Archive for December 2009

My First taste of the Forbidden Fruit

December 28, 2009

Christmas this year was just as I had predicted, fast, fun and full of gifts.  Most of these gifts for me were of the gaming variety some of which I’ll write about later but right now I wanted to concentrate on one in particular.  For Christmas this year I received my first ever import games straight from the land of the rising sun.  The game, Game Center CX 2 Arino No Chousenjou, which is based on a television show in Japan about a man named Arino who play’s retro games and usually has a challenge to beat with each of them.  I haven’t seen much but most of the challenges just seem to be “beat the game” but sometimes to switch it up.  The game itself is a sequel to a game that was released here in the states by the name of Retro Game Challenge and didn’t have any real connection to the tv show.  Retro Game Challenge’s premise was simple but hard to explain.  In the game you are a small child in the 80s who happens to be a gaming prodigy and you live out these years playing fictional games on a fictional system that closely resembles the NES’s Japanese counterpart the Famicom.  All throughout these years a giant floating head in space brings forth challenges for you to accomplish before you can proceed to next game.  But you’re not left to fend for yourself against these challenges, just like in the golden days of gaming you have gaming magazines to help you out with walkthroughs and occasional cheats.  Now all of this was cool of enough in concept but the actual games in it were great fun too.  They were all parodies of popular games of the time including Galaga, Ninja Gaiden, and Dragon Quest.  The only conspicuous absence being a Mario style platformer which is mostly what I played during the times the game is replicating.  Alas though disappointing sales with the first games forces XSEED, the games publisher in America to declare they would not be publishing the second game.  This would not do for me, Retro Game Challenge was high up there for one of my favorite games of 2009 so onto the Christmas list the import of the sequel went.  Now Christmas has come and gone and I’ve had some time with the game I figured I would share my thoughts.

Japanese games are batshit crazy.  That’s my first thought playing this game with the smiling floating Arino head wearing a crown and cape barks orders at you in some bizarre moon language.  Even while you play your games your buddy who watches ever so patiently shouts inane things at you some of them just barely resembling english such as “POWERU UPU!!”.  Despite the language and cultural barriers I feel like the game isn’t that hard to get into initially.  The top option of the menu is play the games, which the selection is based of pictures and the last option on the menu is to save.  Seems simple enough but alot of what made the first game extra special is lost on me such as the gaming magazines to read or the random comments your friend would say such as something about blowing into a cartridge to make it work.  That aside the games so far have been pretty good.  I’m only halfway through but as of now I’ve unlocked Wiz-man a Pac-man clone, Kung- Fu which I don’t think is it’s actual name but it’s the only translation I found and it’s a clone of a game called Kung-Fu.  The last 2 being Demon Returns a Mario clone and Detective Arino and clone of old disk based text adventures.  Demon Returns and Wiz-man are the total stand outs for me and I will most definitely revisit them when I complete all the challenges.

Something that the new game does that the old one didn’t is visit different systems, you’re not just limited to the Famicom clone this time.  Now you have something more akin to the Famicom disk system and the MSX that they call the MASA-X both of which weren’t released in America. This is cool because it changes up the graphical and musical style of some of the games so something odd yet familiar.

One thing I haven’t had as much of an issue with that I thought I would is the language barrier.  I know zero Japanese but I’m chugging along  just fine.  As it was back in the day most of the text in the games themselves is in English, unless there’s alot of it.  I found a guide online for translating the challenges for each game so I’ll know what I need to do to proceed but most of the time they’re not that hard to figure out just by reading the text.  Numbers are usually in English characters so if I see 100 I know I probably have to collect 100 of something or if I see 1-4 I probably have to beat 1-4 no warping of course.  My biggest obstacle thus far has been the the text adventure which I have found a step by step walkthrough for which feels cheap but it’s a godsend when you don’t know a lick of the language.

When I decided that this was something I wanted to get into I was nervous that it would be some insurmountable challenge getting past the Japanese language and I would give up and there would be a great import game just sitting on my shelf collecting dust.  But I’m 14 challenges in and I’m loving it.  It seems gaming is something that transcends languages.  Most conventions are the same, you run to the right to get to the end, you jump on enemies to kill them, pits are bad etc.  I do hope that the rest of my play through will go as smoothly as it had so far and I’ll write my thoughts up when I have completed the game.

And as an added bonus I got my first game soundtracks this Christmas this year as well!  The games being Secret of Mana, Legend of Mana, and Final Fantasy Tactics.  There’s nothing to out of the ordinary about them except there’s covered in Japanese text and have discs dedicated to the finest music composed by man.  I just find it crazy that I have a legit cd dedicated to and SNES soundtrack and it’s awesome

Til next time kids

Christmas Time Gaming

December 15, 2009

For as long as I can remember Christmas and gaming have gone hand in hand.  I still play games throughout the year but at Christmas it seems to resonate more with me.  It’s not all about the games I get for Christmas, although that is an key part, but it’s also about the games I chose to play during the holidays.  This tradition started way back when I was a kid, didn’t have any expendable income and had to rent games all the time.  Me and one of my parents would pack up every few weekends and head to the local Blockbuster to drop 5 bucks for a 3 day rental of what was most likely a Genesis game.  Around Christmas though I would try to pick games that I knew had good winter themed levels and winter themed music.  I gave examples of these with Sonic 3d Blast and Ristar, both of these games I 1st played in the winter before the coming days of Christmas.  I can still remember other games that I played around the holidays for those brief 3 days.  Duke Nukem 64 was a great one with a kickass theme,  I played it with Christmas lights wrapped all around my bed while playing air guitar.  Speaking of the N64, Mario 64 is another game I associate with the season of lights.  I 1st played Mario 64 around Christmas by renting a system and the game form Blockbuster and being absolutely wowed by the 3d platformer.

But I can’t write this without mentioning some of the games great Genesis games I got for Christmas while I was a child.  Games like Vectorman, Sonic and Knuckles and Rocket Knight Adventures can still conjure up those old Yuletide feelings when I play them to this day.  This Christmas seems to be setting up for another great one for me and gaming.  So far I’ve already received an early gift from my girlfriend, New Super Mario Bros. Wii which I’m sure I’ll have a post about later on.  I also should be seeing Modern Warfare 2, Uncharted 2 and possibly Dragon Age: Origins from the good ole Saint Nick on the big day.  And if luck has it I’ll be getting Assassin’s Creed 2 the day after Christmas.  Sounds like too much doesn’t it?  Well my family goes all out for Christmas and games are usually all I ask for. I just hope my 360 can stand the strain of all these new games and not go red on me.

Wish me luck

Happy Holidays to all!

Defending the Genesis Sound Chip

December 1, 2009

Growing up in during the 16-bit wars was a very interesting time.  The lines were drawn, you had to pick your side and stand your ground. What made this so much fun was the playground arguments this would spawn between friends about their console of choice.  This was entertaining, but with the advent of the anonymity of internet of forums today’s console wars are just flat out silly but still do provide some entertainment from time to time.

This boy was a Genesis kid.  Not because of some undying love for Sega or anything. It was simple my brother got a SNES first and I had to have a Genesis and that’s where my side was chosen.  Being an adult now and looking back on the large catalog of SNES games I missed in their heyday makes me sad but I don’t feel I made the wrong decision.  I played a ton of great games but missed out on an equal if not greater amount.  But with all of that behind and having caught up on those titles I feel I have a nice perspective on the conflict between the 2 systems.

However one argument that I seems arise from time to time among gaming websites and forums that was never brought up on the playground is the Genesis’ inferior sound chip compared to the SNES.  Some would even go so far as to say it was just flat out bad.  While I will freely admit that even as a young child the few Super Nintendo soundtracks I heard I thought were amazing, that doesn’t mean that the Genesis was no slouch either.  I will now present to the few who might stumble upon this blog the evidence that the Genesis sound chip could produce it’s own groovy tunes.

Exhibit A:  Sonic the Hedgehog 2 – Emerald Hill Zone  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=McO5xi1CHs8 Start things off with a classic most have probably heard but maybe not fully appreciated.  Listen to that groovy bass line and infectious melody that in my humble opinion couldn’t sound much better.

Exhibit B: Rocket Knight Adventures – Stage 5-1  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BdkWEdBVEas Rocket Knight has a great soundtrack all the way up to stage 5 but that’s when shit gets real.  This track is epic and matches the on screen action perfectly with Sparkster storming the pig capital on his rocket back while being attacked by giant missiles.  It also has an odd quality that I can’t quite put my finger on that most of the tracks will have too.

Exhibit C: Dynamite Headdy – Southtown Theme http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zv-mfTsw_s4 This track is a mess and I love it.  The beginning sounds nothing short of a big band with a xylophone and quickly morphs into several different quick songs I can’t even describe.  This song perfectly conveys the odd beast that is Dynamite Headdy, but it’s also a truly awesome beast as well.

Exhibit the 4th: Sonic & Knuckles – Lava Reed Zone Act 1 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wo_4R17gYSY This is the second Sonic song on this list and I know that Sonic music for the most part isn’t under appreciated and is one of the few series of games on the Genesis where the music is praised.  This is one song I feel is greatly under appreciated in the pantheon of Sonic music.

Exhibit the Eth: Streets of Rage II – Wave 131 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=emPpy0Rkj0A To prove that this list isn’t nostalgia tainted the next on my list will be songs that I’ve only recently heard.  The 1st being this funky tune from Streets of Rage II.  This song definitely embodies the 90’s arcade feel of music for me.  Yuzo Koshiro had a another masterpiece on his hands with this one.

Exhibit F: Golden Axe III – Ancient Mound http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FHiv8DWYPx8&feature=related Another game I never played as a child mostly because it didn’t actually come out beyond the Sega Channel.  But I did have the chance to play it on Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection and while the game isn’t that great this song stuck out to me.  I love the synth sounds used to create the melodies and how this track seems to escape the tinny sound that seems to be in most Genesis songs

Exhibit G: Sparkster – Level 1-1 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yfurXePADXw This seems like a pretty bare bones song compared to some of the wacky epic songs that were in the 1st Rocket Knight but it sets the stage perfectly.  It has a very determined sound to it.  Sparkster had a princess to rescue and by golly he was gonna do it no matter how many Lizards got it in his way and this is the perfect song to embody it.  And for those of you wondering, yes I have heard the SNES version and yes I do like this one better.

Exhibit H : Sonic 3D Blast – Diamond Dust Zone Act 1 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mf7-ixllcgo&feature=related “Another Sonic theme!” you say, well relax because if the last one is under appreciated then this on is downright overlooked.  Listening to it now I’m still amazed at how much sound the engineers were able to pull out of the sound chip.  It sounds like so much is going on this song, more than there actually is and that’s awesome

Exhibit the last: Ristar – Rink Rink http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8VUkBoCJro The last song is a song I can’t articulate why I like, it’s just a beautiful song.  I always tend to like ice levels in these old schools games and this is one the essential themes when I think about them today.

 

That’s my list, I could put plenty more up there but I wanted to keep it fairly short.  Now I know what you’re thinking, you’re thinking that most of what makes these songs great can be attributed to great composition and doesn’t have anything to do with the Genesis.  That’s true these songs are great because of excellent composition, the point I’m trying to get across is that if the Genesis sound chip was as bad as it’s made out to be these songs would be nothing more than excellent compositions that sound like complete crap.