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Friday, July 20, 2018

Thoughts on the (TBR) SNK 40th Anniversary Collection

A couple of weeks ago, SNK finally gave us a concrete release date of the SNK 40th Anniversary Collection. The Nintendo Switch exclusive retro compilation is set to release on November 13th, 2018. Along with the reveal of the release date, most of the games that will be included have also been listed. Said titles include Ikari Warriors, Psycho Soldier, Guerrilla, Alpha Mission, P.O.W. and Cyrstalis among others. When the release date trailer dropped, fans expressed some concern and disappointment at the lack of any games in the Samurai Shodown, Fatal Fury, Metal Slug and King of Fighters line. SNK promises over 13 games on the SNK 40th Anniversary Collection but of the games announced thus far, it seems very clear that this release is focusing on games that are not of the Neo Geo era.

It is impossible to think of SNK and not think of the Neo Geo. The arcade hardware housed some of SNK's very best games. If you owned a Neo Geo console, you got to play arcade perfect version of Neo Geo games in the comfort of your own home. That is, if you could afford it. The astronomical price of the Neo Geo ($600) and the games for the system ($250) were some of the highest we'd ever seen, which meant very few people owned SNK's powerhouse system. Like many, I didn't own a Neo Geo but through compilation releases over the years and digital distribution, I've become far more familiar with SNK's games than I was growing up and only reading about them. So while I can see fans being rubbed the wrong way with the absence of Neo Geo games on the SNK 40th Anniversary Collection, I'd like to counter that argument with the fact that many SNK Neo Geo games are available digitally via HAMSTER's excellent Arcade Archives line. The games that will be present on this anthology haven't gotten anywhere near the re-release love as SNK's Neo Geo titles have.

Most of the games announced for the SNK 40th Anniversary Collection are titles that I have not played. I've heard the praises of Ikari Warriors being sung throughout the years but I've never played it even though I own the NES version. Psycho Soldier is a game that recently came to my attention before the announcement trailer dropped. After hearing the game's soundtrack, the game sparked my interest and was delighted to see that it would be part of this collection. P.O.W was brought to my attention the same way. I even mentioned it in a recent Favorite Tunes and lo and behold, I'll be able to check this game out.

If you're a fan of Ikari Warriors, you'll be
happy to have the ability to play it wherever
you want on the Switch.
The only game I have played on SNK 40th Anniversary Collection is Crystalis. I bought it after reading about it in an issue of Nintendo Power and while it has been years since I played that game, I had a lot of fun with it. You can bet your booty that I'm happy to see it getting another re-release (I never did play the 2000 GBC version).

Like most compilation releases, SNK 40th Anniversary Collection will have bonus features and special content. What that stuff is has yet to be divulged but one can assume it will be artwork and a music player among other things. I was surprised at just how much artwork was included in the Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection. There was artwork that I had seen before, yes, but there was also tones of pictures that were new to me. I'm a big fan of gaming artwork so it will be nice to see some of the earlier SNK works.

The world looks like it has seen better days
in Psycho Soldier.
SNK 40th Anniversary Collection is arcade focused but home versions of these games will also be included. It will be nice to be able to compare and contrast the differences between game versions and is a very cool addition. Most of compilation releases only go with a single version of a game. My NES carts of Ikari Warriors and Alpha Mission never did work so now I'll be able to see what the home games are like.

There are more games to be announced but even with what we've been shown thus far, I'm looking forward to SNK 40th Anniversary Collection. This is one slice of golden age arcade gaming I'm itching to take a bite out of even with that $40 price tag.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Favorite Tunes #234: Crude for You

As I've been listening to quite a bit of arcade music lately, it has crept its way into Favorite Tunes more and more. This may seem a bit unusual as I'm not someone that spent a great deal of time in the arcades growing up, which is something I regret. Thankfully, digital distribution has allowed me to discover what no doubt many others have experienced in arcades, thus getting me exposed to some really good arcade music.

New Day For Me  (Stage 2) - Zero Wing (AC)
Zero Wing is mostly known for its Engrish that spawned countless memes in the early 2000s, the Genesis version, at least. So popular are said memes that it may come as a surprise to find out that Zero Wing was originally an arcade game. Recently, I gave the arcade score a listen and was blown away. I'm a sucker for old arcade jams.

Leave Alone (Stage London) - Street Fighter III: New Generation (ARC)
In 1997, Capcom surprised everyone by doing the unthinkable: placing a III after "Street Fighter" They also upset a lot of players by 86ing just about every fighter from SFII, save Ryu and Ken. Players have since warmed to the SFIII crew. The game also introduced the parry mechanic as well as some sweet new beats. While 3rd Strike is without question the most popular and best game of the SFIII line, if you're curious about checking out the first one, you can experience it as part of the Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection.

Garuda Cave - Fighting EX Layer (PS4)
Fighting EX Layer has at long last been released. Annnnnnd yeah, it is missing some modes, mainly an arcade mode. This is sure to give players a Street Fighter V launch vibe but Arika ins't exactly rolling in dough. As of now, the game is a digital only title but with enough support, hopefully more modes will be added. The music is very much in the style of the Street Fighter EX game and the original Fighting Layer (both which we developed by Arika) so if you loved the music in those games, you won't be disappointed.

Stage 1 - Batman (TG-16)
Everyone goes nuts for the Stage 1 Batman theme on NES. And why should't they? It is a banger of a tune. Well, let me introduce you to the TG-16 version of Stage 1 from Batman. Different tune, yes, but still all kinds of radical.

Crude Buster -The Lifeline of New York- - Two Crude (AC)
Known as Depending on side of the pond you reside in the world, this game is known as Crude Buster. For us in the US of A, it is known as Two Crudes or Two Crude Dudes for those that played the Genesis port, which for the longest time was the only way to play this baby until MAME came along. Now you can legally play this baby thanks to digital destribution and I'll talk a bit more about this one this coming week. For now, just dig this baller theme.

Name Entry - Demon's World (AC)
I am just showering Toaplan with all kinds of love this week (Zero Wing is a game by Toaplan, FYI). If we HAMSTER ever gets to some Toaplan games perhaps we can see titles from their catalog on the arcade archives line. In the meantime, all I can say about Demon's World is that it has one of my favorite Name Entry themes. Not quite up there with that of Altered Beast, but still pretty dang good.

Favorite Tunes Database

Friday, July 13, 2018

How Not to Be a Game Journalist

Years ago, it was my dream job to be a video game journalist.  Just the thought of making a living by getting my work published in a game magazine or website filled me with such joy. This was of course before digital media made the enormous boom that it did and YouTube became the juggernaut power house that it currently is. The world we live in now is quite different from what it was two decades ago and that couldn't be more truer when it comes to video game coverage.

With YouTube being such a huge platform, dozens upon dozens of people are making a living talking about video games right from the comfort of their own homes. This has given some that have been in the game journalist biz long before YouTube came around a thorny outlook on YouTubers as some of them didn't even go to school for journalism. Not only that but by and large, opinion on professional game journalism has waned considerably over the years. It used to be that only IGN was subject to pot shots from gamers. These days, every video game journalism website from GameSpot to Kotaku to Polygon is treated as a laughing stock. Speaking of laughing stocks, the world of professional game journalism has once again proven what a joke it is through one Shane Satterfield. To many of you, that name might be new. To me, it is a familiar name, one I have not heard for a very long time.

Currently employed at SIFTD ,Shane used to work for GameSpot. Back when I would regularly read reviews, GameSpot was a site I would frequently check out and I would always keep an eye on out for reviews and editorials written by Shane. He even had a weekly feature where he would answer reader questions. Because of his position and knowledge, I held Shane in high regard. Shane's recent actions served as a reminder that we should not place anyone on a pedestal, no matter what their profession is.

If you've been keeping an eye on CD Projekt Red's Cyberpunk 2077, no doubt you've heard that audio for the unreleased game was leaked. The one who leaked the audio was none other than the aforementioned Shane. Not only did Shane show zero remorse for his actions, he was irritated because the audio he leaked got picked up someone else, spread around and SIFTD didn't get any of the credit for it. He also seems to think he's on another level from other game journalists and anyone else the covers video games because he was the only one that had the foresight to take out his phone and record audio at a private demo for the gaming press, even though CD Projket Red asked that no one take pictures or video during the demo.

Cyberpunk 2077.
What Shane is making such a fuss over is not the fact that he showed poor journalism etiquette, or that he may have caused irreparable damage to his reputation as well as ruin his friendship with someone he's known for 15 years that works for CD Projket Red. No, those aren't the things that bother him. What upsets him the most is that SIFTD isn't getting all those coveted views. You heard right, folks, if you want to be a good game journalist, do whatever it takes to get ahead, including potentially ruining close friendships. And game journalists wonder why they are seldom taken seriously anymore.

The world may be an ever changing place but that doesn't mean you should throw entrigity out the window for views. If I were in Shane's shoes, I suppose I would feel miffed at the boom that is YouTube and basically anyone being able to work in the field of video games. However, in no way does that excuse his pitiful actions. Rather than be a man and own up to his mistakes, he plays the victim. Well, Shane, you didn't do yourself any favors and I think any game company that has caught wind of this story is sure to think twice before inviting you to a private demo, or anything since you've shown that you aren't one to shy away from leaking.

Check out this video by YongYea that goes into a bit more detail on the mater.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Favorite Tunes #233: An SNK Kinda Day

Looking for music from King of Fighters for last week's got me to listen to a whole lotta SNK jams. Seriously, I'd forgotten how awesome the music in SNK games are. This week's Favorite Tunes is filled with SNK songs from top to bottom.

Stage 1- Metal Slug (ARC, NG)
Despite the cartoonish look of the series, Metal Slug is known for it's harsh difficulty. Unlike Contra, special weapons run on limited ammo and getting a high prisoner bonus is tough because unless you're some kinda Metal Slug god, death is never too far behind. Nonetheless, these things have not stopped Metal Slug from being a favorite SNK franchise. Thanks to the re-releases via the Arcade Archives line, gamers of all ages can enjoy the first few Metal Slug entries.

Stage 3 - P.O.W. Prisoners of War (ARC)
With a name like Prisoners of War, you might be thinking the game is some kind of overhead shooter. Instead, this is a beat 'em up. Released in 1988, this title predates the Metal Slug and King of Fighters games that SNK is more famous for. Perhaps this will be included  as part of the SNK 40th Collection for the Switch set to release later this year.

Jungle Rhythm - Shock Troopers (ARC, NG)
Unlike P.O.W., this game actually is an overhead shooter and a pretty unique one at that. You get a ton of characters to choose from each with their own set of bombs, a beefy life meter and the option to go solo or a select from a team of three. Rolling makes you completely invunerable to enemy attacks and the eighty way shooting really helps set this apart from so may other games in this genre. If you're curious, you can grab Shock Troopers via Arcade Archives for chump change.

Entirely Breaker (Theme of Geon) - King of the Monsters (ARC, NG)
Who doesn't love rubber suited monsters raking up millions in property damage? Well, some don't but those people are weirdos. While some of you may be more familiar with this game on the SNES (that $650 price tag made sure that only five people owned a Neo Geo), the game originated in the arcades. If you're in the mood to play a game with monsters kicking the crap out of each other in sprite form, you're in the right place with King of the Monsters.

The Melting Point (Stage 4) - Last Resort (ARC, NG)
At first glance Last Resort may seem like an R-Type clone with the ship design and that pod that can be fired off. However, the similarities end there. Take Last Resort for a spin and you'll wish the pod in R-Type was as diverse as the one in SNK's shooter. If you've seen the anime Akira you may recognize a few pieces of scenery here in Last Resort as SNK blatantly ripped them off. I guess they were fans. Not only does Last Resort look stunning after more than 20 years later, the soundtrack is on point.

ESAKA (Japan Stage) - The King of Fighters '94 (ARC, NG)
While it may be vastly outclassed by the games that followed it, The King of Fighters '94 isn't automatically a bad game because of it. It is responsible for birthing the 3 member team system that has helped make the series so famous. It also pumped out a killer soundtrack that is still mighty impressive to this day. Among the stage themes from KOF '94, this is my favorite, hands down.

Favorite Tunes Database

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Favorite Tunes #232: The Slugfest

If you get the subtitle for this one, give yourself a cookie. A peanut butter cookie. Because those are the best flavor of cookies.

Desert Mountain Storm (BGM 1) - Gun Frontier (ARC)
I happened across this game's music while looking for some music from King of Fighters '98 to post. Any game that has music by Taito (ZUNTATA) is going to catch my attention. And man, it is ever so good! Gun Frontier or Gun & Frontier as it is known in the west, received a SEGA Saturn port, at least in Japan. The game was also part of the Taito Legends 2 collection on the PS2, 360 and PC.

Konami Avenue - Over Drive (ARC)
Insert the obvious Konami sucks comment here. Now that we've gotten that out of the way, we can talk about this arcade game. Actually, we can't because I've never played it and the game's existence didn't reach my notice until recently. This is another one I happened across while preparing Favorite Tunes. As of this writing, I haven't listened to the entire soundtrack, but this track by itself has left a very strong impression.

Rumbling on the City (Ikari Team) - King of Fighters '98: Dream Match Never Ends (ARC, NG)
Among the many (and I mean many) King of Fighters games, '98 is widely regarded as one of, if not the best entry. The fight roster (consisting of 30+ characters) was huge and the game was well balanced. You can get this classic for chump change via Arcade Archives on the PS4 and Switch. Those digitized guitar riffs are immaculate.

Beyond the Galaxy - Galaxy Force II (GEN)
Sure, Galaxy Force II didn't fare well on the Genesis but the one thing that did not get botched is the music. Those strong bass lines sounds arguably better on this home port than they do the co-op version. Also, that cowbell!

Stage 1 (Moonlight Temptation) - Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon (NS, PS4, XBO, PSV, PC)
Knock back, stiff jumping, the Belmont strut. Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon is a Castlevania game in everything but the name. Seeing as how Konami isn't doing jack with the franchise these days, I have no problem with Bloodstained being the new Castlevania. Even the soundtrack was done by Michiru Yamane, a name known far and wide to Castlevania fans.

Marina Stadium - Mario Tennis Aces (NS)
From the buzz, Mario Tennis Aces has put the Mario Tennis games back on the map after a few lackluster entries. I haven't really gotten seriously involved with a Mario Tennis game since the N64 original so I'm really stoked for this one (haven't picked it up yet.) It would be a Mario Tennis game without blasting Motoi Sakuraba music. The man really has flair for making Tennis music sound epic.

Favorite Tunes Database

Monday, June 25, 2018

Arrogance: The Worst Look Anyone Can Wear

Arrogance. In life and especially the business that is the video game industry, it is quite possible the worst enemy one can have, especially if you happen to be a console manufacturer. One could argue that due to a company's success that they have a right to be arrogant but more often than not, there is one nasty sludge hammer waiting to destroy that pedestal that the proud have propped themselves up on.

Sony is sitting atop the throne with the PS4. It is clearly winning this console generation but I'm getting the impression that Sony doesn't remember the humbling experience that was the previous console generation. This whole no cross play on Xbox One and Switch debacle is really showing that Sony thinks they are too cool for school.

Sony cleaned house during both the PS and PS2 eras. Winning two console generations in a row is enough to make anyone's head swell and it was at the point where the PS3 was revealed that Sony showed the world that they had an ego the size of a small planet. In a display of supreme arrogance, Sony priced the PS3 at $600 and had the gull to state they wanted gamers to work second jobs just to be able to afford one. Gamers response to that was to buy a Wii and a 360. Sure the PS3 eventually overtook the 360 but Sony's massive ego allowed the competition to win that era with the Wii kicking the PS3's teeth in.

Despite not having a whole lot at launch, the PS4 quickly gained traction due to the low entry cost at $400 and they were very pro consumer compared to Microsoft with the Xbox one at 2013's E3, which had to be one of the lowest points for Microsoft and played a large part in landing them where they are now. Sony even took a not-so-subtle jab at Microsoft when they demonstrated how game sharing on the PS4 would work, you know, the natural way, loaning games to friends instead of that stupid cloud nonsense that Microsoft thought was actually a good idea along with their always online DRM. Microsoft pretty much handed Sony the win for the PS4 vs XBO battle, if it can even be called such.

Now here we are, five years later and Sony's ego is once again in the drivers seat, making mind mindbogglingly stupid choices. Thinking that just because they are sitting in the number one spot, that they are untouchable when it has been proven time and again for all three console manufacturers, no one is immune to failure. Regardless of what you may think of Fortnite and the popularity the game has garnered holding player's accounts to the game hostage is just plain scummy. To Sony it may be about their bottom line as a business but it still isn't a good move. Microsoft and Nintendo have taken advantage of Sony's idiocy and have shown that they are open to cross platform play with a brilliant Minecraft ad. Never thought I'd see the day where a Microsoft controller is shown in an ad on Nintendo's channel, but there really is a first time for everything.

Gamers remember what happened the last time Sony's arrogance was out of control but it is quite apparent that Sony does not. There could be a sludge hammer knocking on their door in a few years.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Favorite Tunes #231: Just How Do You Pronounce "Ys"?

Well, now that I've spoiled what two of the selections come from in the subtitle, how about we just get on with the show?

EXH* Notes - Rave Racer (ARC)
While Ridge Racer and Ridge Racer Revolution recieved home ports on the PlayStation, Rave Racer has forever stayed in the arcades, dooming the game to obscurity. Bandai Namco really should get in touch with HAMSTER and give us an Arcade Archives release of this baby. It has some wicked music.

Ultra Cruise - Ridge Racer 6 (360)
Just as the original Ridge Racer and Ridge Racer V were for the PS and PS2 respectively, Ridge Racer 6 was a lunch title for the Xbox 360, showing off what Microsoft's new hardware was capable of. By no means was Ridge Racer 6 a killer app, there were still far worse ways to spend $50-60 for a game a launch day. It should go without saying, but since this is a Ridge Racer game, of course the music was on point.

Burning Point - Thunder Blade (ARC)
A game most are probably familiar with thanks to the Genesis version of the game called Super Thunder Blade, which sadly has given the original Thunder Blade a negative reputation. The arcade version was given greater exposure being released on SEGA's 3D line on the 3DS, but Super Thunder Blade has continued to get more and more releases on compilations over the years. Not only does Thunder Blade play a million times better than the choppy Genesis version, the soundtrack is leaps and bounds ahead of it.

BGM 4 - Racing Hero (ARC)
Don't let this weak sauce of a title for the track fool you. BGM 4 is a phenomenal piece of music. I'd expect nothing less from the musicians SEGA employed. Racing Hero could be considered part of the Hang-On series despite not being anywhere near as well known as Super Hang-On.

Prelude to Adventure - Ys III: Wanderers from Ys (TG-16)
Ys VIII hit the Switch and as I have never completed a Ys game but have always loved the music, I think I'll pick it up and make it the first game in the series I finish. Ys III received a few ports and picking which version has the best music can be a difficult task.

The Boy's Got Wings - Ys III: Wanderers from Ys (X68000)
Yes, we're talking about Ys III music again, but this time from the Sharp X68000 version. That thing had a baller of a sound chip and in the right hands, magic was worked. One of Ys III's best tracks (saying a lot because the entire game's soundtrack is crazy awesome) sounds spectacular on the X68000. Those drums, man!

Favorite Tunes Database