Friday, December 31, 2010

Christmas Haul and Happy New Year! (Plans for next year included)

I feel bad for not posting as often as I wanted to on the blog I founded, hopefully that will change next year.

Anyway, I guess I'll tell what I got for Christmas from my aunt and uncle and my father. Well, I received from my aunt and uncle the new 250 GB model Xbox 360, so I finally have one once again. With that, I also got Rock Band 3 with the keyboard from my father. My aunt and uncle also gave my dad and I a Samsung HDTV they had in storage. Along with those things, some minor things I got was a new watch from my mom and a new headset. That headset will come in handy for something new we have planned for the site next year. (I'll give you a hint, it starts with a 'pod' and ends with a 'cast').

We have a few things planned to get rolling next month, it may not get done in January, but we will definitely get these things started next year:

-PK Gaming Podcast
-Game of the Year awards (Mostly a personal GOTY awards type thing for each of us.)
-A Hall of Fame of some sort

That's all I have to post for now, I hope all you readers have enjoyed PK Gaming's birth in the later half of this year, and I hope you continue to follow us! Also, tell us what you might have received over the holidays and have a very happy new year!

Flash Friday: Miami/Sydney Shark

Well, it's the last Flash Friday of the year, and the last day of the year, how convenient!

After Christmas last Saturday, we had a foot of snow fall here in North Carolina, and while it's nice to see since it's a rarity in my area... I'm getting a bit sick of it, and dreaming of spring and summer.

And what better way to dream of spring and summer than pretending to be a vicious man-eating shark causing terror in a major coastal city!

This is Miami Shark.

And for those of you in the southern hemisphere, where it's already summer, here is Sydney Shark.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Playing The Classics: The Lost Levels: Vol 3

And with the Warp Zone from Level 1-2, I found myself back in World 2. In order to make my way through all the levels, I had to play through World 2 and Level 3-1 again to find myself back on track for 3-2. When I came across that spring, I dismissed it like a Goomba to pants. I've learned my lesson...for now. I was kind of sad leaving the snow behind so quick but the levels continued to get better and better.

The World 3 castle level was my next "wall" I encountered. It was one of those annoying levels where you have to figure out the pattern or the level will continue to repeat itself. Finding out the pattern is of course trial and error which isn't the worst part though. I was convinced that an insanely hard jump was the key. I tried making that jump for a long long time. Then, by accident like with the last wall, I found some invisible blocks by complete accident. That was the solution! The rest was simple to figure out and I beat Bowser with 329 left on the clock. Upon freeing the Toads, I realized this was the first time I watched this animation. I like it. It's kinda cute. I can only imagine how packed seven Toads will be though... Tough break.

As I made my way through World 4... the preview screens became more menacing and the levels themselves certainly followed suit. Bullet Bills, Hammer Bros, and Lakitus, all while small because well, that's what happens in this game. It's been quite a challenge but it's still really fun to be going through these levels. I am so thankful for the save feature of the 25th Anniversary disc. I made it through the World 4 Castle with relative ease. I only made it to Bowser twice and luckily I made a leap of faith that paid off that second time. Whew. However that certainly wouldn't be the end of my pain.

World 5 contains a new breed of Piranha Plant... pink/orange ones that can't be defeated and they don't get shy when you're near or on a pipe. Hot damn SMB2JPN! They continue to throw the formula into a blender with Miyamoto's face at the bottom. Plus in Level 5-1, I found the WIND to be a damn shock. I died the first time but nailed that part the second time. At the end of Level 5-2 I noticed the possibility of a Warp Zone. I decided to at least investigate it. It was for World 7 but I want to play all these levels, so I just let the clock run out. With that I restarted and made my way back through to the proper exit.

No... No... No... No... No... No... No... No... No... No!!!

World 5-3... WTF... really?... Find out why in Volume 4. I... I need a minute.

Read Part 4

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Mega Man Haikus

Recently, over at the fantastic Negative World forums, there was a holiday contest by the owner of the site, Zero. He asked the users to create haikus based on Mega Man bosses. He was to judge them and the top three would win a WiiWare game from him. Many entered with great entries and as a user of those forums myself, I wanted to display some of my personal favorites. I entered too but with a lackluster entry. I was so busy the past few weeks I completely forgot to put a legitimate try out there. Oh well. There were no lack of great entries and I encourage anyone who loves video games, Nintendo especially, to go sign up at the Negative World forums. It's a great group, especially if your favorite forums have died out over the past few years.

A haiku of course for those who don't know is a kind of poem which is comprised of three lines. The first and last lines are five syllables long and the second line is seven syllables long. Now, enjoy the haikus.

by GelatinousEncore
Space is infinite
We are insignificant
Why do we matter?
- Galaxy Man

by TriforceBun
People say I'm lame
but when Hanukkah rolls by
guess who gets called first.
- Top Man

by Abdooooo
Bored in my locked room
Waiting for the man in blue
I'm droppin' da bomb
- Crash Man

by Roykoopa64
Razor sharp and slick
You enter as one but now
A million pieces
- Blade Man

by anon_mastermind
Vengeful attraction
Will thus determine your fate
Now that we are near
- Magnet Man

by Mr_Mustache
Metool for a hat
Big construction is my game
I hope I'm not first
- Gutsman

by ludist210
Haikus are silly
Sometimes they don't make much sense
- Clown Man

So what did you all think of the entries? Have any of your own? Think you can do better? Notice I didn't add mine? There's a reason for that. Aw hell, I'll do it. Again, I didn't aim high with this one.

by DrFinkelstein
How much Wood could a
Wood Man chuck if a Wood Man
could chuck some wood? None.
- Wood Man

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Playing The Classics: The Lost Levels: Vol 2

-- Part One --

As I got back into the game I found yet another surprise in World 2-1. This game is all about unconventional changes to the Mario formula. I received a Starman early on and yet the area right after was full of large watery pits. Normally you're allowed to run for a while knocking enemies out but here you received a star and didn't have much to do. In fact, having the speed boost might have made it harder to traverse the pits. Surprising to say the least. I also ran into a spring. Before they were very hard to use properly but here they launch you into the air off screen for a moment lasting a few seconds. It's a super jump. I wonder, and fully expect, if this will come into play trickier later. Level 2-2 is where I found pretty much the first big problem for myself. A pit too far to jump across. A ledge in the worst spot ever. This game has no mercy. I have wasted many lives and continues that this particular spot. Consider me stumped right now.

A day later I figured it out. It didn't take me too long and it was painfully obvious but still... there wasn't just one hidden block but two. I had a hard time finding it though. This game definitely throws conventions out the window. I tried, as anyone would, to jump that gap in any ways I could. I even saved the star earlier in the level, slowly following it's bounce, in hopes that would give me some kind of extra jumping power. It didn't and now I know why.

When playing through 2-4, I, by complete accident, hit an invisible block which provided a convenient Super Mushroom for myself partway through the level. I had to run back and nab it just before it fell into some lava. I was quite smooth on that move. After a few tries I made it to the end of the castle. I really appreciate the graphics in this game. I don't know how the original compared but there are some nice subtle touches. When the floor Bowser was standing on disintegrates, it does so in such a nice way. It's satisfying like watching dominoes fall.

Coming into World 3, level 3-1 has some nice little snow touches to give this a real feel of a Snow World. I don't think there was a Snow World of any kind in Super Mario Bros. Quite nice here. Nice only for a moment that is. The game sets you up for a douche move. There's a spring right before the end of the level. I now knew that springs work insanely well in this game. So I shot up and floated right as fast as possible, knowing I'd go over the flagpole and to some secret. Well, normally that secret would be a warp pipe to the future (which I didn't want anyway because I wanted to play every level of this game). Instead I reached the warp zone and found a Warp to World 1. What a bitch. What a crafty bitch.

Nintendo and I were in a mind game... and they were winning. At least upon returning to level 1-1 with a Super Mario, I was able to earn a Fire Mario for a little while. I guess that's the glass half full eh?

Read Part 3

Playing The Classics: Donkey Kong Country: Vol 1

On Christmas morning, as a part of a Secret Santa thing I was participating in over at the Negative World forums, I received in my Wii the game, Donkey Kong Country. The original bananarama from the Super Nintendo back in 1994. Like an ape calling out through the jungle, it called to me and said, "You love the new one, play the original!" It called to me and so I answered. Welcome to the Playing The Classics for Donkey Kong Country.

From the get-go there's one thing to notice. The graphics are crude. I know they were good for back in the day, but they certainly do look muddy and it's a lot harder to tell what is a solid platform and what isn't. However I wont knock it for that because frankly it is insanely unfair to judge an older game by a sequel releasing sixteen years later. That'd be like a more minor version of judging Star Wars Episode 4 by Star Wars Episode 1. However in that case, the former still beats the latter. I digress, and yet I will still continue to make comparisons. There are all these synapses firing off in my head over just what Donkey Kong Country Returns borrowed from this game and the series as a whole. If you haven't, go read my Donkey Kong Country Returns Review to see what I thought about that game.

Now, in the first three levels I've noticed that while obviously the idea is the same, DKCR has borrowed some key stuff. The menu music and other tunes have already made their 16-bit presence known. The barrel throwing action has been seen plenty. Also, Rambi the Rhino has made his first appearance, acting just as I know him from DKCR. I don't know if it's a chicken or an egg story but I'm liking parts of this game because of what I know from DKCR. It feels like some sort of Grandfather Paradox though without the murder. Already too in this first 'world' of the game I played as another animal character. I played as Expresso the Ostrich. It took me a moment to put together that Expresso could fly but when I did figure that out, it was kind of fun. I wouldn't say I would have missed him in the Retro Studios sequel but perhaps it would have been fun to have some more animals besides Rambi. I'm pretty excited to get to meet the infamous Enguarde the Swordfish. I've heard a lot about him and for me as someone who has never played this game before, I feel like Enguarde is even more noteworthy than Rambi. At the least, my knowledge of Enguarde was greater anyway. The last major similarity, which I knew was a staple of the series since the beginning, was the Kong Letters. I like having those back because not only am I collect-a-thon kind of person, but they typically help lure you into certain secret or hard to reach areas, thus making you a better, or at least a more perceptive, gamer.

So I battled the first three levels, spoke with that cranky bastard Cranky, and found a hidden room or two. So far so good. Was I a fool to have dismissed this series until just recently? Probably, but only time will really tell. As you might realize, I am in the middle of Playing The Classics: The Lost Levels as well. I'll be playing both games and keeping up with those posts so don't think I'm choosing one game over the other. It's classic mayhem here at the DrFinkelstein gaming bunker... (note: Not a real bunker). Lastly, I want to wish you readers out there a Merry Christmas and a Happy Holidays.

Eat, Drink, Game, and Be Merry.

Read Part 2

Friday, December 24, 2010

Flash Friday: Mountain Maniac

You didn't think I would forget Flash Friday because of Christmas Eve did you?

Well, today's Flash game is another by Pixel Jam, the same developer that made Dino Run.

This is Mountain Maniac.

You're a raging mountain man that's mad as hell and can't take it anymore, so, like any raging mountain man, he takes it out on the town by using his hammer to dislodge boulders that destroy anything in it's path. Sounds fun, right? It's basically like a really large game of plinko, but you do have control over the direction the boulders will fall.

Why did I choose this game for today? Well, there's a Christmas-themed version! It seems the mountain man took a job as a mall Santa, but he's had enough of it! Take out all your holiday rage on Christmas eve with this fun little flash game!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Review: Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem!

This DS game was given to me by one of my friends for my birthday. I wasn't really expecting it, but it was a nice change to have a puzzle game in the line up of games that I have been playing. So is this game worth getting as a present for Christmas? (Or your birthday, if it's near Christmas like mine.) Well, let's find out...

First of all, the Mario vs. Donkey Kong series arised from reviving the type of gameplay found in the original 'Donkey Kong' game for the Game Boy... but... you won't find any of that here. In fact... the main point of the game has changed throughout the spin-off franchise. The goal now is to guide Mini-Mario toys to the exits of the levels while changing the environment around them. In the original Mario vs. Donkey Kong, this was more of a mini-game, bonus level thing (I can't quite remember, it's been forever since I've played) but now, guiding the Mini-Marios has stayed the main objective throughout the rest of the series.

I suppose Mario is too busy fighting Bowser all the time to fight Donkey Kong, so he just let's his Mini-Mario toys do the work for him. I mean, Bowser wants to rule the universe in the Galaxy games, what's more threatening than that? The only real threat Donkey Kong holds is kidnapping Pauline, the original dame in the very first game Mario had starred in: Donkey Kong. (The arcade Donkey Kong, not to be confused with the Donkey Kong on Game Boy which is a completely different game.)

Enough about the history of the series and why Mario isn't just fighting Donkey Kong himself, let's talk gameplay. Like I said, the goal of the game is to get all the Mini-Marios to the exit of a level by manipulating and placing objects in the environment. Each world will introduce a new type of object or manipulation, and it does stack the skills throughout each world, so you must remember all of the objects that you can use. You don't start the level until you turn on the Mini-Marios, but once you do, get ready to move fast so you don't make a mistake. I found that the levels are never too hard or tedious, and the game rewards you when you collect everything in a level by unlocking more levels in a special world.

It doesn't take long to beat the main game, but after that, you've just started. There's more levels that you can unlock and you are able to create your own levels and share them online. I tried out the level creator and it is very easy to use. I only messed around with it for a little while, but my creative spark may turn on again someday and try making some levels. I also downloaded a few levels that are publically shared online from other people. Some of them that are highly rated are kind of strange... I don't mean strange as in interesting, I mean strange as in, "Why are these rated so high?" Granted, there are some that people have made that are very challenging.

The Verdict:

This game tests your puzzle and reflex skills without forcing the player to think too hard. There is a lot of content to play and unlock and with the level creator and downloadable levels, like I said with my Picross 3D review, there's virtually limitless content for this type of game. I can definitely see myself playing it more in the near future.

What I Liked:

-Virtually limitless content
-Puzzles aren't too hard while they still remain challenging

What I Didn't Like:

-I sort of miss the original Mario vs. Donkey Kong gameplay, but this is more of a gripe with the series in general, so pay no attention to this if you just want a good puzzle game.

Second Opinion: DrFinkelstein
I received this game for Christmas and have just beaten the main worlds. I found this game fantastically fun, the right kind of challenging, and graphically pleasant. A few times I did end up getting very frustrated and mad, though that was typically while striving for a perfect with the boss battles. If you are a fan of puzzle games, and especially games involving Mario, then pick this up right away. It's what the DS was made for and it's pretty much flawless.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Playing The Classics: The Lost Levels: Vol 1

I purchased Super Mario All-Stars for Wii recently and while I'm a bit disappointed in the overall package, one thing it's good for is Super Mario The Lost Levels. I had heard the stories... about its evil nature... but I decided it's time to play it. I never have before. Will I be frustrated? Will I be able to beat it? Time will tell. Welcome to the next installment of Playing The Classics from me, for Super Mario The Lost Levels. With the press of the Start button on my Gold Classic Controller Pro, I began my journey.

I like the musical rendition of the classic theme here on the opening menu. It's misleading... calming... until the game begins. Right off the bat I meet the Poison Mushroom. I had never known this existed until a few years back because I think it has only been in this game in the manner that it is. I avoid it so not to discover it's effects. One thing though is that these controls feel weird. I don't know what's wrong but it doesn't feel as quick as Super Mario 3 and yet it still is kind of reminiscent of Super Mario Bros. It's in a weird middle ground that I hope I eventually get used to. Not surprised, it's still level 1-1 and I died. This is gonna be fun... right? Though the game restarted me right where I died. Conveniently I died by a checkpoint. When I reached 1-2, the classic underground style stage, I almost took the whole 'ceiling' path but I realized if I'm going to play this, I'm going to play it old school as it was intended. That said, I died on a piranha plant. The issue isn't so much with the level design though. I feel like it's the controls still. If this were New Super Mario Bros. Wii... that wouldn't have happened. It makes you wonder why they didn't release a New Super Mario All-Stars with these four games in updated graphics and controls. Just think about how amazing that would have been. Think. About. It.

WTF, Pink Flying Squid!? Wow, this is something strange. Having the Bloopers when you cant simply move anywhere you want on screen is quite a change in the dynamic. It's a fresh take, even for this time in my gaming career. If these are the kind of surprises I'm in for, then I'm going to have one hell of an experience with this game. When I got to level 1-4 I found the graphics to be nice. They reminded me of Mario Is Missing, a great learning PC game from back in the day (though it was also an SNES title). I made it to Koopa and found it easy enough, this time, to send him to the lava pits of doom. I loved how his vain bastard self had a self portrait on the wall. Nice touch.

That leaves it for now. World 1 of what I assume is 8. This was tricky but not that hard. The controls seem to be a big culprit. We'll find out soon how right or wrong I am. Soon for sure. Stay tuned!

Read Part 2

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Diary of a Rookie: Monster Hunter Tri, Part 3

Part 1, Part 2

Pretty soon after I defeated the Rathian mentioned in my last part, I was about to head out to hunt the Lagiacrus that had been terrorizing the village. Before doing so, I thought I would do a few quests online to gather some materials and see what kind of new weapons I could make. I was quite interested to see how the other new weapon type I had unlocked earlier would work, which was the Switch Axe. I had all the materials needed as soon as I was done playing online quests, so I went to the village and forged the weapon.

Holy sh*t, by just looking at the weapon as soon as I forged it, I could tell it was going to be helpful. So, like with the Long Sword, I went out of the village to test it. Once again, a Great Jaggi appeared for me to hunt and it was down within two minutes. Actually, that's a lie, it took me a while to get used to the way the Switch Axe controls, and THEN, when I got used to everything, I took the Great Jaggi down within two minutes. It's called the Switch Axe because it can 'switch' to a sword mode, which will do a ton of damage. It can also do an awesome energy blast while in sword mode. The only drawback is that it can only be in sword mode for so long and then have to 'reload' in axe mode. After seeing the damage I could do with this new weapon, it was time to face the Lagiacrus.

Think the length of a blue whale, but much more dangerous... and electric.
Deja vu... didn't I say the same thing about the long sword and the Rathian? Oh well, this is a casual game site, so screw professionalism! Anyway, after harvesting herbs, blue mushrooms and honey to make some Mega Potions, I was ready to go on my quest. Once I arrived at the coast, a cut-scene was triggered and showed the Lagiacrus sleeping underwater... his eyes then opened and he started charging around the relatively shallow area and bashed an obstacle, getting rid of it for our battle.

Unlike my battle with the Rathian, I actually managed to defeat the Lagiacrus on my first try... but boy was it hard. There were so many times that I thought I would faint to fail the quest and came inches to the Lagiacrus' advances when dodging. My little A.I. partner Cha-Cha was a little bit of help too, since I set his attacks to the Lagiacrus' weakness, which is fire... for... some odd reason.

Victorious in my quest, I came back to the village and was greated with praise for destroying the Lagiacrus... but... Cha-Cha was missing... and the earthquakes that supposedly Lagiacrus was causing, was still happening. What's going on here?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Flash Friday: Tower of Heaven

Since another article of mine today was about a demake made to look like a Game Boy game... I figured I would share a Flash game that's made to look like one. Tower of Heaven is a platformer that gets more difficult with each level due to this God that gives you rules to follow such as, "Thou Shalt Not Walk Left" and if you don't follow the rules, you will be smitten. It may seem very difficult to follow the rule I just stated when you have a saw-blade heading towards you from the right and no way to jump over it in a small corridor. Though there is always a way to get past each level.

Tower of Heaven 

Super Smash Land: Demo Out Today!

Super Smash Land is a demake of Super Smash Bros. that is made to look like it came out on the original Game Boy. I love the idea of making demakes (like the Left 4 Dead demake here), maybe it's just the nostalgia getting to me. It's made in Game Maker 8, which is a program that one of my friends is very efficient in, though I have a feeling he's going to be extremely envious of this developer's talents.

You can download the demo here.

The Humble Indie Bundle

I haven't posted anything in a while, so I might as well come back with one of my favorite types of games: indie games. I'm not talking about the pretentious arty "games" that have supposedly deep meaning. I'm talking about GAMES. I'm also talking about the Humble Indie Bundle.

For those not in the know, the Humble Indie Bundle is a collection of independant games that are pay-what-you-want, with you deciding where your money goes. Last year, the Humble Bundle made over a million dollars, most of that going to charities such as Child's Play. This year, the second Humble Bundle has nearly made a million in half the time (at the time of this writing, $808,007.96). The games included this year are pretty great, I'd advise you to check it out.

EDIT: The Humble Bundle passed a million and is now redeemable on Steam!

This year's games are...

Okay, fine. This one practically is pretentious and arty, but that doesn't stop me. If you're running a Linux machine, you now have a chance to try to wrap your mind around the crazy time-based puzzles in this game as this is its first debut on another OS.

Cortex Command
A blend of Worms and the craziest physics known to man. Protect your brain (conveniently located in an incredibly fragile glass jar), mine resources, and blow the hell out of enemy forces! Has a sorta steep learning curve, but it's fun when you get into it. Note: This game is still in development! You'll be eligible for all updates as well as the full version.

Really Incredible Art Style: The Game. Very good adventure game, sort of like The Neverhood without the clay. Has a fantastic art style and a great soundtrack (which is also available for download!).

A relaxed, abstract game where you absorb things and try not to get absorbed yourself. Simple, intuitive mouse controls and a very pleasant look makes this a very nice game to wind-down with.

Revenge of the Titans:
Making its debut inside of the bundle itself; a fantastic tower-defense game with real-time strategy elements. Upgrade your base and protect it from the Titans as you mine crystals. Gets very tough at times, you must always be thinking one step ahead! Don't spend yourself into a corner!
Note: This game is still in development! You'll be eligible for all updates as well as the full version.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Playing The Classics: Chrono Trigger: Vol 6

I loved that once you enter Lavos' shell, you can hear his heartbeat. Then as you creep further closer to him, the beat gets faster and faster. This game just continues to ooze atmosphere... until the bitter end.

Lavos showed himself and the final battle began. Right away he launched an attack which killed Crono and took Ayla down to under 100 HP. Marle was also hurt considerably. This definitely wasn't the last time he'd use this move either. However, this attack presented me with a useful and surprising strategy. I instantly fully revived Crono with Marle's Arise move (which revives and fully heals). As for Ayla, I kept her intentionally at that ridiculously low HP level. Her Haste Helm came as a great partner for her Dino Tail move. This didn't hurt the center body much but it took over 2,000 HP off both of his arms for a total of over 4,400 HP per turn. Very nice. With both arms gone, the battle got fiercer. He attacked not that often, but when he did, it was powerful. Luckily, the triple tech that I had, the only triple tech I had, the Final Kick, came in handy with it's 3,200 or so attack power.

I was successful and then a dialogue scene occurred. It was great seeing my characters determined to save their land. You don't get such a great sense of this from other games. Chrono Trigger definitely delivers on the epic-nature front. I love that the second final form of Lavos came with even more epic music and a totally new background. You just KNEW this was it... the final battle. It was now or never.

I continued essentially the same techniques as before. It became quickly obvious that the center had to be diminished first and then the right. This I learned based on it's attack patterns. I was using Final Kick a bunch but I found that using Crono's Luminaire, Ayla's Triple Kick, and having Marle heal and Haste, allowed me to take down Lavos for good. I felt so victorious at using a truly final, Final Kick in every sense of the name. Lavos went down like a chump. Suddenly the world began merging again as time flashed before my eyes.

Many smart movie scripts have 'bookends'. This is when the ending of the movie or script reflects and references the very beginning. I liked that after beating Lavos, I woke up in my bed, just like when the game started. Instead of being free and a little lazy, I was a warrior but I was apparently captured. I later found out that this was the 'standard ending' of the game. Ending 01, Beyond Time. I was excited to see where this would go. I laughed quite when I realized that the King was joking! What a nice surprise. A reunion of time at the castle. I'm glad to see the Kind wasn't being a douchebag for once. Then we had the Moonlight Parade. It was a nice touch. The lights reminded me of Christmas time so that felt appropriate considering what month it is.

I made my way north and I realized this was all bittersweet. My friends were leaving. First Ayla and Kino. I like how she threw his stupid ass into the portal and followed. I'm proud that she's the start of the timeline in this whole thing. It felt appropriate that she was there fighting till the bitter end. When Frog left, it was also quite nice. I enjoyed Marle kissing Frog. It was a sweet gesture to see the princess kissing a frog. I also thought it was appropriate for Magus to leave without saying a word. No sentiment for him. Very true to the character. Then came Robo...his oil tears blurring his vision. It was very poignant the whole lack of assurance in Lucca's heart that he'd still exist in the future. I hope he's a happy and productive robot in the future. He deserves it. Then when Crono's mother entered the screen... I just knew what was going to happen next. Her entering the portal was pretty hilarious. That moment started a great end credits sequence. Normally these can be a bit boring but Chrono Trigger's was epic, just like the entire game itself.

Now that I have completed it, knowing damn well I missed a bunch of side quests and alternate endings... I see why this game is so popularized and praised. It deserves every bit of it. From the first quest, till the game truly opens up, and through till the final battle with Lavos...the game is legendary. My game time was 25:25 without the Lavos battle, which was probably rounding me to 26 hours including the end credits. Every second was enjoyable. It was the perfect length for an RPG too. I also thought that the final chapter, the final sequence, perhaps because I went through the Black Omen, was a great lengthy finale. Many games these days have endings that are abrupt or too short. The ends don't justify the game and all you played to get there. This is most certainly not the case with Chrono Trigger.

Godspeed Crono! Now if only I could get a means to play Chrono Cross...the title song alone made me want to play that years ago, but as I explained in our first podcast (releasing very soon), it was not meant to be. Perhaps the future holds it for me, waiting for the tale of time to continue.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Paleo Earns A 1-Up

Happy Birthday Paleo!!!

The PK Gaming founder, Paleo, is celebrating his birthday today, and on behalf of all the editors, we wish you a Happy Birthday! Make sure to eat some cake... Peach will make one for you.

Leave your well-wishes below in the comments!

Playing The Classics: Chrono Trigger: Vol 5

At last! The final frontier! The finale chapter of this epic time-travel saga! Lets see how this all turned out. I bet you're all eager to find out!

That wave of destruction was quite terrifying, even for an SNES game let alone a more recent DS game. Many games don't come close to that kind of somber feeling of despair. I was so sad to see the world as it had become, with all that death. I was surprised too that Crono was in fact gone and that I had to continue on without him.

Any good movie, or story in general, puts the characters at their greatest low just before the final act so that they can rise up against insufferable odds. Chrono Trigger does this when they remove Crono and then we find the characters on the Blackbird, item-less. Our heroes are at their very worst off right now. The stealthy seciton is pretty great. Having to sneak around and collect your stuff adds to the tension. As Ayla, I was able to fight but nobody else could. I don't know if this is because Ayla only uses her fists or not, but it was useful so that I could fight off some baddies. Then after all this came another plot-twist.

Magus has joined the party. Well ain't that unexpected. This game is pretty good with going in different directions. Also, he has the coolest way of moving. While Alya's running on all-fours is cute, the Magus flying pose is bad-ass. He makes for a cool addition to the team. Despite his level being so high, he isn't as strong as Ayla or Marle is seems.

Then came Death Peak. This is hands down the stupidest part of the game. You have to use the little helpers and the trees to hide you from intense winds. The thing is, the catch, is that you need to be right next to the tree and running in it's direction the whole time while the wind blows. The problem that lies is that unless you aim it perfectly, you will run past the tree. There is hardly any time to correct an ill-placed aim so it can get unbearable. I realized though that you will literally stop in front of the creature if you don't talk to him (and thus transform him into a tree). That little tip helps make the first part easier and luckily I discovered it was a rather short portion. The other helpers come into play later in other ways. As I encountered other enemies in this area I realized how nice Magus' speed is for his blue attack bar. He's not the fastest character but I'm glad he's up there with the rest of the best.

For a game about time travel, it's about time that plot point paid itself off. The doppel-doll replacing Crono just before his death was great. Way to stick it to the man Marle and company! In watching that whole sequence play out, I was glad to have Marle, Ayla, and Magus in my party. Magus was great with his amazement of the process, while Ayla was cute with her prehistoric cave-babe dialogue, and Marle, who has a real connection with Crono from the start of the game, got her well deserved reunion.

The Hug of a lifeTime.

His time was short lived, but once Crono was back, I put Magus away. I'm sure Frog will hate that Magus is chilling at the End Of Time with him, but maybe they can resolve things while Crono, Ayla, and Marle are saving the world. However it's an example of this game's humor and consistency that Magus stands way at the other end of the room... He wouldn't wanna cross paths with Sir-Croaks-A-Lot. I decided to keep Marle, not only because she's a healer but she's also the love of Crono's life. I want her to fight beside him, till death do they part. I also decided to keep Ayla because she's already fought so hard for the group and I find her adorable. Plus, her high HP and that 'Cat Attack' were the reasons the team beat all those Lavos Spawns we fought to get to that peak.

Now though I found myself on a quest to fight Lavos. I decided to go through the Black Omen for two reasons. First, I could use all the experience points I can get. My characters are at levels 36 through 39, with my main party of Crono, Ayla, and Marle all being 39. Still, I could use more. The second reason being, the Queen really needed her ass kicked.

As I battled through the Black Omen, I reached a boss or two and realized that Ayla wasn't very effective. I had the Haste Helm on her which was nice but her physical attacks weren't good against all the enemies who were resistant to that. So I swapped in my flying-demon-man, Magus. I got to Zeal, but I decided to switch to Ayla again. I wanted the backup healer in case Marle died. While fighting Zeal I realized this might not be necessary but Ayla came in handy because of a stupid decision I made. I gave Crono the Berserker Ring. During the Zeal fight, if you hit either of it's hands, you either lose all but one hit point, or all your magic points... and well, Crono, being all berserked up, didn't know this. He was a waster for a lot of it but luckily he got in some strong hits still. Ayla saved the day here. Go Cave Babe! So not to make the same mistake with Lavos, I took the Berserker Ring off and threw on the Golden Stud again because it'll help with the magic point consumption. The Lavos Shell was actually really easy. Since it mimics old bosses, by this point I'm at Level 45 for my party and thus I kicked a lot of ass in that battle. Then I entered the Lavos Core and said one thing to myself...

Thank God for a Save Point!

I was hoping they wouldn't screw me like that and neglect a save point for this entire process. I would have been pissed. That said, these are my stats for the final part of the game and what I went into the core with.

Crono / Lvl 45 / HP = 856 / MP = 85
Weapon: Swallow
Helm: Vigilant's Hat
Armor: Nova Armor
Accessory: Golden Stud

Ayla / Lvl 45 / HP = 900 / MP = 81
Weapon: Fist
Helm: Haste Helm
Armor: Prismatic Dress
Accessory: Power Crest

Marle / Lvl 45 / HP = 999 / MP = 88
Weapon: Sonic Bow
Helm: Vigilant's Hat
Armor: Aeonian Suit
Accessory: Golden Earring

I decided to keep Marle wearing the Golden Earring because if I had taken it off I would have sent her 263 hit points down to 736 total. I didn't wanna do that considering she's my healer in the battles. She should be the Miltank of this game, the high HP healer. Ayla is designed to have good defense while hitting hard and Crono is just meant to kick some Lavos butt with his force (both with magic and strength).

I'm going to face the final battle tomorrow after a good night's rest. You'll hear how it went in the conclusion to this running Chrono Trigger edition of Playing The Classics. Then I can finally get back to Golden Sun: Dark Dawn which I started neglecting heavily to finish Chrono Trigger up. Stay tuned for the stunning and shocking and epic conclusion! (I hope.)

Read Part 6

Monday, December 13, 2010

OC Remix Wakes The Wind Fish

While I can't guarantee this, I would hope that any readers out there already know about the fantastic video game remix website, OverClocked Remix. I have been a frequent visitor of theirs for years and a decent chunk of my iTunes library is dedicated to it. Once in a while they pull together and create an entire album surrounded by a similar theme, a game. Just released, OC Remix wakes the Wind Fish with their The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening tribute album called "Threshold of a Dream."

The Threshold of a Dream Logo.

You can find artist bios, director's notes, and information about the project here. Of course, you can find the download link there as well or if you prefer, you can torrent it. Find that at the link as well.

If you don't know better, Link's Awakening is one of the greatest Zelda games ever made and yet it's an off-shoot from the main timeline. Link finds himself stranded on a mysterious island and he meets a mysterious girl named Marin (my favorite Zelda-series female). Link must figure out how to wake the Wind Fish and get back home... but will it come with a price? I hope Nintendo will be smart enough to release the game itself on the 3DS Virtual Console (perhaps with 3D!). Until then, find yourself navigating over to the OC Remix site and listen to some great remixes of some great tunes.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Ice Levels and a Plug

I don’t know if you’ve noticed or not, but it’s gotten cold lately! Winter is creeping up very fast, and with it, the holidays! But did you know us gamers have a special holiday this month? How about that it’s going on right now, at this very moment, while you’re reading? Any idea what it could be?

Okay, maybe those are rhetorical questions, but that’s why I’m here to answer them! We just so happen to be in the middle of Obligatory Ice Level Day! OILD is a silly little holiday coined by user Anatotitan of Speedgamers (which is an awesome charity organization by the way) that celebrates those omnipresent ice levels all video games seem to have in the name of good cheer. Her website contains some delightful artwork, how to get involved, and even a soundtrack with some awesome ice level remixes! Though the title is misleading, OILD is in fact a month-long event, so there is plenty of time to join in on the fun!

That said, what are some of your favorite arctic-themed levels/environs in video games? It’s probably difficult to think of many on the spot, but that’s why we have a whole month to celebrate: to give them the proper recognition they deserve! …Or something like that. Either way, it’s fun to think about! One I could easily roll off the tongue right now is Phendrana Drifts from Metroid Prime. When you weren’t busy blasting sheegoths and getting chased by their mommies, you would be marveling at the beautiful icy landscape and be swept away by the awe-inspiring music. It captured the atmosphere perfectly, giving that tranquil feeling of solitude often associated with the arctic, but at the same time, instilled a sense of life with its diverse inhabitants and vibrant geography. Phendrana was more than your average cluster of snowfields, however. It expanded into deep caves, underwater, and laboratories overrun by space pirates, with no two areas looking exactly alike. This place was huge, and every inch was a pleasure to explore. It’s certainly something to experience for yourself, and I’m afraid my words wouldn’t do it justice alone. And no, I’m not saying that just to be lazy!

I'm afraid a screenshot doesn't quite do it justice either, but it's better than nothing!

I’ll be at this all month, so expect more in the future! In the meantime, I redirect your attention to the aforementioned question: what are some of your favorite ice levels? I’d love to hear what you think!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Diary of a Rookie: Monster Hunter Tri, Part 2

Part 1

So... it seems like I'm really starting to get the hang of things with Monster Hunter. It took me a while to realize that this game treats your character, not as a person who gets stronger with the monsters he defeats, but gets stronger with the armor and weapons you have equipped, and the player will actually need to know the monsters' movements and attack patterns to get further in the game. It seems like I'm starting to grow as a player rather than my character just leveling up like in any other action RPG. My knowledge of the items to bring on a quest and the combos I can perform when attacking and dodging are starting to accumulate.

I realized that I was growing as a player rather than my character growing when I arrived at the quest titled, 'Dragon Lady' where I have to slay a dragon by the name of Rathian. During the first couple of bouts, I fainted pretty quickly, my strategy wasn't really fleshed out, and I was only using the standard sword and shield, which I had gotten so used to that I didn't want to change weapons. I remembered though, that I could get materials to make a new weapon that I had just unlocked a few quests back. It was a long sword, and I thought it could help me with slaying the Rathian.

This is part of Monster Hunter's uh... grind. Instead of grinding to increase your level, you gather materials to make better armor and weapons. Luckily, the materials I needed were pretty easy to get, and only somewhat rare. Once I was finished with that, I was ready to forge my new weapon and try it out. With this new weapon, I was able to do a lot more damage, but my maneuveurability was down, but not by as much as it would if I were using a great sword. When trying it out on a Great Jaggi, to my surprise, I was able to paralyze it. Then I realized that there was a small meter under my weapon's sharpness that was displayed. Apparently, I can fill that meter (called the 'Spirit Gauge', something only long swords have) by attacking and pulling off combos, and then I can unleash a 'Spirit Blade' attack, and with my long sword's attribute, it allows for a chance to paralyze the monster I'm attacking.

No problem for my new long sword!
After realizing the hidden power of the long sword, I was ready to face the Rathian. Everything was going quite well to begin with, but... unfortunately, I failed... but I was so close! I was almost able to slay the Rathian, and there were only 5 minutes left on the quest and I was on my last continue, but I fainted one last time with the swipe of her tail that I had just cut partly off. Again, this was an instance when I realized that I was growing as a player.

You're in a better place now, Rathian... and in pieces... in my item box.
Yesterday, I woke up ready to face off against her again, but this time, I was going to win. I started some laundry, had a bite to eat and then booted up Monster Hunter Tri. Before starting the quest, I gathered as much materials I as could so I could heal myself throughout the fight, and I also brought a couple of traps along so I could get some damage in quickly. I was very cautious this time and aimed for her weak spots. This time, I took out her tail much quicker, and then focused on her weakest parts, which were her neck and head. With a bit of precision and careful maneveuring, I was able slay the Rathian and complete the quest. After my quest, both literally and symbollically with learning as player, I was back in the village... and since I had just completed all of the level 4 quests, I was asked to do an urgent one. It's now time to face the Lagiacrus... and he's angry at the last time I repelled him from attacking the village, and he's directing his rage at me... oh boy...

"Come at me, bro"

Part 3

Playing The Classics: Chrono Trigger: Vol 4

It's been a while since I've updated my progress with Chrono Trigger here. I am nearing the end, I can feel it. After just having my ass handed to me by Lavos there is a great sense of peril with this world. The plot, while not insanely unique, probably was more unique upon it's original release. Irregardless of that though, the story is pretty dang engrossing. The battles are fun but the story is what really keeps me engaged.

My primary party most of the game has been Crono, Ayla, and Marle however I changed Marle for Robo during the Golem Sisters fight. Afterwards when you have to lose to Lavos, I expected to be able to try and put up a fight but even with my characters all being in the early level 30s, everyone was taken down in one move. Obviously this is a plot point but I still would have liked to try. Crono just essentially has been turned into a glistening speck of pixie dust... of course I'm sure that's not the true case but that's what it seems like at the time I'm at. Also, if I remember correctly, was that Magus the bad guy who was trying to help me stop Lavos? Ain't that a plot twist out of left field.

This game is good. There's no arguing that. I think I'm nearing the end though and what's most interesting about this experience is how unlike other RPGs this game is despite being released so long ago. I guess I haven't been playing the copycat RPGs, or this game is just that unique. Anyway, time to see where this is going to go... Lets finish this.

Read Part 5

Friday, December 10, 2010

Review: Angry Birds

Angry Birds (by Rovio) was a game I had heard a little bit about via some podcasts I listen to. I heard it was a lot of fun but I don't traditionally buy games for my Android phone. Earlier this week I discovered that it in fact was free! and Ad-based. Knowing that, I hopped right onto the Android Marketplace and downloaded the first great game to grace my phone.

The game is essentially a trajectory-puzzle game. You start with a level, a small arena if you will. On the left side is a small infantry of birds. The amounts and kinds of birds change depending on the level. On the right side are the pigs, the enemies. They are strung around a playground of sorts made of girders, glass, wood, boulders, and other obstacles you have to either bust through or get around. The purpose is to destroy the pigs via collisions by either the in-game assets or the birds. The birds fly, not with their wings, but with a giant slingshot. You choose the angle and the speed on the launch. This gameplay is simple yet addictive. I find that I get frustratedly determined to beat a level, only to find myself deciding I'll stop after the next. Then... the next... and another. It's kind of hard to break myself away from this game.

There are multiple kinds of birds found in your arsenal. The game starts by providing only your standard red birds. These are essentially balls because they do nothing but get launched and land and roll. No special powers. Soon though you are introduced to other birds. There are toucans that boomerang, bluebirds than act as shotgun shells, kamikazi yellow birds, egg bombers, and more. You don't ever get to decide what to use or what order to use them. That is level-dependent which is where part of the challenge comes from. The enemies eventually upgrade too with some of the pigs wearing cement helmets for instance. This makes them take longer to destroy.

The music is pretty simple but still nice. It's low-key so not to be distracting but still interesting enough to fit the theme. I however don't miss it when I have my phone's audio off to save battery. Same goes for the sound effects. They're nice and all but nothing special. You don't play this for the audio anyway.

There is a ton of content in this game. To start, the first level (and all subsequent levels) have a rating system dependent on a points system. If you do well, you'll earn three stars. If you just manage to barely complete the level, you'll earn one. So far it seems the stars might just be for completionists but I haven't yet beaten all the levels or even gotten more than just one star in them all to know if anything special happens. Still, even if you don't care about the stars or points, you'll find there to be a plethora of levels for you to play in. World 1, titled Poached Eggs, has three sections comprised of around 21 levels per section. Then there's three more worlds to unlock (which have been additional content released over the past year the game has been out). There's also a bonus section called "Bonus Eggs" which can be found in the levels. Collecting one opens up a special level to try.

Recently they released a Halloween themed pack and a Christmas themed one too. The Halloween pack, titled Trick Or Treat, is a set of spooky-themed levels. The other pack contains 25 levels but as of today, only ten are available. Each day until Christmas a new level can be downloaded and unlocked in the game. This acts like an advent calendar of sorts. Best part of all this is that it's free too! The holiday bonus levels include new terrain like snow blocks which easily wipe away for chain reactions and the enemies can be found wearing snow caps in the cold weather. Like I said, TONS of content.

I've been playing this on my HTC Evo phone. The large and bright screen makes for an easy to play game that is likely just as easy to play on smaller screens. It is available on the iOS, Android, Meeko, webOS, and Symbian^3 platforms. I don't know if it still costs money on the iPhone, but I was able to download it for free without problem on my Android device.

The Verdict:
A colorful and fun way to pass the time. Watch out for the addictive 'pringles' problem... the, "bet you can't have just one."

What I liked:
Levels are creative. Lots of bird variety for weapons. Physics are pretty solid. It's free.

What I didn't like:
The ads can occasionally be cumbersome in seeing things in the corner but this only occurs on select levels. The music, while not bad, could get annoying after a long game session.

Gamer Culture: A Very Mario Christmas

Christmas is just around the corner and while Santa was too busy playing New Super Mario Bros. Wii, a fella by the name of kodykoala has been hard at work with some amazing custom figurines. His work in fantastic. Here is an example of his three Christmas pieces, all related to Mario. His flickr stream, found here, shows off a lot more of photos of not only these pieces but of others in a long line of eye-catching gaming art.

"Bowser Claus Is Coming To Town"

"Mario Stocking Holders"
"Christmas Tree and Mushroom Hut"

Do you have anything gaming and holidays related? Whether it's Christmas, or Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, or any holiday this time of year. Let me know! Also, just how much would you pay for something like this? This kind of custom work is quite special.

Flash Friday: One Chance

What would you do if all life on Earth was going to die within a week? Well, find out in this very short flash game called 'One Chance.' There are multiple endings, so you can play it over again many time if you'd like to see them all.

One Chance

Monday, December 6, 2010

Review: Donkey Kong Country Returns

Full disclosure, I have never played Donkey Kong Country 1, 2, or 3. But it didn't matter worth a damn because I still had more fun with Donkey Kong Country Returns than I've had in a long long time with any game.

At the core, the gameplay is the reason to own the title. Everything feels so natural as you play an ape jumping around collecting bananas and other goodies. Running, climbing, and rolling your way through the stages will be a challenge but ever time you see that finish screen, you'll feel nothing but satisfaction. I played the game with the nunchuk and wiimote combo and that felt very natural. You move with the joystick, jump with A, and hold on to things for climbing with B. It's all simple in a good way and then there's the motion controls which don't add a ton, but they certainly make for some fun. It feels satisfying to smack the wiimote and nunchuk in the same slapping-the-ground manner that Donkey hits for his move. You also can stop and blow air on things to either move platforms or dandelions to discover secrets, as well as more. I've heard a lot of complaints about how this stops the pacing of the game but lets be honest, it's all in how you want to play. I tended to seek out secrets during my first play-through but there's nothing stopping you from just running around however you like. You can always go back and find the secrets later.

I guess I'm already touching on the next section I wanna talk about, the content. This game contains eight worlds, each with their own boss, and a couple of extras thrown in there. Each standard level has the traditional KONG letters and each level also contains various puzzle pieces. Some of them are very very tricky to find but you can buy a Squawk item which will help you seek out your missing secrets. There is so much to find and do in each level and then you multiply that by how many levels... wow is the answer here. It's definitely on par with New Super Mario Bros. Wii as far as amount of levels but there's probably more to actually discover within Donkey Kong Country Returns. As you collect things and up your percentage, you unlock music and art in the galleries as well. Lots to do for completionists here. Besides the letters and puzzle pieces, there's time-trials to attempt medals for and even MORE to unlock and earn. Also, I wont go into much spoilery detail but hidden throughout the backgrounds of levels are allusions to other games as little easter eggs to spot. They should delight if you find them. While many of the levels are fantastic, some of the best are the 'Silhouette Levels'. I wish there had been more, at least one per world, but I guess their lack of quantity just allowed for me to love the ones that're there even more.

This game, like life, obeys a five second rule. The five second rule in this case though is that, if you don't hate the game after five seconds, you will in fact become addicted for weeks until it's completion. That. Is. Fact.

Like with Retro Studios' most recent outings with Metroid, Donkey Kong Country Returns looks fantastic in the graphics department. The levels are colorful and crisp. They do away with the old style from the SNES games, obviously though as that's obsolete. The game may be 2D but the 3D assets look great and their 2D textures help sell their look. The mossy areas you can grab on to for instance look absolutely wonderful. They look realistically lush. The character models for Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong look great also. The game features cutscenes before the boss battles and in the beginning of the game as well. You will be surprised at how good an elephant's ass looks.

I don't have that much to say about the music besides that it's rather enjoyable. Even without playing the original Rare series, I know that the music is classic in those titles. Donkey Kong Country Returns does a great job with the sound effects and music but for me anyway, nothing ever reached the heights of Bramble Blast for instance. In the levels that feature any kind of 'magma', you can definitely feel a hint of "Magmoor Caverns" from the Metroid Prime series. It's greatly appreciated and obvious why they did.

I'm not quite sure why I never played the original SNES titles, I certainly don't miss the Kremlings. I also don't know see an urge to go back and play those titles after this. From what I've heard, Retro Studios has made the DKC formula and made it even better. Maybe that's ignorant, and I'm sure I'll get around to them eventually, but Donkey Kong Country Returns has quenched my platforming thirst and made me hungry as hell for some banana bread.

The Verdict:

This game is amazing. Retro Studios is amazing.
Buy it at all costs if you like fun.

What I liked:
Level Design is impeccable and the gameplay is top-notch. Lots of levels too, and reasons to go back to previously beaten levels. Lots of replayability. Rambi is a blast to play with and I don't feel the need for more animals.

What I didn't like:
Once in a while, the game gets almost TOO-hard. The motion-controls work MOST of the time, but when they don't, it's rather annoying.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Diary of a Rookie: Monster Hunter Tri

This is going to be a series of articles about my struggles with certain games or genres and my experiences with them. I'm a 'rookie' in a lot of things, and Monster Hunter is one of them. I mentioned that the game was one that I needed to play back in my Top 10 backlogged games and I've finally started playing it more around the end of November.


I actually began playing it back in May or June, but I hit a wall with the single-player game. Mainly due to the capture quest with the monster called Qurupeco and the quest for hunting the very powerful (to me, at the time) Royal Ludroth. Once I started playing online though, I felt much more comfortable hunting and capturing these monsters. When playing online, other people were very helpful to me with continuing my quests and the game became much more fun.

Before I would have said, "OH GOD, RUN AWAY" but now I say, "Pffft, let me handle this."

At first, Monster Hunter's controls and the way it handles items was a bit foreign to me, but once I actually started having fun playing online, the game's mechanics grew on me. So far, I've logged in over  30 hours playing the game and I still haven't finished the single-player or multiplayer quests, and I look forward to doing them.

Part 2

Friday, December 3, 2010

Flash Friday: Ant Buster

I love Tower Defense games, and this little flash game is a good example of one.

You make cannons to protect your picnic cake from being taken away by ants! I've actually found myself playing this one for a few hours trying to get the highest score possible... killing hundreds of ants... does that make me a bad person?

Ant Buster