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Horror Story: The mental scars left by Silent Hill 2; they never truly heal
8:15 AM on 02.09.2013
Sex: Why is sexism so prevalent with zombie game advertisements?
12:50 PM on 02.03.2013
Does X mark the spot in Mega Man X? Hell to the yes!
10:52 PM on 01.21.2013
Mega Man 3 proves that yes, the third time is indeed the charm
4:10 PM on 01.06.2013
Rock Band: The game (or rather, experience) that keeps on giving
2:53 PM on 12.23.2012
Reminiscing about golden, Rarer days: An ode to my childhood heroes
8:01 PM on 12.15.2012

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My name is Arthur Damian, I am 30 years old, and I've been gaming since the NES era. I like the new school and the old school. Chrono Trigger is the bestest game ever, and Junction is the worstest. I love to write, and am currently working at Lehman College, helping students transfer in their credits from other universities. I also love vidja gamez, and right now I'm playing games on the Sega Genesis, even though I have a huge backlog of games on the Wii and 360 to go through. BLURG. I also work for That VideoGame Blog now as editor-in-chief, writing and editing daily news posts! YAY!

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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.
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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. Just...no. 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:

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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.

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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!

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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.
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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.
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