Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Way Things Work: NES Zapper

As I work on the final part of my epic 4 part series of My Top 20 SNES Games I thought I'd post this video from Roo of Clan of the Gray Wolf about everyone's favorite NES peripheral, The Zapper, as he explains how it works and "bursts" some of the myths surrounding it.

More of these videos can be found here.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Super Nintendo @ 20: My Top 20 SNES Games Part 3

Mr. Saturn's Top 20 Super Nintendo Games Part 3

10. Chrono Trigger - 1995 - Square

The Game: Follow Chrono and his band of time traveling adventurers as they attempt to defeat Lavos and prevent him from destroying the world.

My Take: You know it is too bad I wasn't more into RPGs in the mid-90s. The SNES was such a great system for them, it is too bad my general preference for platformers pretty much meant that was what I wanted to play. Because of that I missed a lot of these classics and then Final Fantasy 7 came along and instead of getting me more into the genre it almost killed my interest. A game like this to get more into the genre probably would have been better for than that....."game". Anyways, while the story is relatively a simple one the characters and battle system are great and make for a great RPG.

9. Final Fantasy II - 1991 - Square

The Game: Guide Cecil in his quest to defeat the sorcerer Golbez and save the world all the while redeeming himself as a Paladin.

My Take: Funny story, as of this date FF2 remains the only Final Fantasy that I have ever beaten. Though it took me until my second go around of collecting SNES games to finally play and beat it (after losing my copy of the GBA version) it confirmed the claims of my friend that Square was really on their game with the SNES. While not exactly a complex story either, the tale of Cecil and his quest to save the world and redeem himself is I think quite a good bit of characterization especially for an early SNES. And this is in spite of some of the dodgier translation and edits. I mean really, did they have to remove all the cool dark knight powers that Cecil had?

8. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time - 1992 - Konami

The Game: Krang and Shredder and have stolen the Statue of Liberty and only the Ninja Turtles have the Turtle Power to get it back.

My Take: As any good child growing up in the '80s, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a cartoon favorite of mine. A few of my favorite games are the arcade and NES version of the first Turtles game. I actually didn't know about the arcade version of Turtles in Time for quite awhile. And after playing both, I find that outside of the lack of 4 player and some lacking animation and music the SNES version is overall the best version and maybe the best 2D beat-um up on any system. While covering some of the usual territory for a Turtles beat-um the time travel conceit makes for some fantastic stages and the bosses are just plain fun. Some of my best memories as a kid were playing through this game with my brothers (and recently with my 5 year old nephew though I did most of the work) as it a good game for teamwork as well as upping your own score. Unfortunately the side-scrolling brawler is all but a dead genre and these kind of experiences are becoming less and less common.

7. Mega Man X2 - 1995 - Capcom

The Game: Mavericks led by the X-Hunters are after Mega Man X and claim to have Zero's parts. It is up to X to stop them from fulfilling their plans.

My Take: Strange thing about me, in each series of Mega Man that I have played my favorite has so far been the 2nd one in the franchise. Probably just because this is the one I got first as opposed to Mega Man X which is popularly considered to be the better of the series. While not as big step up from X as the Mega Man 2 was to the first X2 still provided that very solid game set-up that we've were familiar with additions of new upgrades and the side quest to reconstruct Zero. Plus I loved the effects that Capcom put in with the wireframe 3D graphics that they made using their special chip the CX4. While not as good as the SFX it made for a few cool scenes.

6. Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest - 1995 - Nintendo

The Game: Kaptain K. Rool and his Kremlings have kidnapped Donkey Kong and it is up to Diddy Kong and his girlfriend Dixie to rescue him.

My Take: While Donkey Kong Country to me was like Super Mario Bros. in its scope, Donkey Kong Country 2 was like Super Mario Bros. 3 in relation. It took everything that the first had done and made it bigger and better. Stages became less straightforward, with stages going more vertical and secrets being more than just 1UP farms. While Diddy and Dixie were more similar than DK and Diddy, they were both just as important to clearing the stages with their own strengths and weaknesses (Dixie's hover or Diddy's faster climbing speed) and some things couldn't be reached without one or the other. To this day DKC2 is one of my more commonly played through games as it just a ton of fun to play.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Super Nintendo @ 20: My Top 20 SNES Games Part 2

Mr. Saturn's Top 20 Super Nintendo Games Part 2

15. Ken Griffey, Jr. Presents Major League Baseball - 1994 - Nintendo

The Game: It is baseball. Featuring future Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr.

My Take: The SNES really wasn't the console of choice if you liked sports games but occasionally a few would provide a great experience. While maybe not the most realistic or technical baseball title out there, Ken Griffey Jr. Baseball provided me and my little brother with hours of baseball action with tons of seasons played through even though there wasn't a franchise mode. It is hard to quantify why I loved this game so much in ways that non-sports fans would appreciate but a game that you put so much time in with a family member is something very good. And I gushed about it in a retro review anyways so read that.

14. SimCity - 1991 - Nintendo

The Game: The Nintendo-fied version of Will Wright's classic city building simulator.

My Take: Anyone who has gotten into any kind of simulation game can attest to the fact that sim games can be insanely addicting. SimCity for the SNES was my first experience with these games and the amount of time I spent crafting cities of various types was always fun. Even if I used the cheat to amass large amounts of money early on. The Nintendo touch added to the game also gave a charm to the SimCity experience that is tough to reproduce. Having Bowser replace the godzilla like character or even the inclusion of Mr. Wright (Nintendo's creative nod to franchise creator Will Wright) gives this iteration added charm that really holds up well.

13. Mortal Kombat II - 1994 - Acclaim

The Game: After losing Mortal Kombat, Shang Tsung returns to Outworld and schemes with the Emperor Shao Khan to lure Kombatants from Earthrealm to fight for another chance to conquer it.

My Take: Nintendo learned their lesson from the first Mortal Kombat. Blood sells and thusly SNES fans got a Mortal Kombat chock full of blood and all the fatalities a person could want. To this day, and despite having a copy of the arcade version on the PSN, this version of MKII still holds up as my favorite of the console ports. Sure it may not be the prettiest but I spent many hours playing this game and while my interest in the franchise has since cooled it still a fun game to play and see one of those so-called ultraviolent games that would have apparently turned me and others like me into sadistic murderers.

12. Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting - 1993 - Capcom

The Game: The early '90s arcade fighting king's second go around on the SNES features faster gameplay and the ability to play as the boss characters.

My Take: My favorite of the SNES Street Fighter II variations even over Super SFII's larger cast almost entirely for I feel this got closest to matching the arcade's sense of speed. There isn't a whole lot further to say about Street Fighter II that most people don't already know. While I'm a rather casual fighting fan, games like this and Mortal Kombat II helped define an era. One that sadly we may not really see again.

11. Donkey Kong Country - 1994 - Nintendo

The Game: King K. Rool has stolen Donkey Kong's precious banana horde and it is up to DK and his protege Diddy to storm the Kremlings hide outs and get them back.

My Take: Strangely enough the first straight-up platform game on my list so far. Which is odd since my love of video games really was developed quite a bit around them. DKC coming out at the 2nd half of the SNES's lifespan was in all honesty a pretty straightforward platformer more reminiscent of early days of the genre despite the advanced graphical capabilities the game showed off. It was actually a bit refreshing to see a platformer like it but it did bring some good stuff to the table. The buddy system of using DK or Diddy made for some interesting strategy even if they weren't extremely different. The game's use of secrets while kinda pointless outside of 1-up hoarding nicely broke up any monotony. Overall it would be an above average platformer, but where this game really shone was the graphics. the SGI graphics used to bring this game to life was very eye popping at the time brought that next generation graphics feel without needing to buy an add-on. Along with the great soundtrack this all came together to create a truly memorable game. And hey I chose this over games like Final Fantasy 3 and Super Metroid and I really don't regret it.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Super Nintendo @ 20: My Top 20 SNES Games Part 1

Did you know that the Super Nintendo turned 20 years old on the 23rd? Actually it kinda snuck up on me as well. But I thought to celebrate this momentous anniversary I'd make a list of My Top 20 Super Nintendo games. But first a little reminiscing on my part.

I love the Super Nintendo. It ranks as my favorite system for just the sheer high amount of great games on it as well giving us some of the best looking games of all time that still stand up well even today. I do believe that there is so much quality on this system that 10 people making 10 top 10 lists could produce a list that is very different from the other. That is how good the system is.

When my family got our SNES for Christmas years back (I can't remember exactly when we got ours, judging that our first games were all released in 1991 it is conceivable that we got it in '91 though I'm thinking '92) my dad being the joker he is, decided to give us our games first. So being stupid me and my brothers gave him the long, sullen looks as we couldn't play those on our NES. And at that moment my dad says something along the lines of: "Well then you are going to need this!" and pulls the SNES from behind his lazy boy. What made the SNES special for me and my brothers was that this was the last system we'd agree on as well. As we got older, I remained a Nintendo fan and my brother's gaming interests changed from liking RPGs for one and sports for the other. Unfortunately that SNES we got back in the early '90s would be lost as one of my brothers, under the guise of charity, gave away our SNES to some friends of his behind me and the other brothers back. I know he was trying to be nice but without consulting any of us, he just gave away something I still played a ton of.

It would take 4 years until I finally could get my hands on another SNES through an eBay auction which netted me the SNES, Mario World, ALttP, Super Metroid and a few other games and since then I've been steadily building up collection. The used game store in my state has seen quite a bit of business from me that is fore sure. Also the Virtual Console has proven a bit of a boon as well (though limited) as it not only allowed me to pick up some harder to find or more pricey games but also allowed me to have favorites all in one place.

So now I present the first part of My Top 20 SNES games. I may do a few things more as well as a retro review for what I consider to be the worst SNES game I ever played but that will be for a later time.

Mr. Saturn's Top 20 Super Nintendo Games Part 1

20. Final Fantasy III - 1994 - Square
The Game: Considered by many to be Square's greatest RPG and arguably the best RPG ever, FF3 (or 6 if you are so inclined) has you control members of resistance group, the Returners, against the machinations of Emperor Gestahl and Kefka, the evil clown. Well eviler than your usual clown.

My Take: I'm sure there are a lot of FF3 fans wondering why I have this game so low on my list. Because well to be honest, I have yet to ever beat the game. Yet to have it on my top 20 and the first of five RPGs is pretty good, I'd say. And to be perfectly honest I didn't really play FF3 all that much until the GBA version was released. Despite this, I can honestly see why FF3 is regarded so highly amongst fans and gaming in general. A simple, yet involving storyline with a large cast of very likeable characters. Which one of my biggest problems with more recent Final Fantasy titles is that the characters are just plain unlikable. But with 3, you actually get a better feel for the characters (despite not really having a definite main character) as they actually have emotional up and downs instead of always being down. And because of that the game's big twist about 3/4 of the way through actually makes you want to see these characters succeed. With a strong battle system with each character having his or her own abilities it makes for about as strong an RPG as one can get.

19. Lufia II: Rise of Sinistrals - 1996 - Natsume

The Game: A very late RPG (a month before the N64 came out in NA) has you playing as Maxim a young monster hunter out for adventure. A strange event has caused monsters to become more active and a group of super beings known as the Sinistrals has started to make their presence known and it is up to Maxim and the warriors he meets on his journey to stop them from taking over the world.

My Take: Lufia II is much more traditional RPG than games like FF3. Its battle system is more straight forward as well as the plot, though something that about the plot really kept me playing. The characters are likable and even the romance between Maxim and Selan, while rushed, actually occurs in the story instead in a vague point after the game. It is a fairly unique thing for an RPG to have. Add into the mix a fairly fun dungeon crawling experience with Zelda-ish puzzle solving and a rudimentary Pokemon-ish monster helper system there is a lot to do even if the overall game is more traditional than what was expected by this time.

18. Killer Instinct - 1995 - Nintendo
The Game: The Ultratech corporation is holding a fighting tournament called Killer Instinct. Fighters from around the world as well as beings from Ultratech compete in this tournament for various reasons and rewards.

My Take: Killer Instinct is one of those fighters that you had to be there to get why it is fun. Nowadays it looks to be rather run of the mill but back in the day the graphics and the fighting system were very enjoyable as it was an early game in the wave of combo-heavy fighting games. The SNES version while not nearly as pretty as the arcade version (obviously) did a great job of recreating the fighting system. I spent many hours playing it, I had the thumb blisters to prove it, and would recommend it to anyone looking for something different as far as 2D fighters are concerned.

17. ActRaiser - 1991 - Enix
The Game: The world is in peril. In the Master's absence, the world has been thrown into chaos by Tanzra and his minions. It is up to you as the Master to restore peace to the world by fighting Tanzra's forces as well as leading the people back to peace and prosperity.

My Take: While I didn't play ActRaiser back in the day, bought it on the Virtual Console, I could easily see why this was yet another cult favorite of the early SNES. Mixing a strong platforming element with a simple yet engaging "god-mode" it offers a strong bit of variety and keeping things interesting. As you tame and resettle areas as you gain new followers who will offer you gifts to use in the platforming sections and increase your experience levels. It is a pity that Quintet removed the god-mode sections of the game for the sequel as you don't often see unique mixes of two gameplay styles mixed together so well.

16. Super Castlevania IV - 1991 - Konami
The Game: A remake of the original Castlevania that greatly expands on the original and makes several improvements to the classic Castlevania gameplay.

My Take: Why is it called Super Castlevania (add emphasis)IV? Anywho, Super Castlevania IV does one really great thing for the Castlevania games, added play control. No longer is Simon Belmont's movements stiff he moves with a relative grace compared to past versions. As well as having a flexible whip makes battling the denizens of Castlevania a far more enjoyable task. Being able to attack in 8 directions is a fantastic ability that hasn't been seen in a Castlevania since which is weird. Of course Castlevania has taken a far different path in the last 14 years or so. As well as being a gameplay advancement a lot of the cool Mode 7 effects used in the game brought a great bit of character to the world. Another early SNES game (though I didn't really play it till the VC) that showed off a lot of what the SNES could do as well as provide a great experience.

Part 2 will be tomorrow.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Ashens Reviews:

Depending on how old you are, you may remember Tiger Electronic's line of licensed LCD ports of popular arcade and console games. As a kid I spent quite a bit of time with many of them and they hold a small but dear part of my gaming heart. Tiger would try to cash in on the bigger handheld market in the mid-90s and it didn't really work out.

Retro Reviews: Ico

Ico was released in 2001 developed by Team Ico and published by Sony Computer Entertainment.

Ico is a fairly unique game all things considered. In an era of a game presentation becoming more and more complicated, Ico was presented as something relatively minimalist and spartan while giving those who played it a wholly immersive experience that attains an experience that many story-driven games wish they could reach.

Ico is about a boy born with horns, which is considered a bad omen by the people of his village. As a means of removing the omen from the village he is taken by his people to an ancient castle where he is placed in a sarcophagus as a sacrifice of some sort to the ruler of the castle, The Queen. After a quake causes Ico's tomb to crash to the floor, he manages to escape from it and starts looking for an escape from the castle. Soon after he runs across a mysterious girl locked in a cage and frees her. Unfortunately they do not speak the same language but Ico is determined to help the girl, Yorda, also escape from whatever fate she is to face in the castle.

It won't be an easy task as the castle Ico and Yorda are in is ancient, decrepit and filled with puzzles. Not only that, the Queen's minions, shadows, will try to steal Yorda away from Ico to take her back to the Queen. It will be up to Ico to not only fight off the shadows but to lead Yorda through the hazards of castle as well.

The best way I can describe the gameplay would be a somewhat simplified take on 3D Zelda. While not based around collecting keys or items and generally being more linear the use of block puzzles and pulling switches to alter the environment always give me that Zelda feel. Your basic goal is to guide Yorda from one location as another. Sometimes she can be used as a temporary weight but most of the time you just have to make sure not to get too far way from her for if you do, shadows will come. The biggest problem with Yorda is that Ico has to lead her by the hand up and over obstacles though occasionally her limited path finding abilities will have her climb up things and save you the hassle of leading her. She has a tendency to stray but she won't ever go to far and will usually come back if Ico gives her a call.

The battle system in Ico is also very simple. Since Ico obviously isn't a trained fighter what he has for a fighting style is more or less flailing around with whatever weapon he has at the time. It works for the most part but until you get access to swords later in the game, it takes a long time to kill the shadows with the 2x4 you find all over the place and the enemies can swarm you making it difficult to get to Yorda if she is taken to a location far from you. Though to be fair the fighting is not really a focus of Ico, even it is a common occurrence.

Simplicity is also a fixture of Ico's graphics. While beautiful to look at the surroundings are stark, perfectly fitting a long abandoned castle. This makes for a very atmospheric game that doesn't overload the senses with a ton of graphical effects, outside of generous bit of bloom lighting.

There are some signs of the game's origins as a Playstation title especially in Ico and Yorda's movements. There is something about how their models are built and animated that sometimes feel like they just upgrades from how it was on Playstation. There is a ragdoll style effect that is especially noticeable on Ico. Just makes him weirdly gangly despite not being particularly tall for a kid his age.

The music in the game is also appropriately spartan. The songs that are there are memorable especially the credits theme and the weird music that plays when the shadows attack adds tension to the scene. The rest of the background music is environmental sounds that further add to the atmosphere of the world. The voice acting for the game, the small amount there is, does the job well but since the game isn't in English and features I think two made up languages it is hard to judge.

In the end, Ico is a over-looked but classic early PS2 game. And the reason why I review it now is that the Ico/Shadow of the Colossus Collection comes out for the PS3 next month. It'll not only be in HD but us in North America will get the better version that was released in Europe and Japan with extras. Frankly I can't wait. And this will hopefully lead up to Team Ico's next game, The Last Guardian finally getting its release next year. And hopefully like its predecessors will provide an engrossing story through its gameplay rather than overabundance of cut scenes.

+ Very immersive atmosphere
+ Great puzzle design
+ Sparse and gorgeous environments
+ Lack of interrupting cut scenes keep things immersive
+ Beautiful credit theme
- Very short
- Some remnants of Playstation origins evident.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Paleo's Game Collection

So... sort of continuing with my gaming history video that I posted earlier in the week, I uploaded the videos for my game collection. It's not much at the moment, and definitely doesn't compare to what my fellow editors here probably have, but I like to think of it as a start of a journey to replenish my collection with familiar games as well as new ones, so if you like collection videos with commentary, enjoy!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Songs that should be in Rock Band: Bang on the Drum All Day

That's right, the Carnival Cruise Line theme... I mean, of course I knew of this song before they started using it... of course. I just think it would be a really fun song to play on the keyboard, although it does sound a bit repetitive. It could be a simpler song to get used to playing with the keyboard.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Fremont Street Experience - 80's Video Game Tribute

Wow this is incredibly cool.

My Gaming History

I posted this video yesterday morning on youtube. It's an overview of my gaming history and discusses a few of the games I played when I was young as well as where I am now as a gamer.

I also started a discussion about it on Negative World asking other people what their gaming history was like. Go check it out!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Thank you, Takeshi Miyaji

I was very sad to find out Takeshi Miyaji, co-founder of Game Arts and daddy to the Grandia series, passed away a few days ago to unknown causes.

To me, Grandia is one of those games that just oozes with charm. It quickly grew a spot in my heart with its light-natured story of romance and adventure that you don’t find in many games these days. It features a great cast with one of the most lovable protagonists of all time, and his bright spirit and unrivaled moxie will have you constantly rooting for him to succeed in his struggle. I can’t think of many 14-year-olds that crash weddings, travel to the ends of the world, solve mysteries of an ancient civilization, rescue his dream girl, and save the world, all in one adventure! The plot may be simple, but its execution is—dare I say it?—grand!

Grandia—the ultimate feel-good RPG.

And if the story didn't reel you in, the gameplay surely did. Grandia delivered a battle formula that would become a staple for its sequels, combining real-time and turn-based combat that was quite revolutionary for its time. It's simple to pick up, and incredibly rewarding to master--using the right attacks at the right time can cancel enemy attacks, for example. Play your cards right, and you can even defeat some bosses without letting them ever get a turn!

One of the game's many crowning moments of awesome. I remember it well.

It may not be perfect, but I love it for its quirks. The dialogue can get a little cheesy, and the voice acting falls into the so bad it's good category (another staple of the Grandia series) on many occasions. I will be following the footsteps of our Dr. Fink and do a Playing the Classics piece on this wonderful game in remembrance. Thank you very much, Takeshi Miyaji, for what you have given the gaming community. You will be missed.

Songs that should be in Rock Band: Can't Stop

Huh, it seems as though I have broken my tradition of alternating between older song and newer song. This is "Cant' Stop" by Red Hot Chili Peppers and it's one of my favorite songs by them. I find it strange that they haven't been on Rock Band in quite a long time. I remember some rumors flying around that they had some kind of deal with Guitar Hero, but that's dead now. Perhaps they might be able to get some more of their songs on the music store soon since they have a new album releasing soon, and they can promote it with Rock Band sort of like other bands like Foo Fighters has been doing.