Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Ten Things That Have Made Me Say "F&$% Yeah!!" in Video Games

Now, I haven't done a list in a minute, but I figured this was as good a time as any, being that I should have some new gaming hotness to review for y'all next week. So, I figured I'd give you guys a list of the ten things that most exemplified a "Fuck Yeah!!!" moment in video games for me.

10) The first time the "Konami code" worked for me on a game not called Contra. Konami used that classic code for a lot of games, but most gamers didn't know it worked on anything but Contra. When I tried it on Life Force, though, those 30 lives got a reaction out of me that was unforgettable.

9) Beating Mike Tyson in Punchout!! The first time I fought him, I used a password to get to him, and thoroughly got my ass beat. After I invested time into beating the game the hard way, I was mentally prepared to fight Tyson, and I won by decision. I don't care if it wasn't a KO since I did something a lot of gamers still can't say they've done.

8) Witnessing the subtle awesomeness of the original Blaster Master. I might get some grief about this one, but Blaster Master was an incredible game that has been plagued with crappy sequels. The first time I fought that giant frog was sheer joy.

7) The cutscenes in Tecmo's NES games. Cutscenes are commonplace nowadays, but back on the NES they were virtually nonexistent. When Tecmo unveiled what they called "Cinema Scenes", everyone in the video game community stood up and took notice. The opening to Ninja Gaiden on the NES was the best game intro ever.

6) Finally finding the princess in Super Mario Bros. Toad honestly had me wanting to strangle him by the time I got to the final castle, but when Bowser hit the lava for the last time, and I saw the princess, I knew it was done. I didn't cheer because I beat the game, I cheered because I didn't have to rescue Toad again.

5) Seeing Street Fighter 2 for the first time. I remember how "meh" Karate Champ was, but I wanted it to be better. Then I remember how much potential the original Street Fighter had, and how bad it was executed. Then I saw Street Fighter 2, and it literally introduced me to a new sub genre: the well executed fighting game.

4) Symphony of the Night There have been a lot of "Fuck Yeah!!!" moments involving Castlevania for me. Nothing prepared me how incredible Symphony of the Night was (and still is). the expansiveness of the game design gave me goosebumps, and the game handles like a dream.

3) The utter coolness of Maniac Mansion LucasArts has been responsible for a lot of great gaming experiences. Their high water mark was Maniac Mansion. an RPG that was way ahead of it's time, thus making it a cult classic among those of us old enough to remember it.

2) Surviving past the second level in Ghosts N' Goblins I remember this struggle well. It took me no less than a month to get past the second level back when I was 9 years old. I never played anything as hard as this game, and I haven't played anything this hard since. Passing that level made me feel like I had done the impossible, and I honestly think I did.

1) Falling in love with "Bullet Hell" shoot em ups Raiden started the obsession, but Giga Wing made it flat out love. Games like DoDonPachi, 19XX, Diamhoo, etc. have honestly become favorites of mine. I have become so adept at the score attack modes in Giga Wing that I once topped a Stage's high score without having in my contacts or wearing glasses.

Those are some of my "Fuck Yeah!!!" moments, but what are yours? Leave a comment telling me your fondest gaming memory.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Michael Jackson: Entertainer, Icon, Gamer

Michael Jackson's been gone for a year. Most of us have fond memories of his music, and he's probably selling more music now than he has in a long time. Being that this is a video game blog, I'll focus on the ties MJ had to the gamer community. He had a long relationship with Sega, who produced an Arcade game based on the Moonwalker movie. The game was a Beat Em Up that featured a 3/4 perspective and was full of MJ's music and mannerisms. Unfortunately, Arcade Moonwalker cabinets suffered from Sega's Suicide Battery which would render the game unplayed at a certain point.

Sega also made home versions of Moonwalker for the Sega Genesis, Master System, and Game Gear that played a lot like their classic ninja game Shinobi. Another variation of game based on the Moonwalker film was released on several different home computer platforms. The computer versions of the game are also distinct in that they reference the early portions of the film as well as the final segment.

In addition to a starring role in the Moonwalker games, Jackson also had guest cameo appearances in Sega's Space Channel 5 games as well as a role in Midway's Ready 2 Rumble Boxing: Round 2. After MJ's death, the internet buzzards came out of the woodwork trying to cash in. Copies of the various versions of Moonwalker, which were relatively cheap at one point, began to go through the roof price wise all over the internet. In particular, an unopened copy of the Genesis version of Moonwalker sold on Ebay for over $13,000. I understand missing Michael Jackson, but I wouldn't swap a Chevy Cobalt for a video game, and that's what some sucker did when they paid that much for a Genesis game.

Everyone who ever visited Neverland Ranch will tell you one of the most amazing things in the house was his home arcade. The guy had so many vintage games, he could have opened that room up as a Twin Galaxies recognized arcade. So, it comes as no surprise that Michael Jackson would have a love of video games. I'll end this post with a little good news with regards to Michael Jackson's gamer legacy. Ubisoft has announced that they will be releasing a rhythm game based on the music and choreography of Michael Jackson. very little is actually known about the game, but after the success of games like Just Dance, it may end up being a winner. A gaming website recently voted Moonwalker on the worst licensed video games ever, but you can't deny the games charms. Here's to hoping the next game featuring The King of Pop has that charm, but better mechanics.

I Almost Forgot: Remember earlier when I mentioned MJ working with Sega? Well there has been a long running rumor that Michael Jackson's music provided the groundwork for the soundtrack to Sonic the Hedgehog 3. If you're curious, check the last video out.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Retro Is Back, But...

After following E3 2010 coverage last week, I realized something: old school gaming is back. With announcements of a new Donkey Kong Country, Kid Icarus, Contra, Castlevania, and many other franchises on the show floor, I was initially excited. My excitement started to wane when I thought about the first time I introduced a friend to the NES version of Bionic Commando and the arcade version of Ghouls and Ghosts. Not only was the guy frustrated by the difficulty of the games, but he proceeded to say that Bionic Commando was "gay" because the main character doesn't jump. WHAT? That was what made that game challenging. you had to learn how to move around with only your grappling hook. He was also crying because of the "one hit and you're dead" life mechanic. I realized that he was spoiled by unlimited continues and Easy Modes that have plagued video games since the PS1. Fast Forward to this year, and Capcom has announced a sequel to Bionic Commando: Rearmed, their critically acclaimed re-imagining of the NES title. This would have been a welcome announcement to any old school gamer, except for one important thing. Rad Spencer can now JUMP. I mean, really?!? What's next, a super easy version of Ghouls and Ghosts? Some things should never happen, and this is one of those things. Add to that, Konami is about to release a remake of their classic side scrolling action game, Rush N Attack. I will say, I'm surprised by this remake, especially since nobody really ever mentions Rush N Attack as a game needing a remake. I can't complain though, since this may lead to a remake of other Konami classics like Jackal, Time Pilot and Yie Ar Kung Fu. Lastly, does anybody know who has the license to the old Technos Japan game catalog? I'm sure there are a lot of gamer who would love to see a new Double Dragon, River City Ransom, or Super Dodge Ball. I'll even take Sega bringing back Alex Kidd if they didn't screw it up like Ubisoft screwed up Turtles in Time.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Who Would've Thought...Nintendo Won E3 2010!!

Yeah, I said it...Nintendo won the battle of the press conferences at E3 2010. I'm not saying that because of any allegiance to any console. It's always been my opinion that no real gamer can have an allegiance to only one system. It's like a boxer saying he'll only fight one particular opponent, but I digress. As of this writing, E3 hasn't ended yet, but the three major console manufacturers: Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft have all had their press conferences. These press conferences usually set the tone for that company for the next year, and a poor showing at E3 can prove potentially disastrous. While Nintendo has had phenomenal sales numbers for their Wii console, software sales haven't followed suit, with many folks buying Wiis as failed attempts to find a new way to exercise. They didn't lose weight, and it went into the closet. Microsoft has struggled with system reliability, and gamers have slowly started to go over to Sony, but there have been issues with the apparent lack of top tier exclusive titles in the past. After Last years round of pandering, many speculated that Microsoft and Sony would steal the last remaining gimmick Nintendo's Wii had up it's sleeve, and that Nintendo would be singing a swan song much like Sega did in 2002. after the final press conference, I can honestly say, that Nintendo had a stronger showing of the things that gamers actually care about, games.

The first press conference was held by Microsoft, and they focused the vast majority of it around their new controllerless motion control device, called Kinect. They danced with it, drove a car with it, snuggled up to a tiger cub with it, and pretty much did all the stuff hardcore gamers pouted about Nintendo doing with the Wiimote a few years ago. It was cool to see Gears of War 3, but I'm not sure how I feel about trying to play Gears of War 3 by skulking around my living room and flailing around with nothing in my hands trying to shoot Locusts with a Longshot. Some of the stuff was cool, like playing Forza with Kinect,but the demos seem kinda forced. It almost reminded me of watching Mr. Miyamoto play Wii Music a few years ago. Microsoft knows better, and I don't expect this kind of a showing often, and I don't expect this happening again next year, but they underwhelmed the hell out of me this year.

Nintendo started off the day today with the announcement and playable demo of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. I never have been able to figure out where the names of some of these Japanese games come from, but that's a topic for a different blog post. After the Zelda announcement, Nintendo showed a bunch of random multi game collections. I'm not a fan of these, as they seem to water down the game experience. Then they started pulling out the big news, starting with a sequel to Golden Sun for the DS. Then they announced Kirby's Epic Yarn, and my inner early 90's fat kid came alive. The unique art style coupled with some old school style is enough to excite most gamers who missed having the pink fluffball around. Nintendo continued to announce a new Donkey Kong Country, a Wii reinvention for Goldeneye, Epic Mickey, and Dragon Quest IX. The huge news , however, came in the form of the new handheld console by Nintendo. The 3DS features 3D without glasses, and reports from E3 are pretty positive. What sold it for me, though, was the announcement of an all new Kid Icarus game, which will debut with the system in 2011. Nintendo announced that major third party support is on tap for the 3DS; which means more top tier games on tap for the system.

Lastly, Sony's press conference was a bit calmer than in previous years, and was honestly boring and disappointing...at first. After a video package promoting upcoming games (something Sony did more than once), a demonstration of the Playstation Move peripheral took place using a number of different games. The technology looks promising, but much like Kinect, it seems gimmicky right now. Hopefully developers can learn to master the technology in a manner better than which they did on the Wii. Hopefully, all that bad shovelware doesn't plague the motion control on PS3 and 360 like it has the Wii. After Playstation Move, things seemed to pick up for Sony, with demos of Little Big Planet 2 and Dead Space 2 gracing showgoers, as well as an announcement of Final Fantasy XIV, which will be an MMO. The surprise of Sony's press conference was the announcement and demo of an all new Twisted Metal game. This is the type of news that gets Sony Fanboys acting a fool on messageboards, and I must admit, I was really surprised and excited to see a new game in the car combat series. (random note: I would have preferred seeing a remake of Loaded, the PS1 shooter from 1995) The Sony conference was good, but again, I was left expecting more.

In closing, I'll say this: Microsoft and Sony both had rare off years at E3, while Nintendo seemed to get back the swagger of the 1980s. I'm hoping all three companies will have strong showings at the Tokyo Game Show later this summer. In other news, don't be surprised if Sony pulls the rug out from under that free PSN you guys enjoy. Microsoft is releasing a new model 360 console. and to be honest, if it still has Red Ring issues, I'm not spending the extra loot for it. I'm pleased by Nintendo's press conference this year, because it focused on what made them popular, their original, character driven games. Many gamers will dispute who had the better showing at E3, but if you look at what counts, and that's quality games, Nintendo won. Now, the question is, can they keep this momentum going?

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Random Game Talk

So, it's a little after 1 AM, I'm bored out of my wits, and I can't think of a specific game to write about. Be that as it may, I've decide to give you guys another random smattering of stuff I've gleaned from my experience as a gamer. So, in the immortal words of Mario in SM 64, "HERE WE GO!!!"

1. Ikari Warriors didn't age that well. especially the home versions. If you really need to play a top down "one guy vs. everybody" game, then play Commando. It aged well, and some of the home versions go pretty hard.

2. Master Higgins and Wonder Boy might be the same guy, but Adventure Island will always be a better series to me. Wonder Boy never needed to go RPG to work in my opinion. Hell, that's why that series never really translated into the 16- bit age.

3. I know how promising the War for Cybertron game looks, but there has never been a good Transformers game, and I worry that trend might continue.

4. It's a damn shame that Konami doesn't have the licensing they used to. An arcade compilation from them featuring all those great Beat Em Ups would be a huge hit.

5. Until Def Jam Vendetta came out, the best wrestling game to hit a home console in America was Pro Wrestling on the NES. Why can I say that? Cause King Slender is that dude, that's why.

6. It's a damn shame that Square has forgotten their history. Square used to make a lot more than RPGs, and they were good at it. Einhander is one of the best Shoot Em Ups ever, and it was made by Square. I think they got pigeon holed into being a one trick pony since being absorbed by Electronic Arts. Such a tragedy.

7. Legend of Kage and Elevator Action could both use full fledged sequels. Make Kage a video game equivalent to Ninja Assassin and throw some stealth elements in Elevator Action. Both games would rock.

8. I hate to say this, but the arcade version of Double Dribble was a piece of crap. It was "Wacka Flocka, Ace Hood, and Oj Da Juiceman on the same song" bad. I mean, it had a dribble button. It involved more button mashing than an E. Honda world record win streak.

9. If Lord of Shadows isn't good, it might spell the end for the Castlevania franchise. As much as I liked the idea behind the two PS2 games, the execution in both was kinda "meh". That might explain why I haven't taken the time to finish Curse of Darkness. Now, if it's as good as the last few GBA/DS games, we might have a classic on our hands.

10. I mentioned earlier how Elevator Action and The Legend of Kage need 2010 updates. Thats only if they're done correctly. There's a reason why Capcom went 8 bit for the last two Mega Man games. Some games don't work with bright, shiny graphics. Remember kids, some things only work when in their purest form.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Lode Runner: Hardcore Icon

I didn't meet Lode Runner when I was younger, I consider that a personal fail. I discovered it when I was in my early 20s, and it was a great day for my "habit" if I say so myself. I mean, for all the posturing Media Molecule did with regards to the level editing in Little Big Planet, they didn't originate anything. Like a lot of old school gaming innovations, Lode Runner was born in the dorm room of of an architecture student at the University of Washington. The original game was called Kong, and over time it was ported to multiple computer terminals on the campus. The original programmer, Douglas Smith, tweaked his game and eventually started a bidding war between four publishers. The others kinda don't matter, since he ended up going with Broderbund. Lode Runner revolves around a simple enough concept: get the gold and don't get killed. Your character can't jump, and his gun only shoots at the floor making temporary holes in the ground. This might sound like some bullshit, but the game's implementation of these mechanics make for the kind of tension rarely seem outside of games like Resident Evil 4. the only way to beat enemies is to shoot a hole in the ground and get them to fall in. you can conceivably beat every level without killing an enemy. Every gamer who claims to be hardcore in the slightest should check out Lode Runner. it just celebrated an anniversary, so you can find it on XBLA, PSN, and Virtual Console. Collectors can find Lode Runner on pretty much every any major console you can think of. Get that shit!