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Sunday, November 7, 2010

"The Quest for the Elusive 96*"

Today's review is on a classic, a game I'm sure most of you have at least seen, if not played for hours and hours on end: Super Mario World.



Super Mario World is a game developed and published by Nintendo, originally released in Japan in 1990 and North America in 1991 as a bundled-in game with the then-new Super Nintendo. This game was a huge reason the SNES sold as well as it did. It was both a critical and commercial success. I've yet to meet someone who hasn't enjoyed this game. Let's jump in and see why it's such a great game.

Story: 8/10


The story is pretty standard Mario fare, although it does diverge ever-so-slightly from the games that came before it. After saving the Mushroom Kingdom yet again, Mario, Luigi, and Princess Peach take a vacation to a place called Dinosaur Land. Sure enough, though, while resting on the beach, Peach goes missing.

Mario and Luigi search for hours to find her. Eventually, in the forest, they come upon a huge egg. It hatches, and out pops a dinosaur named Yoshi. Yoshi tells them that him and his dinosaur friends have been imprisoned in eggs by a group of evil turtles.

Evil turtles? It must be Bowser and his Koopalings! If they're in Dinosaur Land, you can bet it was them who kidnapped Peach, too. Mario and Luigi set out to rescue all of Yoshi's friends as well as Peach, trekking across the entirety of Dinosaur Land in the process.

Granted, the story still relies on a missing princess, but I give them a lot of credit for making the game take place in a different land and also introducing the character Yoshi for the first time in the Mario series.

Graphics: 9/10


This was one of the earliest SNES games, but it really does look great. It's bright and colorful, and a HUGE step forward from the NES. Animations are fluid and smooth and the characters' sprites really stand out. There's only one or two spots in the whole game where you'll really notice any slowdown in the animations, and it's usually when there's a TON of enemies on screen at once (the level with the football players underwater instantly jumps to mind).

Gameplay: 10/10


Super Mario World, on the surface, plays very similarly to Super Mario Bros. 3. You control Mario (or Luigi, if you're second player in a multiplayer game). You run through levels, platforming and collecting coins and power-ups, trying to reach the end before the time runs out. As you finish areas, instead of switching worlds like you would in Super Mario 3, you move on to the next area of Dinosaur Land. All of the areas are connected to each other, making for more logical area transitions.

The overworld map.

For ends of levels, instead of the card collecting system from Super Mario Bros. 3, there's now two posts with a bar in between that rises and lowers. If you hit the bar, you get a set number of points - the higher the bar is, the more points you get. Each time you get 100, you play a bonus game to get extra lives.

At the end of each area, there are castles where Bowser's underlings reside. Castle levels are usually a little bit harder than normal levels (but not by a ton). The first 6 are on the overworld map, while the 7th is in Bowser's area underground, and the 8th is Bowser's humongous castle.

The Koopa family. These guys are none too happy to see you.
There are also 'keys' in this game. Level icons show up either as red or yellow circles on the world map.

No yellow ones in this image,  but you get the idea.
The yellow ones are just normal levels, but red levels have a hidden key somewhere in them. Finding the key and taking it to the keyhole will, instead of taking you out the normal exit, will create a path on the overworld map to a new level.

Mario's mechanics have also been tweaked a bit. His physics are more or less the same, but now he has an added jump, the spin jump. This can break certain blocks below him, as well as deal more damage to enemies than a normal jump. The Super Mushroom and Fire Flower power-ups return in this title, but instead of the suits of Super Mario Bros. 3, Mario now has the Cape Feather. This lets him spin it to attack enemies, and, if he's running fast enough, it will let him fly.

The Cape Feather was a bit broken, though, if you knew how to use it right. See, when you were flying, you could tap the D-pad backwards to get a little bit of a lift. If you knew how to time it right, you could do this repeatedly and literally fly over an entire level. It's a great way to speed through the game, but also SUPER cheap.

The last big thing is the addition of Yoshi. As you play through the game, you'll find big Yoshi eggs. Yoshi will hatch as a baby, and you can pick him up and run him into enemies, making him eat them. After 5 or 6, he'll grow up into full-size Yoshi, letting you ride him. There are several different colors of Yoshi, each with a different effect. When Red Yoshi pulls a koopa into his mouth, he'll spit it out as fireballs. When Yellow Yoshi pulls a koopa in, he'll stomp the ground hard, upturning most small enemies. Blue Yoshi will grow wings when he sucks up a koopa shell, allowing him to fly until he swallows it.

Baby Yoshi's so damned CUUUUTE!
Sound: 10/10


For me, this game unquestionably gets a 10/10. There are games with better music for the SNES, but this one holds a special place in my heart just because of how many times I've beaten it and how long I've been playing it. All of the songs are forever burned into my mind as well as my heart. As per usual, rather than blabbering on about how awesome the music is, I'll just post a few songs.

Here's the main overworld theme. I LOVE that steel pan melody.



This one's the castle theme...spooooooky...



The underwater theme. It's so very relaxing.



Replay Value: 10/10


Super Mario World has a tremendous amount of replay value for the completionists out there. When you go to pick your save file in the beginning, it displays a little number next to it. That's how many levels you've completed. Does yours say "96*"? No? Then you haven't fully beaten Super Mario World!

Along with getting all of the levels, you get the awesomeness (and sometimes, extreme frustration!) of playing through the Star Road as well as the special levels.

Pictured: Star Road.

Pictured: The most fun as well as hardest levels in Super Mario World.
These levels can be either a total blast or an occasion to have an aneurysm (I'm looking at you, Tubular).

tl;dr


To anyone who has ever played this game (which I'd hope is most of you), reading this review is unnecessary. You already know what a great, classic game it is. To those of you who haven't played this game, go play it IMMEDIATELY. Get a SNES and that copy, buy the Wii Virtual Console version, get the GBA remake, do whatever you have to to get your hot little hands on this game.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Rehashed Golden Oldies

Hello, Faithful Readers. My posting has been very few and far between as of late. School takes precedence over this blog, and the nearer I draw to the end of the semester, the heavier my workload becomes.

Though it could always be worse...

That being said, I haven't abandoned this blog; far from it. This time off from posting has allowed me to get my ideas for posts in order. Actual reviews will be coming before too much longer, but for a while, they'll probably be at least several days apart. As much as I hate these "why I haven't been posting" sort of posts, I feel an explanation was in order because of a few messages I've gotten asking me why I've stopped blogging.

In the meantime, for you newcomers, check out some of my older posts. Who knows? You might've played one of these games before. Some of my favorite ones to write include:

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time (SNES)
Death Rally (DOS/PC)
Joe & Mac (SNES)
Earthbound (SNES)

And of course, the reviews of both Katamari Damacy and We Love Katamari. Those, as well as the rest of my reviews, can be found by clicking on the 'review' label on the right hand side of the screen. You can also find reviews by platform and genre by clicking on the appropriate label.

To the people who have been following long enough to have seen all these when I first posted them, my apologies for the rehashing and lack of new, original content. To the rest of you, dig around if you have the time and give-a-shit. You may even find something worth reading.

You know, something worth reading, like the opposite of this.

Until next time, enjoy yourselves, Faithful Readers.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

"Damn you, Imakuni?!!!"

Today's review is on a game only the nerdiest among us will have played, Pokemon Trading Card Game.

Nerdgasm!

Pokemon Trading Card Game was a spinoff to the Pokemon series based on the popular card game. It was developed by Hudson Soft and published by Nintendo for the Game Boy Color. It was released in late 1998 in Japan and 2000 in North America and PAL territories.

Story: 5/10

The story for Pokemon TCG is much the same as the story from the original Pokemon game: a young man sets out to be the very best. The difference is that in this game, the young protagonist (Mark) sets out to be the best at the trading card game and to collect every single card.

Graphics: 7/10

Graphically, Pokemon TCG wasn't terribly innovative. You have to keep in mind, though, that it was made for the Game Boy Color, a system not exactly known for its amazing graphics.

Yeah, that's seriously what the DBZ game for GBC looked like. *shudder*

90% of the game will have you in battle, anyways. There are points where you walk around inside of gyms. Those graphics look identical (almost) to Pokemon Silver/Gold. The battle graphics are very basic, showing just the playing field in a very static way. All you see is how many prizes are left, pictures of the two Pokemon fighting as well as damage counters, how many Pokemon are on the bench, and how many energy cards a Pokemon has on it. To actually check the benched Pokemon, you need to go into a menu. There are no super fancy animations; all of the attack animations are very bare (again, like the early Pokemon games).

The main point, though, is that the graphics don't deter from gameplay. Sure, there's not a lot of bells and whistles, but the card game wasn't about bells and whistles. It was about fun, pure and simple.

Gameplay: 8/10

The gameplay is, to put it simply, the card game in electronic form. For any of you who ever used to actually battle with the cards, this game does a great job of recreating it. It includes all the cards in the first few sets (Base, Jungle, and Fossil if I'm not too much mistaken). The mechanics work exactly as they would in a real card duel, only a tiny bit more lengthy due to the time taken messing around in menus.

You start the game with a very basic deck. You can battle a guy at the start as many times as you'd like to get packs of nothing but energy cards. Once you're ready to go, you head out to the main map and start going to gyms in any order you like to try to beat the leaders in a card battle.

This is the map. Walking from one gym to another literally takes about 3 seconds.

For every real trainer you defeat, you get between 1 and 3 packs of cards you can use to build a better deck. The cards in the pack usually reflect the theme of the gym (Fire Gym trainers give you mostly fire cards, Water Gym trainers give you mostly water cards, etc.). Once all the leaders have been beaten and their medals have been gained, you get to take a shot at fighting the Grandmasters, similar to the Elite Four in the original Pokemon games.

There are also special tournaments that take place from time to time in the Challenge Hall. You face a series of 3 battles, and if you win, you get a special promo card. Some of these are actually kind of useful, but most are just silly.

What would a Pokemon game be without a rival? In this game, your rival is Ronald, a douche-baggy blue-haired kid who insists that he's better than you under any circumstance, even when you hand his ass to him.

You know what? Fuck you, Ronald. There, I said it.

The absolute weirdest part is this dude named Imakuni?. He's a Japanese costumed character created for the Pokemon series. He shows up randomly in gyms hiding off in a corner. Throughout the game, you get to fight him a few times. He plays mostly cards that end up confusing his own Pokemon, and he even has his own card. Sadly, it does almost nothing, and when it does, it confuses your own Pokemon! He's a complete nutbar, and fighting him is always comical.

Japanese people are weird...

The game, overall, is very easy to learn. It's also usually pretty easy to win once you have a good deck put together. When you lose, there are no penalties of any kind, so even if you REALLY aren't very good, you can still do pretty well in this game. Here's a video demonstrating a single duel as it appears in game.



Sound: 8/10

The soundtrack in this game, in my opinion, fits very well with the overall mood. I'm a bit biased, though, since this game makes me nostalgia all over the place (it's messy, trust me). The music in particular really makes me remember what a fun game this was. Rather than describing it any more, I'll post some songs and let you decide how good they are. Here's the normal duel theme; this is one you'll be hearing very often.



This one's the main map theme and the music in Professor Mason's Lab, your main hub.



This one is the Grandmaster's Theme.



Keep in mind, most of these sound much better on the Game Boy's speakers.

Replay Value: 4/10

The main draw for replaying through this game is collecting all of the cards. Chances are, though, by the time you beat the Grandmasters, as long as you duel every trainer on the way, you should have almost all of them. There are 226 cards in all, if I remember correctly. 2 of the cards, however, can only be gained by using the Card Pop system which requires another Game Boy and another copy of the game. You can only Card Pop with someone one time, so to get these cards, you'll likely need either a lot of friends who own this game or a GameShark.

Other than card collecting, though, there's really no reason to replay this game besides the sheer fun factor.




tl;dr

Long story short, this is a Game Boy Color game that plays exactly like the actual trading card game mixed in with Pokemon Red/Blue. It's totally fun, and a great way to kill 10-15 hours. It's also got a bitchin' soundtrack.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Science!

Just a quick update for all those who may be interested. I haven't posted in quite a while. This is because I've been on a trip to the Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago for a physics/computer science/math/chemistry/geology symposium. We left on Thursday and didn't get back until Sunday at around 3AM. From where I am, it's about an eight or nine hour drive one way.

I was a tired panda by the time we got back.

I wish I could post some pictures, but sadly, I didn't bring a camera along with me. I did get to see some very cool things, though. I watched somewhere around 30 speeches showcasing some of the latest research in several different fields, saw the Advanced Photon Source (a 2/3 mile particle accelerator), and went into Chicago to spend a day and explore.

Seeing this thing was incredibly awesome. SCIENCE!

Presumably, either later tonight or tomorrow, Programmable Abortion will return to its regularly scheduled programming and continue with the reviews. I've had a good one almost done since Thursday that the super Pokemon nerds among us will really enjoy: Pokemon Trading Card Game for Game Boy Color.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

"That's INCREDIBLE!"

Today's review is on a super badass game from way back when, the original The Incredible Machine.

Cannons and boxing gloves and cats, oh my!

The Incredible Machine was designed and coded by a guy named Kevin Ryan and published by Sierra Entertainment in 1992. It was a Rube Goldberg-esque puzzle game with almost a hundred unique puzzles and the ability to create your own, making for a mind-bending blast of a game.

Story: N/A

There really is no story in The Incredible Machine. It's a pure puzzle game at its very best. You don't have lives or motivation; your only goal is to finish all of the puzzles.

Graphics: 7/10


There's not a whole ton to say when it comes to graphics. In essence, every object very clearly looks like what it is. A pair of bellows looks like a pair of bellows, a cat looks like a cat, etc. That's really all you need.

Beyond that, the game doesn't have a whole lot of graphical bells and whistles. The background is completely blue at all times. The score ticker actually looks pretty slick, but doesn't do much other than tick.

A lot of people might not like such barebones graphics, but to me, it completely makes this game. It fits; it just feels right.

Gameplay: 9/10

The Incredible Machine is an exercise in coming up with really complex solutions to simple problems. You get a pretty large range of items to help you create your contraptions, from simple objects like ropes and pulleys to much more complex items like generators, engines, power outlets, and mice in cages. Most objects connect to at least one other object in some way (seesaws to ropes, a conveyor belt to a cable, etc). The objects that don't connect will usually have some sort of interaction with another object instead (cats go towards a fishbowl when it's broken, scissors pop balloons, etc.).

You start with a very simple puzzle: putting a ball in a hoop.

Pictured: simplicity.

From there, you go through a series of 86 other increasingly more complex puzzles, teaching you how to use every item in the game.

Pictured: HOLY FUCK!

Thankfully, the game has a very nice learning curve. Some puzzles also have altered gravity where it's either very powerful so things fall quickly or it's very weak, like the moon, so things fall slowly.

There's always a score ticker at the bottom that counts downward at a set rate, so the faster you solve a puzzle, the more points you'll get. The points are largely meaningless other than to see how much better you've gotten at the game.

The best way to explain this game, though, is just to show it. Here's a short clip showing the first several levels. It clearly shows the entire setup including the start of a puzzle, the tips and information about a puzzle you're given before it begins, the bank of items (and how it changes from level to level), the score ticker, and the completion of a puzzle.



Sound: 6.5/10

The soundtrack in TIM did its purpose well: stayed in the background. A lot of it stands up on its own pretty well, but most of it is very background-y. I'm not a huge fan of listening to it standalone, but I'll say that it never interferes with finishing a puzzle. In fact, it can be quite soothing on some levels.

Here's your standard sample. This is a VERY well done YouTube video; it's long, but when it first starts, there's a popup for a 'tracklisting' of sorts. That way, you can just click and jump around from song to song.



Here's part two of the soundtrack, setup in the same way so you can pick your track.



Replay Value: 10/10

The Incredible Machine actually had a surprising amount of replay value. It was fun enough replaying through so many of the standard puzzles, but on top of that, they also included the freeform mode. Basically, you can build your own puzzles with no time constraints or item limits. There's no end to the Goldberg-style madness you can come up with, creating puzzles to try and stump yourself or having your friends try to solve the ones you've made.




tl;dr


The Incredible Machine is a phenomenally fun game. It's basically Rube Goldberg: The Game. Go, buy it now! If you can't find a copy, since the original is SUPER hard to find, download a freeware/abandonware version of it on the interwebz. It runs perfectly fine in DOSbox. Below are links to buy updated/newer versions of the same style of game.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

"You ladies can relax now. Dekar has come to the rescue!"

Today's review is the second of two, focusing on Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals for SNES.

Anyone who has ever played this game probably just came upon seeing this image.

Lufia II was developed by Neverland and published in Japan by Taito, in North America by Natsume, and in Europe by Nintendo. It was released in 1995 in Japan and 1996 in North America and PAL territories. Lufia II was a prequel to the first game, and featured vastly different (and WAY more fun) gameplay. Let's jump in and see just why this game is so much better than the first.

Story: 10/10

Lufia II, as mentioned, was a prequel to Lufia I. The game follows Maxim, the ancestor of the hero from Lufia I, in his quest to destroy the evil Sinistrals. One of my favorite parts of the story is that instead of Maxim being just some random guy who turns into a hero, he knows he's the strongest guy in his town and a likely hero right from the very beginning.

If you've previously played the first game, you'll notice a lot of references to events that happened (rather, will happen) in Lufia. There are numerous times the story is weaved together very tightly.

The best part is that even though Lufia I opens with the ending of Lufia II, there are still a lot of surprises to be found. I'll just say that the full ending wasn't given away in Lufia I. The other best part is the addition of the character Dekar, the single best character in--yes, this is true--any video game ever.

This game features the standard betrayal, intrigue, triumphs, and sadness that any RPG will have. However, there's also a lot more to it. There's a love story in this game as well as a mid-game 'pre-ending', both of which are amazingly well done. The story will make you feel for the characters and laugh along with them (or at them, in Dekar's case) and cry when they hit their lowest points. It's a beautifully crafted story. I'll stop discussing it now, lest I give something away. This game is worth playing spoiler free.

Graphics: 9/10

Lufia II took a major step forward graphically from its predecessor. Enemies have more detail, colors are more vivid, and the characters' spells, attacks, and even the characters themselves look 10x better than they did in Lufia 1.

Edges are a little rough, but it's MUCH better than Lufia I.

The only minor downside is that a lot of the environments look a lot alike. Dungeons especially are prone to looking very similar to each other. They look nice, but it would've been nicer to have varying environments rather than just towns, mountains, towers, shrines, and dungeons.


Gameplay: 9/10

Lufia II was pretty different from the first in gameplay. Instead of a standard RPG, this one plays more like The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and similar titles. You do the same thing as the first one, going from town to town, dungeon to dungeon, fighting battles and gaining gold for better equipment and EXP for better stats. However, dungeons work much differently, as do random encounters.

In dungeons, this game focuses very heavily on puzzles. You have different tools you acquire throughout the game to help you complete the puzzles like a sword, bombs, a bow and arrows, and a hookshot. The puzzles aren't usually too difficult, but there are some that will give you a pleasant challenge. There are also some that will make you smash your face against the wall, they're so hard.



Enemies are also dispersed throughout the dungeons. They're visible on screen before you fight them, and if you're good, you can avoid almost all of them. For every move you make (whether actually moving or just swinging your sword), the enemies also make one move.

Another new addition is capsule monsters. These little buggers are super useful. They work sort of like Pokemon. You find them at set points in game. They fight alongside you in battle; though you're unable to directly control them, they all have a specific set of moves they use whenever it's most appropriate. If you feed them certain pieces of equipment (they'll tell you what they're hungry for), they'll gain EXP and eventually 'evolve' through their several forms.

Foomy, the first capsule monster you find.

Yet another addition is the idea of IP skills. IP stands for Ikari Points, roughly translated to Anger Points. Basically, certain weapons and equip will have specific IP skills attached to them. As you get damaged, your IP will go up. When you have enough IP for a skill, you can use it in battle. This makes things much more strategic; you need to decide a lot between upgrading to more powerful equip with worse IP skills or keeping your old equip with better IP skills.

The best new addition is the Ancient Cave. I'll detail that more under 'Replay Value', as that's really where it belongs.

Sound: 10/10

The soundtrack in Lufia II is AMAZING. Seriously, it almost rivals anything Uematsu has done for the Final Fantasy series. Of course, this is quite subjective, but the soundtrack really stands out to me as being waaaaaay above average. Words can't do it justice. Here's a few tracks, starting with the boss battle theme.



That song lends itself PERFECTLY to any number of metal remixes. Here's another great one, the epic Island in the Void.



Last one, here's a more mellow track, The Earth. This is the world map music.



Replay Value: 10/10

This game should get more than 10/10 for replay value, truly. First, there's the 'Retry' mode that becomes available after you finish the game once. This lets you play through, getting 4x the EXP and 4x the gold you'd normally get. After you beat the game in Retry mode, 'Gift' mode is unlocked. Gift mode is related to the Ancient Cave, and the Ancient Cave is the number 1 reason to replay this game. Normally, in the Ancient Cave, you can't pick your characters. You can only take whatever party members you happen to have when you're in Gruberik. In gift mode, though, you can ONLY do the Ancient Cave, but you can pick whatever characters you want to take into the cave.

Basically, in the city of Gruberik, there's a 99 floor cave that you can either choose to explore or completely skip, with the uberboss Master Jelly at the end. When you enter the cave, you start with 0 EXP at level 1 with none of your equipment or spells. Don't worry, when you leave, you get all of those things back. Now, as you go through the cave, there are red chests and blue chests. Red chests are items and spells you only have for that particular run through the cave. Blue chests contain spells and items that you retain for the next time you go into the cave. The idea is to go through and get a few blue chests and then exit, getting deeper and deeper every time because you have better equip (blue chest items) at the start. After floor 20 or so, there's an item called Providence that's specific to the Ancient Cave. Using it will return you to the surface, keeping all of your blue chest items.

Every time you enter the cave, it's different. Every floor is randomly generated. This lends it ENORMOUS replayability. There's also these things called Isis Treasures. They can be found randomly in red chests, though they have a low chance of appearing. Sometimes, you can find one every run through the cave, and sometimes, you won't find one for 100 runs through. Finding all of the treasures will keep you coming back to the cave over and over again.





tl;dr
PLAY THIS GAME! I can't say enough how truly fucking awesome it is. It's subjective, sure, but for me, this is one of the best RPGs I've ever had the pleasure of playing. Make sure to try out the Ancient Cave, too. And enjoy all the scenes with Dekar; he's one of the best characters ever put into an RPG.

Friday, October 8, 2010

"They called the evil ones 'Sinistrals'..."

Today's review will be the first of two on the Lufia series for SNES.

Save files?!? Get RIGHT out of town!!!



Lufia & The Fortress of Doom was the first game in the Lufia (Estpolis) series. It was developed by a company called Neverland and published by Taito. It was released in 1993 in Japan and America. Lufia was a pretty straight-forward RPG, and not even a great one compared to a lot of other SNES RPGs. The story for it, though, is amazing, and it's necessary to discuss this game alongside its sequel, since both had one of the best storylines in video game history, in my humble opinion.

Story: 9/10

The story in this one is very interesting. The sequel, Lufia II, is actually a chronological prequel. Lufia I begins with you taking control of the characters during (parts of) the ending of Lufia II.

One day, a flying island with an enormous castle on it (the Fortress of Doom) appeared in the sky. The Fortress acted as a base of operations for an evil (and incredibly powerful) group of four beings known as Sinistrals. Their goal was essentially to force the world into obedience.

Four heroes were sent to fight this new evil, and eventually, they succeeded, though at great cost. 99 years passed, and peace reigned supreme. However, as so often happens, evil reared its ugly head again. The Sinistrals were back! Four more heroes would need to go and vanquish this terrible evil once and for all.




Graphics: 7/10


The graphics in Lufia I are pretty hit-or-miss. There are some scenes that just look beautiful, as well as some of the spells (Sunder looks AWESOME). Most of the bosses are also very well done and full of detail.

I don't know what the hell that thing is, but it looks pretty badass.

However, a lot of the scenery is very lackluster. The enemies have no real animation (although they do have a decent amount of detail). Some of the spells also have incredibly mundane animations, although that's forgivable since I'm used to seeing so many lame spell animations even in newer games. It's always the spells like Osmose and Sap and Leech that end up having the most boring visual effects.

Overall, the graphics could be a lot worse (like Secret of the Stars) but they could also be a lot better (like Lufia II).

Gameplay: 7/10

Lufia's a straightforward RPG: you go from town to town, talking to NPCs to discover clues about where to go next and what to do. There are random battles that give you EXP, gold, and items when you win. Bosses come up every now and then, being much more powerful than the average random enemy. You can equip different weapons and armor, getting stronger as the game goes on. There are also a large number of magical spells that can be cast for various effects, from buffs to damage to healing. Here's a short video showing how the battle system works on a very early boss battle.



There are a few things that stop this game from being as good as the average RPG, though. Random battles happen WAY too often. It almost seems to be every 2 or 3 steps. This is bearable for about half of the game, and then it just starts getting frustrating.

That kind of leads into another huge problem. Lufia I required far too much level grinding. The enemies aren't usually too difficult, but they never give out a ton of EXP. The bosses, though, require you to be pretty strong most of the time. As a result, you end up having to spend hours plowing through these weakling random encounters who give next to no EXP just to get strong enough to finish off the boss.

Another big issue is the battle system. During battle, you can't attack any one specific enemy...you instead attack a particular ROW of enemies. Your attack will randomly hit one of them. This can get SUPER frustrating as you try to kill one enemy at a time and end up having 4 enemies with a little bit of damage, all still attacking you, when you could be down to 2 or 1 enemies.

Don't let these faults discourage you from playing this game, though. It's well worth it just to see the story, and also to prepare for the badassery that is Lufia II.

Sound: x/10

The sound effects in Lufia I are largely forgettable. It's mostly standard RPG fare. You have your hacking and slashing noises, your sparkly magic casting noises, your basic explosion kind of noises.

The music was pretty decent in Lufia. It was completely enjoyable, but nothing too memorable. A few tracks really stand out as being very well composed. Most sort of blend together, though. One of my favorite songs in the soundtrack was the final duel music (which is weird, since it didn't quite capture the mood of a final battle). Here's the last duel track.



Here's the normal battle music. This is another one of the better songs, and good thing, too, since you'll be hearing it A LOT if you play this game.



Replay Value: 7/10

Lufia, on the surface, doesn't have a ton of incentive to go back and beat it again. It's a pretty straight-forward RPG. It does, however, have 'Try Again' mode. When you beat the game for the first time, you have the option to start over, this time gaining 4 times the exp. and gold. This is super useful for playing a really quick run through the game to pick up on any plot points you may have missed. It's also nice so that if you do ever want to go back to this game, it'll only take you a quarter as long to finish.





All in all, Lufia's not a bad game, per se, it's just not a great game. It's altogether average. However, to really understand the story between this game and Lufia 2, it's super handy to play this one first. The overall story is pants-shittingly awesome, better than any Final Fantasy story ever was, in my humble opinion, and I loved most of the Final Fantasy games.

Join me next time for a review of the sequel, Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals.

You wait and wait, and when it happens, you feel sad.

Pic COMPLETELY unrelated.
My apologies on the epic lack of postings. New reviews will be posted soon. I'm working on a two-part review for Lufia and Lufia II for SNES, one of which is one of the best RPGs of all time and both of which have the best RPG story of all time (opinion, of course). The first one will be posted sometime tomorrow, and the second soon after.

But not quite yet. I've been completely preoccupied with the metric dickton of homework I've been assigned as well as studying for the few midterm exams I've had. On the bright side, all that hard work has paid off. I have a 101% in my C++ course, a 100% in my probability/stats course, ~95% in my literary analysis course, and probably around 85% in my micro-architecture course. I'm a little dissatisfied with my micro grade, but hopefully it'll pop back up into the A range by the time this semester is over.

I'm really happy I came to this university. I've learned a lot of really cool stuff, especially in the world of programming/computer science in general. I've also enjoyed a lot of the 'required' liberal arts-type courses, as most I've taken have focused on literature. It's afforded me the opportunity to learn a few programming languages as well as check out some phenomenal books I'd otherwise never read like Ragtime, The Things They Carried, and The Road.

It's not often I write about my own personal life, but it gives me a chance to find out more about my followers in turn. I'm curious, if any of you are going to college/were in college, what did you major/minor in? What were the most valuable things you learned? How long did you go for? Leave a comment and let me know.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Super Mario Redeux

Today's post will be yet another short one. I apologize for the lack of reviews, but as my university's midterms loom ever nearer, my amount of free time shrinks every day. I'm at work even as I write this. I thought I'd share this, though, in lieu of having a review.

(Plus, it let me leave up Megan's awesome review of Portal for a few days longer than usual!)

This is a game I found awhile back that I still play from time to time. It's called Super Mario Bros. Crossover. Basically, it's Super Mario Bros. in its entirety, only you can play as several other classic Nintendo characters like Link, Samus Aran, Simon Belmont, Mega Man, Bill from Contra, and Ryu Hayabusa from Ninja Gaiden. It's a hell of a fun game, and has support for external controllers, so you can even hook up your old NES controller if you have the right adapters.

Check it out and have fun with it. An actual review should be coming by no later than Wednesday (midterms finish on Wednesday).



Saturday, October 2, 2010

"Two plus two is f… f… f… f… ten. IN BASE FOUR! I'M FINE!"

Today's review was written by a guest reviewer, Megan. This one's 10x better than any I've done, so without further ado, here's her review of Portal.



I'm going to review a 2007 game called Portal, a single-player puzzle-platformer.


It was released for PC, Xbox 360, and PS3. The developer was Valve, who also did Half-Life, Counter-Strike, Left 4 Dead, and a bunch of other awesome first-person shooter type games. The game was actually based off of some students' senior project called Narbacular Drop.

I'm going to try not give away any big things about the story. When I played the game, a few things here and there were spoiled for me and it's really fun to find out things as they happen. The following trailer was released by Valve, so I don't consider it to have spoilers.


Story: 9/10
You play Chell, a woman we know nothing about. It doesn't matter; we never learn anything about her. The only other real character is an AI computer named GLaDOS who you hear talking to you from the minute the game starts. When the game begins, you awake in a stasis chamber, a tiny room with glass walls. GLaDOS welcomes you to the Aperture Science Enrichment Center. From here, you are taken to the first test chamber and introduced to the Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device (portal gun) and taught how to use it.

As you progress through the test chambers, GLaDOS talks to you, making you aware of the dangers present in the chambers, new things to do with the portal gun, and how there's yummy cake waiting for you. The atmosphere is creepy and surreal from the start and it just gets weirder from there. You're trapped in this empty testing facility with nothing but the portal gun and the AI's voice to help you (along with some tools they give you in order to advance, such as weighted cubes). The rooms get more and more challenging as you go, with new elements being introduced each room or so.

I thought the overall story was unique and amusing. The humor is great. It's cute, nerdy, and random, with tons of quotable lines. Even if you don't enjoy the humor, the gameplay will make up for it. You'll want to know if the cake really is a lie. This game is worth finishing.

Graphics: 9/10
The graphics are fairly simplistic, which is completely appropriate for the game. If you've ever played Half-Life, you know what the graphics look like. Plain gray walls and floors don't distract from the important part of the game - the puzzles. I thought they did a good job making the equipment and technology in the game look futuristic, but not really ridiculous. You can tell what everything is or what it might do, and you need to in order to figure out what to do next. The portals themselves stick out well from the rest of the environment.

One graphical thing that stuck out to me was when you shake the cursor around in game, your surroundings sort of trail along with you. It looks really nice and makes things more realistic. I haven't noticed this in other games, but then again, I haven't played many of the newest first-person shooters. The game has no visible health bar; the interface is very clean, letting you focus on the task at hand. The only things you see constantly are your gun and the 'crosshair' to aid you in creating portals.

Chell has metal heel springs to prevent injury from falls.

Gameplay: 10/10
The portal gun is your main tool to getting through this 'nightmare'. If you're playing it for PC, the right and left mouse buttons control your two portals - one blue and one orange. It doesn't matter which color you create first; you can enter either one and you will exit from the other. You can jump through them, walk through them, throw stuff through them, fall through them. If you go through one in a wall and exit through one on the floor, you'll come out and land back on your feet. It's dizzying at times. Sometimes you will need to create new portals in mid-air, forcing you to pay close attention and move quickly. If you create a portal on the ground and jump into it from several feet down, you will gain momentum, helping you get to higher places. This technique of creating portals as you're in the air and gaining momentum will be necessary for much of the game. It's also really fun to experiment with.

As you'd expect from a first-person game like this, you will encounter enemies. You don't exactly kill them... More like break them. As I said, you have no visible health bar. You can get hurt from certain things, like turrets, and if you move out of the way quickly enough you will not die. Your health apparently regenerates itself after you are hurt, because if you are damaged again (after your health has gone up) for a short period of time, you won't die. There are indeed plenty of opportunities to die in this game, mostly from falling off of platforms as far as I remember, but there are other things that will instantly kill you. You'll just start over at the beginning of the current test chamber if you die. The game will auto-save when you reach each test chamber or a 'checkpoint'.

The way the game introduces the new obstacles while teaching you how to play flows perfectly. The levels are brilliantly designed. By the end of the game, using the portal gun feels almost natural. The difficulty is just enough for me to want to keep playing. Don't get me wrong, this game can be frustrating... I did end up getting a couple of hints, but if I had thought about it some more, I probably would have been able to figure it out myself. It feels damn satisfying when you finally solve some of the harder puzzles.

(Also, after playing the game for too long and you stop, you might get the same feeling you do after you play Katamari Damacy... You'll get the urge to teleport across the room with portals. After Katamari, you size up the objects around you to see if you can roll them up. Am I the only one?)

Sound: 9/10
It won't threaten to stab you.
The sound is appropriate. The portal gun will make noises when you create portals, and also make a noise when you can't create a portal somewhere (like the darker-colored metallic walls). Sometimes all you'll hear is the sound of your footsteps. The best sound, though, is GLaDOS's crazy-ass mechanical voice.
"...all the cake is gone. You don't even care, do you?"
The lack of music for most of the game adds to its empty, surreal atmosphere. And then of course, there's the song, "Still Alive". You can look that up yourself. It's in the ending credits of the game.

Replay Value: 7/10
The game is pretty short. I think it took me about three sittings to beat the storyline, but it could be beaten in one, for sure. Plus, there are bonus levels and little missions to accomplish, like destroying all of the security cameras. I would definitely sit down and play through this game again. It won't be as fun as the first time; learning to play and finding out the story were awesome. If you haven't played this game, you're really missing out.

Portal 2 is set to come out on February 9, 2011.

"When the testing is over, you will be... missed."

Friday, October 1, 2010

Dark Side of the 8-bit Moon

Today's post will also be a short one. I felt like I had to share this with you, Faithful Readers.

Being a huge nerd, I'm a big fan of listening to video game music. However, I'm also an audiophile in general. One of my favorite bands is Pink Floyd. About a year ago, a buddy of mine showed me something that combined my love of video game music and my love of Floyd perfectly.



That was the first part of an effort by one guy to arrange Dark Side of the Moon in its entirety for NES. It was created using Famitracker, sound rendered with NSFplug. It's INCREDIBLY well done. Some of it's comical; I guarantee you'll hear at least one sound effect you recognize from an old NES game. The coin noise in Money, for example, is one that everyone should know.

Check it out; give at least one track a listen. Great Gig in the Sky is one of my favorites. If you have time, the whole album is worth listening to.














Anyways, to make it clear, I had no part in the making of this. Just passing it along.

The whole set is available for download for free from the creator's website, too. http://rainwarrior.thenoos.net/music/moon8.html

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Mega Man Live-Action Film!

Today's post will be short one. In keeping with the Mega Man theme, I thought I'd share this. It's a full-length live-action fan made Mega Man film. It was done for no profit, all costs out of pocket, and it was surprisingly well done. I started watching it thinking that I'd quit watching within 10 minutes or so, but I got sucked in and watched the whole damned thing. It's pretty good. The CGI is a little shaky, but even that was good, considering the budget.

The absolute best part is the actor for Dr. Wily. That guy was PERFECT for the role. Seriously, go check it out. You think it's hokey, but who knows? You may watch the whole movie and really enjoy it, just like I did.

Be sure to full-screen it! This window is tiny on purpose.


"MegaMan"-Fan Film from Eddie Lebron on Vimeo.

Watch it! Fullscreen it!

Just to make it clear, I had no part in the making of this film. I'm just one guy who loves Mega Man waaaay too much. Enjoy :-)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

"The Return of Sigma"

This is the last in a trilogy of reviews on the Mega Man X games for SNES. Today's review will be on Mega Man X3.

Things just look so much...shinier...

Mega Man X3 was developed by Capcom and released in America in early 1995. It was the last of the Mega Man X titles to appear on the SNES, and in my humble opinion, the least strong of the three. It's still a great game, but I feel like it just wasn't quite as good as the other two. Let's break this game down and see just whafuck.

Story: 8/10

The story in X3 is, like all the Mega Man games, pretty interesting. In 21xx, a scientist named Dr. Doppler finds an 'anti-virus' that neutralizes the Maverick threat. All seems to be well, and the reformed Reploids move with Dr. Doppler to a newly created utopian town called Doppler Town (really, I couldn't make up that town name if I wanted to).

However, the peace doesn't last for long. The Reploids soon revert to their Maverick ways and the blame falls on Dr. Doppler. It's up to X and Zero to investigate and take out the next wave of Mavericks and stop Dr. Doppler from causing any more damage.

Dr. Doppler certainly LOOKS like a friendly guy, right?

I won't worry about spoilers since 95% of you either have played this game already or haven't played it but don't care about story. This story suffers from the same problem Mega Man 4 did. In Mega Man 4, after defeating Wily in 3 previous games, the main antagonist was instead a man named Dr. Cossack. However, as everyone could guess, Dr. Cossack was merely a puppet to--guess who--Dr. Wily. Mega Man X3 has an incredibly similar story. It's not exactly the same, but damned close, with Sigma being the puppetmaster of sorts.

Sigma's completely brutal...could you say no to this guy?

Graphics: 9/10

X3 uses the same graphics chip as X2, the CX4. It's the only game made besides X2 that uses the CX4, too. As such, you can expect to see some super cool wireframe action towards the end of the game. It's done in a much more interesting way than it was in X2, as well.

The wireframe stuff just looks so COOL in game.

It really is a pretty slick-looking game. X3 cuts down on a lot of the lag that was present in both X and X2, making gameplay a lot quicker. On the downside, though, some things have been simplified, like the boss animations. A lot of the Mavericks only have 3-4 total animations for their characters. While it's not a huge issue, it does detract a little bit from the overall experience.

Gameplay: 7/10

The gameplay is where X3 kind of steps away from the other two X games for SNES. The basic scheme is the same: run and gun through a level, fight a boss, use his weapon on the next boss, etc.



The controls are the exact same and just as responsive as ever. There's still E-tanks and hearts hidden throughout the levels. The capsule system returns, albeit changed a bit. There's still 4 capsules that give you additional abilities. Instead of a hidden Street Fighter-esque move, though, there's additional pink capsules. After collecting the main 4 capsule abilities, you have a choice between 4 pink capsules that each further upgrade one of your 4 abilities. If you choose to skip them all, though, you have a choice to later get a 'golden chip' that will give you all 4 super-upgrades.

One huge change in this game is the fact that Zero is now a playable character throughout the whole game. If I recall correctly, it's as simple as going into the pause menu and hitting L or R. Zero uses his beam saber rather than an X-buster. He also has a very large amount of life. He saber is a melee weapon, but it's incredibly powerful. Playing as Zero seems like a good thing, but there are two downsides, one small and one huge. The minor downside is that Zero can't walk through any doors, even mini-boss doors, so you have to momentarily switch back to X. This can get annoying. The major downside is that Zero's life is finite; if he dies, he's dead for the whole game. This will even affect your ending if Zero's dead by the time you beat the game.

Another big (but mostly useless) addition is ride armors. These are large mech suits that you can use on certain pads scattered throughout the stages. One allows you to travel better underwater, another lets you fly, etc. The problem is that they're hardly utilized. You'll find that only two or three are ever needed, and only then to get a quick heart or E-tank, and then you won't end up using it for the rest of the game. I think it would've been a great system, had it been implemented a little better.

The four ride armors.

Sound: 7/10

In my humble opinion, this is the weakest point in X3. The soundtrack just didn't have the same vibe as it did in the other two X games. It certainly wasn't a "bad" soundtrack by any means. It was totally respectable. It just didn't quite capture the mood of any given level as well as the music did in X or X2. As per usual, here's a sampling of some completely random tracks from the game. First, the intro level's music, one of the best songs on the soundtrack.



And here's a track from Neon Tiger's stage, Urban Jungle, one of the weaker tracks (again, just my opinion).



Replay Value: 8/10

This game kind of goes against the other two X games for SNES in that it has a couple more big reasons to replay through it. The addition of Zero as a playable character is a huge boost since you can try to play through the game only using Zero and not let him die. There's also different bosses you fight towards the end depending on how you've killed Bit and Byte. Otherwise, the only reason to come back to this game is to attempt a playthrough with no power-ups, and then a playthrough using only your X-buster.



Thanks for sticking with me through this trilogy. It's a great bunch of games, and I really hope you all end up trying them out at some point.

And thanks for reading!

Below are links to both the original Mega Man X3 for SNES as well as the Mega Man X Collection. Recently, I bought this collection, and it's phenomenally awesome. It has Mega Man X through Mega Man X6 in all their glory, as well as a racing game based on the original Mega Man series that was only released in Japan. It's well worth buying the collection. Even the racing game is a blast; it's like Mario Kart, only a hundred times more involved.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

"The Blue Bomber Strikes Back"

This is the second review in a trilogy of the Mega Man X games for SNES. We'll focus today on Mega Man X2.

If you see this intro on your TV, prepare to have your face rocked.

Mega Man X2 was developed by Capcom and released in both Japan and America in December of 1994. It's one of my favorite games for SNES, and probably of all time. A lot of the reason why I love it so much is nostalgia, but it's also just an all-around well built game. Let's jump in X-buster first and see why.

Story: 10/10 


I've already explained the backstory for the Mega Man X series. This game takes place six months and 13 days after the fall of Sigma in Mega Man X. X is now the leader of the Maverick Hunters. Even though Sigma has died, the Mavericks still continue to wreak havoc everywhere.

Three Maverick leaders, Serges, Violen, and Agile (the X-Hunters), establish a base on the North Pole. They claim to have all of Zero's parts (since Zero was destroyed during the first game). They split up the three pieces of his body, taunting X with them, hoping to lure him out and destroy him once and for all. The big question: do they have Zero's control chip?

Zero, X's equally badass partner.

This game was a little bit more story-heavy than the last (in-game, at least), which I think was a welcome change. As I've said before, I really love the story throughout both the Mega Man and Mega Man X series.


Graphics: 9/10


This game uses the same graphics engine as Mega Man X; as such, it looks just as beautiful. The huge difference is that this one seems to have a lot less slowdown. I think this is mostly because of the developers making the enemies more evenly dispersed and having less fast sequences like the mine car ride in MMX1.

This game is notable in that it uses the CX4 chip, one of only two games to use it. The CX4 was added to every cartridge for Mega Man X2 to help quickly perform general trigonometric calculations for wireframe effects and sprite positioning and rotation. It helped them make some really slick-looking sequences you can see towards the end of the game. The carts all still have the option to view the wireframe debug scene by holding down B at startup.

It looks so much cooler in motion...much cooler than, say, a Vectrex.

Gameplay: 10/10

The gameplay in Mega Man X2 is much the same as in X, albeit with a few minor tweaks. You run and gun through a level until you reach the boss room. When you beat the boss, you get his weapon. Every boss is weak against another boss's weapon. Finding the right order is half the fun.

Always start with Wheel Gator, then Overdrive Ostrich. Trust me.

Instead of having to find the dash this time, you start with it. The capsule system is still present, but the upgrades are different. One allows you to dash in midair. The helmet upgrade lets you search for hidden passages. The armor upgrade lets you absorb shots from enemies to fill up a meter; when it's full, you can use a super explosion 9000 attack, hurting everything on screen quite a bit.

Capcom put in another hidden capsule when you find all the others and all the heart tanks and E-tanks. This one's just as hard to find as the one in Mega Man X, but instead of Hadouken, this time you find Shoryuken, the uppercut move used by Ryu and Ken in the Street Fighter series. Like the Hadouken, it's a one-hit kill on any enemy and almost all of the bosses.



Sound: 10/10

Mega Man X2 had, in my opinion, one of the best soundtracks of any SNES game. Definitely top 5, at least. The sound effects were largely the same as Mega Man X, but the soundtrack is much better. It has more of a metal vibe the whole way throughout, with the exception of a few stages like Crystal Snail and Bubble Crab. Like usual, rather than talking about it too much, I'll just post a song. This is the opening song from the first introductory level, the Reploid Factory.



Here's one more, the music for Flame Stag's stage. This is what I mean when I say the soundtrack had a more metal vibe. Still a lot of the old Capcom electronica you've come to expect from the Mega Man series, though.



Replay Value: 7/10

Sadly, this game has about as much replay value as Mega Man X; not a whole damned lot. The big pull is the same as MMX: go back through and get every upgrade and get the Shoryuken. The other big things to try are playing through with no e-tanks/hearts, and if you can do that, try a game with only the X-buster. It's hard, but it's completely do-able. The only thing that might give you trouble is the final boss.

If you're seeing this screen on your TV, your face has been successfully rocked.

Trust me, though, you will come back to this game at least once. I tend to beat through it once every few months. I'm a bit of a nutbar, so I don't imagine most of you will play it once every few months, but it truly is a great game.