Iím not very good with scary things. In fact I avoid most of the horror genre like the plague, and if I ever do feel like trying out something of the sort, (Bioshock, Dead Space) the brightness is maxed, the lights are on, and Iím trying to rationalize every event in my head in a desperate plea to not run out of the room in terror.
But where did this come from? Was I born destined to flinch at even the most obvious of jump-scares? No, I wasnít. This fear was born of something else. Something moreÖ sinister. Something that is not only my first gaming related memory, but my very first memory of anything at all. It wasÖ SCORPIOUS!!!
The year was 1999. The consoles of choice for me were the NES and the Sega Genesis. My day to day life consisted, as far as I know, of watching my mom play those two consoles, silently staring at the warming glow of the tv in the living room. This is the scene of many of my the most vivid scenes of my early life. I can to this day remember so many events in that occurred with a game being played in the background. Whether it was being horrified of having a splinter pulled, and waking up to my mom pulling it while my stepdad played Dynamite Heady, or getting my face bitten by my auntís dog and being calmed down with the music of Star Tropics playing in the background, those two systems were integrated into every facet of my life.
However, those moments were not my first memories. No, the first came from a foreign place. A place that while still looking the same at face value, was a much darker and sinister land. This was the land of Sonic Spinball.
Sonic was awesome to me as a child. It was fast, exciting, and graphically superior to any other game I had owned at the time. But there was something different about Spinball. The gameís much darker graphics and music made it a standout in the set of Genesis games my family owned. From the moment the game starts up, it seems a little odd, and the deeper that you dig, the odder it would get.
This was helped greatly by the music, which I highly recommend listening to while reading this. It rocks! But the sound effects were a great factor in this as well. The arcadey sounds fit the gameís theme perfectly, and honestly made it seem like a pinball table. However, all the sounds in the world couldnít do what the graphics did, in terms of darkening the mood.
Let me preface this next thought with some setting. At this point, the other games in my life were as follows: Sonic 2, the Lion King, Tetris, Mario and Zelda. These games, while occasionally a little dark, never came close to the level of black imagery presented by Spinball. I mean look at this, not a single brightly colored aspect aside from Sonic and the neon in the background and thereís a giant robot dragon lizard popping out of the water to eat you! At the time, there was nothing like it for me in my life. But still, it wasnít truly scary. Just a very intriguing. The terror is still to come.
The game plays like a pinball table, with flippers being the main mode of transportation, along with the jumping and spin-dashes Sonic is known for. It all works surprisingly well, and makes for a fun spin-off (Yes, I know, Iím horrible.) And at the end of the first level of the game you reach a boss. But not just any boss. THE boss. The one that haunted my nightmares, and sent me into a screaming fit, running to shut off the Genesis, and to hide back underneath a coffee table. This boss was Scorpious.
Now look at that thing and tell me it isnít horrifying! I mean his face man, LOOK AT HIS FACE! It is one of the most disgustingly terrifying things Iíve ever seen, and just looking up a picture is enough to give me chills. And on top of that, the boss music is one of the most tense things ever to come out of a 16-bit console. But on their own, neither of those are truly nightmare fuel. No, it is the monster's death sounds that sent me into my fits of reset-button-hitting-rage. I wonít even bother describing it, as there are no words. Just watch the video. (skip to 1:24)
Now, today, as a well adjusted member of society, this boss isn't much. However, as a four year old, this was horrific! It was all so well put together, that it conveyed the message of fear perfectly, even if that wasn't the intention. It is the first thing I truly remember about my life, and honestly, if that was your first memory, you would probably avoid the horror genre as much as I do.
So, with that, I'm going to go and find a blanket and curl into the fetal position under a coffee table, in a vain attempt to drive that face from my mind. Thanks for reading!
Iím fat. Fat as the guy who youíd expect to be followed around by a tuba player, to be exact. So when I roll into a local arcade and immediately rush towards the DDR machine in the back, I get quite a few looks. But give it a few moments, and suddenly J-pop is blasting and the beached whale has acquired feet that appear to belong to someone half his size, and with four times the coordination. Thus is the magic of DDR.
While, like most fans of the series, I am utterly appalled by the most recent offering, the older games are still resting comfortably in my fondest memories. The seizure inducing lights and colors paired with the high-pitched lyrics of a different language are still some of the most euphoric of sounds, and to this day, I donít think that thereís a single series Iíve spent more of my time with. Habits caused by this drug of gaming still stick with me to this day, such as holding down a button when selecting a game (the action required to change speedboosts and such). DDR, while now fallen from greatness, remains possibly my largest gaming influence, and canít begin to say how much it means to me. So, I figured I may as well make a top ten list of the greatest songs in all of the series.
*disclaimer: These are my personal favorite songs, and I have not played every game. Honestly, Iíve only played 4 in my time, along with the arcade machine, so donít go crazy on me for not including certain songs. Enjoy!
Game- DDRMAX 2
So, D2R is a special one for me, and a great way to kick off this list. The song itself is nothing too special in terms of gameplay, but itís by one of the best artists to contribute to DDR: NAOKI. They will appear multiple times on this list, and I can confidently say that this is one of the best of their offerings. An excellent way to kick off the list.
Game- DDR Ultramix 3
Not the version I remember, but it'll do.
This is far and away the easiest song of the bunch, and an excellent example of the cult following DDR has created. Is it the quality vocals that keep people coming back to this song? Or is it the damn good music that accompanies it? Maybe the easy, laid back nature of the song? Either way, Butterfly stands as a testament to the power of DDR, and anyone who has heard it, will tell you. Ay Yi Yi!
Game- DDRMAX 2
Yes, I am putting this on here. Whenever MAX 2 gets brought up, Break Down always seems to be snubbed. Itís like people forgot Brea Down entirely, but how could you? The vocals, the beat, and not to mention the difficulty. Itís a helluva song, and it deserves a spot right up there with the others from the game.
Game- DDRMAX 2
For some ungodly reason, this song has even less recognition than Break Down, and that simply isnít okay. I mean listen to it. Another NAOKI song, and once again, one of the best. Itís catchy, itís tough, and probably the best of the MAX 2 songs on this list (at least, ones that I exclusively remember from MAX 2). A phenomenal offering, and one of the best songs in terms of energy.
Game DDR Extreme
My reaction upon first play of song was as follows: ďHmm, this sounds prettyÖ not sure why it has that high of a difficulty ratingÖ Meh must just b- Ö. WaitÖ whyíd it stopÖ OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD!Ē True story. This is practically two songs in one, with a graceful and elegant beginning that is followed by one of the most hyper 2nd halves of all time. A truly beautiful song.
Game- DDR Extreme
This one is a bit odd. It doesnít really fit in with some of the offerings of the series, but it does something truly unique, in that playing it feels extremely natural once youíve understood the note placement. It is aÖ prancy song, and if played in an exaggerated fashion, (raising your knees as high as possible between notes) it can be the most fun of the list. However, it is held back by no fault of its own, but because I was never able to fully grasp the rhythm of it until just recently. A great song nonetheless.
Game- DDR Konamix
So, this is where things get really rough. Numbers 3 and 4 are really interchangeable, and it really is dependent on the mood Iím in. But enough about that, B4U! It is NAOKIís best song by far for me, and while it is a little, well, ridiculous at times, it is so damn fun. It works on every scale, and unlike some songs on this list, (#2) it isnít embarrassing to listen to on its own. It just works on every level, and could easily be considered perfect.
#3- End of the Century
Game- DDR Konamix
I have no idea why I love this song so much, but I do. The rapping isnít very good, and neither are the vocals. Itís just kind ofÖ awesome to me. It was the first song I learned to competently play, and Iím sure that has a lot to do with it. Regardless, one of my favorites, but I can see why it wouldnít be for the average player.
#2- Love^2 Sugar
Game- DDR Extreme
To start off, I donít know if that is the correct title, but itís what Iíve always called it. However, I also called it the jumping song quite frequently. That initial chant is entirely composed of double notes, and is literally, just jumping. It is mind bogglingly fun, and if you want to piss of the workers of an arcade, and draw a crowd at the same time, this is the song for you. Should probably be a lot lower but Iíll be damned if it isnít one of the best songs in all of the Series.
And now, the moment youíve all been waiting for, my favorite DDR song of all timeÖ
Game- DDR Ultramix 3
THIS SONG IS THE BEST THING EVER TO BE IN A VIDEO GAME!!! Iím not kidding, this is the single greatest song Iíve ever heard in a video game. It starts off awesome, gives you a momentary break, and then follows it up by doubling the speed and becoming one of the most difficult songs out there. I love it, and you all should too.
So, there you have it. My top 10 DDR songs of all time. If you want to tell me Iím a horrible person for not having Max 300 or Afronova on here, please do in the comments, Iíd love to hear other opinions, as a decent conversation about a long dead Japanese game series is hard to have in the Midwest. So, yeah, thanks for reading!
Kingdoms of Amalur (or KoA as I'll be referring to it as) has been recently put under fire for it's online pass that locks out 7 of the game's quests. To many people, this has been a problem. However, I see nothing to be mad about.
So let me give my stance. In both of Jim's front page posts, he expressed distaste for the pass. However, to me it seems inconsequential to the main game, and isn't likely to be more than a small quest line that would be swallowed up in what is presumed to be a large game. In my eyes, this type of an online pass is a good thing.
RAGE did something similar. They locked out a few small side areas, that had no consequence on the main game, and gave new buyers a code that would unlock them. This code had nothing to do with the multiplayer and, only took out a small piece of the game. This instance of an online pass was applauded by almost every one. This was because it had no huge impact on the game and rewarded new buyers rather than punishing used ones. That is exactly what I feel KoA is doing.
If these quests are a big portion of the game, then there's a problem. However, the biggest that I could see being locked out would be something comparable to Oblivion's Knights of the Nine DLC.This took me an hour and a half to complete, and a good portion of that time was spent walking to locations. This was offered for 10 dollars to all consumers. That is not a huge piece of gameplay for that price. Now KoA would be offering the same for free to half of it's consumers, and at a 10$ rate for the used buyers. To me, that's not bad at all.
Let's be honest here. If Fallout: New Vegas or Skyrim was missing 7 quests, would it feel incomplete. No, they wouldn't. I don't think Amalur would either.
At the end of the day this is simply an issue of the pass being inadequately named. If it was called something other th an those cursed words, I doubt that much would have happened. All in all, this going to blow over and, I hope, prove to be something that will be thought well of after the fact. Because if 7 quests is considered enough to change your opinion of a game, then you should probably stop looking into new games and go back to Skyrim ;)
P.S. This isn't an attack on Jim or a praise of EA. I love and hate those things respectively.
Dark Cloud 2, or Dark Chronicle, released in 2003. Now 9 years later, It's time for a comeback
Dark Cloud 1 was the absolute BEST game I had ever played for a good portion of my life. For those that don't know, Dark Cloud was a PS2 exclusive that begins with a evil spirit being released, and literally destroying the whole world. The main character remains unharmed and goes on a journey to rebuild the world. The game is divided into 2 parts: dungeons and building.
The games exceptional combat is shown off in the dungeons, which are all randomly generated. In each area of the game there is a dungeon with a unique theme (cave, forest, temple, moon, under water). In each area you get a new ally who had their own weapon and style of fighting. Another notable part of this game is it's leveling system. You don't level up characters, instead leveling up their weapons. You put different attachments on them and once they met requirements, could be changed in to a new weapon entirely. This is the best leveling system in an action-RPG to date. In addition to this great combat gameplay, there's the building portion.
Within each level of a dungeon you would collect Atlamillia. Within these, you would get parts to the destroyed town the dungeon was set in. Once back outside, the Atlamillia would be used to rebuild the towns. This was the weaker of the two systems, and wasn't much more than a diversion. However, It was still enjoyable.
Best Bad Guy EVER!
Overall, Dark Cloud 1 is one of the best PS2 games of all time.
But then they made a sequel.
In general, sequels play it safe. They mostly use the same characters, continue the same story, and use the same gameplay mechanics. Dark Cloud 2 does none of these things. They went from 6 playable characters to 2, and gave them 3 weapons apiece. Only one race from the original game is present, and the story goes from taking a backseat, to being one of the most intriguing parts of the game. The only part that is similar is the dungeons, which are still randomly generated, and bad-ass.
This is the manifestation of the whole bad-ass thing.
The most astounding part of this, however, is that the game managed to be just as good if not better than the original. The game was almost entirely different, but it still felt the same. Together, they make 67% of my top three PS2 games (the other being Dragon Quest 8, we'll get to that one later).
At this point it sounds like I'm just rambling on about two old games, but that's the point. These games are good enough for me to rant about 9 years after the fact. So what I want in 2012 more than Borderlands 2, Diablo III, or the Vita, is just one simple announcement. Just one sentence in the Sony E3 press confrence. One game that will make me go out and buy a PS3 the day it is mentioned. What I want in 2012 is Dark Cloud 3.