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100% Series Retrospective: Diablo

Oct 24 // Chris Carter
Why Diablo? Diablo has a special place in my heart for numerous reasons. It was one of the first co-op games I ever played with my pal Joey, who would end up being one of my go-to friends for gaming to this day, nearly two decades later. It was the first game I played over a [dial-up] internet connection. It was also one of the first games I really started theorycrafting for -- or for those who aren't aware of the term, basically obsessing over item values and statlines. Diablo II came at a specific time in my life when I was going through some major family troubles. It also "clicked" with my group like wildfire. Slowly but surely Joey and I recruited tons of people into a massive collective, where we'd share secrets and tips, as well as loot farm together. I saw people go from "I don't know what Diablo even is" to playing it for entire weekends. You know that feeling when you're playing a cool game none of your friends are in on? This was the antithesis of that. I'll never forget a hilarious quote from a newlywed couple that was twice our age and started gaming with us when they said "dying in Hardcore Mode (where your character is deleted instantly after death) is like dying in real life." Diablo II was one of the biggest group experiences I've ever had outside of the original StarCraft and the first Halo. I'll never forget it. Diablo III wasn't nearly as life-changing as the first two, but it allowed my wife to get into the series, and we've enjoyed many hours of co-op together. However you slice it, Diablo has gotten me through a lot of tough times and created lasting memories. Diablo - Mac, PC [owned], PlayStation [owned] Although I had played a lot of dungeon crawlers as a kid, there was nothing quite like Diablo. I still remember the day I unassumingly booted it up for the first time, in the early afternoon, asking my parents to play it late into the night. My first character was a Rogue, the agility-inspired female character that was playable alongside the male Warrior and Sorcerer. I recall the first time I became hooked, very early into the game. The town of Tristram was sprawling, with a decent amount of secrets and a lot of character. The really cool thing about Diablo is that it takes place in one zone, with one giant dungeon at your disposal that you slowly progress through. The first major quest deals with killing The Butcher, who was an immensely satisfying kill after hearing those level-up sounds and seeing all the rewards that came with it. This was essentially Positive Reinforcement: The Game. Diablo was an open-ended dungeon crawler in that it didn't prescribe to a heavy-duty build limitation system. Although it was "best" to min-max, you could freely distribute your stats upon leveling up, and everyone could earn from generally the same pool of spells and abilities. If you played online outside of a circle of friends, mods, trainers, and hacks were rampant, unfortunately. I avoided them wholesale, but one day my friend showed me a hacked item called "The Hair of Coolio," an elaborate mace-like weapon, and I tolerated them after that just due to the sheer comedic value of the items. Plus it extended my playtime for a few months. Since the PC version is so difficult to run on modern hardware I opted for the PlayStation version of the game for this Quest, which runs just fine, even if it's quite dated. I know you're probably wondering about Hellfire, the official-but-kind-of-not-official expansion, which was only available on PC. I wasn't able to play it here, but I distinctly remember it. It was a strange game that wasn't quite up to par with most other PC expansions at the time. Hellfire was actually developed by a company called Synergistic Software, and published by Sierra On-Line. It was authorized by Blizzard but wasn't playable on Battle.net or offered in the physical Battle Chest package. It featured a new class, the Monk, as well as a few new floors of the game's dungeon, and a few extras like traps. While it was an odd duck, it augmented the game in a modest way. I still found it enjoyable. Diablo II - Mac, PC [owned] If Diablo was elementary, Diablo II was university. Here's a small picture of how hardcore some people treated the game. I had a friend who created a Paladin, and wanted to invest into a selection of skills that crafted a "Hammerdin" build. In Diablo II, you couldn't re-invest points at launch (re-spec), and he was off by just a few points, having made a mistake after reaching max level. He deleted the character and re-rolled a new one a few days later. It's sounds crazy, but he loved every second of it. This is DII. It was insane how many elements of the Diablo series were expanded. People created PVP characters, maxed out with specific skillsets and gear just to participate in unofficial PVP matches and ganking online. I had friends who had "chatroom garb," which showed off particularly cool cosmetic gear when you were in Battle.net's chatrooms. It garnered a crazy level of dedication, and there are few games like it today -- even in the MMO space. Speaking of Battle.net, the service was completely overhauled into the powerhouse we know and play on currently. Blizzard cracked down on (but didn't completely solve) hacks, and "closed" Battle.net was generally a safe place where you could play with friends or strangers. I spent endless nights at LAN parties with friends on Battle.net, staying over at their houses sometimes for the entire weekend. It's one of my most-played games of all time -- no other Diablo game even comes close. Personally, I stuck with the Necromancer through and through -- I was known for it within my group of friends, and luckily I had the class on lockdown. As for how it plays today, Diablo II absolutely holds up. The visuals are a bit dated of course, but the updates Blizzard provided over the years streamlined a few aspects while keeping the hardcore spirit intact. If you've never played it, get a few friends together and take the plunge. You can even use a number of popular mods to change the game to your liking -- I know people who still play Diablo II, and every few years or so I still get that itch. Diablo II: Lord of Destruction - Mac, PC [owned] Lords of Destruction was everything an expansion should be and more. The major additions to the base game included an entirely new act to farm, new mechanics like runes, and two incredibly deep classes -- the Assassin and Druid. Like all of the other classes in the game, the aforementioned two newcomers had a multitude of build options available. At this point in the game's lifespan almost no two creations were the same. Some people preferred an elemental Druid, some preferred a Bear build or a wolf build, and others did a mix. This level of customization is nearly impossible today with the amount of streamlining in games. All too often you'll see people resorting to "cookie-cutter builds" or specific types of gear so that everyone looks the same, but in Diablo II, I don't think I ever saw two characters that were exactly alike. Now that Act V was in the picture, our group had a brand new act to farm, new bosses to fight, and new items to look for. It expanded the game's lifespan for a number of years, and Blizzard had a long-term plan that it hasn't replicated outside of World of Warcraft. Diablo II is a near-perfect example of how to build and support a game. Diablo III - Mac, PC [owned], PS3 [owned], Xbox 360 Ah, Diablo III. A sore spot for many, a source of rekindled addiction for me for a number of months after its launch. Look, Diablo III had problems -- the auction house in general, the always-on DRM, the lack of loot, the limited builds. They were all very real issues. But that didn't stop me from leveling up every class in the game to 30 in the first few weeks. It was fun on a different level, because let's face it, I don't think Blizzard will ever make a game like Diablo II again. Diablo III was streamlined, easy to pick up, and still thoroughly addicting if you view it as more of an action romp than an in-depth RPG. I remember getting to Act III in Inferno Mode before it was nerfed, and it was one of the most exciting experiences I've ever had with the franchise. Some people thought it was too punishing, but before all the fixes and updates, Diablo III was one of the most difficult games in that space. Diablo III didn't have the longevity of Diablo II at launch, but Blizzard eventually got wise and started supporting the game with what fans wanted, not what it thought they wanted. The result was the Loot 2.0 patch and Reaper of Souls, which was almost universally liked. Playing Diablo III again recently was still enjoyable, even if I found myself wanting to play Reaper of Souls right after one playthrough. I used the PS3 version of the game for this writeup, since it wasn't fully updated with the newest patch and could be played offline. Diablo III: Reaper of Souls - Mac, PC [owned], PS3, PS4 [owned], Xbox 360, Xbox One Reaper of Souls was the fix that Diablo III sorely needed. It brought disenfranchised fans back into the fold, and ushered in an entirely new audience. The level cap was raised, a new character was added (which was a great mix of old and new Diablo sensibilities), portals added a newly minted random element to the game, and quality-of-life updates like the item-modifying Mystic were all good design choices. You also don't have to beat the game three times to get to the "good stuff," as players can instantly switch on harder difficulties from the start. Even better, the console versions had no always-on DRM and could be played by four people offline. It also takes place in an era without the taint of an auction house. While it wasn't nearly as groundbreaking as Lords of Destruction, which offered the depth of nearly three Reaper of Souls expansions, it demonstrated that Blizzard isn't entirely reliant on Activision's business practices, and still has a heart of its own. I hope that the free updates continue to flow, and the next expansion makes things even better. Final thoughts: Playing through the Diablo franchise was bittersweet, because I mostly did it alone outside of the local co-op offered in the original Diablo and Diablo III's console versions. It reminded me of all the great times I had with friends, and also made me realize that said times will likely never happen again in the same way. The videogame market has changed immensely, and you can see that shift through the history of Diablo. From humble beginnings marred by technical limitations, to the extremely deep and hardcore number crunching, to the streamlining we know today, this journey was an interesting way to see how the ideologies of both gamers and developers change over time. I'm mostly just glad that Blizzard was able to salvage Diablo III. I grew up with the franchise and want as many people as possible to feel the same things I did, even if they're in different ways.
Diablo Carter's Quest photo
Carter's Quest
Things have been crazy at Destructoid since I became the Reviews Director. On my first week, I had to tackle a new Ratchet & Clank, Super Mario 3D World, and three other games. It hasn't let up after that, and as a result...

100% Series Retrospective: Metroid

Dec 31 // Chris Carter
Why Metroid? The original Metroid, Metroid II, and Super Metroid were among my first ever gaming experiences. Although they were years part and on completely different systems, I felt like they all added to my growth as a gaming enthusiast. They all taught me how to observe my surroundings at all times, which would come in handy for Demon's and Dark Souls years later. They instructed me on the art of cartography, and helped me understand world maps and minimaps for years to come in various RPGs and MMOs. They also helped my twitch skills, which would assist me in my competitive FPS days. But most of all, they allowed me to escape to another world whenever I needed them to, because it wasn't hard to get sucked into a Metroid game. A really cool factoid about the Metroid series is the realization that there were never more than two Metroid games for any given console or handheld -- a true testament to how the series never truly feels over-saturated. It's also one of the first games to ever feature a formidable female protagonist, so it was even culturally relevant at the time. If you haven't joined me on my Quests before, the way they work is pretty simple. It's kind of like a retrospective, but rather than just give you an overview of a franchise, I'll generally let you know what I thought of the game when it was released, and what I think of it now. Some games I didn't know all that well until I replayed them, and for those, I'll provide an "extended thoughts" section for each applicable entry. Metroid - NES [Owned], Game Boy Advance, Virtual Console, 3DS eShop [Owned] COMPLETED The concept of granting players permanent upgrades was not a standard mechanic back in the NES era. Most games relegated themselves to temporary, fleeting power-ups -- but not Metroid. Getting the Morph Ball and the Screw Attack was a life-changing experience. You actually felt like you were achieving something permanent as you went on your journey with Samus. Another cool aspect of the game is the fact that you essentially "level up" by beating bosses to extend your ammo count, and finding Energy Tanks to increase your HP. In addition to the sprawling open-world map, Metroid also introduced a concept that was fairly unknown to the gaming world, intended or not: sequence breaking. In a nutshell, sequence breaking is the idea of going to areas "you're not supposed to go to yet" in order to progress through the game, and/or locate new items. This concept would be perfectly realized in Super Metroid, and would slowly cease to exist as game design progressed into more complicated overworlds. I'll fully admit: even though I play this game regularly, it has not aged well. Those who want to experience Samus' initial outing will most likely want to spring for Zero Mission, which is a re-imagining of the canon, and a remake of the first game. Metroid II: Return of Samus - Game Boy, 3DS eShop [Owned] COMPLETED Return of Samus was an odd game indeed. In fact, it's potentially the strangest (and most confusing) game in the entire franchise. Part of the reason is due to the small screen of the original brick Game Boy, among many other facets like a confusing world map, similar-looking areas, and more vexing design choices. Even still, hunting down the titular horrifying creatures was both scary, and fun. You basically spend the entire game hunting various incarnations of Metroids, which gives it a distinct survival horror feeling to it, that isn't as easily replicated throughout the franchise. There are two new weapons (the "spread-like" Spazer Beam and the Plasma Beam), and new moves like the Space Jump, which allowed you to jump to an infinite degree, or the Spider Ball, which allows Samus to attach to walls. You also start with the Morph Ball, which is a nice touch to provide some continuity from the first game. As a funny bit of trivia, there were technical difficulties that led to the redesign of Samus' Power and Varia suits. In the original game, these two suits were differentiated by color; seeing as that wasn't an option on the monochrome Game Boy, the Varia suit was updated with rounded shoulders. Years later, developer Nintendo R&D1 would help create the Game Boy Color -- a device that would have basically solved this issue -- had Metroid II Color not been cancelled. Super Metroid - SNES, Virtual Console [Owned]COMPLETED I could basically just say "Super Metroid was one of the greatest games ever created," drop the mic, and I know it would satisfy everyone (especially former Destructoid Editor Chad Concelmo). But instead, I should probably talk about why this game is so great. I still remember the day I got Super Metroid. I remember coming in fairly reserved, as the intro area was a bit slow. But once I landed on Planet Zebes, I was utterly hooked. I played it all day long, and even snuck out of bed to play it past my bedtime. It was one of the longest, and earliest gaming marathons I've ever had in my life, and the telling part of this personal story is the fact that I was playing it two weeks later, at about the same frequency. I would map out my progress, share tips with my friends, and race for that perfect 100% rating. Speed runs; 100% runs; you name it, I ran them. Although there are a boatload of reasons why Super Metroid is one of the best platformers of all time, I'd probably give credit to the vibrant, living and breathing world of Zebes first and foremost. I mean, my god guys, Zebes is one of the most wondrous videogame realms ever designed, and exploring every nook and cranny was a privilege that is rarely replicated even today in my gaming career. Also, moonwalking. Metroid Fusion - Game Boy Advance [owned], 3DS eShop Ambassador Program [Owned] COMPLETED Fusion is yet another solid entry in the series. We're already four games in, and we're still going strong here. At launch, Fusion was yet again well received by critics and buyers alike, namely due to the drastically new art direction and solid gameplay. If I had to describe it, I would probably call it a portable Super Metroid -- and that's quite the compliment. Because Samus was injected with the Metroid vaccine, it has a real "Alien Resurrection" feel to it, in which she comes full circle with the creatures she once hunted.There was also a neat little Nintendo extra that involved GBA and GameCube functionality, which unlocked the Fusion suit in Prime, and the original Metroid game. Sadly, the only way to get this outside of tracking down the cart is to obtain it through the now defunct 3DS Ambassador program. Right now, Nintendo has no plans to release the gifted GBA games -- which includes Metroid Fusion.   Metroid Prime - GameCube, Wii (Metroid Prime: Trilogy) [Owned] COMPLETED Nintendo could have had a disaster on their hands when they brought Metroid into the 3D realm for the very first time. Coupled with more mature themes and distinct survival horror tones, there was even more of a chance for a disastrous release. In fact, fans decried the game when it was announced, saying that Nintendo was pandering to the FPS crowd and that the game would be garbage (I totally remember this).Fortunately, Retro Studios (and producer Shigeru Miyamoto) did right by the franchise -- Metroid Prime took the world by storm. Billed as a "first person adventure" game by Nintendo themselves, Prime wasn't simply an FPS in the raw sense of the term -- it offered a full 3D adventure in the same vein as the King's Field series -- but with that distinct Nintendo charm and polish.Also, the game is canon, and takes place after Metroid, and before Metroid II.   Metroid: Zero Mission - Game Boy Advance [Owned] COMPLETED Zero Mission is criminally underrepresented and underplayed. It's also one of the hardest games in the entire franchise to find, since the only possible way to play it is through tracking down the original cart. This game is prime for a re-release, although the GBA is stuck within this nebulous state right now where Nintendo isn't headlining it on the 3DS Virtual Console, so good luck with that. Anyways, Zero Mission is an ace remake of the first game, plain and simple. In fact, I'd say that it's probably the best game in the entire series to select as a "starting point" for new fans, as it acclimates them to the very start of the storyline, and contains updated gameplay in stark contrast to the admittedly dated original. Although it is a remake, it does have new items and all new areas to explore, which makes it worth beating in tandem with the original (hence why I'm including it here!). Also, it's the first game that features Samus playable without her suit, and the first time any system ever housed two Metroid games (the GBA had this and Fusion before the GameCube hosted Prime 1 and 2). Metroid Prime 2: Echoes - GameCube, Wii (Metroid Prime: Trilogy) [Owned] COMPLETED Prime 2 is probably my least familiar game in the series, and one of the only ones I haven't completed. I don't remember what happened around Prime 2's release, but I was extremely busy, and never really got around to playing it. While Prime 1 came at the perfect time, when I was hurting for GameCube games, and Prime 3 when I was hurting for Wii games, 2 was always kind of a non-issue for me. So, in 2013, the time of reckoning will come for Metroid Prime 2: Echoes.EXTENDED THOUGHTS:Metroid Prime 2 delivers just about everything you'd want out of a sequel. It's one of the best sequels ever, in fact, as it offers up all the great gameplay from the original with its own signature mark on the franchise. It's a gorgeous-looking game even today, and best of all -- it's probably one of the harder games in the series. Outside of the notorious Sky Temple key hunt (a task I usually loathe in Nintendo games), it's a gem. Metroid Prime Pinball - Nintendo DS [Owned] COMPLETED What can I say about this game that couldn't be communicated in the title. It's pinball, it's based on Metroid Prime, and it uses the DS' two screens to replicate a full board. The idea allegedly came along when Kensuke Tanabe, Producer for Nintendo, thought that Mario Pinball Land would be a no-brainer combination with Samus' Morph Ball form. So basically, he was allowed to make a game because of that, and it came with a Rumble Pak (for the first time on the Nintendo DS). EXTENDED THOUGHTS:Yep, it's pinball. Although there are a number of cool minigames inside each pinball machine theme, you've basically seen this before. Of course, that doesn't mean it's a bad pinball game -- it's actually quite good. Everything is very smooth, from the controls to the animations, it's very cheap if you find a used copy, and it works on your 3DS -- what's not to love? Metroid Prime Hunters - Nintendo DS [Owned] COMPLETED Hunters is essentially an attempt to replicate the Metroid Prime console experience on a handheld, taking place in between Prime 1 and 2. In many ways, it succeeds -- in other, more obvious ways, it falls short.One of the key criticisms was the control scheme. If it wasn't busy giving you carpal tunnel, it was being finicky. But if you can overcome that hurdle, you'll find a fairly well put together Metroid-styled handheld FPS, with a decent multiplayer mode (with bots!). Although I never finished Hunters (I had way too much going on in 2006), I'm ready to finally tackle it in 2013 as part of my Quest.EXTENDED THOUGHTS:Hunters, like Kid Icarus: Uprising (a game that I adore, by the way) feels very weird if you have giant hands, because they can cramp very easily by using the ideal control scheme. But you know what, the controls actually work, and they work well. But that's not the issue here: the problem is the game feels too bland all around. At times, it doesn't even feel like a Metroid game, which is a huge problem.Sometimes, outside of turning into the morph ball and frolicking around, I completely forgot I was playing as Samus. I understand what they were trying to do, when they set off to create a portable version of Metroid Prime, but in the end, it's unremarkable -- the only game in the series I'd use that word to describe. Metroid Prime 3: Corruption - Wii, Wii (Metroid Prime: Trilogy) [Owned] COMPLETED The Nintendo Wii has officially been out for about seven years now. In that entire time, only two Metroid games were released for it, and only one of them wasn't polarizing. Metroid Prime 3 was the golden child of the two. Like the first two Prime games, both the press at large and gamers alike ate it up. Pretty much everyone (myself included) fell in love with the new IR-heavy control scheme due to the change in pace, and the mesmerizing visuals.The voice acting also wasn't terrible like Other M, which made the poor voice work presented in that title years later all the more strange. Hell, it's not just the voice acting, or even this game in particular: the entire Metroid Prime series is a collective gem. If you haven't played it, get on it. The stock game is not that hard to find, but if you're gunning for the limited-run Metroid Prime Trilogy, plan on spending at least $50 for just the disc. Luckily, I got it at launch. Metroid: Other M - Wii [Owned] COMPLETED Other M gets a bum rap. There, I said it! After nearly six months of listening to people who dumped on it and taking their word at face value, I finally decided to pick the game up due to a deal I couldn't resist ($20, which is now more like $5). During the course of that day, I fell in love with it, despite all of the negative press it had thus far. You see, Other M has a lot of problems -- but for me, most of them are not gameplay related.Yes, it relegates Samus into an undesirable collection of tropes, and nearly ruins the character. But personally, I was able to ignore this part of the game by muting every cutscene during the experience, essentially treating it like every other game in the series that has a fairly light narrative. If you come at it at that angle, it's a much more enjoyable videogame. Gameplay-wise, it feels pretty solid, boss fights are extremely fun, and I personally enjoyed the art style quite a bit. I seriously doubt Team Ninja will have the chance to make an Other M 2, but I'd love to see them tackle a new IP using a refined version of this engine.But I still appreciate Other M for what it is. While the Prime trilogy reinvented Samus for a new era, Other M will forever remain, for me, as one of the more interesting games in the franchise -- for better or for worse. Final thoughts: As a fan, what would I like to see out of the franchise in the future? Well, another game for the Wii U or the 3DS would be a great start. I don't mind that Retro Studios is working on a sequel to Donkey Kong Country Returns (a franchise I love even more than Metroid), but of course at some point, it would be nice for the Metroid masters to get back to the grindstone. What I want is for Nintendo to give us a real, raw 2D Metroid that isn't a hybrid like Other M. I enjoy the Prime games but they stand on their own, and since the Wii triple-pack can be played on the Wii U for years to come, they can be cherished. Just like how Donkey Kong Country Returns re-ignited a long-gone platformer spirit of the franchise, a Metroid Returns, if you will, could do the exact same thing. It could even star someone other than Samus and take place during another game (like Super Metroid), which would allow new players to acclimate to another hero while blowing fan's minds in the process (start off the game with Samus or just the suit, and have the game actually be about someone else, Metal Gear Solid 2 style). While we're at it, it would be nice if Nintendo did a little more for the series in general. We got all sorts of celebrations for Zelda's 25th anniversary, but absolutely nothing was done for Metroid. There's hardly any merchandise for Metroid in the Club Nintendo store, and I even had trouble finding any sort of official products for the series in general.Nintendo, the fans are out there -- if you build Metroid a venue, they will come.
Carter's Quest: Metroid photo
Carter's Quest
[Read on for a description of every Metroid game ever released in the US, and my completion of them all in 2013.] As 2012 came to a close, I really enjoyed my opportunity to tackle every Resident Evil, Tony Hawk, Kingdom Hear...

100% Series Retrospective: The Legend of Zelda

Nov 14 // Chris Carter
Why Zelda? The Legend of Zelda series has had a profound impact on me ever since I layed my eyes on Zelda 1's beautiful gold NES cartridge. In fact, other than Mega Man, Devil May Cry, and Resident Evil, Zelda is probably my favorite game series. I distinctly remember being at my old friend Billy Warwick's house, fishing through his NES collection (in those spiffy long rectangular official Nintendo cases) and marveling at the coolest cartridge I had ever seen. I asked Billy what the golden game was, and he had no idea - well, we weren't sure what to expect from a game called "Zelda," but when we popped it in, we really had no idea what was in store for us. Zelda was open world bliss. As one of my friends put it, when the series debuted for the first time, it was like the "HDTV" of gaming - it completely blew everyone away. I mean, the first title was basically an amalgamation of both Gauntlet and Dragon Warrior, but it did it in such a way that pretty much no one could have predicted. Zelda just gave you this giant, sprawling open world, and said "have at it" in an action based setting - how can you get much better than that?! Shortly afterwards, I picked up The Adventure of Link, and the rest was history: I was addicted. So without further ado, here are the Zelda games that I've either beaten so far in 2011, or need to conquer! The Legend of Zelda - NES, GBA, GCN Collector's Disc [Owned], eShop, VC - (Completed in July 2011) As previously mentioned, Zelda was one of my first games and easily one of the best gaming experiences I've ever had. Although we did beat it with the help of my friend's father, I came back in 2011 and recently tackled it myself. It was...difficult, to say the least! There are so many hidden bomb rooms that don't have telltale cracks, and tons of absolutely insane secret areas, that it would take a guide to complete everything. Either way, the first game laid the groundwork for future Zelda titles, and helped pave the way for Action RPGs all around. Zelda II: The Adventure of Link - NES, GBA, GCN Collector's Disc [Owned], VC - (Completed in July 2011) I'm currently playing through The Adventure of Link right now, and I have to say, it's easily the most underrated Zelda game of all time. There's a very robust magic system, an XP system (for the first and last time), and every single action scene takes place in a sidescrolling fashion, as opposed to the popular birds-eye view of the first game - how's that for innovation! Zelda II is also notoriously hard, but not nearly as hard as the first game in my opinion - I mean, at least there's some clear idea of where to go. While I wouldn't necessarily recommend dropping the $5 on the first Zelda, depending on your tastes, I heartily recommend picking this one up on the Virtual Console - it's one of my favorite Zelda games that I both enjoyed at release, and years afterward. A Link to the Past - SNES [Owned], GBA [Owned], VC - (Completed in July 2011) Ah, Link to the Past, how many times have I bested you? Funnily enough, this SNES cartridge was passed down to me by my cousin, who threw it into the wall in a fit of anger. I picked it up, taped the crack in the cartridge up, and asked if I could have it - thankfully, he said "yes", and I was on my way to beating Link to the Past for the first time! I'll just come right out and say it: if you haven't played LTTP yet, do it. Now. The game is an absolute classic, and the art style still holds up to this day. One of the best things about the game is the lack of pageantry in the beginning. There's no lengthy boring cutscene like future Zelda games - you just press start, jump in, and your epic quest to rescue Zelda immediately begins. Out of all the Zelda games, I'd say Link to the Past is probably the most polished. Link's Awakening/DX - Gameboy [Owned], Gameboy Color, eShop [Owned] - (Completed in July 2011) Link's Awakening is another underrated Zelda game (although it wasn't at the time). How Nintendo took LTTP's winning formula, and condensed it into a Gameboy game, I'll never know (it was witchcraft). Awakening is probably one of my top "go-to" Zelda games because it's so simple to get into, and once you get the Roc's feather, it's a ton of fun just jumping around like an idiot. Some time later, Nintendo released DX for the Gameboy Color (and eventually 3DS), which was basically the definitive version that added colors, and a new color-based dungeon. I played that version for this quest, and it was nice to rediscover the magic all over again.Ocarina of Time - N64, GCN Collector's Disc [Owned], VC, 3DS [Owned] - (Completed in July 2011) There's not much I can say about Ocarina of Time that hasn't been said a thousand times - it completely revolutionized 3D gaming, which was an unparalleled feat at the time. Hyrule Field is one of the best overworlds yet, the soundtrack is easily my favorite, and like some of the best Zelda games, the gameplay is simple and enjoyable. Many people knock on Ocarina for being dated - I implore those folks to check out the 3Ds remake, as it smooths out some of those nasty 64 graphical limitations, and offers a better overall gameplay experience. Make no mistake - Ocarina of Time still holds up. Majora's Mask - N64, GCN Collector's Disc [Owned], VC - (Completed in August 2011) This is another fan favorite, but unlike all of the above other games, this is the first Zelda game I just couldn't get into at release. I made it about halfway through after picking it up on the Nintendo 64, and just gave up on it. Personally, I thought the innovative platforming elements were neat (brought about by putting on different "masks" that would transform you into a creature capable of swimming, for instance), but there were way too many sidequests that made it too easy to slip into boredom, since it was difficult to know what was required, and what was not. I'm currently playing through the game now, and all it makes me want to do is play Ocarina of Time over again. Thankfully, Majora's Mask is still a really fun, really solid game in it's own right. Extended Thoughts: So I beat Majora's Mask for the first time in 2011. Honestly, the only part I truly enjoyed was the final epic boss battle. I didn't really enjoy the dungeons for multiple reasons (I didn't think any of them had a solid identifiable theme, and the boss fights were pretty drab - also, what's up with re-using the Wizrobe mini-boss fight like six times?), and I felt like a lot of the game was disjointed. Termina didn't really feel like one cohesive world so much as a bunch of different planets. Some people say that's good -- but to me, it didn't feel as magical. I could go on and on about Majora's Mask, but I think I'll leave it at this: although I had issues with it, this game has character in spades, and I wouldn't even put it close to the bottom of the Zelda pile. Oracle of Ages/Seasons - Gameboy Color [Owned] - (Completed in August 2011) These two games are another entry I didn't get into as much at release, even if I really, really enjoyed them (I had way too much to play at the time on the PS1 and PS2). I'm looking forward to getting back on this horse and beating both games via the "game-link" system on my 2011 Zelda quest. These are probably the only Zelda games in the entire series I literally have nothing to say about - I played them, I barely remember them, and they're on my list. Extended Thoughts:While these two aren't my favorite Zelda games in the series, they are incredibly solid. The "Oracle" games are a good mix of the newschool, post Ocarina of Time Zelda, and the old school Zelda 1 mindset. The game link system seemed pretty gimmicky at the time, but years later, it's actually a pretty fun way to experience both titles. As for which one is better, I'd probably say "Seasons" - the time mechanic in "Ages" has been done in just about every Zelda game, so it was fun to see something refreshing. Four Swords - GBA [Owned] - (Completed in August 2011) I loved Four Swords at release, but the weird nature of the game made it hard to play it - this was a multiplayer only affair. Fortunately, back in the day, I had the opportunity to play this with a group of Zelda-nuts, but fast forward to 2011, and my ability to play this game is seriously hindered. Thankfully, Nintendo is planning on releasing Four Swords for the 3DS and DSi platforms in September - I may beat them to the punch, however, by playing it with a friend by way of a Gameboy Advance link cable. Extended Thoughts: Four Swords is a must play Zelda game. For one, the levels/dungeons are randomized, making it a Zelda junkie's dream. Second, the interface and mechanics are so clean, that it's incredibly hard to get bored playing it. Add in the fact that there are multiple unlocks for A Link to the Past, including a brand new dungeon, and you have yourself a winning Zelda title. Four Swords might seem bite sized, but it's easily in my top five Zelda list. In order to play it, I bought two copies of A Link to the Past GBA, and an official Nintendo GBA Link Cable (a universal one will not work): however, Nintendo is releasing it in September 2011 on DSiware, for the DSi and 3DS handhelds. Wind Waker - GCN [Owned] - (Completed in August 2011) Wind Waker is another classic entry in the Zelda series. When Zelda needed a good shakeup from the Ocarina engine, and the same old top-down portable style, here comes Wind Waker with a complete stylistic overhaul. Although I wasn't a huge fan of Wind Waker at release, as time went on, I grew to appreciate the game more and more, and now it's near the top of my list. I barely remember beating this one (my friend beat it, mostly), so I'm looking forward to my full completion run this year. Extended Thoughts: Other than the lengthy tri-force shard collection-thon towards the end of the game, Wind Waker is incredible. Nintendo tried a ton of new things in terms of character/enemy design, and it really paid off. Even classic enemies like Re-Deads and Stalfos look unique, yet retain that familiar quality about them, which must have been incredibly hard to design. In terms of the gameplay, the swordplay is probably the best in the series, and the rush you get from exploring the ocean depths is second to one. Beyond the childish looking veneer, Wind Waker is full of character, and one of the best Zelda games to date. Four Swords Adventures - GCN [Owned] - (Completed in August 2011) Thankfully, unlike Four Swords, this Gamecube iteration, entitled "Adventures" can be played solo - one player just controls all four Links, which allows you to change combat formations on the fly. This is another game that I barely played at release, due to the low availability of the title, and the weird method in which you played it. Oddly enough, if you wanted to play multiplayer, each gamer had to have their own GBA, and system link cable. Of course, I was intrepid enough to engage in this particular activity a few times, but I never ended up beating the game. I didn't feel too bad after finding out it was the least successful Zelda game of all time, but I just picked this up for Gamecube recently via physical copy, and I plan on beating it in 2011. Extended Thoughts: Four Swords Adventures is...interesting...to say the least. Despite being a four player game, I think this quest is best completed alone - when you start to get into the meat of the game later on, some of the levels start to get way too convoluted to coordinate with three other players - not to mention the coordination required for setting up four Game Boy Advances on a Gamecube. Additionally, the game is incredibly long for a level based, non-open world Zelda title (about fifteen or more hours) and at times, it feels a bit boring. Despite these shortcomings, the Tower Of Winds is one of my favorite dungeons of all time, and there are easily a ton of good things about Adventures - even if it overstays it's welcome a bit. Minish Cap - GBA [Owned] - (Completed in August 2011) If you asked most Zelda fans what the most underrated game of the series is, they would probably say Minish Cap. Sadly, Cap's release basically came and went at the end of the GBA's lifecycle, and like so many obscure Nintendo games before it, was forgotten. In fact, I never fully experienced it at release, making it one of the few Zeldas I haven't beaten yet. Honestly, I have no idea why I haven't truly sat down and experienced this gem, but let's just say I'm excited to pop this one in my GBA. Extended Thoughts: Minish Cap is now in my top five Zelda list, for a myriad of reasons - it's just that good. While Wind Waker mixed up the Zelda formula a bit with a new aesthetic, it still played like a Zelda game. Minish Cap however, at times, felt like a completely different series - which is easily a good thing. Nintendo and Capcom did a good job mixing up the swordplay and nearly all of the items are completely new to the series. Twilight Princess - Wii [Owned], GCN [Owned] - (Completed in August 2011) To be blunt, Twilight Princess is probably the only Zelda game in the entire series that I just don't like. Oddly enough, I beat it the week of release on my friend's Wii, and even completed the secret dungeon - I was drawn to it because it promised to be the next coming of Ocarina of Time, but after completion, I just didn't feel it. The core reason why I didn't enjoy it is pretty simple: the game didn't have heart. Under the veneer of motion controls, which were nothing more than waving your wand back and forth every...single...time you wanted to attack, the game was drab, and nothing was memorable. While I can pretty much recall the floor plans of each Temple after my first completion of other games, I am completely drawing a blank as to what Twilight Princess's dungeons even were. I'm very reluctant to beat this one in my 2011 quest, but considering it is a main series Zelda game, I think I'll do this one last. Extended Thoughts: I have a much more favorable view of Twilight Princess this time around from a gameplay standpoint after playing the GameCube version instead - the Gamecube's tactile feedback and control system is just that much better than the Wii's initial ham-fisted motion control scheme. Twilight Princess still has a ton of problems (drab looking locales, padded/filler areas, redundant items), but at least it has a solid number of classic moments. For instance, I forgot how amazing a few of the dungeons are: the Arbiter's Grounds is one of my favorite dungeons of all time; The Stallord boss fight is one of the best in the series (if not the best), and the shoutout to Ocarina of Time's the Forest Temple is gold. Additionally, the Temple of Time is really, really fun (and introduced the "companion cube" concept approximately a year before Portal!). As previously stated, I don't think Twilight Princess is a terrible game: I just think that overall, it's a sub-par Zelda title. Phantom Hourglass - DS [Owned] - (Completed in September 2011) I liked Phantom Hourglass due to the return to the Wind Waker style (I feel like the style is more suited for portable systems), but it took me a while to get into it. The repetition of the main dungeon kind of got to me after a while, but thankfully, I ended up beating it. Like pretty much all of the other titles, I'm looking forward to fishing this one out of the game pile and beating it in 2011. It's not one of my favorites, but it's not bad by any means. Extended Thoughts: I honestly don't have a whole lot to say about Phantom Hourglass - even though it feels fairly unique considering it is controlled entirely with the stylus, a lot of the style is heavily borrowed from Wind Waker and it feels fairly dull at times. Having to re-do the main dungeon multiple times also grinds on you after a while, which leads to tons of breaks in-between play sessions; a stark contrast to pretty much every other Zelda game, which makes you yearn for more every single time you get a new item, or complete a new dungeon. Stylus support also feels completely pointless at times, and I would have loved an alternate control scheme. All in all Phantom Hourglass isn't a poor game, but I'm in no hurry to play it again compared to most of the series, mostly due to the "touch" nature of the game.Spirit Tracks - DS [Owned] - (Completed in October 2011) Overall, I'm indifferent about Spirit Tracks - it felt like more Phantom Hourglass, and I didn't really dig the train gimmick. I think it was during the release of this title that I realized I was mainly a console Zelda fan - although there are a few portable gems in there (Minish Cap, Awakening), overall, the full-fledged console titles are my Zelda platform of choice. I personally thought the only bad part of Spirit Tracks were the train sections, but unfortunately, there are a lot of those! Extended Thoughts: I don't really have too much of an opinion of Spirit Tracks - like Phantom Hourglass, many sections feel like a chore (and ultimately, all of the train sections are a bore); but at the end of the day, while it may not be the best Zelda game, it is a decent portable title. Four Swords Anniversary - DSiWare, eShop [Owned] - (Completed in October 2011) Nintendo has just announced that the DSi/3DS re-release of Four Swords will contain new content, in the form of new levels, abilities/weapons, and an entirely new single player component. As a result, I am treating it as a separate release, and plan on tackling the solo adventure in an effort to complete the new levels. Extended Thoughts: The only bad part about Four Swords Anniversary is that it won't be around forever - you have until February 2012 to pick this one up for free - after that, it will probably be gone for a long time, until Nintendo decides to re-release it again. Simply put, Four Swords Anniversary is one of the best Zelda games in the entire series - it takes an already incredible game and adds a much needed single player element, as well as a ton of extra content. After playing this remade masterpiece, I'd easily place it in my top five Zelda games of all time.  Skyward Sword - Wii/Motion Plus [Owned] - (Completed in December 2011)Hopefully, come Winter 2011, I'll be able to make the claim that Skyward Sword is the "Ocarina of Time" of this generation. Unlike Twilight Princess, this game looks like it has a ton of heart, which is exemplified by the extremely colorful new villain, the beautiful Sky World, and the stunning art style. Motion Control also doesn't seem like a gimmick this time around, forcing you to actually think before you strike with motion plus, as opposed to waving your wand around like an idiot in Twilight Princess. The more and more I see of Skyward Sword, the more I think it will be the best title of 2011. Considering it was the catalyst for this entire adventure, it's pretty obvious that I can't wait! EXTENDED THOUGHTS: Overall I thought it was a decent, flawed game. In my mind, I had it at least making it into my top five of Zelda list based on what I had seen, but after completion, I'm sure that it doesn't come close. While it's by no means even near the bottom, there are certain issues that I couldn't really get past. Motion control wise, combat was great, but everything else I could have dealt without. My bird flight controls constantly deadzoned, as well as my free-flight/skydiving sections, and swimming. I had more than a little trouble with the bomb rolling controls, and the stabbing/thrust moves - this was with the brand new gold wii-mote, that worked great with other games. Gameplay wise, I felt like there was way too much repetition and way too many fetch quests, and re-using the exact same environments over and over again was extremely grating. But when the game worked - it worked. For the most part I loved the dungeons, and I'd be keen to play it on Hero Mode in the near future. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD - Wii U [owned], Wii U eShop [owned] - (Completed in September 2013)  As soon as I booted up Wind Waker HD, I knew I was in for a treat. There's something about the game's locales that really jump out at me, and seeing Outset island in glorious HD was a thing of beauty. For those of you who were wondering -- yes, Wind Waker still holds up, which is a testament to the brilliant design of the original. But even though it is nearly the exact same game you know and love, it comes with a few welcome mechanical enhancements. For those of you who found slowly sailing across the world for objectives boring -- there's the Swift Sail item that makes traveling faster. If you found the Triforce collection quest to be too tedious (I happen to be one of those people), it's been shortened and streamlined. GamePad support is also something I now can't live without, as you can not only instantly re-assign items during dungeons (which you'll need to do on more than one occasion) just like Ocarina of Time 3D, but you can also consult the GamePad as a map when sailing. Unlike the Wii Zelda games where I felt like it was a regression due to the unnecessary waggle, Wind Waker HD actually manages to transcend the original due to the core mechanics of the Wii U. And you know the best part? The GamePad functionality is completely optional, and you can just cruise along with a Pro Controller without having to bother with the pad at all. This is a huge deal for me given the fact that so many recent Zelda games have had forced control schemes without options. If you haven't played Wind Waker, I'd definitely recommend picking it up on Wii U, as it's one of the greatest action-adventure games of all time. It manages to capture that feeling of pure adventure that the Zelda series is known for, while maintaining relevance in an HD era with its gorgeous, timeless art style. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds - 3DS, 3DS eShop [owned] - (Completed in November 2013) A Link Between Worlds is a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand, it has a lot of [positive] streamlining that really puts the emphasis on adventuring, and having fun. On the other, it's a very dry, unimaginative quest that doesn't really have a compelling world or cast of characters. Throughout most of the game, I felt like I was just going through the motions. The magic really wasn't there, even if it was technically sound, and played great. I have to give a special shoutout to the ice dungeon, as it presented a perspective never before seen in the Zelda series, period. Set to the tune of a giant skyscraper-like layout, you're constantly falling down and making pinpoint drops, almost like it was a platformer without a jump button. The 3D effect only makes this dungeon (and the entire game, really) sing even more. But the rest of the game really didn't live up to that high standard. If you're really itching for a Zelda game though, A Link Between Worlds isn't bad by any means. It should deliver the basic experience to fans, and if you've never played a Zelda before, this is a great start due to the fact that it's so straightforward and easy to play. Although I hope a lot of the concepts are used in future iterations, I similarly hope a bit more heart and personality is injected as well.Thanks for stopping by, and joining me on my quest to rescue Zelda approximately fifteen sixteen times. So what's your favorite Zelda? What's your least favorite? Is Majora's Mask better than Ocarina of Time? Feel free to leave a comment below!
100% Zelda retrospective photo
It's dangerous to go alone...take this
[Want to see what I thought of Wind Waker HD and A Link Between Worlds 3DS? Read past my 2011 quest to beat every core Zelda game ever made.] Halfway through beating Ocarina of Time 3D, I had a pretty neat thought: ...


100% Mega Man X photo
100% Mega Man X

100% Series Retrospective: Mega Man X


Carter's Quest
Mar 25
// Chris Carter
[Read on for a description of every main series Mega Man X game ever released in the US, and my completion of them all in 2013. Header image credit - Cepillo16.] 2013 is going to be an exciting year. Now that I know you guys...

100% Series Retrospective: God of War

Mar 13 // Chris Carter
Why God of War? I've always been a fan of Greek mythology. I almost took up an additional major of Ancient History in college, as a matter of fact. While I played many Roman-themed action games like Rygar (both of them) growing up, God of War was the first game to truly re-create the insanely violent mythos. Game after game, I would be excited to see who Sony would incorporate next. Icarus? Hephaestus? As loose as these adaptations were, it was still interesting to see how characters would be incorporated, and if possible, how they would meet their end. The fantastic set-pieces were also a major factor in the God of War series' appeal. Riding on top of titan's back that comprised an entire level was one of the greatest moments in gaming, among many other jaw-dropping moments in the franchise. I don't think any of the games are that deep from a pure combat perspective. Outside of the occasional parry (which you don't really need) and pinpoint dodge, you can basically use a few select combos and still best the vast majority of confrontations. But that doesn't mean that they aren't extremely fun, and don't offer some of the most entertaining fights and bosses in the entire genre. If you haven't joined me on my Quests before, the way they work is pretty simple. It's kind of like a retrospective, but rather than just give you an overview of a franchise, I'll generally let you know what I thought of the game when it was released, and what I think of it now. If I didn't provide a complete vision of what the game is like before I replay it, I'll provide an "extended thoughts" section below each applicable entry. I'll update my progress in real time through my blog, and after I finish the entire Quest, I'll share it with you guys on the front page.For this particular Quest, I actually finished everything in rapid succession over the course of a few days, so I skipped the c-blog portion and got right into it. God of War - PlayStation 2 [Owned], PlayStation 3 (HD Collection) [Owned]COMPLETED God of War kind of came out of nowhere. I had just wrapped up my Master Ninja playthrough of Ninja Gaiden (Xbox), and the Dante Must Die difficulty in Devil May Cry 3, when Kratos came along. Can you believe Devil May Cry 3 and God of War came out in the same month? The game mesmerized me with its amazing set-pieces, breathtaking graphics (at the time), and interesting characters. While it wasn't the deepest story in the world, Kratos' tale of revenge was a good enough motivator to keep me going and tear through fight after fight until I came to the conclusion -- then I played it again, and again. The Hydra fight was one of the biggest "holy shit" moments in all of gaming, and developer Santa Monica managed to stuff a whole lot more into the package that kept you entertained and wanting more. I distinctly remember spending an entire evening in college beating the game on the God Mode difficulty just so I could get the final secret -- an actual phone number to a hotline where you could call Kratos. That's pretty much a clear-cut finalist for the "best extra ever" award. Today, the game doesn't hold up nearly as well as some of the others in the series. But at the same time, it's still worth playing, especially with the HD version on the PlayStation 3. God of War II - PlayStation 2 [Owned], PlayStation 3 (HD Collection) [Owned]COMPLETED To date, God of War II is my absolute favorite in the franchise, and one of my favorite action games of all time. Somehow, it contains one of the most well-paced campaigns in the history of the genre, in the sense that it constantly keeps you interested at every waking moment. In fact, if God of War II had half of the boss fights it does, it would still be in the running for some of the best single combat experiences of all time. One of the crazy things about the release of God of War II is that it actually came out a few months after the release of the PlayStation 3. It was one of the better swan songs in recent memory for a console, and really helped send off the PlayStation 2 in an amazing way. I generally dislike the claim that a sequel "is better than the original in every way," but that really is the case here. It has a more compelling story, better bosses, better combat, and more unique abilities. I've played this game so many times that many of the locales and fights are burnt into my memory. Tiny nuances like being able to slide down walls quicker, and a much better learning curve helped cement the game as one of the best starter action games for new fans who wanted to learn the ropes without getting too frustrated. The only major flaw of God of War II is that it doesn't truly innovate -- it just does everything better. In that sense, people who absolutely hated the first game probably won't find solace here. But at the same time, if you truly dislike God of War II, I'd have a hard time finding you a more accessible action game. God of War III - PlayStation 3 [Owned]COMPLETED Plain and simple, God of War III is the only weak spot of the entire series for me. Something about it just didn't sit right, even if, mechanically, it's very similar to the quality of the first two games. Part of the reason is because Kratos has progressed from a sympathetic, somewhat justified tragic figure, to a complete asshole. After the strides that Chains of Olympus to humanize Kratos, God of War III pretty much throws all of that out of the window, and then absolutely crumbles at the end with one of the weakest endings in all of gaming. From a pure action standpoint though, III is pretty much one of the most insane games ever made. In an almost senseless effort to top itself and its predecessors at every waking moment, you basically end up fighting everything left on Mount Olympus, and then some. The graphical upgrades are nice, but the set-pieces just don't really measure up to the first two games. But because of how high it aims, the final confrontation is a complete letdown, and the cliffhanging ending that still hasn't been addressed was a terrible way to treat the franchise. If you must see how Kratos predictably gets his final (?) vengeance with cutting-edge graphics, you should still probably play God of War III. God of War: Chains of Olympus - PSP, PlayStation 3 (HD Collection) [Owned]COMPLETED Chains of Olympus is a quaint little side story that blew people away (at the time), considering the sheer fact that it was one of the first portable games to recreate a faithful home console experience. Taking place before the original God of War, Chains of Olympus deals with Persephone, the reluctant Queen of the Underworld, and Atlas, a titan who appears in other God of War games. The plot is a little by the numbers, but make no mistake: this is still very much a solid God of War game that entertains from start to finish, with no real glaring faults. Playing it on the Vita with a remapped second analog stick or on the PS3 with the DualShock is the best way to experience it, but the original PSP controls are by no means poor. God of War: Ghost of Sparta - PSP, PlayStation 3 (HD Collection) [Owned]COMPLETED Ghost of Sparta is one of the better games in the series. From the get-go, things get fairly personal for Kratos, and this adventure actually has a justification, rather than Chains of Olympus, which was mainly a fluff piece. The gist of Ghost is that Kratos finds out what happened to his brother, who is part of the reason why he is who he is during the course of the games, and the person who inspired his trademark red markings on his face. It gives a bit more meaning to the character before he's ruined in III, and the set-pieces are worthy of the franchise, starting things off with a bang in Atlantis. You finally get to deal with Kratos' family, and see him at his most vulnerable since the brief cutscene where he murders his wife and daughter in a fit of rage. It's also a bit more fleshed out than Chains of Olympus gameplay-wise, featuring new weapons and powers, which puts it on par with the console games in terms of a fully featured experience. If you're looking for a good starting point for the series, playing this in between God of War 1 and 2 is a great idea. God of War: Ascension - PlayStation 3 [Owned] COMPLETED Ascension is an interesting game, to say the least. It fluctuates from insanely easy to fairly difficult on a whim, and offers up a hefty balance of backtracking and brand new beautiful set pieces. It doesn't really offer anything new story-wise, and honestly, outside of the experience, it's fairly inconsequential to the franchise as a whole. Ok, so we sort of understand how far Kratos is willing to go to beat the odds -- but we get that in spades in God of War III, so it's not really unexpected, after all. If you aren't a God of War fan, this won't do anything to sway you. Still, Ascension is a fairly solid action game through and through, with decent pacing, and some neat weapon mechanics that let you switch elements on a whim (but not mid-combo, sadly). On the higher difficulty levels, the game is occasionally one of the more challenging entries, which made me extremely happy. Whenever the press at large is addressing its concerns over having trouble beating the game, you know it's going to be good!  Oh, and that part that people had a lot of trouble with? Also known as the Trial of Archimedes? I completed it on my third try. I'll have a guide out soon to help out people who aren't able to do it. It wasn't that bad, so don't think the game is impossible or broken or anything -- just power up your blades first and foremost to maximum and you should be good to go, as always. As a general rule, I'm ok with an added multiplayer component if it doesn't interfere with the single-player experience. Thankfully, it doesn't, and online play offers a fairly enjoyable Power Stone-esque experience. While it doesn't blow me away enough to get me addicted like some recent games, I can see myself jumping back in occasionally to beat up some fellow gladiators. I joined the cult of Hades, which allows me to use some of Ascension's trickier abilities and spells, and had a great time. Ascension needed to do something drastically different, as the formula is starting to wear a bit thin. At its core, the game is a prequel to a prequel (Chains of Olympus), which sounds pretty absurd on paper. Sony Santa Monica has tapped this well fairly dry, but apparently, it was still full of just enough spring water by the time they got to Ascension. Collection Photo: Final thoughts:God of War is one of the most consistent franchises I've ever played. Although it doesn't innovate nearly as much as other action series tend to do, you really can't say there's an outright "bad" game in the series, despite my general disappointment in III. Pretty much all of the games hold up, especially considering that Sony has made the entire franchise available on the PlayStation 3 through HD remakes. If Sony treated most of their franchises half as well as God of War, you'd see a lot less failed Sony IPs and closed studios today. They take great care of the franchise, and for good reason -- they're still system sellers, even to this day.
100% God of War photo
Carter's Quest
[Read on for a description of every God of War game ever released in the US, and my completion of them all in 2013.] 2013 is an exciting year. Now that I know you guys enjoy reading my Quests, I'm going to make an effort to d...

100% Series Retrospective: Devil May Cry

Jan 16 // Chris Carter
Why Devil May Cry?All things considered, Devil May Cry is probably my favorite action franchise ever. The series is particularly close to my heart, as I remember when each game came out, and it's one of the only franchises where I rushed to buy every single game day one. I vividly remember the first time I played the original game, the first time I played the standard version of Devil May Cry 3 and struggled on the first boss (because normal mode was secretly hard mode in the original), and the many times I watched the same clip of Devil May Cry 4's first gameplay video.The DMC series does action right, simply put. It's the perfect technical action series, that essentially functions as a fighting game in an action-adventure's body. There's cancelling, split-second timing considerations, a heavy emphasis on combos, and a strong sense of urgency with the game's challenging difficulty levels. It has memorable boss fights, amazingly cool weapons, sick cheesy '90s action cutscenes, tons of unlockables, and solid anime-style voice acting.People are quick to note that the new DmC is more welcoming to newer players. I heavily agree with that, but the secret is, Devil May Cry was always welcoming. In fact, it was one of the only action games ever to put in an "Easy Automatic" mode that allowed you to turn it down a notch if you died too many times. It was a perfect compromise, as it allowed you to execute advanced moves with the press of a button. It's a shame so many people have been turned away by a promise of an "impossible" barrier of entry.I figured with the recent release of DmC: Devil May Cry, it would be a great time to dive into the series again, and see how the new game stacks up directly. For those of you who aren't aware, the series is widely popular, spawning a few novels, manga, an anime series, a US comic series, and a potential feature film.Dante himself as appeared in many other games, including the Viewtiful Joe series, Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne, Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 (with Vergil), and PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale. If you haven't joined me on my Quests before, the way they work is pretty simple. It's kind of like a retrospective, but rather than just give you an overview of a franchise, I'll generally let you know what I thought of the game when it was released, and what I think of it now. If I didn't provide a complete vision of what the game is like before I replay it, I'll provide an "extended thoughts" section below each applicable entry. I'll update my progress in real time through my blog, and after I finish the entire Quest, I'll share it with you guys on the front page.For this particular Quest, I actually finished everything in rapid succession over the course of a few days, so I skipped the c-blog portion and got right into it.Let's go!Devil May Cry - PlayStation 2 [Owned], PlayStation 3 (HD Collection), Xbox 360 (HD Collection) [Owned]COMPLETEDAt the time, the first Devil May Cry game was extremely fresh and unique. The simple premise of a cocky Devil Hunter engaging in demon hunting was a match made in anime heaven, and it worked. Although the game has started out as Resident Evil 4, it was eventually turned into something else entirely after the fixed camera from previous Resident Evil games was dropped for a more dynamic view. After the development team traveled across Europe in an attempt to inject some gothic influence into the game, the project was changed entirely: the outcome was Devil May Cry.I vividly remember seeing the first screenshots for the game, and getting extremely excited at nearly every picture. I loved the deep reds and purple color schemes of Dante and the Marionette enemies, and the ability to juggle enemies with your twin pistols was pretty unreal. Funnily enough, the concept of air juggling was inspired by a glitch in another Capcom game, Onimusha.Devil May Cry was unique in that it was one of the only games ever to feature a "style" (scoring) system that made you self aware of your gameplay, and always challenged you to play better. But that wasn't the only challenge of mixing attacks up and not getting hit -- it was difficult in general to boot!Starting the series tradition of unlockable difficulties and costumes, Devil May Cry was also one of the first games to offer an "extreme" difficulty mode, in this case, titled "Dante Must Die."  It was very challenging, and naturally, very rewarding to complete -- and unlike many retro games that featured a "fake difficulty" (through bad design or software limitations), this challenge was legitimate, which made it all the more reason to power through it.So how was my replay of the game? Well, the PS2 original is pretty choppy by today's standards, but the HD version feels just fine. While a lot of the elements found in the first game have been eclipsed (either copied, or bested by later games in its own series), it's still an enjoyable action game even to this day.Devil May Cry 2 - PlayStation 2 [Owned], PlayStation 3 (HD Collection), Xbox 360 (HD Collection) [Owned]COMPLETEDA common joke I like to make in Devil May Cry posts is "Yes, of course, Devil May Cry 4, the oddly named third Devil May Cry game" -- in reference to the fact that the black sheep of the franchise, 2, is generally shunned by fans into a non-existent state.While I've beaten the other games at least ten times each (DMC 3 a lot more than that), I've only beaten DMC 2 a scant few times. So imagine my excitement going into it, seeing if it was truly as bad as I remembered.And...it basically is. So many changes were made that weren't really necessary. For one, a side character named Lucia is introduced, and...she's not very compelling. Unlike Kat from the new DmC though, she isn't just an ancillary addition -- oh no -- she's basically forced into every facet of the game as a playable character.On top of that, Dante changes into a less interesting, darker version of his previous happy-go-lucky self, and it isn't really fun to watch. The difficulty (a staple of the series) was also lowered, and weapons weren't as nuanced. Everything seemed to sort of blend together -- whether it was the very samey weapon collection or the similar-looking levels (there's far too much open space and not enough memorable environments).The point is, it didn't stand out, which is generally what the Devil May Cry series makes its money on. Boss battles are extremely dull and forgettable.If you're going to brave this, try it on the HD collection. Don't bother hunting it down and paying money for it individually. Besides, the first and third games are worth the price of entry alone for the package.Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening - PlayStation 2 [Owned], PlayStation 2 (Special Edition) [Owned], PC, PlayStation 3 (HD Collection), Xbox 360 (HD Collection) [Owned]COMPLETEDDevil May Cry 3 is an interesting and storied release. The very first iteration (the standard edition) featured the Hard difficulty as a standard. Meaning, Hard was actually Very Hard. As a result, I remember dying a number of times on the first sub-boss of the game (which is like five minutes in). That's a challenge, my friends, and one of the many reasons why I was immediately enamored by this game.Some time later, a "Special Edition" was released, with new encounters, tweaked difficulty levels (it shifted every mode down one peg to understandably make it more accessible), and added the ability to play as Vergil. Yep, one of the biggest badasses in all of gaming was finally playable, and it was glorious. In fact, a playable Vergil is so appealing that Capcom opted to include a playable Vergil campaign as DLC in the new DmC.But enough about Vergil; the game itself, even the non-special edition, is my favorite action game ever. The crux is due to two things: swappable weapons, and styles. While the new DmC has the ability to switch weapons mid-combat, it isn't instantaneous -- Devil May Cry 3's system was. Two weapons each were assigned to slots on the left and right, which would be switched using L2 and R2, respectively. As a result, you could utilize combos with *four* weapons in them at once. The kicker? All of the weapons were fine tuned, and fun to use.Styles were another thing entirely that allowed you to play the game the way you wanted to play it. If you preferred a more defensive play-style, Royal Guard was your huckleberry. It allowed you to use split second timing and guard attacks in a traditional manner, in addition to the standard dodge mechanic. There are suitable styles for melee weapons and ranged as well, but my absolute favorite is the Trickster style, which improves your speed, maneuverability, and jumping abilities. All of these styles level up, RPG style, and can be brought across difficulty levels, allowing you to replay the game as many times as you want to max everything out. It was a ton of fun, and there were a few nights where I'd beat the game twice in a row -- it was that enjoyable.Of course, it also contained some of the best boss fights in all of gaming. Which brings us to the final battle -- Dante's epic showdown with Vergil. I mean, what can I say about this fight that hasn't been said a million times over? It truly is worthy of the term "epic." On higher difficulty levels, it's one of the most intense, and mesmerizing fights in all of action games (it might even be my number-one choice).If you haven't experienced Devil May Cry 3 yet, you need to. If I had to summarize the third game into one word, it would be "gunchucks."Devil May Cry 4 - PlayStation 3, PC, iOS [Owned], Xbox 360 [Owned]COMPLETEDThe fourth Devil May Cry game had one of the best core action engines of all time -- but you wouldn't know it, because the actual campaign had a heap of problems. Backtracking, pacing issues, and an all around lack of a compelling narrative hurt this game. The chief complaint for me was backtracking, so much in that it basically expected you to beat the same game twice (and even fight many of the same exact bosses) with two different characters.Like Devil May Cry 2, DMC 4 featured two characters. This time around I actually liked the newcomer (Nero), and enjoyed his different play-style, but the fact remains that the campaign itself is very uninteresting at points. It's a shame, because it's one of the best-looking games on the PS3/360.Despite those issues though, Devil May Cry 4 shines brightest when you're playing as Dante, and switching between all four styles at will in the game's Bloody Palace mode. It's combat bliss, despite its fleeting nature. Don't let anyone tell you Devil May Cry 4 is a bad game. It's not. It also sold very well, which makes the decision to go with a completely new studio all the more puzzling for fans.DmC: Devil May Cry - PlayStation 3, PC, Xbox 360 [Owned]COMPLETEDSo we've come full circle now. We're past the fully Capcom developed titles and we're onto Ninja Theory.As everyone knows, I'm not the biggest NT fan. Back when they were known as Just Add Monsters, they made a game called Kung Fu Chaos, which was basically an uninspired (and very racially charged) Smash Bros. clone for the Xbox.Surprisingly, I found out four years later that they developed Heavenly Sword for the PS3, and went to check it out. While it had the machinations of a cool-looking game, I thought it was a pretty basic and uninspired God of War tech demo. But still, Ninja Theory trucked on, and released Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, which was probably their most successful game to date from a critical standpoint. Even then, I still wasn't impressed. Although Enslaved contains some of the best imagery I've ever seen in a videogame, the combat system was probably one of the worst I've ever experienced, and platforming basically consisted of "hold forward, press a button occasionally."So naturally, I was a little skeptical of DmC: Devil May Cry. But even as Ninja Theory had hundreds of insults thrown their way, I remained steadfast, and always said I would give it a shot, because at the end of the day, I'll give anything a chance. I'm glad I did. As Jim stated in his review, the game has many redeeming qualities.Although it isn't as innovative as the first game was for the time, and isn't up to snuff combat-wise like 3 and 4 were, I enjoyed DmC for what it was. The platforming was actually pretty good (and probably the best in the entire series), and the premise transcended a '90s action movie to the point where it would be (somewhat) universally appealing.Despite the fact that I really didn't like the new characters for the most part, including Dante (no, not because of his hair -- I just felt like he was almost painfully generic), the world was something I could get into. Plus the combat wasn't bad at all, and is Ninja Theory's best effort to date in terms of straight gameplay mechanics. In terms of difficulty, DmC was a bit of a letdown (like 2), and you really need to play it on the game's Son of Sparda mode (Very Hard) to get a true Devil May Cry experience -- you just have to beat the game once to unlock it.While I wouldn't recommend the game to absolutely everyone, I would recommend it to most action fans. You might not be as wowed by it as some people, but you'll most likely enjoy it more than the average action-adventure.Collection Photo: Final thoughts:Devil May Cry is a pretty weird series. It starts off with a bang, regresses, peaks, regresses a bit again, and reinvents itself over five short games. Honestly, not a lot of series have that storied a history with this kind of reputation.Although the collection of games is far from what I'd call a "troubled" past (every game but the second has universal acclaim from fans of the genre), it is an interesting one, and one I enjoyed reliving on this Quest.Devil May Cry 3's brilliance was no surprise discovery here, but rediscovering why Devil May Cry 4 was such a shame was a bit jarring, and disappointing. I was expecting the first game to not hold up well, but if you play the HD collection, it's just fine. DmC impressed me more than I thought it would, but there's a lot of issues that hold it back from greatness -- kind of like Devil May Cry 4.As for recommendations, I'd probably tell newcomers to give the HD Collection a try and test out easy automatic if Normal is too troubling, and the new game, with a price cut.So now we're in an odd spot. Capcom has a franchise that upped its presentation, but regressed a bit gameplay-wise. It's a give and take for fans, and something not all fans were willing to give.The good news is, Capcom hasn't closed the door on an internally developed Devil May Cry 5. I mean, these two sub-franchises can coexist, right?Right?
100% Devil May Cry photo
Carter's Quest
[Read on for a description of every Devil May Cry game ever released in the US, and my completion of them all in 2013.]2013 is going to be an exciting year. Now that I know you guys enjoy reading my Quests, I'm going to make ...

100% Series Retrospective: Mega Man Classic

Jan 09 // Chris Carter
Why Mega Man? Mega Man is my favorite franchise in gaming. Period. Although I'm not a giant fan of every single sub-franchise (Star Force comes to mind), I can't think of a bigger Mega Man fan on the web outside of Destructoid's own Tony Ponce. Specifically, my forte is what I refer to as the "Classic" series, consisting of the properly named Mega Man games, like 1-10, and Rockman & Forte. My Mega Man fandom isn't something recent, however. I still remember to this day the very first time I played Mega Man on the NES. Funnily enough, I was almost turned off by the goofy cover, but I'm glad I braved it anyways, as I would rent every single game in the series after that day. But the fandom also doesn't stop there. When I was in seventh grade, I learned HTML, and started a Mega Man fansite with a friend of mine. He did most of the coding, and I provided the content. I wrote boss strategies for every robot master and Wily stage, for every Mega Man game that was currently released. Every year for many years, my friend and I would beat Mega Man 1-8 in marathon form. When that friend and I grew apart, I met someone else who indulged my Mega Man fanaticism. We would constantly play Mega Man X speedruns (with two TVs and two SNES units) -- both full upgrade and non-upgrade runs. One day we even ran Mega Man 1 all the way through X5, which was greatly assisted by the Mega Man Anniversary Collections. Mega Man often emphasize music through and through, and it's not just because of the meticulously created soundtracks in each game: the entire series is rooted in music. Rock Man, Mega Man's original and Japanese moniker, is literally a play on Rock and Roll (which is his sister's name). There are characters named Blues (Proto Man in the US), Gospel (Treble), Forte (Bass), Tango, Enker (named after a style of Japanese music), Beat, and many more facets of music. Series father Keiji Inafune really put a lot of heart into the series, which shows. I'm also a huge Bass (known in Japan as Forte) fan. As in, he's one of my top five favorite characters of all time. If you're ever looking for a gift for me, I'd accept anything Bass related (hint hint). Since there are many more Mega Man games out there to play, I will be doing a separate Quest for the X series, including Command Mission, the Zero series, and the ZX series. Everything else will most likely be lumped into a third quest, including Legends, Battle Network, and Star Force. At the end of this, there will be three Quests, and I will own every Mega Man game ever released in the US. Also, the Game Boy games are in a weird state of kinda sorta remakes, but they're still technically considered in the Classic era, so I'm including them here. If you haven't joined me on my Quests before, the way they work is pretty simple. It's kind of like a retrospective, but rather than just give you an overview of a franchise, I'll generally let you know what I thought of the game when it was released, and what I think of it now. If I didn't provide a complete vision of what the game is like before I replay it, I'll provide an "extended thoughts" section below each applicable entry. I'll update my progress in real time through my blog, and after I finish the entire Quest, I'll share it with you guys on the front page. Mega Man - NES, Wii Virtual Console [Owned], GameCube (Mega Man Anniversary Collection), PSN (PsOne Classics Import) [Owned], PS2 (Mega Man Anniversary Collection) [Owned], Xbox (Mega Man Anniversary Collection) COMPLETED I've had an affinity towards platformers ever since I played the original Mario Bros., but it wasn't until Mega Man that said affinity really came alive. The non-linear nature of the game (that allowed you to select which stage you wanted to do in order), which was pretty much unheard of at the time, took my little brain quite a while to wrap around. The concept of earning new abilities (essentially RPG elements inside of a platformer) blew my mind, and having to "figure out" the correct order of bosses to exploit their weaknesses was like a mini puzzle game. I also think it's one of the hardest games in the whole franchise -- entirely due to the difficulty of the Wily levels. While it's not always my first choice for constant replays, the impact the original Mega Man had on the industry is well known even today. Mega Man 2 - NES, Wii Virtual Console [Owned], GameCube (Mega Man Anniversary Collection), PSN (PsOne Classics Import) [Owned], PS2 (Mega Man Anniversary Collection) [Owned], Xbox (Mega Man Anniversary Collection) COMPLETED The second entry in the franchise is often regarded as the best in the series by most fans. If you ask people what their favorite Mega Man game is, nine times out of ten they'll probably say "2." Having played it many, many times, I can see where they're coming from, even if it wouldn't be my own personal choice. It hosts one of the best soundtracks of all time, the level design is top notch, and the robot masters included in the game are wholly more interesting than the first time around. I really can't say much about Mega Man 2 that hasn't been said a million times already. It's platforming gold. You need to play it. Mega Man 3 - NES, Wii Virtual Console [Owned], GameCube (Mega Man Anniversary Collection), PSN (PsOne Classics Import) [Owned], PS2 (Mega Man Anniversary Collection) [Owned], Xbox (Mega Man Anniversary Collection) COMPLETED Mega Man 3 is my favorite of the NES series. I know, it's not a popular opinion to enjoy it over 2, but screw it. I think the robot masters are more interesting, the levels are more varied, and the introduction of Rush helps add more character that would really let Mega Man come into its own as a series. Also, for the first time ever, Mega Man could slide, which added a lot of depth to core gameplay. It was at this moment that I became a fan -- not just someone who played Mega Man casually -- but a hardcore fan who couldn't get enough of it. Mega Man 4 - NES, Wii Virtual Console [Owned], GameCube (Mega Man Anniversary Collection), PSN (PsOne Classics Import) [Owned], PS2 (Mega Man Anniversary Collection) [Owned], Xbox (Mega Man Anniversary Collection) COMPLETED Ah, Mega Man 4. Although it wasn't really remarkable in that it didn't do a whole lot to change the face of platformers forever, I still enjoyed it, and it's a solid entry in the franchise that still holds up today. Pharaoh Man is my favorite robot master ever, and the level design is fairly top notch. Although I wouldn't mark it as a "must play" entry, any platforming fan owes it to themselves to at least try it out. To add on top of his fancy slide move from 3, Mega Man could now use his charge buster, which allowed him to store up energy and unleash a more powerful blast. The adorable Eddie was also introduced. Mega Man 5 - NES, Wii Virtual Console [Owned], GameCube (Mega Man Anniversary Collection), PS2 (Mega Man Anniversary Collection) [Owned], Xbox (Mega Man Anniversary Collection) COMPLETED I never really had that deep of a connection to Mega Man 5. I don't know what it is -- the lack of robot master characterization, or the lack of innovation in general, but I kind of just slept-walk through it a number of times. Even still, Star Man, Wave Man and Gravity Man are three of my favorite robot masters to date, and the inclusion of Beat added a lot of enjoyment to Mega Man 5. Although I've played it a ton, I'm double checking my memory banks here with an extended section after I've completed it. EXTENDED THOUGHTS Mega Man 5 has some swarthy Robot Masters (Star Man is one of my all-time favorites), but there's literally no "wow" factor involved. It enhances the "locating secrets" mechanic in the form of finding the letters "MEGAMAN V" to unlock Beat, but that mechanic isn't truly fleshed out until 6. As a result, it feels a bit bare-bones, and almost forced in. On top of that, it has the slide from 3 and the charged shot from 4 -- as a result, nothing is really unique to 5. It isn't a bad game by any means, but it's not really special, like most other Mega Man games are. Mega Man 6 - NES, Wii Virtual Console [Owned], GameCube (Mega Man Anniversary Collection), PS2 (Mega Man Anniversary Collection) [Owned], Xbox (Mega Man Anniversary Collection) COMPLETED I've always had a love/hate relationship with Mega Man 6. The music was rad, the level design was great in that it added more secret exits, and the suit-switch mechanic was pretty fun. Still, the selection of robot masters was fairly dull, and although it was a solid platformer, it kind of just lacked heart -- even after playing it close to fifty times. I know Tony will kill me, but that's ok. Stay tuned for a closer, fresher look at what I think of Mega Man 6. EXTENDED THOUGHTS I never realized how great 6 really was until I beat it twice for this Quest. It just feels so...clean. I don't really know how else to describe it aside from the fact that it's a blast to play from start to finish, and it doesn't really drag like some other games do. Once you unlock the Rush Jet and Power adapters, you can basically play the game the way you want to play it. As a more versatile yet weaker Mega Man (Jet), a stronger but bulkier Mega Man (Power), or a balanced version. Changing your boss order to net these powers even earlier makes it even more fun, and the addition of the very welcome Energy Balancer item (which automatically refills weapon energy even if you don't have a weapon equipped) is something that would be carried into nearly every game following it. It also expands upon the "secret location" mechanic in 5, and adds full-fledged additional paths and exits, rather than a mere few secret rooms. These secret exits truly make the game feel less linear, on top of the fact that you already have the non-linear choice of your order of the stages. Neato. Mega Man 7 - SNES, GameCube (Mega Man Anniversary Collection), PS2 (Mega Man Anniversary Collection) [Owned], Xbox (Mega Man Anniversary Collection) COMPLETED Fan reaction was not good when Mega Man 7 was released. Graphically it wasn't that big of an upgrade, and mechanically, it felt a bit sloppy. Sound wise, although the music wasn't bad at all, the sound effects felt tinny and a bit cheap. Although it was a solid effort, the damage had been done, as many people (even myself at one point) swore off of Mega Man 7. It took me a few years to really gain respect for it. The introduction of Bass was a highlight for me, as adding a new "main" character helped increase the fresh factor a bit (it was tiring to keep staring at Mega Man, Proto Man, and Wily), but the secrets are what really got me eventually. Even though there were only a few real meaty extras in the game, they were fairly mighty. An entire 1v1 fighting game was part of the package, as was the ability to earn the flying rush module from Mega Man 6, and Proto Man's shield. It may not be one of the best Mega Man games to date, but I can still play it to this day and get some enjoyment out of it. Mega Man 8 - Sega Saturn, PlayStation [Owned], GameCube (Mega Man Anniversary Collection), PS2 (Mega Man Anniversary Collection) [Owned], Xbox (Mega Man Anniversary Collection) COMPLETED 8 is entirely underrated. Yeah I said it! If you haven't played 8 yet, you absolutely need to: ignore everything else you've heard about this game (as long as you skip the "Dr. Wiwy" terribad dub). Animation wise, it's superb. Although the actual gameplay doesn't stray too far from classic entries, the new anime style in-game graphics all help forge a brand new experience that feels more like a Treasure game than a Mega Man game -- and I can dig that. The Mega Ball trick is something I figured out fairly quickly (probably on my third playthrough or so), which increases the enjoyment of the game tenfold as you search for hard to find bolts and secrets.  This was also the first Mega Man to break levels into multiple sections, complete with their own loading screens.It also adds a new character named Duo. While he isn't the most interesting character in the franchise, his addition isn't really offensive, and he's pretty fun to play in the Arcade fighting game, Mega Man 2: The Power Fighters. Rockman and Forte (Mega Man & Bass) - Game Boy Advanced [Owned] COMPLETED This is my favorite Mega Man game, plain and simple. No, it's not just because I can finally play as Bass -- it's because of the solid level design, the insane amount of collectibles, and the amazing replay value you get with both Mega Man and Bass in tandem. While the storyline isn't award-winning material, there's enough here to trump pretty much any other Mega Man game before it. Graphically everything was clean, and the compromise of old and new ended up with a much better visual presentation than Mega Man 7. The sad part is, not many people have played it. It was a Japanese-only SNES release, so the Game Boy Advance version is the only way to play it in America (as a side note, the Wonderswan had an exclusive sequel: Megaman & Bass: Challenger from the Future). If you can swing it, I highly recommend picking up the GBA version -- this is an unsung hero of the Mega Man franchise.For years, fans thought the unofficial title for the game was "Mega Man 9," and that it bridged the gap into Mega Man X [10]. That is, until Mega Man 9 actually came along and turned that theory inside-out. Mega Man 9 - PSN [Owned], XBLA, WiiWare [Owned] COMPLETED Mega Man returned to his roots in Mega Man 9 -- and boy was it a comeback. Featuring some of the best level design in the entire series, MM9 was near platforming perfection. I can't tell you how many times I replayed level after level in the game's time trial mode just to top my previous score by a few seconds. Every time I made a new attempt, I learned something new about the level I never knew before: that's staying power. When you add in the "endless mode" DLC, the possibilities in MM9 are literally endless, and allow for more constant play than any game in the entire franchise. Everything worked out fairly well for Capcom. It was on nearly every platform, it sold really well, critics adored it, and they could sell DLC for it without too many people complaining. So far so good right? Why not make another one and keep these good times going? About that... Mega Man 10 - PSN [Owned], XBLA, WiiWare [Owned] COMPLETED Things didn't work out so well for our blue friend this time. Capcom pretty much forgot everything that made Mega Man 9 magical, and "10" didn't do very well at all commercially or critically. As a result, we haven't had any announcement of a possible continuation -- instead, we're left with fan games to fill the void. Since I've only beaten Mega Man 10 twice, I'll provide some extra thoughts below to help you in your potential purchasing decision somewhere down the line. I can pretty much say with certainty though that this is a "miss." EXTENDED THOUGHTS: Mega Man 10 presents a whole lot of ancillary ideas, like a playable Bass (DLC), and awesome challenge levels that pay homage to the Game Boy games (DLC), but the core package is wholly uninteresting. The Robot Masters feel dull, levels lack the spark that made Mega Man 9 so well designed, and after it's all said and done, you don't really feel compelled to play it again. Unlike Street Fighter X Tekken, which would be the next "official" classic release, 10 doesn't really set out to shake the franchise up, and I think that's why so many people kind of wrote this one off. Mega Man: Dr. Wily's Revenge - Game Boy, 3DS eShop Virtual Console [Owned] COMPLETED The Game Boy Mega Man series would introduce a lot of elements that would either be incorporated, or paid homage to in later games. The characters of Enker (Mega Man I), Punk (Mega Man III), and Ballade (Mega Man IV) would later appear in DLC for Mega Man 10. Elements of the Game Boy games would make their way into the NES titles, like the concept of a shop, for instance, which would become a heavy part of the series from 7 onward. Despite the fact that some of them were outsourced projects, most of them were decent titles that augmented the Mega Man Classic series -- even if the first three didn't fundamentally change the formula in the slightest. This one uses elements from Mega Man 1 and 2 on the NES, including an improved Item-1, called "Carry." It also uses passwords, which Mega Man 1 didn't utilize. Sadly, after the cancellation of Mega Man Mania (which would have collected all five games on one GBA cart), it's pretty tough to find these outside of the 3DS eShop.Mega Man II - Game Boy [Owned] COMPLETED Mega Man II was sort of a disaster, and a dark highlight of the Game Boy games. Unlike the first game, which had a project leader that Inafune referred to as a "huge Mega Man fan," this one was outsourced to Biox, which did an all-around terrible job. In fact, I'd probably outright make the claim that this is the only "bad" game in the Mega Man Classic franchise. Let's see if it's as bad as I remember it. Mega Man II uses elements from Mega Man 2 and 3 on the NES, including Rush Jet, Rush Coil, and Rush Marine (like MM3). EXTENDED THOUGHTS: Yep, this is one of the worst games in the entire franchise. Not only is the level design sub-par, but the game really doesn't try to do *anything* different on top of some weird design choices. It also features Quint, one of the worst original characters in the series, and probably one of the worst in all of videogames. How did Quint come about you ask? Wily goes forward in the future and captures a peaceful Mega Man, only to reprogram him for war. The kicker? He gives him a pogo stick as a weapon. Yep, this is a real thing that happened. I'm glad Quint only made a cameo in Mega Man V, and was erased from franchise canon forever. Mega Man III - Game Boy [Owned] COMPLETED Everything past Mega Man II on Game Boy is kind of a haze. I remember playing them, but they were so hard to find (even back then), that I didn't know anyone else who really liked them. As such, it was hard to get into them. Despite my hazy memory, I do remember Punk being pretty cool. Expect some extra thoughts after I tackle it. In terms of recycling, this one uses elements of Mega Man 3 and 4 on the NES, including Rush Jet and Rush Coil. EXTENDED THOUGHTS: Mega Man III is the definition of "alright." Like Mega Man I, it's not a bad game per se, it just doesn't really do anything different. Back in the day as a kid, having Mega Man on the go for family road trips was one of the coolest things ever. Today, I don't see much of a reason for playing the first three Game Boy games. Mega Man IV and V on the other hand... Mega Man IV - Game Boy [Owned] COMPLETED See my experience for Mega Man III. I'm at a loss for this one, although I'm aware of Ballade's impact on the franchise, as well as the in-game shop, which was included for the first time in a Mega Man game. You'll find parts of Mega Man 4 on 5 on the NES in IV, including Rush Coil, Rush Jet, Beat, and more, in addition to the Energy Balancer found in 6. Half of 5 and all of 6's Robot Masters (NES) would never be incorporated into a Game Boy game, as the last GB title, V, had a wholly original cast. EXTENDED THOUGHTS: As previously stated, Mega Man IV makes little tweaks that fundamentally change the feel of the series, even if it reuses assets and bosses. It has a new stage-select screen, a shop, new items like Mini Energy Tanks, a new kickback mechanic for the Mega Buster, and the ability to pick up P-Chips for the shop (P-Chips would later become screws). Mega Man V - Game Boy [Owned] COMPLETED One major reason why I love this Quest series so much is because I'm able to rediscover some of my favorite franchises all over again. Beating Mega Man V for what I think is the first time is no exception. As far as new elements go, this one added Tango, and it was Super Game Boy compatible (remember that?). EXTENDED THOUGHTS: Despite how great Mega Man IV was, V really shook things up, because it had a completely original story, and completely original Robot Masters. In fact, V kind of exposes the fact that Capcom had been reusing assets and bosses, because of how original it is. Robot Masters (called Stardroids) are named after planets, such as Mercury and Mars, and their levels are all new. You also fight Enker, Quint, Punk and Ballade at the end, and it's one of the only games in the entire franchise where Wily is *not* the final boss (!). It's a wonderful game that highlights how much of a shame it is that Capcom stopped producing classic style portable games outside of Rockman & Forte. This was outright one of my favorite games of the Quest. Mega Man Soccer - SNES [Owned] COMPLETED I'm not a huge fan of soccer. But what about a soccer game that lets you turn balls into giant death traps? Or fireballs? Yep, long before Mario Strikers came along, there was Mega Man Soccer. I'll tell you outright: I would not recommend "Soccer" to pretty much anyone out there but the most dire of Mega Man fans. All in all, the controls get in the way too much for it to lend itself to a quick pickup and play affair. Often times you'll be fighting the controls to get them to do what you want, and after a while, a lot of the robot masters tend to blend together in their play-styles. If you like soccer in general, you'll get more out of it, because you can strategize each position by choosing certain Robot Masters for the job (such as the quick Gemini Man as a Forward, or the hefty Wood Man as an OP Goalkeeper). In fact, I actually brushed up on my soccer knowledge just to play this game again, which was a pretty cool unintended experience. Mega Man Battle & Chase - PlayStation, PS2 (Mega Man X Anniversary Collection) [Owned] COMPLETED Capcom really took some chances with the franchise -- with a sports game, a racing game, and two fighting games, Mega Man really tried to spread his wings, to mixed success. I've only played Battle & Chase a scant few times, making it one of the only games in the franchise I don't have a vivid recollection of. Still, it does take place in the classic universe, so I opted to include it in this Quest. The reason being, it was only released in Japan and in the PAL region until Capcom opted to randomly include it in the Mega Man X Anniversary Collection. Although the X games aren't included in this particular quest, I also happen to own that very same collection, so Battle & Chase is good to go! Stick around for extended thoughts below. EXTENDED THOUGHTS There's not a whole lot I can say other than the fact that it's a serviceable, yet ultimately "meh" kart racer. If you can pick up the X Collection still, it's a worthy free addition to the set that is basically a cherry on top of the already stellar X series. Graphically, it isn't terrible looking for a PS1 game, and it's a nice little "what if" side distraction for fans of the series. A remake on a system like the 3DS would be a great way to reintroduce people to the Mega Man franchise. Mega Man: The Power Battle - Arcade, GameCube (Mega Man Anniversary Collection), PS2 (Mega Man Anniversary Collection) [Owned], Xbox (Mega Man Anniversary Collection) COMPLETED A Mega Man fighting game? Yep, it happened. It was also really, really fun. It wasn't a fighting game in the sense that Mega Man, Proto Man and Bass kicked and punched their way to success -- you still use your trusty blaster abilities -- but it worked surprisingly well. But yeah, it had Bass in it, which means I had to get my hands on it at some point. I love the Power Battle/Fighters series, and it's even more enjoyable with a friend. Mega Man 2: The Power Fighters - Arcade, GameCube (Mega Man Anniversary Collection), PS2 (Mega Man Anniversary Collection) [Owned], Xbox (Mega Man Anniversary Collection) COMPLETED Power Fighters is pretty much the same as the last game -- just with different robot masters and bosses. It adds Duo from Mega Man 8 to the mix, and attempts to vaguely explain the connection between the Classic series and the X series, with a special ending involving Wily's plans to create Zero. Like the first game, it's also really enjoyable, and a nice way to spend a quaint afternoon. If you can find a way to acquire the Anniversary Collection, pick it up, if only just for these two games. Mega Man Powered Up - PSP [Owned], PSP (Powered Up and Maverick Hunter X Double Pack) [Owned] COMPLETED I can't say enough good things about Powered Up. It's everything that's right about the Mega Man franchise, distilled into a contemporary portable. Naturally, Capcom had to kill it. Although many fans would be content to eat up Mega Man Powered Up 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6, there are currently no plans to develop the Powered Up series further. Low sales in America contributed to this decision, despite the extremely solid reception it received. It's a shame, because a lot of love went into creating this Mega Man game that not only fit the current market, but also had elements of tradition, and tons of content to boot. Not only can you select from an Easy, Normal, or Hard mode like Mega Man 10, but you can also play as robot masters, create and share brand new levels (two years before LittleBigPlanet), tackle 100 challenges, and play both the "New" and "Old" style versions of the game. Time Man and Oil Man would be added to make the original game's six Robot Masters a full cast of eight. Both had serviceable levels that felt like they would have fit into a classic style game. Street Fighter X Mega Man - PC [Owned] COMPLETED Due to my obligations to cover contemporary games as much as possible, I couldn't wait the two required weeks to play this game -- so I beat it -- twice. While I do have mixed feelings about it (no save or password system, a few hiccups, and a few uninspired levels), overall, I think this is a really solid release with some quality boss fights. Expect more thoughts as I beat it in 2013. EXTENDED THOUGHTS I really enjoyed this very well made fan game. The bosses are challenging, their animations are stellar, and although a few sections could use some work, the fact that this was made by basically one person is amazing. With a few tweaks and an XBLA/PSN/eShop release, this could be a classic entry into the series. Collection Photo: Hi-Res Final thoughts: This is probably my most enjoyable Quest so far, because it allowed me to rediscover my favorite franchise all over again. I was able to experience a new game (SFxMM), play a few games I missed in the process (Mega Man IV and V), and learn to appreciate a few ones I didn't like as much before (4 and 6). I even went back and beat a few of them again (namely 4 and 6), directly after I completed them. It was a pretty enlightening experience to say the least.What was really interesting is seeing the evolution of tiny nuanced mechanics throughout the franchise. Like how the Rush Jet changes its functionality from broken (MM3) to useful (MM4) to balanced (MM6). Or how the brief invincibility frame from hitting enemies or bullets doesn't spare you from insta-kill spikes in the first game, but works in subsequent titles. Obvious changes include things like the introduction of the slide in 3, and the charge shot in 4 -- having to cope with that and constantly up your game as you play each title is really fun, and something that's fairly unique to the Mega Man franchise Overall, I feel like my knowledge of Mega Man is much stronger, and I'm looking forward to seeing what the future holds. Now, my near future holds Mega Man X and Mega Man Spinoff Quests, but outside of that, perhaps there will be a new Capcom game in the cards!
100% Mega Man Classic photo
Carter's Quest
[Read on for a description of every Mega Man classic game ever released in the US, and my completion of them all in 2013.] 2013 is going to be an exciting year. Now that I know you guys enjoy reading my Quests, I'm ...

100% Series Retrospective: Wario

Nov 14 // Chris Carter
If you haven't joined me on my Quests before, the way they work is pretty simple. It's kind of like a retrospective, but rather than just give you an overview of a franchise, I'll generally let you know what I thought of the game when it was released, and what I think of it now. If I didn't provide a complete vision of what the game is like before I replay it, I'll provide an "extended thoughts" section below each applicable entry. I'll update my progress in real time through my blog, and after I finish the entire Quest, I'll share it with you guys on the front page. Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 - Game Boy, 3DS eShop [Owned] COMPLETED Wario actually got his start in Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins as the villain in 1992, but he wasn't playable. For the time, I can't tell you how amazing this was, getting a break from fighting Bowser for the 1000th time (Wart and Tatanga didn't really leave a lasting impression on me). Wario's existence is fairly simple: he is the antithesis -- the polar opposite of Mario. He's the Bizarro-Superman to Clark Kent's Superman. Wario quite literally is an amalgamation of Mario and the word "warui," which is roughly translated to "evil" in Japanese. Combine warui with Mario and BAM, you have Wario -- the evil Mario. To be honest though, I didn't think the character would continue, as he seemed more like a "one-off" kind of deal -- thankfully, I was wrong. So how was his first game? Well, I'm a bit rusty on my memory of it, so I can't wait to finish it and share my thoughts below. EXTENDED THOUGHTS: The first Wario Land game plays incredibly well, even if the controls feel like a carbon copy of Mario Land. Thankfully, the game's actual mechanics are where you get your unique Wario charm. Coins play a deeper role in the Wario series than Mario was ever used to. Coins not only open up the chance to play minigames, but you can also "pay a toll" to unlock checkpoints, and in some levels, you have to pay to complete. This all reinforces the recurring theme that Wario is obsessed with coins, which makes it all the more insane that New Super Mario Bros. 2 was not Wario themed. It also introduces the antagonist Captain Syrup, who doesn't overstay her welcome, and only shows up in Wario Land II before taking a ten-year hiatus, making a late appearance in the Nintendo Wii's Shake It! Multiple endings based on your performance is also an awesome addition that would show up in later games, and something that the Mario series hardly ever replicates. Wario Blast: Featuring Bomberman! - Game Boy [Owned] COMPLETED This game was freaking bizarre. It was also one of the first partnerships between Nintendo and Hudson -- one that would last well through the Mario Party games, among others. What's even more odd about it is that it's actually a Bomberman game with Wario shoehorned into it. In fact, the Japanese version didn't even have Wario in it! When it came out here though, it came with a fair amount of bells and whistles -- Super Game Boy support with enhanced functions, and a password system, which put it above previous Bomberman titles. I do remember playing this when it came out but I'll need to replay it in this Quest to give you a clear picture. EXTENDED THOUGHTS: So this is totally a Bomberman game with Wario copy/pasted into it and nothing more. I probably shouldn't have even picked this up as it would have better fit a Bomberman Quest, but I did it because...science, or something. Wario's Woods - NES, SNES, Satellaview, Wii Virtual Console [Owned] COMPLETED I think I played Wario's Woods more than I slept in 1994. Oddly enough, the game was released for both the NES and SNES in America in late 1994 -- I opted for the SNES version. You have to understand that at the time, Wario's Woods was unique. Before the thousands of iOS puzzle games, endless iterations of Puzzle Quest, Bust a Move and similar games, Wario's Woods was a gem amongst Tetris-likes. In fact, I still get guff for liking it better than Dr. Mario. The objective was fairly simple on the surface: you just create lines of colored monsters and destroy them with colored bombs -- but the execution was flawless, and the game had a ton of charm. The cool thing about the game is that it's essentially a platformer -- you can walk up lines to get to the other side of the screen, or walk up walls to grab items preemptively. You could also pick up entire stacks, just one part of the stack, or climb to the top of the stacks with separate buttons. Gameplay was very nuanced, making it one of the most complex, yet enjoyable puzzle games ever made. It helps that all of these things are taught to you from an incredibly fleshed-out tutorial that teaches you comprehensively how to play the game button by button. It's also one of the only games in Nintendo history with a playable and heroic Toad that wasn't just an ancillary character. So there's that. If you're a fan of puzzle games, watch this video then decide whether or not to pick it up on WiiWare. Virtual Boy Wario Land - Virtual Boy [Owned] COMPLETED Yep, that's right -- I actually bought Virtual Boy Wario Land and procured a Virtual Boy for this Quest. In fact, it was the first game I didn't own that I ran out and purchased. This is also one of my favorite Wario games because it's just so bizarre -- mostly because it's on a failed system. It fits his personality perfectly! I have to be honest, I'm a little bit worried about my eyes, as I plan on playing extended sessions with this. I remember one day (the night Virtual Boy launched actually), I played the VB literally all night long. I don't think I slept for two days after that. BRING ON THE BURN, BABY. Wario Land II - Game Boy, Game Boy Color [Owned], 3DS eShop COMPLETED Wario was starting to hit his stride. For the time, Wario Land II was an incredibly fresh take on platforming, and truly brought the Wario series into its own, without looking like just a Mario Land "spinoff." Overall, it wasn't game-changing, but it brought Wario to the forefront and allowed him to be taken seriously, which is an awesome accomplishment. Also, yep -- the roman numeral is correct -- the official naming convention here is "II," before the Big N got back to basics with Wario Land 3 and 4. EXTENDED THOUGHTS: Wario Land II makes a decided effort to attempt to create a brand new gameplay experience that is completely foreign to the Mario series. Similar to Sonic, Wario now loses coins when he takes damage. Additionally, the controls feel utterly different from the first game in the franchise -- unfortunately, they are a bit clunkier. But despite some control issues, the team really steps it up in terms of level design. Every single world in Wario Land II feels unique to the Wario universe, right down to the first set stages that involve Wario's bizzare castle/mansion. The multiple ending scheme is back, but it's more fleshed out and even harder to obtain. Finally, there's one major addition that this game and its direct sequel share. Wario cannot die! That's right, Wario is literally impervious to damage when he gets hit. While it may seem like this cheapens the game, the series makes strides to focus more on puzzles and platforming than action, so no matter how invincible you might seem, if you can't make a certain jump, you aren't beating the level. Wario Land 3 - Game Boy Color [Owned] COMPLETED In Japan, Wario Land 3 is known as the "Wario Land 3: The Mysterious Music Box," because, well, the game featured a music box. I'll take the time here to trumpet the Game Boy Color. I think that portable didn't get nearly enough respect, and the advent of color (especially if used correctly) was an amazing addition to the portable market, even if other systems did it nearly a decade before (ye old Game Gear). With that said, Wario Land 3 might be the best game in the entire Wario series. It's just that good, and an example of a pure platformer through and through. The game isn't out yet on the 3DS eShop in the US, but if necessary, I'll just buy the Game Boy Color version. EXTENDED THOUGHTS: Yep, Wario Land 3 is just as good as I remembered. Bringing back the multiple ending and invincibility shticks from the second game, "3" basically expands on everything further, and cements Wario as a legitimate franchise. Considering Wario Land 3 abandons the "primary" antagonist Syrup after just two games, it's obvious Nintendo wanted to make it clear that this franchise was going to defy conventions. While I absolutely love the Mario series and may do a Quest for it in the future, there's something to be said about the teams that work on Wario, who strive for originality in their games. Wario Land 4 - Game Boy Advance, 3DS eShop Ambassador Program [Owned] COMPLETED I obtained Wario Land 4 through Nintendo's 3DS Ambassador program, which was quite an amazing pickup, as the game is a gem. The graphics are crisp, the controls are tight, and the quasi-open ended nature of the game lends itself very well to multiple playthroughs. Level design wise, it was also one of the most uniquely designed games in the franchise -- the ghost, forests, toy, and technology worlds were all memorable. It was also one of the first games that eased out of the "impossibly hard Game Boy and Game Boy Color" retro era, meaning that the game doesn't feel dated if you were to play it today. If you enjoy platformers, this is a fairly easy recommendation. WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgame$! - Game Boy Advance [Owned], 3DS eShop Ambassador Program [Owned], GameCube COMPLETED I remember the first time I played the very first WarioWare game -- it was glorious. My best friend and his little brother and I just played it all day long. The "five-second" mini-game gimmick was intoxicating. It was also one of the best games ever to just whip out when hanging out with friends on the GameCube, as you only need a few minutes to get a full experience in. This first iteration sets up the formula for pretty much every other game after it. After learning the ropes from Wario's tutorial level, you'll tackle increasingly difficult stages one after another featuring brand new original characters. Crazy franchise characters like Jimmy T. and Mona may not be as iconic as Nintendo staples, but they get the job done and have lasted over a decade's worth of WarioWare games. It helps that 9-Volt's video game themed stages are among my favorites of any minigame collection ever. Although it has since been eclipsed by its predecessors in many ways, the first game is by no means a bad pickup, even today. In case you're wondering, the GameCube version is basically the same as the GBA version -- it just has multiplayer. Wario World - GameCube [Owned] COMPLETED I'm a firm believer that a few Nintendo franchises had their low point on the GameCube. Although I will defend Super Smash Bros. Melee, Metroid Prime, and Mario Sunshine to the death, there were games that faded a bit in terms of franchise power on Nintendo's blue box -- Wario World was one of them. I'll say this outright: I barely remember this game, so maybe I'm misremembering. ONWARD into the unknown! EXTENDED THOUGHTS: Wario World is an odd game that could have been great, but falls short in many respects. It's kind of like a bizarre love child of Banjo Kazooie and a 3D Mario game, with wonky controls, and one of the worst cameras known to man. It has some neat ideas, like semi-open world exploration within stages, and a ton of variety to boot, but the game feels extremely unpolished, and it's hard to endure some of the game's convoluted later stages. I have to admit though, despite the faults, the game isn't a lost cause, and I still enjoyed it. The best way I can describe Wario World is by calling it a worse Tomba. If the prospect of that excites you, maybe you should look into it on the cheap. WarioWare: Twisted! - Game Boy Advance [Owned] COMPLETED WarioWare Twisted was a neat concept indeed. Like the various pinball games on the Game Boy that would use that awesome rumble-pak built-into the cartridge, Twisted had a similar gimmick -- a gyro sensor (with rumble too!). Using the gyro sensor, you could tilt, dip, dive, and spin your way to success on your Game Boy Advance. The results were so successful, that it was one of the highest rated Game Boy Advance games of all time. Oddly enough, the game was supposedly banned in Europe because the gyro sensor had mercury in it: even though this was never proven. That's so Wario! EXTENDED THOUGHTS: Oh man, Twisted is so much fun, and potentially the best game in the WarioWare series. Like every other game in the sub-series, it's super easy to pick up and put down at any given time. Due to the nature of twisting the device around, there are some pretty clever uses of the screen here. For instance, one boss fight has you tilt the screen to the side and play a mini-shmup with the system held sideways. It's kind of like the "vertical mode" that's found in a scant few PSP shmups (Neo Geo Heroes - Ultimate Shooting). At the end of the day, most of the WarioWare games are good in their own way. WarioWare: Touched! - Nintendo DS [Owned] COMPLETED Yet another WarioWare game! Phew! We're nearly halfway done here so bear with me. WarioWare Touched was a DS game, and as you can imagine, it heavily utilized the touch function -- in fact it was damn near the best touch game on the entire portable. The fact that a stylus is in the picture means more variety for the actual micro-games, giving you a ton of different ways to abuse your DS. Because of this, it's actually one of the easiest games in the series, but it's so much fun that it isn't a detriment. I'll take the time right here to say that the DS is one of my favorite systems of all time, and this game is partially the reason why. Although over time, with the advent of multi-touch, stylus control faded as a relic of the past in my eyes, in the prime of the DS, it was king. There's only so much that I can say about these very similarly functioning games, so I don't blame you if you skip over them! Just make sure and give this one a try on your 3DS with backwards compatibility if you can. WarioWare: Smooth Moves - Wii [Owned] COMPLETED Smooth Moves was an excellent game that came at a perfect time -- near the launch of the Wii. After I had exhausted Twilight Princess, I hastily found myself short of Wii games to play -- until Smooth Moves launched. The WarioWare formula was getting a bit stale for the general populace, even with the "Twisted" gimmick, and Smooth Moves really shook things up. Although I'm an admittedly outspoken detractor of unnecessary motion controls, what better way to showcase wacky stuff like picking up a Wiimote phone than a Wario game? Wacky things like doing squats and slicing up things with the Wiimote were just awesome, and this was before things became gimmicky and stale. Party mode was also a blast, as it was basically a digital Twister. Provided you have an open mind, this is easily worth a purchase for your new Wii U. If I could put a quote on the back of the box, it would be "WarioWare: Smooth Moves: waggle done right." Wario: Master of Disguise - Nintendo DS [Owned] COMPLETED Like Wario World, this is the only other game I didn't really get into -- probably because it wasn't very good. In fact, this is probably the only Wario game in the entire franchise that I'll outright say wasn't a good game. The costume gimmick quickly got old, as it was always an implied mechanic in past games, and it was a bit too much here. Some outlets went so far as to call the game "third party." Ouch. Extended thoughts will eventually be available below so you can get a better picture later this year!EXTENDED THOUGHTS: Master of Disguise sought to mix things up with adding more puzzle elements. Unfortunately, it failed. While good touch controls can augment a DS experience, it's a blatant chore here, on top of the janky, unfun puzzles. The level design is also unimaginative, which is a far cry from the rest of the series. Simply put, Suzak Inc. didn't do a very good job developing this one, and it's a no-brainer that they haven't been put in charge of any major Nintendo properties since. Wario Land: Shake It! - Wii [Owned] COMPLETED I can't say enough good things about Wario Land: Shake It. I feel like it fell by the wayside on the Wii, which is an absolute shame, as it's one of the strongest (and hardest) games in the franchise. Like the old Wario games, gameplay was very simple on the surface, but ascended into depth as you played it. The game could be as short as five hours, or as long as thirty, depending on the amount of collectibles and challenges you're striving to go for. The game is also fairly cheap now -- if you're looking to bolster your Wii library for the upcoming Wii U, give it a shot. Even more-so, if you enjoy a challenge, you should easily give this game a chance -- the final boss is a doozy. A controller-throwing doozy. WarioWare: Snapped! - DSiWare [Owned] COMPLETED Snapped was a cool concept, and the fact that it's cheaply available on DSiWare helps alleviate any disappointment that may occur. As the name implies, the "snap" part of the moniker implies use of the new (at the time) DSi camera that's incorporated into gameplay. Basically, this game is operating like Kinect, before Kinect was even a thing. It snaps your photo, then uses it as a guide for you to do stupid things like shake your head and hands on the screen. At the end of a minigame collection, you get to see yourself in action looking dumb with some choppy video, which is the best part (you can't save them though -- super sad face). To be blunt, your mileage may vary on this one. Snapped is barely a WarioWare game, as it only features a small number of stages sans boss challenges, but it's still fun in it's own right -- especially for a few bucks. WarioWare D.I.Y. - Nintendo DS [Owned], WiiWare COMPLETED Do It Yourself is one of my favorite WarioWare games simply because, well, you do a lot of the legwork yourself! D.I.Y. allows you to create your own games, visuals, and music with hilarious (and often fun) results. It has a fairly solid tutorial to teach you everything, and you can get started basically right away. Like LittleBigPlanet, the amount of enjoyment you get from it is basically what you put into it. A lot of people may consider this lazy design, but from time to time, if done well, I can dig it. D.I.Y. was probably one of the only Nintendo games that came close to the legendary Mario Paint. Although a Mario Paint 2 on the Wii U would make me go absolutely insane, this is a decent alternative. Also, you have to pick a virtual nose to delete your save. Amazing. Game & Wario - Wii U I actually had a chance to play Game & Wario at a press event a few months ago. Although I liked what I saw, I don't know if I'd call it a "must have" yet. Put simply, it's yet another WarioWare-type game (this isn't officially being lumped into WarioWare at the moment) that uses the Wii U GamePad as the gimmick. It wasn't offensive at all -- the demoed games just seemed like a fairly shallow use of the GamePad. When this game launches, whether it's in 2012 or 2013, you bet I'll be giving you my thoughts on it. Just make sure and bookmark this page and check back a week after release! Collection Photo: Final thoughts: Wario has been through a lot in the past twenty years. He was always kind of an oddball, doomed to obscurity, but he endured. Fans like myself kept coming back time after time, and for good reason: he provides a weird slice of Nintendo that you really can't get anywhere else. Just when he starts to slide into repetition, he reinvents himself. WarioWare is a constant bastion of unique gameplay, and everyone should experience at least a few games in the Wario franchise. I have to say, while this wasn't my favorite Quest so far (Tony Hawk takes that honor), this was yet another easy one to glide through.     
100% Wario photo
Carter's Quest
[Read on for a description of every Wario game ever released in the US, and my completion of them all in 2012.]Why Wario? Ok, this is the last one for 2012, I promise. After squeezing in Kingdom Hearts to top o...

100% Series Retrospective: Resident Evil

Oct 02 // Chris Carter
Resident Evil - PlayStation [Owned], PC, Saturn, PSN [Owned] COMPLETED Resident Evil is where it all started. Gaming legend Shinji Mikami created a game that was not only an homage to Sweet Home, but also a great survival horror companion to Alone in the Dark. Unlike most games at the time, you simply didn't know what to expect next -- literally anything could jump out and try and bite your head off. Moments like the first time you experienced zombie dogs jumping through a window, or the famous first-person Hunter scene are burned into my memory. Despite the low-budget voice acting (which only added a campy, enjoyable Evil Dead feel to it), Resident Evil is a pure classic, even today.  Resident Evil 2 - PlayStation, PC, Nintendo 64, Dreamcast, GameCube, PSN [Owned] COMPLETED Resident Evil 2 took the first iteration's mansion setting, and turned it to 11. It wasn't just "The Mansion" anymore -- your playground was an entire city. Somehow, someway, Resident Evil 2 filled this city with secrets, story, and tons of character. Costume changes and hidden modes became more of a big deal, and started shaping up Resident Evil's trademark of packing in tons of content. The unique "two-disc" approach, in which the game was basically two games, was also rarely done at the time, and was a testament to the sheer undertaking that this year-and-nine-month project really was. The dynamic "Zapping System" mechanic that changed your story was pretty much unheard of at the time, and still is today. While I don't think Resident Evil 2 was as fun as the original, one thing's for sure: it's one of the most technically impressive games of all time.  Resident Evil 3 - PlayStation, PC, Dreamcast, GameCube, PSN [Owned] COMPLETED "3" was unique in that it had a big bad boss enemy stalk you the entire game -- basically right from the very beginning. It also introduced a mechanic that I was extremely grateful for, and rarely re-used: dodging. After the main game was completed, you could access the first true Mercenaries mode, entitled "Operation: Mad Jackal." RE3's variation was much more fleshed out than the prior installments' "Survivor" or "Battle Game" gametypes. Quite honestly, Mad Jackal set me up for my rabid love of the Mercenaries gametype. In fact, for a few titles, I would play Mercenaries for considerably longer than the actual core game -- Resident Evil 3 was one such example.  Resident Evil Survivor - PlayStation [Owned], PC COMPLETED My recollection of Survivor is vague at best: I remember renting it with my little brother, and beating it in an afternoon. The only specific thing I really remember about it is that it's basically Doom in Resident Evil form, and you literally cannot save the game, ever. While you're able to keep any weapons and items after death, you have to restart from the beginning if you die: considering is is around 1-3 hours, that might suck. EXTENDED THOUGHTS: Survivor is what it is. It's not a terrible "lightgun game," but it isn't great, either. One of the biggest punches in the face is the fact that it feels like a straight arcade port (even though it's not) given the fact that there are no continue points. It's hard to recommend for that reason alone, but if you're a Resident Evil fanatic, you may as well track this one down.  Resident Evil Code: Veronica - Dreamcast, PlayStation 2 [Owned], GameCube, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [Owned] COMPLETED Code Veronica was formerly my favorite game in the series, before REmake and RE5 came along. It was the first game to offer semi-fixed angles for the camera, instead of pre-rendered backgrounds, which was partly due to the upgrade in hardware to the PlayStation 2. It also offered a first-person view for a few weapons, and an amalgamation of various Resident Evil games, such as the 180-degree turn, upgradeable weapons, and explosive scenery. Simply put, it was just a clean, fun Resident Evil game. In the PS2 version, there were a few ham-fisted action scenes involving Wesker, but they were good fun too and helped add to the game's enjoyment. In addition to the normal game (Code: Veronica X), I completed battle mode with every character.  Resident Evil Gaiden - Game Boy Color [Owned] COMPLETED Gaiden ("side-story" in Japanese), is probably the only "bad" Resident Evil game in the entire franchise. While a few others were extremely average, Gaiden is borderline unplayable. Strangely enough, it's a top down/rhythm game hybrid -- the results are disastrous, and not even Leon and Barry can save this one. Combat is done in a turn-based game style, where contact with an enemy initiates a mini-game similar to the "field goal kick" bar from the popular Madden NFL series. To be blunt, combat just wasn't scary, and it wasn't much fun either. Resident Evil REmake - GameCube, Wii [Owned] COMPLETED RE1's GameCube REmake is possibly the best remake of all time, for any series. Capcom pulled out all the stops for this one, when they could have easily just re-released the game à la the RE GameCube collection. The graphics are updated, the voice acting is improved, and the game is overhauled so much that fans will barely recognize some parts of it (among a few new areas). The REmake offers up classic RE1 gameplay with a brand new veneer -- personally, while it's not my favorite, I think it's technically the best game in the series.  Resident Evil Zero - GameCube [Owned], Wii [Owned] COMPLETED Resident Evil Zero is one of the only games I haven't completed in the series before this Quest. While I had a GameCube, I was too busy playing other stuff at the time (including the GameCube's REmake), and just missed this one. I've heard mixed reactions -- both that it doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things, and that it's a solid entry to the franchise. Either way, I'm excited to jump into one this year with the Wii re-release. EXTENDED THOUGHTS: I'm not a huge fan of Zero, but that's mostly due to the two title characters involved. As the main series precursor to RE, I think Zero falls short in many respects. I didn't really feel connected to Rebecca or Billy nearly as much as I did with any previous character in the series, and considering they hardly ever make a re-appearance, I can only assume many people felt the same. I applaud Capcom for bringing us back to the Spencer Mansion and giving us a bit of insight into the mystery there, but honestly, REmake did all of this and more (I can't say enough good things about that game).  Resident Evil: Dead Aim - PlayStation 2 [Owned] COMPLETED Dead Aim is easily the best light-gun game in the series, especially for its time. Movement was shown in a third-person view like standard Resident Evil games, but it switched to first-person for shooting purposes. This basically created a hybrid shooting/adventure game that at least allowed you to pick your fights during most instances, instead of being forced to battle every single enemy on-rails. Why Capcom didn't follow this formula further, I'll never know, as it made for a really interesting game. It also offered up a few new characters that, while forgettable, show Capcom was at least trying something different instead of putting Leon and Chris into a game for the hundredth time.  Resident Evil Outbreak - PlayStation 2 [Owned] COMPLETED Outbreak was a fan's dream: for the first time, Resident Evil was truly multiplayer! You could cooperate or betray your teammates, just like a real zombie apocalypse. There were plenty of "How could you leave me behind!" and "It was both of us or one of us!" moments, and this made for a unique experience that hasn't really been matched yet, even with Left 4 Dead. Outbreak served up classic hopeless Resident Evil tension with heated multiplayer gameplay, and it's a shame so many people missed out on it (mostly due to the haphazard marketing of the PS2's HDD and Internet accessory).  Resident Evil Outbreak File #2 - PlayStation 2 [Owned] COMPLETED Strangely enough, Outbreak 2 was the first Resident Evil game to allow people to move and shoot. Since it wasn't as popular in America, however, no one really talks about it. Part of the reason for the lack of popularity was the fact that it was basically a carbon-copy of Outbreak 1, with a few different scenarios. The game added an extra communication system that allowed people to talk to one another despite the region, and a few other small additions, but it wasn't really enough to show up on most people's radars. Personally, I wasn't upset with more of the same, as I enjoyed the original Outbreak.  Resident Evil 4 - GameCube, PlayStation 2 [Owned], PC, Wii [Owned]*, iPhone [Owned], iPad, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [Owned] COMPLETED Many fans are upset at Resident Evil 4 for spearheading the series into an action-oriented direction. Personally, I see it as a natural evolution of the series. The behind-the-back camera and aiming mechanics are a much better alternative than anything previously offered, and the enemy variety lends itself well to the new direction. For whatever reason, people never seem to fault Resident Evil 4 for a more action-centric focus, instead choosing Resident Evil 5 as the sacrificial lamb. Personally, I never saw it: I was already ready for action ever since Code Veronica X. The Mercenaries mode also takes a further step forward, and offers up even more additional content than ever before -- most notably the ability to select multiple stages, and the inability to actually complete it. Resident Evil 4 was also insanely popular, and helped revitalize the series.  Resident Evil: Deadly Silence - DS [Owned] COMPLETED Deadly Silence. DS. Get it?! One of the cool things about this version of Resident Evil is that the top screen of the DS is used as a map, and a health indicator at all times. Additionally, the game is pretty much a spot-on port of the PS1 game, voice acting and all, which is pretty impressive given the DS' general lack of horsepower. It also has a multiplayer mode; it's kind of weak, given that you and your friends never actually see each other in different parts of the mansion, but it's a free addition nonetheless. To differentiate this playthrough from my original RE run, I'm playing the "REbirth mode," which adds a ton of unique first-person action scenes, and DS-centric additions/re-arrangements. Even though the game is basically a port, touch screen-specific puzzles and changes are enough to justify another playthrough here. All in all, Deadly Silence is about what you'd expect out of an above average portable port, and a solid addition to any RE fan's collection.  Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles - Wii [Owned], PlayStation 3 COMPLETED Umbrella Chronicles is an on-rails shooter for the Wii. That's about all I can say about it, honestly, before I head into this one. It doesn't take a whole lot of effort or time to complete it, and cooperative gameplay is kind of shoe-horned in. Thankfully, it has a decent amount of unlockable content. While I have played Umbrella Chronicles, I haven't tackled it as much as Darkside Chronicles, so I'll be sure and post extended thoughts below. EXTENDED THOUGHTS: If you like light-gun games, be sure and check this one out. It offers pretty standard, enjoyable light-gun arcade-y fun over the backdrop of a few past Resident Evil titles. Umbrella Chronicles is a good way to get a refresher for Resident Evil Zero, Resident Evil 1, and Resident Evil 3. Although, despite how fun it can be, I'd highly recommend playing it with a partner, as it enhances the enjoyment tenfold. Resident Evil 5 - Xbox 360 [Owned], PlayStation 3 [Owned], PC COMPLETED I make it no secret that Resident Evil 5 is my favorite game of all time (emphasis on personal favorite). The day I got it at midnight, I took off work the next day, and beat it sometime in the morning. The next day, my wife and I started a co-op campaign that would last about a week -- after that, I grinded through another playthrough to get some cash for extra weapons; I just couldn't get enough. To put it simply, I think RE5 is the most fun game in the entire series. There's a hefty campaign, tons of extra content, co-op, and for the first time, there's co-op Mercenaries -- what more could you want? I literally played RE5 for months on end, and ate up all the DLC possible. I can't say enough good things about this game. For my 2012 playthrough, I'm either going to tackle the PlayStation Move version of the game, or replay it with my wife. Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles - Wii [Owned], PlayStation 3 COMPLETED Darkside Chronicles is a considerable improvement upon Umbrella Chronicles. There's a new evade move and it offers a dynamic difficulty setting, along with an improved co-op mode. Like the other light-gun titles in the series, Darkside Chronicles is basically a love-it-or-hate-it kind of game. It doesn't really offer a whole lot more than most other on-rail shooters. If you're a Resident Evil fan, however, you may want to put up with it just for the extra story bits. EXTENDED THOUGHTS: Out of the two light-gun Wii titles, Darkside Chronicles is the better game; especially for two players. The developers make a much better effort to accommodate co-op play, and the new mechanics make gameplay smoother. You also get crucial backstory on Leon and Krauser, which helps make Resident Evil 4's Krauser encounters that much more enjoyable. If you have to choose one of the two Wii light-gun games, make it Darkside -- but getting both isn't a bad idea.  Resident Evil: Deck Building Game - [Owned] COMPLETED If you haven't played a deck-building game before, the concept is pretty simple. There are a bunch of stacks of static cards in the center of the play area. You have one giant deck, of which you draw five cards at a time from. With those five cards, you can perform a number of actions depending on what you randomly drew -- you can buy cards from the middle or perform actions to either draw more cards or modify your deck. Resident Evil's deck-building variant adds another new concept: fighting infected. On any given turn, you're allowed one buy, one action, and one "exploration" that allows you to take a door card and explore the Spencer Mansion. In the mansion you can find items or battle infected for trophies -- depending on the gametype, the player with the most trophies (kills) wins. I've played a number of deck-building games before such as Dominion, but Resident Evil is one of my favorites. Each player gets assigned a unique character that changes your abilities, which helps add to the characterization and uniqueness of the game. Also, it's a delight to take down the Nemesis with a bunch of knife cards as Krauser. Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D - 3DS [Owned] COMPLETED Mercenaries 3D is a very niche title. If you love the Mercenaries mini-games from other titles, you may like Mercs 3D. If you loathe them -- well, that's kind of the entire game here. Mercs 3D made waves in the gaming community at release due to the inability to delete saves, and its incredibly short length (it can be beaten in a few hours). It also had a few other problems like the short draw distance, among other graphical glitches. Personally, I thought the game was acceptable, and played it for quite a while before putting it down. While it may seem like a cash grab at first, there are a decent amount of scenarios included, and Mercs fanatics will be sure to come back to it occasionally.  Resident Evil: Revelations - 3DS [Owned] COMPLETED Did the mysteriously abandoned Resident Evil PSP game end up as Revelations? Does it really matter at this point? Early previews are calling this "one of the best Resident Evils in a long time, and possibly the best Resident Evil ever." The demo is great, the visuals are great, and there's really no reason to doubt this entry, despite the fact that it's on a portable. I plan on getting this game day one and ripping through it in a few days. I'll be sure and post my thoughts after completion. EXTENDED THOUGHTS: After playing the final release, I felt like the demo was a bait and switch of sorts. The fact of the matter is, without going into spoiler territory, at least half of the game is not the tight-knit claustrophobic experience the demo made it out to be. A lot of Revelations is spent with an AI partner clunking around, or in open areas fighting non-stop enemies in a full-out actionfest -- the switch between the Cruise Ship sections and everywhere else is jarring, and the story isn't the greatest to boot. Thankfully, the game looked great, controlled great, and Raid Mode is pretty fun solo or with a friend. I hope that Capcom puts this new engine to good use, and expands upon a lot of concepts with Revelations. It's not one of my favorite Resident Evil games for sure, but it's not bad, either.  Resident Evil Game Boy Color - Game Boy Color ROM [Owned] COMPLETED This previously unreleased title has finally been given to the public by an anonymous source. While it evidently isn't possible to beat the game in its current state, I'll still attempt to complete as much as possible. Up until 2012, no one has had a chance to play this missing piece of history, so I'm pretty excited to see what we've been missing all these years. EXTENDED THOUGHTS: Considering Resident Evil GBC is only available as a free ROM, you aren't really risking anything financially to try it. There isn't a whole lot to say about this one that can't really be said by looking at the screenshot above. It's a very simplistic version of Resident Evil, distilled into a tiny cartridge-size package. The ROM isn't complete, but at least you can get a taste of this lost game. While it isn't ideal, I would have salivated at the prospect of a portable Resident Evil game for car trips as a child.  Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City - Xbox 360 [Owned], PlayStation 3, PC COMPLETED I honestly have no idea what to expect from Raccoon City. I'm not the biggest fan of Slant Six, and I'm not too keen on the possible idea of shooting down Resident Evil's heroes and heroines. Additionally, based on rumors, the game may not have a split-screen mode, which would hinder my ability to play with my wife. Regardless, I'll be picking up Raccoon City this year on my 360, and I'm eager to see what it can offer to the series. EXTENDED THOUGHTS: Raccoon City is a disappointment. While fun, the game has a heap of issues, from online stability, to numerous gamebreaking glitches. Players have been known to fall through the floor, turn into ghosts, and all sorts of other mishaps. It's a shame, because for Resident Evil fans, the game is a fun little romp through the events of Resident Evil 2 and 3. You get to see pretty much every major monster from the series (Nemesis included!), and some familiar faces like Birkin, Leon, and Hunk. If done correctly -- and possibly as canon -- this could have been a really worthwhile entry into the franchise. As it stands, it's a hard recommendation  Resident Evil 6 - Xbox 360 [Owned], PlayStation 3, PC COMPLETED I could not be more excited for Resident Evil 6. From the rumors offered so far, it looks to have a full Mercenaries mode with multiplayer, story mode co-op, and a single-player campaign without an AI partner. In short, it apparently offers more content than RE5. I'm excited for the new setting, and hopefully the story will be interesting this time around without Wesker (presumably, provided he isn't cloned). Although the series is decidedly more action-oriented, there are also rumors of more claustrophobic areas and slower-moving zombies having a part in RE6 -- if they can do it right, I say bring it on. EXTENDED THOUGHTS: Despite my initial excitement, over time, I came into Resident Evil 6 expecting to be disappointed. I had heard so many bad things from my friends and colleagues who have played it at various events like E3 and TGS. I had personally bought Dragon's Dogma primarily for early access to the Resident Evil 6 demo, and came away fairly unimpressed. I played the Resident Evil 5 demo for hours on end (over twenty hours in fact) -- with the Resident Evil 6 demo, I literally played it once and deleted it. So with all this in mind, I came into Resident Evil 6 very skeptical, and left mostly impressed. Mostly. Spreading apart all three (four, if you count Ada) stories was a ballsy move. With Resident Evil 5, it was enjoyable to play as Chris and Sheva the entire game, as the story wasn't all over the place, and you were grounded in both characters, which made it easy to learn their nuances and melee abilities. With Resident Evil 6, you're jumping all over the place at times, and it can be jarring. Not only does every character handle differently, but everyone has a different UI to boot. Given the mostly fast-paced action the game spews at you constantly, design choices like the inability to pause the game in co-op just feel weird, as do QTEs that only involve one player, wrapped up in such unexciting things as starting a car. Still, I found myself enjoying the game the more I played it. (I'm talking ten hours of learning the nuances of combat). I'll fully admit, Mercenaries -- which you all know I'm a giant fan of -- really helped me grasp said nuances much quicker than the campaign, and bolstered my enjoyment tenfold. As you can see in this video, combat is more than meets the eye in Resident Evil 6. There's sliding, counters, quick-shotting, and contextual melee moves. It's like a complex fighting game in a sense, but integrated into one of my favorite franchises of all time. Naturally, since it's done well, I'm enjoying myself. RE6 also has a ton of content provided that you're ready to embrace the action-oriented gameplay (which has been a staple since RE4). There's an Ada campaign, a handful of online modes, a meta-game involving skill XP in both the campaign and Mercenaries, tons of unlocks and some costumes for Mercs, and more. Like RE5, there's enough here to keep you playing well into 2013. While it isn't one of my favorite games in the franchise by far, I think it's a fairly solid action game (what immediately comes to mind is my opinion of Skyward Sword: great action-RPG, alright Zelda game). Just like RE5, your mileage will vary depending on how fun your co-op partner is -- just know, however, that the co-op AI is not nearly as frustrating as Sheva was. Collection Photo:  Final thoughts: The Resident Evil series has certainly had its ups and downs. From its horror roots to a metamorphosis of action to the chagrin of many fans, everyone has to admit that the franchise is interesting, if nothing else. As a whole, I found myself not enjoying this Quest nearly as much as the other ones, and I can't really put my finger on why, as I still like the series overall. While I was truly eager to rip into Tony Hawk, Kingdom Hearts, and Zelda almost immediately, I took a long break in between some of the games here, as I found it fairly tough to continue on. Perhaps it's because of the slow-moving nature of many of the earlier games, and when played in rapid succession, it can get a bit grating? I don't know for sure. Thankfully, the multiplayer iterations kept me going, as it was a blast to, well, blast away the undead with my wife or with a friend.    
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