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FireFox516's blog

8:12 PM on 05.10.2012

Virtual Console games I (still) want.

Back in 2006, I thought the Wii's implementation of the Virtual Console service was a godsend. I was graduating in less than six months and was planning on moving away for college, and the last thing I wanted to do was haul ALL of my old game consoles and their respective library of games for each. It was bad enough just trying to pack the essentials, but all these plastic cartridges? No thanks. Luckily, some of my favorites started popping up online for me to purchase, as well as some goodies that had been stolen throughout the years. But after a few years of greatness, the Virtual Console started to slow down to the point where it would take months for anything truly exciting would pop up.

I've spent the last couple of weeks catching up on podcasts I've missed for various reasons, and during one of 1UP's Retronauts episodes, Bob Mackey mentioned what Virtual Console games he'd like to see, and though he couldn't name them off the top of his head, I figured I'd do my own little list on what games I'm still waiting for. (Hint, it's a LOT).

But for now, I just thought I'd write about some of my most-wanted still-to-be-released Virtual Console games

10. Bomberman 64: The Second Attack!
This is perhaps my all-time favorite console Bomberman game. You take control of Bomberman who must travel the galaxy in search of elemental crystals being held by the mysterious Astral Knights. With a surprisingly deep and dark plot, TSA! combined interesting and varied level designs with elemental bombs, creating some rather clever and head-scratching puzzles. You could also travel back to previous levels with your new abilities to find items that would alter and upgrade your appearance (like Dr. Light's upgrades in the Mega Man X series).

The game also had two-player cooperative experience where a second player could control Pommy, the cute little alien that joins Bomberman at the beginning of his quest. Along the way, Pommy could evolve into many different forms (a really deep game mechanic) that each gave different abilities. In short, the Story mode offered a lot in terms of replay value, and even had multiple endings depending on the choices you made.

Like almost all other Bomberman games, TSA! featured a great multiplayer mode. While it featured the classic "grid" battles the series is known for, it unfortunately wasn't implemented that well. However, the other gametypes did more than enough to make up for that, including Survival, Key Trials, Team and, my personal favorite, Capture the King. Each arena took place in open environments and really encouraged players to play to their strengths. Why this hasn't made the Virtual Console really perplexes me, as Bomberman Hero (while decent enough on its own merits) is the only N64 entry available.

9. Mega Man X3
We all know how amazing Mega Man X is, and if you've seen Egoraptor's alarmingly comprehensive breakdown, you already know how well-designed it is, too. And as great a game as it is, Mega Man X3 is still my favorite in the series. I've already gushed about it in a previous blog entry, but I'm going to do it again anyway because, hey, it's that good!

The game featured spectacular level design that encouraged exploration, awesome enemy and boss design (Blast Hornet being my personal favorite) and perhaps some of the best music in the series. Seriously, go and listen right now. The action was incredibly intense and even got harder as you progressed; special bosses (Bit and Byte) would appear in any unfinished level after you beat a few, and would come to throw you off your game. Capcom, hurry and get this on the service; this was the last game in the X series before... well, things got weird.

Oh, and it was so satisfying getting that Gold Armor and completely destroying Sigma.

8. Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals (SNES)
For as long as I can remember, I've always been a big Lufia fan. This RPG series has five games in its repertoire (most recently, a DS remake of this particular game), and though most of them range in the "just okay" category, it still has a special place in my heart. But Lufia II: RotS is perhaps one the greatest, most overlooked RPGs in the SNES library. While the story isn't as progressive as other games like Final Fantasy III/VI or Chrono Trigger, it still manages to tell a great one about what it means to truly love someone and the lengths you'll go to protect them.

The battle system is your typical turn-based affair, but it's a great one that also features a limit break-like system as seen in the later Final Fantasy VII. Along with a Pokemon-style Capsule Monster system, you can find and recruit special monsters to fight alongside you in battle, each with their own moves and abilities. The best thing about this game however, is its clever level design. Rather than just dungeon crawling (something even its predecessor is guilty of), the game mixes things up with some rather unique and clever puzzles that must be solved in order to progress. Battles aren't random, either; while in these dungeons, everything moves at your place, meaning you can strike enemies (a la Paper Mario) and get the upper hand on them or just avoid them entirely.

When I was about thirteen playing through this game the first time, it had me questioning things I had seen in other games; most particularly, the relationships between characters and why they care about one another. Why? Lufia II brought all four main party members close together, and by the game's end, you really feel for them as everything seems to go to hell around them. Pack this with a somewhat tragic ending, you're left with one of the most emotionally-gripping games on the SNES that is not to be missed.

And the boss theme is amazing.

7. Harvest Moon 64 (N64)
I think most people agree when someone says this is the best in the series. While the Harvest Moon series has had its ups and downs in recent years, this game still remains as one of the best, most addictive games. Long before Farmville swept the world through Facebook, Harvest Moon 64 had players planting, growing, harvesting and selling crops in order to restore their late grandfather's farms to full glory. The player could even raise a variety of livestock such as cows, sheep and chicken which, depending on the player's caretaking skills, could produce a dairy products that could also be sold to buy more equipment, items or upgrade your farm.

One of the coolest features of this game was its relationship mechanic. The game featured five girls each with completely different personalities the player could court, marry and eventually have a child with. The world felt real, with characters going about their lives during the day, with special events that ranged from dog races to New Year's celebrations. While the game is notable among gamers for its amount of in-game bugs (even the company's name, Natsume, is misspelled on the title screen), it's still the best in the long-running franchise and is sorely missed on the Virtual Console.

6. Dragon Warrior/Quest III (NES)
Personally, I feel all of the original NES Dragon Warrior games should be made available on the Virtual Console, but if I had to pick one, this would be it. Often considered to be one of the best in the franchise, DWIII greatly expanded on its predecessor's in nearly every way, and changed the course of the genre forever with its implementation of a class system. There were eight classes the player could assign their party members to (though the player themselves would always be the Hero class) that opened up to all different kinds of styles of play.

It even had a more streamlined user interface, like item sorting, simple door opening commands and even the ability to heal all of your party's HP with one command. DWIII was more open-ended than its predecessors that allowed for day/night cycles with certain quests and items that could only be accessible at specific times. And while the story was simple (especially when compared to Final Fantasy titles), it was still an enjoyable one, with an ending that was so good, it inspired even more recent titles like Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII.

Of course, I'd love the 25th Anniversary Wii Collection to be released in the U.S. even more, SquareEnix!

5. Donkey Kong 64 (N64)
Pretty much during every Nintendo Shop weekly update here on Destructoid you'll probably see me complaining about this.

I'm still curious as to why this game still hasn't made its way to the Virtual Console service. I've heard that it's most likely due to the rights of Rare's game Jetpac being owned by Microsoft (the game appears in DK64 as a special bonus game), it's still not entirely clear why this hasn't appeared on Nintendo's online service; even Rare doesn't know why.

While this game is notorious for having way too many collectibles, it's still a very solid 3D platformer that holds its own against the likes of Super Mario 64, Rayman 2 and even Rare's own Banjo-Kazooie. Each of the game's worlds were absolutely enormous that really emphasized exploration, and with a great soundtrack that still holds up to this day, Donkey Kong 64 is easily one of the biggest and best games on the Nintendo 64. But hey, that's just, like, my opinion, man.

[b]4. Castlevania Bloodlines (Sega Genesis)
[/b]Konami, can I ask you something? Why isn't this on the Virtual Console yet? You've got Castlevania I through IV and even the PC Engine version of Rondo of Blood up there, but not this one. Can I ask why? Did you just forget that you had it, or... what? I honestly believe this should have been released over FIVE YEARS AGO when Portrait of Ruin was released, seeing how that was a direct sequel and all. It could have even been marketed as such.

In my opinion, Bloodlines is the most underappreciated game in the series. It was the only Castlevania game in the series to be released exclusively on a Sega console (that wasn't cancelled, anyway) and is, in my opinion, one of the best. Bloodlines featured two different playable characters, the classic whip-wielder in John Morris (not a Belmont?) and his spear-wielding friend, Eric Lecarde. Each controlled differently with different styles of play in a game that was so quick-paced and action-oriented that you couldn't help but play through it multiple times as each.

The game's story took place during World War I (an event said to have been caused by Elizabeth Bartley, one of the game's villainesses) and while the player starts off in the remains of the NES' original Castlevania, it soon starts to jump all around different parts of Europe, ranging from Athens, Greece to England. The game had an almost arcade-like feel to it, and probably one of the best soundtracks in a Genesis title. I recently purchased this game and personally feel that it plays better today than it did over fifteen years ago when it was first released.

Please Konami, bring this one back.

3. Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon (N64)
This is one of my top five all-time favorite games on the Nintendo 64. Mystical Ninja was a quirky, funny and downright run 3D platformer that took place in what could only be described as a caricature of feudal Japan. While this series was immensely popular in Japan, for whatever reason (but probably for the reasons mentioned above), it never took off in the U.S. There were about four released here (one on the SNES, two on the N64 and one on the original GameBoy) and each were of amazing quality.

Combining the platforming of Super Mario 64 with the level designs and adventure elements of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (seriously, why didn't more games do this?), Mystical Ninja was an incredibly fun romp through the quirky world of Goemon and friends, whom the player could recruit and play as. Japan felt huge in scale, and boss battles took place in the seat of a giant robot fighting other robots. I'm not kidding you when I say how quirky this game is; seriously, just watch the intro.

And, like many other Konami series, it features one of the best soundtracks in video game history. Oh, and the coolest theme song for any giant fight robot EVER.

2. Goemon's Great Adventure (N64)
As you can probably tell, I'm a HUGE fan of Konami's Goemon series. Like the original games on the NES and SNES, Goemon's Great Adventure went back to its side-scrolling roots, taking place in five different themed worlds complete with unique levels, fun side quests and even more giant fighting robot fights.

It was a 2.5D platformer in every sense of the word; unlike more modern takes on the genre, the world around you twisted and turned as you progressed, making you feel like you were exploring a fully-open 3D world even on a 2D plane, something I wish more 2.5D platformers would do. You could even recruit a second player to join in on the action, taking control of either Goemon, or his friends Ebisumaru, the eccentric blue ninja with flatulence problems, Sasuke the robot ninja, or Yae, the badass "big sister" who could transform into a mermaid.

The game featured a day/night system that had an impact on each level and various quests throughout the game. During the day, everything seemed normal, but at night, the stronger enemies came out, offering more coins rewarded for their tougher defeat, which could be used to purchase items, temporary upgrades and, my personal favorites, costumes for each character. The story was even funnier, the characters even more quirky, and the music, even better than ever before.

I've been waiting over ten years for a new entry in this series to hit North American shores (the last was the Japan-exclusive DS game back in 2005), and while it looks unlikely we'll ever get another one, these two N64 games are some of my favorite games on the system, nay, of all time, and contain experiences that I will never forget.

Konami, please bring back Goemon, even if it's just one last time. We miss him.

You probably knew this was coming. Technically, this one's been released exclusively to early adopters of the Nintendo 3DS, but that doesn't count in my book. And besides, it's the not-as-good-as-the-SNES-version GBA port that was released in 2002. I've heard that the reason for it not being on the Wii's Virtual Console is because it did some special stuff for the SNES' hardware (kind of like StarFox's Super FX chip), but this is still unknown.

I love Final Fantasy III. I love Super Mario World. I love The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. But Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island is my favorite SNES game of all time. I love this game. I love everything about this game. And while I know everyone loves it, too, I don't think they understand why or love it enough.

Yoshi's Island features some of the best of everything the system and genre is known for. The graphics and visual aesthetics are absolutely gorgeous, and even breathtaking at certain parts in the game. The music is wonderful and invokes the feelings of childhood innocence and playfulness. The level design is masterfully crafted and keeps things fresh at such an incredible and perfect pace; there isn't a single instance where you feel like you're doing something meaningless, dull or out-of-place. The level of challenge is spot-on; as the game progresses, you gradually adapt and overcome the bigger and tougher obstacles that stand in your way. Not once do you ever feel like it's the game's fault. The level of control is incredibly tight and fluid. Not only can you grab enemies out of reach (something the Mario Bros. could never do), but the amount of control you get over your hovering ability gives you a sense of perfect control, almost as if you are Yoshi. The ability to throw eggs opens up a whole new gameplay style that pushes your reflexes, twitch skills and puzzle-solving abilities to their very limits and then some, especially the hidden extra levels.

Yoshi's Island is as close to perfect as a videogame can get. An experience where all elements of game, level, art and sound design come together in unison by an incredibly talented team firing with everything they've got. The SNES was soon to be overshadowed by the coming N64, and Nintendo decided to go out with one last platforming hurrah before they would change the course of the gaming industry forever with the revolutionary Super Mario 64.

And what a last hurrah it was. Yoshi's Island is a shining example of the capabilities of the SNES and everything it could do. Nintendo, it's time to bring this one back one last time.


4:38 PM on 08.10.2011

A Tale of a Mega Man (Or, How I Spent My Summer Blue)

This weekend past, I did something I don't think I've ever done before; I did nothing but play Mega Man. I'm not sure why the mood struck me, but it probably had something to do with all this hubbub about the cancellation of Mega Man Legends 3 and how much Capcom "supposedly" doesn't care about the little blue guy anymore.

Now, I'm not like Destructoid's Tony Ponce and going to prematurely claim that the Mega Man franchise "is finished," but I will say that I'm having some doubts about it in the same way I feel about the Resident Evil franchise after RE5 (seriously, that game was an unfinished pile of junk) and how Devil May Cry fans think DmC is the beginning of the end of that franchise. With that said, there have been many, MANY incarnations of the little Blue Bomber, but I spent the majority of my weekend with my personal favorite version: Mega Man X.

I want to get this out in the open: as much as I love the original Mega Man series, Mega Man X is where my love for the franchise took off. When I was a child, I had Mega Man 3 on the NES (and still have the cartridge today!), but it wasn't long after that when my console broke (that's another story) and I didn't have access to the series for quite some time. I received a SNES as a Christmas present I believe that year, (the happiest day of my life) and a few years after that, got a used Blockbuster copy of Mega Man X3. Well, technically it belonged to my younger brother, but you know how older brothers can get sometimes.And even after all these years, to this day you STILL won't convince me that there is any better game in the series' history (yes, Mega Man 2, 3 and Zero are great, if not fantastic games, but the attention to detail, level and boss design and awesome music make X3 stand out, in my humble opinion).

Earlier this year, while still living in San Francisco, I stumbled upon a copy of Mega Man X Collection for the GameCube at a local Gamestop, and after not picking it up the first time around, it wasn't long until I came rushing back to buy it. Six Mega Man X games for twenty bucks ($20!!), how could I be so foolish to not pick this up?! I never really got around to playing it what with all the other distractions and work I had at the time, until finally last weekend when I suddenly had the urge to pop it into my good 'ole Cube. The collection consisted of Mega Man X 1-6, as well as the more obscure Battle and Chase, which I didn't spend more than five minutes with.

I felt like my 7 year-old self again, blasting through waves and waves of Mavericks. Needless to say, I had a LOT of fun this past weekend... at least, with the first four games on the disc. The original Mega Man X is a undeniable classic filled to the brim with cool robot designs (who can forget Chill Penguin?), unique level structure and a story I couldn't believe was... good. Managing to take something that was goofy to begin with and make it mature but still keeping the original idea fun is something a lot of development studios still struggle with today, and here Capcom managed to pull it off flawlessly. X2 was an interesting experience for me because I hadn't really ever played it for more than ten minutes when I was a child. It was the only game in the X series I had never really gotten the chance to play (except for X7, but that game never happened in my opinion), and although it was definitely weaker than its predecessor, it still retained that classic Mega Man feel and managed to have some cool ideas.

When I got to X3, I was... a little disappointed, to say the least. What was this opening cutscene? Why did the music sound like Van Halen playing keyboard when he should have been playing the guitar? The SNES version I have didn't have any of this unnecessary crap to it. After a quick Google search, I discovered that Capcom decided to go with the PlayStation version of the game, which until that point I had totally forgotten even existed. I guess they've never heard the saying that "sometimes less is more." Personal gripes aside though, the game was still fantastic and seemed even more fun than I remembered. Searching high and low for all those Heart Tanks, Subtanks and Upgrade Capsules was addicting, and attaining X's Golden Armor was even sweeter knowing I could combine all the even-more-secret-but-you-can-only-pick-one Capsules into one. Needless to say, this game kicks so much ass.

When I reached X4, things felt... different. It's hard to explain, but have you ever played a sequel that just felt different, even when there were similarities between it and its predecessor (F.E.A.R. 2 and Prince of Persia 2008 come to mind)? Don't get me wrong; I enjoyed X4 more this time around then I did years ago when I first played it, but it was definitely easy for me to see when and how this series was starting to go downhill. The anime cutscenes created for this game were so lame and made me feel stupid thinking that this sort of thing was "cool" when I was a teenager. Ugh.

Anyway, the game was still pretty great and even better was the fact that I could play as Zero from the get-go. And not the watered-down X3 version of him, either; no, no, here he would swing his Z-Saber as fast as I could mash the button and could be upgraded. Awesome. I played through the game twice, as X and Zero respectively, and was proud of myself for finally completing it, all items collected and all.

And then it was time for X5.

Boy, time has not been kind to this one. I remember absolutely loving this game when it came out over ten years ago (yikes!). And to be fair, while the story was definitely cheesier than I remembered it, it was still pretty cool; Zero sacrificing himself for the good of the planet and leaving X his Z-Saber? Again, it's pretty cool to see the source material being used as maturely(?) as this. But the gameplay... Well, I don't like stopping in the middle of the action to hear intel stating the obvious to me, and I hate it even more when that happens every two minutes. Seriously Capcom, this is MEGA MAN, not METAL GEAR SOLID. Sheesh.

Anyway, the game was still pretty good (when you return to each stage to complete your item collection, all the talking STOPS), and I was satisfied I got the best ending for X. But that first stage when you're heading off to fight Sigma? TOTAL BULLSHIT. Listen up my fellow level designers; designing a level where nearly EVERY obstacle one-hit kills you so you have to replay it a hundred times to learn the pattern so you can get through it flawlessly ending with a boss that takes nearly TEN minutes to kill (not counting the extra time you spend dying) is NOT GOOD LEVEL DESIGN. It doesn't make you "hardcore," either; it's just frustrating beyond belief. If those stupid beams did serious damage to you instead, that would be much more tolerable, but instantly killing you? Bullshit, especially when the next two levels are easier than anything else in the game.

Intense stuff, right here.

As with every other game on the collection, I played through X5 gathering all the items in the game for a 100% completion rate, however, unlike X4, I didn't have the patience to play back through it as Zero a second time. I moved onto X6 and after the defeating my second boss, I decided to stop playing; the series had eventually pulled a Sonic the Hedgehog on me, and while it definitely had improvements over X5, the series had just moved so far into another direction that I just felt alienated from it. Remember how I said it felt different than those came before it? I could barely recognize the series anymore, and remembering how terrible X7 and X8 were, I decided to just leave it alone.

Besides, doing that makes the Mega Man Zero games more meaningful to me; leaving Zero dead at the end of X5 makes it that more emotional for me to see his return at the beginning of MMZ (which takes place something like 100 years after the Mega Man X canon), thus making the game more personal.

It's a shame that Capcom hasn't really been doing anything with the Blue Bomber as of late, but I still have hope for the franchise; Mega Man 9 and 10 were really solid games, and although the cancellation of Mega Man Universe and Legends 3 is a bummer, there's still hope for the little blue guy. And I think cheaper, digital distribution in the vein of the classics is the key. But I'm not going to get into that; instead, I'm going to offer what I want next:

A Mega Man X reboot available on WiiWare, XBLA and PSN, each game being remastered in its original 16-bit form (that's right, de-making and fixing X4 and X5) in glorious HD, although I'll be the first to admit that I'd rather play these games on my old, crappy TV than my HD monitor. Oh, and also pretending that X6, X7, X8 and X Command Mission never happened. I know they already tried something similar with X Maverick Hunter on the PSP, but c'mon; there's a reason why Mega Man 9 & 10 were so successful. They brought the franchise back to its roots rather than remaking it with 3D polygons.

Make it happen, Capcom!

And before I forget, Zero having nightmares in X4 about murdering Dr. Light, Dr. Wily and the original Mega Man family? Damn, that's some deep shit, son.   read

3:00 AM on 03.02.2011

It's On... Like Donkey Kong.

Have you ever had one of those gaming moments where you seem to go through a "phase" of either a certain franchise or genre? If you don't know what I'm talking about, maybe it will start to make sense as I go on.

Recently, I've had my plate filled with games that I need to either finish playing, or in some cases, get around to playing. But with the recent graduation from school comes the not-so-fun-and-ever-time-consuming adventure of job searching. Do you know how hard it is to get a job in the game industry as a Game/Level Designer in San Francisco when everyone seems to be getting into the "social games" business? Not so easy (and before you ask, yes, I've been looking outside of my own area, thank you very much), especially when you've been trained in designing/modeling for triple-A 3D games. That, and I had a contract gig at LucasArts coming up.

With the little time I've been devoting to my own personal entertainment in playing games comes my all-too-common predicament: I simply don't have enough time to play all these games. Just to give you an idea...

NOT LISTED: Dragon Quest IX, Donkey Kong Country Returns, Sonic Colors (Wii), Mass Effect, Metroid Other M, Disney Epic Mickey, Grand Theft Auto IV: Complete, and some others I forgot...

Although admittedly, I can't get to Dead Space 2 (aside from multiplayer) because I haven't finished Dead Space 1, and for whatever reason, my PS3 won't let me play it; after a few minutes into loading the disc up, my system shuts down with 3 beeps like it's overheating. I'm not entirely sure why it does that, but it's only with that one game. I sent the thing in for repairs a little under a year ago so that frustrates me, but hopefully, I'll still be able to send it in without having to pay another hefty $200 price tag. And I doubt I'm going to get to Metroid: Other M anytime soon because for the only two-hour period I had played it, I didn't want to play it again; it was boring, loaded with weak narrative and cutscenes that were dragging on for so long that they were putting me to sleep.

Long story short, having to pick up any of these games with so many others looming down on me felt a bit overwhelming when, all of a sudden, I had an urge. The beast inside of me wanted to break free and do some romping through platforms, swinging from vines and smashing some barrels...

It was time for some Donkey Kong Country.

D! K! Donkey Kong is here!

I fired up the Wii and there they were, all three games I had already purchased from the Virtual Console years before but had never played for more than an hour. I'm not sure what triggered it, but I think it was playing Donkey Kong Country Returns about a week earlier that made me want to jump back into the original trilogy. Why? I don't even know, especially since they were all games I had beaten in my childhood many times, and many years before while DKCR was an entirely new experience.

Before I knew it, I was smashing barrels, collecting bananas and jamming along to the infectious soundtrack in Donkey Kong Country, gleefully unaware of the long trail I was now embarking on. It wasn't enough to just play and beat the game, no; I had to complete it at 101%. Something I had never done before in my near-17 years of playing it (God, I feel old). After a couple nights of some short gaming sessions, there I was, at the map screen about to fight the game's final boss, King K. Rool. Entering that final arena, I was greeted to the familiar scenery of Donkey Kong Country 2's opening (a pirate ship), as well as one of the most epic SNES boss-fight themes in history, and before I knew it, K. Rool was laying dead at my (hairy) feet. I was taken back to the title screen after the credits when I finally saw it: a 101% completion percentage next to a 3:25-hour time-stamp. I had finally done it.

I've always had issues with this game; RareWare (what Rare was originally known as "back in the day") had made some design issues that didn't make sense. What was the point of collecting all those bananas in each level and Bonus Level, gaining 1-ups? What happens when you reset the game? All those lives disappear. What was the point of beating each Bonus Level? Getting more 1-ups you eventually lose when you turn the game off. How about getting 101%? What's your big reward for that? Banjo-Kazooie had a great reward system for collecting all the Jiggies in the game (even if its true purpose never saw the light of day), and even in Donkey Kong 64 you were greeted with a cool little cutscene for all your hard work and dedication. So what do you get in the original DKC? Just some altered text from Cranky Kong telling you how "impressed" he is with your skills.

But none of that mattered.

I just wanted me some Kong, and I had gotten it. But my hunger for bananas wasn't satisfied, my thirst for Enguarde swimming-levels wasn't quenched, and my arms still wanted to lift and throw barrels at... things... DKC2 was loaded and ready to go. From the get-go, Rare improved a TON of mechanics from the original game: adding a purpose for beating Bonus Levels (instead of gaining lives from these for example, you gain Bonus Coins, which I'll explain later), amusing little mini-games, a neat little team-Kong mechanic, and just stronger level design overall. Oh, and better music. Way better music.

Seriously, way, way, WAY better music.

I've always argued with myself on which one I liked more, DKC2 or its sequel. Both have improved game mechanics, strong level design, a plethora of secrets (something sadly missing from this generation of games, for the most part), and really cool scenery. But the swashbuckling-yet-spooky atmosphere of DKC2 can't be matched (although its sequel did have a slight charm of its own).

Like the original game, I had never truly completed this game 100% before (well, without a certain cheat, anyway), or in this case, 102%, and I remembered exactly how hard this game was coming into it. Still, that didn't stop me from getting my Kong-fix.

I still remember buying this game on the SNES way back when I was 6 years old. My dad always made me work for the games I wanted by making me collect soda cans, smashing them and filling up two huge barrels (Hah!) full of them which I'd then take to a recycling center to cash them in. Even 16 years later, through all the growing up I've done, experiences I've had and games I've played, DKC2 is still one of the best, most fun games I've ever played in my life.

I couldn't stop. I left no nook unexplored, no level left un-plundered, no bonus barrel unscathed, no DK Coin uncollected... I had to get to this "Lost World" the Kong family kept talking about. For only the most true and dedicated of Kong players will see the Lost World in its entirety, as well as the true ending. Sure, I had already seen it by cheating years before, but this time, this time it was going to be different. Unlike the original, DKC2 had a purpose for beating all the Bonus Levels (other than a higher completion percentage, that is); when you collected a certain amount of them, a new level in the fabled "Lost World" opened up for you, and when you finally collected them all, the true, final level would be unlocked.

After many, MANY hours (and many lives lost), I had finally made it to the true last boss... And I was going to leave this Lost World with a 102% completion rate, a sense of self-accomplishment, and Diddy's best-friend Donkey with me. Unfortunately, the true last boss was easier than the regular last boss... but I didn't let that stop me from enjoying my spoils. I had tossed Mario, Yoshi, and even Link from their pedestals (a funny in-game victory moment) and took my spot as the No.1 video game hero.

And I STILL don't think Cranky Kong was impressed. Bastard.

Clocking in at over five hours, this was definitely longer to complete than the previous game, but I still had one more to go, and definitely another favorite game of mine: Donkey Kong Country 3. I'm not sure why, but this one seems to have one of those love-hate relationships like Final Fantasy VIII. I've seen fans on message boards rave about the first two games, but totally rag on the third game like it's a wart on an otherwise beautiful model, but I disagree; if anything, I think it's the original game in the trilogy (can we even call it that, anymore?) that's the weakest.

In any case, I booted up DKC3 and before long, I was running across northern maritime climates with Dixie Kong's cousin, Kiddy. This game had a more serious tone than its predecessor - at least, its environments led me to feel this way -, and its character design ranged from cartoony to just plain weird, especially since the game's setting has a much more realistic feel than the previous two games. The music is definitely a lot weaker than DKC2's soundtrack (the GBA port has a completely different soundtrack), but still good, and the Bonus Levels were a lot more streamlined; instead of a random number, each level contained exactly two Bonus Levels (excluding one level in the Lost World) and one DK Coin.

Shortcomings aside, I still loved this game, and was determined to get a 103% completion rate (and unlike the other two, I had actually achieved this sometime during my childhood). Using a new inventory system, and with the help of the Kong family and local Brothers' Bear, I was collecting items, bananas, Bonus and DK Coins, determined to rescue my friends Donkey and Diddy (seriously, how did that ape keep managing to get kidnapped?). Maybe it's because I had played this game more than the previous two, but I blazed through the game's levels with relative ease (get it?), only dying on occasion on the later levels. A little after the four-hour mark I was there; about to confront Baron K. Roolenstein in his hidden sub in the Lost World.

And damn, was he a lot harder than in DKC2.

After many retries, he was back on the ground, and for the last time... or so it would seem. This still wasn't the end? In an awesome move Rare pulled (and I wish more developers would do nowadays), that STILL wasn't enough to see the game's real ending. And unlike DKC2, the DK Coins in DKC3 served a bigger purpose (not that rubbing my superiority in Mario's fat, mustached face wasn't worth it); by collecting all of them you could unlock a hidden vehicle to further explore the game's overworld hub, the Gyrocopter. Flying into the heavens, I was greeted by the Queen Banana Bird who had asked me to save her scattered children, the Banana Birds. Then, and only then, could she be set free from K. Rool's magical spell and rid the world of him forever... or at least, until Donkey Kong 64 arrived. Having did as such already, I freed the Queen Mama and watched her wreak "havoc" on the rascally-reptile that had been plaguing the Kong family for the past three games (and by havoc, I mean she drops a giant eggshell on him).

My journey through the original trilogy had finally come to an end.

After thousands of bananas collected, every Bonus Level completed, every DK Coin nabbed and every Banana Bird rescued, all three games had been fully completed and my trek through the jungles, ships, and castles of the Donkey Kong Country universe had been completed. It was awesome, and I felt a great sense of accomplishment that no "Achievement Unlocked" or "Trophy Earned" notification could ever match.

Now it's true I still have DK64 to run through, but until Nintendo FINALLY decides to release it on the Virtual Console, that ain't happening; I'm not travelling 400 miles home to bring my N64 up to my apartment to play it. I guess my next stop is going to be Donkey Kong Country Returns, and while it's a fantastic game (I've made it up to the second world thus far), I still don't have the urge to jump into it like the previous DKC games. But maybe that's because of all the other "newer" games I have yet to play that keep me feeling overwhelmed. I'm near the end of both Dragon Quest IX and Mass Effect (second playthrough because of some choices I made the first time around I didn't want carried over to the second game) so at least those will finally get off my back, but still, the amount of games I still to need to finish is still overwhelming to me.

But I'll get around to it. Eventually. And thanks for reading this far if you have (and if not, thanks anyway); I had no intention of making this entry this long, but I guess it just happens. Actually, it seems I have some free time right now... and I still have Donkey Kong on the brain. Hmm... Now that I think about it more...

I think it's time for some Donkey Kong Country Returns.   read

3:33 AM on 12.31.2010

You know, it's funny; I always find it incredibly hard to sit myself down and write for myself. I always tell myself I should do this more often, and though I have ideas I can write about, I can never bring myself to actually sit down and do it.

Anyways, 2010 was a very interesting year, and, unlike the last couple of years, had more ups than downs for me, both personally and gaming-wise. But since this is a gaming site, I'll only talk about the gaming-related ones!

Video games have always been an important medium for me. So much so, that I just recently received by Bachelors of Science in Game Art & Design from a college in San Francisco (I've been attending for the last three years), and hopefully, I'll be spending the rest of my life developing them. Video games have the ability to make us laugh, cry,think, and even make us sick to our stomachs. Of course, this is all subjective, and, depending on the kind of person we are, we may experience things differently than others do. We may come together in perfect harmony... or the exact opposite. But there is one thing that video games do that means more to me than all of the above do combined.

And that's whisking me away to another world. A world I can get lost in, where I can be the hero everyone loves, or the villain everyone fears. A world where I can forget about all the hardships of growing up and personal and financial responsibility in favor of jumping from one colorful world to the next. In short, I love games that take me back to my childhood and make me forget the world around me... if only for a moment. Don't get me wrong, though; I love my life! But sometimes, we all need a break. And unfortunately, I've been finding it harder and harder for games to suck me into the TV/monitor these days and keep me there; I'm not sure if they're just not involving enough for me or if I'm just growing up. But these games stood out above all the rest I played this year, and have a special place in my heart for doing just that; putting a smile on my face and making me feel like a nine year-old again.

Now, because I am (or was, I should say) a college student, it took me a long time to get to play any of these games, and there were quite a few I still have left to try out (Assassin's Creed 2, Mass Effect 2, and God of War 3 just to name a few), but I'm talking about my own personal experiences.

So, here they are!

That's right; I couldn't decide between the two of them. Whether it's hopping from planet-to-planet or from bounty-to-bounty, Super Mario Galaxy 2 and Red Dead Redemption sucked me in and never let me go. Both were incredibly captivating, stunning to look at, great to explore, and, most importantly, fun to play. I never had more fun trying to rescue a princess in my life, and, I'll finally tell myself this, it's my favorite Mario game of all-time. Sorry Super Mario Bros. 3! And who didn't want to be a cowboy when they were growing up? The only thing that was missing from Red Dead Redemption was another charming Englishman you could play as (I'm looking at you, Jack Swift!), but with a character as badass as Jack Marston, I didn't mind so much.

Super Mario Galaxy 2 offered tons of unique worlds, each rich with their own colorful environments and bouncy characters, and never once lost steam. Each level brought forth its own challenge, and hardly ever left you doing the same thing twice. It must have been incredibly difficult to design a game that followed up on the near-flawless original, but the folks at Nintendo proved they could go above and beyond anything they've ever done; and damn does it show. There wasn't a single world I didn't want to explore, and by the end of the game, I still wanted to pop the disc back in my Wii for some more playtime. And that's something I find hard to do these days (especially when Achievements aren't involved! Ugh, I know).

Remember that feeling you had when you were a kid and you popped in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time in your N64 for the first time? Remember how magical it felt? Yeah, that was the same feeling I had playing through this game. And I'll never forget it.

Red Dead Redemption offered me something I only dreamed I could design; a HUGE expansive world set in the Wild West that never once slowed down in its pacing. It always kept things interesting (even when it kept teasing you with the hopes of finally tracking down two of the game's main villains) with new missions, challenges for you to complete, treasure for you to track down, animals to hunt and skin, horseback races, poker games for you to cheat in, and even good-'ole fashioned Mexican standoffs. I could go on and on, but you get the point.

Hell, even riding to a mission on your horse while your assisting character talks to you is fun, especially when it's a huge group of people riding next to you on horseback. The Grand Theft Auto series showed that Rockstar could make a rich, deep game set in an urban environment, but Red Dead Redemption proved that even when they stripped all of those buildings and landmarks away, they could still make a kick-ass game with just as much going for it... maybe even a bit more!

I can't recommend these two games enough to anyone. Even if the Wild West isn't your thing (Once Upon A Time in the West is one of my all-time favorite movies), you should still give Red Dead Redemption a shot; it's one of the best shooters out on the market today that doesn't have a Call of Duty or Halo in its title. And Super Mario Galaxy 2, well... this game alone proves the Wii has what it takes to cater to the "hardcore" players. And, well... just look at the numbers.

There are some really close runner-ups I wish I had time to go into detail with (Dragon Quest IX and Donkey Kong Country Returns), as well as some honorable mentions (Heavy Rain -even IF that "twist" sucked-, Super Meat Boy, Epic Mickey, Limbo, and Split/Second, to name a few) I would have liked to talk about, but maybe for another time.

Again, I did miss out on a lot of games, but hopefully I'll be catching up on those soon. I've still got the original Mass Effect to finish! Anyways, thanks for reading this far, and hopefully I didn't bore you too much.   read

1:19 AM on 03.08.2010

First Blog Entry

I figure if I'm going to have an account here, I should probably keep a blog. I've never kept a blog before - let alone a gaming one -, so forgive me if it sounds a bit amateur-ish at times.

I guess a good first entry would be my personal favorite, and least favorite, games of the last year, 2009!

The Beatles: Rock Band

I may have jumped on the plastic instrument bandwagon a bit late (the only real experience I had with these modern rhythm games were quick sessions at Wal-Mart kiosks, and the like), but I didn't have nearly as much fun with any other game than I did with Harmonix's musical masterpiece. The Beatles: Rock Band serves not only as a fun game in the Rock Band franchise, but as an interactive documentary to the greatest band of all-time.

Sure, this has been mentioned countless times, but here's why I'll reiterate it: I actually felt like a Beatle. In my eyes, no other Beatle-related experience can even come close to the magic I felt while playing this game. Playing the guitar on "While My Guitar Gently Weeps"? I become George Harrison. Whip out the bass guitar and sing into the mic simultaneously during "Paperback Writer"? I am Paul McCartney. Trying my best to keep coordinating my hands banging drumsticks on the solo on "The End"? How does Ringo do it? " How about singing and shredding an acid-fueled guitar solo on "Revolution"? I'm now John Lennon.

I could go on an on about the same thing, but I'm sure you get the point. The game has its downfalls (No "Help!"? "Please Please Me"? "Hey Jude"? "She Loves You"? "Love Me Do"? "Rain"? "Ain't She Sweet"? "Let It Be"?) in some of its selection of songs from the band's career (SERIOUSLY, no "Let It Be"? I can understand how some songs just wouldn't fit no matter what, but you'd think they'd at least include all of the title songs from each album.)?

But then again, it must have been incredibly difficult to shoehorn all of this together in the first place. But what we have is good enough for me, and I can't tell you just how much fun I've had with this game. If The Beatles: Rock Band has taught me anything, it's that no matter who you are, you don't HAVE to have that same talent to become one of the Fab Four; you just need the heart. And if you don't have any friends or family around you that don't share that same passion (you should abandon them), you can always hop online and find some other Beatle-nuts that are just as crazy as you.

You know, learned all that, and that I suck at drumming.

1. Batman: Arkham Asylum

Though Uncharted 2 may have wiped the floor in nearly every category in nearly every "Best Game of 2009" list (and with good reason), I still believe Batman: Arkham Asylum should have taken the crown. Not only astounding in terms of its game design, but this game makes you feel like you're Batman. Remember that scene in The Dark Knight when Batman takes out all of those security guards in that building in China but you never see him? Arkham Asylum teaches you how he does it.

And man, is it awesome. Drop down and glide kick into the backs of your enemies, swoop down and hang them upside down (which I personally think is worth the price of admission. Seriously, I've been waiting for a good Batman game to do this) and then strike when the other inmates are wondering where you are, and even grapple across landscapes. Come on, what more could you ask for in a Batman game? Even Scarecrow, one of my most favorite Batman villains of all-time (if not ever) gets his due here; it's fantastic.

I can't recommend this game enough to anyone. Whether you're a fan of the Dark Knight himself, love action-stealth games, or just want a good 'ole fashioned beat-em-up adventure, Batman: Arkham Asylum has something for you.

Now if only we can get Rocksteady to make a Superman game, I think I could die happy...

2. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

I've seen a lot of unusual hatred towards this game for reasons other than the controversial removal of dedicated servers, but I had a riot with this game; moreso than I had expected. I had played the original Modern Warfare, and liked it alright, but I could never get into the multiplayer aspect. Maybe I just jumped onto the bandwagon a bit too late (what is it with me and missing the rides? I didn't play the original until about a year after its original release)... ?

From the start of the game's campaign mode, I could not put the controller down. It was exciting from start to finish, and definitely one of the most intense shooters I've played in a long while. The attacks on a modern American suburb? Gave me imagery in my head that I wish I could un-see, but made me realize just how vulnerable we humans really can be. The incredibly controversial "No Russian" scene? Made me incredibly sick to my stomach, but at the same time, made me realize that if a game can generate this much discussion, maybe those nay-sayers can start seriously considering some videogames as works of art. And that very last mission in the game? I won't blow anything in case you haven't seen it, but my heart was pounding from start to finish.

And then there's the cooperative Spec Ops mode. This is probably my favorite aspect of this game; you and a single friend have to stand and defend a small gas station while you're attacked by hordes of on-foot soldiers, tanks, and choppers. Freakin' awesome. My shooter reflexes have seriously gotten a big boost while playing this game (what with its fast-paced, arcade-like pacing), and even though I kind of suck online in Team Deathmatch, seeing what lies on the next level keeps me coming back for more.

That, and the constant bad-assery of Ghost saying "Let's do this."

1. Resident Evil 5
I cannot tell you how psyched I was for this game. Perhaps it's my fault for getting my hopes up, but when a developer tells you that this is the last game in one of your most favorite franchises of all-time, you can't help but feel that they're going to go out with a big bang. Not so much with Resident Evil 5.
Where Resident Evil 4 expanded upon, Resident Evil 5 takes a big step back. Is it shorter than its predeccesor? About 2/3's shorter. New weapons? Yes, but a lot of them aren't much different than those established in the REmake and 4. Is the horror aspect at least back? Nope, not in the least.

There were some design decisions that I had issues with. Why have a cover mechanic if I can't use it everywhere, and why does it feel so tacked-on? Seriously, when the Majini get weapons, you'll be shot at and hit before you can even finish the swing-out animation. Very frustrating. Two-player co-op was interesting. Not so much that it made the game more tolerable, but that it actually tore my brother and I apart at times; we had been getting so frustrated at certain points in the game that we actually began to lash out at each other.

No experience is worth that. This game had some cool aspects, however; I couldn't have asked for a cooler fight against Wesker (but of course that was ruined the third time you fight him), and the Mercenaries mode was just as fun as ever. But the imagination and creativity shown in previous entries of the series just wasn't here. The big motherload of a virus in this game turns you into a tentacle monster? Seriously?

In the same way Spider-Man 3 left you feeling empty and disappointing after its fantastic second film (that was in every way better than the original), Resident Evil 5 only left me feeling like Capcom had betrayed their audience (the Wesker Children Project? Really?) in the same way Rocky V did with fans of the Italian Stallion.

Perhaps one day, Mikami-san will take back control of this series and end it with the boom it deserves. A man can dream.

2. Prince of Persia

I'm not sure what to say about this game. It really isn't like its predecessors - other than that you're an "unnamed" Prince who climbs and jumps off of things - and not in a good way. The gameplay felt dumbed down by the constant amount of Quick-Time Events, no real punishment for "dying," and the incredibly simplistic combat. After coming off of the awesome fighting mechanics of Warrior Within and The Two Thrones, Prince of Persia just felt like one giant step-backwards.

A big issue I had with this game was its rather "forceful" nature. I can understand if the character can love another character within the story, but if you don't try and make me love that character for the same reasons he does, don't force me to undo all the work I had spent twelve hours of the game accomplishing. Just like the ending of 2006's god-awful Sonic the Hedgehog, Prince of Persia ends with you feeling like you didn't do much. And for what, some character I didn't even care about? I remember reading an article on it from right here on Destructoid a while back, and agreed with every single point it made.

Rather than telling me all the reasons why I should love a character (I'm talking about all of that slightly-necessary-yet-at-the-same-time-slightly-unnecessary dialogue), show me why I should love this character. Editorializing the plot is something I hope the industry moves away from, as it does nothing more than make the story feel tacked-on, cheesy, and downright boring. And please, don't make me pay for a downloadable "Epilogue" if it does nothing more than continue to end the game with an even sloppier cliffhanger (luckily, I played it on a friend's console who had already purchased it).

Here's to hoping The Forgotten Sands rocks the house.

3. F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin

Now let me start off by saying that the original F.E.A.R. is one of my most favorite shooters of all-time (if not my favorite), so needless to say, expectations were high. It contained everything I had wanted in a shooter; Slow-Mo control for my really crappy accuracy (seriously, before F.E.A.R., I was even worse at shooters than I am now), cool gore effects that really make you feel like you've torn through your enemies, and, of course, the scary-as-all-hell Alma, who popped out at the most inappropriate (and unexpected) times. An instant classic in my book.

F.E.A.R. 2 felt... different. The horror that Alma brought forth seemed forced and predictable at times, there weren't many new weapons, the controls were uncomfortable (coming from the previous game for me, anyway) from start to finish, and... it just didn't feel the same. The graphics were really nice, but just because you slap a new coat of paint over an old house it doesn't make it new; it's the interior that counts (as lame as that sounds).

The level design felt stale, and other than the variation in environments (as opposed to the Offices of the original), the game just felt boring to me. It's very hard to explain. Some of the horror segments were awesome (the twists at the last level in the game were fantastic) and gave me quite a scare, and some of the new weapons were awesome (the Laser weapon comes to mind. Too bad it's laser-pointer was offset from the center of the screen to the left), and ripping people up in Mechs was awesome (though admittedly, it's not very appropriate for a horror game).

All in all, not a bad game, but just disappointing.

That sure took a lot longer to write than I thought it would. But it was fun! If you've managed to read down this far, let me say, "Thank you," and that I really appreciate you giving me your attention for the duration of this entry. Hopefully I didn't come off as too ranty; I like to keep things at least somewhat civilized.

Let's hope I can keep this up!   read

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