Saturday, December 7, 2013

Lego Marvel Super Heroes

Meet the guys from A.I.M. they are friendly! (not) 
What if two worlds collided? An expansive universe, both filled with imagination, and dreams of wonder. Not too long ago DC Comics spun their world on its head with Lego. Now its Marvel's turn, within the expansive universe, anything can happen.

From the start, you are introduced to the vast world. Tag teaming with various heroes, a plot is afoot from the "Masters of Evil". Only one catch, the villain has acquired a mysterious power beyond time and space. Uniting for a cause, every enemy anyone has ever faced has joined the villains alliance. Now the heroes are called upon to save the world (maybe even the universe)

Interact and play -
It doesn't matter what character you choose, anyone you interact with (hero/villain) are added to your roster. From the vast Marvel universe, Avengers, Fantastic Four, and so on. The gang is all here. (*and so are a ton of easter eggs!) What mixes a bit of variety, is the ability to manipulate your environment, key areas are hinted depending on party members, or unique attributes needed to unlock hidden areas. *If a character can't be used, they will give you a hinted signal of "what?" Speaking of building, every level interior/exterior can adapt. If broken, it will aid you in your quest.

Why is it fun? Having the ability to manipulate your playing field, it is something everyone dreams of. What can help you, can be made with your imagination. Just this world is insanely bigger, and become anything you want. It is engaging, and will keep wanting to explore more.
Exploring the expansive SHIELD helicarrier

Random Sentinel Battle! Get Ready!

How awesome is this game!? Oh my stars and garters can't even measure it!
(This game is a must own, make it an Xmas gift!)

Friday, November 15, 2013

Castlevania - Lords of Shadows: Mirror of Fate

Developer: MercurySteam
Publisher: Konami / Kojima Productions
Release: 2013 (multi-platform)

Plotline: Ages ago, Gabriel journeyed to a far off place to vanquish evil, sadly he never returned as himself but a monster. Many years later, others took upon the quest, some lived, some died, others were too cursed. Down the line, it became family that took up the mantle to be heroes, to do battle with the monster. Whom they were unaware was in fact their great-grandfather.

Gameplay: From the beginning, players are introduced to the system with Gabriel (before his quest). Next up Simon is in the lead, following what his father (Trevor) left behind. Simon's goal is to reunite with his father, and bring him home. Each quest you are given is done in various stages, from a sleepy town, to inner walls of the Castle. As you progress, you can upgrade your skills, gear, armory, and much more.

Levels: From the start, it is a vast open area, although littered and torn. There is much to be explored, however you cannot reach some areas, so its best to return when you gain more skills. And each level is inter-connected with others, and some contain teleports that take you to-and-fro from other levels in your vicinity.

Music: Atmospheric, dark, and a bit more level like Lords of Shadows. Some contain a few recognizable hymns, including boss themes, and level bgm tunes that change the more you explore the vast world that the heroes are destined to change.

Overall, Mirror of Fate is an awesome chapter, told in various parts. Each connecting the heroes (like never before). In the past it was always about one hero, but herein there is more than one. A unique adventure like no other Castlevania before it, a must own. This title is available on the 3DS, and Live & PSNetwork (HD format). 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Castlevania - Lords of Shadows (Collector's Edition)

Developer(s): MercurySteam + Kojima Productions
Konami - Castlevania Project

Where it all began:
This is a new take on the origin of the series, following the hero Gabriel on a quest to conquer the evils periling mankind. Through a group only known as "the Order", supposedly given divine rights to banish evil creatures and dark powers that threaten existence. There is a catch though, this quest ends with the hero taking the gauntlet of a classic enemy we've battled for two decades.

By your divine hands:
Gabriel's mission from the start is to get from A to B, by getting through obstacles, enemies, and other perils. In other words, the classic formula every platformer has utilized since day one.
Armor - from the start it is pretty basic, capable of protecting our hero from a numerous amount of hits. However once your HP is wiped out, its game over.
Weaponry - Your Iron Cross (the precursor to the "Vampire Killer") is a blessed weapon, forged within holy armament in the shape of a cross, it holds many secret capabilities. At the beginning its capable of limited range attacks, vertical, horizontal, both air and ground attack combos. (later it can be fitted with various attachments that adorn it within, harnessing even more unique powers!)

In addition, you are able to carry various items, any of these can be assigned to the d-pad (later you will obtain more items, and can change them at any time if need be) From crystals, to fairies, and sub-weapons (axe, holy water, bible, etc)

Magic(s) - Light or Dark: A bit further into your journey, you will obtain the ability to harness both light and dark energy properties. (these can be reflected in your attacks as well, and subweapons)
Light: This can also regain lost health, and cause massive damage to enemies
Dark: Gives your attack a boost, depending on enemy it may take less HP away from them. Iron Cross and subweapons also gain a red hue
**If you see any oddly shaped adornments nearby, these are markers that can unlock alternate paths. Depending on the power source, Gabe will react to these respectively, if he flinches you aren't using the right one.

QTE - Quick Time Events:
I will make this a brief discussion, okay so awhile ago a classic arcade game named "Dragon's Lair" introduced timed moves. If you made a bad choice = death, or worst ways to go by mauling, traps, hazards, or utter defeat. Later a SEGA (TM) title named Shenmue updated the format corresponding to color buttons. Depending on what needed to be pressed, each button would respond to an action on screen.

Herein, it responds to the following:
Dazed enemies = counterattack + final blow (if used on guardians, sub-bosses, the timed option to wipe them out shows up in a circle, let it fill up then press any attack button to deliver a punishing blow) *a second attack button will dish out a special move!
On bosses, their weakpoints can be broken! However timed moves are crucial, or you might die!

Iron Cross: Your best buddy
This is your pal, it can slice, dice, chop, frappe' everything! *It can also be used to vault various spaces, from high to low areas, vaulting great distances, breaking stuff, and kicking major butt. **And can harness light and dark magic as well!

Other goodies? I won't give these away, but if you've played any past Castlevania games (or Metroidvania) in particular, you can obtain key armaments from bosses and that can aid you on your quest. Once obtained these can be used on various places you couldn't get to before. There are a multitude of these, and some techniques can also be powered up even further.
Oh the lands you'll see, and the monsters you will duel

I could get lost in here!
Journal entry about your character, and those encountered along the way. 

Also within this lovely collection:Reverie and Resurrection, the two extra chapters that complete the first chapter of Gabriel's dark journey into becoming the night.
Mirror of Fate HD: the recent entry in the new LoS saga, that takes part in the legacy of the Belmont clan. Form different perspectives, missions, and drives to put down the monster (who unknowingly is their great-grandfather). Trevor, Alucard, and Simon join in the neverending quest (although is it side by side?)
(review coming soon!)
Lords of Shadows II Demo: A teaser of what's to come for Gabriel's quest in redemption on becoming the monster. Reclaiming his right versus humanity, but what does his powers hold back from his lost soul? This is unlike any other game ever in the series.

The Stone Titan, a formidable boss (um she is huge!)

Can't beat this view, even when the world is falling apart
Towards the unknown we go

Monday, November 4, 2013

Castlevania - Dracula Re-examined

For the longest time I have wondered, "Who is Dracula?" History dictates the original was Vlad Tepes, a madman, mongrel, a cruel leader. Said to have been cursed, lost his love, lead a treacherous campaign of blood and tyranny. Although CV put a spin on the identity of our arch fiend the past decades. I believe it is not the same fellow, which is what Lords of Shadows examines in a unique light.

The Belmont connection:
Lament of Innocence, original CV, Symphony, and X all dished a unique origin story. But we only caught a glimpse of the count. (or then arch rival / enemy) But never developed who or what drove him to be such a monster. Lament did explore the possible transition of loss on both sides, pushing both hero and villain to the brink. X was a game of keep away until the last battle, which gradually connects to Symphony.

Lords of Shadow on the other hand turns the tables. Which gives a new chapter a whole new conclusion.
"Was it the Belmont's fault?" The castle needed a new master, thus he became the monster, not by choice but by his spirit. It is strange, such a journey could open so many possibilities in this new series. Is his heart pure or determined by darkness?

All heroes need a villain, however our new series establishes that differently. This by far is not the same CV we grew up with on the X86,NES,Genesis, and so on. Although we are juggling with a nextgen version of the series, it pushes the boundary we have never explored before. A series like CV can be redefined, gaining a new voice, a heart, and maybe even more.

I have battled my own conscience over LOS ever since the game was released. It was mainly because I read that the game was not complete, with two bonus chapters separate from the main game.I was so used to a finished CV title for years. Never have we had to juggle an unfinished adventure. I waited for awhile, upon hearing news that Lords of Shadows would be re-released with more than just the two extra chapters, but even additional content.

It has always been about storytelling, and I believe this CV series can take things further. Maybe even better than the past was capable of doing before.‎

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Castlevania - Pathway of the Vampire Killer

In the beginning of the series, it was always about the fight between good and evil. For many years, we ventured with heroes, and sometimes Alucard in a battle to save humanity. Sometimes those lines blurred when the roles were reversed, and we were able to find our paths. Many have made the journey, but what lies between the lines of the series?

Crossing various timelines, and many reboots, Castlevania has been a part of gaming history from day one. But many are unaware of its crossed ties, that in fact we have never noticed before. Being a longtime fan, I thought I would share some various anecdotes with you.

For the longest time anyone's played CV, they will right away think of Simon Belmont. Heralded as the first we gamers knew of the family clan. There were many re-iterations of his first perilous journey. At first it was a quest of getting from A to B, while avoiding death and other cataclysm's. I find it strange that poor guy had to fight how many times? And give his enemy back his organs? (*or die?)

To explain that, I believe the dev team back then considered a hero could fall to the hands of their enemy. But they didn't exactly explain how up front. It is very possible they administered the possibility of Simon being related to the Count (by blood, course). The same is explored with Juste's quest years later, having to repeat his grandfather's mission (except his best friend's energy resurrects the Castle).

Which brings us to Richter's two part quest (Dracula X, and Symphony of the Night). Driven by chaos, a hero takes arms, and dishes justice. Question is (A: who started it? the summoner Shaft? Death? Or were people driven mad that it brought "him" back?) It is actually one of the rare moments in the series that Dracula does not rest for more than a brief time.

And in regards, the people you save do have a foreshadowing to what's ahead. Except the fact that Maria, we learn later has a special gift (the ability to summon spirit animals). In Symphony, we find her a mature woman, who seeks Richter's aid when trouble rises again (nowhere to be found). On her quest, running into Alucard, who also seeks to stop his father from causing any more chaos.

We eventually reunite with the reluctant hero, only to find him under Shaft (the summoner) puppet strings. A vagrant follower of the lord of the castle, and cause of the previous quest. (It was he and his fellow castes that sacrificed some poor lady to resurrect our fellow Dracula, and thus the Castle.)

Another note to consider, is just how many monsters are trapped within the castle keep. Including the "Inverted" one we fortunately have to explore, to make things right. I often wonder how Dracula has so many on his side from the nether realm. Although most of these are kept within the crypt, some are able to exist beyond the walls.

**It makes me think of Beetlejuice, where he comes into contact with other non-living entities. (only those gifted are able to see) Speaking of that, maybe that's why the townsfolk, and those of humanity at the time were able to give Dracula's resurrection such a shove.

**Speaking of those gifted, in Order of Ecclesia, Shanoa meets various members of the extended Belmont bloodline. Administering that they are the key to keep their homeland balanced. I believe its one of the rare times we ever get to interact with descendants of the clan. Given the outcome of the tale, it would be awhile until the Belmont's would ever reveal themselves again.

Now here is where things get a tad bit crazy, Bloodlines and Portrait of Ruin happen during the same time. I find it highly possible that there were many heroes on the battlefront. Sadly the wielder of the holy spear does not survive his battle, giving aid to the two heroes (and finding out the truth about his daughters).

Lament of Innocence was meant to tale the beginning of the Belmont's legacy. As Leon, returning home from the crusades, only to find his lost love missing. Sadly losing her, until she enables her spirit to give the whip he obtains, the "Vampire Killer" its powers. Although his return is misfortune, with an old friend being the enemy. It becomes a fight to the finish! (no wait it does not)

Curse of Darkness is another bizarre installment, taking place sometime after Trevor's quest in CVIII. As Hector a devil summoner, wanting to take up arms against his rival Issac (also a badguy). Oddly enough, these two are said to be Dracula's head warriors (human, or not?) Venturing further, we find out that our hero lost his love to the hands of another, vowing revenge for her death, he battles the odds to put his arch rival down once and for all.

The interesting connection between these two chapters is a bizarre fellow named "St.Germain" a time traveller with unknown origins. With the ability of time at his will, he tests both Leon and Hector's strength to see if they are worthy of being called heroes. **I have wondered why would a time traveller be mixed in all of this. But thinking about it later, perhaps he wanted to rewrite history, knowing that others were already playing their part. **Zedd is another mysterious being, later revealed as Death (**actually it is rare to see the face of the messenger)

Circle of the Moon (summoner= Succubus) No Belmont's? Hmm, I doubt that. Plus Dracula's form takes on an dimensional being (did she fuse with her master?) And to add, although the DSS card system uses elements and Greek gods, the whip you brandish takes on elements close enough to being "VK".

Aria of Sorrow (the two part melody)
First, Soma is a reincarnated Dracula. Second, somehow the Castle was teleported into an eclipse.
Third, J the current VK wielder loss of memory, gains it back. Yoko, a descendant of the Belanades family gives aid to Soma and his cause. Arikado (really Al in disguise, looks great btw).
Your villain: Grant, a believer in this "resurrection" also has powers, uses them for evil deeds. Things get ugly.
(**I really dislike dredging this up, the "War of 99" we only hear of a big battle of humanity versus Dracula. But we never get to experience it.) (um or do we?) *LOS2

Dawn of Sorrow: the second piece
Soma and his allies are brought into a new mission from a mysterious cult wanting to dredge up old memories. More or less, bring about Soma's actual powers for wrongdoing. Many others were born the same day as he, however they too wield unique powers. A priestess from Mina's clan, gone rogue to bring about a new leader, and more chaos. And J has the lovely mission of dueling Soma (if you choose wisely) in a battle like that of his forefathers!

**J=Julius's quest takes on CVIII's design, being able to play Yoko or Alucard. Reaching the finish versus an uncontroller Soma / Dracula?

Lords of Shadows:
The recent retelling of the origin behind the series. With a Belmont at the helm (hero?) it is his quest, to find a new path, a destiny. But once more obstacles get in the way, things are not what they seem. Although it was criticized for retconning everything about the series, it is a much needed restart. Exploring what makes us human, a drive to find our identity, sadly this story is not a heartwarming fairytale, for it is the origin of a villain we have fought many times once over.

Being a long time allowed me to re-examine how I truly feel about the classic tale, and the new ongoing adventure. For one, it has always been the battle of good vs evil. Just only till now, have we truly experienced a different side of the mission for once. Perhaps it may interconnect with the other timeline shaping the way we process CV from now on. Whatever generation of gaming, or storytelling you are a part of, let it be known this is one of the few times that you play a part in shaping its future.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2013)

Developer: Magic Pockets
Publisher: Activision
(*Based on the 2012 TMNT reboot series) (*On Xbox360 and Wii + DS)

Title screen (the bros kick back)
There was a time long ago, four brothers with training from their father/master did battle against many evils of the shadows. One was the Shredder, who vowed to take down his arch rival many years long past. With that said in stone, they were caught up in a battle of unsurpassed hated for the others misdoings. Long story short, bad guys suck, Turtles rule.

Okay rewind a bit, this game is based off the (A) old comics "Tales of the Sewers", and (B) the classic beat em' up on every console in the late 80's/90's. I and many others grew up with these characters every Saturday morning with a cereal bowl waiting to see what would happen. Flash forward to now, I am still a fan of these four ninja turtles (+ their father Splinter). What's not to love? fun tales, life lessons, and the old hi-jinks.
Welcome to the upgrades menu!

(the good:)
First this game is a sidescrolling beat-em up, and it still works.
Second: It is still fun as you remember
Third: Fun boss battles (including the one liners)
Fourth: It is actually fun
++Bonus!: Levels are extensive, and allow for some exploration. Including the ability to scan your environment to find hidden items.
Each ninja can upgrade their skill setup, from offense to defense (including special moves)
A nice variety of enemies to dish out something sweet!

Level Map, from start to the final? battle
(the bad:)
(minus the fact that the brothers don't seem to have their cpu co-op timing together)
Some attacks don't seem to connect right away, it becomes a bit of timing it right.
There are too many invisible walls (ie: not all pathways you see can be explored, or health items can't be obtained close by and get lost due to a limit of how long it can be on screen).
Lives in levels cannot be transferred, but you can pickup more along the way.
Lives also can be lost, due to the AI co-op bros that are inactive or get battered mid-fights
First level, someone call the pest control number!
*Note in regards to this game(s) design setup
1) the Rage meter (left from turtle face icon + health bar) This bar will fill up on 2 levels, if used it will drain their power attack. If you build it up, it can be used on several enemies on screen. This can be maxed to level 3
2) The Health bar can be upgraded, at first its minimal but it will get he job done. As their quest continues, battles will get more intense, and extra health will come in handy
3) Small icons under the HP will display an amount of secondary weaponry you can carry. Some are limited, but can found in key areas of each level. Note: You cannot take them to each level, they can be used only for that level specifically. Once you leave the level, they are gone.

Health item(s)
Whole pizza: full health recovery
Slice: Partial recovery
Pizza Gyoza: Sliver of health added

Secondary armaments:
Smoke Bomb: can be used to confuse enemies on your turtle position
Whiteout: Partial blindness, no enemy can see you temporarily for a few seconds
Shuriken: These throwing stars can be anywhere, and handy in a tough fight
Scanner: This can be used to scan your surroundings. Listen to the Turtle you're playing as, they will give you a heads up on something nearby. **careful, you are left open to enemy attacks when scanning the area!

Bosses: From Fishface, Dogpound, to Stockman, and last but not least the Shredder. These fearsome foes are out to pummel the four brothers. They deliver some tough blows, so keep an eye on everyone's health meter.

Okay, the list makes it seem more cons than positives, but hear me out I think its on purpose. Difficulty for one, you will get pummeled a ton. But I honestly don't know why they let the AI co-op efficiency drop, it would make for a better game (then again it is meant to be played with friends). Online or offline, it is an extensive game that is worth of anyone's interest.

Don on the team's name YIAP!?

But what gets me, is the amount of hidden content that new TMNT fans might miss. For one, a lot of the jokes poke at the old stuff ( like the series does), in game its all over the place. Those moments where you wondered what the bad guys had to say, and they got more annoying. *yeah that happens, yup picture it, frame it. It is so surprising how much promise this game could have had if it were complete. I honestly want to recommend it to newcomers, because this nextgen needs something fun again.

Sure its not Final Fantasy level flashy, or Ninja Gaiden level of gore. But you know what, it never was about beating anyone up, it was about taking a stand for those who couldn't fight for themselves. And I think that's the best message anyone at any age deserves to agree on.

Meet the development team!
Official website for the new TMNT series‎

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Prince of Persia - The Forgotten Sands (2010) Multiplatform

Before the end of the Prince's quest back home to Babylon, a far off land required aid to repair its lost battles. Lost to time, this land was once a prominent part of history, now lost to the sands, the Prince once again embarks on a quest to set things right.

With the help of a D'jinn, our hero reluctantly catches up with his brother Malick (who in turn is trying to recover the lost treasures from King Solomon's tombs). But there lies a power locked away within, and once tapped, the two must work together to put a stop to this essence before it corrupts the world (or one of them).

Like past entree's, TFS utilizes the heroes "sand" powers with the elements of "Earth", "Fire", "Water", and "Wind". All of these combined help the Prince find his way past various obstacles, and upgrade these abilities throughout his quest. Using XP points, gained by beating various enemies, or completing objectives, these can be used in the powers upgrade menu.

Every ability can be maxed to its potential, however once your enertia runs out, it must be refilled. By breaking containers left around, or by taking enemies down. This is only way your abilities can be reused,

The main goal of this chapter is to guide the title character from A to B. Unlike Warrior Within, there is no alternate ending, no way to change the pathway. (or is there?) It is up to you to find out where the story goes next.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Insert credits - Ultimate Marvel VS Capcom 3


From the beginning, the VS series was one of the most daring games for the arcade era. Marvel and Capcom banked on the idea, with the first game Xmen - Children of the Atom, then X-men VS SF. Both were hit titles, knowing they were onto something the series continued. When MVC hit arcades it really floored the fans, and newbies alike.

What was good about it?
Fun music, design, characters, and intense match-ups. Few games could match its speed, or concept. Save a few that kept within its own universe like SNK's KOF or Midway's MK, etc..

Late's 90's comics were going through an evolutionary phase. Marvel was phasing out its old universe, and pushing to rewrite its history with a new MU. So crossing over opens up pathways and branching out new ideas. It was a push to sell comics, but more demand pushed for more content. MVC2 pushed the arcade + home systems with a roster of 52 characters. Before it was tag team, now its a a trio set of teams vs one another.

Now some years later, battles are forged once more as Galactus sets his sights on Planet Earth. Crossing dimensions the heroes clash to save the universe! (oddly enough this would be considered episode II, since more join in)

**My issues with the original release were:
A) The game felt broken, and unfinished
B) Unlocking characters took a lot more time. But you were limited, the rest were only unlockable by paying Live or Network points.
C) Using the "X factor" was a chore, half the time the system would not connect with combos.
All in all, the "Ultimate" edition throws all the gunk away, and gives the game a fresh coat of paint.

I can't say enough about this directors cut of the game. It is a more solid edition, which the original should have been. It is so complex, it is tweaked to ever test the best players out there. And man so many Comic Cons or game have tourneys just to see what top tier teams there are. Just like the good old days!
Reminiscing aside, I share with you some combo videos for your pleasure!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Retro Rewind - Viewtiful Joe

2002 -
T'was many years ago, originally part of the Capcom V, until things seem to fall apart. It was meant to bring out a new exciting era in gaming at the time, being a cross multiplatform launch on all consoles (including PC). VJ was one of the proud, the tough, and the many that did not falter. But the amazing thing was, the team that developed this title turned out to be one of the most amazing crews around!

Thus is their little baby that grew into an awesome superhero.
Welcome to Retro Rewind - Viewtiful Joe

To introduce this game, all you need to know is that an everyday Joe was on a date with his girl Sylvia. Till all was well, and then during a film, the baddie kidnaps his girlfriend thus forcing him a date with destiny. Joe becomes... well he isn't a hero quite yet. Until players take this new hero on his journey, propelling him through his origin story! Until he meets Captain Blue (Joe's fav hero), a classic being of the silver screen.
Once gaining the powers of the V-Watch, the dazzling array of powers become a part of his psyche enhancing his strength, agility, and power.

During your quest, Joe will obtain unique powers, manipulating time, slow down, speed, and enhanced smack down powers. Mixing all of these techniques up in battle offers a variety of gameplay styles. But be forewarned Joe's powers have limits! Once your XP bar runs out (in the form of film reels) its back to "Normal Joe" until it recharges.

One major note about this game, is its difficulty curve. From the start you can choose between "Kids" (normal) or "Adults" (hard) mode. Progression is key when playing this fun super hero title. Some parts may frustrate you to no end, and others may surprise how well you've learned its play style. Or what I would call the "Ghosts n' Ghouls" formula.

**For those of you youngsters, this game was notoriously tough but would reward players with unique upgrades! King Arthur vanquishing monsters left and right, all the while staying alive. Only limitation was 3 lives, and armor that could take a few hits.‎
**Coin-OP TV made a special video (including commentary with gameplay)

What also made this series (Viewtiful Joe) unique was its art style + character design. Mixing it up with graffiti  + comic book inspired imagery, both go hand in hand in making it come to life. And the soundtrack is all around excellent, from edm to rock, and sometimes a call for orchestral. It is literally all over the place in sound design, and that is a sweet thing.

Alternate editions: VJ was released on gamecube, and ps2 ( including a version featuring Dante and Trish from DMC) *playable including special ex moves using the VFX system! Sadly this edition was only on the PS2, but fans that did get a chance to play it had a great time.

The Development team:
Clover Studio: A dream project team, from unique backgrounds in storytelling, music, and character design. For a few years, they created some unique adventures. *Okami is a prime example, as their last game (as the title company) *which is now known as Platinum Games.

*Last game:
*Okami is the tale of a wolf spirit, guided by a mission to bring color back into the world. With a paint brush, the lost colors and expressions return to the environment shaping her destiny.‎

Until next time, stay Viewtiful!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Interactive storytelling - What we've missed (part 1)

*Note: I understand I am writing on a simple blog about my hobbies. Yes its out there, and I can take criticism. At least we get to share what we love and dislike about certain subjects in a responsible manner.
This entry I am going to share what I think have been letdowns in storytelling thus far.

Metroid Other M:
By the title you already know its an epic adventure, with drama, action, and suspense.
What did it miss?
For one, the music as a whole was a let down. Yes, there is a mix of orchestral and action oriented tracks. But they don't involve or engage the audience, it feels empty and abstract. Even some of the music cues don't even kick in unless its a cutscene. And we've known since day one there is always music surrounding Samus and her adventures. When has it been totally silent with atmospheric sound fx!? Metroid Prime emphasized that dynamic with their first person design.

Castlevania - Lords of Shadows (Part I)
Hits: Epic story, music, and characters
Music? It is all orchestral, there is mix of tension or suspense but that's it. There has always been an emphasis on all sorts of music with this series. In the past, Konami released several orchestral editions of game soundtracks in that format. But there was something there that was capable of capturing what made the series work. I honestly don't know why it feels so empty to me.

Misconnect on extending the tale:
I give the developers kudos for expanding this unique "prolouge" chapter for the series. But I find it a bit unfair not to include the rest of the game playable. In fact, it was in two parts, so those indulged with the adventure would have to buy both extra chapters separately, not a fair idea. On the positive side, Konami is planning to re-release a directors cut of the game (complete edition) and box set.
Upside, a finished game, downside, price gap.

Resident Evil 5 & 6
Awhile back it was about survival and horror, now its become a full on action/adventure game. Sadly not all of its fan following community loves the new direction. However, the games are expanding on the idea concept, but they are becoming a bit shorter. On the spin side, the alternative difficulty levels in each game push fans to their limits. But the main campaign needs more to expand on.

Oddly enough, both V and VI are broken up into chapters like a novel. Where each can be explored at your own leisure. Adapting with the times of random in-game saves, to avoid frustration. Awhile back, a save was a much needed checkpoint in case you had to drop playing and quit. For some its a helpful tool, and others would love to keep the ability to save on their own.

Metroid also shares this same concept design shift in gears. For years it has kept the save state open, giving players the choice to save at various save stations. Other M presented an issue, a massive bug would freeze the game. Metroid Prime 3 actually had real time saves (a big shift in gears).

Devil May Cry (alt punk rock Dante) or new DmC:
For longtime fans getting to see the series redone is both startling and an adventure. The downside?
This so called new DmC tosses away every conventional design the older series retained. Becoming a platformer, hack n' slash mess that it wanted to avoid being in the first place. Although not everyone is a fan of the change, at least it keeps the series going.

Capcom was in such a rush to release the game, the usual unlockables were made downloadable content instead. *Bloody Palace, Xtra missions with Virgil (etc)

To be honest, I wasn't a fan of the game for a few reasons:
1) The design: From the get go, the in-game world is constantly in flux. When the shadows creep in, the world gets darker. (*For one, Silent Hill had the right formula, it doesn't work so well here.)
2) Characters: Dante and Virgil are the main key guards of the series, with Mundus (yeah that baddie from DMC1) Everyone else are new fresh faces, although they retain key compromises of the series. Something about this new cast of characters keeps the series alive but its not the same story anymore.
3) Music: In past games the music was involved in pushing a player to keep going. Here its taken on a more aggressive sound (to match Dante's angst). It may not be for everyone, but its a fresh start. If the music was more involved, and didn't sound like it was stuck I repeat I would have liked it more.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Gaming Treasures - Castlevania = Circle of the Moon

CV-COTM (GBA 2001)
KCET team production

Go go Vampire Killa!
So the premise of this outside entry is set sometime after Symphony. There is a time of rest for humanity, with no resurrection of Dracula in sight. Until a Succubus, along with Death take it upon themselves to bring back the monster from whence he came. The catch? There are no more Belmonts... or is there?

Taking the helm are two hunters, along with their instructor. Like all classic tales, their leader is sent away with the two fledgling students donning a rivalry to claim the title of "Vampire Hunter". Both are equally powerful, except they must pass the test by surviving many perils and the Castle itself.

DSS system - a dual card system of elemental's with Greek Gods implemented. These will give their wielder unstoppable powers unless they are used simultaneously with one another. Once used, they can defend, or unleash massive offensive techniques. (Sadly this is the only game in the series to use this technique.)

Retaining a more tougher difficulty level, this game will push you to many limits. From bracing versus challenging monsters, and dealing with very limited supply of healing items (unless you overclock your experience points!!) What makes it worthwhile to replay is a multitude of unlockable modes, from gaining more XP by attacking, healing recovery, or being able to shapeshift into other creatures. Or a hidden "God Mode"! **which is unheard of in the CV series.

As of late, there have been no other titles quite like this one. Although the recent 3D titles have tried to use elemental powers, it doesn't work the same as the card system. It becomes more of an attachment then an actual skill to equip and become useful. It is highly possible that the system could return in some format. But as far as the series overall, it is a fun yet lost adventure not all gamers might have had a chance to play in the past.

For more into, visit my friends @ the Castlevania Dungeon website:‎

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Beats in my head (SF to KOF) Musical lines

A major aspect of arcade fighting games is music, it defines a character, stage, or an event. From guest character, to an epic boss fight, or a hidden surprise. No matter the genre, from Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, KOF and many more they all had the backing of music to influence the gameplay design.

Over the years, many of these MMA games have pushed the boundary on concept, and a roster that would balance a players choice.The most daunting task of them all is the game's design itself. Whether pushed by a compelling story, or something short, simple and sweet.

In the beginning we were all motivated by a simple "beep, and boop" with the press start or insert quarters. After a time, it began to change, with so many new formats in sound design being developed. Capcom branded their sound type as CPS, SNK with Neo-Geo Sound format, and many more developers created their own unique sound variants.

Some examples - CPS (there are in fact 3 variant editions of their unique sound chip set):
*Street Fighter II - CPS1 Sound Test
*King of Fighters 94 OST - MVS Hardware
*Street Fighter Alpha/ Zero OST - CPS2 Sound Test
*Street Fighter III - Kunai Hailstorm (Ibuki music video)
*Street Fighter III - Sound Test (CPS3)
*King Of Fighters 99' OST (a bit more electronica + trance)
*King Of Fighters XI OST (Atomiswave)
*King Of Fighters Unlimited Match OST (AW)
*King of Fighters XIII OST (KOF System) SNKP/Atlus
*Super Street Fighter IV OST

So crank that volume and listen to some awesome tracks! Or find some you've never heard before!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The King of Fighters - The Long Road (From One Quarter to the next)

The King of Fighters – From Fatal Fury to Orochi (The Long Road)

Fatal Fury – Opening Number
A long time ago, a team produced a game called Street Fighter, it was about a set of mixed martial artists who went up against one another to test their strength and skill. It was ahead of its time in character design, difficulty, and music. It gained rave reviews when it hit arcades, and some demanded a sequel just to see where Ryu and Ken’s pathways would lead them next.

Sadly that game was not on their side, as Capcom tweaked the development team with fresh faces. So the crew that conceived one of the highly notarized games at the time proceeded with a new idea. Based around a trio of characters -
Terry Bogard (the Lone Wolf)
Andy Bogard (Shiranui Ninja in training)
Joe Higashi (the man with with plan)
These three would go up against an array of opponents in various locales. What made this game unique were its characters designs and music. For the first time in game design, the bgm tracks would actually play out in real time, changing with each fight (like a live DJ mix!) Plus every level was multi-tiered with a moving background, and the characters were capable of moving within a 3D like space.

Boss Spotlight - Geese Howard: This businessman does not hide his identity, but is proud of what his henchmen accomplishment in the tourney. But once you face him, is it not a cakewalk, but a mastery of offense and defense versus his dynamic powerful blows. Plus his desperation move takes out your entire health bar. *oh and he has a dramatic last scene as he falls from a skyscraper (this becomes his novel ending from the start and throughout this series)

**Oh and the climactic end scene boss death was inspired by Die Hard.

**Fatal Fury then after became Street Fighter's longtime rival. Including its numerous sequels that always tried to outdo the game entry before it with design, sound, and controls.
**FF also set a game staple with the option to selected how to continue if you get a game over screen. From a getting a health bar, lower opponent's energy, or get a super energy boost.

Art of Fighting - The battle of the fist
Two friends join a quest together to save a lost soul kidnapped by a band of baddies. Seeking their virtuous quest, Ryo Sakazaki and Robert Garcia travel the world to save Yuri Sakazaki (Ryo's sister / Rob's girlfriend). Like Fatal Fury, AOF takes this duo of globetrotters all around the world. With breadcrumbs given to them after each match, until they save Yuri!

**It turns out AOF takes place right around the same time as FF. So everyone's paths cross one another, including later sequels to both games.

Ikari Warriors -
A mission - stop the bad guys, save the world. Ralf and Clark, and their team leader Heidern band together to fight the good battle! An over the top #shmup, which pushers players to their limits. With bullet hell taking over the screen, as two lone soldiers blaze across the screen. Crossing different game formats: arcade, MSX, NES, Commodore 64, Atari 2600 and many more.

Plus it was also well regarded as one of the best action games of its time. In difficulty and gameplay style, fast and frantic action all around. Rarely did you ever encounter a situation there was no way to escape. Every level was constantly changing, from flat lands, jungles, and mountain ranges. With numerous sequels, IW gained a cult fan following unlike Metal Slug (turns out they were on the same team! how awesome is that?!)

KOF 94’ Rugal’s Dreamboat
After a few sequels, Terry and friends join SNK's famous cast in all all out tourney. Sporting a 3 tiered team up, each array of fighters displayed their unique MMA skills. Just like FF, everyone has a super moves, but a  team leader can only use a HDSM that unleashes an insane amount of energy.

Boss Spotlight - Rugal Bernstein: With flash kicks, and some mean grapple moves, this guy is not to take lightly. Like Geese, he is a powerhouse yet can be defeated by memorization. Just don't get caught in up his super and  advanced grapple otherwise kiss your butt goodbye.

**Rugal was in fact designed after Vincent Price's character from Jules Verne's "Master of the World" film (based on the novel). Same goes for the air ship, which was the lead character's vehicle of choice. Reigning his message of free will choice by force.

**Another neat feature is the use of a storyline, like FF every character on your team is involved. How you win or lose, shapes the outcome of your team's ending. It also revolved around the boss's own tale, and even depicted the outcome of the fight's winner. Even more dynamic than Geese escape.

Orochi – Battle for the Crown 95-97
After the bar was set by KOF94, the next set of tourneys revolved around several factors.
1)Yagami vs Kusanagi - Kyo gains a rival in the fierce yet dark character Iori Yagami. A man plagued by his dark flame, and maniacal watch dogs Mature and Vice. Their fates are sealed by their families warring history, over the protection of a mirror that sealed away a monster named Orochi. Within this new dynamic, we are introduced to Chizuru Kagura, the 3rd guardian of the mirror.

2) Leona Heidern - Adopted daughter by the General Heidern, (leader of Team Ikari) Her dark secret is that she is also part of the Orochi clan. That fact aside, she is a powerhouse of offense and defense. *Plus her HDSM slices an opponent's health quite a bit, and she can also tap into her "true" Orochi form and go berserk ripping the screen and half + her opponent is instantly defeated.

Character Spotlight -
Vice & Mature: Iori's designated bodyguards, former servants to Rugal taking an additional gig watching over the lost Yagami. But they also have a hidden talent, just watch your back or you might not have a head.
Being a part of the Orochi clan is not an easy gig. But they make it good and sexy.

Boss Spotlight - Goenitz Yagami - A distant relative to Iori, a bringer of winds, and a fierce opponent. With the said power of wind, he can create a barrier so there is no way to tackle him with distant attacks. But with a close quarter attack, it can dish out some serious damage. But be advised he can block short moves, so save up for those supers. Goenitz's critical super will take out any played character, if the screen flashes dodge by rolling away and interrupt his moves with your own.

Boss Spotlight pt 2 - Chris, Shermie, and Yashiro: These three are a unique trio, part of a gothic rock band, yet harboring a secret power. Each of these members harness a piece of Orochi's powers. First you fight them in their normal human form, but later in their summoned version with their powers unleashed. One of lightning, flames, and the other of brute strength. **In their boss and regular forms, they had their own unique theme song.

Boss Spotlight pt 3 = True Orochi: With each of the Orochi's defeated their true form is evolved into a unique super human, god like entity. In the form of a human (not a dragon this time around) but just as fierce. Orochi has an array of attacks that would make SF's Akuma and Vega blush with envy.

Dream Match 98/99’ - KOF 98 on the Neo-Geo was represented as a DM, or Dream Match. Herein everyone's favorite teams could come back in one more go round. A "Best of the Best" if you will lineup of bosses and teams all mashed together. It was by far the biggest roster that the system could handle. In addition there were numerous editions of the game. On the PSX and Dreamcast, KOF 98 arrived as a re-release for the home console, with an all new animated intro sequence done by various masters in animation exclusively as a partnership with distributing the game.

Another neat feature was the ability to connect the Neo-Geo Pocket system with the Dreamcast. By obtaining VS points, players could unlock extra features that were hidden the handheld game. Including bonus artwork, character stats, and more fun goodies. Sadly the NGP didn't fare well against Nintendo's Game Boy so it was a very limited release. Making the game a rare find for collectors.

Capcom VS SNK – The journey:
By far the long awaited Versus match fans demanded since Fatal Fury began. A big collaboration between the SF and KOF development teams. Crossing over with a ratio system (+1, +2, +3) This system would align your chosen character or team with an opponent of the same calibur. Plus the setup would determine which patch you would take as a Cap or SNK groove (this was your super energy bar). Depending on the groove chosen, your team could face either Geese or Bison in the end. With Akuma being the final boss in the long run.

SNK VS Capcom (SVC Chaos) - The other side
With one versus game down, the team decided to do a mash up on the Neo-Geo system. However this game is clunky, and insanely difficult. Although it carries a fun roster, the game itself is not fun or as robust as its competitor, but its some time played through.

*There are some weird easter eggs in this game: For one, Dimitri's gender changing bite will turn males to female, and females to male characters for a short time. Plus it uses the in-game engine from KOF 2003, so it retains a bit of quality throughout the entire game.

99' to 2001 – the NESTS / Clone saga
Within the manga series, it explains that Kyo went on a quest to find his true self. But only getting caught up in a web of mystery as a corporation wants to use his powers to create an armada of warriors. Thus the entire team across the world band together to find their lost friend in the chaos. Iori most of all wants to wrap up their blood feud only to wind being a brother. Until a new type of clone takes the mantle, and makes up for the madness.

K' - One of the first type clones with an altered persona, fierce, reckless and a bad attitude. Plus his best buddy Maxima has some history with NESTS. Vanessa and Seth were bodyguards for some specific character who didn't want to be spotlighted.

Boss - Krizalid: Bizarre name, but a mad mad baddie. Fusing Kyo and Iori's flames to give himself a superhuman boost and power beyond what a normal human can handle.

*Striker system - A tag-in option, where you break a match up with a bonus character that throws your opponent off. Or sometimes uses an SM to knock them out.

2K - Zero
Heidern loses his gig as a commander of the team that watches over the world. So in order to set things right, he's going to have to take on his boss (who turns out to be more than bargained for). NESTS has had its claws in everything for many years, like a parasite searching for a host.

Several new faces join in, a ninja, a female wrestler, Vanessa and Seth join in, Kula (ice queen), Diana (her guardian), and many more join in the most bizarre chapter in KOF history.

Zero / Original Zero - So it turns out the guy is a fraud, but he is a NESTS agent / boss. Things get messy, hurt feelings, but in all pans out in the end. This boss is pretty much a brawler, but his damage count is a bit overkill. The guy takes hits like a tank, undazed, literally a lot like a certain superhero but wearing a deadly kilt.

2001 - The Lovable Igniz
Mixing things up, things get more bizarre with a new set of faces (ex-Nests members) join in the party. Its all about ending things once and for all. (well almost) With more trouble brewing, and K+ Kula caught in the middle. **2k1 was also rare for not having an arranged OST for home release. So synth-love all around.

Boss - Igniz
Pretty boy? Alucard's cousin? Who knows, this boss is beyond words! The last guy within the overlord-ship of NESTS. But his intentions? Um a deity, kinda scary huh?  So to prove his strength like every boss, and push everyone's buttons. Oh god this guy is tough to beat, just do what you can and knock him down!

K'9999 - An overpowered with the inability to control his temper (inspired by the cyberpunk anime Akira).
Angel - A unique female wrestler who acts as a overseer to anyone who gets in her team's way.

Capcom vs SNK 2 - One more quarter!
From one game to the next, the biggest crossover returns with an even bigger roster! Still keeping the point system, its now regulated to a designated team captain but doesn't outrank a characters strengths. With a cast of 56+ (it even rivals Marvel VS Capcom 2 or 3!)  Still retaining a 3 on 3 matchup like classic KOF, sadly its one on one ( no tagging) But the game itself is fast and furious, with each character retaining their own abilities through either groove set. Plus a diverse OST (that actually outdoes the first game!)

Final bosses - (Depending on Groove Set)
Shin Akuma/ God Rugal - Both were fearsome in their normal forms, but now given their untapped powers they are ruthless as ever. Orochi power? No one knows, but a battle with either one is to the finish!

In later re-releases of the game, additional tracks are playable as bgm tunes. With revamped editions of the game with online play (even more crazy fun to be had once again!) (**jeez I'm beginning to sound a fight narrator)

KOF 2002 / UM -
So another dream match, and just a bunch of characters brought together. But the weird part is that lines are crossed and Rugal comes back (cloned?!) And there's two versions of 2k2, Ultimate Match is a directors cut re-release without K'9999 (due to copyright monkeys, and the voice actors were unable to return) So there was a switcheroo with some characters, and the music was replaced with trance!? (okay I love EDM as much as anyone, but this was an odd choice.. 2k2's original soundtrack was alright, but it did need a push) But wowzers does the re-release kick the original's butt sound wise.

2k2 is as much fun as any other KOF game before it, but it also moves a lot faster. Maybe its the team's decision to speed up gameplay, but it has a flow that it rarely counters any issues. And like 98's background stage designs, they are always changing along with the matches.

2003 to XIII - Orochi Rebirth
Enter the Crimson -
With a new shift in gears, KOF gains a few new faces and new foes. Joining the roster are 3 mysterious beings:
Ash Crimson - A bizarre young man with the ability to harness green flames. Unlike any other challenger, his intentions are unclear, but has assembled his own team with motives.
Shen Woo - A brawler filled with angst and zest for life. What is his job? Bodyguard, but he's not a fan of Ash at all (more like a rivalry)
Duo Lon - Returning from the Nests 2k1 matches, he now serves as a watcher alongside Ash & Shen Woo. With his true intentions being to find Chizuru to seek an answer.

Chizuru returns after being a watcher of the Orochinagi & Yagami clan. However, her job is proving more difficult with the Orochi Mirror winding up in the hands of an unknown entity. Kusanagi a creature of darkness, takes Kyo's form and flames rising up against all that is good in the world. Maki, is Chizuru's elder sister (?) from the mirror? They host this new tourney that will push everyone to their limits.

With a much faster, and quicker game engine, 2k3 is fast and furious. Now featuring a "tag-in / tag-out" switch mode, giving the option of "3 on 3" smoother flow. In the past, the series was always "steady come, steady go" now in real time the gameplay is more in motion than ever. (it even rivals Street Fighter 3's gameplay framework).

Boss - Mukai  (Those from the Past)
A giant, guardian, a being from another time protects the Orochi tomb. Mukai's existence is that of being locked away within the mirror, now left out of his own devices on a mission to allow his fellow descendants to also join him on a conquest to take over the present day.

Boss - Adelheld Bernstein (and Rose)
Adel is in fact Rugal (94's) son, with his sister Rose aboard the Sky Noah (another one!?) Donning a similar fighting style his dad, but a bit more humble. Don't take him lightly, with his HDSM it can crush one's health bar.

**Wrap up, turns out Ash is a reincarnation of a certain dragon! (and sucks away Kyo, Iori and Chizuru's life force away from them taking their power!)
** Characters from the future set Fatal Fury - Garou Mark of the Wolves are beginning to emerge into KOF territory. With Tizoc (the grappler), Gato (an mma master), just to mention a few.

KOF XI - *Sadly I missed out playing this one fully, just a small summary included here!
With Mukai's fall from grace, more characters from this mysterious clan take their place. Using the same engine as 2003, this series is far from over turning in its credits.

*Character key notes:
Garou team - B. Jenet (the pirate queen!), Gato , and Tizoc (both returning to KOF, along with B this time around!)
Boss - Shion - Another member of TFTP, like Billy, a mean Wu Shu master (um but this pretty face is actually a guy). With unknown powers, able to cause great pain to anyone who gets in his way.
Elizabeth & Oswald - From two fronts these characters are on a quest to find a way to protect what was lost. Coming from another timeline, they are sent to stop Ash from causing chaos in this world.
Boss - Magaki - Like Mukai, this character is able to manipulate his environment as well as being a shapeshifter. But one tough cookie, one false move could be your last.

**This would also be the first game to carry roman numerals. With 2k3 being the last to carry a year a title!

KOF XII - Wait its not a game with the timeline?! Oh c'mon!
As a dream match or test game its hard to define. Although it is a full on game release, with various characters put together (um and some familiars missing) It was KOF's first foray into the HD realm. Boasting a vast amount of colors, new game engine, new character sprites! And an array of tunes for you to choose from, even some bgm playlists that were available only online via DLC.

KOF XIII - Crimson
With the end game delivered, Ash's plan finally comes to fruition. The leader of "TFTP" has decided to unveil himself (and turns out to be Ash's great grandfather). All go for launch, every team stands at the ready to face Saiki, a being with powers familiar to Orochi (absorbing Mukai's power!) With one more sneaky move made, Ash takes his grandfather's energy, absorbs it and becomes an entity of time and space. But leave it to chance, like a classic British science fiction tale named "Doctor Who" once said "if time and space collide, there is no telling what trouble it could cause".

XIII wraps up an engaging mini series that could very well sum up what KOF is all about. Drama, action, comedy, suspense, and horror. For so many years, this series has rivaled other fighting games with its way of storytelling. In the beginning it was rough around the edges, but managed to rebound back into the gaming community.

What is next for KOF? We can only wait and see, SNKP or Capcom could dish out some project.
Or who knows..

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Exploring lost worlds

On the parallel of fourth wall, some classics had hidden elements a few didn't notice before.

Super Mario Brothers series -
Lost World levels were called (-) or minus worlds, essentially if you played the game normally you would actually miss these. But if you were persistent, and explored they could be found in the most abstract places.
In World, there were hidden levels that could be unlocked by finding keys to unlock pathways throughout Star World. (and a hidden ending)
Paper Mario - There are so many goodies they can only be found by obtaining every skill with your buddies.

Legend of Zelda -
From obtaining all hearts, to all weaponry, or even finding hidden ways to knock out baddies.
The flute can defeat various critters (but the Japanese version of LoZ 1 used the console's built mic for sound fx) *same concept the ds and 3ds also uses now.

Ocarina of Time -
There are many hidden side quests, the game can be pushed to many limits. Beyond the hillside of Hyrule, helping people along the way (and some of the creature folk) may yield rewards.

Majora's Mask -
Every mask has a story, but each one also yields untapped secrets. Some of them also give you unique powers versus elements within the in-game hub world. But be advised that Moon can still fall anytime you make a mistake along the way.

A fun crossover some didn't notice before - In SMB3, there was a hidden flute that could be used to teleport you across the world maps. The note played was from Legend of Zelda. Once used, Mario or Luigi could continue their quest across interconnected pipe worlds, as long as they were on the same path way.

Sonic The Hedgehog -
Listen to each level's bgm, because they actually reveal the timing behind various obstacles or platforms that get in your way. There is a hidden rhythm within each level, included the later Egg Battleship in Sonic III, Adventure, Heroes and beyond!

Colors - Red Rings
Although these oddities yield rewards what do they actually unlock? To be honest its still a great mystery because these will return in Sonic Lost World and may connect with that games' quest.

Metal Gear Solid Series -
From past to present, this series tosses a ton of weird and bizarre hidden elements. MG (the US NES version) was in fact not the original MG title, the first was in fact on the MSX (a pc based console). The version we played was actually a revamped and lost SNK licensed title. But with the namesake, the game was a top down shooter, with some occasional side scrolling elements.

MGS4 actually took a nod from a classic Kojima game called Snatcher. Herein the mission in England, with Snake donning a coat, and with help from a mini mecha MKII. There's even hidden dialog with the lil guy (piloted by Otacon of course)

Zone of Enders - Vic Viper from Gradius (a classic Konami series) is a guest star character. Hidden at first, but is a playable character once found. Plus it retains some of its power ups, and the lazer shape shifts depending on the mode used.

This is just a few of the hidden easter eggs I know of, I will be sure to share more soon.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Breaking the fourth wall - oh I can see stuff

Welcome to episode II of my new column on this fun blog o' mine. This time I will cover a bit more detail and some videos from the web about this neat topic in storytelling. But wait there's more!

Metal Gear Solid Series - Back in Kojima's early days he wrote some pretty clever tales. Before the espionage, it was always about smart dialog. From characters interacting with the audience, to music cues, and bizarre moments that left us scratching our heads for years.

Prince of Persia - Sands of Time
Within the first game of the nextgen trilogy, there were several hidden items in each game. For one, a full dungeon map from the original game that began the series was found through one of the secret pathways.

Sonic Colors
Even the blue hedgehog's adventures have taken him and friends to far off places. In Colors, it is about a universal outer space theme park, and the mission to save the planet. But in the end, the creatures give their thanks in a unique way.

A gem of gaming, it brought back the fun creative side of storytelling. Oh but there's so much more that the Umbra Witch is capable of. Tons of fourth wall gaming easter eggs!

Monday, July 1, 2013

So I break fourth wall?

With Deadpool's game release, there are a variety of titles in the past that have conquered the great web of storytelling. Some beyond convention, and others that just had fun un-weaving a unique way of storytelling. Those moments consisted of:
A) The character talking to the audience
B) Narrator
C) Sometimes the baddies have a moment
D) Unorthodox events occur

My good friend Lisa Foiles pays tribute to a variety of these fun moments. Do check these out!‎

I think I might work on a column about these fun easter eggs more often.
Any favorite titles you love ever have moments you didn't see coming?

Sunday, June 23, 2013

6/23 the day of the hedgehog

Twenty two years ago, a blue hedgehog was born. On the Sega Genesis, a gaming icon emerged from a creative team like no other under Sega's foundation. Built on a new system, outdoing all of its competition the title character blazed across tv screens so fast no one could keep up with him. Taking the name of Sonic Team, the developer consisted of an amazing array of talent, production, art direction, and music. It won acclaim for its design, presentation, and character.

Main villain - Dr. Robotnik
A genius scientist, who created a vast amount of cybernetics that emulated the physics of its enviornment. Since day one, this baddie has been after Sonic since they first fought one another. Until recently he's become more than a villain, but a character like no other.

Many years later the blue hedgehog named Sonic still influences gamers creativity today.

Genesis -
1991, Sega needed something to boost sales, their Mark II system faired okay. But they wanted killer app, seeing their competition pushing the Super NES with new concept of 16bit / 32 bit designs. Sonic and a few other titles were selected to pave the way for the Genesis to push everyone's buttons. Leading the way on a new console was challenging because most consumers were hungry for Nintendo next big idea. Although the systems were different, Genesis was on the same level as the SNES. Boasting a unique library over time, the blue character was the highlight of several games on the system. Mario had competition, and it was a speedy hedgehog wearing sneakers.

Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles
In Sonic II, the blue hedgehog was joined by a two tailed fox named Tails. Created as a new buddy, and a 2 player character, the lil guy did his best to keep up with his speedy friend. And at the end of their adventure, they board a plane nicknamed the "Tornado". This biplane was classic for taking them to new heights against the gigantic flagship.

The Red Echidna -
Sonic III introduced a new friend / foe, the protector of the Emeralds. A tough cookie, Knuckles strength was trust and eventually help Sonic & Tails prevent a huge catastrophe from taking his floating island.

Sega CD-
After becoming a household name, Sega decided to take on the CD game based format. But the main issue was memory, and disc loading. Aside from the issues, it gained an audience that played it for its content. Sonic CD paved the way for taking side-scrolling and some 3D levels. What made this game unique was its manipulation with time, being able to change past, present, and future. Depending on choices you made, the in-game world would eventually change on those paths you created along the way. Including the use of cutscenes at the beginning, middle and end (good or bad).

Amy and Metal-
A young lady kidnapped by the crazed inventor, calls for our hero's aid. Being chased by a robot copy of Sonic, is one thing, but when it just as fast its another adventure altogether. Metal Sonic would chase our hero to the ends of the earth, as the little planet took them across vast lands, and timelines.

3D Blast -
Before the nextgen craze of 3D graphics, developer Travelers Tales worked on a concept game that took Sonic on a mission to save his bird buddies "Flicky's". Taking a spin from Marble Madness, the game was made in a 3rd person perspective, or "outside" your point of view. Every level as mapped out in a strategic fashion, but also challenging boss fights versus Robotnik. Included like always was a catchy music score.

Xtreme -
The lost in the series, a follow up to 3D Blast, taking Sonic to new heights. Before Mario 64 dominated the market, Xtreme was bent on turning the world upside down. With isometric platforming, and intrinsic atmosphere, it was meant to rock the gaming world. Only problem was, it wasn't ready for it, the game engine was far ahead of its time. (Some years later, it has come back as we know it as "Lost World")

Dream-cha 9/9/99
With the release of the DC, Sega pushed its publishing to its limits. Sonic Adventure became the biggest game to date, boasting over seven playable characters, each with their own mission. With a new foe named Chaos, this guardian is fueled by emotions and energy via the emeralds. When past and present collide, his true form emerges calling upon a set of heroes that will fight to save their world. Sonic (speed), Tails (recovery and flight), Knuckles (treasure hunting), Amy (escape the wrath of an Eggbot, RE style), Big the Cat (fishing, yes fishing), Gamma (run and gun missions), and ? (play to find out).

Chao' -
This little character was introduced through the in-game system. Raising these creatures as a life sim, they obtain skills and can be used in mini-games throughout the game hub. In addition they can also be taken on the go via the vmu memory card. In fact they have their own life cycle, which can used in extent to collect a variety of rare versions of the critter. (more in SA2)

Sonic Adventure II-
With part I deemed as a success, Adventure II takes place shortly after their bout with Chaos and making the world right again. But this time around, a being from the past awakens to change Sonic & his friends lives forever.

Enter Shadow - a manifestation of another time, lost in the space colony ARK never to be awakened, thanks to old Robotnik for unleashing insanity. Turns out he has lost memories, a past that collides with Sonic's identity and a new power "Chaos Control".

Rouge the Bat -
An elusive hunter, like Knuckles, but with a fondness for jewels.Eventually they bunk heads in a contest to bring the emeralds together for their own reasons. But turns out she is working for someone outside the team.

Advance I-II - Mixing up the best of the Genesis days in a smaller format (like the Game Gear). With catchy tracks, and a variety of levels (including Chao mini-games).
Rush +Rush Adventure - Taking Sonic and friends on a 2.5D mission versus  Nega Eggman. Timelines are crossing over and only the heroes can stop them. *music by the fantastic Hideki Naganuma (JSR + JSRF music producer) and many more works!

Sonic Riders -
Mixing air boarding with racing, Sonic and pals take on new competition "the Babylon Riders". A legendary troupe that protected a lost island in time, only to be awakened by the Emerads power. A big competition pits the two sides versus one another in a race against time. (later obtained a sequel with free movement as its core design)

Sonic 2006 -
Branded as the rebirth of the franchise, sadly didn't win over the community. However it boasted a new voice acting crew, great music, and some moments that left us scratching our heads. But what it did deliver was a neat idea, new adventure, and some new friends (and enemies). What didn't help was how crippling the in-game engine truly was, with hiccups left and right, or unable to get past certain areas w/o dying. It is a true test of patience and dexterity.

Blaze the Cat - A princess of her own dimension, protects time itself. Watches over Silver like an older sister.
Silver the Hedgehog - A time travelling being from another world, trying to stop his timeline from being destroyed by an unknown force.
Princess Elise - The leader of Soleanna, guardian of the "flame of Ibby" (or the girl Sonic has to save in every cutscene.)

The power of the Emeralds takes Sonic on a quest to fix the planet. Taking on every continent, recovering all seven stones would bring the it whole. But the biggest challenge is night and day, tunring into a Werehog (a beast form, strong, fierce, but cannot speed up). Working with a new friend named Chip, to prevent the world from falling apart.

Next to Adventure I&II, Unleashed is the biggest game yet. With a multitude of bonus missions, side quests, and experience points that vary for either form of Sonic. This game will keep you coming back for more, and there is so much to explore and find.

Colors -
Planet Wisp, a lone place changed by Dr.Robotnik's evil scheme.Sonic and friends come to their aid, before their world is gone. Challenged by a world transformed amusement park, everything is turned upside down. Working with their new allies, sonic can become any element needed to save their world. One part Mega Man, Metroid, and another keeping to his roots. This fun game stands out on its own, and is worth the ride.

Generations -
Two worlds collide, past and present, classic and modern Sonic work side by side. With a crazy set of stages, and fun challenges along the way. Classic tunes remixed to either format of the title character. Its up to two Hedgehog's working together to save their  friends and worlds. If you were a part of any generation of the series, this one is for you.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Retro Classics - Mega Man I

While I was doing research to help my dad, I found myself listening to a Mega Man OST. Only to find out that the "Blue B" is going to be part of Super Smash Brothers (Wii-U) collection. Although I'm excited to see the character finally mash it up with all of his old rivals, its been way too long of a wait for it to happen.

Back in the day, this is where Capcom beat out its competition. Especially when it came to action / platformers, his main competition at the time was Mario, Metroid and few others that could compare with its futuristic theme. It was all about this robot with an arm cannon versus the maniacal Dr.Wily. The biggest challenge was the leap from A to B, all the while fighting everything that was an obstacle. From heights, to spikes, and numerous dangers (including the nefarious fall into the screen, if there was nothing = instant death).

The second closest game to its difficulty level was a game called Ghouls and Ghosts, and Castlevania. Both were known for being notoriously hard. In G&G, you were limited to 3 hits to Arthur's armor, if broken there was no way to protect yourself. (literally running around in boxer shorts!) In Castlevania, Simon Belmont was limited to a number of hits, hearts, and damage counter. However if you fell into a pit, or fell into spikes, this would end in instant death to Simon.

Another key point in surviving these titles was to obtain items to keep your energy going. No matter what was in your way, there had to be a way to snag health items to progess. Sometimes you could use upgrades... but here is where it gets interesting.

Power Up!
The biggest difference with Mega Man and his competition is his unique ability to absorb a boss's power. Once a boss was taken down, Rockman could copy a bosses moves and use them to progress through any level. *This concept idea was never used before, until later games used the design technique.Including the ability to choose from a roster of foes, once they were defeated you could go back, retrace any missed steps and move forward.

So in a way this series is part action / rpg, included the fact your health bar could also be extended. By collecting "E tanks" these would serve as a backup to your character's way of surviving every endgame battle. (including facing the baddie behind all of it).

That Doctor!
No not the British science fiction classic character. The nefarious Dr. Wily who began the great robot war. Giving them self thought, the rampage, the battles, and the domination of society by his creation. Oddly enough Dr. Light and Wily used to be pals, until his creative genius got in the way of their friendship. So Light created Rockman to "fight for everlasting piece!"

The music
One of the key points worth noting about this series is the bgm tunes. You will literally get these stuck in your head, even if you play at least one level. It is addicting as much as the game, becoming more of memorization (actually some of the music is key to timing a bosses moves, give that a try next time).

It is tough to describe what makes Mega Man a truly awesome series. In the beginning it was a "one trick pony", thankfully it succeeded in becoming a most loved game for 20+ years. With the only limitation being its fans, whether young or mature (oh and it will push your buttons, hard). It is a game of patience, dexterity, and lots of faith in what makes this series truly unique.