Thursday, December 18, 2014

My Favourite Games at Christmas

Our Christmas Tree this year.
The other day I actually got a few hours to myself and I decided I'd game for a bit. With a newborn son it's become increasingly difficult to find time to game (or do anything else, for that matter), so when I saw the opportunity I didn't hesitate. I put a few hours into Bravely Default and it was a blast.

It got me thinking about how one of my favourite things to do during the Holidays is play games. Not shockingly, of course, because when I was a kid that would have been when I'd receive most - if not all - of my new games for the year.

Although in the last few years my favourite Holiday tradition for gaming has been chilling by the Christmas tree with whatever game is currently in my 3DS, there are certain games that I like to boot up around Christmas, or have fond memories of playing at Christmastime, so I thought I'd share a few of those with everyone. 'Tis the season!

Battle the evil Kremlings for your lost Banana Horde!
Donkey Kong Country was probably my most anticipated title ever released on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, and in 1994 I was not disappointed when I found it waiting for me under the Christmas tree. I didn't even care about Donkey Kong from the arcade, or any of its ports and sequels on the NES, but the pre-rendered 3D environments that had been teased in Nintendo Power Magazine had me frothing at the mouth to play this game.

And it did not disappoint. Donkey Kong Country is one of the best platformers ever developed and really put Rare on the map as a household name in the video game market. The engrossing surroundings, tight controls, and plethora of secrets, coupled with the ability to switch between characters at will, made DKC a top contender for best platformer on the SNES. And this is in a world where Super Mario World is already on the system. It was also so accessible. My little sister (who is not a gamer) and I would play this - and its subsequent sequels - together and she could easily play along, even if I had to help out with the more difficult stages.

Then there's the music. David Wise's soundtrack is probably what made me love video game music to this day. Whenever I throw this game on around Christmas, and I hit those water stages, or the any of the levels in Gorilla Glacier, I'm blasted right back to 1994, feverishly tackling the challenge of DKC.

Take on the role of  Raziel the Wraith as he battles for revenge.
The Sony Playstation was such a surprise for me and really changed me as a gamer. All for the better, of course. I was a "Nintendo Kid" and had no intention of getting a PSX (my preferred acronym for Playstation), but after watching my best bud Cole playing his I eventually saw the benefit in owning one and I actually received my very own Playstation with a copy of Metal Gear Solid (the game that really sold me on the PSX) on a frosty Christmas morn. So why am I not writing about Metal Gear right now?

I don't really know how to explain it, but Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, always comes to my mind when I think of Christmas gaming memories. What makes it especially odd is that I've never owned a copy of Soul Reaver.

It was nearing Christmas one year and on the street I grew up on all the neighbours would get together and have this big outdoor Christmas party every year, where we'd drink hot chocolate (hot toddies for the adults) and light up a huge Christmas tree. I was a teenager during the PSX years and I remember I was being all angsty and didn't really want to join in on all the Christmas cheer.

As a sidenote, I went to the party and had a blast. You're never too old for Christmas!

Previously that day I had gone to my local video store (my Mecca) and picked up Soul Reaver to play for the weekend. As I awaited going to the Christmas Party (we called it the Light Up) I crunched a few hours in Soul Reaver and was just whisked away. I had played some of Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain, and it didn't really grab me, but the story of Raziel, the Elder God, and this gothic 3D-rendered vision of the world of Blood Omen was absorbing. I can remember playing hours of this game as the light of all those Christmas lights bored through the blinds on my bedroom windows, illuminating an otherwise black room; the perfect twilit ambiance for playing Soul Reaver.

Run free as Super Mario takes the jump into full 3D!
Everyone's seen the Nintendo 64 kid, and anyone that was into gaming in the mid-90s can remember the fervor surrounding the Nintendo 64 during Christmas of 1996. For me it wasn't as much about it just being Nintendo's newest console, but also the intrigue surrounding that strange new controller.

I had not yet seen a "3D controller" - even though I would play Nights Into Dreams with the Sega Saturn 3D Control Pad in the not-so-distant future - and reading about the analog thumbstick in Nintendo Power just had my mind hopping as to how it would work.

I can remember being in a Canadian Tire during that Christmas season and seeing that they had three kiosks set up; one with a Sega Saturn playing Panzer Dragoon, one with a Sony Playstation playing Battle Arena Toshinden, and a Nintendo 64 with Super Mario 64. The Sega Saturn I had seen; a friend owned one. The Playstation I had never seen before and I can recall my exact thought of testing it out: "The controller is funny. There are too many buttons on the top." And then I laid my hands on the Nintendo 64 controller, ironically the strangest controller ever conceived, and yet it just made sense.

I tenderly held the controller in my hand, and wiggled the analog stick just a little and saw Mario react on screen in full, glorious 3D. And that was it. Even at a young age I knew I didn't want to ruin what could be an amazing Christmas morning, if I were lucky enough to receive an N64.

And I was that lucky. Santa is such a badass. I got the Nintendo 64 and the game I'd wanted to play for so long: Super Mario 64.

The next few weeks were a blur. Another friend of mine got an N64, as well, and although we'd never spoken it aloud, we were heatedly racing one another to see who could collect all 70, and then all 120 stars, first. We'd call each other up each day and rattle off which stars we'd discovered, never giving quite enough information and giving away the secret. The tallies continued to grow, and then on New Years Eve 1996, as the world slowly turned another year older I collected my 70th star and took down Bowser one final time.

Over the next few weeks I took my time and savoured the game, finding those last 50 stars hidden around the beautiful and enthralling 3D world of Super Mario 64. I didn't know it at the time, but I was building one of my favourite Christmas memories, which lasts to this day. I'm not sure if there's any other game that makes me think more of Christmastime than when I boot up Mario 64. The two have become inexorably intertwined in my mind, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Hope you enjoyed,

Friday, November 28, 2014

Enter: The Broad Saber

The Internet exploded today with the release of the teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, J.J. Abrams hotly anticipated sequel in the Star Wars series. Check out the trailer below.

I've been avoiding as much news on this as I possibly could, because I've heard a lot of spoiler talk is making its way around the Web, but a teaser trailer is something I could not ignore.

Seeing images of X-Wings, TIE Fighters and the Millennium Falcon doing a loopdy-loop in mid-battle had me absolutely giddy, but like everyone else the focal point of the teaser is the introduction of a dark figure with a - now - infamous new light saber.

The Broad Saber
I don't know what the Internet, as a whole, is calling this new weapon, but I'm calling it The Broad Saber, because it looks like a huge broad sword. There is a lot of complaining and joking going on that the design makes no sense and will only end up in the wielder cutting his or her hands off, but I wholly disagree.

If you think about it, a broad sword always has a huge hilt and crossguard, to block opposing blades from cutting the swordsman's hands. Wouldn't it make sense that a light saber would need a guard just like that to block other light sabers?


This final piece is complete conjecture on my part, but I'd like to surmise why this cloaked Jedi/Sith is using a light saber like this; I believe we're seeing Luke Skywalker. It's often quoted that in the Expanded Universe, Luke Skywalker walks the line of the Light and Dark sides of The Force. If this film continues to play with this idea, I don't think it would be out of character for Luke to brandish a red light saber, even though you would expect it to be blue or green.

Also, I think this is J.J. Abrams' and/or Lawrence Kasdan's clever idea to explain light saber battles between the Prequel Trilogy and the Original Trilogy. In the Prequel Trilogy, we see Jedi and Sith trained by the absolute best from a young age to battle with the light saber, so that explains why the fights are so much more fast and intense. In the Original Trilogy, we're seeing an ageing Obi-wan try to quickly teach Luke how to use the Jedi's weapon in a matter of days. As to why Darth Vader fights so sluggishly after we've seen Anakin Skywalker at work, you can try and fill that gap yourself. Maybe it's the new body after the events of Revenge of the Sith? I dunno. Moving on, though, one way to explain the way that Luke continues to fight in such a sluggish style would be if he were fighting as if he were using a large broad sword, which would require less flourishes and would be a much slower weapon.

Anyway, like I said this is total conjecture and just an idea I had after a few viewings of the teaser trailer. Regardless, I haven't been this excited for a movie in a long time and I don't know how I'm going to wait a whole year for Star Wars: The Force Awakens to finally hit the big screen. This certainly won't be the last Star Wars post you'll see on the blog in the next 12 months.

Hope you enjoyed,

EDIT - 04-12-2014: I just accidentally saw more concept art for The Force Awakens that throws my theory above out the window. I really need to stop searching for anything Star Wars related on the web. Anyway, I won't say too much and spoil anything, but I saw some early concept art of the Broad Saber and the character holding it, which clearly shows it isn't Luke Skywalker, but another character from the expanded universe. I'll hide the name here, so it'll be up to you to uncover, should you choose to: Revan

I still think the Broad Saber's origins lie in the original concept that Light Sabers were to be wielded like broadswords, but my ideas on the character holding the weapon are completely out the window.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Castlevania (1987) - Nintendo Entertainment System

Ouch, that kicked me right in the nostalgia!
Note: I intended this to be out for October and Halloween, but I got sidetracked by life and it's a few days late. Sorry for all the Halloween-y references!

I've had a tradition now for quite a few years. Every October I play through Castlevania: Symphony of the Night in its entirety. Last year I kind of overdid it playing multiple speed runs of the game, so I made the decision that I wouldn't play through SOTN for October 2014.

I wanted to play something in my spare time this October, though, and I made the decision to go with something from the NES-era. Now in a shocking turn of events, you won't believe what game I decided to play... Castlevania!

I couldn't help myself! Castlevania is like the epitome of Halloween. It's a video game set in Transylvania at the turn of the 18th Century, which features bosses based on Universal monsters! The bosses include The Mummy, Frankenstein's monster, a vampire bat, Medusa, the Grim Reaper, and Igor. And most importantly, The Count himself! These are the kinds of images I thought of as a kid whenever October rolled around and the cool winds of Autumn started rustling the leaves from the trees.

One thing I didn't remember in my sentimental reminiscence is how damn hard this game is. I've been getting my ass handed to me every step of the way! To be honest, although I did play Castlevania as a kid, I actually more often played its sequel, Castlevania 2: Simon's Quest, made infamous by the Angry Video Game Nerd. As a result, I'm no damn good at Castlevania. That's half the fun, though!

This first boss is driving me... batty! Hey-ohhh!
It's kind of like I'm playing Castlevania for the first time. I remember a lot of things; the music, basically everything from the first stage, the basics of the gameplay, but by the time I made it to the third stage everything started getting hazy. I remember fighting the bosses, but it's like I've never seen some of these stages before.

One other thing I'm enjoying is seeing all the familiar enemies from later in the series, in their original 8-bit glory. I didn't even realize how many of them have carried forward in the series over the years.

With all this good does come some bad, though. For example, the controls leave a little to be desired. They are clunky, and jumping can be a downright nightmare. When you jump in either direction, you're basically committed to that jump. There's no way to control how far you go. It is a set arc, so once you go for the jump, you better hope everything works out.

I can't do much complaining about the game, though. And honestly, it's almost 30 years old and a pretty early NES release. Everything from the games aesthetic, gameplay, and that incredible soundtrack make it an absolute must-play for any and all gamers.

It's time to wrap this boss fight up! Hey-ohhh! (I kill me.)
Castlevania is one of my favourite video game franchises of all time, and I truly hold it near and dear to my heart. It makes me kind of sad to know that Konami has moved on with the remake of the series with Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, released in 2010, and that the franchise will almost certainly never return to its original roots. The series, however, has spawned many sequels and must have one of the highest ratios of great games in any franchise history. There are a lot of amazing Castlevania games out there to play and this game started it all.

You can pick Castlevania up on the Wii U, Nintendo 3DS, and Wii Virtual Console services and physical copies certainly aren't difficult to find on eBay. Make sure to check it out, whether it's for Halloween or not!

Hope you enjoy,

Monday, October 20, 2014

Final Fantasy VI - 20 Years Later

Today marks the 20th Anniversary of the release of Final Fantasy III on the Super Nintendo, these days known by its proper number in the FF series, Final Fantasy VI.

I decided to play through the beginning of the game yesterday and just reminisce a little on camera about the game and what it meant and still means to me to this day, twenty years later.

Hope you enjoy,

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976)

The Halloween season is upon us and I finally got to watch a scary movie! I've been wanting to watch The Town That Dreaded Sundown for a long time now, probably since I first heard the movie existed around the mid-2000s, so this was very fun for me.

Check out my video below!

I hope you enjoy,

Monday, September 15, 2014

What's Old Is New Again

Hi everyone,

The other day I was perusing the web and I ended up reading an article on Zelda Universe that really piqued my interest. The article was about a documentary from Joe Granato, a professional videographer/programmer based out of Florida, who was planning on Kickstarting a very ambitious and interesting new project.

Entitled The New 8-bit Heroes, Joe - with the help of several other industry professionals - are going to create a new game for the Nintendo Entertainment System and film the entire process. Joe is collaborating with artists, musicians, and even a fantasy novelist on the project, which is already incredible exciting, but it gets better!

The game is called Mystic Searches and it was first imagined by Joe in 1987 at the age of seven. After finding all of his original "design documents" for the game, Joe was inspired to make the game a reality, and produce a documentary of the entire project.

Now when I say the team is creating a new NES game, I don't just mean an 8-bit homage to the NES. I mean a physical grey cartridge that will actually play on the original NES hardware! This sort of thing isn't new; homebrew enthusiasts and reproduction companies have been making new games for the NES, as well as many other vintage gaming consoles, for quite some time now.

Why does this project seem so interesting to me? This is just the sort of thing that my friends and I would have done as kids. You have to understand the time to really get the concept, I think. I'm not going to bore you with those old timey tales like, "In my day, video games were better, because they were challenging!" or "Kids today don't know how good they have it!" What I'm talking about here is the sense of adventure and imagination that only a child can muster. When I was a kid when I wasn't inside playing Metal Gear on my NES, my friends and I were outside reenacting the game. We'd pack rations (granola bars and water), take our favourite toy guns, and we would become Fox Hound hunting down and destroying the mysterious Metal Gear.

The fact is - and I'm about to go "old timer" on you, like I promised I wouldn't - that in the 80s and 90s video games were a pricey venture. Getting a video game was kind of rare, so oftentimes you'd be playing and replaying the same games. The Legend of Zelda would have released in August of 1987 to the tune of $60. That would be equivalent to $110 CAD today. The price of the NES itself wasn't too outrageous at $199, which would work out to be $363.05 CAD with inflation. Still, you couldn't just pop onto the eShop and buy a game for like $5 back then. It was a costly venture. You would sometimes take to your imagination to carry on your favourite video game's story, or in this case create your very own.

I have a son myself now, and I guess I start to look at life in a different perspective. I live in a neighbourhood that is rife with young kids. I barely see any of them out playing in the streets. When I was a kid we lived outside. We were so imaginative it was scary. I worry that's being lost if kids are just always indoors, staring at their iPad for hours on end.

I can remember my friends and I created our own comic series. None of us could draw, so it was depicted entirely with stick people, but we came up with endless stories. We'd write them together or draw and write our own and then meet up and read them all together. It was a great time, and I look back on those days very fondly.

Although we didn't create and design our own video game, specifically, this is just the sort of thing we would have created back then. That's why I want to see Joe's dream of creating this game come to fruition.

You may not be into Kickstarters. I've supported a few myself, now, and I've been happy with all of the ones that made it "out of the gate", as it were. This is certainly one I've endorsed. I've enclosed all the links to Joe's Kickstarter in this article, but I won't tell people how to spend their money. Check it out and if it's something you think you'd like to back then feel free to do so. I just wanted to spread the word about a project I think could be really special.

Thanks for reading,

Friday, September 12, 2014

Fall Is In The Air!

It's that time of year again. The season is quickly changing (at least it is here in Atlantic Canada) and I start looking forward to the month of October or, as we Horror Hounds call it, the Halloween Season.

That's right, season. 

The whole month is typically a build-up to the day itself, in which I'll watch lots of scary movies, old Halloween specials, spooky cartoons, and even play some of my favourite horror-themed video games, like Resident Evil or Castlevania.

This year I'm trying to plan some of the movies I'd like to watch, so if I see them for cheap on Blu-ray I can snag them. I've come up with a couple of lists, but nothing is concrete just yet.

So far I have these categories:
  • Horror Classics
  • The Halloween Franchise
  • Scream Factory Releases 
Last year around this time I noticed that a lot of the old black-and-white classics were finding their way to Blu-ray, like Dracula and Frankenstein. At the time I had already picked up a couple of movies for Halloween so I passed on them, but I think this year I'll pick a few up if the price is right.

Also, I've almost collected all of the Halloween franchise films. I never in a million years thought that there would ever be a box set for the Halloween films, considering the legal ownership mess they're in, but lo and behold I was wrong! As a result, I was slowly picking up all the films on Blu-ray for the last few years. The only ones I have left are Halloween 4 and Halloween 5. I believe the Divimax releases from a few years ago were put out on Blu-ray so I'll probably pick these up regardless of what I decide I'd like to watch this season, just to finish off the collection.

And no, that doesn't include Rob Zombie's Halloween or Halloween 2. Those movies just aren't for me!

The final category are for those wonderful Blu-ray releases that Scream Factory keeps kicking out! I've had my eye on a few for the last few months and now's the time to pick them up. Amazon has had some of them on sale the last few days, leading up to Halloween. I'm not sure which ones I want to get just yet, but here are my thoughts on a few of the Scream Factory releases I've picked up so far: Halloween 2 and Halloween 3: Season of the Witch!

As for what game I'll be playing this year, I'm not sure! I'm waiting to see what the Cartridge Club game for October will be. There's a poll in place for the October game, so if you want to vote and play along just sign up at the forums and vote! I'm hoping for Dead Space, but whatever the game is I'll probably only get to play it here and there. 

I haven't mentioned it on here yet, but my wife gave birth to our first child in August! It's been a whirlwind since he was born, but it's also been absolutely incredible. Life has been hectic and sleepless, but I'm starting to get a better grasp on everything. I'll hopefully be able to start joining back in at The Sausage Factory every week soon. I'll also try and get back to taking a look at my Marvel Cards as soon as I can reliably record a video without a screaming baby in the background!

I'm sure I'll have another post up before Halloween, so for now I'll just say talk to you soon!

Thanks for reading,

Friday, August 15, 2014

Marvel Comics Trading Cards - Series 2 (1991)

Hey everyone,

I'm continuing on my journey to go through all of my old Marvel Cards, and today we're stopping off in 1991 with Series 2. I love this series for many reasons, but most importantly for the introduction of Power Ratings.

Make sure to check my video on Series 1 first!

Hope you enjoy,

Friday, August 8, 2014

Marvel Comics Trading Cards - Series 1 (1990)

This is the first video in a new series where I'm going to take a look at my Marvel Comics trading card collection. We begin with Marvel Universe - Series 1!

I made this video for my buddy Dean at Round2Gaming (@Round_2_Gaming). I saw a video of his card collection and I thought I'd show off my own!

I hope you enjoy!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Absolute Turtle Power

A few weeks ago the stars aligned in a very strange and wonderful way for me, and I ended up seeing a really great and nostalgia-fueled documentary on Netflix called Turtle Power: The Definitive History of TMNT.

Before I go on with my story, a little about the film: The documentary follows the history of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from the memories of the creators Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman, from the humble beginnings as a silly independent comic right up to the Turtle's appearance on the silver screen. The film will officially be released on August 12th, 2014, but as I write this it is available on Canadian Netflix. I can't speak to any other regions.

The night before I stumbled upon the documentary I couldn't sleep and I decided to watch some late-night TV. I happened upon Teletoon Retro, which - if you knew me - you'd expect I'd watch a lot, but I don't. The Christmas Carol episode of Ghostbusters was on, and is what initially got me watching the channel, but that show quickly ended and guess what was on next? Ninja Turtles! For a whole hour!

I hadn't seen an episode of the original TMNT cartoon since around 2009, when in a dire need of some connection to my childhood, I crafted a DVD of 80s and 90s cartoons, with actual commercials from the era spliced in. Yeah... I'm that dorky.

I watched the two episodes in a child-like excitement, which may or may not have been fueled by the fact that I was incredible tired, yet restless. The episodes included the second appearance of the Neutrinos and the first appearance of the Transport Module, which would in many ways become a trope of TMNT from that moment forward.

I happily fell asleep right after I had my retro cartoon fix and didn't even really think about it at all the next day. Later the next evening after a full day of doing adult and important things my wife and I settled down, made dinner, and decided to watch some Netflix. After a few hilarious episodes of How I Met Your Mother I noticed this new Ninja Turtles documentary. It was in that moment that I remembered that I'd watched a few episodes of the cartoon the night before. I excitedly threw on the documentary. So I'm sitting there, soaking in all kinds of great information about the Turtles' independent comics era when my wife looks at me and laughs. I asked her what was so funny and she responded, "You're sitting there, eating pizza, wearing a Ninja Turtles t-shirt, and grinning like a little kid."

She was right! I had no idea I was even wearing the t-shirt!

I don't know how all of it came to be. Maybe it was my subconscious doing something creepy and Freudian or maybe it was just how I saw it - a series of happy coincidences - but regardless I blissfully sat there watching the story of the TMNT, eating a pizza, dressed in my finest Turtle garb.

If you're a 90s kid like me, you were probably impacted by the Ninja Turtles. Maybe not to the extent that I was, but in some fashion. The documentary is aimed at how the Turtles grew to such a wild phenomenon, but from a business perspective in a way. There's a section on the comics, action figures, the cartoon, and finally the films. What I personally found most interesting was how all of these things were really separate streams. It ultimately hits on all the Turtle-y things the 6-year old me loved and I learned a lot about the history of the TMNT that I had no clue about.

I always found the Turtles stuff kind of disjointed when I was a kid. The cartoon, the video games, the toys, the movies; none of it really shared a cohesive membrane. As it turns out, a lot of the different franchising of the Turtles happened independently. For instance, the toys were actually in production before the cartoon. I'd always assumed they were an offshoot of the show, but it was the other way around. Fred Wolf produced the show, because Playmates were weary of creating the action figures. As a result, the first run of the toys actually share very little with the show, and only retroactively were several of the main characters added to the toyline.

I won't go into too much more detail about the film. If you like documentaries and 80s/90s nostalgia, I think you'll find it interesting. If you're a kid of the 90s, you'll definitely enjoy it. Like any documentary of this nature they can't go into too much depth about everything, but they do a good job of touching on a lot of the main points. If you're expecting them to touch on the Turtles properties after the 90s, however, you'll be disappointed. There's very little reference to anything after the original three films.

I would definitely recommend a watch, and also some pizza... and some cartoons. Also, don't forget your favourite Turtle t-shirt.

I hope you enjoyed,

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Some Games I'm Looking Forward To In 2014

I was just watching the release trailer for Shovel Knight, which was officially released today by Yacht Club Games on the Wii U and 3DS eShops, as well as Windows, Linux and OSX, and I was thinking about how I had no interest in this game for quite some time, but as I saw more and more on the project, mostly via Nintendo Force, I grew very excited for it and it has become one of my most anticipated titles for the year.

That got me thinking, "What else am I looking forward to this year?" So, I decided to compile a short list of titles that I'm anticipating and are scheduled for release in 2014.

Mildly disturbing.
The Evil Within was a title that I was very surprised to hear was in development, but I'm so happy that it's actually happening. It is from acclaimed director Shinji Mikami, world-renowned for creating the Resident Evil series for Capcom. Since leaving Capcom and the RE series behind, Mikami has gone on to work on some great software, but ever since he began the trend of Resident Evil games going into shooter territory with Resident Evil 4, I've really wished he'd return to the Survival Horror genre where he belongs. The Evil Within is that wish made into fruition! I purposefully know very little about the game, except that it exists, but from the few videos and screenshots I have seen it looks like a very scary return-to-form horror title from the video game Master of Horror, and I'm anxiously awaiting it's release on October 21st of this year!

Some Destiny character classes.
I always consider myself a newcomer to the Halo franchise, but when I think back to it my friends got me hooked on the series way back with Halo 2 on the Xbox and I've been a fan ever since. When Bungie announced they would be stepping away from the series a few years back to work on an ambitious new dream title my interest was instantly piqued. This new game is entitled Destiny, and after several years of development, it is now passing Alpha testing, going into Beta, and should be officially released on September 9th. I've dipped my toes into the water that is MMOs in the past with World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XI, but in honesty I'm not nuts about them. That said, the idea of an MMOFPS with the pedigree of Bungie behind it has me very excited and I look so forward to this game finally being released!

Ripley's daughter looks like a bad ass, too!
In the first year of owning my Wii U I had a shortlist of games for it that I was most hyped about, and on that list was the infamously horrid Alien: Colonial Marines. It has since been released on PC, Xbox 360 and PS3, has subsequently been ruled a failure, and the Wii U version ultimately was canceled. I'm a massive fan/nerd for the Alien film franchise and was crushed to hear it was so poorly made (although if I see it for cheap enough, I can't say I might not still try it), but not long after it's release I heard news of Alien: Isolation being developed by British company Creative Assembly. It is described as a Survival Horror/Stealth title, in which you play as Ripley's daughter Amanda, who is having her own close encounter with a Xenomorph. What's weird is that I should have been skeptical of the title after A:CM, but from the get-go I knew the game sounded like my kind of Alien video game. After following the development team on Twitter and seeing their enthusiasm for this game, and their respect for the property of Alien itself, I just know this game is going to knock my socks off. Also it garnered 40 different award nods at E3 this year, which is a great sign. October 7th can't come soon enough!

Well that's my little list of titles I'm really looking forward to this year. I'm sure there will be some Christmas titles announced in the not-so-distant future that will get tagged onto here in the coming months. Some honourable mentions would be Halo: The Master Chief Collection and Super Smash Bros. for the Wii U. I didn't mention them in the list, however, because the Halo collection is exclusive to Xbox One, which I don't see myself purchasing any time soon - although getting to play Halo 2 online again is very enticing - and I have never owned nor played a Super Smash Bros. title, but the inclusion of Mega Man in this newest iteration has me considering picking it up this holiday season.

Hope you enjoyed,

Friday, June 6, 2014

Too Much Nostalgia

I was perusing Nintendo's E3 Miiverse Community today and taking in all of the rumours and speculation regarding what Nintendo is going to show this year at the annual video game expo. Amidst the calls for a new F-Zero, Star Fox or Metroid - which we get to enjoy listening to every year - I saw an interesting comment that caught my eye: "Why are so many asking for remakes? I want new experiences."

I clicked on the post to check out any comments from other users and I saw one individual make the case - and I'm paraphrasing - that "nostalgia is plaguing the industry".

The truth is that I did notice a lot of community members clamouring for more remakes of old games; gamers demanding Metroid Prime collections, or a remake of The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask - which has been a hot topic item since the 2011 release of Ocarina of Time 3D on the 3DS - and even off-the-wall requests for remakes of old Smash Bros. games.

If I didn't see posts for games like those above, it was port-begging for English translations of the Japan-only Earthbound titles, or outcries for a "brand new" Legend of Zelda game. We just had a new LoZ title released last year in A Link Between Worlds, which was itself a graphical throwback/semi-sequel to 1991's Super NES hit A Link to the Past!

The point I'm trying to get at is that these individuals seem to be right. No one is asking for a new game in this entire community. It's post after post for old games, sequels, rehashes, or ports.

What happened to just being excited to hear about new games? And when did we, as gamers, get so demanding about what we want to see year after year?

I - and I think of lot of people reading this - are definitely complicit in this kind of hype. I'll be the first to admit it. I mean, I want to see a new Star Fox or F-Zero game as much as the next guy. I can, however, see where we're kind of drowning in our own nostalgia. Do we really need a new Mario or Zelda game right now? I definitely don't think so, but the rumours are already swirling that we'll see Mario Maker and Aonuma's next LoZ title during this year's E3.

Let's hope for something different! I'd love more news on Monolith Soft's "X" or maybe something on this S.T.E.A.M. title that Nintendo's been cooking up.

Many of us get over-hyped for E3 as it is, but maybe hoping for more of the same isn't the right idea here. The industry could grow stagnant and what good is that to anyone? New experiences should be the order of the day, and this year I'm just going to try and sit back and enjoy the Electronics Entertainment Expo for what it is and hope that Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo bring us something new and fresh to play in the coming years.

Thanks for reading,

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The New Final Fantasy

I haven't had much time to game lately. I got a little time in on Mega Man Xtreme a few days ago, but I won't post about that again until I've finished the game. I decided last night I was going to dedicate my evening to playing some more Bravely Default, so I thought I'd write a little post about it today!

I picked up Bravely Default right around launch and put in 30 hours pretty quickly. I couldn't put the game down. I even took a trip for a friend's wedding to Jamaica and spent a few hours playing it on the beach, while everyone else was taking in the rays and reading books.

I've played the same jobs up to reaching Eisenberg, when I finally decided to switch them up. My team consisted of Tiz (Monk), Agnés (White Mage), Ringabel (Black Mage), and Edea (Knight). I've heard there isn't much point in trying to master jobs until at least after Chapter 3, which I'm currently on, but I just wanted to switch it up for a bit, so I made Tiz a Ranger, Agnés a Red Mage, Ringabel a Time Mage, and Edea a Valkyrie. They're definitely a weaker group. It's take quite a bit getting used to Ringabel not being able to dish out as much damage as I'm used to, but Tiz is definitely more powerful and Angés is working out pretty well as a Red Mage. The jury's still out on Edea as a Valkyrie. It's weird, when I played the Bravely Default demo a few months back I had Edea as a Valkyrie and she was a powerhouse. I feel like they've been powered down in the final version, but I dunno.

These guys cackle like Skeletor before the fight starts. It's hilarious.

As I mentioned before, I picked Bravely Default back up last night and warmed up taking on a couple of level 20~ bosses in Norende before venturing back out on my quest, and it was just like I never left!

I adore this game. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, I feel like it's the Final Fantasy game I've been waiting for since FFIX. I've played lots of FF titles since then that I liked - even the spiritual successor to this game, Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light - but none of them have had me this excited.

(I know it's technically not an FF game, but it's like a gaiden title, so it counts!)

I polished off another quick dungeon, which was pretty easy, but fun. Although I'm finally starting to get used to these new jobs, I think I'll only level them up once more (I think to Level 5?) and then switch some of them back to their old jobs. I just feel like some of the fights I have coming up will take a lot more damage-dealing than I'm capable of right now (I'm looking at you Ringabel and Edea), but I might keep Tiz and Agnés the same for now.

Anyway, that was a short Bravely Default update. I might keep these up after every couple of sit-downs I have with the game, because it's fun for me and it's my blog!

Hope you enjoyed,

p.s. I just found out about this Bravely Default: Praying Brage web game. I wonder if it's any good, or if there's an English version...

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mega Man Xtreme: All of the Storyline

Hi everybody,

So late last night after the hockey game (Go Bruins!) I decided I finally wanted to get off the pot and download Mega Man Xtreme. It was recently released to the Nintendo eShop for the 3DS Virtual Console as part of Mega May, a promotion by Capcom to release all of the remaining Mega Man Gameboy games to the eShop this month.

I am a huge Mega Man X fan. If I'm being honest with myself it's probably my favourite Mega Man game, although Mega Man 3 is right up there. I didn't have a Gameboy growing up, let alone a Gameboy Color, so when Mega Man Xtreme was released in 2000 I really had no chance of playing it. I would see it in gaming magazines, like Nintendo Power or EGM, and my interest was definitely piqued, but I never did get to see the game in action.

So last night I thought, "What the heck, it's $4.99. Give it a shot!" And so I did.

I was immediately surprised by how smooth the game played. I'd seen screenshots of the title before, and although they were in glorious 8-bit colour I never expected the framerate to be so tight. I played on as a confused X dashed his way through CD Streets from the original Mega Man X title. That's right! Much like the subsequent X-titles you begin this game with the dash.

I eventually reached Vile... or, I mean, Vava? I was so confused when I saw Vile's name written out as Vava that I had to post it to Miiverse. Thankfully a guy named Randy set me straight. Apparently Vava is Vile's Japanese name and it was left that way in this title. "Vile" is way cooler than "Vava" for a name.

After this I was met with a metric ton of cutscenes and dialogue. With the limitations of the original hardware the programmers could only get so much text on the screen at at time. Although the images that accompanied the text looked pretty good, I was getting pretty tired of sitting through it.

That said, the storyline for the game is pretty cool. Much like the Mega Man Gameboy titles before this, this game plays like a mash-up port of it's console counterparts, so you'll see Mavericks in here from Mega Man X, such as Storm Eagle, but also Mega Man X2 baddies, like Flame Stag.
Middy tellin' me the reasons

After everything was finally revealed to me and I could continue on in my quest, I was greeted with the option to take on four Mavericks. As soon as I saw Chill Penguin on there, I knew who I'd be facing first. I don't think I've ever played Mega Man X on the Super Nintendo and didn't take on my ol' pal Chilly first.

The path to Chill Penguin's lair was short, but pretty satisfying. It played very much like the console version, but a fair amount was taken out. Not the Mech suit, though! I was pretty happy to see that part was kept. I wondered as I started the stage what armour upgrade I'd come across, as this was the stage you'd get the dash in the SNES version. What you do get is actually pretty ingenious! You get a leg part, just like in this game's big brother, however it grants you better mobility when you're sliding on the walls. With limited buttons available on the Gameboy the dash is relegated to tapping forward-forward on the d-pad, or you can map it to the Start button in the options. As a result, it makes it kind of difficult to dash-jump when you're sliding on walls. The clever programmers of this game, therefore, gave you this leg upgrade so that you basically dash jump off the walls every time! It took a little getting used to, but I think in the long run it was a really nice touch.

Bring it on, Chilly!
I eventually reached my quarry, expecting the fight to be the cake-walk I'm used to in the SNES version. Turns out I was wrong! For the most part Chill Penguin fights the same way he does in the original title, but facing him in such small quarters definitely shook things up a bit. It took a few lives, but in the end I was victorious!

That's all I played for my first foray into Mega Man Xtreme, but I have to say that, so far, I'm pleased. My only complaint is that the story cutscenes in the game seemed to go on a little long, but at the same time I appreciated the lengths the developers went to to make this a canon title in the Mega Man X series.

Anyway, that's it for today folks. If you have any mothers in your life, make sure to pay appropriate homage to them today. In my experience breakfast in bed and flowers work out pretty well.

Take care,