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11:17 PM on 04.21.2013

Violence: Nintendo has made me a cold, unfeeling, violent sociopath

As far back as I can remember into my childhood, videogames have always been violent murder simulators, training children to be efficient killers who have no ounce of compassion or regard for human life. Mario, my first videogame icon, stomped defenseless animals to death under his mighty plumber boots, fountains of blood and brains spurting from the mashed remains of a Goomba who was only minding his own business, bringing milk and eggs home to a now widowed wife and fatherless child. Super Mario Bros. chose to keep these deep family connections hidden from the player, tricking children and adults alike into thinking this was just a game about a man saving a damsel in distress; when, in reality, the calculating Nintendo was attempting to raise a generation of children to be unfeeling robots, not even giving our 5-year-old minds the CHANCE to question our motives. I had gotten my first taste of blood, was already becoming a die-hard Nintendo fanboy, and I was hungry for more. Nintendo knew it had its hooks in me, and was eager to shape me into a cold-hearted killer.

Above: the very definition of violent depravity

The year was 1991, and Nintendo would not let up on their campaign to turn me into a monster. Enter Super Mario World, a game where one of the very first choices you make is to either leave a cute little dinosaur scarred for life and in perpetual pain as a squished, now blinded version of itself, or to take it out completely and have it leave this mortal coil. Yoshi the green dinosaur made his first appearance as a wild animal who had to be subdued and controlled by you, the player. Indeed, Yoshi would sprint around manically like a beheaded chicken, running off ledges into certain death if you did not mount him and show him you were the boss. Mario would use Yoshi to smite his enemies at his own discretion, violently bopping him on the head to force him to ingest foes whole. And if you missed a jump and were plummeting to your death? You could always do this:

Mario teaches us that lives are expendable as long as we save our own skin

Jesus, and I haven't even gotten to Bowser's children, some of whom Mario drops into molten lava to be BURNED ALIVE. That whole talk back in the day about Nintendo being too kiddy and childish? Please; I was ready to smear turtle/lizard/dinosaur blood on my face should I ever decide to become a plumber and venture into an ancient world of make-believe to rescue a princess who was kidnapped by a spiky Godzilla-type thing. Parents and guardians that raise you and teach you the difference between reality and fantasy; what are those?

Is Fox aiming at the enemy, or slowly moving his cursor to target the ever-loquacious Slippy?

Nintendo brought us new hardware, and with it, more realistic gameplay. They were smart, crafty; what better way to train us for reality now that we were close to adulthood? Star Fox 64 was made to prepare me for a career in dangerous, dog-fighting space flight with anthropomorphic wing men at my side. These animals, nay, BROTHERS IN ARMS, were so real, I could hear them speaking to me through my television. "DO A BARREL ROLL," said the wise, sagely bunny rabbit; words that have helped shape me into the man I am today. Moral choices were presented to me before I had to tackle them in real life: do I keep a wise-ass bird alive to show me a hidden exit, or do I shoot him down for running his mouth and insulting me early on? My blood lust was not sated; in fact, it had grown over time, nurtured by the devious Nintendo. Games like Goldeneye and Perfect Dark taught me that blocky soldiers deserved to be shot in the butt and groin; it's not like actual human interaction, education, religion, and common sense ever taught me that killing is wrong and that human life should be valued. It's such a shame we don't live in a world with an established ratings system that is honored by decent retail employees that don't sell games to underage kids or tell parents what each rating means and what content is included in each game they buy for their children; otherwise, my life could have been salvaged.

Clearly the face of a man with a lot of blood on his hands

Let my story be a warning to all those who think videogames are just harmless forms of entertainment: they are nothing more than violent bloodbaths of carnage and gore. They can never touch on important themes like love and loss, where a girl and her friends can rescue someone she truly cares for from certain doom by swapping in a clone of said someone at a certain point in the past and she can express such a deep caring and love for this person when he is saved from the brink of death in a 16-bit game with no voice acting that will certainly NOT bring a tear to your eye. They can never be heart-wrenching and tell a story about a woman who saves a baby whose species she hunted relentlessly, who views her as its own mother, who sacrifices itself to save her life in an ending so touching that it stays with you forever. No, games are just gruesome, and can make you feel no emotions whatsoever. It is too late for me; if only Nintendo had made emotionally-charged games that elevated the medium as a whole, had made games that got us to think, to laugh, and to cry.

If only.   read

1:01 PM on 04.14.2013

Enter a World of Illusion and experience co-op play at its finest

I am assuming everybody has seen this shit and jizzed accordingly, as I did myself, because NNNGGGGGG. Castle of Illusion was and always will be one of the Genesis' finest platformers, and though I did not own it, you can bet your sweet, delicious booty that I walked around the corner from my house to the local video store to rent Mickey's orgasmic adventure so much that I wore the cartridge's cover art away. Fun times were had by me, but what of my friends? When would they get to experience such a magical, fun-fun, good time? SEGA must have been asking themselves the same question, and figured out that adding a murderous duck for co-operative madness was the answer. Thus, World of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck was born, one of the greatest games for two partners to play through together ever conceived by human beings in the 1990s.

Once you and preferably your friend/partner/soul mate/girlfriend/boyfriend/escaped convict start playing, you will be greeted with some storybook malarkey that spews out the game's plot, which is basically this: Donald trips over some scenery and finds a scary door and goes in it because he's a dumbass and Mickey has to follow in after him to save him and there is an evil magician that wants to test your skills before you can get home and yadda yadda yadda, exposition exposition, this is all a roadblock to the good stuff. Controls are simple: hold A to run, press B to attack, press C to jump. Once the first level begins, you are greeted by this:

Now, that is indeed a caterpillar in the foreground on a leaf. What you cannot see is that it MOVES UP IT, TURNS AROUND, SHOWS YOU ITS FACE, THEN CONTINUES TO THE TOP.

.... .... ....

That's it, 1992. It's over. 7-year-old me just gave World of Illusion the award for Greatest Graphics That Gave Me An Accidental Boner.

CONTINUING ON, you and your partner tied up/sitting next to you willingly will start to experience INTENSE GAMEPLAY mere SECONDS after you start: soldiers will come at you and you can stun them with a magical blanket if they are far enough away from you. If they get close, your handkerchief will turn them into flowers. That's right, you don't kill enemies in this game; instead your Curtain of Mystery turns them into harmless butterflies, shrimp, and birds. Be careful when playing with your buddy, because your cape can affect them and tie them up momentarily; though this doesn't do damage, it gets annoying and can lead to damaging your relationship with your friend (also he or she will want to remove various internal organs from your body after the 10th time this happens). A couple of minutes in, World of Illusion starts showing you its true greatness: a seesaw thingee will propel one of you upwards and onwards, leaving the other stranded below, asking for help. What you must do is go to the edge of the platform you land on and hold A to bring a rope down to help your friend up. This is what makes World of Illusion such a great co-op experience: you need each other to survive and get through the game's levels together. There are many more instances of this as the game progresses that I will gush about soon.

DONALD CAN'T CRAWL UNDER THE TIGHT SPACE SO MICKEY HAS TO PULL HIM THROUGH, MMMM! This co-op is fantastic. You won't even be at Level 2 yet and you will already have to time jumps on a pressure-controlled cart with your buddy to make your way through a mine with tracks that fall away almost as soon as you hit them. Speaking of Level 2, Donald and Mickey will recite the magic word ALAKAZAM to make a flying carpet appear out of thin air (either one will say it, though the voices sound tinny through the Genesis and Donald will overly emphasize the word: "ALAAAAKAAAZAAAAMMMM!"). To this day, I don't know who controls the carpet when both players are on it: I assume one controls the direction and the other controls the height. Also, let's say you or your friend die in one of the game's measly 5 levels. Well, the surviving cartoon character can find the other one usually toward the end of a level, dazed out of their minds and high as a kite. One touch from you will bring them back from their acid trip so you can face the ridiculously easy bosses together (one of my few complaints with World of Illusion stems from the game's difficulty, or lack thereof).

I love full-body bubbles. The way they wrap around your every inch, like they were made for you and JUST you, your specific specifications always in mind...ahem. World of Illusion's true magic comes from the different ways it can be played. Sure, the game only has 5 levels, but it has different variations of them, and that's what is so cool about it. Playing alone as Mickey is quite different than playing alone as Donald. Whereas Mickey will be scaling a mountain in Level 2 at one point, Donald will be going through dangerous rapids on leaves at the same point; you experience different parts of the same stage depending on who you are playing as. Playing with a friend opens up parts you wouldn't see alone, and incorporates mechanics based solely around playing with another human being, like using the rope to pull each other to safety and the seesaw mine cart. World of Illusion offers 3 unique adventures in one tiny cartridge, and you don't even need to buy DLC expansions to experience each and every one (though you do need a friend to play co-op with, because fuck AI).

So you fight through spider, dragon, shark, and witch (IT'S FUCKING MADAM MIM, YOU GUYS) bosses to end up fighting the evil magician Pete, who looks more like a giant hobo than a master of witchcraft. Whacking him enough times with your rolled-up towel causes him to shrink back to normal size and he presents you with a glowing ice cream sandwich, which sends you home. Then Donald and Mickey do the magic show they have spent no doubt YEARS preparing for in front of an awesome audience that includes Goofy, Pluto, and Huey, Dewey, and Louie. Afterwards, the credits roll as the two best friends for life go through the forest Mickey treks through at the opening of Castle of Illusion. Such a fantastic game and adventure. As happy as I am that Castle of Illusion is getting a remake, I would love for World of Illusion to get the same treatment; hell, you could just port the Genesis game to current consoles and I'd buy it in a heartbeat. I love Disney adventures and being a part of them, but I love them just a bit more having someone at my side to share that experience with; because of this, World of Illusion is right up there with Gunstar Heroes as the definitive, most iconic, wonderful, and special co-op platformer I have ever had the pleasure of playing.   read

8:15 AM on 02.09.2013

Horror Story: The mental scars left by Silent Hill 2; they never truly heal

It's 2001. I boot up my PS2 again, but I don't know why. I push myself to see this story through to its end; but the nightmares, they have already started. I can't go to sleep without having the television on mute, the dim light dancing across my face as I try to forget the image of that being with the pyramid for a head. Why? Why do I keep playing you when you are already having such a disturbing effect on me? I want to be able to have a good night's sleep, but I need to finish you. I need to know what happens to James, to Eddie, to Angela. So I soldier on. I keep going deeper and deeper into this rabbit hole, this descent into madness. I guess I feel that when I reach Silent Hill 2's conclusion, it will all be alright. I'll be satisfied and content. I'll be able to sleep in the dark again, and dream pleasant dreams.

How utterly wrong I was.

Even after knowing everything about James and his demons, scenes like the one up above are etched into my brain; and like a film projector, it loves to play it every night right as I close my eyes. Nothing has stopped. If anything, things have gotten worse since I have beaten Silent Hill 2. I try to have some fun with subsequent playthroughs by using new weapons like the chainsaw, but I am still disturbed. Months have gone by, yet the television light stays on. I reflect on my experiences and remember something that chills me to the bone: I was walking around with Maria at my heels, and decided that it was late and that I really should stop playing and get some sleep. I wanted to see if the game would let me kill her, so I revved up my chainsaw and felled her in one swipe (why was I even thinking this way?). After getting the Game Over screen, I reloaded my last save for the hell of it, and almost dropped my controller. The concrete streets of Silent Hill had been replaced with flesh; at least, that is what it looked like to me. There I was controlling James, Maria running around with me, on streets made out of skin. Did the game get corrupted somehow? Was this only a glitch? Was the game punishing me for my horrible deed? I remember calling my cousin and calmly explaining what had happened. His response? "Dude, you have been playing for too many hours. Just shut it off and get some rest; your mind is playing tricks on you."

Was he right? Was there something wrong with me? Had I really seen what I had seen?

My cousin, he knew about Silent Hill 2 and its effect on my mind; in fact, he had seen it firsthand. I remembered: it was late in the game, I was over his dad's house, and I played from the end of the hospital all the way to the game's completion (Silent Hill 2 engrosses you so much that you don't want to put it down, no matter how scared you are or how many hours you have been playing). At one point, I was in a prison courtyard, but could proceed no further. The second I had gone outside, I heard a horrible noise. What was it? It sounded like heavy breathing from something that was vaguely human, and hooves galloping across the grass. I could not see anything in front of me, only utter darkness. For the life of me, I could not bring myself to push the analog stick forward and have James move even one inch. It was late, I had been playing for quite some time, and I was absolutely terrified. What would happen if I even took one step? Would the beast rip me to shreds instantly? Could I even defend myself? What the hell did it even look like? I was so paralyzed with fear, that I called my cousin in from the other room. "Please, please take the controller and move James forward. I can't deal with the sounds and the darkness. I'm freaking out." My cousin took the controller from my shaking hands, proceeded forward, and found that there was nothing in the courtyard except a horseshoe I needed to collect to advance further.

I have been in that courtyard on subsequent playthroughs, and I hesitated before going forward. Every time.

It is 2013, and still I remember feeling such terrible knots in my stomach at various points throughout Silent Hill 2. I remember getting off the boat that takes you to the hotel where James and Mary used to stay, opening up my inventory, seeing the letter she wrote to him at the beginning of the game was just a blank piece of paper, and needing to take five minutes to breathe because my whole world was torn asunder. I remember my heart leaping from my chest hearing a woman scream in a bathroom stall. I recall being in a prison and being able to shoot an unseen prisoner in a cell, hearing him cry out in pain as James lowered his pistol with each shot, knowing the man was on the floor and desperately trying to put him out of his misery. I screamed bloody murder when I found two Pyramid Heads walking around the sewers. I can still hear the radio going off in the elevator, a quiz show host asking me questions for a prize, hearing him laugh maniacally over what would happen if I was wrong; I took extra time making sure I was right with my answers, because I couldn't bare to see what would happen to James if I got it wrong (my imagination left me with many grisly outcomes).

The most damaging scars of them all, however, are my memories of the characters and the fates of each and every one of them.

These recollections, how could one ever truly push them out of their heads? How could I ever forget Angela, a woman who was sexually abused by her father and constantly looking for her mama, staring at that knife so intently, knowing what she wanted to do with it? How could I block the image of her family picture from my brain, with her father violently torn out of it? The memory of James and Angela killing her father, who James himself sees as a monster, the pain that Angela remembers; that won't ever go away. And the fires that eventually consume Angela, seeing this woman succumb to her dark intentions, hearing James say that yes, he feels the heat from it, too, for what he did to his wife...God...

That image of Angela climbing those stairs is burned into my retinas.

I was always deeply frightened of Eddie. I knew he was a murderer the second I saw the dead man in the fridge and found him throwing up in the next room. I remember the messages scrawled in blood in his room. Scenes like the one above just made me more and more nervous about what would eventually happen between him and James (and that poor, defenseless dog being killed hit me right in my very soul). And yet I felt a little sorry for Eddie because he never trusted anybody and felt the whole world was out to get him; that he needed to kill everyone he interacted with that "looked at him funny." I knew eventually I would have to kill Eddie; yet I always wondered: why did James not see him as a monster like he saw Angela's dad? Looking back and remembering the scene where James laments over "killing another human being" after shooting Eddie, I think it's because deep down in his subconscious, James views Eddie as an equal, because he knows he himself is a murderer.

I can't watch that scene without getting goosebumps. The scenes between James and Maria always got to me. Finding out she was just James' image of his wife not sick and dying, seeing her die over and over again at the hands of Pyramid Head, who was James' manifestation of himself as a murderer, and watching her take pills and constantly cough, knowing she will eventually succumb to the same illness that befell James' beloved Mary (this is heavily implied in one of the endings)...

It depresses me.

Most of the endings are depressing or disturbing in some way. Either James leaves Silent Hill with Maria coughing up a lung, he leaves with his wife's corpse in his arms and sinks himself in his car with her so they can be together forever, or he resurrects Mary from the dead to be with her on Earth once more. The only truly happy ending (besides the silly Shiba Inu one) is the one where he lets go of Mary and Maria and leaves with Laura; the orphaned girl who Mary took in as her own daughter who is the only person who sees Silent Hill as it truly is: a deserted town without any of the monsters that the others imagine. I wish I could only keep the image of James and Laura being happy together in my brain, but the scars Silent Hill 2 left on me never healed. Perhaps I can focus on this image of innocence:

...and be alright. Maybe I just need to replay Silent Hill 2 and go for the best ending again to be truly at peace with myself. We shall see. But just in case things go horribly wrong...

...I'm keeping my television remote by my side every night.   read

12:50 PM on 02.03.2013

Sex: Why is sexism so prevalent with zombie game advertisements?

I love me some zombies. I can't get enough; whether it be through television, movies, or video games, I am always ready to see me some undead get massacred by a variety of household objects, tools, and a wide assortment of guns. Games like Left 4 Dead and Dead Rising are perfect for letting me live out my zombie killing fantasies in video game form (they are also good practice for when the real thing happens, BECAUSE MAX BROOKS SAID SO!). When I am blowing up zombie heads with shotgun blasts or tearing limbs off with my trusted paddlesaw, however, one thing is not on my mind: sex. Don't get me wrong, I do think about sex and enjoy making love immensely; but when the undead are upon me and they need to be stopped so I can save friends and loved ones, that is going to be my sole focus (there are no boners to be found for miles). Game developers and publishers seem to think differently; and there have been some instances recently where advertisements have been published trying to mix sex with zombies and gore. The results have been in bad taste and offensive, and I am going to touch on a few of them that made me shake my head and go, "REALLY?!"

That trailer up above is quite possibly the greatest video game trailer ever produced. It mixed fear, hopelessness, family bonding, and loss into one beautiful cohesive package, and when I first saw it, I was pumped for Dead Island. I never got a chance to play it, but through word of mouth and game reviews, I heard the game didn't really deliver a narrative-rich experience, which is what I was hoping for based on the trailer. Regardless, it didn't seem like a terrible game and Techland deserves praise for making such an awesome piece of cinematic brilliance. News of the side-story/sequel Dead Island Riptide got me excited because I knew Techland could learn from its mistakes and make a game as touching as that trailer makes me feel. I wrote a news post for That VideoGame Blog about the Rigor Mortis Edition; seriously, I WANT THAT BOTTLE OPENER AND SUITCASE. Things were looking up! Then this happened:

What the hell? I don't know who is in charge of advertising Dead Island Riptide in the UK, but they clearly have no common sense. That is a gory pair of tits, plain and simple. I could understand, yeah, maybe they wanted to show such excessive violence that all that was left of this unfortunate victim was a torso, but why a bikini? Why such attention to breasts and making the bust the centerpiece of this Collector's Edition? It's simple; because they think sex sells. There could have been any number of alternatives to have this be more tasteful while maintaining how gory their game is: how about a bust of a victim with half of its head chopped off? Or a clothed zombie with a giant hole in its stomach? Anything would have been better than this. Even if they were going for the most extreme use of violence, what advertiser can look at this end product and not say, "Whoa, hold on a second, no, a thousand times no?" A pair of bloodied tits isn't even sexy, so they failed at the whole sexy angle; and the sexism of that combined with the gratuitous violence just melded together to make a giant clusterfuck of stupid. I reported on this as well, and my article was later updated to include a Twitter apology from publisher Deep Silver. There is still no word on whether fan backlash will stop this Collector's Edition from coming out. Maybe it will still come out, and in all honesty, maybe this is what Deep Silver wanted. Controversy breeds attention, and perhaps everyone will hear the name Dead Island Riptide and think, "Oh yeah, that is the game with that European Special Edition with the controversial bikini torso! I wonder if I can do that in the actual game?! I better go get it!" Ugh. Society sucks. Ladies are not to be ogled and torn limb from limb in order to sell a game. Hopefully another publisher or developer can do a better job...

Goddammit, Ubisoft, you too? ZombiU was a new game for a new system with an exciting new controller; you could sell it on the use of the Gamepad's screen to unlock security doors on the television ALONE, or even the way you could zombify yourself with the camera! Why go with this? Here is a lady about to take her top off, and you can tell they want you to turn the page with the WANNA SEE IT? in the corner (but at least you gave her a face, Ubisoft, so you are better than Deep Silver....just kidding, no you aren't). Turn the page and...gross zombie with blood again. This is sexist and objectifies women in order to garner interest for a game ABOUT ZOMBIES. I agree with this article on the subject; ZombiU is a game about zombies and killing zombies and has nothing to do with sex, period. The WiiU and its revolutionary controller with a screen is what people are talking about; all you have to do is say and show how your game takes advantage of that technology in an innovative way. AND YOU DID SOMETHING UNIQUE, but you would never know looking at this UK ad (what is with the UK and tasteless advertisements?). I look at this and see a developer afraid of advertising something new and exciting, instead relying on sex and violence in order to sell a product that is only about one of those things. You can sell a unique game on its own merits; you just have to show the people what those merits ARE. Is there any developer out there that knows this?

Naughty Dog, you are my heroes. Everyone read this. The Last of Us sounds amazing, right? It sounds like it has everything one could possibly want in a zombie apocalypse video game: people that have questionable morals that do bad things in order to survive, a young girl who lived a sheltered life and sees the infected world around her and views that as normal because she has nothing else to compare it to, and the impact she will have on the male and female leads by developing a family bond with them. Reading the article, though, it worries me to see that sexism is still a part of some of the industry bigwigs' philosophy towards women. Naughty Dog had to fight to keep Ellie on the front cover of the game's box art, instead of being relegated to the back, AND SHE IS ONE OF THE MAIN CHARACTERS AND PROBABLY THE MOST IMPORTANT ONE (and poor Tess isn't there at all; it's like Naughty Dog had to fight tooth and nail just to get ONE female on the game's cover). It is particularly worrisome to me because I have the feeling that if Tess was more scantily clad or if Ellie was older and wearing short shorts, the game's publishers would have no problem having them on the cover of The Last of Us. I'm upset because a strong female protagonist like Samus is rarely shown on the front cover of her games without armor (and whenever you do see her without it, whether in-game or in promotional art or if you beat the game in a fast enough time, she is always wearing something skin-tight or a bikini or shorts and a tube top). One of my favorite female protagonists, Alyx Vance, isn't on the cover of Half-Life 2 (though she was featured on Episode 1's and Episode 2's covers). I commend Naughty Dog for taking a stance on sexism and fighting to keep Ellie on the game's cover, as well as believing they can sell their game on its premise and strong characters alone. I hope more developers and publishers follow their example.

I wish there was something I could play that will hold me over until The Last of Us comes out. A zombie game that isn't oversexualized, a game with a strong female lead that doesn't use her body to distract enemies or sell her game, a game where Microsoft won't award perverts who look up her skirt with an Achievement. Oh here, this looks to fit the bill nicely:


10:52 PM on 01.21.2013

Does X mark the spot in Mega Man X? Hell to the yes!

MOTHER OF GOD! Remember when I was talking about Mega Man 3 and how amazing it is? Take everything I said about it, multiply it by PURE NIRVANA, and you get Mega Man X, the first 16-bit Mega Man title. It is truly astounding how absolutely perfect this game is and how warm it makes my buttocks feel. There are a lot of X titles, but the first one is the bestest, because I said so (and my buttocks never lie). How can this game make me so giddy and touch a member of my anatomy that isn't even hooked into the SNES or television (note to self: make butt controllers)? Well, read on to find out why, I'M TRYING TO ENTERTAIN YOU PEOPLE.

Resist the urge to mash buttons once the game starts, and you will be treated to PLOT. You'll see X and how awesome he is, with details about his entire body filling up the screen with text. Then you see a typed warning from Dr. Light, X's creator (apparently he didn't love his original creation enough not to make an infinitely better version of him). According to Dr. Light, X is the first robot ever built with the ability to think and have emotions, which means he will either be a great danger or a great protector of humanity, depending on if he ever breaks the "kill no human" rule (and if anyone saw the ending to Mega Man 7 and how Mega Man almost blew Wily's head off because he was tired of so many sequels, we have a rough timeline of when exactly X will finally snap and burn the world to the ground). The title screen then pops up with a cool animation and the music is SO FUCKING GOOD AND WILL CONTINUE TO BE GOOD UNTIL THE GAME ENDS. When you press start (with X as the menu icon and he shoots a green laser beam and it is SO COOL), there are no robot masters to select from, however. Intriguing...

Yes, this isn't the Mega Man you remember from the NES days. Mega Man X and its sequels all have an intro stage, and the first one is particularly memorable, because you learn so much about your robot friend. He can charge shots as well as shoot Nerf bullets. He can stick to walls with a dust trail behind him and kick and climb upwards. When X's health is low, he pants and his helmet blinks to let you know you are fucked. There are such things as giant bee robots, which is my greatest fear because bugs were already scary enough and now they have missiles and gunfire. You can shoot robots off of cars and ride them because you are stylish. And at the end, you fight a robot in a robot mech (kinky) and you cannot even damage him. You feel helpless; you just started playing and you are already going to lose a life. But just when you are trapped and about to be squished like a tomato, your friend Zero DASHES in and fucking takes the robot mech's arm off in one shot. Zero tells you one day you will be as strong as he is, you just need to upgrade individual parts of your body. GLORY DAY AND PRAISE ROBOT JESUS!

Now the real meat and potatoes of the game starts. You thought you were gonna fight strange robots like Sheep Man and Yamato Man? Fuck no, you fight robot ANIMALS in Mega Man X, animals we all know and love (like the beloved Kuwanger). You can view each robot's stage and specs and where they are on the map, and then pick Chill Penguin first so you can get the dash upgrade. I usually get the dash, kill myself, then do Storm Eagle first and start the correct robot order; that way I get 3 upgrades right away and can start being like my hero Zero. What you'll notice that is new and fresh about Mega Man X is that there are Heart Containers hidden in each level that increase your overall life. Also, there are no E Tanks; instead, you can collect 4 Sub Tanks and fill them with excess energy capsules that you pick up when your life is already full (and picking up weapon energy for your other weapons automatically fills up the one that is lowest, because Capcom used to love us all). Another thing you'll notice because this game is like Reese's Cheesecake is that going back to certain stages after beating a particular robot master will ALTER IT; for example, Flame Mammoth's stage turns to ice if you've murdered Chill Penguin in cold blood (punny!) and part of Sting Chameleon's stage floods if you have bested Launch Octopus in combat (these both help you get Heart Containers, so you are welcome, internet).

Ultimately, your goal is to make the Blue Bomber a shiny White Knight with all his enhancements (feet, arms, head, and body) and destroy Sigma, a robot who is hell bent on slaughtering all humans and building a utopia solely for robots. Along the way, Zero "dies" and gives you his buster if you were too much of a noob to find the gun enhancement yourself; it is then that you realize only you can save the world, and in order to do so, you have to surpass the one robot you've been spending the entire game trying to live up to (THE PRESSURE). In the end, you prevail; you blow up Jedi Sigma and his dog, and finish off Sigma's face when he attaches it to a giant machine that came from the darkest recesses of my mind (and it is a damn difficult battle). I remember beating this on my dad's television when I was a kid because I didn't have my own and how happy I was. The faint glow of the tv was all that illuminated my face because it was late at night, and I remember a smile crossing my face when a message from Sigma came after the credits; X's (and my) battle was far from over.

I'm going to end this by gushing: I love Mega Man X, and I love it because Capcom tried something new and succeeded in truly setting X apart from his 8-bit brother. I love dashing and shooting and that is how I always ended up going through boss doors, because it was the only way that felt right. I always dashed with my index finger, because my thumb was always charging X's buster while slightly hovering over the jump button; it is the most awkward and yet satisfying stance I have ever used to hold a controller. I love how X can charge all the weapons he collects from bosses, which results in cool things like a shield that covers your whole body or temporary invisibility. Most of all, I love the little things. I love how the Met hats are still around and how a single Batton can be found in Armor Armadillo's stage; hell, I love shocking that fucker's armor off with a single blast from Spark Mandrill's gun and seeing him fry. I love how you can get Ryu's Hadoken by doing such an asinine thing like collecting all the power-ups and jumping in a chasm 3 times (and Dr. Light is dressed as Ryu when he gives it to you and X says a cute little audible "Hadoken!" when he shoots it). I love how you can tear Flame Mammoth's tusk off with Boomer Kuwanger's weapon. I love how Storm Eagle fights you on top of a plane and you don't even need to go through his boss door to fight him. I love making X do a walking glitch while riding on those spiked thingees the axe robots shoot at you at the beginning of Chill Penguin's stage; I could go on forever. I'll stop, but if you are wondering what the greatest music track in the game is, here you go.


4:10 PM on 01.06.2013

Mega Man 3 proves that yes, the third time is indeed the charm

Quick, what is the greatest Mega Man game in existence? If you answered Mega Man Soccer, congratulations, your opinion has been erased from the annals of human history and every hair on your ass is to be plucked violently and hot glued to your already thick-as-fuck eyebrows. If you said Mega Man 2 or Mega Man 3, then you are boring and unoriginal, because everyone says those two. But dammit, there is a reason for that! And while most people will sing Mega Man 2's praises, which are indeed warranted, and while Mega Man 2 was probably the first time a video game sequel came out that was better than the original in every conceivable way, Mega Man 3 is still my favorite, so poo on you. "But why do you like Mega Man 3 the best? What reasons do you have for this? Also, Capcom killed Mega Man and they gave a fan money to make some collaboration game that I didn't even like and he isn't even relevant anymore and why is he called the Blue Bomber when his bombs aren't even blue and does he even have bombs and rabble, rabble, rabble, Mega Man Legends 3." Thank you for that cohesive run-on sentence, imaginary, rabid Mega Man fan, but let's not get ahead of ourselves here and talk about the dreary present, but rather the golden days of everyone's favorite robot who destroys his own robot brothers and steals their souls for unprecedented power and nourishment.

I used to rent Mega Man 3 obsessively from my neighborhood video store, until the day they started selling Nintendo games for cheap and I bought it for $5 (it still has rental stickers all over it, but Inafune signed it at New York Comic Con for me, so it is my favorite ghetto-ass video game cartridge). The intro is bare bones compared to Mega Man 2 because it is just a title screen, but the music is fucking amazing and let it play before you press start, you heartless monsters. You will see 8 robot masters for you to defeat, but also Mega Man is in the middle, and his eyes follow your cursor, SO MAKE THAT FUCKER DIZZY JUST BECAUSE YOU CAN. You can start off with whatever boss you feel is easiest (I usually go after Top Man first) but I believe Mega Man 3 is the only game in the series where there is no order that works with boss weaknesses from start to finish (meaning there is a point where the order closes and you have to defeat a boss without having his weakness, so you have to improvise with another weapon or just your regular shots). Anyway, you'll start playing and notice that every stage has great tunes and a unique layout, sometimes with giant robot cats with fleas and clamps that will rip out your genitals and make a horrifying sound akin to an 8-bit queef when they appear onscreen. Also, Mega Man 3 is the entry in the series that introduced the slide (complete with Mega Man's face screaming "FUCK YEAH!" as he does it) and Rush, the robot dog that can transform into a jet, submarine, and coil spring, because why the hell not?

While you are destroying robots with your ever-increasing arsenal of the most dangerous weapons known to man (Top Spin), you will encounter a robot very similar to you, which is probably because he is your older brother (spoilers!). His name is Proto Man, and you can tell he is around by the tune of his whistle (pause your game right when you hear it, because then you can hear his song in its full glory). He has a bitchin' scarf, shield, hops around like a jack rabbit with a needle in his dick, and fires shots like crazy. Luckily, you know of the slide and its benefits, so you can use it to dodge, no matter how silly you look. Proto Man can only be defeated by your regular, trusty-old Mega Buster, so be quick with your trigger finger to force him to retreat, unless you get a kick out of watching all your other weapons bounce off him harmlessly. You also fight Proto Man in an actual boss fight instead of as a mid-stage mini-boss, but he wears a disguise and is called Break Man for some reason. This happens before you go to Wily's Castle, but after the game's greatest twist.

After Mega Man defeats the 8 robot masters, MYSTERIOUS, SCARY-LOOKING robots appear in some of the stages you have already been to on the title screen, while all the other stages get crushed in a very threatening manner. When you go back to these 4 stages, you will find that each level's layout has changed drastically (I liked how Needle Man's stage turned to dusk in the background) and they are significantly harder to clear. Part of this is due to more enemies and challenging platforming, but most of it is due to the various Doc Robots. 2 Doc Robots appear in each stage, one in the middle and one at the end, and they FUCKIN' ABSORB THE BOSSES FROM MEGA MAN 2 INTO THEIR ROBOT FLESH AND GAIN THEIR ABILITIES, RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU. I remember seeing this as a child and silently screaming in my brain, because I knew I didn't have any of the bosses' powers from Mega Man 2 (stupid Mega Man always throwing out his weapons between games, HOW COULD YOU BE SO NEGLIGENT, GOD!). Thankfully, the Doc Robots are weak to the powers from the bosses of Mega Man 3, though I always forget the order in every playthrough, damn my soon-to-be 28 year old brain! Between the 8 robot masters, the 8 Doc Robots, Proto Man, and the extensive Wily's Castle, Mega Man 3 is long and feels quite epic and ambitious in its scope.

Mega Man 3 is incredible and loads of fun. It has great bosses like Shadow Man (ninja) and Gemini Man (laser fucker with a twin) and fun stages, some of which have overflowing lava and blue sperms with faces. There are plenty of stages with gaps and water, so Rush will feel well-loved and important every time you force him to violently change shape into a jet or submarine, which I imagine is quite painful, even for a robot. Mega Man 3 is also quite challenging, and you can cheat if the difficulty gets to you and fall into a pit and "die" if a second controller is plugged in (basically you can lose all your health, cause the game's music to stop because it thinks you are dead, and jump back out of said chasm as a zombie robot who cannot be killed, unless you pick up a health power-up). It is fun to play as a zombie because you can only use the weapons you have gained from bosses and the only way you can use your Mega Buster is if you call out Rush Coil and shoot while Rush stares blankly ahead, wondering if he was ever truly needed by you at all. I also love Wily's Castle because you get to fight 3 Mega Man clones instead of 1 (suck it, Mega Man 1!) and can destroy the mighty Gamma at the end using the almighty, ridiculous Top Spin. Mega Man 3's ending is also quite heartfelt and made me shed a tear. I won't spoil it, but I don't think I'd be revealing too much by saying Proto Man saves your life after you get knocked unconscious by debris when Wily's Castle begins to crumble. I leave you with the happiest Game Over/Password screen music in existence!


2:53 PM on 12.23.2012

Rock Band: The game (or rather, experience) that keeps on giving

Back in 2007, I was getting pumped for a new game from Harmonix called Rock Band. I had purchased Guitar Hero and Guitar Hero II, and heard that Harmonix was going on to make a game that replicated a full band experience, leaving Guitar Hero in the hands of Activision and its developers. I was most excited for the drums, because it looked like it simulated the real thing pretty closely, rhythm and kick pedal and all. I felt Rock Band was so ambitious and was going to be a great party game to play with my friends. I was so excited for it, that I purchased the whole band box with the game, mic, drums, and guitar for $180, before I even OWNED an XBox 360. My friend could not help me pick it up when I got it at the Gamestop near my school, so I carried it home myself (it took me 30 minutes walking). I had to stare at that box for a while because I was getting a 360 for Christmas, but I had a friend that let me use his just so I could have a taste. I was hooked on Rock Band the second I started playing it, though I failed at the drums miserably my first time. I wanted to conquer them as soon as I could, so you can imagine how eager I was to use them in my own home.

Oh man, I went through an unbelievable amount of Rock Band drums. The 4 pads represented, from left to right, the snare, left tom, right tom, and floor tom, and the pads represented various cymbals in-game, as well, though Harmonix did not designate the difference until Rock Band 3. The pedal attached to the bottom pipes, and had an orange line as an indicator of when to press it. Though playing the drums was a lot of fun and always my primary instrument, there were a lot of issues with Harmonix's hardware; the pads had no rebound, could not register fast hits or rolls, and would eventually stop working altogether the more you used them, the kick pedal could not be pressed fast enough to register quick double kicks or continuous use of the base drum (and it would always slide around and never stay in place), and the guitars broke easily and had sticky buttons. Harmonix offered a warranty and replaced any drum set as long as you sent the broken ones in, and between the Rock Band model and the slightly improved Rock Band 2 model, I went through at least 18 of them, until I got my beloved ION drum set. I tried everything to get my pads to work, too: I wrapped socks around them, opened them up and glued coins into them so they could register hits, etc. I did all this because I loved playing the drums so much, and was getting better every time I played, slowly moving my way up from Easy to Expert.


The greatest strengths of the Rock Band platform in my mind was always its party atmosphere, the DLC, and the way you could import songs from older titles in the series into the next one, with all your DLC carrying over. I have over 1,000 songs and a $300 electronic drum set, and I cry a little at night because I know the money I have spent on Rock Band could have been used to buy a house at this point. As much fun as it is to play the drums or sing alone, Rock Band is always at its funnest as a party game. I've invited friends to play many times over the 5 years the platform has been around, and we always have a good time playing; in fact, I actually felt the first stirrings of love in my heart when I heard my friend sing for the first time (she is now my girlfriend, and she can hit the high notes in "I Believe in a Thing Called Love" like NOBODY'S BUSINESS). Neither me or any of my other friends can really sing, but we still love doing it, because we are having fun. I have so many fond memories of playing with friends; I've collapsed on the floor after drumming "Battery," harmonized the shit out of "Holiday" with 2 other people, gotten a little drunk and called my best friend Steve instead of Dom while singing "The Joker," and had my IONs' entire right side come apart on more than one occasion playing a song, which always led to laughter and screaming.

Rock Band is the game series I have played the longest, thanks to its weekly DLC, and it is truly amazing to say I have played something for over 5 years. I have gotten used to the drums (cymbals AND pads thanks to Rock Band 3), and am itching to buy my own drum set and practice real drums once I have the money to do so. I have bonded with many friends over Rock Band and still have parties so I can play with them and have fun. I have gotten all the instruments, even the limited edition PRO guitar, and want to try to learn it when I have the time (though I hear Rocksmith teaches real guitar better). I always have fun with Rock Band and have never grown tired of it, so fuck the haters that say, "People still play Rock Band? DURH-HURH!" (may or may not be an actual comment said by a fuckface). I always felt it was more than a game, that it was an experience, and it is an experience that I continue to enjoy daily.   read

8:01 PM on 12.15.2012

Reminiscing about golden, Rarer days: An ode to my childhood heroes

I remember a time when I was a young boy, growing up with my SNES, and being truly amazed by the talents of a company I had never heard of before, Rareware. Rare's golden logo was stylish and hypnotizing, and for a while, everything they made seemed to have the Midas touch. Donkey Kong Country and all its sequels and Killer Instinct were the first games that wowed me from Rare, because I had never before seen such amazing graphics, sound, and music come through my SNES to my television screen. I was hooked and wanted to see what the future held for such a talented company, and they made a fan and true believer out of me. When the Nintendo 64 came around, Rare continued to amaze me. Goldeneye, Banjo-Kazooie, Conker's Bad Fur Day, and Perfect Dark were some of my absolute favorites (they still are today). Let me tell you about how this once golden company transfixed me, excited me, and left me with so many great recollections, big and small.

This video was my first introduction to Donkey Kong Country, and I cannot even begin to tell you how much of my young, childlike mind was blown upon viewing all this in-game footage. It was 1994 and I was almost 10 years old, the Playstation wasn't out yet, the Saturn was JUST coming out, and this wonderful game was coming out for my bestest pal, the SNES, AND IT LOOKED LIKE IT WAS FROM THE FUCKING FUTURE. A 32 meg game? I didn't even know what that meant, but it sounded important and impressive and I wanted to play the shit out of it. The backgrounds were unbelievably stunning, especially when they went from day into night or when it rained in the middle of a level. Donkey Kong Country was fucking GORGEOUS, its entire design was revolutionary, and its gameplay was unparallelled. The platforming was so tight, the controls were as smooth as a delicious, impeccable booty, and finding all the secrets and hidden areas spoke to the completionist in my heart. Seeing the 3D models and hearing about how all the technology was on the cartridge, that I didn't need to buy an adapter to play Donkey Kong Country; I couldn't believe it. I used to own the VHS tape where the footage up above is from (thanks, Nintendo Power), and I damn near wore it out watching it so many times. It was cool to get to learn tricks before even owning the game, and I was happy to see that so many people involved with Donkey Kong Country's creation were young guys not too much older than me; I wanted to grow up to be like them one day. Rare made 2 great sequels to Donkey Kong Country on the SNES, with Donkey Kong Country 2 being my personal favorite (I'll probably go into detail about it soon, because it is SO INCREDIBLE, it deserves its own blog post).

Clearly Rare could make exceptional platformers (and Killer Instinct was a fun fighter that made multi-hit combo moves famous), but could they revolutionize again, in a different genre altogether? Yes, they could, and yes, they fucking did. Jesus Christ, Goldeneye, where do you even start?! I saw this game playing in Electronic Boutiques on the first floor of the Kings Plaza mall, thought it was the coolest shit ever, and it was from my good buddies at Rare; how could it fail? It didn't; in fact, Goldeneye surpassed every one of my expectations. The missions themselves were a lot of fun, and I freaking LOVED how the game gave the player more objectives to complete the higher the difficulty level. Goldeneye emphasized stealth on the more difficult settings; James Bond couldn't afford to get shot with so many bullets, so you had to learn to be SNEAKY in order to complete each area. Cheats were awarded to hardened veterans who could complete stages in record time (speedruns DO payoff at times), and you haven't lived unless you have played around with the All Guns cheat and created three-handed James Bond (watch laser + Moonraker laser = PHYSICAL IMPOSSIBILITY). Just PAUSING THE GAME was fun; I'll never get tired of seeing that spy watch (and thinking that James stood frozen in time by accessing the game's inventory and options). The real magic, though, was always the multiplayer. Yes, it's very difficult to go back to it now because of the slowdown, but back in 1997, you can bet your ass my friends and I were in awe. We had 4-player battles to the death with any guns and explosives we wanted (and I was king at exploding remote mines in midair), and it was all on a single screen. My cousin and I invented Russian Bomber Squad with Mishkin and Boris, and we used to run around shooting rockets at my poor younger brother (I hit him with a rocket from across an entire room once; it was my proudest moment). My friends and I would call a friendly meeting at the helipad outside the bunker to discuss non-violent solutions to our problems, and I was always the first one to aim my reticule at someone's face and shoot it. Rare was one of the first; fuck it, THE first company to make a great game out of a movie license, and every single FPS that came after Goldeneye owes its multiplayer formula to its pioneering ways.

Banjo-Kazooie, you wonderful adventure, you. Rare, you never stopped trying to top yourself, and Banjo-Kazooie was one of the best 3D platformers ever created. Sure, Super Mario 64 came first and set the groundwork for how a 3D adventure game should be, but you took that groundwork and expanded on it; truth be told, today's platformers owe more to Banjo than to Mario. Collecting all the various objects in the game was a great time, and there was always an incentive to do so (how else can you even get to the true final boss and experience the best ending?). Exploring the rich world of Banjo-Kazooie and combing its every nook and cranny for every collectible never got boring or felt too much like a fetch quest (which is sadly what Donkey Kong 64 felt like). Gruntilda's rhymes were always fresh and I thought she really could have had a career as an MC. Clanker was fucking terrifying when I first saw him because it looked like flesh had been ripped off a damn ROBOT. I remember slamming Boggy in the stomach with Kazooie's powerful beak and being shocked that it didn't get him to throw-up a Jiggy (don't act like you didn't do the exact same thing!). And having one of the final battles be a game show where you had to remember specific things about the various worlds in order to advance was GENIUS. More than anything else, Banjo-Kazooie's greatest strength was its world, because it felt like it always had more secrets to offer and mysteries to solve. Rare managed to beat Nintendo at its own game with its unique platformer.

Rare, you provided some excellent games in your prime, and you were the company I looked up to the most; you guys were my personal heroes. I know times have been tough ever since you found a new home with Microsoft, and you haven't been able to create the same kind of magic you did when you were with Nintendo. I still believe in you, though. Wherever you end up in the future, I know one day you can achieve greatness again. You provided gamers with fantastic games that we will always love; hopefully one day, you can once again shine like the golden treasure I always thought you were.   read

1:55 PM on 12.09.2012

Going back in time with my teenage turtle friends

"You know, man, whenever you do a review, you are always doing Genesis games! I thought you loved the SNES, and yet you are always going on about ducks and opposums dressed in knight armor. You got some sick fantasies, guy. SICK!" This is the thought that I am sure many of you are thinking whenever you read my blog, and I hear you guys (literally; please stop, because hearing all your thoughts at once is like a vuvuzela blaring endlessly). Listen, I do love the SNES, perhaps even too much. There are too many games that I absolutely adore, and I want to talk about all of them. Then I remembered back to the time of the beat-em-up, and thought about an age-old question: Which is the best one? Games like Streets of Rage 2, Final Fight, Double Dragon, and Scott Pilgrim are all exceptional sidescrolling beat-em-ups, but there was always one brawler that I felt stood above all the rest. I am of course talking about Turtles in Time, featuring your favorite artists-turned-tutles-that Michael Bay is now turning into aliens (he won't stop until all our childhood memories are sullied beyond recognition, my friends).

When you start Turtles in Time, the coolest thing you'll notice (if you can be bothered to go into the options) is that you can change the Turtles' look from their 90's cartoon look to their original comic look, complete with pupil-less eyes and original color scheme! Anyway, start playing and you'll hear the awesome cry of "COWABUNGA!" emanating from your television, and then you can pick your turtle (I call dibs on Raph; god help you if you choose Raph before me). You will begin in New York City, because Krang just stole the Statue of Liberty (for reasons never fully explained; maybe he's just lonely?). Players can run by holding the direction they are facing, and shoulder charge (press Y) or do a fancy slide flip thing (press B + Y). Your shoulder attack is vital to becoming an expert fighter and key to your survival: when you charge, you stun the enemy, and can bash them from left to right for a few seconds if you are right next to them and hit Y, clearing out enemies to your sides in one hit. If you stun them and press the direction you are facing AND Y, you will throw them at the screen like that shot up above, which is not nearly as useful as the happy-smashy-smashy attack (but you will need to use it to kill a certain boss who likes to SHRED. HAHA! *Buries head in shame*).

Gamers will get to the Technodrome by level 4, and ask themselves, "THAT'S IT?!" No, that isn't it; did you even read the title? The level itself is quite fun because it has Tokka and Rahzar from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II as bosses (remember Vanilla Ice and the Ninja Rap? I used to have that on CD and dance to it when I was a kid! *Cries bitter tears*). You get to go on a trip through time after the Technodrome, from dinosaurs to pirates to the distant future. By this time, you will notice that you really can't afford to take too much of a beating; a few hits will bring you close to death, and certain attacks like the robot's electric lasso will drain HALF YOUR LIFE. There are 4 solutions to this dilemma: get better, drop the difficulty down to easy, up the lives in the options, or go out into the real world and make a friend, maybe even just for the sole purpose of beating Turtles in Time (you hollow, hollow person). Beat-em-ups are always more fun with a friend by your side: they are always watching your back, defeating enemies, and stealing the pizza for health even though you CLEARLY had less life than they did; I swear, nobody has any common sense or courtesy. Everyone will have a blast with the two bonus stages (including one that is all vertical and shows off Mode 7 even more than the flying enemies): you get to collect pizza boxes and kill enemies for points, including the dreaded PIZZA MONSTER (which looks like a Xenomorph made entirely out of cheese; god, that sounds creepily delicious).

If you are hankering for some turtlin' brawlin' with or without a friend, make sure to hunt down the SNES port of Turtles in Time. The SNES version has added enemies, levels, and bosses, though they did just up and replace some from the arcade version. I'm sure no one would ever remake the shorter, less impressive arcade version, make it 3D, and replace all the voices with the 2003 cast of the Turtles cartoon(*cough*UBISOFT*cough*). Experience this game: it has wonderful music, sound effects (I love hearing Raph scream "MY TOE!" when he steps on a spiked mine), levels, and even includes a time trial and versus mode for added fun. See if you also think that this is the finest beat-em-up ever made, and always be thankful for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; if it wasn't for them, we never would love pizza as much as we do today.   read

8:17 AM on 12.08.2012

2012: I got a fever for the rhythm and it's heavenly

The hardest part writing about my favorite gaming moment of 2012? Trying to remember what games came out in 2012. I am old and feeble and my memory is hazy, and I can barely remember what happened yesterday, let alone in this past year. The thoughts that ran through my head were borderline senile: "You know what game was fun? Skyward Sword! I had some fun moments with Zelda (2011)." "Oh man, good times playing co-op with my brother in RE5 (2009)." "I LOVED ZACK AND WIKI, AND DAMN YOU ALL TO HELL FOR NOT BUYING IT (2007, and yes, I am still crying over it)." I mean, fuck! Did I play anything this year that CAME OUT THIS YEAR? My backlog of games is immense and I'm trying to go through them as I find time, but I suck with dates. *looks up* Wait, Rhythm Heaven Fever is amazing, and I'd love to talk about that game. When did it come out? February 2012! HAPPY DAY! Now I can invite all of you to read about how I discovered my inner rhythm with this gem, and how playing it will not help you bust moves on the dance floor in any way, shape, or form.

Ok, first off, look at that box art up at the very top. Whoever designed it was clearly thinking, "You know what will attract a consumer's attention? Every single color known to man regurgitated onto the front cover. How can this not sell like hotcakes when we have two shirtless beings literally shitting rainbows and skyrocketing into space?" I commend you, you nameless, faceless, probably shirtless, crazy genius of a man (or woman). So, what kind of game is Rhythm Heaven Fever? It's a rhythm game where you time button presses on your Wiimote to match actions on the screen, but it's like a spastic, deranged squirrel banging into trees with a reckless sense of abandon with the sheer amount of crazy shit you get to do in each unique mini-game. My friend bought this game and brought it over my house and we took turns going through each scenario, hungrily unlocking more and more, always eager to see what was next. By the way, the game is currently in my possession, and my friend will get it back when I either complete the last mini-game or he gives me back my SNES, whichever comes first (both seem highly unlikely).

Yes, this screen was the first mini-game I enjoyed in Rhythm Heaven Fever, and coincidentally how my first date went (everyone should try kicking away a basketball that threatens to squish two weasels who are very much in love with someone they like at least once; it is a lovely couple activity). Being one of the earlier mini-games you play, it isn't too difficult; the soccer ball bounces at a regular beat, the basketball has an off-beat to watch out for, and the football tries to fake you out by bouncing back before bouncing forward again. Timing your A button presses will kick the various balls out of the weasels' way AND impress your date at the same time. What I really liked about this level was the art style and how colorful the stage was, the weasels' jump for joy when you successfully kicked a ball away, and how every time you kicked a football, a random football player in the background would jump to catch it; I actually laughed out loud. These little touches showed me a game that was designed with a lot of heart, and I like moments that bring a smile to my face.

While Rhythm Heaven Fever is INDEED fantabulous, it is evil, evil to its very core. Even before you start playing the real meat of the game, you test your button presses to a visual timer, until some colorful fuckfaces BLOCK YOUR VIEW and you are forced to do the timing in your head. They are trying to teach you this early, because your eyes will not help you later on; in fact, they become a burden. Look at the above video and try to imagine my frustration while doing that particular game. I see the demons coming, and all of a sudden a story pops up about a girl losing her pinwheel toy thing, and I scream and get distracted and lose my flow and start fucking up. Rhythm Heaven Fever is not nice; it WANTS you to fail. If you are like me and love getting medals or some type of reward for doing good (the game randomly picks certain levels you have completed to give you a shot at a medal, but you can't fuck up and only have three tries), then games like Samurai Slice will end you and force you to crawl into the fetal position. What you have to learn is the rhythm is not about the visual; it is about the sound, the FEEL of the beat. There are a number of mini-games you will play that you will have an easier time with if you close your eyes. It might seem crazy at first, but if you give it time, you will learn to go by audio and pulses. While it was maddening at times, I grew to appreciate this approach to teaching rhythm, because in reality, rhythm is all about feeling the beat (and you can always enjoy the game's visuals while watching someone else play, laughing at their attempts to concentrate on getting another perfect run for a medal, and watching them excuse themselves to go to the bathroom so they can hide their shame).

What I like the most about Rhythm Heaven Fever is its lasting appeal and replayability. It's always fun trying to go for every medal in the game, perfecting your rhythm, timing various button presses and holds (and it's always hitting A or A + B or holding A + B; it is never overly complicated and I love its simplicity). I love playing badminton in the sky with a flying cat and dog or flexing for the press as a Mexican wrestler (to this day, I will sometimes randomly look at my friends and shout, "POSE FOR THE FANS!" or "BA BUM BUM BUM!"). I adore the remixes, where you play little snippets of previous mini-games (sometimes to original tunes!); these remixes are the true test of your mastery of the beat, and the final one requires you to use everything you have learned, because it contains pieces of EVERY MINI-GAME. And you can always enjoy trying out the endless games and seeing how far you get, or play the co-op ones with a friend and achieve PERFECT SYNCHRONIZATION (I only wish there were more offered). My favorite gaming moment of 2012 was made up of many small ones, and the variety and pleasure they offered made me more happy than any one, singular, grandiose game ever could.   read

3:37 PM on 12.02.2012

Try desperately to remember who you are in Flashback: The Quest for Identity

Ahhh, good old Flashback, one of my personal favorites from the 16-bit era. If you are wondering what kind of game Flashback is, it is like Out of This World (or Another World as it was originally called) except a bajillion times better; or think Total Recall, with a snazzier-dressed protagonist and no three-breasted escorts (actually, I don't think there are any women in this game. What gives, Flashback?). It is a game with a great story: it weaves a tale that consists of a lost identity, finding out who one is, and a conspiracy that must be stopped in order to save the Earth. This is one of those games I tried out on both the Genesis and the SNES, and my advice to anyone searching for it to play on a console is to get the Genesis one. The Genesis music and sound effects may be godawful, but the slowdown is horrendous on the SNES (YEAH, BLAST PROCESSING). You can always hunt it down for the PC, as well, because that version has great audio for the myriad of amazing sounds you are going to hear throughout your journey.

Before the title screen, you are shown running from some people on a spaceship. You escape and crash-land onto a jungle-like planet called Titan. You wake up and start the game, and you can run around and do long jumps and crouch and roll and draw and shoot your pistol (which is the only weapon in the ENTIRE GAME; and considering all the different types of creatures you kill with it, it's quite magical for such a plain gun). You eventually find a cube and find out who you are, where your memories are, and how they were erased; it's all very cool. On Titan, there are these elf-like enemies with big guns and little robots with antennas you have to shoot that explode. One of the funnest things you can do in the first level is throw a rock to distract an enemy, and then shoot him in the back when he goes to investigate (and giggle uncontrollably, but maybe that is just me). Your pistol has unlimited ammo, but your shield can only take four hits before you die. Luckily, you can recharge your shield at generators throughout the game. There are numerous hazards you will come across, too: little beams along the ground that phase you out of existence, pitfalls, bombs, and this cool green toxic machine that disintegrates your body upon contact, complete with an animation of your bones evaporating!

As you progress, you will receive a fantastic force field that will protect you from enemy shots. When you face any enemy with a gun, you can temporarily create a force field that will protect you from their bullets, but you have to time it right, because it only lasts a second. I think it also protects your back if someone is shooting you from behind, as well. The force field is a godsend because your shield can only take so much before you die, and it adds a level of strategy and quick timing to the game. You will eventually take jobs in order to earn cash to compete on a game show, where the prize is free tickets to Earth, which is where the conspiracy begins to unravel. Players can save the game at certain points in a given level, and will re-spawn there in case of death. However, the Genesis and SNES are cartridge-based systems, so there is a password system used in order to go to a level once you turn the game off. Also, if you are playing on the Genesis, one of the jobs requires you to fix a machine that is about to explode, but you have to insert a missing part in an exact spot. It has to be pixel perfect. And you are timed. It will lead to cursing and thrown controllers. FUN.

Those tiny fuckers in the above shot are going to make you wish you were dead, trust me. Flashback gets really hectic when you get to Earth: enemies will be shocking you, shooting you, and poking your butt with prods, all at the same time. You will scream at the television. If you endure, you will eventually go to outer space and fight aliens. The aliens can hit you with orbs of light, shape-shift into a ball and crawl along the ground, and leap and drop from the ceiling. And they take a lot of bullets to kill. I can already taste your tears. You will get a cool teleporter, though; you can throw the receiver anywhere you want that isn't a bottomless pit and transport there instantly. It is a lot of fun, but the difficulty is crazy by the last level, so you will need to bring your A game in order to complete your quest.

Flashback is a great game with an interesting and unique story that you will want to unravel until the very end. The jumping and platforming is a lot like Prince of Persia, and the gun combat requires quick thinking and planning in order to survive. It starts getting hard by the second level, though, and the difficulty ramps up very quickly, so fair warning. I know the Genesis version contained a Marvel comic that fleshed out some of the story, so E-Bay that shit if you want to learn everything. Also, a sequel was made called Fade to Black, but it is outright shitty garbage that you will want to erase from your memory (get it?! Haha, I'll be here all week). Hopefully some fans will read this and want to reminisce with me!   read

10:16 AM on 12.01.2012

Farewell, Nintendo Power, and thanks for the memories

Oh man, this is so hard. I know you are ending soon, old friend, and I am trying to find the right words to speak. Saying goodbye is never easy. As I reflect back to my childhood, I am remembering all the happy memories you gave to me, all those feelings of excitement, and that sense of wonder I always felt flipping through your pages, always learning something new and interesting. Every month, I was filled with anticipation, waiting for you to hit my front doorstep, and I was always ready to bring you to school, to show off to my friends, with a sense of pride that never dwindled. I was always a Nintendo fan at heart; my NES was the first game system I remember playing and loving, and when the SNES came around, you helped nurtured that love, made it grow. Thank you for that.

This was the first issue of you I received after my grandmother wrote a check out for my subscription, and I remember thinking this was the coolest cover of a book I had ever laid eyes upon. Due to the timing of my subscription, I was mailed issues 55 and 56 concurrently, but as luck would have it, 56 got to me first; its silver hotness the very first issue I owned. I had dabbled with Mega Man when I was a kid, its difficulty always getting the best of me, but it wasn't until I learned about Mega Man X that I got hooked on Capcom's Blue Bomber. After reading through your preview, looking at all the screenshots, seeing how fresh and colorful everything looked, I knew I had to own the game. I remember my parents getting me Mega Man X one holiday season, and it blew away my expectations, becoming not only one of my favorite SNES games, but one of my favorite games of all time. In subsequent issues, you shared some classified information: armor upgrades, heart and sub tank locations, and the hidden hadoken power-up; which was so hidden and secret, I knew I wouldn't have found it without you. Thanks to you, Mega Man X became one of my favorite childhood memories, and it wouldn't have impacted me as much if it hadn't been for that special, shiny issue.

Yes, I remember getting that VHS way back when. One of the coolest things about you was that you always sent your subscribers cool stuff with their subscriptions; be it a video showing upcoming amazing games (I remember the Donkey Kong Country one and having my mind blown with its gorgeous graphics and environments) or a free strategy guide (how else was I going to find all the Gold Skulltulas in Ocarina of Time?). Regarding Star Fox 64, I remember telling my cousin how cutting edge it was to have full voice acting in a game, and his response of the Playstation already being capable of that long before. Nowadays I find the advantages and disadvantages of all the current gen systems, but back then, you kindled a loyalty in me, helped make me a Nintendo fanboy. Thanks to videos like the above, I thought Sega and Sony were the enemy, trying to steal glory and money away from Nintendo. Being a member of your community and learning about everything Nintendo, that really couldn't be helped. Though I became more open-minded when I got older, I enjoyed my time as a fanboy, because you helped me feel special; like I was a part of a special club, filled with like minded individuals. I don't regret it, and to this day, my fondest memories and my favorite games are still Nintendo ones.

Issue 80 was always near and dear to my heart, because it was the first time in my life that I was learning about an upcoming system through you. I already had a NES and a SNES before I started reading you, but hearing about the Ultra 64 stirred feelings in my loins I had never experienced before. 64 bits CLEARLY meant it was better than 16, and the polygons and the newness of 3 dimensions filled me with childlike awe. Everything looked so open-ended, so free, like there was an entire world to explore. I was at my cousin's house when I got the call from home, that there was a surprise waiting for me, way back in September of 1996. When I got home, there it was in a box, the Nintendo 64, and I was filled with all the hype you had given me with your coverage. When I sat down to play Super Mario 64, heard Mario's voice, played with his face on the title screen, and started to explore all the vast worlds in the game, I was in heaven. This was the game that wrote the book on 3D platformers; every game that has come since owes their existence and their general guideline to Super Mario 64. The only game that matched and arguably exceeded Super Mario 64's sense of openness was Ocarina of Time. I remember hitting Hyrule Field and just feeling a tremendous sense of exploration. No game in my mind has ever come close to that feeling; that there was a whole world out there to explore, that it breathed and operated much like ours, going from day into night. Nothing can ever touch that first sunset you see out in the field. Old friend, I am in your debt for introducing me to these amazing games that filled me with joy and provided me with such lasting recollections.

Things are so different nowadays. News is very fast and easy to come by thanks to blogs and the internet, which is exciting in its own, unique way. But nothing will ever take away the feelings you gave me; you were my first magazine, my first mail item that I would always eagerly wait for, and my first real sense of being part of a community, a culture. Whether it was news coverage, letters from fans, tips and secrets, contests, or the occasional freebie for being a member, you were always exciting to read. I still have my old issues downstairs in my drawer; a reminder of a time that was very special to me, that I will always cherish. Goodbye, my friend. Trust me, I am going to miss you.   read

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