Monday, January 31, 2011

Hall of Fame: Super Metroid


Title: Super Metroid
First Released: March 19th, 1994
Available on: SNES, Virtual Console

Overview:

Super Metroid was developed by a staff of people from Nintendo's R&D1, managed by Gunpei Yokoi, the creator of the Metroid series, though this game was directed by Yoshio Sakamoto. It was produced by Makoto Kano, and the music was composed by both Kenji Yamamoto and Minako Hamono. Upon its release, Super Metroid was known well for taking the Metroid concept and running full force with it. From the amazing graphics creating lush environments to the fantastical bosses and enemies, the game had it all. Nintendo Power, back in May of 1994, gave the game a 4.425 score out of 5. To this day, it is one of the most appreciated titles of any console or handheld.

The game takes place immediately after Metroid II: Return of Samus and features, for the first time, a monologue from Samus herself setting up the story. The game, whether this is considered a flaw or not, had a decent amount of what is called "sequence breaking" which makes it a favorite among speedrunners. Following in traditional Metroid fashion, the sense of isolation is deep with a mix of subdued music and excellent level design.

Our thoughts:

SPOILER WARNING!

"I began playing the Metroid series around the time Fusion and Prime came out, and I've been a fan ever since, and I've tried my best to play all of the games in the series. This entry, however, blew away my expectations when I played it. The freedom the player has in this game to explore is unmatched by many modern games, even other Metroid games can't match it. There are a ton of power-ups and items to scavenge across planet Zebes, one of which I wish they would bring back to the series: the Spazer beam.

There are so many memorable moments too, such as defeating the Crocomire, with it's body melting in Norfair's intense magma, and then when I thought I saw the last of it, CRASH! It's skeleton pops out of a spiked wall and scares me. There's also the frustration of trying to get back to Maridia from Brinstar, only to find out you needed to break the 'n00b tube' as fans like to call it. Truly, right from the beginning of this game, from hearing the 'new' Brinstar music pick up for the first time, to finally defeating Mother Brain and seeing the Metroid baby give its life for you... this game will stick in my memory forever and it will live on as the greatest in the series for me."

-- Paleo

"Metroid, for me, was a gaming franchise I chose to ignore once upon a time. I heard it was pretty good but I just never ended up playing it. That changed when the Prime games started releasing and I finally understood what was so amazing about Samus and the world she existed in. So once Super Metroid was released on the Virtual Console (having missed the original release by over a decade...) I decided to take the "risk" and purchase it. To this day it stands as one of my most prized purchases sitting on my Wii. I wasn't surprised when the most popular title ofthe third pillar in the Nintendo Holy-Trinity turned out to be amazing.

I played it thoroughly and found everything I had ever read about it to be true. Discovering new moves and accessing the new worlds were so rewarding. The game was close on par with the Metroid Prime series I had already loved, but it was all in glorious 2D. Super Metroid, to me, is a game that is a prime example of the greatness Nintendo is as a game developer. They've had an understanding about game design and game theory that for many years was unmatched. At the time of Super Metroid's release, few games in the genre seemed to come even a little close. In the end, the Metroid Prime Trilogy still stands as my favorite trip into the Metroid universe, but Super Metroid uncontestually deserves to be in any gamer's Hall of Fame. It deserves every last energy pellet of respect from every last creature of that galaxy."

-- DrFinkelstein

Gaming Reference: The Colbert Report

This is a quick new article type you'll see around here at PK Gaming. I, DrFink, watch a good amount of television. I fit it all in by watching (or more like listening rather) while doing other stuff and even if the content gets boring, one thing always perks my head up... a Gaming Reference.

Last week I was watching an episode of The Colbert Report from January 24th, 2011. In it, Stephen interviews a controversial writer named Amy Chua. She has specific views about child raising, specifically about being a bit of a hard-ass. She had this to say;

AMY CHUA
"I think if you give a five-year-old, or an eight-year-old, free choice; pursue your passions today; I think that's going to be video games for five hours. So, I was more restrictive of those choices.

Colbert refuted...

STEPHEN COLBERT
"But they will school you in Halo."


Whether you're a fan of Comedy Central's mock-Republican comedy show that Stephen puts on, it's still certainly fun to have video games referenced out of the blue. Stephen Colbert actually made a Donkey Kong reference just a week or two before this one. So keep a look out for more in the future folks!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Gamer Culture: Gamer Cakes

If you're as big of a Nintendo fan as me, you've no doubt had a video game birthday cake or two in your lifetime. When my cousin was eight, his cake had the Link art from the Legend of Zelda original art style. When I was five, Super Mario Bros. 3 had just come out and my cake reflected that. Two years ago for my birthday my sister made me a Mario Bros. style cake with a Pac Man cameo. I'm definitely not alone though in this sort of cultural phenomenon. Today, my buddy Smerd over at Negative World had his birthday today and his lovely wife made him a pretty awesome cake. HAPPY BIRTHDAY SMERD!


Seems better than any cake Peach ever made. Below are some more gamer-cakes. Submit your own if you've ever had a gamer cake made for you!

My 23rd Birthday Cake
My Cousin's Link Birthday Cake
Katamari Pushes Cake
Wayne's Sonic Cake
(Note the fact this cake has a better character model than Sonic The Hedgehog 4 did...)

Majora's Mask Cake
Waluigi Face Cake

and finally, this cake, which admittedly hit the Nintendo/Romantic in me,

Mario and Peach Wedding Cake
(Literally hundreds more Gamer Cakes can be found here at Flickr.)

Heads-Up: PK Gaming Hall of Fame

Tomorrow or Monday, we will be posting our first inductee into our own Hall of Fame. It will be similar to IGN's, but not exactly... and we'll actually follow through with it. (I noticed that they haven't inducted any games since October of 2009.) If we don't, please feel free to slap us in the future.

It's a bit of a late notice, but I might as well post about it since we're pretty much decided on what we're going to induct first. Later on, next week, I'll be posting an article about the Hall of Fame and how we decide on what games we want in it. Again, it will be similar to IGN's induction process but not really. Am I making sense?

Hopefully our next podcast will make it a lot clearer, since the first topic will be about our Hall of Fame and the induction process.

In the meantime, can you guess what our first inductee might be? Here's a hint: It's NOT related to the name of the site. (And if you're one of the editors I talked to in Skype about it, don't say anything.)

Hidden Gems of the PS2 Era

The Playstation 2 was the longest lasting console of the previous generation. Lasting far into the next generation even as the Gamecube and XBox were left behind, the Playstation 2 had, and still has, the most solid library of any console. Everybody knows about the big titles that had graced the system, SOCOM, God of War, Ratchet and Clank, Sly Cooper... But there were also a few games that slipped under the radar and can be found for way less than it'd cost to get a new game.


1. Dark Cloud
Expected Price: $6 (The price I bought it at. This may vary wildly depending on where you buy)
This game is fairly unique. It's an action-RPG in the vein of Legend of Zelda combined with the city-building mechanics of Act Raiser. The story and setting are fairly original, but takes a backseat to the gameplay and mechanics. The game is essentially a dungeon crawler for the action segments, as you try to recover lost pieces of the world to bring it back into order, but you should be careful, as your weapon will eventually wear down and break, or you can run out of water and become dehydrated. A very unique blend of two genres that takes a while to get into, but is ultimately rewarding.


2. God Hand
Expected Price: $13
Okay, so this one's a bit more well-known than the others, with the cult following it has, but still. God Hand is an incredible beat-em-up game by the now-defunct Clover Studios. Beat up bad guys with a customizable moveset (you can even customize your own combos!) featuring many, many styles of martial arts. Many complaints are leveled at the camera, but it's not too bad. The decidedly Wild West environments are incredibly sparse, but that gives it the plus of not getting in the way while you play, a must for this game. This game is hard. Unless if you learn the mechanics, you're going to be stuck on the first level for a while.

Fun fact: IGN gave this game a 3. Don't let this dissuade you though!


3. Okage: Shadow King
Expected Price: $5
So you've finished Earthbound and Mother 3, and possibly loads of other quirky games? If not, give this game a try. This is the silliest RPG you can get for the Playstation 2. The setting is reminiscent of a Tim Burton film, with catchy melodies and designs that look like they were taken from The Nightmare Before Christmas. The story doesn't exactly take itself seriously, with the protagonist becoming the avatar for the pompous Lord Stanley Hihat Trinidad XIV (Or just Evil King Stan), becoming a pawn for him to defeat all the other evil kings and reign as the supreme evil king. The only downside of this game is the battle system. It's not that great, but if you can tolerate it, you're looking at a great RPG that's as memorable as Earthbound.


4. Seek and Destroy
Expected Price: $3
The cover looks like it's a very bad shovelware game, doesn't it? Don't believe its lies, though. Seek and Destroy is a tank combat game. It is the cutest tank combat game. Several real-world tanks have been transformed into tiny, adorable killing machines, and you get to customize the hell outta them with engines, turrets, anti-aircraft guns, rocket launchers, jet boosters, and chainsaws. The story may be simplistic and the graphics may be sub-par, but you have a tank wielding a chainsaw, and that's all that matters.


5. Sky Odyssey
Expected Price: $4
Looking for something a bit more relaxing? Maybe a flight simulator where you just go around, drifting lazily through air currents? Tough. Sky Odyssey is probably the most intense non-combat flight simulator I've played. You have to navigate your plane through harsh weather conditions, heavy winds, and even rockslides in order to get your plane safely to its destination. There's no combat in this game, so no dogfighting. The music is fantastic, done by Kow Otani, composer for Shadow of the Colossus.


6. Shinobi
Expected Price: $8
In a world where the length of your scarf determines how much of a ninja you are... Shinobi is an incredibly arcade-like experience. With only six levels to play through, you can blast through it in an afternoon. However, the difficulty's pretty high in this title. Dying sends you back to the last checkpoint, or worse, to the start of the level. This is definitely a game you need to get good at fast, as later levels have you dashing from enemy to enemy in order to cross bottomless pits. There is a timer in the form of your sword, Akujiki. It feeds on the souls of your enemies, and not killing any enemies means that it will feed on your life instead, so killing enemies rather than running away from them is heavily encouraged. It's a short, yet really fun experience that can be played multiple times.


7. Soul Reaver 2
Expected Price: $5
No, I'm not going to go with a Twilight joke in this one. This is an action-adventure game with smooth combat mechanics and thought-provoking puzzles. The story is told through the eyes of Raziel, a vampire who had his body destroyed, but his soul had been saved by the octopus representation of the late Tony Jay. Don't worry if you hadn't played the first, as there is a recap of the story at the beginning. A very satisfying game with a great setting and atmosphere.

Estimated Price for All Seven Games: $44
Average Price for a New PS3/360 Game: $60
Other obscure titles worth checking out: Rogue Galaxy, Robotech: Battlecry, XIII, Graffiti Kingdom

So pick up that old PS2 you've got lying in the closet somewhere, dust it off, and get to gaming. If you don't care about achievements and online play, the Playstation 2 can get you hours of entertainment with very little money.

Gamer Culture: The Adventures of Duane and BrandO

Some of you might remember when I featured a rap group named Forever Famicom on the site many weeks back. They were a group in the hip-hop genre which had a unique blend of video game samplings and great lyrics. Well, I was recently introduced to another hip-hop gamer group who has quite the library of songs already. They aren't as "mature" lyrically but they aren't trying to be. Instead of creating hip-hop songs based on life but using gaming beats, The Adventures of Duane and BrandO use the gaming beats as a backdrop to sing and rap about the games themselves.

This makes for a fun and creative mixture of NES musical greatness. NES music has always affected me at the core. Something about it is just amazing. In the NES' sound hardware's limitations, came brilliance. Now that is being used to create new music and new art. I love this sort of thing...even more so when it's actually good!

Their most recognizable work can be found on their LP Of Devastation album but they have lots more at their download page, found here. Games featured in this album include, Battletoads, Bomberman, Castlevania, Final Fantasy, Mario II, Mega Man II, Metroid, Ninja Gaiden, Sonic, Zelda, and believe it or not, Cheetahmen II. Best of all, the song about Cheetahmen II is leaps and bounds better than the game itself!

What other hip-hop/rock group sings with such energy and flavor about video games? It's pretty great and I highly encourage all you readers to check it out. Two other great aspects about this duo are that not only are the songs long in length, but they feature different songs from the games they're about which definitely help take you on a little journey. I have no doubts that when thinking about the original Super Mario Bros. most people think of the Overworld Theme and then suddenly the Underworld Theme and then most likely next is the Underwater Theme. These songs just naturally go together and Duane and BrandO pick up on this. Below is one of my favorite samples (from Zelda II) as well as a snippet of some lyrics about that song. Judge for yourself if this is for you. It's definitely for me.

Well I made it to the palace, I got nothin to lose.
Ridin' up and down on these elevators (Awesome dude!)
I gotta find the key to open up these doors first.
Before I lift this curse that's been put on this earth.
I'll stab that f*****' Horse Head and put him on my wall.
Helmethead ain't gonna be a f*****' problem at all.
That ghost ridin' Reubenok licks ghost horse balls!
Reflect Carock's spells, brawl with Gooma and make Barba fall!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Flash Friday: Extinct! Are you smarter than a plant?

Since I just started learning about plant life in my Biology 2 course at the college, I thought it would be appropriate to share this game on Flash Friday. My significant other actually showed me this...

Extinct!

The object of the game is to grow and disperse enough of your offspring (seeds) so that your species will survive. Sounds easy, right? Well, there are a lot of things you have to consider, such as how many minerals and sugar the plant gets, and how tall the plant should be so it can get enough sunlight. Insects will also visit your plants, some will pollinate like the bees, which is what you want, and some will destroy your leaves! At the end of the game, you're given a percentage of the chance that your species will survive. I got 37% the first time around, and 28% the second time. I'm an endangered species!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Wallpaper Wednesday: A Puppy, a Demon, and a Ghost walk into a bar...

Welcome to Wallpaper Wednesday! The place where I showcase various gaming wallpapers.

Now, maybe I'm just feeling guilty it's nearly thursday, or maybe I just am feeling generous but I have multiple tonight, a bonus if you will. They wont ALWAYS be Nintendo-related but I haven't come across much that wasn't Nintendo that I liked.

---

Okamiden

This one I just found nice in its simplicity and cuteness, based on the upcoming game I believe.



---

Majora's Self

This was a different kind of Majora's Mask wall than I'm used to seeing. Spoiler alert though... (come on now, it's been 11 years).



---

Haunting Haunter

This one is just plain creepy in an awesome way.




Hope this'll last you!

Review: Dive: The Medes Islands Secret

After doing the secret santa in Negative World, I was left with 1000 points to spend on the Wii Shop Channel. I really wasn't sure what I was going to spend it on until someone mentioned this game. To be honest, I completely forgot that it released last year. I remember briefly seeing a trailer for it and it was definitely something I would want to play. Unfortunately... I went in expecting a 2D Endless Ocean experience, but instead got a so-so collectathon.

The main objective of this game is to find treasure, which is fairly easy to do since there are sparkling objects for smaller treasures and the big treasures are found by using the map. The map is slowly unveiled as you explore though, just like in Endless Ocean, and that's probably the only similar thing I found to compare it with in this game. That and the way you move, which is pointing the wii remote at the screen towards the direction you want your diver to go and holding B. Other than those two things, the game is very different, since the wildlife is always trying to attack you (except for dolphins and small fish that act as foreground/background), and you defend yourself by using a harpoon gun.

You're only given five harpoons to begin with, but once you start getting treasure, you can upgrade the capacity in the shop on the main menu when you're not diving. Along with the harpoon gun to upgrade, there's also the oxygen tank, which acts as your health, the wetsuit, which determines how deep you can dive, the flippers, which determines speed, and the flashlight, which you can use in the darker areas. It doesn't take that long to upgrade everything if you decide to just explore the first few islands in the beginning, and one thing I found interesting that isn't in many games is the ability to reset your upgrades if needed.

The one thing that disappointed me with this game was that there wasn't much variety. All of the dive sites look very much the same until you get to small temple like areas, and even then, when you get to see the sunken temples, the payoff isn't that good. Maybe I was just spoiled by Endless Ocean's environments, and maybe I shouldn't even be comparing them since one is a retail title and the other is a wiiware game, but I can't help but feel that the developers of this game could have tried a bit harder to make varied environments. The same enemies are seen in about every island, and the whole map of a few of the islands feels... uninspired. There is incentive to go back to the islands once you're done and explore, but after I finished the game... I thought, 'Why would I want to?'

The Verdict:

Perhaps I'm being a bit cynical for complaining about the variety in this game. The game itself isn't that bad, but I was just disappointed. If you have 1000 points to spend on the Wii Shop Channel, and just want a good collectathon game, then this might do, but if you're craving variety, pass on it.

What I liked:

-The ability to reset upgrades.
-The ability to keep exploring after finding the main treasure on an island.

What I didn't like:

-Lack of variety
-Overall design felt uninspired

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Songs that should be on Rock Band - Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)

I really thought this would be a no-brainer for the Rock Band 3 setlist when it was announced that it would have keyboard and pro guitar. Not only does this song have a very memorable keyboard riff, but also guitar riff. I suppose I just like the heavy sound of the guitar, it's not really something you expect from a Journey song. 


I actually have high hopes for this, because with the Rock Band 2 export, "Any Way You Want It" by Journey was left out, and that can mean one of 2 things: 1. Journey hates Rock Band now, or 2. They're going to release a new pack with that song updated a few other Journey hits. I'm hoping they go with option 2 and make a pack like they did with Bon Jovi.



Monday, January 24, 2011

PK Gaming Podcast: Episode 2 Part 3

It was a little late on the delivery but here is the final chapter in the second episode of the PK Gaming Podcast. This part of the episode was about an hour and forty minutes long. (You see why we're splitting them up now?) Be sure to listen after the end music for a little piece of discussion not fit for the main podcast... but if there's any fans of the furry out there, it might be something you can relate with.

You can write in with questions or comments as we'd love to address them on future shows! Send questions or comments about the podcast (or the site) to PKGamingPodcast@gmail.com. We'd like to answer some perhaps in future shows.

In this part of Episode 2 we talk about;
Hopes for the Future: 2011

Download the episode here!

PK Gaming Podcast Episode 002 Part 3
(Click on the Orange "Download" Button to Begin Download)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Flash Friday: Small Worlds

Well, since I did my Top 10 Games of 2010 last weekend, I figured I would post one of my favorite Flash games that I played last year, though... I think it was actually published in 2009.

Small Worlds

Small Worlds was also mentioned in my Gameplay Concepts: Exploration article.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Review: Carcassonne

I don't quite know how I came across it, maybe it was seeing the picture of the medieval babe or something that drew me to this demo, but I downloaded it. In one fell swoop, Carcassonne had introduced itself to me and I never went back.


Carcassonne is a downloadable title for Xbox Live Arcade on the 360 and only had cost me 400 points. This was an appropriate price as I'd come to find and I'm interested in purchasing the downloadable content (more on that soon). It's based off of a European board game of the same name and involves tile placement. This seems boring but I assure you it's not. Once you begin understanding how to earn points and the particular strategies the game goes from fun to addictive fun.

The graphics are somewhat basic but there's still a nice amount of detail for what you need to be able to decipher. For instance, the grass is just green. They don't try to provide actual grassy textures or anything and I understand. It would probably make the game harder to see and it would be more taxing on the system resources. By keeping things simple they've found a medium between an actual board game and a technological counterpart. When the Castles are created they sprout from the ground and a little fanfare is heard. Things like this are nice and make it readily apparent when you've scored points or why you've scored them. I really want to play the actual board game someday but I bet keeping score is a lot trickier than in this XBLA version. Especially when you consider the Farms aspect of the game, which allows you to utilize the grass as a point modifier, things could get confusing. That's not really so with this digital version of the game. The menus and in-game overlays are easy to read and well designed. The controls though took a slight getting used to, but they make sense. By this I simply mean which button should do what and when. I occasionally still accidentally place a marker in the wrong spot or when I don't want to, but it's a severely minor concern.

The game includes the standard style with up to five players total, both online and off. For 300 points you can buy two kinds of expansion packs. I haven't nabbed either, but for the first time in digital downloads history, I actually really want to spend more money on these. The two packs are another River Expansion and a Kings/Thieves Expansion. I'll likely get the River Expansion first but I am quite excited to get both. The total points for this all this would be 1000 which is only $12.50. That's a little less than half of what it would cost you to nab the real game (which may or may not have those expansions) off Amazon or some other retailer. Even if you don't get the packs though, at $5.00, the game has tremendous value. Also, the game features a handful of in-game Achievements which I find enjoyable. Some are particularly creative while others are points-based. I wish there had been more of the creative ones though. It would have added to the strategy.

The Verdict:

Carcassonne is a surprisingly awesome board game for anyone who likes board games. It's got a slight feel of Pipe Dream but without the time limit and a presentation/scoring system weirdly reminiscent of Scrabble. Watch a video of it on Youtube or download the demo for yourself. It can't hurt and I don't think you'll be disappointed.

What I liked:

Clean graphics. Addictive gameplay. Expansions. Achievements are reachable and fun to acquire.

What I didn't like:

It would have been nice to have a couple different music tracks during the games. The zoom feature is a little funny but it works. I wish there had been more unique Achievements.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

PK Gaming Podcast: Episode 2 Part 2

As promised the next part to the PK Gaming Podcast Episode 2 is up! Again, and for the third part as well, we'll be doing the lame sendspace way for downloads. It should be easy enough but lately I've been receiving different download pages when I go there. The links all work so bear with us. This part of the episode is just under an hour in length.

As always, don't forget to write in with questions or comments as we'd love to address them on future shows! Send questions or comments about the podcast (or the site) to PKGamingPodcast@gmail.com. We'd like to answer some perhaps in future shows.

Have you been able to guess what the music from this week is? Here's a hint, they're both Nintendo games.

In this part of Episode 2 we talk about;
Game of the Year 2010

Download the episode here!

PK Gaming Podcast Episode 002 Part 2
(Click on the Orange "Download" Button to Begin Download)


Wallpaper Wednesday: Impressionist Mario

Welcome to a recurring segment here on PK Gaming, the Wallpaper Wednesday post! Here is where I will showcase various gaming wallpapers I come across each wednesday. To start off the first ever post will be by the acclaimed Orioto. He's a rather famous wallpaper artist who does a lot of gaming-based content. He just made this new one not long ago.

Foret en Fleur


At 4800 x 3000 pixels, this baby is huge and will nicely fit any size screen! The above is merely a preview image. For the full download, visit his deviantArt page, which has many many more. (And I can't say I wont use him again either!)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Off Topic: A personal note and new blog

If you visited the blog tonight, you might have noticed that I made a new links box on the upper right corner of the page. Under it is the Negative World forums that Dr. Fink and I frequent, and another blog... but what is it?

Well... back when I created this blog last September... which... seems so long ago now, I had intentions to create another blog along with it, one that would get myself motivated for my future. Like it says in my blurb in the about us page, I'm an aspiring marine biologist and I mustn't forget that. I do love gaming, possibly more than a lot of other people, but I also love the ocean... again, possibly more than others. Managing these two major interests can be quite difficult though, and it was my original intention to create two blogs that complemented each other: one about science, and the other about gaming/technology.

I wanted to keep this short, so I'll stop myself before I start rambling. Basically, the new blog is something to keep me focused on the more practical goals I have in life, but that's not to say I won't still post here often. If you'd like to check out the new blog, click the link right over there in the upper right corner or... click this caption under the picture of the beautiful animal I named the new blog after:

Steno bredanensis

Songs that should be on Rock Band - September

Ya know what? Over 2,000 songs available to play isn't enough, Harmonix, especially when you're holding out on all the really good stuff. I know there has been some amazing artists available for the game, like Queen, Billy Joel, Boston, Ozzy Osbourne, Megadeth, The Doors, and Pearl Jam. But dammit, it isn't enough! You'll never be able to please your fans, Harmonix... so... I've decided to make a new series of articles that will have a new installment every Tuesday, which is the day that Rock Band gets new DLC.

Sometimes it will be one song, and sometimes it will be an artist that hasn't even been in the game yet. (Save for outlandish stuff like Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, because let's face it, they're not gonna let any weirdo video game company have a hold of their precious masters.)

Enough explaining the article series, let's get down to it.

For today I chose...

"September" by Earth, Wind & Fire



The main reason I chose this is because I heard it on the way back home from college and because it was one of my favorite songs to play in Elite Beat Agents, but that's beside the point! I think that with the new addition of harmonies in Rock Band 3, this song would be wonderful to play with friends. It's not like Earth, Wind & Fire haven't been in Rock Band before, because they have "Shining Star" already available in the 'Get the Funk Out' pack available in the music store... and unfortunately that's the only song they've had available.

At the end of these articles I'll ask you if you'd like it available for Rock Band or not. So...

Yay or nay?

Also, these articles are subject to change if Harmonix ever releases a song that is part of this series, and I'll put an * by the article's title to indicate that and information on when the song was released.

Monday, January 17, 2011

PK Gaming Podcast: Episode 2 Part 1

Good evening everyone! This is the first part of Episode 2 of the PK Gaming Podcast. We decided to split up this episode (though we recorded it in one night) for ease of downloading what you might find interesting.

This episode stars me, Kaise, and Paleo talking yet again about gaming. You'll find that Paleo received a new headset and can be clearly heard and the audio static is greatly reduced. Yet I sound pretty quiet! Seems like I need to invest in better equipment, so please bear with the fact that my audio level is lower than the rest. We'll work on that for the next podcast.

Expect part two of the podcast on Wednesday (and it's significantly longer) with part three arriving on friday. We dive into more great gaming goodness in those.

Also, don't forget to write in with questions or comments and we'd love to address them on future shows! Send questions or comments about the podcast (or the site) to PKGamingPodcast@gmail.com.

Finally, Last week's episode featured some great music. Each time we post a new podcast, we'll explain what music we borrowed from in the previous podcast so that you all can know what that great song you heard was. Podcast 001 feature the theme to Grandia as well as the TV theme for Samurai Pizza Cats (though that was a bit obvious).

In this part of Episode 2 we talk about;
What We Got For The Holidays
New Year's Resolutions (Gaming and In General)

Download the episode here!

PK Gaming Podcast Episode 002 Part 1
(Click on the Orange "Download" Button to Begin Download)



(P.S. I know how convoluted this download method is. We're working on a new solution.)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Paleo's Top 10 Games of 2010

2010 was a very excellent year and a great start for the new decade. It's going to be a very tough act to follow in the coming years. I wasn't able to play all of the great games that came out, but I do have a list of the games that I played (which were released in 2010):

Alien Swarm
Bayonetta
Bit.Trip Runner
Bob Came in Pieces
Cave Story
Dive: The Medes Islands Secret
Donkey Kong Country Returns
Endless Ocean: Blue World
Galcon Fusion
Kirby's Epic Yarn
Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers
Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem
Metroid: Other M
Monster Hunter Tri
No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle
Picross 3D
Plain Sight
Poker Night at the Inventory
Revenge of the Titans
Rock Band 3
Shatter
Simplz: Zoo
Super Mario Galaxy 2

I played many more games which didn't release in 2010 (like Bowser's Inside Story), but these are the ones I have to choose from for my top 10, so please don't cry out 'bias!' when you don't see Halo: Reach, Starcraft II or Red Dead Redemption, because well... I didn't play those. Who am I kidding, you'll probably cry 'bias!' anyway.

So... without further delay, here are my top 10 games of 2010! Starting with...


#10 Cave Story

I almost feel like I'm cheating by adding this one in my list because I actually played the freeware version the last month of 2009, and fell in love with it. But since the WiiWare version came out in 2010, I might as well include it, since I could actually beat this version. Surprisingly, it wasn't the Metroidvania gameplay that made me fall in love with this game, it was the characters and story. Strange, right? I mean, the gameplay is pretty awesome, but I think the fact that this game was the idea and dedication of one man who loved to make games made the characters really stand out for me.


#9 Bit.Trip Runner

This was actually gifted to me by Dr. Fink as part of secret santa in Negative World, lucky draw, huh? I wanted to get this game when it came out because I had 600 points left in the Wii Shop Channel and if Runner followed the pricepoint of the previous Bit.Trip games, it would have come out at 600, but nope. So... I bought the first one, Beat, and just waited to get Runner, and what do you know, I get it for Christmas! I'm a big fan of both platformers and rhythm games, so you know this is a great combination for me. The levels get really challenging and it's very satisfying to finally complete a level after multiple tries. No checkpoints in this game, when you mess up, you have to go all the way back to the beginning of the level. Thankfully, most of the levels are fairly short and give you a bit of reinforcement to keep trying if you continuously fail. All of these elements without even mentioning the music (which is excellent chip-tune stuff from Anamanaguchi) makes it deserve a spot on my list.


#8 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle

I don't actually own No More Heroes 2 (a friend let me borrow and play it), so you might question why it's on my list... well, this sequel improved so much on the original that it deserves a place. The clunky jobs that were in the first game are replaced by 8-bit minigames that are actually fun. The boss fights are just as over the top and ridiculous as ever, and the music... the music is just amazing.The confusing ending and shorter than expected playtime prevents it from getting higher on this list though.


#7 Bayonetta

Like No More Heroes 2, I don't actually own Bayonetta, I rented it. I haven't played many hack-n-slash/beat-em-up type action games, but something about Bayonetta called out to me. I pushed myself to complete the game during the time I rented it, and it was a really fun and challenging ride. I don't know whether it was the sexy main character, the epic boss battles or the very satisfying combo system, but I had a ton of fun with Bayonetta even though it was just a rental.


#6 Monster Hunter Tri

I have to be honest with you readers, I really thought I wasn't going to get into this game after playing it for the first few hours. I actually pushed myself to play more so I could get a good feel for the game, but then I put it down for  while. Then one day, I decided to try the online mode... wow, what a difference. Monster Hunter Tri is definitely one of the best online games available on the Wii right now. No friend codes to be found and it's very easy to just play with a few strangers. The multi-player seems to be where a lot of the action in the game is and the single-player seems like a huge bonus by comparison once you get the hang of things (as I talk about in my Diary of the Rookie series). I still haven't completed the single-player or the multi-player quests in the game, but I can definitely see myself playing for even longer than the 70 hours I've logged in so far.


#5 Kirby's Epic Yarn

Well, what can I say about this? The game is so incredibly adorable and every level surprised me with the way Good Feel made a game that is "too easy" and still very fun. The thing that stands out the most, of course, is the presentation of it all. I always thought fabric and yarn would be a boring concept, but this game proved me wrong. It's very colorful and pleasing to look at and see how Kirby interacts with the levels. The piano-driven music may make you sleepy at times, (the really good songs aren't until the end), and reviewers have complained about it being to easy (even calling it the worst game of 2010, shut up Entertainment Weekly, you don't know vidya games like we do at PK Gaming), but for me it's my #5 game of the year for 2010.


#4 Rock Band 3

This is the only multi-platform game on my list that's available on all three home consoles, so just about anyone can jump into this. I do address a lot of complaints in the later part of my review, but that doesn't stop this game from being in my list. The addition of the keyboard is the obvious turn-on for a lot of people, and the fact that you can actually learn how to play songs with it. There's also a ton of replay value to be had here. I've already logged in about 80 hours into the game trying to complete the goals and I'm nowhere near halfway done, and even then, there's the weekly DLC that Harmonix has provided ever since the first Rock Band. If there was the 'perfect' music game out there, this would be it, which is why it deserves my #4 spot.

All the 'blue world' logos I found had IGN watermarks on them.
#3 Endless Ocean: Blue World

You know I had to include this, being the aspiring marine biologist that I am. It might be surprising to some people that there is some actual gameplay in this. There a ton of objectives to do in the game, so you're never really finished after you complete the story. The main game took me about 10 hours to complete, but then afterwards, I logged in over 100 hours just trying to complete the extra goals that the game gives you. The variety of the different dive sites is very well done. I've gone back to some places and found some interesting things that I didn't even know was there. If you didn't buy the first Endless Ocean, and were curious to see how it played, go ahead and get this one, it's still only $29.99 (probably even cheaper elsewhere), and for a budget title, there is a lot to do here, which is why it's so high on my list, not just because I'm a freak for liking dolphins and sea life so much. What's that? You say you weren't thinking anything like that? Oh... well... forget I said it then.


#2 Donkey Kong Country Returns

Ho boy, this... THIS took everyone by surprise. We all knew Retro Studios was working on something, but Donkey Kong Country? Who knew? Going from first-person shooter/adventure games to a platformer was a quite a leap, but Retro proved that they can do it.  Unlike Kirby's Epic Yarn, which was designed to amaze you with it's visuals, DKCR's levels were designed to KILL YOU, and still amaze with visuals. I don't think I've died that many times in a Nintendo platformer before. Man, I felt like I was back in the mid-90's when I started playing this game, since Donkey Kong Country was the first SNES game I had. I know it might be a lot of the nostalgia factor that's pushing this game so high up on my list, but I can't help it, it's really just that good, and it's a shame that it wasn't getting nominated for overall game of the year at the major gaming websites. Still... DKCR isn't quite my game of the year... that goes to...


#1 Super Mario Galaxy 2

Did you guess right? Like with DKCR, it is a shame that this wasn't nominated quite as much for Game of the Year (though a tip of my hat goes to Destructoid for them having it as theirs). Everyone thought that Galaxy 2 would be just another collection of levels that were very similar to the first game, but that was a dead-wrong assumption. The new levels felt very fresh and with the addition of new power-ups and Yoshi, it made the concept feel new again. The return of the world-map (akin to Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World) made things flow a lot smoother, and the orchestrated music was just as amazing as ever, with brand new tracks and remixes of classic mario songs. I'm not going to say whether I think Galaxy 2 is better than Galaxy 1, but for the record... if Nintendo made a Galaxy 3, either on the Wii or on the successor, I would not complain one bit if they can strike gold 3 times. This game is the prime example what Nintendo is known for: excellent level design, memorable music, and fun but challenging gameplay. 


Well, those are my Games of the Year for 2010. What do you think of my list? What were yours?

Playing The Classics: Donkey Kong Country: Vol 2

-- Part One --

So I assure you readers out there that I have been playing games lately, and Donkey Kong Country has been one of them. I just haven't played enough to really write more, until now.

One thing I really want to comment on with this game is the annoying save feature. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate it has one at all and beggars can't be choosers, but... the save feature is completely convoluted. I play X amount of levels, only to come across Dixie Kong, who is in the middle of a world. Then I come across Funky who has his nifty ship. But if I don't make it past the boss and a few more levels, then I can't save again. It seems pointless. But wait! I can use Funky to go to a previous land to save at that Dixie... that fixes it all doesn't it? Well, no. That's even more convoluted because then if you lose all your lives, you have to go back to that save point and then make your way back to the level you wanted. It just eats up extra time and is initially confusing and is ridiculously pointless. I don't know if this changed for the second or third sequels but I'm glad Retro did away with it.

Anyhow, as I furthered my way through I came across some mine cart action. I found this to be quite fun but significantly lacking in the detection aspect. Jumps I know I should have made, didn't make it. Also, the level design was kind of boring. Still, I was happy to see them and I enjoy the fact that these aspects have been a part of the series since the first one.

I don't mean to bitch some more but in relation to the save point thing, the whole map is just clunky. It reminds me of a badly done Super Mario Bros. 3 or something. Not being able to go from world to world without a boss fight or Funky is unnecessary to me. If someone would like to explain to me why this was a design choice, I'd be happy to be enlightened. I guess one thing that is nice is seeing Funky himself. While his function is kind of pointless, I like that he's there. I just wish I didn't need him to be mobile.

Eventually I made it to a forest world. There were quite a few barrel challenges which were both a little annoying and a little enjoyable. I really liked how the levels themselves looked. Being up in the treetops seems natural for Donkey Kong and his pal Diddy. One level I played had orangutans throwing barrels at me... seemed like a nice nod to the original Donkey Kong game but way to go back on your species jerks. I find it a little hard to aim the spinning barrels in those challenges but I get by eventually. In the first snow level titled, Snow Barrel Blast, I had another set of those barrels ahead of me. I kept messing up until just a moment ago when I accidentally fired myself towards the pit below only to be caught by a hidden barrel. This barrel not only shot me along the bottom, into a ton of bananas and the final KONG letter G, but it shot me to the rest of the level. I love when games have little secrets like this. It was a nice surprise that gave me a little more fire in my belly to continue forth.

And so I shall, with the next installment.

Read Part 3

PK Gaming Podcast: Episode 1

Welcome to a new upcoming feature here at PK Gaming!
This is the PK Gaming Podcast!

Paleo, Kaise, Ink, and I recorded this pilot episode weeks ago but because we're new at this it took some time to figure stuff out. We're still not even done figuring this out. Soon we hope to have the podcasts posted regularly as well as better hosted than on Sendspace. Soon we want it on iTunes and elsewhere but for now we're just going to put it as a download link. If anyone out there knows how to set up podcasts for iTunes (meta tagging and what not), we would love some knowledge on that. Anyway, We hope you download it and enjoy. If you listen, we'll keep making it better and better (well, we'll try even if you don't listen). Also, write in with questions or comments and we'd love to address them on future shows! Send questions or comments about the podcast (or the site) to PKGamingPodcast@gmail.com.

So please listen, and stay tuned, for more PK Gaming Podcasts in the future.

In this nearly two-hour episode, topics include;
Our Gaming Background
Kinect and Motion Gaming
The Length of Games
What We're Playing

Download the episode here!
(Click on "Regular Download" and then
on the next page click on the Orange "Download" Button to Begin Download)

Friday, January 14, 2011

Flash Friday: Infectonator World Dominator

Man, it's been a busy and/or lazy week (in the case of me) for us here at PK Gaming. Hopefully the rest of January won't have our posts quite as scattered.

I have a great Flash game for you today though that will take a big chunk of your time if you're bored.

Infectonator World Dominator

It's a sim type game where you are trying to infect towns and cities by making them zombies and eventually destroy them and infect the entire countries that they're in.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Quest To Use 1600 Live Points

I have owned an Xbox360 since Christmas Day 2009. Around that holiday season I played the hell out of Left4Dead 2 and DJ Hero. I also played a lot of Hexic and 1 Vs 100. As I began completing these games and my short free trial of Live Gold was running out, I pretty much stopped playing altogether. I hadn't turned the machine on until this Christmas season so some family could play DJ Hero. I was lucky enough to find that a 1600 points card had come into my possession and so finally the other night I downloaded those point to my account and began downloading trials. I wish I had gotten off my ass sooner as Perfect Dark was only a measly 400 points during Christmas but I didn't. That might affect what games I get because I really do wanna play some Perfect Dark once again.

A quick side note is that I love how easily I bypassed the need to pay for those stupidly expensive Wi-Fi adapters. I have an Apple Airport delivering Wi-Fi through to my iMac, and it was a simple matter of plugging my Xbox360 into my iMac and then properly setting up the settings to make my Xbox360 believe my iMac was a router. I love it and I spent $0.00 on it. I helped my cousin do the same set up last night in fact. I learned all about this from this one particular youtube video which you can view here.

Now, I went trial-version crazy and began downloading a ton of them last night. I have over 40 gigs of space on the system, so why not? My first run at the pickings were inspired by my pals over at the Negative World forums. I asked them what I should get and they threw a ton of fantastic-looking suggestions my way. I downloaded Sonic 4 Episode 1, Braid, Super Meat Boy, Scott Pilgrim The Game, Limbo, and the Perfect Dark trial. I apparently already had demos for the disc games, Half Life 2, Kameo, and Call of Duty World At War. Those are quite dated demos nowadays and I think I did end up trying Kameo out and being unimpressed. Regardless, I started playing the games and these have been my thoughts.

Sonic The Hedgehog 4 Episode 1: 1200 pts:
The demo was only the first level of the first world and I was not very impressed. The graphics looked relatively nice, certainly upgraded from their Sega Genesis counterparts, but the gameplay felt awkward or perhaps slow compared to the originals. Maybe it's not fair to judge against the old games but if the sole purpose was to rekindle that fire in the same way Donkey Kong Country Returns recently did for Donkey Kong Country fans,... it might have missed the boat too much. I couldn't imagine spending 1200 points on this, not when I only have 1600.

Braid: 800 pts:
Now this was something a little more interesting. I was told it was a time-based puzzler with platforming elements but that it wasn't specifically a platformer. Color me intrigued. The game demo just jumps right in and after I figured out the basic controls for jumping, climbing, and the mysterious time-reversing feature, I was collecting puzzle pieces left and right. Not all of them though were simple to get, and in fact I missed a handful. Some of these jumps seem wildly far for the basic controls I have at the time. The trailer for the game shows a lot more than the basic moves I have right now so I assume things get unlocked as you progress. Maybe you have to go back for them? Not according to my friend Pandareus at Negative World. I'll have to go back and give it another shot with the little tip he gave me. I made it through the first area to a small castle. A dinosaur comes out and says, "I'm sorry, but the princess is in another castle." What a nice reference Mr. Dinosaur. He then babbled on about purchasing the whole game and getting more castles that the princess might be in. I see a lot of potential here. The music is nice, the graphics are pleasant, and it's overall a fun experience. I worry that it might be a bit short, but we'll see if I pick it up. With the test run over, I moved on to the next game in the list, one that everyone has been drooling over.

Super Meat Boy: 1200 pts:
I loved the feel of it from the get go. Some pimp smacks Super Meat Boy's woman in the face and now he's got to exact revenge? That what it seems like anyway. I was nailing A+ rankings on the first two levels but on the third, I forgot to read the trick it's trying to teach you. I died so much in that chasm that I unlocked an Avatar award, and then it told me I didn't get to keep it because I don't own the full game. What a tease. Playing it again I realized it was teaching me the running jump. I shoulda known. In level 1-5 I encountered a warp zone which came with a booming voice, another achievement, and another mocking that I don't own the full game so I can't collect it. Considering I'm having fun with this and they're mocking me about not being able to collect stuff, this is an effective way to make me want to buy it. I didn't make it through all three warp zone parts initially but upon playing it again I did... only to receive yet another Super Mario Bros. reference when I was explained that the bandage girl, or whatever her name is, was in another warp zone. I love seeing indie developers paying homage to the classics. The game is quite fun, but it's 1200 points which is a little high for me considering I was hoping to get two games out of this card... We'll see. When I played the final World 1 demo level, 1-15, I died twice before successfully beating it. I found that my replay showed all my runs at once, with only one guy surviving. That was quite a neat little feature and it was even better on another level with like, fifteen of the meat boys. So far with Braid and Super Meat Boy, it's a tough decision. The Dark World too... I got a little taste of it and it must be insanely hard later on. Whether I get this game now or not, I need to at some point in the next few months.

Scott Pilgrim The Game: 800 pts:
I was surprised at how long I played this demo for. I was already a huge fan of the band, Anamanaguchi, who did the music for the game and in fact I had heard many of the tracks recently. The game resembles TMNT2 The Arcade Game from my youth, or perhaps that Simpsons Arcade Game. I had a decent amount of fun with it but these games generally aren't my thing. The only fighters I really ever cared about were those in the Super Smash Bros series. Still, this was fun and it was great kicking ass and making money as I pummeled through the seemingly infinite enemies of Toronto's streets. I liked the level up system too which seemed to give me more moves as I went on, however that's not to say I knew how to use them effectively. I was carrying an enemy and I accidentally entered Flatirons Books... who knew I could enter stores! Some chick with subtly bouncing breasts was trying to sell me books like the Vegan Cookbook and 101 Push Ups. Perhaps these were for leveling up or new moves? I bought 101 Push Ups since I could afford it. It apparently boosted my XP by 230 and my strength by 10. Kind of neat, it was like armor or something in an RPG. That's a neat addition to this kind of game. Finally after traversing that special highway and the city of Toronto I came to my first boss battle, Matthew Patel. It felt great to KO him. I've never read the comics but I loved the movie, this might be something I get down the line and I definitely will keep the demo around for quick play sessions. Also in a move against the game, I found the original Turtles Arcade game on the service for a measly 400 coin.

Limbo: 1200 pts:
If German Expressionism Cinema and Film Noir had a baby, it would be Limbo. The atmosphere is both literally and figuratively saturated in this game. From the looks of it, it's a platformer but it involves a little ingenuity. I traversed a foggy lake but once I got to the other side I needed to drag that boat over the land so I could use it to gain height. Then, like Indiana Jones, I climbed up a cliffside, leaped to a dangling vine/rope, and climbed up the cliff. It's pretty great so far, if perhaps just a little slow but I think that's the point. I think you're supposed to soak in this beady-eyed shadow-clad figure as he traverses the landscape. I eventually came to a giant spider hiding near a tree. How morbidly intriguing it was to have it kill me. What was the point? How was I to pass him? When I figured it out, how very haunting it was for him to exact his arachnid revenge. This little game is fascinating and all without background music. I wish this were a little cheaper because it seems like an amazing title but I don't know if I'm going to buy just one 1200 points game, no matter how good it is, especially when I've wanted the next game I played for so long.

Perfect Dark: 800 pts:
The moment this game booted up I felt every ounce of nostalgia flow through me. I suddenly recalled how the enemies would yell, "You bitch!" when I shoot them and how those doors sounded when you opened them. This was classic Perfect Dark but with nicer graphics and an even nicer frame rate. The change in frame rate might be the single most noticeable change. The controls were a little rough though. After being a Wii shooter guy, it's hard to go back to the inferior precision of dual analog. I'm sure though I could if I had to, I mean, the game does include auto aim. It might be cheap but it might make the overall experience that much better. I don't recall if the original had auto-aim or not. It's going to be hard NOT picking this. I wanna see the whole storyline flesh out once more. I would just use my original copy without any problem except that the analog sticks on the old N64 controllers are all quite worn out by now. They are horrible compared to those found on the Nunchuk or the Xbox360 controllers.

I had also downloaded trials for Shadow Complex, Comic Jumper, and both Banjo games but unless I misread something, they are all 1200 points.

In the end I made one final check about my choices. You see, Perfect Dark was recently a measly 400 points but I was slow this Christmas and I missed the boat on that. Still, $10 isn't bad at all and it's what I would be paying for the original non-updated version of the game if it ever released on the Wii's Virtual Console. I did a little more reading at the Perfect Dark page of one of my new favorite sites, XBLARatings.com and people seemed to love everything that has been done to it. I remember fondly how much I love this game so it's a high contender. Then I read about the other 800 points option, Braid. Apparently the game has no replay value, which makes sense, and it can be a little too short... but that's why I wanted to buy two games. This is of course without even considering I still have a decent Christmas bounty to tackle. Braid overall looks and plays really well and I never got into the Prince of Persia series so here's my chance for some time-warping action. It can be a slight precursor to the DS game I'm looking forward to, Radiant Historia. 1200 points is about $15 dollars and while I don't have more money to spend on points right now, I know I'll need to go pick up Limbo and Super Meat Boy in the future. Scott Pilgrim is fun as a demo and Sonic 4 isn't that fun in general. I've spent a lot of time today playing demos and I'll continue with the other games which are still downloading ever so slowly.

The winners of my 1600 Live points definitely go to Perfect Dark and Braid.

Do you think I made the right decisions? Have any suggestions for games I should go buy right now despite not being able to afford them? Let me know in the comments. One of these days I'll purchase a Gold account of Xbox Live, whenever that happens I'd love to kick your ass in some Perfect Dark multiplayer. Just let me know.

Flash Friday: Dolphin Olympics

I'm still dreaming of Spring and with that I'm dreaming of seeing my precious dolphins again.

How about enjoy the carefree life of a dolphin by trying to reach the heavens with every leap in Dolphin Olympics?

Dolphin Olympics 2 is the superior game, but I thought I would link to both just for the heck of it.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Review: Rock Band 3

It's been hard being a music game fan for the past couple of years with all of the over-saturation in the market with multiple titles from Rock Band and Guitar Hero. I say it's been hard because it's very frustrating trying to defend some of the decisions that the players in the music game genre makes. Personally, I usually side with Rock Band and point out the flaws of the Guitar Hero side, but recently, Harmonix is starting to show its weaknesses. Thankfully, Harmonix has gone back to promising the idea of a 'platform' for the music game with Rock Band 3, but like the first Rock Band needed a Rock Band 2 in 2008, does Rock Band 3 need a Rock Band 4 in 2011? I hope not.

First of all, you might be wondering why I'm calling them 'music games' instead of 'rhythm games.' Well, I think music games are a sub-genre of rhythm games, where the object of the game is to play music literally, whether through a peripheral or real instrument, and that would define Rock Band and Guitar Hero. Other games in the rhythm game genre would include something like Parappa the Rapper or Rhythm Heaven. I would delve into these semantics more, but that's for another article. Anyway, on to the review.

Let's talk about the most obvious addition to the series first, the keyboard peripheral. Honestly, it feels like the first time I played Rock Band with this controller, mainly because I have never really tried to play the instrument before. Though, I'm talking about Pro mode, not the regular mode of the keys, which is very easy to me and boring, but with Pro mode, it's very challenging and I can actually transition my skill with the peripheral to an actual piano. Not only that, but I can also connect the keyboard peripheral to my laptop with a MIDI output cable and practice that way or create my own music with a program of some sort. It took me a while to get used to playing the keys, but that story is for another series of 'Diary of the Rookie.'

I can't comment on the Pro drums or Pro guitar, so I'm just going to talk about the gameplay and design next. I think the best addition to this was the drop-in/out feature that can be used anywhere in the game. Doing a Road Challenge and your friend wants to help? No problem, just connect a peripheral and have him press start and he's there. Another slight change that had a big impact is the new rating and recommendation system the game has for songs. You can rate all of the songs in your library, and whatever you rated higher, the game will recommend similar songs from the Rock Band music store. Unfortunately, there is still not an option to delete/hide songs from the on-disc setlist, but you can rate them 1-star so they won't show up in random setlists quite as often.

Speaking of random setlists, you won't have to worry about them much anymore, since in the new Road Challenges that have replaced the World Tour, you have three setlist options for each city. They usually consist of a pre-made setlist, a random setlist and a custom setlist, or some combination of two of those and one other. What I really liked is that it will incorporate the downloadable content into the Road Challenge setlists. For instance, I downloaded the Billy Joel pack they had available and now a 'Random Billy Joel Setlist' will appear in Road Challenges.

Along with the Road Challenges, there are also Career Goals that you can fulfill. Mostly all of them are quantitative, like 'play all the warmup songs on guitar' or 'get a 500-note streak on bass.' Just because their quantitative doesn't mean they can't be interesting though, some of the previous DLC actually have goals that unlock in Rock Band 3. A couple of goals that my DLC unlocked was 'Dave Grohl Band' which had me play 5 songs from any band that includes Dave Grohl as a member, and 'Face Melter' which had me play 3 metal songs from the 80's. The best thing about these goals is that you're always working on them no matter what mode you're in on the game. For example, if you just happen to play all of the warmup songs while doing a couple of Road Challenges or even in quickplay, that goal will be completed.

Overall, Rock Band 3 is a godsend for fans of the series as far as added features and design goes... but there are some flaws and missing parts. The two-player Score Duel and Tug-of-War modes are completely gone, and the exports for Rock Band 1 and 2 have even more missing songs from the export than the first transition from 1 to 2. There is also the fact that many fans are angry at Harmonix for repackaging some of the pre-RB3 songs into downloadable content in the Bon Jovi pack and Queen (RB3 "Enhanced") pack. People who have bought DLC before RB3's launch feel a bit cheated because they will have to buy those songs again if they want keyboard and harmonies, and then an additional fee if they want the Pro guitar chart if it's available. In my opinion, I can understand the Pro guitar upgrade fee, but the keyboard and harmonies seems like something they would update on the original DLC rather than releasing another pack with the same songs on the marketplace. Another recent fiasco with the RB2 export is the Harmonix employees weren't included in the export, but was just released this week as a free pack. People assumed that since they didn't include them in the export, that they must have added keyboard and harmonies, right? Nope. Then why disclude them from the export? Seriously? Why, Harmonix?

Enough of my ranting about the flaws, time for...

The Verdict:

Rock Band 3 is the absolute music game. The addition of Pro modes and great design choices make it the best option for any person to have as their 'platform' for music gaming. Harmonix has stated that their next outing may include improvisation and composition, so while Rock Band 3 teaches you how to play music, Rock Band 4 may teach you how to make music... but for now I'm very happy with Rock Band 3, and wouldn't mind waiting until next generation for the next installment in the series. Just wait, Harmonix... don't saturate the market anymore.

What I liked:

-The Setlist. Some of my favorites included: "Good Vibrations (Live)" by The Beach Boys, "Don't Stand So Close to Me" by The Police, "Cold as Ice" by Foreigner, "Hey Man, Nice Shot" by Filter, "Foolin'" by Def Leppard, "Midlife Crisis" by Faith No More, "The Killing Moon" by Echo & the Bunnymen and sooooo many more. If you don't like at least half of the songs on this setlist, then you just don't like music.
-The new career goals. They add for a lot of replayability and an incentive for me to try the other instruments.
-The keyboard! I actually know how to play the riff to 'Werewolves of London' now!

What I didn't like:

-Export fees. I don't even think I'm going to export the songs from Rock Band 1 and 2 if they're going to continue to re-release them as DLC and have us pay for it again, because there are a lot of songs from the games I'd want to play on keys that have them.
-No Supertramp. They added a keyboard and they still don't have any Supertramp? How is that possible?! Oh well, hopefully they will have DLC for them in the near future.