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River City Retro

Kirby's Dream Land 2

Kirby's Dream Land

What Final Fantasy used to sound like

NES conquers the world in 25 years

River City Ransom

Guilty Gear's Metal Meltdown

Time Slaughter

Alien Wars 4: How to make a proper X-COM Sequel

Alien Wars 3: How the X-COM series fell from grace

Alien Wars 2: From the depths they came

Alien Wars 1: UFO Done Properly

UFO: Enemy Unknown

Ten Games that love other games

Final Fantasy 6

Tom & Jerry

Sin... just sin

Blood... just blood

Eight Games Lost in Translation

A Gamer's Diet

Apple Pie (It's my birthday)


Spaghetti Bolognaise

Monthly Musing

Aaamaazing: Mortal Kombat

Groundhog Day: BlazBlue

E for Effort: Becoming a World Warrior + Interview with a tournament player

Something about sex: Ten gaming couples that either should or should not do it

My Expertise: A Moustached Hero

The Future: Professional gaming

River City Ramblings

The Starcraft 2 beta and what it means to me

New Super Mario Brothers Wii: My first impressions


Who am I you ask? Well I guess my story starts some time around the early eighties. As my apartment had strangely gotten a lot smaller over the last months, I thought it would be a good idea to redecorate it. I was leaning back in my sofa, going through the new Ikea catalog when I was suddenly hit by a massive earthquake. As much as I tried to hold my ground, I was propelled head first into that strange tunnel at my front door. I had been wondering where that leads but never had the courage to check it out.

After a long and bumpy ride, I finally stuck my head out the other end and saw daylight. Before I had a chance to adjust to my new environment, a big man wearing some kind of a lab coat and face mask grabbed hold of me. He was a despicable man really. Not only did he cut my food supply line, he also held me upside down in the air and slapped me right on the butt! What did I ever do to him?! Just when I was about to stick it to him, my attention was averted to this tired looking lady lying on a bed nearby.

It was very strange. Do you know that feeling when you meet somebody for the first time, yet you feel like you have known each other all along? I had this feeling when I saw her. That's when it occurred to me. This woman must be my landlady and I had been neglecting my rent for a few months after all. I could understand that she was upset but still... She had no right to turn me over to that sadistic bull in his white coat! I thought that me and her were going to have a long and personal conversation but right now, I just wanted to take a shower. That tunnel I had just been through wasn't all that clean after all.

Fortunately this other lady dressed in white was a lot nicer than her butt-slapping friend. She most kindly helped me clean myself and then handed me some warm, although not very fashionable garments. She carried me over to my landlady and I prepared to negotiate the rent but instead, my landlady threw me a warm smile and pressed me against her breast so lovingly that I melted like snow to the sun. She and her equally loving husband took me to their home where they had a room prepared with a bed in exactly my size and all kinds of lovely little things to play with. It's like they had been planning to take me in all along.

I didn't quite understand the strange language both of them spoke but yet I figured out that her name was Mom and crying meant "Food please", "Hug me" and "Clean me" all at the same time. The temperature wasn't as constant as my previous home but still, this was some service! Anyway, I would wander around this place for the time being while gradually learning to speak their language. It would take seven years before I really found out what my purpose here was.

One fine morning, Mom brought me to a supermarket and I saw a little mustached guy jumping around on a TV. That was my first encounter with the Nintendo Entertainment System! This thing blew my mind in so many ways! I had heard of princesses being kidnapped by dragons before but where's the prince to save her? No, there is no prince! This time it's a fat Italian plumber with a mustache who gets to be the hero! Yeah, that's what I'm talking about! Power to the common man! Not only that but rather than simply hear his tale, I could actually help him in his quest. Though Mom seemed quite unimpressed, I knew I had witnessed a miracle and it would leave a mark on my life for years to come.

I'd often get into fights with Mom after that. She wanted me to go outside and play with my friends but what did she know? After all, all of my friends were living in similar warm nests, receiving the same service from two other persons who were somehow all named Mom and Dad. No, my purpose in life was bigger than that. As much fun as playing with my friends was, If I did that then who would save princess Peach, liberate the kingdom of Hyrule and smite the evil king Dedede? I just couldn't ignore the sorrow of the weak!

It wasn't until another seven years or so that I would see what a fool I had been. Up until now, I had been carrying the weight of the world on my own shoulders while completely ignoring the help others could have offered. I was determined to never close my eyes to the value of friendship again! Especially in these dark times. I was barely finished helping Dr. Freeman escape the resonance cascade alive when bands of terrorists attacked and dragged his scientist colleagues off to cs_assault. This was too much for just me to handle. This time I needed help!

Anyone who doesn't believe in the kindness of strangers is a moron. I mean sure, strangers aren't always nice. I've been told that I SuX0rz and have been called a n00b a million times but even then, it's worth it. As it so happens, it were these very strangers that padded me on the back and reassuringly shouted "Lock and Load!" before we stormed the big garage and got every single scientist out while making a fair buck in the process. Unfortunately our happiness was short lived as a new batch of terrorists arrived and we were right back where we started. Rather than sigh over the shortness of our victory, we bought ourselves a new pack of heavy guns and rushed in once more. No matter how many times the terrorists came back, we'd bring them to justice!

Time went on and the terrorists got more and more violent. Now they didn't only take hostages any more but also planted bombs and tried to assassinate seemingly random VIPs. Our combined efforts were no longer enough. We needed more coordination. We needed a plan! We had to Look at the map and devise a clever strategy. As much as I tried this, people were joining and leaving our counter-terrorist squad with every tick of the clock. Some of them even switched sides to join the terrorists. I engaged in conversation with several of the better fighters. We decided to join together regularly and learn how to fight as one. You could even go as far as to call us a counter-strike clan! For years we battled the forces of evil and shed much blood until I finally left the front as I heard of another land in need.

So many years ago I had liberated the town of Tristram from Diablo, the lord of terror. The hero I helped out at the time had drilled the dark lord's soul stone right into his own forehead. What an idiot! Needless to say, Diablo soon overpowered this weak excuse for a savior and continued to live on, inhabiting the former hero's body. "Man", I thought. "I've gone through all of this before, I'm not doing it again or at least... Not alone!" Fortunately my plea for help didn't leave me waiting as several friends showed up and we entered a new clan to smite that demon once and for all! After taking care of business in the chaos sanctuary, laying waste to Baal, the lord of destruction and even single handedly obliterating several acres of murderous cows, it was time to put my swords and bows to rest once more.

Since that time, my clan based activity has settled down and I remain to fight on the side of good with smaller bands of friends while every now and then fondly remembering those good old days. Most of all, I tend to leave the real action up to others as I watch from the sidelines. Especially a Korean man named Jaedong shows particular excellence in leading the Zerg to victory against the evil Protoss at general Bisu's command and admiral Flash' corrupted Terran whom I wish all to be infested for greater good.

I thank you for taking the time to read about my life. Perhaps our paths may once cross in the endless online battlefields and until then, luck be with you.
Following (9)  

Aah Mortal Kombat. A true phenomenon of its time. While we were just getting the hang of the fighting genre that Street Fighter II introduced, this thing hit us like a battering ram. We all know what the deal was. Violence. And lots of it. Everybody old enough to remember MK's prime, still knows exactly when and where they saw their first fatality.

But is that really the only reason why we loved it so much? Yes, of course that is a big part of it but then again, what about all those other violent fighting games out there. What about Bloodstorm? That one actually let you cut off limbs and continue the fight without them. What about Time Slaughter? That one actually had a guy rip your guts out and play them like a bagpipe. Why don't we remember those games?

I know what you're thinking. They were just doing what Mortal Kombat had already done better. But what exactly is it that MK did better? It's not that it was more violent and we can't say it had an awfully deep fighting engine either. The answer is one that not many hardcore fighting game fans are willing to admit. Mortal Kombat did have more to it than than violence.

There's something entrancing about playing Mortal Kombat in a dark room all by yourself. The Chinese looking locales and the dark eery music. It all draws you in. Really makes you feel like you are a warrior in an ancient sacred tournament. When I play Mortal Kombat, I envision the characters as mercyless but humble martial artists that place honour above their own lives. I know this isn't exactly the game's canon, but this is how it speaks to my imagination. I always compared the way they lay down their lives for the martial arts to the samurai in ancient Japan committing seppuku to preserve their honour. The fact that these executions were so incredibly brutal... Well, that was just pretty fucking cool. This immediately brings me to the next chapter.

The Pit

This is without a doubt the most famous stage in the entire Mortal Kombat saga. Up until now, you were mostly fighting around beautiful Chinese scenery or in front of monks that politely applauded your victory. This time however, you're standing on a narrow concrete ledge. A full moon shines brightly through the clouded night sky. The music consists of eery dark base lines. Something feels different. This isn't going to end well. Seeing these two warriors balance on that tiny ledge while performing their craft manifested in my imagination as the pinnacle of discipline and honour.

FINISH HIM! The fight is over and you move in for that last devastating uppercut that would normally have your opponent crash into the concrete with a sickening thud. There is no thud this time. Instead there is a terrifying scream while your unfortunate opponent drops several meters deep and blood flies everywhere as he is impaled on the razorsharp knives below.

Sure, first person shooters nowadays show us much more graphic violence but somehow they just don't have the same impact as being knocked off a bridge and into these spikes. I compare it to the impact of old horror movies. Take Dracula for instance. The 1930 film starring Bela Legosi didn't have one drop of blood in it but that stare in Legosi's eyes sets a mood that many modern horror flicks can only dream of. Through the course of the MK series, the pit has gotten many spinoffs. Let's take a look at some of them.

MK2: The Kombat Tomb

Let me first explain what I mean by a pit spinoff. For me, the pit was all about impalement. The official "sequels" all involved a bridge with certain death below but without the spikes, they paled in comparison. I was much more fond of the Kombat Tomb's twist on it. This time the spikes were suspended on the ceiling and with one swift uppercut, your opponent is firmly entrenched in them while his blood drops to the floor. Man, that was brutal. It was the original pit that got my coin in the machine, but it was the Kombat Tomb that sold me a cartridge!

MK3: The Bell Tower

You get uppercutted in the air and fall through a dozen floors before finally feeling the spikes pierce your body. Lame! Just lame. It is at this point, the third game in the series, when fatalities just started to get too gimmicky. Take Reptile for instance. Let's look at the same fatality in Mortal Kombat II and Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3. Awesome! Silly.

It feels like they had kinda done it all and desperately tried to push further. This worked against them. Fatalities don't need to be original. They're all about impact. Reptile just biting off the head and obviously enjoying it has so much more impact than eating the body piece by piece. Not to mention how his victim still manages to scream besides having nothing but a lower body left.

MK4: Game Over

Yes, after the second one, MK did start to get more silly but some times they still got it just right. Man, this one is just haunting. You fall and fall while the music pierces every fiber in your body. Quickly find that coin in your wallet and press start or a horrible death awaits! Seriously, I've heard about people getting nightmares from Mortal Kombat 4's game over screen.

MKD: Dragon King Temple

Ahh Mortal Kombat: Deception. I some times feel like I'm the only person on the planet who actually liked this generation of Mortal Kombat games. People want MK to play like it did in the old days. I get it. But really now, is a simple set of the same high and low attacks for every character really so much better than 3 unique fighting styles to dynamically switch on the fly? Sure, we still had a stiff dial-a-combo engine but at least I thought this was a step in the right direction.

Besides, the graphics were awesome. Scorpion looked the best he ever did and blood actually dripped down from your limbs. As for the fatalities... There were still a few silly ones here and there but most of them hit the nail right on the head. Just look at this death trap in the Dragon King Temple. Oh yeah, that is fierce!

I think I'm going to get some strong opinions for this but I'm just going to come out and say it. I'm sad that this new MK is a reboot to the 2d roots. It's time for the series to break out of its identity crisis . Look at Street Fighter or King of Fighters or any other fighting series. Their characters all have their staple set of normal moves that are only slightly tweaked between every game. I wished Mortal Kombat would follow this trend instead of rebooting the normals every other game.

I guess I just have to face that this is something Mortal Kombat will never be. Their fighters are made unique by their special moves and fatalities. I'm definitely going to give Mortal Kombat 9 a chance and I bet I'm going to enjoy it quite a bit. I just don't know if I'll enjoy it as much as I did Deception. Either way I'll keep playing BlazBlue for my competitive fighting fix and I'll keep MK ready for whenever I feel like ripping some spines out.

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8:10 AM on 02.02.2011

First of all, let me say that I am particularly happy with this month's musing topic. I'm not the kind of guy that writes blogs to bitch and moan. I write about games because I absolutely love games. In fact, taking a single game or franchise and conveying my love for them is exactly what my River City Retro series is all about. Since this is a musing and not an RCR issue though, I am going to take this opportunity to talk about a current gen game for a change. That game is BlazBlue Continuum Shift.

I'm a natural born fighting game fan. Seriously, I was a hardcore fan before I had ever even played a fighting game. As soon as I saw Street Fighter II for the first time in a magazine, I knew that this was THE game for me. I didn't have a SNES yet and my mom would never let play on arcade machines but that didn't stop me. I'd watch other people play SFII for hours and then throw makeshift hadoukens at my friends in the schoolyard.

When I finally did get my SNES, the system was already pretty old and I had enough money for seven games. Among them were Street Fighter II Turbo, Mortal Kombat II, Primal Rage and Killer Instinct. Up until the PS2 generation, it was pretty much the same story. Tekken Tag Tournament was the system seller for me and my final collection consists of 80% fighting games.

The current generation's a different story. BlazBlue is the only fighting game I own and I think it's going to be like this for a long time. Does that mean I'm unimpressed with Super Street Fighter IV and the rest of the PS3's fighting catalogue? No, absolutely not. SSFIV is a piece of art and so are several other titles. How come I'm just playing BlazBlue and nothing else then?

The answer is competition. I just don't have any friends that are as much into fighting games as I am. Sure, some people I know like to play them but I'd always beat them down with both hands behind my back. Same goes for the CPU. It's fun for a while but then you just start owning the final boss at maximum difficulty. I used to get enough of my games over time and needed new ones for an extra challenge. The difference that BlazBlue offers me is online multiplayer.

When you've got a good game on your hands, multiplayer just doesn't get old. Just look at chess for instance. That game has existed for centuries and people are still passionately playing it. Playing with other people and watching other people play just keeps a game fresh. People keep coming up with new strategies and there will always be somebody better than you. Up until now, I have only been playing one single character in BlazBlue and I still feel like that character has plenty of secrets left for me to uncover. As long as there are still people playing BlazBlue online, I will be playing BlazBlue online.

I know what you're thinking now. Plenty of current gen fighting games have online play so why BlazBlue? There are a few reasons. For starters the art style drew me to it. It just makes me smile to see those 2D sprites. You know how that moment when the camera zooms out and passes the characters before a fight starts? That's a thing of beauty! And that's not all. There's that general style too. So colourful but yet so dark and gritty at the same time.

Even the Engrish announcer kind of draws me to the game. It's an example of how little things can give quite a different feel to a game. I smile every time I hear "Rebel One" emanating from my speakers. It's like wrestling promotion TNA using a six sides ring until recently. The same wrestling is taking place inside it, but the gimmick just gives off a slightly different feeling.

My third and final point are the characters themselves. They all feel so different and unique. I can't really think of any character whose play style can immediately be applied to another. This provides for very interesting matchups and lots of stuff for me to learn. As much as I love BlazBlue though, I have to admit that it isn't perfect either. Calamity Trigger was an balance nightmare and Continuum Shift still has some way too obvious tiers. Up until now Continuum Shift II looks like it's doing better but it's still too early to judge it. I hope they will eventually get it right but even if they don't, I'm gonna be playing this game for quite some time more.

This has been Metallion and I adore BlazBlue.

Bonus: If you're interested, you can check out an interview I conducted with a pro BlazBlue player about a year ago.

A good day to you all and welcome to another issue of River City Retro. As I announced in my previous blog, this time we're talking about Kirby's Dream Land 2 for the Nintendo Game Boy. The first one in the series is one of my all time favourite Game Boy games and its music is a true icon for the system. There might be a two in the title, but in fact this isn't a true sequel to Kirby's Dream Land.

That title goes to Kirby's Adventure for the NES. That's the one that introduced the ability absorbing and exponentially increased the game's size. Kirby's Dream Land 2 is more like the sequel to Adventure. The abilities are back but the way to use them has changed quite a bit. At first glance there are quite a bit less of them to be had. Once we take a closer look though, we find out that the abilities that are in the game have actually become much more dynamic.

Dream Land 2 introduces three animal buddies for Kirby to ride. Traveling by land is Rick the hamster. We fly through the air with Coo the owl and finally conquer the seven seas riding in the mouth of Kine, the sunfish. Each of these animals have a dramatic impact on Kirby's abilities. Using cutter while riding Coo will give you access to Contra's spread gun. Kine will allow you to inhale under water or light hallways with the spark ability and so on.

Each of these ridable characters also come with their own themes. I'm personally kind of undecided on these. I mean, they are great themes for sure. They really radiate traveling by land, by sea and through the air respectively but you're going to be riding these animals a lot. Some times I just want to hear the level themes instead. After all, Kirby's Dream Land 2 has some exquisite music. Fortunately for me, my favourite theme by far is Coo the owl I'd love to hear a power metal version of this. That bassy rhythm would sound great on an electric guitar with a high vocal lead soaring over it. Anyway, let's take a look at my favourite levels.

Whispy Woods

Whispy Woods. He's a tree and... he freaking hates Kirby! I never really understood this. Why does Whispy hate Kirby so much? Has Kirby taken a dump in his forest or something? That can't be it... He should be happy to get the extra fertilization. Can't be that Kirby's always eating his apples either... He freaking launches those at the pink blob so they're obviously not so precious. When you think about it, Whispy doesn't even look all that mean. If anything, he has a surprised look on his face whenever Kirby shows up.

What's the feud between these two all about? I guess we'll never know but Kirby's not a tree hugger. He's a tree puncher and Whispy has his rightful place as one of the most recognizable characters in the series. For me King Dedede doesn't always need to be the final boss but Whispy should always be the first boss! I know he isn't always but he damn well should be!


Kracko is another one of Kirby's most iconic bosses. He's an even more interesting character than Whispy. I mean, what the hell is he? He's a flying eye that turns into a cloud when things get serious. I really wonder where the designers' inspiration came from when they dreamed him up. Could he be based on some kind of Japanese folklore that I'm not familiar with? If I ever get the chance to meet the creators of Kirby, Kracko is what I'll ask them about.

Cloudy Park level 2

As I said, King Dedede doesn't always need to be the final boss and this time he isn't. Not if you can collect all of the Rainbow Drops at least. This time Dedede has been possessed by Dark Matter; an evil being that wants to turn Dream Land's rainbow islands into a dark world. In order to exorcise and face him, Kirby has to collect one rainbow drop in each world. They're always carefully hidden and can only be accessed when Kirby has a certain ability. This level implements an exceptionally well done puzzle where you require a very specific combination of abilities and animal friends to get the drop. Definitely my favourite level in the game.

If you finally do get all the drops and face Dark Matter, you're in for quite a ride. I breezed through most of the game but Dark Matter was another story. The guy's got two forms and even the first one alone will take several of your lives away. When you lose to his second form, you're taken right back to the start. That's right. You're not beating the game unless you beat both forms on one life. This might not be a NES game but Dark Matter definitely is NES hard.

All in all I think Kirby's Dream Land 2 is a great sequel to Kirby's Adventure. Everyone who likes Kirby even just a little bit, should definitely check it out. The best Kirby game ever made however, wasn't released until a while later.

This has been Metallion and thank you for reading River City Retro.

twitter: @Metallion98
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Hello there, fine people. My name is Metallion and I write about games. Last week I read this blog on Destructoid. Not particularly well written. He should have used a spell checker and probably brushed up on his grammar a bit too. Nevertheless there was a definite feel of enthusiasm to his write-up and rightfully so.

I mean, did you ever play Kirby's Dream Land on the original Gameboy? Nowadays when you talk Kirby, you talk stealing enemies' powers but back then there was no such mechanic. The game was
so simple. A jumped, up made you fly and B sucked up an enemy. Then there were a few powerups lying about. A plate of curry rice made you breathe fire for a short time, a mic had Kirby sing his favourite song once and a leaf let you fly while shooting air bubbles indefinitely. The ability to fly effectively erases any difficulty from the game and it doesn't exactly boast a big amount of levels but you know what? That doesn't matter!

I'm not saying that a game can get away with being ridiculously easy and short. I'm saying that Kirby can! I mean, look at the little fellow. He's just adorable! I mean, he's so round and pink and... Ugh even a merciless terminator would just want to give him a big squeezy hug. Seriously though, there's just a certain charm to this game that keeps you coming back for more. As Winged Kraby stated in the blog I mentioned earlier, a big part of this is thanks to the music. Let's take a look at a few of my favourite levels of this game.

Castle Lololo

This explanation's going to be brief. This level's my favourite for one reason and one reason only. The music. Knighty enough to fit a castle level and cutesy enough to fit a Kirby game. This tune'll be stuck in your head for a while after watching the video above. Also does anyone recognize those boss characters? ;)

Float Islands

Coming fresh off of Castle Lololo, Kirby's now headed seaside. The music just makes you feel like you're right there under a palm tree with a cocktail in your hand. Kirby heads out to sea, crawls through a cave and then boards a ship. At the end of the level he launches himself towards a whale, gets stuck in its breathing whole and is then launched to the sky. The boss battle that follows there effectively turns the game into an arcade shmup. Although the whale scene adds nothing to the gameplay, it's just adorable to watch and I'm happy it's in the game.

Bubbly Clouds

This level takes place in the clouds and yes, the music fits really well but that's not why I like it. When I first played this game, I was in 4th grade elementary school and I had just learned where babies come from. My explanation for this level's title screen is that there was a little lady kirby waiting in that cloud.

As I said before, the game is incredibly easy but actually once you beat it, it shows you the code to unlock hard mode. In this mode we're no longer playing around. Enemies are way more abundant and have ridiculous patterns. Some of the more fearsome ones even take away half your health bar in one hit. I can still beat the game but in this mode, it does give me a run for my money. Kirby's Dream Land would have been just fine even without this mode but with it, it's a true retro classic that every self-respecting gamer should play at least once.

This has been Metallion and thank you for reading River City Retro.

twitter: @Metallion98

Ps: I actually intended to write about Kirby's Dream Land 2 but during the introduction, I got so excited about the first game that I decided to write a whole feature on that. Keep an eye on my blog for Dream Land 2 is soon to follow.
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I know I'm late to the party but I've recently been playing Final Fantasy 13 a lot. Yes, it's linear and no, I don't care. I'm loving every second of it. There's one thing I do care about though. Where's the freaking music? What are all these laid jazzy tunes doing in an epic game like this? Heck, even when I'm fighting a horrifying monster it still sounds like I'm waiting for someone to serve me a whiskey on the rocks. For a game series that has orchestras traveling the world playing nothing but its soundtrack, this is a MAJOR letdown. That's why today, River City Retro is taking some time to remember what Final Fantasy used to sound like.

The real beauty about music is that there are so many ways to interpret it. What I offer you here in this blog are my own personal interpretations of some of my favourite Final Fantasy music of all time. Also on a side note, I already wrote a whole feature about Final Fantasy 6 quite some time ago so today, we're going to be looking somewhere else. That's right, no opera scene. If that's what you were looking for then please stop reading and go watch this video over here.

Final Fantasy 9: Vamo Alla Flamenco

Final Fantasy 7 was the first one to ever get released in Europe so at this point, I had never even seen parts 1 to 6. Basically what I expected from an FF game was a cool but quiet and anti-social main character. But then number 9 came. No more spiky hair and hearts made of ice. This time we are a witty thief. Street smart and having a way with the ladies. You are hit in the face with this as the opening scene immediately features you and your band performing a play for none other than the queen herself.

The curtain raises and the music starts. First a few subtle chords of flamenco guitars. Hands begin to rhythmically clap and you perform the play's iconic fight scene. Like a beautiful dance you follow your partner's lead. Left! Right! Swing low! Jump! Backflip! Loud cheers tear through the hall each time your makeshift blades clash with a loud bang. You leave the stage and the crowd chants for an encore. I'm still awestruck every time I start this masterpiece of a game and play through this scene. Thank you so much for making this, Square! :)

Final Fantasy 9: Court Jesters

Let's stay with Final Fantasy 9 for a while. Who remembers the court jesters Zorn and Thorn? I believe these characters have the potential to be very annoying in a new Final Fantasy. They would probably be given a really stupid voice and the acting would make their jokes fall flat on their face. Yet they aren't annoying. In fact I'm delighted every time I see these two clowns take the stage. Why is that?

First of all, FF9 is plain text and this is actually a plus. I get to imagine their voices and their possible quirks myself, much like I'd be reading a comic book. For this type of characters I just think that works much better. Then there's the beautiful music that accompanies them. It's perfect.

It sounds kind of silly and clumsy but has a feeling of urgency to it. Exactly what Zorn and Thorn are like. They're two relatively clumsy clowns but they're not just there to entertain the nobles. No, they're on a mission and they're a force to be reckoned with.

Final Fantasy 9: Boss Battle

One more from number 9. This is actually my main qualm with Final Fantasy 13 as I said before. I don't want to hear cozy jazz while fighting a boss. A boss fight is an overwhelming battle against all odds. I'm not sitting in my sofa swatting a little fly. This monster is out to kill me! I'm going to freaking die! The music accompanying these battles needs to make me piss my pants! Hamauzu-san would do good to go back and listen to how Uematsu-san used to make them sound.

Final Fantasy 10: Boss Battle

Just another quick entry to add to this point. Final Fantasy 10 was plagued by horrible English voice acting. So much that it completely killed the game for me. I have recently been replaying the original Japanese version though. Tidus is still annoying but other than that, the game is literally music to my ears.

Again the boss theme fits the world so well. Spira as FF10's world is called, feels a lot like a summer resort. It's a generally hot place and cities are built on beaches. The national sport is a version of rugby taking place inside a giant water sphere and it's the only game in the series to have underwater battles. Upon hearing this song I really see my characters fighting horrible sea monsters on a wet ship's deck and most of all... It totally makes me piss my pants!

Final Fantasy 7: Mako Reactor

One Winged Angel. Don't lie. This is what you were thinking the moment you saw Final Fantasy 7. You're still expecting to see it later down this post aren't you? Well, I forgive you. OWA is one badass song no matter how many times it gets mentioned. This time however we're looking at one of many overlooked themes from FF7. Heck, this isn't even on the Reunion Tracks that I bought in Akihabara 2 years ago. For shame!

I'm talking about the mako reactors. Remember those? Giant plants that literally suck out the planet's blood to produce power. Heavy doors open as you walk through the first sections of the reactor. You see grand halls with the shiny mass of mako flowing steadily below. The song goes slow and starts out very mechanically. Then adds those stroking sounds with an echo to them, encompassing the stream below being so overwhelming larger than yourself. It's the very blood of the planet. Again the music starts sounding like heavy machines. The stream is being sucked up. Processed. The planet is dying, Cloud!

Final Fantasy 8: Shuffle Or Boogie

An essential part of Final Fantasy or any RPG for that matter is to offer the play a chance to lay back and enjoy himself some time. After all we're not just trying to blast through waves and waves of enemies. We're trying to present a believable world for the player to take part in. Final Fantasy 8 pulled this off beautifully by the addition of a simple card game. Although perhaps I shouldn't be saying simple. This game, called Triple Triad went very deep and had numerous different rule sets that were different for every cultural region in the game. Several players actually liked the game so much that there's a whole website dedicated to playing multiplayer Triple Triad over the internet. Check them out some time.

Triple Triad added a new dimension to NPCs. You could talk to them normally and hear them repeat the same lines over and over, or you could challenge them to a game. If they accept suddenly the background music stops and shifts into a catchy baseline. The world literally disappears and all that's left are two people and their cards. Hands clap as the players dish out their decks and the game begins accompanied by a catchy laid back tune.

FF9 also had a card game btw. I might have cared about that one if it had music half as good as this one.

Final Fantasy 4: The Dreadful Fight

Since this whole feature was inspired by the need for proper boss music, this is exactly the way I'm going to end it. This piece of work from Final Fantasy 4 is as far as I am concerned the pinnacle of all boss themes in the series.

My name is Cecil. I am a knight of Baron. My country has started a war and my king as ordered me to cold bloodedly slay even unresisting citizens. These orders I have obeyed. By my hand cities have burned and children have lost their mothers. I have done much wrong. I do not expect the souls of those fallen by my hand to forgive me. My only chance for redemption is to turn on this land that I love. I will find out the truth behind my king's actions and the one responsible will die by my sword.

This has been Metallion and thank you for reading River City Retro.

Previous entries in the series
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The early eighties is a time of mixed feelings. A saturated market and abominations like E.T. for the Atari 2600 had thrown the western world into the shambles known as the video game crash of '83. Yet it is this very year that on the coasts of the rising sun a miracle was taking place. A company that was once selling playing cards had released the first version of what most of us know as the Nintendo Entertainment System.

Right now, in its county of origin, everybody's going crazy over the 25th anniversary of Super Mario Bros. While I absolutely agree that this is an event worthy of some serious celebration, there is another anniversary that's being largely overshadowed. After all, Nintendo didn't develop the NES just to remain on the Japanese isles forever.

That's why today, exactly 25 years after the NES was released on the American mainland, River City Retro is taking you on a journey across the world. We are going to take an in-dept look at the various shapes and forms the NES took as it conquered the world. Happy anniversary!

 First of all I'll have to a
The early eighties is a time of mixed feelings. A saturated market and abominations like E.T. for the Atari 2600 had thrown the western world into the shambles known as the video game crash of '83. Yet it is this very year that on the coasts of the rising sun a miracle was taking place. A company that was once selling playing cards had released the first version of what most of us know as the Nintendo Entertainment System.

Right now, in its county of origin, everybody's going crazy over the 25th anniversary of Super Mario Bros. While I absolutely agree that this is an event worthy of some serious celebration, there is another anniversary that's being largely overshadowed. After all, Nintendo didn't develop the NES just to remain on the Japanese isles forever.

That's why today, exactly 25 years after the NES was released on the American mainland, River City Retro is taking you on a journey across the world. We are going to take an in-dept look at the various shapes and forms the NES took as it conquered the world. Happy anniversary!

 First of all I'll have to ask myself what exactly defines a NES incarnation. There are millions of unlicensed clones out there. Even now new ones are built and many mimic the designs of current gen consoles. And then there are these TV game kinds of things. NES consoles built into a controller that plug directly into the TV and have a few games built in. There's no way I can cover all of those. To qualify as a proper NES incarnation, the machine needs to either be official, or be so widespread in a single country that it was generally considered to be the real deal.


Japan: The start of it all.

Whenever somebody mentions the console, I automatically think of that classic grey box we had Europe and the USA. However I recently showed mine to a retro shop owner in Akihabara, Tokyo. he reacted as if he has seen a ghost. Never had he seen that box and its huge cartridges before. Unlike him though, most passionate gamers today have spent enough time on the internet to know about Japan's NES which is called the Famicom.

It really doesn't look anything like what we expect a console to look like today. It's got no detachable controllers, the wires are way too short and frankly, the thing's butt ugly. Also cartridges are a lot smaller and don't even fit in the Western consoles. Although it essentially the same NES under the hood, it's life cycle was quite different. For one it didn't need to be masked as a robot toy in order to gain popularity and it got major peripherals that we never got.

Probably the most interesting peripheral was the Famicom Disk System. It looks pretty ugly but despite its looks, it has given us some of the most legendary games of all time. The Disk System put a special ram cartridge in the Famicom and used rewritable floppy-like disks to store its games. Unlike the standard cartridges, these were writable and thus enabled saved games. Making full use of this feature, another milestone released along with the system. That's right. The first disk to land on store shelves proudly sprouted the words The Legend of Zelda. The system went on to produce more classics like Super Mario Bros 2, Metroid and Castlevania II: Simon's Quest

Another notable fact is that the Disk System actually provided its own sound chip. Just have a listen to Castlevania II's Bloody Tears. There are people who swear by the FDS's music and then there are those who say the NES sounds better. Feel free to take your pick. Even after the Disk System was discontinues, some games started providing their own sound chips. The most well known example of this is Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse. Unfortunately Nintendo hadn't anticipated this and the overseas NES wasn't able to use these custom chips.

Famicom disks were much cheaper than cartridges and gamers could buy empty disks to download games at special Nintendo vending machines for a measly tenth of a cartridge's price. As you might have guessed, writable disks had a side effect to them: Piracy! It wasn't long before hackers found ways to run illegally copied games. Another problem was reliability. Both the system and the games were so easy to break. Anyone old enough to have used 3,5 inch floppies on the PC probably remembers a similar horror.

Both of these issues provided the add-on with a severely shortened lifespan. Fortunately for us though, most of its notable games finally did get a cartridge release with the save functionality either replaced by passwords or implemented by battery.

Near the end of its lifetime, the Famicom got a revision called the Famicom AV. This fixed the ugly shell and looks nearly the same as top loader revision released in the states.  Just like the American revision, it came with a new dog-bone-like controller design.

South Korea: Hyundai's piece of the cake

The Famicom-version of Nintendo's 8-bit beauty is easily the most well spread. It provided most of Asia with their Super Mario fix including China, Vietnam, Singapore and the Philippines. Yet there is one little country out there deviating from the rule. A country which is much more known for its professional gaming scene. That place is South Korea. I was amazed when I first dug up this place's 8-bit era. Its NES is the exact same grey box as ours save for one detail. It's got a Hyundai logo right there next to Nintendo's. Why in the world did Korea get the NES while all surrounding countries got the Famicom? And why is Hyundai selling it?

The answer to these questions dates back all the way to World War II. Korea is but one of several countries that suffered from Japanese facist atrocities during this time period. From 1910 until the end of WWII the country was under Japanese rule. With it came a true cultural genocide. Korean cultural objects were either stolen or destroyed, use of the Korean language was made punishable by death, women were coerced into military sex slaves and countless people died in gruesome vivisections. It's no surprise that South Korea was furious with Japan after being liberated in 1945. The country passed a ban on the import of any and all Japanese culture and that included gaming consoles.

Feeling that South Koreans' lives wouldn't be complete without a fat moustached Italian plumber stomping flying turtles, Nintendo struck a deal with Hyundai. As Japanese import was prohibited, Hyundai manufactured the consoles in the US and the design came with it. This incarnation of the NES was called The Hyundai Comboy. Despite its design, the games are incompatible with Western releases and its library was significantly smaller. It's a bit hard to find sources on the little piece of hardware but from what I can tell it hasn't been very successful. I'm guessing that the dominance of PC gaming and competition with pirated Famicom systems led it to obscurity. From what I found out, it does seem like the SNES had a better run as the Super Comboy.

Russia: 9999 in 1

So far we've been covering Nintendo's official releases. Yet there're many countries that the company either couldn't access or simply didn't seem to care about. Lots of these countries had their own way of supplying games that warp their children's fragile little minds. One of such places was Russia. By the time their "NES" surfaced, we were already kicking ass with Super Mario World.

Approximately seven years after Nintendo first released the Famicom, a company called Steepler created their first clone of the system under the name Dendy. The thing looked exactly like a Famicom, save for the colour scheme and the overall build quality. There were a couple of revisions but they never changed more than the type of connection cables and the inclusions of a second controller and/or light gun. One of these Dendy versions actually resembled a Sega Mega Drive rather than a Famicom.

The system used the same type of cartridges that the Famicom did but pretty much no official releases made it over. Instead most of its library consisted of bootlegs and multicarts that claimed to hold 9999 games but in reality only had four. Occasionally there were original pirate productions including ports from popular 16-bit games like Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat but their quality left a lot to wish for.

 Despite lacking even one shred of an official licence, the system was sufficiently marketed. Next to standard TV commercials, there were actually a couple of shows based around the system. One of these was a kind of magazine showing off new games that came out and such while another was a cartoon about the Dendy Elephant, a cute little character that served as a logo. As piracy tends to work, a lot of other consoles started calling themselves Dendy and not even all of them were actually NES systems.


Brazil: battle of the pirates

Let's turn our eyes to Brazil in the same time line. The year is 1990 and back home, the SNES is about to be released. About one year earlier, a company called Tec Toy has actually booked quite the success. They brought over over a fully licenced Sega Master System but that's another story. Just like Russia, it was up to the under the counter markets to bring about the Mario Brothers. The first one to hit the shelves was the Dynavision 2 by Dynacom. As you probably noticed, there's a 2 in the name. What happened to the Dynavision 1 then? That was a clone of the Atari 2600. Anyway the thing was poorly marketed and soon bit the dust but the war wasn't quite waged yet.

One year later Gradiente released their own clone called the Phantom. This one used the NES-style cartridges as opposed to the Famicom-style ones that fit the unsuccessful Dynacom. Piracy was everywhere in Brazil and Gradiente shamelessly released Nintendo's first party games under the name Falcon Soft. It might start to sound very similar to Russia but there's another side to the story.

Next to all the piracy going on, the company actually received licenses from third party developers including Activision and ended up shaking hands with none other than Nintendo themselves. In 1995 they released a fully legal western design NES which they called NES Action Set. Unfortunately it was a bit late to the party and disappeared quickly. Gradiente holds the licence to manufacture and sell official Nintendo hardware even to this day.

This country's piracy scene had one major problem though. Well over 90% of pirate carts including the dendy ones are actually the smaller Famicom version. yet the ever so popular phantom had a NES-style cartridge slot, rendering it completely incompatible. Most people managed to overcome this problem by use of a converter but some people had a more notable solution.

A long time piracy and low quality electronics company called CCE released their own version of the NES which sprouted both cartridge slots side by side. This allowed players to use both pirate releases and Gradiente's semi-official games. One even more inventive company was Hydron. They didn't create their own console but rather made cartridges with Famicom layout on one side and NES layout on the other. Pretty cool stuff.

Poland: A winged horse

After Nintendo made short work of both the Japanese and American markets, they set their eyes on Europe and Australia. Deviding the place in two and letting Mattell handle one half. The only difference between the Nintendo and Mattell version is a little label under the logo though. their mustached mascot soon won over the hearts of my seven years old self and millions of others with me. However, once again there was one region they had completely forgotten. That was Eastern Europe. Much like Brazil, the Polish had to make due with their own pirate system before Nintendo finally stepped in around 1996.

Their NES incarnation was called the Pegasus and information on it seems pretty rare. No matter how much I searched, the only info I've been able to find comes from either Wikipedia or the occasional forum post. If you are Polish and you're reading this, by all means send me an email containing every little detail about this thing. For now I will summarise what I have been able to find out. It seems to have a lot in common with the Dendy.

Not surprisingly, the system runs on Famicom-style cartridges. Despite it being a pirate, it came with two years of warranty. Just like the Dendy, it got so much recognition that it was pretty much considered an official product. The console's first edition greatly resembled the Famicom but a later revision made it a bit more original with controller ports on the side. These revisions arranged the power, eject and reset buttons much like the Japanese/European SNES design. Controllers had four buttons. Usually, clones with extra buttons use them for autofire but some sources say these were actually used by certain original unlicensed games. Nintendo eventually sued the Pegasus when they finally did arrive to the scene. Whether they were successful or not, I have been unable to find out.

I know that this list is far from incomplete. There are just so many different countries in the world. The NES' Wikipedia page writes of Indian clones called the Wiz Kid and the Little Master but I haven't been able to find any info on those anywhere on the net. There are websites that list hundreds upon hundreds of pirated NES clones and I bet there are even more waiting to be discovered. If you are from a place not mentioned here and have something to add to the story, by all means let me know. All I can say is it's been a wild 25 years and the NES has truly managed to conquer the world.

This has been Metallion, and thank you for reading River City Retro!