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2:43 AM on 01.22.2011

Top 10 Greatest Side Scrollers

I'm bored so here's a stupid list!


Okay, I should go more in depth. I'm exhausted with being critical of things. I personally enjoy reading and making top 10 lists. Why? Well because they revolve around people talking about things they love, something most people don't do enough in this negative internet age. So without further adieu, here are my top ten favorite side scrollers.

10. Kirby's Adventure (NES)

I enjoyed this game as a child, and always held it close to my heart as a classic, but I didn't realize just how much I loved Kirby's Adventure until I recently replayed it. Released in 1993, Kirby's Adventure is one of the most graphically impressive NES games. The level of detail is exquisite and one could easily confuse it for an SNES or Genesis game. One of the big appeals of the Kirby series is their undeniable charm, and this game is no different. It is through this charm that the Kirby games manage to be extremely engaging and fun despite their lack of challenge. This game is a blast to play as well. The levels, dreamy soundtrack, the awesome power ups, the fun mini games. There is a lot to love here. Enough for it to grab number 10 on the countdown.

9. Gimmick! (NES)

And here to confirm that this list isn't just a nostalgia trip, my number 9 choice is Gimmick!, a game I only became aware of and played in 2010. Gimmick! Or Mr. Gimmick as it is known outside of Japan, was a 1992 NES game that unfortunately never made it here to the U.S. It's an absolutely fantastic game in every way. Like Kirby's Adventure the game features cute character designs, a lullaby style soundtrack and a fantastic level of detail in the graphics.

The game has a unique mechanic. Yumetarō attacks by shooting stars out of his head that bounces similar to Mario's fireballs. The difference is how it bounces is effected by angle. In addition, Yumetarō can jump on his stars, temporarily hitch a ride with them and use them as platforms. Mastering this skill is necessary for beating the game. This game also has multiple endings. In every one of the game's six levels lies a special treasure. If you collect them and beat the game without using a continue you'll unlock the last level and final boss. And let me tell you, the jumps required to get most of these treasures are nut bustingly hard. The game makes you work to earn that happy ending. The bosses are all awesome as well. They actually seem quite intelligent and rather than operating on a pattern, many require you to juke them into creating an opening where you can attack. The battles are very intense and awesome. Also, the true final boss is one of the most ridiculous things I've ever seen, but in an awesome way. If you are interested in a good playthrough, here is where you want to go.

8. Bucky' O Hare (NES)

Bucky 'O Hare A.K.A. "Konami's answer to Megaman" is a good game to be sure, but I think the number one reason why this game is on this list is because of its absolutely rockin' soundtrack. Seriously. These tunes absolutely kick ass. If you are unaware, Bucky 'O Hare was based on a hilariously cheesy 1991-92 animated series of the same name involving space freedom fighter who battles the toad empire, a race that blindly follows an artificial intelligence named C.O.N.Q.U.E.S.T. that controls information and media. It's interesting in that you will never see another kids show as condemning of mass media and consumerism replacing education as this one. It constantly takes pot shots at so many TV shows it's ridiculous.

The game itself is very Megaman like in style. You start out with a choice of levels, beating them frees a member of Bucky's crew, each of them acting as both a new weapon and a special power. The levels are all fantastic and unique, my favorite being The Center of the Magma Tanker. The game operates on a lot of instant death traps, but the game is forgiving in its check points and has unlimited continues. Overall, it's an awesome game with great challenges and bosses. It also has the honor of being one of the best licensed games of all time.

7. Ristar (Genesis)

Ristar deserves another game. The guy rocks and this game is one of the best things Sega has ever released. Ristar was originally proposed as one of Sega's possible new mascots to replace Alex Kid. Originally he was a rabbit that grabbed things with his ears. Eventually he got redesigned and the concept was eventually followed through with and finished in 1995. Ristar himself is a poor jumper, the key to the game is mastering using his stretchy arms to interact with the environment and objects. The game moves at a slower paced compared to its sibling series, Sonic. Ristar himself is very acrobatic which makes him and his game an interesting and fantastically executed contrast to Sonic himself.

The game is very similar to Sonic in structure. There are two level acts followed by a third boss act. The graphics are some of the best on the genesis as well. From forests of Planet Flora, to the sunken castles of Planet Undertow, the game is absolutely beautiful to look at and a blast to play.
Sonic Unleashed disappoints me. It's not because "WEREHOG GIMMICK" either. The Werehog is Ristar 3D, which deserved its own game with much better designed levels and the repetitive combat thrown out rather than just being shoe horned into a Sonic game.

Also, the Mole boss is one of the best bosses ever.

6. Rocket Knight Adventures (Genesis)

The second Sega Genesis game to make my list, Rocket Knight Adventure follows the same philosophy as Gimmick!, Ristar and Bucky 'O Hare. Comparatively short, but god damn does it have it where it counts and wanting more isn't always a bad thing. Rocket Knight Adventures' protagonist, Sparkster, is one of the few mascots with attitude fondly looked back upon today. Sparkster's sword features an awesome risk reward style of combat and his jetpack is an awesome gimmick. Short, but extraordinary in every other way, Rocket Knight Adventures makes my list at number 6.

5. Super Metroid (Super Nintendo)

This was one of the games I never had the chance to play until recent years, and still managed to completely blow me away. I don't really know what to say about this game that hasn't already been said. I love the exploration. I love the power up. It just feels so rewarding and fun. The power ups are so fantastic, each feel like they add something new and unique to the game that helps give gameplay an extraordinary amount of depth rarely ever seen.

4. Super Mario Bros. 3

Super Mario Bros. 3 is my favorite 2D Mario Game. It's one of the most groundbreaking games of all time and improved upon the original in absolutely every way. There are only three ways Super Mario Bros. 3could be improved: Yoshi, stereo sound and a more diverse soundtrack.

3. Metal Storm

I hadn't heard of this game until I stumbled upon the Happy Video Game Nerd's review of it so I have to thank him for introducing me to one of the best side scrollers of all time. The game is based off of gravity, or to be specific, the ability to reverse gravity on command. A simple mechanic but god damn the game's genius levels really utilize it. The game is also one of the most graphically impressive on the NES. With its genius levels, amazing graphics, perfect controls, and awesome bosses comes with the highest recommendation. It's one of the most criminally underrated and underplayed games of all time.

2. Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong-Quest (Super Nintendo)

I'm going to be honest and probably offend a lot of people here. Even as a kid I've always felt the original Donkey Kong Country was a 7/10 game with 11/10 graphics. The level design is a tad bland to be honest. Donkey Kong Country 2 improved on absolutely every aspect of the game. It improves on the aspect of having two characters that you switch between; it improves on the animal friends, specifically making Squawks awesome. It improves on the music, providing not just appropriate music, but absolutely awesome catchy tunes as opposed to the more subdued ambient music of the original. The levels are extraordinary. The bosses are all improved. Every individual aspect of the game is about as high quality as it comes. Dixie is an improvement as a player character over the title character himself as well.

The enemy variety is varied and perfectly tuned, each of them representing a specific obstacle and all of them just being awesome. I remember reading through the strategy guide as a kid thinking "If there was a game where you could play as the pirate themed Kremlins it would kick so much ass."

One thing I have I have to mention is the swamp levels. These are one of the very few swamp levels in video games that are actually aesthetically pleasing and not a pain in the ass.
I guess I'm rambling. It's hard to contain my love for this game.

1. Sonic 3&Knuckles (Genesis)

Sonic 3&Knuckles is my favorite Sonic the Hedgehog game. It's my favorite side scrolling game and it is one of my favorite games of all time. While Donkey Kong Country 2 was a vast improvement over its predecessor, Sonic 3&Knuckles takes the formula of the original Sonic 1 and Sonic 2 and perfects it. It's such an improvement over the previous entries that I have a difficult time going back and playing them.

It's contains one of my favorite video game soundtracks of all time (And Michael Jackson did not compose it and I will argue with anyone who says otherwise). Every zone's music fits and is memorable.

The game strikes a perfect balance between speed gimmicks, slower platforming and obstacles requiring speed. Everyone says Sonic was "Extremely Fast" but they weren't. There was variety to them.

The Graphics and Art style rock. Artistically, few games execute the "Fire, Water, Ice, Sky, Jungle, and Forest Ect. Ect." tropes as well as this game. Ice Cap Zone in particular is my favorite ice level ever..

The addition of the Fire, Bubble and Lightning Shields adds a lot of flavor to the game. When playing as Sonic. Its fun experimenting with them to see which one allows for faster runs.

This is one of the only sonic games where the alternate characters are neither redundant nor annoying.

I love having some form of miniboss or boss at the end of every level. They feel like periods at the end of sentences that every other Sonic game lacked.

The existence of a save feature.

The game's levels rock. The buildup in tension from the very first level all the way to the Death Egg and finally Doomsday Zone is masterful. Doomsday Zone itself is one of the best climaxes in video game history.

I can go on and on. There are some criticisms I can make, however. Marble Zone and Carnival Night Zone over stay their welcome. I wish Sonic's third boss in Launch Base Zone act 2 showed up. However, these flaws pale in comparison to the overwhelming greatness of the game.

Those are my top 10 Favorite side scrollers. I hope you enjoyed the list.

Honorable Mentions:
Castlevenia: Symphony of the Night
Yoshi's Island
Megaman 2
Ninja Gaiden
Comix Zone
Sonic CD   read

12:39 AM on 12.01.2010

Shortblog: Epic Mickey: Accessible to nongamers?

A few of you might have read my Epic Mickey Review.

Since I had already written it, I decided to post it on and the reception has been fairly good. However, one comment has thrown me for a loop. It goes:

Great, great review. So, I need your help. . . I have literally never played a home game beyond Wii Resort and Wii Sports. I am, um, sort of getting old. Will I be overwhelmed by this? I barely knew what some of the things (like "bosses") you were talking about. Am I going to get frustrated with the game and "Emma" it onto the barby? Thanks. Play advice for a first-timer is extremely welcome.

I answered to the best I could, but I was still very stumped by this answered.

We gamers take things like moving in 3D, jumping and aiming and for granted. We forget how much weight names like Disney and Mickey Mouse carry that can easily carry interested parties across mediums. We forget that its very much like riding a bike. It might be kind of intimidating at first but once you get the hang of it and you never forget it.

Now that the game has been released. I want you to tell me, is Epic Mickey accessible to nongamers and gamers alike? I honestly can't tell for the life of me. I guess I've experienced gaming at a broad enough spectrum that any tutorial seemed almost excessive to me. I can't even comprehend how it must be towards new players.

Said person went on to buy the game, and it feels very rewarding to have influenced someone based on my honest opinion. Now that the game is out, how do you feel?


Do you think my avatar is adorable? Its my favorite image of Mickey from the game.   read

2:10 PM on 11.26.2010

Review: Disney Epic Mickey

Without a doubt, Epic Mickey is a game that is going to polarize people. A few might have read Holme's review and possibly my comments on it. At the same time, I both agree with and disagree with his review. This is possible the hardest I've ever had to struggle to rate something. You can rate Epic Mickey anywhere between 6-10 stars and it never feels appropriate. It almost defies rating.

Disney Epic Mickey is a Wii exclusive developed by Junction Point Studio, headed by the legendary Warren Spector. The game is to be released November 30th and came in the mail for me far earlier than it should have. Disney and Junction Point intend to revitalize Mickey Mouse into a more relevant figure through video games, and reintroduce Oswald to the world. A monumental task to be sure, but in pursuit of that goal, Warren Spector has created a game unlike any other.

The game is simple and intuitive in its control. Mickey is equipped with a double jump, and spin attack, as well as the ability to use paint and thinner with his brush. It's very natural and is utilized quite well in the game itself. For two simple choices of painting and thinning, the game gets quite creative with level design, questing, exploration and boss battles.

One the biggest issue with this game is knowing how to approach it. This game will undoubtedly draw comparisons to the two Mario Galaxy games and I will say right now that those comparisons are, for the most part, going to be wrong because of the simple fact that the Mario Galaxy games are as linear as 3D platforming gets while Epic Mickey's maps are mostly nonlinear. There is nothing wrong with either approach, but it's important to know and understand the benefits and limitations of both to be able to appreciate what Epic Mickey has to offer.

The Super Mario Galaxy games used their linearity to craft obstacle courses with extremely well tuned challenges that are second to none. However the games gave up any sense of exploration or giving the world any coherency in order to do so. With Epic Mickey, it's an entirely different beast. Not only is it non linear, but it also has to resemble a functioning cartoon world. Because of this, the challenges you are expected to go through aren't and will never be as perfectly tuned as in the Galaxy games but that works fine with the game because it compensates with a sense of freedom, exploration and free roaming. Comparing the two based only on how fine tuned the platforming is would be akin to comparing Oblivion or Minecraft to Halo and saying those two are inferior because the archery in those games aren't as fun as shooting in Halo is. Epic Mickey stands with the best nonlinear 3D platformers and this is and this achievement of it is going to get lost in the Super Mario Galaxy comparisons.

While the game and its levels have a slow start for about an hour or so, the game manages to pick up pace and provide some creative, breath taking, atmospheric (A word you will see repeated many times in this review) nonlinear levels. The game's reimagining of known Disney locations provides an incredibly varied game world that is just a blast to explore for both Disney fans and nonfans alike thanks to being well executed both technical and artistically. While much of the magic will be lost on nonfans, the game's dark, colorful, creative and varied environments will still be engaging. The game is also one of the atmospheric and immersive platformers ever made. The mood and tone practically creeps off the stages and pulls you in. There games frame rate does drop from time to time but this is a rare enough happening to keep from ruining the experience.

Speaking of engaging, Epic Mickey sports a fantastic narrative and story that runs the gamut of emotions from hilarious, to tragic, scary and very heartwarming. The game's narrative stands as one of the better video game stories and holds its own with the better Disney and Pixar films. The game gives Mickey and Oswald a startling amount of depth. And the game's many NCPs and quest givers are just a blast to talk to, just to hear what they want to say.

The game's music is simply award worthy. The score does what it needs to perfectly well, always serving to enhance to mood, the action and atmosphere of the game. It dances back and forth between ambient tracks, truly epic combat music, and strange, surreal twisted ones such as an awesome remix of "Its a Small World",

Hey Holmes, I'm in ur review, stealin' ur pics!

Unfortunately, the game is hit by some considerable flaws. The camera is the single biggest problem in the game. There is a good chance the camera will kill you more than anything else in the game. It can be auto focused on Mickey with the press of a button, but this option isn't always available. While there is certainly an impressive number of quests in the game, far too many of them are simple fetch quests.
Combat isn't this game's forte either. Mickey can befriend enemies with paint, or erase them with thinner. There are also animatronic enemies that require other methods to defeat. Unfortunately, all enemies feel a bit too bloated with hit points, requiring a bit too much paint or thinner to deal with them. At the same time, enemy variety is very dull. Combat could be improved by speeding it up and adding more enemies each with unique ways of taking them down. Boss battles are exempt from this, however. They are all fun, imaginative and have multiple ways of dealing with them. Unfortunately, the game could have used several more bosses to break up periods of exploration and questing.

When moving between game worlds, Mickey jumps through a projector, taking him to a 2D creation of a classic Disney short that he has to traverse to reach the next game world. While these are provide really neat recreations, the feel out of place with the rest of the game mostly because of the lack of danger or challenge in them. It simple feels as though they are padding between the game zones, rather than an integral part of the game play and pacing. That said, most all of these can be completed in less than a minute and aren't that distracting.

Not particularly relevant, but it makes me laugh.

Overall, Epic Mickey's numerous flaws are particularly frustrating, not because they ruin the game, but because the game is so good. With better enemy variety and combat, more boss battles, improved and a better camera, and less reliance on fetch quests, Epic Mickey really could have been one of the all time greats. Instead it is simply a rock solid game for Wii owners, and a must have for Disney fans, story loving gamers and fans of platforming and exploration.

Score: 8 -- Great (8s are impressive efforts with a few noticeable problems holding them back. Won't astound everyone, but is worth your time and cash.)   read

12:53 PM on 11.15.2010

Shortblog: Question to everyone about this console generation

I've notice a few people on the internet talking about the Wii. Some of them trolls, some of them not. Some of them hilariously entertaining trolls, and other..not. Anyway, many of them state that the Wii's very inferior hardware to the PS3 and XBox360 limits the gaming experiences it can offer. That the experiences it can provide are inferior because it isn't keeping up with the advances made this generation.

This provoked a mini revelation in me. Before this generation every new generation of consoles created a paradigm shift in game design. Aside from improved graphics and HD, what are the console games of today providing that the consoles last generation were absolutely unable?

Yes, there have been advances in gaming. Motion control, online gaming, indie games and downloadable content really took off this generation. All of those are advances but they haven't resulted in the massive changes in game design as seen in each previous generation.

Did gaming plateau last generation? I'm not trying to be preachy here, but I'm actually wracking my brain trying to think of how this generation has improved upon the last one. What do you think?   read

2:10 AM on 10.25.2010

Trying New Things: Being a PS3 Owner: Part 1

I have never owned a PlayStation Console before in my life.  I've played with them a bit at my brother's place and at friend's places, but I've never owned one or really played it too much aside from a few games every now and then, but I've always been too big of a Sega fan boy to grab one even after Sega left the console market.  Well, a friend badgered me into buying a backwards compatible PS3 and I figured I'll share my thoughts on it and the games I play.

The Set

First off, the fucker is fucking huge. I mean liek XBOX HUGE.  I'd never really seen one up close or at least tried to find shelf space for it and DAMN. I had it all planned out with my  Wii and Dreamcast, the two systems I still play the most, on the top of my shelf with the rest of them arranged in order of personal preference.  Unfortunately that didn't work out without the whole thing turning into an even bigger cluster fuck so my Sega Saturn got the boot and now they're arranged roughly in order of their release date.

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9:08 PM on 09.28.2010

Final Fantasy XIV is the worst MMORPG I have ever played

It's just so boring. I could forgive the game's many faults if it just wasn't so boring, the combat, the characters, the story, the enemies, everything. Everything is so fucking convoluted and a pain to manage. The menu system is confusing and unnecessarily complex. You have to navigate through two or three more menus of shit than what is needed or desirable. The game is bugged up to hell as well. All MMO's are going to have a few bugs, but they left some glaring, game breaking ones. I suppose that's what happens when you don't except bug reports during open beta. Like the "You Defeat You" bug that leaves you unable to rez for two days, or the infinite XP bug.

The pay system is bullshit as well. 10$ a month doesn't seem that bad, but you have to pay 3$ for your first character and all additional subsequent characters. It's a blatant trap to fool people into thinking the monthly fee is less than it really is. That's just a bad business model as well. Why would you punish players for rolling alts? It keeps them busy and interested and paying.

I can kind of see where they were going with it, and that might have worked if the game was given another year to develop. An MMORPG where you don't have to be a combatant to level and succeed would be an interesting thing, but the crafting and gathering are so convoluted, boring and unfun that that doesn't work either. Oh and not having an automatic recipe book sucks as well.

Healers being unable to gain XP while healing=lolfail.

I do have to compliment how it looks, the environments look fantastic, but that's ruined by how abominably bad the animations are. The run animations are unbelievably laughable. The attack animations are all very under blown. I can't believe how bad and laughable all the animations are when they used motion capture. Seriously, in real life put more effort when swinging a sword. When you throw something like a rock with the intent to seriously hurt you put more effort into it than the characters would. Arguing for realism in a game like this is pointless anyway. If you really want realism, then Thaumaturges and Conjurers are gone (Speaking of which, it looks like they put no effort at all into spell animations). In order to perform a kill against an armored opponent you have to knock them down and stab them between armor joints. There is your realism.

I think Spoony put it best; "It really looks like two soulless marionettes impotently and emotionlessly taking turns swatting limp wristedly at each other." Hell, WoW's character animations are superior.

They will never be able to release another Final Fantasy MMORPG. This game was absolutely not ready for launch and they jumped the gun probably a year too early. That franchise is done. They've absolutely killed it. Anyone who defends that game is a sheep who blindly adores anything with the Final Fantasy name on it. I'm enjoying this whole event though. I don't think we will ever see a more popular franchise with this much weight to its name absolutely flame out in front of us like this will. Seriously, enjoy the show people.   read

5:34 PM on 09.27.2010

MMORPGs: Why does WoW succeed while others can't catch up?

This is inspired by The Escapist's new series, Extra Credits. If you haven't seen it go check it out.

I'm almost tempted to say that aside from World of Warcraft, the MMORPG genre is in fact, dying. Right now everyone is trying to get in on some of the action and failing, they're flooding and saturating the market and aside from a few games that already had followings, none of them are doing particularly well, at least here in the west. My first MMO experience was Phantasy Star Online for the Dreamcast. I thought it was fantastic, and it's still very fun today, although the lack of online servers makes it very niche. Now MMO's had been around earlier than this, but it was right about here when PSO and Everquest came out that really started to define the genre.

These games could both be looked at as translations of the JPRG or Table Top RPG formulas. PSO wanted to go with a more Action RPG, with manual attacks that must be aimed (Something I'm surprised never caught on with the MMO Genre as a whole and evolved from there. The only game series I've seen that follows in its footsteps are the Monster Hunter series), while Everquest went with a table top formula, with your attacks automatically going off on your target and everything is based on stats. Everquest in particular came out right when commercialized internet really, really started to take off in ways completely unexpected. These were, relatively speaking, niche games. Oh at the time they were huge relatively speaking, but none of the RPGs came close to obtaining the level of what WoW would years later.

Phantasy Star Online: Primitive but awesome.

WoW both obliterated the competition and expanded the MMO consumer market in ways completely unheard of before. I believe there was something more at work here than brand name recognition, or even it being a good MMORPG that contributed towards its success. I'm going to try to list them.
1. It was more accessible to the average person.

Back when WoW was released it was still a lot of work to level. However, the average person could expect to hit level 60 and do the higher level dungeons and maybe even the raids. WoW also really focused on its questing system as a leveling system for solo players. While doing dungeons gave you a better chance at look, if you really just wanted to level up alone and explore the world, you totally could, and WoW arguably the best world design in an MMORPG.
2. Most importantly, WoW moved away from being just an MMORPG.

WoW's player base grew steadily as the game continued on, but it absolutely exploded in the later patches of vanilla and especially after the first expansion, Burning Crusade. This is because consumers as a whole lost interest in the standard MMORPG game play, and WoW moved away from it pretty drastically over a fairly short amount of time.

As I've said before, MMORPGS draw a lot of inspiration from JRPGs and table top games, specifically Dungeons and Dragons. At the same time, with how other genres like Action Adventure and the FPS genres moved forward. Those slower genres started to wane in popularity even while gaming as a whole was exploding. The JRPG genre has mostly died out aside from the heavy hitter genres like Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, and the Shin Megami Tensei. Seriously, just look at the number of popular RPGs from the Fifth, Sixth, and seventh game generations. The PSX's library alone outnumbers the two following generations in successful financial JRPGs. These games have gradually died out because people expected more involving gameplay. You can see this happening with Table Top RPGs as well. The fourth edition of D&D really streamlined things to appeal to a wider audience. It was falling in popularity before that.

As I said, WoW moved away from the influences of those genres and gained unprecedented more popularity because of it. WoW started approaching its bosses with very specific actions it wanted from the player. There were AOEs you need to dodge, attacks you were expected to avoid, spells demanding quick dispelling and weaknesses you were expected to exploit. More and more, wow started drawing from the Action/Adventure genre as opposed to the MMORPG genre. C'thun in particular was a landmark for the MMORGP genre. While other MMO's had tried this, none had included as bosses of this style. Watch at least part of this.

This is actually kind of exciting to watch. Admit it, it actually looks exciting to play. You could rarely say that about MMORPGs before this. After the Burning Crusade, almost every boss was like this to some extent, with raid bosses getting really unique.

MMORPGs have fallen out of flavor and yet so many keep rehashing that same formula established in 1999. A lot of players expect the genre to move forward into more involved gameplay styles and WoW is the only one that has done that and done that well. That said Guild Wars 2, probably the most anticipated new MMO, seems to heading in an MMO Action/Adventure/RPG route. There are thing like dodge rolling to avoid attacks, as well as kills requiring finishing moves. Tera Online is another MMORPG going in this direction. It removes sticky targeting altogether and goes for a console hack and slash type set up. I can't judge these games, but I can say that you're going to see more and more MMORPGs in this style.

If there is ever an MMO similar in play style to 3D Zelda games, I would be so over that like you wouldn't believe.

P.S. Final Fantasy XIV is HILARIOUSLY bad.   read

1:09 PM on 07.27.2010

Stop Using Sand As a Death Trap!

Just look at all that instant death. Yay....

I think this just might be the most annoying pet peeve in video games. It's not a trend like Mascots with Attitude, or space themed FPS games with characters in Space Armor. It's been with us since at least the NES years (Super Mario Bros. 2 and 3 comes to mind). It's like a game of "The Floor Is Lava", except not fun and annoying. Yes, I'm talking about the "All Sand is a Death Trap" cliché, or as TvTropes calls it "Quicksand Sucks".

There are some acceptable breaks from reality when it comes to video games. I can get past a lot of things in video games that might bug me, but no matter what I roll my eyes when I see this. I can believe a character can fly. I can believe a character is incapable of swimming and as such, falling into water is an instant kill (Even though this doesn't rank much higher). I can believe a character can swim underwater and never have to worry about drowning.

The reason I find this so annoying is that, while I can accept certain things in favor of gameplay (Especially considering how much of a pain in the ass water can be), this is sand we're talking about. It often means a desert land, or an Egyptian themed land, and I actually really like those. Let's take a look at some now.

It's a lazy way of programming other hazards, such as endless pits. With an endless pit, I just see empty sky, not possibilities. When I see an endless plain of sand that will instantly kill me, it simply feels like its depriving me of places to go. I can take it in small parts like a sand whirlpool like in The Haunted Wasteland Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time(Although that franchise has never been above using it).

There is a death trap somewhere out there...

Just having this huge massive area of instant kill sand is annoying, disappointing, and lame. I'm surprised I've never heard anyone else ever bring this up.   read

2:16 AM on 05.04.2010

Shortblog: New Game Overthinker Response to Ebert

I have to admit, I hate the "Are games art" debate. The only arguments in gaming that bother me more are console wars. Its basically an argument of semantics rather than games themselves. And lo and behold, as I was coming up with ideas to give my two cents on the whole issue so I can finally put it past me, the Game Overthinker posted a new video pretty much stating everything that needs to be said much better than I could.

Just replace every "Super Mario Bros 3" with "Jet Set Radio Future" ; )   read

10:47 AM on 04.24.2010

Top 10 Underrated Video Game Characters.

Don't you just love loving things you think are underrated? I know I do. There is something almost magical about stumbling onto something on the internet that you've never heard of, only to find out its absolutely amazing and inspiring you to tell the world. Since at some point and time it seems everyone in here makes a list on video games or video game characters I figure I might as well do mine. I'm going to count down my top 10 underrated video game characters, why they were ignored and why you should love them too.

10. Ristar (Ristar)

Overlooked because of: Parental Favoritism.

Why you should love him: Most people around here are aware of Ristar, and as such I don't feel I need to go into much detail explaining him. Ristar was a great, unique platformer and Ristar was an awesome character. He was cute, but also had a lot of personality. Sadly, Sega doesn't exactly treat its older franchises very well, and he was never given another game again.

Any hope for new a game?: The answer is a resounding "Maybe, but unlikely." Sega has recently spoken about their treating its older franchises with more respect. While the possibility of a Ristar is possible, I doubt very much that

9. Sparkster (Sparkster Series)

Overlooked Because of: Changing industry.

Why you should love him: Let me get this out of the way. Sparkster Rocks. No if, ands, or buts about it. In sea of Sonic imitators, Sparkster stood out. It was one part awesome gameplay, one part great character. Sparkster isn't just some bad ass with a bad attitude, he actually had more of a timeless look to him. That and he's just so inventive, even among all of the other quirky mid 90s platformers. He's a knight with a jet pack. Seriously, how awesome is that?! Did I mention that he's also adorable? While he was a big hit back in the day, the animal mascots eventually fell out favor with the industry as a whole. In addition most franchises were making the leap to 3D and the Sparkster series can't really translate into a 3D game. There were two additional games in the franchise on the Super Nintendo and the Genesis, but interest in him died down until recently.

Any hope for a new game?: Actually you're in luck! There has been a new Sparkster game in development and its release date has been set for May. As in next month. Awesome, huh? You should totally buy it.

8. Zeke (Zombies Ate My Neighbors)

Overlooked because of: No real continuation of the franchise.

Why you should love him: Zeke is just cool. Not only was Zombies Ate My Neighbors awesome, but he's also got such a neat character design. Name another video game protagonist who is a complete horror movie junkie who always wears 3D glasses?

Any hope for a new game?: Probably not.

7. Arioch (Drakengard)

Overlooked Because of: Very niche game

Why you should love her: Drakengard is a game I can't help but respect. I categorize it in the same place I categorize Fragile Dreams: Games with great narratives but lack luster game play. Drakengard is very grindy, bleak, and the switch between ground stages and aerial stages is very jarring. Why is this game so and Arioch in particular so cool? The extremely violent, dark, and brutal narrative. When it comes to darker and edgier narratives there are three main ways you can do them. I like to call them the Evil Dead path(Treating the extreme violence and gore as a joke relying on narm charm or dark humor to pull it off), The God of War path (extreme violence handled with the maturity of a Mario game, or as an extreme sport of some kind) and finally, The Berserk Path (Hyper Violence that exists in a dark, serious, and adult minded narrative). Drakengard does the latter, and is the only time I've seen a video game ever try to tackle narrative and character sensibilities usually reserved for the darker end of the spectrum of Seinen manga and not fall flat on its face (Narrative wise at least).

Arioch is on this list because in a complete crapsack world filled with very, very, very disturbed characters, she manages to take the cake. Not only is she batshit insane, she also eats babies. I know you probably chuckled at that, but I assure you it's actually quite disturbing. Did I mention she's on your side?

Any chance for a new game?: There was a Drakengard 2 that was released. Unfortunately it had a much lighter and softer tone compared to the original and Arioch vanished from the story completely. There have been rumors of a Drakengard 3 so keep your ears open.

6. Mr. Gimmick (Gimmick!!)

Overlooked because of: Never localized.

Why you should love him: The internet is a wonderful thing isn't it? Before, your chances of hearing about or even playing this amazing game were extremely limited. Mr. Gimmick(Just called Gimmick!! in Japan) is a cute stuffed animal that shoots stars from his head to defeat enemies. You can also jump on stars and ride them, and mastering this is required to beat the game. But seriously, just look at Mr. Gimmick. He's just so cute! A full playthrough of the game can be found here. Roms of this game aren't terribly hard to find. I warn you though, this game is reaaaaaaaaaaaaally hard.

Any hope for a new game: Probably not.

5. Every single Undead Protagonist in a video game ever.

Overlooked because of: THERE IS NO FUCKING EXCUSE FOR THIS!!

Why you should love them: Okay, I'm kind of cheating with this one, but I can't help it. I love zombies. No, I adore zombies. They're so much fun. I tend to dislike things involving killing zombies though. It has been played out so much is become almost a joke in of itself. That said, I love games with zombies as protagonists. There isn't a terrible abundance of these kinds of games, though they are often times they are huge commercial and critical successes. Sadly they often seem to be forgotten by the shuffle of time and video gaming culture. Anyone who knows me knows that if there is ever an option to play as a cute female undead nothing can stop me from rolling one. Let's take a look at some of the ones we may be forgetting and give them some love.

Zombio and Zombiko rock. They should totally get their own action adventure series instead of just House of the Dead EX

Any hope for a new game?: For those guys up there? Probably not. That said, someday someone will get the crazy idea to have a zombie protagonist in a video game.

4. Emperor Taco. (Emperor Taco's Great Escape)
Overlooked because of: People's dislike of playing as food.

Emperor Taco was an absolutely brilliant platformer for the Sega Genesis and one that has been completely forgotten by history. It's filled to the brim with brilliant level design, an absolutely insane world, and of course, Emperor Taco. In Emperor Taco's Great Escape, you play as the titular character, an anthropomorphic taco with a royal scepter and a crown. You use your lettuce to grapple and swing, your scepter to smack stuff, and you have refined beans as land mines. Also, if the timer ran out, you were instantly killed by an overweight man who would eat you. And I don' t just mean swallow you who, he would tackle you and go at it like a wild animal.

Any chance of a new game?: No as the company that made the game, Steven's PJs Games, went out of business in 1996.

3. Wandering Ghosts (Castlevania: Symphony of the Night)

Overlooked because of: Its part of the OST.

Why you should love it: Shut up! Yes, I know it's a song. But just listen to it! It's a character of the game in its own right. It's a crazy blend of music you would NEVER expect to hear in a Castlevania game; A crazy blend of jazz, bossa nova, classical, funk, and a dash of techno in there as well.

Any hope for a new game?: While there is always a new Castlevania game on the horizon, this particular song on the soundtrack doesn't game much love. Konami has never been shy about remixing its more popular tracks for newer games, but it's very unlikely to see this game appear in another Castlevania installment, let alone star in one like it deserves even if that is theoretically impossible.

2. Yo-Yo. (Jet Set Radio)

Overlooked because of: Too good to last.

Why you should love him:Ah yes, Yo-Yo. You're probably wondering "Well whats so special about him? Sure he was in a good but underrated game but he wasn't really a character". I'm here to inform you that that thinking is wrong. Not only is Yo-Yo a good character, he is the deepest character. Ever. In Jet Set Radio Future, Yo-Yo is portrayed as a kid who joins the GGs simply out of boredom. He is considered a compulsive liar with a silver tongue. He's crippled by a huge superiority complex, trying to impress people with his constant lying and tall tales. Each of his "WHO DA MAN!?"s isn't a boast. It is a cry for attention and help. At the same time, Yo-Yo is redeemed through his athletic skills and his growing friendship with the ever growing GGs. However, his desire for attention and adoration leads him to go after the Golden Rhinos alone, leading to his capture. However, the power of friendship manages to overcome the rhinos and Yo-Yo is freed!

You see? I told you Yo-Yo doesn't just rock, he's fucking deep.

Any hope for a sequel?: We are very unlikely to see a new console installment of the Jet Set Radio franchise. They might be critical successes, but they are extreme financial failures. The last installment was the on the GBA in 2003.

1. Flame Mammoth (Megaman X)

Overlooked because of: Zero, the Ensemble Darkhorse stole the spotlight.

Why you should love him: I don't know why people loved Zero when Flame Mammoth was also in the game. He really deserved every single bit of the love. The Megaman and Megaman X franchise were never exactly creative with the bosses. You have guys like Chill Penguin, Snakeman, and so on. Then Flame Mammoth came along. When you think of a Mammoth boss, you think they would use ice because they lived in the Ice Age but NO. This guy uses FUCKING FIRE. He breaks all the conventions. This is why Flame Mammoth is my personal favorite Megaman and he should be yours to.

Any hope for a new game?: There better fucking be! When the hell is Flame Mammoth going to get the game that he deserves?!   read

5:39 AM on 04.05.2010

Top 10 reasons why Jet Set Radio Future is the apex of fun

I'm currently bored, as I haven't been able to think of anything to write about. So I figured I'd talk about something that I just particularly like, and I'm just enough of a narcissist to think you people are interested in hearing why. Jet Set Radio Future for the original XBox, depending on who you ask, is either the sequel or retelling of Jet Grind Radio for the Dreamcast, and to put it bluntly, undoubtedly my favorite game of all time. The words "Criminally underappreciated" do not even begin to describe its reception, as it bombed spectacularly with only 30,000 sales, costing Sega so much that they have refused to even discuss making another installment for almost 10 years. I'm sure there are more than a couple users here who know exactly what I'm talking about. Jet Set Radio Future is an achievement in video game history for a number of reasons, but particularly because of the insane level of pure mischievous fun this game offers. So here are my top 10 reasons why Jet Set Radio Future is the best

1. Easy and intuitive controls.
The first Jet Grind Radio was unique in its approach to controls compared to other sports related games. It completely ignored the established conventions of the genre by deciding to treat inline skating as more of an action adventure game, rather than the usual combo ridden controls used for other skating games. The result was something that most, if not every gamer, could just pick up and play.

Jet Grind Radio Future takes this approach even farther; it not only made rail grinding even easier, it also allowed players to control increase their speed through the use of a trick system. By hitting either the "X" or "Y" buttons with a steady rhythm, players could have continuous speed on rails, even if by mistake they didn't land on at the desired speed, allowing players to be capable of grinding a rail in its entirety. In addition, they removed the use of the "move faster" button (which had a cool down), so players could essentially move at top running speed at all times, and they added a boost for XTREME speed, which could be used for moving faster, making longer jumps, and for defeating certain enemies. Also, you could actually fight and defeat enemies in this game, opposed to the Pac Man style game play of avoiding enemies and instead defeat enemies as well as having boss fights to break up the game play from just using graffiti and collecting Graffiti Souls. Speaking of graffiti, they also did away with the wonky Simon Says style of spraying graffiti, instead, you just run up the marked area and push the right trigger, automatically spraying graffiti on the area. There is also a lot of depth and nuance to the movement and jumping, which are no means required to beat the game, but mastering them will make your life easier. The end result was something tighter, more accessible, and more sound than in the original.

2. Genius Level Design.


This is one area where Jet Set Radio Future triumphs over all other games. In the original, you just selected a stage on a map, and left when you marked all the tags. In Jet Set Radio Future, however, all of the stages are actually connected to each other, giving a much better sense of the world you're in as well as making. Despite not actually being a sandbox game, Jet Set Radio Future manages to create the illusion of a living, breathing city better than any game I've seen, while still managing to create intricately designed levels that are absolutely brilliant in their design. This game actually has more in common with platformers than most sports games or other action adventure games, all while looking like a believable city and without any of the "Hijack a car to drive on roads" shenanigans. Some of the larger levels are unbelievably complex, with so many different paths and nooks and crannies that I don't think I've ever managed to explore them all in all my years of playing this game. To be honest, you don't even really need to know all of the ins and outs to complete the game. Speaking of which:

3. Content
Jet Set Radio Future manages to appeal to both sides of its play base, the story mode will take you anywhere from 10-15 hours on your first play through, allowing for people just looking for a quirky, fun, and easy action adventure game to just pick up and beat it in a reasonable time. However, for hardcore fans of the series, the game offers much more after you beat it. After you the game, you unlock the "Test" mode, where you can either replay through the graffiti spraying portion of the level, flag capturing, a technique mode, and a racing mode for each of the levels. Managing to get a Jet Ranking(The highest ranking) in all of the test modes is a hell of a challenge. In order to unlock the test mode for particular levels, you need to collect all of the graffiti souls in that particular level. What are graffiti souls? I forgot to mention what they are. They are new artwork for your graffiti. Yeah, you don't just get what you start out with like you might be expecting, there are tons and tons of graffiti artwork you can collect. In addition to that you can make your own artwork as well! Crazy huh? Moving on, collecting the graffiti souls generally involve some intricate platforming. You also have to perform certain actions to make some of them appear, such as performing a number of grind combos, air combos, collecting points, as well as completing special challenges. There is a lot to do and collect in the game even after you've beaten the story.

4. The Characters

Have you ever played a game and thought "Man this villain rocks, I wish I could play as him"? If so then JSRF is for you! When you complete all of the test runs in for a particular level, you unlock extra characters, including Rokkuko Gouji, the series' main villain. Sure he dies at the end of the game(Both actually), but who cares about continuity, Jet Set Radio Future is about fun! Just check this out.

Skip to 1:51 and listen to Gouji ham it up. You know you want to play this game if for no other reason than to unlock him now. You can also unlock a ton of named characters as well as a member of ever other rival gang that appears in the game. The only characters you can't play as is Hiyashi, but no one likes him anyway, and DJ Professor K, who you need to keep yourself tuned into the kickin' tunes.

Seriously, just imagine this guy running around in skates.

5. Its critically acclaimed Soundtrack.
Part of what ties all this together is that Hideki Naganuma style soundtrack. Hideki Naganuma always brings his unique flavor of composing to his soundtracks. Love it or hate it, you can't deny that there isn't a game whose soundtrack and use of it works as perfectly as the two soundtracks to both games. Seriously just check out a couple of them:

6. Its not on any Sony console.
Because every top 10 list needs some kind of Jim Sterling reference.

7. Its Cel Shaded
And cel shading makes everything better.

8. It lets you be the little punk inside everyone.
Who hasn't dreamed about sticking it to the man, going around town spraying graffiti while avoiding the cops, then going home to dance around with a bunch of bizarrely dressed people? No one else? So it's just me? No matter then.

9+10. This game has not one, but TWO Yo-Yos.
No other game in the WORLD can make that claim. As such they are inferior games because Yo-Yo Fucking rocks. God of War 3? No Yo-Yo and as such it is completely unlikable. Super Mario Galaxy 2? Probably won't have Yo-Yo because of that it will suck just as much as the original Super Mario Galaxy did.

Yo-Yo, making your video games better since June, 2000.

And another one for good measure

And there you have it. Those are my top 10 reasons why Jet Set Radio Future is my favorite game of all time. This list was originally top 100, but I shortened it for brevity. Jet Set Radio Future is a game unlike any other. Unique, without being off putting. Deep, while still being intuitive. Stylish, but not without substance. If you happen to have an XBox or an XBox360, you really owe it to yourself to track down a copy of this game.   read

4:44 PM on 03.23.2010

Trying New Things: Red Steel 2 first impressions

Disclaimer: The following blog contains shitty cell phone pictures, editing, and plushies. You have been warned.

I wasn't really a fan of westerns as a kid. Well, that is until my brother made me watch A Few Dollars More. After that I loved them, the serious ones, and the sillier, campy funny ones. They're all so delicious. Unfortunately, I've never been a big fan of shooters both first and third as far as video game genres go, and nothing I've tried has really changed that, so sadly I haven't really been able to enjoy westerns in my games as all of them are shooters. I really like seeing the character I'm playing, the way they move, attack, run, and I don't really get that with first person games. That and shooting in general just doesn't particularly do it for me. Even in most movies I prefer hand to hand or sword combat, it just feels more dynamic and interesting to me, and it's no different for me in my video games. Well, that is until I saw some game play footage of Red Steel 2.

I hadn't heard of the original before this, as I didn't own a Wii at launch. But when I saw footage of a character that looks like Clint Eastwood meets Vash the Stampede meets Samurai Jack going through mobs using a combination of both swordplay and gun slinging, I was intrigued. Then I actually played it, and I was blown away. I've played for about three hours now, and I absolutely love this FPS.

As you might have already heard, this game uses the Wii Motion+ to improve accuracy, to tighten the controls, and to allow for more nuanced, yet more involved sword play. I have to say I have yet to find any problems with it aside from swings occasionally reading downward slashes as stabs. One thing I was worried about is camera control when wielding the sword, but thankfully the game uses a lock on system when in combat that will automatically lock on. You can also switch to a different target with the "Z" button. The game will also warn you if an enemy is being you and telegraphing an attack with the help of a warning symbol that appears on the top of the screen, allowing you to hit the "Z" button to switch to them immediately and block, dodge or counter their attack.

Both the sword play and the gun slinging are absolutely solid. There is a bit of delay for when you swings register as sword strikes, but it's very short and I haven't noticed any problems with it. The game isn't 1:1, but it's still quite accurate enough to get the job done being able to almost always accurately recreate whatever action you perform. In addition to that you can perform finishing moves on enemies that are stunned, kneeling, or flattened on the ground. There are also special combo moves. Some of them are bought and others are taught to you for free as you progress through the game. They're all pretty simple and intuitive; all of them generally requiring a simple combo of "A" "B" and or "Z" and a corresponding slash with the Wiimote. Some of these also double as finishing moves. My personal favorite is "The Eagle", where you smack an enemy high into the air, and can either pump him with lead Devil may Cry style, or follow him up with a frontal dash and smash him to the ground. The shooting also performs well, with multiple guns you can buy from the saloon hub. It's basically point and shoot, but one of the things I really like about it is how it is balanced with the sword play. Although I haven't purchased any of the other guns at the moment, but with the standard six shooter you start with, it's more of a tool to assist in combat rather than the absolute only thing you want to use, or being completely pointless. You can shoot enemies to death if you so choose, or you can just mostly stick to your sword, but its best to use them together to augment their strength, like blasting an enemy in the legs to bring him to his knees, allowing you to run up and quickly run up and finish him off, or using it to knock an enemy whose using a jump attack on you to blast him to the ground.

The core game play involves going to one of the two hubs, grabbing missions and going out and completing them. As far as I've played, the game is very linear, even if you receive multiple missions, they're all essentially smaller parts of one main mission, as opposed to being able to do and complete larger more involved ones. To describe it, you might get a mission to kill "X" bad guy or go activate "X" switch, and a mission to blow up "X" amount of trucks. But you'll encounter all of the trucks on your way to the bad guy, so it's more like one mission with two objectives. I hope this changes later in the game with more involved separate missions and more options to pick and choose. The game also involved quick time events that will involve you pressing a button, or Wiimote movement, or a combo of the two during certain cut scenes. Failing will start you back at the beginning of the cut scene, so thankfully the punishment for failing isn't that hard.

As far as presentation goes, this is easily one of the most stylish games on the Wii, and one of if not the most graphically impressive. I'm biased about this however, as I love the Wild West, I love samurais, I love schizo tech, and I really love Cel Shading. The game has an absolutely killer sound track as well, with a love of really fast paced western themes. The story seems okay I guess, you play a nameless protagonist, returning to your hometown after being banished years before. You come to find it taken over by a gang called The Jackals, and their leader knocks you out and ties you to the back of his bike. While originally thought to be a random gang raid, it beginning to look as though this is more of a war against your clan. The voice acting is okay I guess. It's nothing to impressive or memorable. Kind of unrelated, but I bought the game bundled with the Wii+ as I didn't own one at the time of purchased, and it came with a really nice looking box. I love boxes. There should be more of them.

Today just isn't my day : (

This is an edit. When I was writing this blog after taking a break from the game, I couldn't think of my criticisms for the life of me.I have two complaints about the game. One of which was mentioned in the official destruction preview, which is that in order to climb objects, you use the action button when it appears near special walls, as opposed to being able to go through it manually. It seems really jarring considering how much control you feel you have over the character. The other thing is annoying, but its an out of combat thing. As I mentioned in my blog, you are automatically targeting mobs while in combat, so you can swing your sword without your camera flying around all the place. This is not true when out of combat, so when you want to bash in crates that contain money, your camera swings around like an elastic flail. I've resorted to just using the spin attack to deal with crates, a button to fix the camera still outside of combat would have been nice, the "C" would have worked well, and then the "Check Objectives" command could have been switched to "-".

In addition, this game is absolutely 100% about the combat and showing what the Wiimotion+ can do. If you're expecting something particularly deep, you aren't really going to get it here either. That and while the environments look amazing, and the game also has a Metroid Prime feel to it, the game world itself is very shallow. Most areas are corridors and moderately sized rooms with little variation in it. This game isn't particularly deep, but the combat in this game is unlike anything I've ever really seen. How involved you get with the sword fighting is really unique, and the way the special attacks are built are very intuitive and dare I say, revolutionary. So if you're getting this game, expect combat like you've never seen before in a video game. Its exhausting actually! I actually enjoy that aspect, it just feel so involved(Though you can turn the sensitivity up if you want, the game has well done button mapping options.)

If this game continues to impress me as much as it already has, it just might rip the title of my "Favorite 3rd Party Wii title" right out of No More Heroes 2's hands. I absolutely love this particular exploration into the FPS genre, although this might actually qualify as a First Person Action Adventure title more. If you're looking for a really well done action game for the Wii, Red Steel 2 just might be what you're looking for and is undoubtedly making up for the really crappy first installment.   read

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