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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Death of a (Comic Book) Hedgehog

290. In this day and age it is incredibly rare to see a comic book have that number slapped on it. You'd think characters like the Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash and Spider-Man, huge, iconic comic book characters that have been around since the late 1930s, 1940s and 1960s would be immune to having their high numbers stripped away. You'd be wrong. One character, however, has managed to avoid such a fate and he's only been around for 26 years. On top of that, his home domain wasn't comic books, but video games. The speed blue hedgehog known as Sonic was able to avoid the dreaded renumbering fate that has hit the comic boob industry like a hyper aggressive tidal wave time and time again. Sadly, it looks like his run has come to an end at 290 issues.

From Sonic the Hedgehog #134, universally
reviled as the worst Sonic comic. Ever.
If we take into account the plethora of mini series and spin-off titles like Sonic Universe, Sonic's comic numbers surpass 500. The main series Sonic the Hedgehog comic book is only at 290 issues but that's still pretty dang impressive. Like any comic book, Sonic the Hedgehog had it's down periods, crappy story arcs and such. The comic even underwent a couple of reboots but unlike the reboots of the Marvel and DC variety, the numbering on the comic book never changed.

Comic companies want to draw in new readers and fear that those high numbers will scare off potential new customers. This is why in 2011, DC threw out decades worth of continuity for it's entire universe in what was known as The New 52. This tactic did bring in plenty of new readers but it also alienated many longtime fans. At the end of the day, The New 52 ended up being a short term sales boost. DC will never come out and say it, but DC Universe Rebirth, which brings back the continuity that hastily threw out the window while keeping The New 52 stuff, is basically an admission that The New 52 did not work. During The New 52 era, every single DC book was renumbered, including long running books like volume one of Action Comics and Detective Comics. Those titles have since had their original numbering restored in DC Universe Rebirth, but that still doesn't change the fact that each of those books were still renumbered for the purposes of an event that, in the long run, did not pay off.

To those outside of the Sonic the Hedgehog comic fandom, it might fascinate you to know that the behind the scenes nature of the cook has been, well, interesting, in a word. In a bit more detail, there were several lawsuits by Ken Penders, a former writer of the comic about royalties of the characters he created. The lawsuits are the reason the comic had a few reboots. The last reboot, which started in Sonic the Hedgehog #252 saw SEGA issuing some mandates to Archie, which has been detrimental to the book for a lot of fans. To keep Penders off their backs, any character he created was whipped clean from the comic. SEGA also wanted the comics to be closer to the games, which may sound cool in theory, but this doesn't allow the comic to have it's own identity. To make matters worse, characters that were from the games apparently had to behave in a very specific way and any form of character development for them was a no-no. Ian Flynn, the writer of the comic book for the past ten years, a very talented man, often cited as bringing the book out of the abyss that Penders threw it in, has done the best he can under some pretty lousy circumstances but it may not have been enough.

The last(?) issue.
Sonic the Hedgehog #290 was released seven months ago and issues beyond that have been cancelled. Neither Archie or SEGA has confirmed the death of the book, but the writing is on the wall. I started reading this comic in 1993. I was able to see it transition from slap stick comedy to deadly serious. I hate to this this comic go but at the same time, I hate seeing the book's creativity stifled under SEGA's mandated thumb. If 290 is indeed the last issue of Sonic the Hedgehog, that number is something to be very proud of. Sonic has had a lot of crap happen to him in his 20 plus years, but the one thing that never changed was the number on his comic and in this business, that is a really freaking huge accomplishment.

Final Fantasy II - Roses of the Rebellion

The Pixel Mixers are back. Back again. Tell a friend. OK, I won't go where I obviously could have gone with that, but the latest album from what is becoming one of my favorite groups covers one of the black sheep members of the Final Fantasy series, Final Fantasy II.

Of the numerous shortcomings Final Fantasy has, the music certainly isn't one of them. Nobuo Uematsu crafted a very moving, emotional score that reflected the war torn land that Final Fantasy II was set in. Even in chiptune NES form, the soundtrack is brilliant as is the arranged version by Tsuyoshi Sekito for the PS Final Fantasy II release. Final Fantasy II - Roses of the Rebellion sticks to the music of the original NES 1988 release but not every single track is featured. I would have loved to see the group's take on Battle Scene A and Battle Scene B, but with such masterful renditions of the Main Theme, Rebel Army, Ancient Castle, Finale and the rest, it really is hard to nitpick.

I really like how The Ancient Castle arrangement takes a cue from Sekito's version and has a key change. They really made Sekito's rendition's stand out further from Uematsu's and it is great to see the Pixel Mixers mirror his work.  You can tell that they are clearly huge fans of his arrangements.

Genres represented hear are mostly orchestra and rock. The heart-tugging Main Theme of Final Fantasy II has a big band feel to it but still has that melancholy tone. Battle Scene 1 and Ancient Castle are heavily metal/heavy metal based but they don't sound out of place in the slightest. Throughout those whaling guitars and pounding drums, you can always hear the original melody of each song. There's also some acoustic guitar tracks in here, most fittingly, the Chocobo theme. Even a tiny bit of chiptune can be heard in Battle Scene 2, The Game Over arrangement sounds just as, if not more so depressing than the original,

If you want to hear some of the best arrangements of Final Fantasy II music, this album is a must listen. Oh and the thing is also free.

Final Fantasy II - Roses of the Rebellion

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

SNES Classic Edition is Officially a Thing

Rumors are nothing but rumors until concrete evidence can prove them otherwise. Months ago, rumors were going around that Nintendo had an SNES version of the NES Classic Edition, the SNES Classic Edition in the works. Yesterday, Nintendo came out and revealed that the little SNES box was indeed a reality. On September 29th, 2017, the SNES Classic Edition will release.

The SNES Classic Edition much like it's 8-bit brother is a minature edition of the SNES but instead of 30 built in games, the SNES Classic Edition has 21 built in titles. The games on the SNES Classic Edition are as follows:

Super Mario World
Super Mario Kart
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
Super Metroid
Street Fighter II: Turbo
Super Punch-Out!!
Super Castlevania IV
Donkey Kong Country
Mega Man X
Kirby Super Star
Final Fantasy III (aka Final Fantasy VI)
Kirby's Dream Course
Star Fox
Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island
Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
Contra III: The Alien Wars
Secret of Mana
Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts
Star Fox 2 (first time being officially released)

I gotta say, that is quite the impressive line up. Unlike the NES Classic Edition, there isn't a single stinker on that list. Those are some of the best games out of the SNES's incredible library and having them all packed into one box is undeniably cool. Of the three Mega Man X SNES titles, Mega Man X is without question, the pinnacle of the lot. Star Fox and Yoshi's Island (the SNES version) have never been re-released because of FX chip reasons so it is pretty sweet that these two games are getting some time in the sun again. Still, I do have some concerns.

That $80 price tag is too much. That's $20 more than the NES Classic Edition and that came with 30 games as opposed to the SNES Classic Edition's 21. I suppose you could make the argument that the games in the SNES Classic trumps the NES Classic, but despite the amazing list of games, $80 is still a tough pill to swallow. My heart goes out to all my Australian gamers. The number of titles on the SNES Classic brings me to my next criticism.

I had assumed that if Nintendo did do an SNES Classic that the number of games would be 30 or more but it turns out to be less than the NES Classic. Anyone that picks up the SNES Classic is gonna get access to some of the best of the best in gaming. There's no arguing that point. However, some of the greatest SNES greats have also been left out in the cold. No Chrono Trigger, no Final Fantasy II, no Donkey Kong Country 2, no Axelay. Those are games I just listed off the top of my head. We know Nintendo could have easily included those games because space is not an issue.

Finally, there's the availability of the SNES Classic Edition. You had better chances of achieving world peace or ending hunger than you did finding an NES Classic Eidtion. Nintendo supplied stores with such diminutive shipments and many of those that did get purchased up were flipped for many times the MSRP on Amazon and eBay. Scalpers have already caught word that the SNES will release at the end of September and they are licking their lips, staring at their prey from a distance ready to pounce. I want to believe that Nintendo will make enough SNES Classic systems to meet demand, but considering how they botched the NES Classic, I don't want to get my hopes up. Heck, getting a Switch is still difficult because despite Nintendo's claims that the system wouldn't be tough to nab like the NES Classic Edition, surprise, surprise, the dang thing never stays on the shelves.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Remix of the Week: Jump Up, Super Star! (Super Mario Odyssey)

It was only a (short) matter of time before the remixes and covers of the Super Mario Odyssey vocal, mega hit Jump Up, Super Star! got tackled by throngs of fans on YouTube. There are already a few chiptune versions on the site but one you should definitely check out is Bulby's rendition. It has the same jazzy, bouncy feel of the original. As with all Bulby covers, you can download this one through Google Drive. But since this is a very popular track, the number of downloads for the time being has reached the limit. As of this writing, I'm still waiting to download this bad boy.

Jump Up, Super Star! MP3

Friday, June 23, 2017

The 3DS Isn't Going Anywhere Anytime Soon

The Nintendo Switch, which released on March 3rd worldwide this year has been killing it. Nearly 3 million units have already been sold since launch day. So yeah, the Switch is indeed the new Nintendo hotness. And yet with it selling like crazy, we've got some gamers that are wondering why Nintendo still continues to support the 3DS.

For Nintendo to drop the 3DS like a brick just because the Switch has been highly successful would be foolhardy. Yes, the company has made a  plethora of dumb decisions in their many years in the game industry but kicking the 3DS to the curb would be almost as face palming as partnering with Philips to bring us those horrid CDi Zelda games that Nintendo does not even acknowledge as part of the series. The reason the 3DS isn't going the way of the Dodo bird is simple: it still prints money.

The install base of the Switch at nearly 3 million is highly impressive, especially this early in the system's life. With the portable functionality of the Switch, I guess you could see why some would think there's no reason to keep the 3DS around, but here's the thing: there are far, far more 3DS units in the wind than there are Switch consoles. We're talking near 3 million versus over 66 million. And Nintendo should just forget about the 3DS because the Switch is a home and portable system even though the 3DS is at 66 million plus? Get outta here with that noise.

One system Nintendo did drop like a hot plate was the Wii U. The last first party release for the system was The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Nobody really has to question why the Wii U was so quickly disposed of. The thing barely reached over 13 million over the span of four years. Meanwhile, it is already looking like the Switch is going to outsell the Wii U by miles. The 3DS, which launched more than a year ahead of the Wii U absolutely destroyed it.

The Switch is still a hard console to find.

Despite the old hardware, the 3DS is still a viable system so it continues to get support from Nintendo, third parties and indie developers through physical and digital releases. The Switch is a system that is much harder to get your hands on, where as 3DS systems are plentiful. Nintendo said availability of the Switch wouldn't be like the NES Classic Edition but the console/handheld hybrid continues to be elusive. Doesn't make much sense to please one portion of your audience while neglecting the other just because shinny, new tech is the bees knee, especially when that old tech still gets you the money.

Samus Aran is coming to the 3DS in September in
Metroid: Samus Returns, a remake of the GB
Metroid II: Return of Samus.

Nintendo has games planned throughout this year and 2018 for the 3DS. Will the handheld be phased out? Oh yeah, of course it will. Eventually. However, anyone thinking that the 3DS is going to ride off in the sunset just because the Switch is also a handheld isn't seeing the bigger picture. The 3DS may not be anywhere near as powerful as the Switch but it still makes mad money and for that reason, it isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Return of Samus

If Nintendo proved anything this past E3 it is that you can elicit quite the joyous reaction from people with just two words and a number, especially is said two words and number are "Metroid Prime 4." It has been ten years since the last console Prime entry and the teaser reveal that the game is in development for the Switch had fans jumping and screaming for joy.

Most are ecstatic that a fourth entry in the main Prime series is in being developed, there is, understandably some cause for alarm. Retro Studios, the team behind the original Prime trilogy, is not at the helm of Metroid Prime 4. In fact, most of the key players that worked for Retro Studios have since left the company. No doubt that has some read flags waving wildly in people's minds but once upon a time, Retro Studios were newbies to the Metroid series and initial fan response to Metroid Prime in the development stages was quite harsh. When the game did release, it blew people away. The Prime games are viewed as a natural evolution to the 2D Metroid games and although they play from a first person point of view and there is lots of shooting, the Prime games still involve tons of exploration and have been dubbed first person adventure games. Sure, the new team behind Prime 4 isn't Retro but they should still be given a chance.

Samus Aran isn't just returning to consoles, though. The game wasn't shown in Nintendo's E3 Spotlight video but during Nintendo's Treehouse live stream, Metroid: Samus Returns, a remake of the 1991 Metroid II: Return of Samus on the Game Boy, was shown for the 3DS, making Samus triumphant return a one-two punch.

I have wanted an official remake of Metroid II for years. After seeing what Nintendo did with Metroid: Zero Mission, a remake of the original Metroid, I was dying to have Metroid II get remade. I actually played far more of that game than I did the original NES Metroid when I was a kid, but as an adult, I can see the blemishes of both the original Metroid and Metroid II very clearly. Both games lack an in-game map. The original Metroid allows enemies to get in far too many cheap shots and Metroid II's environments all look far too similar. Zero Mission is hands down the definite way to play the first Metroid and Samus Returns is shaping up to be the same for Metroid II.

No more samey looking areas for Samus to
explore in the re-imagining of Metroid II. 

Call me crazy, but I was never offended by the divulge Metroid Prime: Federation Force in the slightest. Fan reaction to that game was so overwhelmingly negative that it was akin to Toon Link's reveal in 2001. Oh, sure, Toon Link and the Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker are much beloved now, but a year before the game came out, they were pretty much universally hated. Now I'm not saying you should shut up and take what you're given, but there is some irony in all of this. After Metroid: Other M and then the reveal of Federation Force, fans were petitioning for a "real Metroid game." Federation Force was revealed two years ago. What game has been in development for two years? Samus Returns. All the while fans were wasting their time to get a game they hated and (judging by the abysmal sales) never even played canned, a mainline Metroid game was being developed. A remake, sure, but a main series Metroid, nevertheless. And the entire time, Nintendo said nothing about it. I imagine Reggie and Yoshio Sakamoto were having quite the chuckle over this two years ago.

The Metroids in Samus Returns look more
intimidating than ever.
Something does trouble me concerning Samus Returns. I'm hearing that some fans of AM2R: Another Metroid II Remake are talking about boycotting Samus Returns, which is one of the stupidest things any Metroid fan could do. Yes, these people feel burned about Nintendo giving AM2R a cease and desist, but these same fans have been clamoring for official Metroid games for years and now that one is coming in a few short months, they want to boycott it? That makes zero sense and only helps to ensure that Samus will have fewer games to call her own.

Time for a reality check. The video game industry is a business. Whether fans wish to acknowledge that or not, the truth of the matter is that Nintendo and everybody in this business is out to make money. Metroid games have never brought in the money that Mario, Zelda and the Pokemon series have. The 1 million units that Metroid Prime sold in America, all of the aforementioned franchises bring in many times that amount worldwide. For fans to continue to be butthurt over Nintendo shutting down AM2R by boycotting Samus Returns, they are only helping to put Samus back in the grave. DoctorM64, the creator of AM2R was never angry with Nintendo for shutting his project down and after the reveal of Samus Returns, he tweeted that it was the Metroid II he's always wanted.

As a Metroid fan, I'm really looking forward to more information on Metroid Prime 4 and I cannot wait to play Metroid: Samus Returns. I was even able to preorder the special edition and I'll be picking up those amiibos on release day. While there is some uncertainty in the air, is is nice to have you back, Samus. I hope you'll be sticking around for a very long time.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Favorite Tunes #187: Let's Do the Odyssey

Well, E3 is over and regardless on who you think won, the real winners are of course, the gamers. There's games to look forward to later this year as well as 2018. I'm especially stoked for that PS4 Spider-Man title, Metroid: Samus Returns and, well, you read this Favorite Tune's subtitle, didn't you? Yeah, I am beyond jazzed for that one.

Pac-Jump Up! - Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 (PC, XBO, PS4)

If you were to ask me 6 months ago what my favorite Pac-Man game was, I would have answered without hesitation, Ms. Pac-Man. But now I've been exposed to Pac-Man 256 and Pac-Man Championship Edition 2. Currently, I can't decide which one I favor more, but I love Chamionship Edition 2's fast gameplay and ravetastic soundtrack. Pac-Jump Up! is my go-to song in this game.

Wolfduck Stage - Darkwing Duck (NES)

Released in 1992 and developed by Capcom, people often draw comparisons to Darkwing's NES adventure and Mega Man. Stage design is similar and the levels can be selected in any order you of your choosing. Darkwing Duck can also be a difficult game. And the soundtrack is freaking amazing. Yasuaki Fujita wrote the super catchy, jazzy music of Darkwing Duck, who was also the composer of Mega Man 3's soundtrack. Grab The Disney Afternoon Colleciton if you want to check out DW's 8-bit adventure.

Grandpix - ARMS (NS)

Did you see Mr. Yabuki during the E3 ARMS Open Invitational? Dude was SO close to taking an L but being the producer of the game, he showed that he is not an opponent to be trifled with. That was the kind thing that gets people more excited to play ARMS. The music to this game is pretty good, especially the Grandprix theme. I just love the so-easy-to-learn lyrics.

Molduga Battle - The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Wii U, NS)

Stop me if you've heard this one before. You're walking along the Gerudo Desert and you see a mini boss health bar appear and the music changes. Certainly caught me by surprise. It was an even bigger one when Molduga jumped out of the sand and I saw how huge he was. He was intimidating at first. Now? Now I just farm the sucker for parts.

Guile Stage (CPS1)- Street Fighter II: The World Warrior (ARC)

The theme that goes with everything. Well, most people tend to go for the CPS2 version of this theme but the CPS1 version is still very good. I haven't played a newer Street Fighter in years. Does Guile still giving the losers advice about being a family man?

Jump Up, Super Star! - Super Mario Oydssey (NS)

I cannot even tell you how many times I've listened to this song since hearing it days ago.  It is just. So. GOOD! But I feel like saying that undercuts how amazing of a song it is. I don't think we've ever had full vocal number in a Super Mario game.  What's more, it is sung by the Mayor of New Donk City, Pauline! That girl has skills! New Donk City is full of references to the Donkey Kong series from red girders atop buildings to locations and streets named after the Kong family. But there's even a reference in this song. At 1:25 into the song, the bass line becomes the 25cm, the track for the very first level of the original Donkey Kong.

Favorite Tunes Database

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Super Mario Odyssey Looks Super Lit

When Nintendo revealed Super Mario Odyssey back in January, what I had seen was enough to make me want to get my hands on a Switch. We saw Mario running around in a realistic looking city, complete with realistic looking people and he was platforming off his hat. Good freaking stuff. Then E3 happens and at the very end of Nintendo's spotlight, we see a longer trailer for Super Mario Odyssey. All of a sudden, I (and many others) are salivating in anticipation over this game.

New Donk City, topside.
When I saw Mario running and jumping through New Donk City, I could not have been anymore thrilled. As a lover of cityscapes, I am eating up the design of NDC. I don't think Mario has ever really gone through a realistic looking city in a 3D Mario game, at least not one like this. I want to explore every inch of NDC. No corner or stone is going to be left unturned and that goes for all of the vast worlds in Odyssey. Nintendo has stated that this game will be more in line with Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine and I'm very happy about that. With the Switch, the worlds in Odyssey look bigger than they've ever been in any Mario game and I'm glad the sandbox style of gameplay is returning to the Super Mario series.

You wish your hat was as cool as Cappy.
Mario's new pal, Cappy, greatly intrigues me. At first I thought he would merely be used as another platform tool, but Cappy is soooo much more. When thrown, Cappy allows Mario to take control of just about anything it lands on top of. Bullet Bills, Goombas, Hammer Bros., the citizens of New Donkey City, taxis, a T-Rex. I'm wondering what can't Cappy possess? And I SO want a Cappy hat for myself now. I've seen people rocking that thing at E3 and I need that in my life! If I cannot posses anyone that I throw it on, I will be very disappointed.

A word I've frequently heard being used to describe Odyssey is "Weird." New Donkey City could easily pass for a real life city. The citizens, rather than being the same or roughly the same height as Mario are much taller than him and look like real world, everyday people. Even some of the enemies you encounter look like they don't belong in a Mario game. For frying out loud, we saw Mario on a freaking scooter and unless the game is Mario Kart, then that is a highly unusual sight.  And yet, no one is complaining. The Super Mario games have always been weird and that's something that I've always loved about them. They've never been afraid to embrace weirdness and Odyssey is going full tilt with it. Super Mario Bros. 2, the most oddball game of the series was originally seen as weird because it was so different from the original Super Mario Bros. but much of the stuff in that game ended up becoming canon. heck, Nintendo eve n acknowledges the American version of Super Mario Bros. 2 as a cannon entry to the series. And we've actually seen Mario jumping with a radish in Odyssey, a clear nod to the "black sheep" Super Mario Bros. 2.

The song that was played during the game's January reveal was very nice but that super jazzy beat that was playing for the E3 trailer? I don't think there was a single person that wasn't tapping their feet, bobbing their head, or snapping their fingers as that song was playing. I've already listened to that song more times than I can count. And Pauline is the one singing it. From damsel in distress to the mayor of New Donk City with a killer set of vocals. Mario's first lady love has certainly come along way.

Super Mario games are fun. I'd argue that they are the embodiment of an enjoyable video game experience. Of course some Super Mario titles are more fun than others for different reasons. Super Mario 3D World may not have been on the same scale or scope as the two Super Mario Galaxy titles, but the general opinion is that 3D World was one of the most fun Super Mario games in years. Oyssey looks like it's going to take the fun of 3D World and run full speed with it on a much, much greater scale than any other Super Mario entry. Like the rest of you, I cannot wait to do this Odyssey.

Xbox One X Name is Infinite Face Palm Levels of Dumb

At Microsoft's E3 press conference on Sunday, the Xbox Scorpio, now know as the Xbox One X received a lot of attention. Touted as the most powerful console ever, the Xbox One X, which is yet another Xbox One upgraded system sports 4K gaming at 60fps at a price of $500. On top of being insanely powerful, it also has one of the stupidest names in the history of game consoles.

Say what you will about Sony's unoriginal names for their consoles but at least when they release a new home system, there is no doubt as to what the thing is. The PS2 was the successor to the original PS as the PS4 was the follow up to the PS3. Sony is very direct with system names. The name "Xbox One X" is so confusing it makes my head hurt. I suppose I really shouldn't be surprised. Microsoft has been on this dumb console name train for years, ever since the original Xbox One was unveiled in 2013. They followed it up with the Xbox One S, and now here we are with the Xbox One X.

Its as if Microsoft took a page from Nintendo (not one of their best pages), looked at the Wii U name and thought they could come up with something just as, if not more baffling and viola, the Xbox One X. I love the Wii U but no amount of love is going to blind me to the fact that that system flopped hard and one of the primary reasons was the name. Wii U was a name that left many people puzzled as to whether it was a brand new console or an add on for the original Wii. Seeing as how the Wii was Nintendo's best selling home console, it doesn't come as a surprise that Nintendo would want to replicate that success, wishing to ride off the coattails of the Wii name. Unfortunately, the name caused far more confusion than it did interest to the casual gamer and when all was said and done, the Wii U barely sold over 13 million units, making it (sales wise) Nintendo's worse console ever.

To the Xbox One X's credit, it isn't a successor to the Xbox One, but the third member in the Xbox One family. Still, Microsoft may have already potentially shot themselves in the foot by giving the system such a baffling name. For all the power under that compact hood, $500 isn't too bad, but that's still $500 for a system that's core function is to play prettier games. This may come as a shock to those that absolutely must have the most shinny, ultra gaming experience, but not everybody cares about super flash games. It certainly is nice that there will be a console out later this year that caters to that crowd, but the Xbox One X isn't gonna be for everyone and I'm not just talking about those that don't want to cough up 500 bones.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Bubsy is Back and Pigs Fly

We had some pretty nice weather last week. I was able to go outside and take a long look into the sky as I let out a peaceful sigh. But as I stared skyward, I saw something flying. It wasn't a bird. It wasn't a plane and it certainly wasn't Superman. It was a pig. As I live and breath, I saw a pig flying, defying the laws of gravity. Flying pigs mean one of three things. Game publishers have stopped with micro transactions. Those are still unfortunately a thing, so that wasn't the reason I saw airborne pork. Electronic Arts is still an awful company. So that can only mean one thing: Bubsy is making a comeback.

Be scared.

For those of you not in the know, Bubsy was one of the many platformers that came out in the wake of Sonic the Hedgehog's runaway success in the early 1990s. It was a time where "characters with attitude" were as plentiful as blades of grass. Unfortunately many of these pretenders were just that. Companies that wished to capture the same success of SEGA's Sonic only looked at what was on the surface (the 'tude) and made that the primary focus of their games. Tight level design? Good music? Pfff, who needs that crap when our character has so much edge to him? Bubsy had a few games but by the mid '90s, he was just a bad memory. You could do a lot worse than play a Bubsy title, but you could also do a lot better.

The question screaming in my mind (along with countless others, I'm sure) when news reached me of Bubsy's return was/is "WHY?!" Bubsy coming back is the kind thing that makes you stop and realize just how cruel and unfair life truly is. We can't get a new F-ZERO, Klonoa, NiGHTS or TimeSplitters, but freaking Bubsy, an obnoxious, talking bobcat, actually got the Life spell cast on him?! All those other games I just mentioned, people actually want to see those franchises return. Bubsy? No one wanted this cat to come back. Let's just say the multiverse does exist and on each Earth, something is different. The one thing that is constant on every Earth is that no one is clamoring for the return of Bubsy.

At the risk of being optimistic, the game could be better than his entries from 20 years ago.. I mean, his walking speed seems to be normal, so that's already a plus. Maybe there won't be an abundance of cheap deaths. Or blind jumps. You know, Bubsy had a number of one liners back in the day, but the one everybody remembers is "What could possibly go wrong?"

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Hylian Downfall

The Pixel Mixers have done it again. First they wowed me with their Chrono Trigger album, Clockwork and now they've put together an incredible Legend of Zelda tribute album, Hylian Downfall.

Hylian Downfall is a three disc digital album spanning the first four Legend of Zelda games. Disc 1 is comprised of arrangements of The Legend of Zelda and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. All of disc 2 is taken up by A Link to the Past and closing out this impressive album is disc 3, which covers the overlooked Link's Awakening.

This tribute album covers a vareity of genres like jazz, rock, heavy metal, and acoustic to name a few. I never imagined I'd hear a jazz rendition of Dark World but it's here on this album and I freaking love it. Ditto for that head banging remix of Tal Tal Heights. I'm very pleased that Link's Awakening was given so much love and appreciation on this album. That game has so wonderful music that is frequently overshadowed by the other Zelda soundtracks.

Hylian Downfall is a free download so you've got no reason not to check it out. If you need further convincing, you can view the preview trailer below.

Hylian Downfall

Friday, June 9, 2017

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe: How to Reduce Salt

If you're a Nintendo Switch owner, one title in your collection is more than likely Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, an updated version of the Wii U's Mario Kart 8. Just look at that box art. Mario and company look so happy, just as happy as you'll be when you're racing around the track with family and friends and everyone is laughing, having a good time. LIES. If you've participated in even a meager amount of online races in Mario Kart 8 or it's Deluxe version, you know that the race tracks are a friggin' war zone littered about with multicolored Shells, Banana Peels, Bob-ombs, salty tears and many, many ruined friendships. "War has changed," Snake said in Metal Gear Solid 4. The man was not kidding.

Inkling Boy is killing it. Meanwhile, a very
angry Luigi is thinking of ten
different ways to ruin his day.
It isn't uncommon to hear those that play Mario Kart spout about the use of items, that they cheapen the game, taking away all forms of skill. The use of items is one thing that drew myself and others to this series way back in 1992 and is one thing that keeps Mario Kart from being just another racing game. Items add a element of chaos. Yeah, it sucks when you're on the receiving end of the items but when you're the one dishing out the misfortune? Best. Thing. EVER. If you play Mario Kart, you're going to have to deal with the insanity that comes with item use. That's just how it is. However, that doesn't mean your Mario Kart online experience can't be a bit less bumpy. If you want to reduce the amount of salt build up while you play Mario Kart 8 online, I highly recommend you play defensively.

How does one go about playing Mario Kart 8 defensively? It starts with item management. Holding onto a item can be just as important, if not more important than using it. Just because you've got the means to snipe a player ahead of you, doesn't mean you should.  We're all eager to move ahead, but players in the back are far more of a threat than anyone ahead of you could ever be. I've seen so many players online get Red Shells, quickly throw them to take out players ahead of them only to get wrecked after moving up by players behind them because they had no items to protect themselves. Since the Deluxe version of Mario Kart 8 let's you hold two items, that does shift the way item management works so you can better hold your position. Of course not every single item should be horded. But anything you can hold behind you to take the hits of oncoming projectiles should always be kept behind you as long as possible.

They let this kid bring a firearm to a cart race
but that's OK because bombs, fireballs and bolts of
lightning are standard fare here.
Of course knowing when to be on the offensive with your items is also key. Hit someone with a Shell over the road and they lose a few seconds and you can pass them. But if you Red Shell them over a big jump and Lakitu has to fly in to pick them up? That's even more time they'll lose because they get placed further back on the track. If you've got a chance and more than one item that can send someone flying off the track, the opportunity to make their life miserable should not be missed, especially if said player just screwed you over. A properly placed Banana Peel can also achieve the desire result as can a Boomerang toss and Fire Flower.

As important is item management is, being a good driver in Mario Kart is crucial. If you think this game only takes items to win and zero skill, think again. You need to be good at drifting, knowing when to drift wide and drift inside. It isn't that hard to overtake someone using only speed and drifts. This all goes along with knowing the layout of the tracks along with each track's shortcuts, including the tracks you hate. Instead of using that Mushroom to boost ahead of someone, use it to cut through some grass or other rough patch that slows your cart/bike down.

Everyone covets first place but being in this position also places a huge target on you. It is incredibly rare to go a single race without seeing a single Blue Shell. If you're lucky enough to have a Super Horn in your possession, you can easily neutralize the incoming Blue Shell. You know, provided it doesn't get taken away from you via Lightning or a Boo. Let's say you've got the chance to move to first place. Consider this: has a Blue Shell been thrown yet? If not, you may wanna hang back for a bit and wait for the inevitable death from above.

Are the above methods a sure fire way to always obtain victory? Of course not. But it has made my online sessions with Mario Kart 8 a lot more fun. Now get out there and show those players what's up.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Salt Over The (6.6.2017) Pokemon Direct

Nintendo had another one of their Directs, the latest one centering around the massively popular Pokemon franchise. Pokemon Sun/Moon are getting updated releases in the form of Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon, Pokken Tournament DX, an updated version of Pokken Tournament from the Wii U with DLC characters and generation 2 of Pokemon, Gold and Silver will get released later this year. But no love for the superior Crystal version. The amount of salt that fills the air from Pokemon fans around the world is overwhelmingly strong.

For Pokken Tournament DX, I do have to admit to being a bit salty over the announcement of this one. I had known about the DLC characters for some time and was wondering when those characters were going to come to the Wii U game. Turns out the answer to that question is "Never" since Nintendo has opted to bring the game over to the Switch with the DLC characters for the DX version. I'm not a competitive fighting game fan by any means but I did enjoy Pokken Tournament on the Wii U. I even picked up two Hori fighting game controllers for Pokken Tournament, which I like a lot. One of theme is even the Pikachu version. On the flip side, more people will get to play Pokken Tournament and now it can be played anywhere. Although I do have to wonder if it will sell better on the Switch than it did the Wii U. A little over a year after the release of the Wii U version and it is still the worst selling Pokemon game.

The main reason Pokemon fans are so furious over this Direct? Not a single game shown is anything new. I can kinda see why they'd be so PO'd about this. Specifically, they want a Pokemon game like the main series on the Switch. The 3DS may not be as powerful as the Switch but the thing still prints money. If you thought Nintendo was gonna drop the system like a brick just because the Switch came out (and is doing crazy good in sales), you're off your rocker. Sure, Nintendo will stop supporting the 3DS eventually but for the time being, the handheld isn't going anywhere, even with the Switch being all the rage.

As for the new Pokemon game fans wanted to see? That would be Pokemon Stars. And what is Pokemon Stars? Why, it's nothing but a rumored game that fans bought in to, got super hyped up for and then got super angry when the game they had no concrete evidence on wasn't shown in the Direct. There are even fans saying Nintendo made a big deal about this game, which they never did. You can thank fellow Pokemon fans and YouTubers for that. See kids, this is why you don't buy into rumors. No matter how enticing it might sound, a rumor, without any solid evidence, is not true.

Look, I can understand the frustration over Crystal getting the shaft and Pokken Tournament DX, but fans have no one to blame but themselves for buying into Pokemon Stars nonsense. Besides, We just got gen 7 of Pokemon back in November. Did fans honestly believe Nintendo was gonna roll out gen 8 this early? People will save themselves so much anguish if they stop being so gullible.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Favorite Tunes #186: Sounds Fishy

It has been quite some time since we've had a Favorite Tunes centering around a central theme or series, so this week is all about my favorite SHMUP series that involves fish, Darius. Consider this a bit of a musical Darius history lesson if you're new to the series or a trip down memory lane if you're a long time fan.

Main Theme : Chaos - Darius (ARC)

From the one that started it all, the music in the original Darius title holds up quite well. The game's main theme may take a while to grow on you but once it gets going, this is a pretty sick tune. Eerie, yet upbeat and very off-world sounding.

Cosmic Air Way - Sagaia (GB)

Being on the GB, you might think a Darius game may not translate to well. Sagaia actually turned out to be one of the better shooters on the handheld. Much of the music was lifted from the first Darius title (by the time Sagaia landed on the GB, Darius II was already two years old) and it sounds really good in GB chiptune form.

Muse Valley - Darius II (ARC)

Darius II was released as Sagaia outside of Japan. Not to be confused with the GB title of the same name, Darius II is by and large a much better game than the original and like the first title, features more outstanding audio by Zuntata. When it comes to official Darius arrangements, Muse Valley is frequently chosen.

Rodeo Diver - Darius Twin (SNES)

The game that introduced me to the Darius series has the honor of being the second SNES game I ever owned (the first being Super Mario World.) The soundtracks of the Super Famicom and SNES version of Darius Twin have some very subtle differences that may not be apparent if you aren't very familiar with the game's score. The guitar riffs are even more pronounced in the SNES version than they are the Super Famicom and overall, the soundtrack sounds more fleshed out. As a result, tracks like Rodeo Diver really pop in the SNES version of Darius Twin.

FAKE - Darius Gaiden (ARC)

While the earlier Darius titles were comprised of mostly cheerful, peppy music, the series would later shift to more haunting, experimental, moody music and that is greatly apparent in Darius Gaiden, a game released in the mid 1990s where 3D gaming was finally becoming a reality. Music in Darius Gaiden can be on the creepy side (along with G. Darius, my favorite game in the series) but the tunes are still good and FAKE is even dance-worthy.

Suite Photoconductivity  ~First Tune: Iron Fossil~ - Dariusburst Another Chronicle (ARC)

This is is the longest track I've listed, clocking in at over seven minutes in length. It takes a little bit to start up, but the wait is definitely worth it. Music in Dariusburst Another Chronicle is more in line with what you'd hear in Darius Gaiden and G. Darius. As much as I enjoy the music from the earlier entries, I've no problem with what Darius music evolved into, especially when it sounds this good.

Favorite Tunes Database

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Remix of the Week: Dick Gumshoe (Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney)

This week's remix takes us back to the Consouls, those oh-so talented jazz musicians with a performance of Dick Gumshoe's theme from the DS classic Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. There are actually a few official Phoenix Wright jazz albums that have been released in Japan so it's pretty nice to see some more fan arrangements done in the same genre.

Why Did Homeworld Cover Up the Shattering of Pink Diamond?

Oh man, the Steven Universe one hour special, Wanted this past Monday was amazing! It kicked off season five with a bang! Lars got some much needed character development (along with a change in skin color), we were introduced to some new characters and we finally, finally saw Homeworld after the name was dropped a gazillion times across four seasons. As great as it was to see the new bunch of friends Steven and Lars made (I really like the off color Gems), the episode that really got me noggin going was The Trial.

Throughout much of season one for Steven Universe Rose Quartz is built up by the Crystal Gems as if she were this perfect being that could do no wrong. Her status was so great that it has given Steven doubts about living up to her outstanding reputation. As season two and three go on, we come to find out that she's far from perfect, being  flawed as anyone else. While we've know that Jasper has been wanting to tear her a new one since The Return in season one, it isn't until near the end of season three in Earthlings and Back to the Moon that we find out why Jasper hates Rose so much: she shattered Pink Diamond. At least, this is what werelead to believe.

The episode The Trial dropped some startling revelations on us. Not only did Rose not shatter Pink Diamond, it is heavily implied that her murder was an inside job. Fans are already theorizing who shattered Pink Diamond and as much as I want to know who the culprit was, I really want to know "why" The why has me more stumped than the who. Why would one of the Diamonds kill one of their own and why Pink?

If we look at the murals of each Diamond, we can see how many planets each one has. White posses the most of any, followed by Yellow, then Blue and finally Pink with just one planet under her belt, the Earth. That leads me to believe she could have been the youngest of the Diamonds and therefore, had the least experience. I know Gems don't age so when I say "youngest" she could have been the last of the Diamonds to be made and since she only had one colony to her name, I don't think that is a bad guess to make, unless all four Diamonds were made at the same time, assuming someone made them at all. Point is, if you were going to eliminate someone for whatever reason, you'd want to get rid of your weakest link, which could very well have been Pink Diamond.

When Pink was shattered the Rebellion had already been going on four hundreds of years. Was it possible that Pink was having a change of heart? Could she have come to develop a fondness for human life in her time taking humans from Earth and placing them in her own personal Zoo? This crossed my mind but  there's still so little we know about her that it isn't high on my list of reasons as to why she was taken out.

As for why Homeworld sought to cover up the fact that they had Pink Diamond shattered, I've got at least one clear cut reason. Homeworld is a highly advanced planet that has got to contain countless Gems. Howeverm there are also Gem controlled planets, meaning those planets also are inhabited by Gems. If word got out that one of the Diamonds shattered Pink, the fallout would be huge. Do you think the Gems on Homworld and all the other Gem controlled planets would just about about their merry way knowing a member of the Diamond Authority was shanked by a fellow member? Keep in mind, Pink Diamond was shattered during a war. No doubt many soldiers fighting on the side of the Diamonds and Homeworld would call into question why they would side with anyone that has no problem taking out such a high ranking member of their society. The Diamonds are pretty powerful to be sure. Garnet has made it clear on multiple occasions that she does not wanna mess with the Diamonds. A small, left over group of rebels would stand little chance against the Diamonds. But a bunch of planets worth of rebels? That is a mess the Diamonds would not even wanna try to clean up.

In Dragon Ball, the Saiyans served Freeza but he exterminated the majority of them because he feared they could be a threat to him and the possibility of a Super Saiyan rising from their ranks frightened him. Turns out his fears would perfectly valid. When Pink was shattered the Rebellion had already been going on four hundreds of years. Was it possible that Pink was having a change of heart? Could she have come to develop a fondness for human life in her time taking humans from Earth and placing them in her own personal Zoo? The Trial has given us such a good mystery and I can't wait to see how it unfolds.