll - Bomberman 64 (N64)

People often make the mistake of assuming a game is easy because it has a cute, childlike visual style. Bomberman certainly looks adorable in his first 64 bit outing, but this is a seriously challenging adventure. Even if you aren't going for 100% by getting all the gold cards, this game will beat you up over and over. If you are going for the best, true ending, then you've got some grueling final fights ahead of you. Sometimes a jovial staff roll theme at the end is one of the best rewards a game can give you.

2017 is shaping up to be an excellent year for remakes. There's Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap, the Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy as well as Fire Emblem Echoes, which is a remake of the Famicom/NES game, Fire Emblem Gaiden, the second game in the whole series, which was originally never released outside of Japan. Years ago I was exposed to this game's original chiptune soundtrack and I think it ranks among some of the best audio the NES has to offer. Having finally started my copy of Echoes, I like quite a bit of the remake's tunes. Where the Wind Rustles was always a top favorite of mine and it keeps the joyful march of the original while making it seem more grand with an orchestral performance. 

If the upcoming Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite wasn't enough to give Capcom a higher place on fan's and critic's hate list, Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers is another. What is essentially an updated version of 2008's Super Street Fighter II: Turbo HD Remix, Final Challengers has a $40 price tag attached to it, which is way too rich for a lot of people's blood. While a number of things in Final Challengers is questionable, I can't fault Capcom for the new arrangements. 

Rashid's Theme - Street Fighter V (PC, PS4)

Moving on from one controversial Street Fighter game to the next, Street Fighter V was released at full price with missing features like a story mode and arcade mode, the later being a fighting game staple and left many bewildered as to why it was not included from the get go. While hating on Capcom has become increasingly popular over the years, I'm a firm believer in giving credit where credit is due. So I applaud Capcom for the new characters and sick beats SFV has to offer. I admit that I'm a bit late to to party with Rashid's jam, but I love.

Soy Sauce for Geese (Fateful Battle BGM 1) - King of Fighters XIV (PC, PS4)

Unless you've been living under a rock, you're well aware that Geese Howard, one of the poster boys for SNK bosses, is going to be joining the roster of Tekken 7 as DLC. With all the crazy outfit combos you can make in this game, I can't wait to see all the crazy get-ups players are going to dress him in.

Favorite Tunes Database

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Nintendo: Killing it with the Switch

"Nintendo is quickly becoming irrelevant."
"The Switch will flop."
"The Switch will end up like the Wii U."
"Nintendo should just go third party."

Words spoken by detractors, skeptics and haters.

Right behind the Virtual Boy, the Wii U is Nintendo's second biggest flop and I say that as someone that really loved the system. After the runaway success that was the Wii, Nintendo was hoping for a repeat performance with the Wii U but awful marketing and name confusion ensured that the system only sold over 13.56 million units during it's entire life span. Faith that Nintendo could produce a console that could perform well as well as overall moral with the company for a lot of people, was at an all time low.

In a brilliant stroke of advertising, Nintendo pumped out an ad for this year's Super Bowl, as always an event viewed by millions. Gamers at large were already aware that the Switch was coming thanks to the console's reveal months before the Super Bowl, but there still plenty of people who were unaware of the console's coming. That ad ensured that everyone on the planet knew about the Switch and unlike the Wii U, the message of what the console was was as clear as crystal. Fittingly, Nintendo used Imagine Dragon's Believer as background music for the ad.

We haven't even gone into the holiday season and the Switch has already sold 4.7 million units worldwide as of June. That is nothing short of mind blowing. Consider that the Switch hasn't even been on the market for six months and it is selling at an extremely rapid pace. The Switch also had (and continues to have) supply issues and it still manage to bring in some very impressive numbers so early in the console's life. Yet, some can't fathom that a Nintendo console could be so successful so fast. Because haters gonna hate, they downplay the Switch.

Anyone that owns a Switch more than likely picked
up Breath of the Wild.
One key factor to the Switch being a runaway hit is that it is home console as well as a portable. How many times have you wanted to play a home console game but you couldn't because the home console experience couldn't be taken with you? The Switch remedies this by being a console/handheld hybrid. Sure, the screen isn't a big as your HD or 4K TV but the screen resolution is still super clean and games run very smooth when the Switch is in handheld mode. Its almost scary that a behemoth of a game like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild can be played anywhere. That's the beauty of the Switch: any game you get for the system can be played wherever you are, yes, including the can if you're into gaming there. The Switch is console gaming that can be taken with you.

ARMS, a new IP that released on June 16th, has
already sold 1.18 million worldwide.
The Switch isn't as powerful as other consoles, a fact people love to bring up when throwing shade at it. True, the Switch isn't the most powerful system, but for working as a console and a portable, I wouldn't call it weak. The thing can run the Unreal and Unity engines for crying out loud. If power were everything, the Xbox and GCN would have slaughtered the PS2 but Sony cleaned house during that console generation. The Switch is also easy to develop for, much easier than the Wii U was and dev kits are cheaper as well. Some still think $300 is too high for the Switch but if the system were more powerful, you can bet it would cost even more. We'd never hear the end of griping about the price tag then.

Another reason for the Switch's runaway success is the advertising. Most ads for the Wii U were cringe worthy. Switch ads? Not only are they vastly superior but they are being aired consistently. Whether I'm watching TV or videos on YouTube, escaping a Switch ad is near impossible, which isn't a bad thing. The ads are short, to the point while driving home what the Switch is about. Stay aggressive with those ads, Nintendo.

Mighty Gunvolt Burst, a Mega Man-style game exclusive
to the Switch and 3DS.
"The Switch has no games." This is an argument that surfaces with every single console within the first several months and it really makes me face palm. Tons upon tons of games do not just fall from the sky within the first 4-6 months of a console's life. Expecting a console has to have stacks of games right off the bat is highly unrealistic. Anyone that thinks the Switch has no games is doing some Monkey D. Luffy levels of reaching. There's FAST RMX, Blaster Master Zero, Mighty Gunvolt Burst, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, ARMS, Splatoon 2. Yes, a few of those are ports but Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has a vastly improved battle mode over the Wii U version. On the Switch, one of the best Zelda games and one of the best entries in the Mario Kart series can be played on the go. The number of ports on the Switch thus far is a drop in the bucket compared to the amount that are on the PS4 and XBO. The Switch will be getting even more heavy hitters later this year with Fire Emblem Warriors, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and Super Mario Odyssey with more to look forward to the following year. And yet, there will still be gamers that say the Switch has no games because Nintendo isn't allowed to do well for some reason.

No matter how much haters want to dismiss the Switch's performance, it won't change the fact that it is selling like crazy. Nintendo took a hard fall with the Wii U but even when so many were saying that the company was done, they proved just how wrong the naysayers were. Nintendo knew what they were doing when they used the song Believer in that Super Bowl ad.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Remix of the Week: Ice Cap Zone (Sonic 3 & Knuckles)

Sonic Mania releases next month and like most fans, I'm pretty hyped for it. I haven't heard too much of the game's soundtrack (I did this purposely so I could hear the new and arranged tracks as I play the game) but that one beat, Studiopolis Zone has me dying to hear more. Tee Lopes is handling the soundtrack for Sonic Mania but even before he was hired to score for the game, he was an avid Sonic fan, cranking out Sonic remixes like this stellar Ice Cap Zone rendition.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

SNES Classic Edition Preorders are a Nightmare and Everybody Hates Walmart

When Nintendo came out and confirmed that they would indeed be releasing a miniature version of the SNES dubbed the Super NES Classic Edition, gamers leaned forward in their chairs with gleeful anticipation and scalpers crouched in the bushes like they were getting ready to pounce on unsuspecting prey. Walmart was the first US retailer to begin taking preorders last week on their website on Friday, July 21st at around 11:30 PM. Unsurprisingly, within a matter of minutes, preorders sold out. Those that did manage to make preorders in the very brief time that they were available were sitting comfortably, knowing that would have no trouble obtaining what will be a much sought after item this holiday season. Like a bullet through a windshield, that peace of mind was shattered. The very next day preorders went up, customers were receiving e-mails that their preorders were cancelled. The reason "a technical glitch" in Walmart's system caused preorders to go up early.

Glitch or an honest mistake, this is not a good look for Walmart, a company that already has pretty awful reputation to begin with. No doubt this is sure to earn them a spot on gamer's crap list. The strange thing is, not everyone has recieved this e-mail, as some orders are still being read as processing, although it could only be a matter of time before these people also get the dreaded cancellation e-mail. I've even read comments that some were able to preorder from three to ten Super NES Classic Edition units. For those that are planning to have multiple units as Christmas gifts, that's great, but you already know anyone snagging 10 of those suckers already has plans to flip them on eBay or Amazon.

If I had to take a guess, I'd say that Walmart has no idea how many units of the SNES Classic that they will be getting. Taking more preorders than you can fulfill is never a good move and demand for this thing is already through the roof. Even if it was a glitch, there's no denying that Walmart royally screwed up, incurring the wrath of once hopeful consumers. Are Walmart's systems so faulty, that pre-purchasing a hotly anticipated item can be done early and hours can pass before they take notice and do something about it?

Nintendo has said that they would have more of the SNES Classic than they did the NES Classic. However, this is Nintendo we're talking about here, a company that has one of the worst grasps on the concept of "supply and demand" that I have ever seen. Nintendo's definition of "more units than the NES Classic" could be a handful more. I mean, sure, that's still more but it's also pathetic.

I talked to some of the employees at my GameStop about a month ago, asking if they were taking pre-orders for the SNES Classic. They told me that they weren't and that they aren't sure if they were going to. The best they could do was place me on a call list for when they become available. So it looks like I could end up having to go to there early before they open up on September 29th if I want to get one. I imagine other SNES Classic Edition hopefuls to be doing the same. Expect that you won't be alone and not everyone waiting outside will get one.

In a perfect world, Nintendo would manufacture enough SNES Classic Editions so that everyone that wants one can get one without any hassle. Scalpers would never be given the opportunity to sell them for five times the MRSP because units would be plentiful. Regrettably, we don't live in a perfect world. We live in a world where Nintendo does a horrific job of supplying enough retro consoles and Walmart's tech on their website is so abysmal that it can allow preordering to go up earlier than it should. Nintendo, you've got a little under two months to make the SNES Classic Easier to get than the NES Classic, but I'm not holding my breath.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Favorite Tunes #190: Sunday Jams

What's this? Favorite Tunes on a Sunday? Usually, this a feature that is reserved for Saturday but I was a bit behind so I moved it to Sunday. Enjoy!

Side-Crawler's Dance - Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap (SMS)

For a cool $20, you can own one of the best remakes of 2017 and just in general, Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap. The game boasts a jaw dropping art style and an outstanding musical score. If those things aren't to your liking, with a few button presses, you can instantly revert the game back to it's original 1989 look and sound. The arranged audio is of super high quality but if you haven't listened to the original Sega Master System tracks, I highly recommend you check them out.

Messij - WipEout (Multi)

I picked up WipEout Omega Collection as a self bought birthday present and I've really been digging it. Though I was never the best WipEout player, I haven't played a game in the series in over a decade so I've had to reacquire what little skills I did have. Still, I've been having a ton of fun with this game and it made me recall the early 2000s when I picked up all three WipEout titlts on the original PS. Though the first  WipEout was outclassed by the superior WipEout XL, it had a phenomenal soundtrack thanks in part to guys CoLD SToRAGE.

Stage Select - Mega Man 9 (Wii, PS3, 360)

When Mega Man 9 was revealed by Capcom in 2008, fans and critics alike went wild. It was the return of classic Mega Man after a near decade long absence (not counting the GBA port of Mega Man & Bass in 2003 and Mega Man Anniversary Collection in 2004). Despite my issues with the game (it feels like its trying to imitate Mega Man 2 far too much), Mega Man 9 was still an outstanding entry in the series and I'm looking forward to the physical release in Mega Man Legacy Collection 2 in early August.

Turtle Woods - Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy (PS4)

I realize that the previous Favorite Tunes was full of nothing but music from Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy. Normally, I'd give a game or series that took up all of Favorite Tunes a break, but I really, really like the redone music in N. Sane Trilogy. Currently, I'm going through Crash 2 and I cannot get enough of this Turtle Woods theme.

Cosmic Air way - Darius (ARC)

You've heard the GB version of this theme back in Favorite Tunes #186. Well, how you can hear the arcade version. As someone who was exposed to other games in the series and wouldn't hear the music more than 20 years after it's initial release, I'm surprised at how much I enjoy the music from the first Darius. It may sound a bit primitive compared to the later entries, but I love it. I especially like how much of it is peppy and upbeat.

Ribbon Girl's Theme - ARMS (NS)

Nintendo has been killing it with the Switch. All they've got to do is fix that atrocious Nintendo Switch Online app and make the dang Switch a lot easier for consumers to get their hands on, and we'll be golden. I'm truly amazed by how catchy some of the music in ARMS is. When the music is this freaking good, you can get away with lyrics that are nothing but "Ohhhs" and "Nas."

Favorite Tunes Database

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Nintendo, Nintendo Switch Online is Bad and You Should Feel Bad

Oh, Nintendo. Nintendo, Nintendo, Nintendo. You really do amaze me. You put out some of the best games. When a plethora of pundits were calling you dead and irrelevant, you launched a console/handheld hybrid that managed to sell nearly 3 million units in only a few months. Fans and critics alike that have not been interested in Nintendo's offerings in years are foaming at the mouth for the Switch. So why would you go and make online communication features for the Switch, the system that no one can shut up about, a steaming pile of horse manure?

When Nintendo first announced that online game interactions with others would be handled on our phones through an app, red flags immediately went up in our heads. Some ideas sound great on paper but are terrible in execution. This, however, was an idea that sounded horrendous from the get go. Knowing something is going to be terrible is one thing. Experiencing just how terrible something is, well, that is so much worse.

Nintendo Switch Online, Nintendo's app that functions (using that word very loosely) as the means for players to communicate with fellow players as of right now, is a absolute garbage. The app can't even do something so basic like work with the screen off, meaning you've got to constantly fiddle with your phone to keep the app up. Any kind of text message or notification will shut the app down and you'll have to start it up again. This means you cannot have anything else going on in the background while NSO is running. There's no match making and while you can do room chat, there isn't any way to do voice chat, proving once again that Nintendo is still living in the stone age.

Nintendo has always had a reputation for being a family friendly company, the Disney of video games. This hasn't stopped them from allowing M rated games on their consoles and in some of the more recent games, they've had alcohol along with some pretty eyebrow raising humor aplenty. Nevertheless, Nintendo's family friendly status is something they are never going to shake and perhaps the company doesn't wish to. This is probably why Nintendo chose to go with such a cumbersome way to interact with other players for the online service. Nintendo wants to protect the children, but the thing is, that is not Nintendo's job. On the back of any game that features online play under the ESRB ratings label, it reads "Online interactions not rated by the ESRB." This means that when little Timmy goes online and hears words his parents don't want him to hear, said parents can't hold the game companies responsible. Instead of not having any voice chat at all, Nintendo could have an option to have to have it disabled in parental controls, which is a feature that is actually built in the system itself.

It seems like Nintendo is so focused on all of the negative that can come from voice chat. I can understand the company's concerns. Gaming tends to bring out a lot of people's competitive nature and things can get pretty heated. We've all heard the stories of how people can and do get harassed during online sessions. There's usually a way to report these deplorable people and get them banned.

Having said all of that, I think Nintendo should also look at the good that could come from having a much better, non prehistoric online service that does have voice chat. It can be a great way to make friends. Anyone you come across online while playing Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, ARMS or Splatoon 2 are more than likely Nintendo fans, so that's already some common ground right there. Nintendo's got a great thing going with the Switch. Nintendo Switch Online, however, is a hot mess. Playing Switch games online is currently free, but come 2018, we'll have to pay for it. As it stands, paying $60 a year to play PS4 games online is a much better alternative than forking over $20 a year for a service that not even the most die hard Nintendo fans would deem passable.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap Original Soundtrack

Back in April, Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap was released for the PS4, XBO and Switch with a PC release following in June. The game is a  1 to 1 remake of the 1989 Sega Master System title, Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap with two big changes: a gorgeous, hand drawn art style and a completely reworked soundtrack, the later which is what we're hear to gush over today.

The Dragon's Trap score was originally written by Shinichi Sakamoto, who also wrote the bulk of music for the Wonder Boy/Monster World series. Music on the Master System may sound a lot softer when compared to the NES and he might not be as well known among video game music fans as Yoko Shimomura or Koji Kondo, but Sakamoto is still a fantastic music writer and his compositions for Wonder Boy III, even on the Master System hardware, were nothing short of extraordinary.

Any fears that Sakamoto's music was somehow going to be butchered with this remake are immediately laid to rest with the what could arguably be considered the best track of the game, Last Dungeon (actually the very first area you play through). Last Dungeon is a Wonder Boy staple theme of sorts as it has been used in numerous Wonder Boy titles. This arrangement evokes a sense of excitement but also dread, as if it were foreshadowing the curse that is soon to befall Wonder Boy/Wonder Girl. Monster-Town, the central hub world of the game is a bright, jubilant piece. Endless War is just freaking beautiful.

Not only does the remastered soundtrack of The Dragon's Trap do justice to the original source, it improves upon it. In the original game, the Shop theme was also used as the hospital theme. It retains the jovial tone of the original while playing radio static in the background, which is fitting since the Smoking Pig has a radio in his shop. The Hospital music is a lovely club jazz arrangement of the Shop theme. Each of the dragon's now have their own arrangement of the base Monster's Lair theme. The Daimyo Temple sounds very ancient Japan while The Monster's Lair - Palace rings of finality.

Of the 32 in-game tracks present on this soundtrack, there really isn't a bad one of the lot. They've even tossed in the 48 second Reveal Trailer music. But the bonuses don't stop there. Along with the 33 album tracks that amount to a little over an hour's worth of listening, there are 56 bonus tracks that were never used. Want to hear a ukulele version of Mind of a Hero? A hard rock version of Desert Zone over the original Master System version? Monster Town on the accordion? Have it it.

The soundtrack won't cost you much cash at only 5.00 Euros ($5.73). You can also get the soundtrack as additional DLC for $4.99 on Steam or you can grab the game and the soundtrack for a cool $23.73. The music to Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap is chump change compared to a lot of other game soundtracks you have to pay for and not only is the music beyond outstanding, those unused tracks are a sweet, sweet bonus.

The only real snag in this album is that it doesn't contain the original Master System tracks, which is a shame since you had the option in the game to instantly switch between the remastered and retro audio. Regardless of that, Michael Geyre has done an amazing job arranging Sakamoto's works. The Dragon's Trap may be short, but you'll be humming these tracks long after your quest is over.

Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap Original Soundtrack

Friday, July 14, 2017

Going in Blind

I take it many of you Spidey fans out there have already seen Spider-Man: Homecoming. As a big fan of the web-slinger, I'm really looking forward to seeing the movie myself, though I'll be waiting for the home release (I get motion sickness in move theaters.) As per usual, before the movie hit theaters, there were previews and each preview brought new footage. Usually, I don't mind more previews but I found myself avoiding them because I was beginning to feel that by the time I do see the movie, I'll have already seen so many snippets of it through previews that some of it won't feel fresh to me. Lately, I've found myself feeling this way about upcoming games.

We are very much living in the spoiler generation. Books, movies, TV shows, it matters not the medium, in the age of the internet and quick access, spoilers are never hard to find, whether you're seeking them out or not. Being taken by surprise almost seems so rare these days especially if you're keeping up to date with a game you're really looking forward to. YouTubers regularly play the latest releases and most of the soundtrack to these games is already on the site before the game's launch date. Earlier this year, I really didn't mind having too many things spoiled for me. The months I've spent playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild really made me rethink my Who-cares-about-spoilers mindset.

Studiopolis looks and sounds incredible.
Before Breath of the Wild released, I had seen very little of the game. I never made a point to keep tabs on it and the most footage of the game I had seen prior to the game's release was the trailer that Nintendo had showed off during the Switch presentation back in January. Outside of a few Let's Play videos on YouTube before I bought the game a few days after launch, I still didn't have much of the game shown off before I got my hands on it. This meant that bulk of my experiences in BOTW were blind. My first encounter with a Lynel, where I went through so much food just to keep myself alive as he trashed me around the landscape, was my own. I could have watched a video on YouTube to see how to dodge a Lynel's attacks and such, but I am ever so thankful that I didn't resort to that. Much of what I needed to know to fight a Lynel, I learned on my own. When to block with a shield, what shields will actually hold out against certain attacks, when it is wise to attack and when to put some distance between myself and the Lynel. None of this was spoiled for me and I'd forgotten how good it feels to approach a game without completely knowing what's in store for you.

Super Mario Odyssey is a game I am very, very excited to play. That E3 trailer had me wishing it was already late October. I'm already aware that Mario can ride a moped, use Cappy to posses pretty much anything, Bowser is forcing Peach to marry him, Mario's wardrobe is expansive and that Pauline is the mayor of New Donk City with an amazing singing voice. Beyond that, there isn't anything else I know, and I want to keep it that way. I don't want to know every single corner of New Donk City before I can play the game for myself. I'm dying to find out what Mario can do as a T-rex, but I want that to be my own discovery.

If the music in Studiopolis from Sonic Mania is any indication, that game is going to have an outstanding soundtrack. To this day, that is the only song from the game that I've heard as I'm waiting until I sit down with Sonic Mania to hear the rest of the score through gameplay.

I'm not saying I want every single game I go in to to be a totally blind experience. However, going into a game without knowing every single thing about it is highly rewarding on a personal level. As someone that used to regularly flip through his comic books before reading, having genuine shock as I read is pretty dang nice.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Favorite Tunes #189: Crashback

In the past I've dedicated Favorite Tunes to a single character such as Mario or Sonic the Hedgehog. With Crash Bandicoot making his return and myself along with many others being knee deep in the Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy, this is the perfect time to give the orange spin doctor his due.

Main Theme (N. Sanity Beach) - Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy (PS4)

Everyone and their grandma was grinning like they got hit with Joker Gas when they heard this theme in N. Sane Trilogy. Not only is it play during the main menu and for the first level of Crash Bandicoot, it also serves as the music for the overworld. Such a jaunty music piece that thankfully, is not limited to a single area of the game.

Hog Wild - Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy (PS4)

The original Hog Wild tune will always hold a special place in my heart but I LOVE the arrangement of it in the N. Sane Trilogy. That harmonica at the beginning, the guitar and so many cartoon sound effects come together to a groovy, wacky jam.

Road to Nowhere - Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy (PS4)

Depth perception. It is by far one of the biggest things that will mess with you when playing the Crash games. What better way to make things worse than by designing a level that places over a rickety bridge with slippery planks and, planks that fall away shortly after you step on and broken planks that can't even be stepped on? The level wouldn't be so bad if it were a 2D stage, but Road to Nowhere and the High Road are 3D stages. At least you've got some calming music to listen to while you're screaming.

Toxic Waste - Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy (PS4)

Some of the levels leading up to this one are the kind that make you wanna crack your controller in two, so Toxic Waste is a nice, fun breather. The level them is as metal as it gets and you're assaulted by a big guy throwing barrels at you throughout. Huh. I'm getting a serious Donkey Kong vibe here.

Crash Dash - Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy (PS4)

This is one of the arrangements where I have to say I like the original better. However, I still find this version to be really freaking good. It keeps the bells but it feels like the rock is more emphasized, which I'm perfectly fine with, though I do miss the primal feel that the original had.

Toad Village - Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy (PS4)

From the game that is a lot of people's favorite of the trilogy, Crash Bandicoot: Warped has Crash and Coco traveling through time. One of the earliest levels in the game is full of knights and frogs and death by the later leads to one of the best death animations. Naturally, the music matches the time period you're in. This theme sounds very triumphant and adventurous.

Favorite Tunes Database