I really think that the music of Final Fantasy VIII is overlooked because it was such a divisive game. That's a darn shame because it has some of the most unique and catchy tunes of the series. There's a couple odd-balls in the soundtrack of course, maybe the strangest being Compression of Time. This is my second FFVIII remix, the first being a metal take on Lunatic Pandora.
Not really sure what grabs me about the original song, maybe it's the subtle poly-rhythm harp thing, or the outlandish horn noise. Either way, it was a fitting song for the endgame, with all time being compressed and you falling from the sky fighting mutated sorceress ladies. I tried to encapsulate that feeling the best I could...with some dope dance beats and crazy drum patterns, along with plenty of filtering all over everything. Is it really trance? I have no idea, but it's entrancing. So that counts in my book!
You can check out my soundcloud for more video game remixes and random original pieces. My tastes are kind of all over the place so I don't cater to one particular genre.
Though these are more short-hand notes with self-explanatory thumbnail images for myself, I figure someone out there can get use out of them as well. If you need reference, check out Funkdoc's Trevor-only speedrun, practice a bit on emulator, and then you will better grasp the mechanics and levels to where these notes will then become useful.
Castlevania III is a really tough game. But like many NES games, it can be conquered with relative ease just through trial-and-error memorization. I watched a speedrun of the game just to figure out cheap boss strategies for my casual playthrough, but eventually I wanted to give the real thing a go.
But then of course, it becomes hard again, because you're resetting every time you lose your sub-weapon of choice, or miss a jump and fall into a pit. Hopefully my notes are of some help to you (or maybe inspire you to speedrun this or another game from your childhood).
Practicing should be done on an emulator, and FCEUX is the most accurate NES emulator out there, so I recommend that. If you want to take it a step further you can get a USB NES controller adapter, which is what I use, to emulate as much of the console feeling as possible.
First, watch the speedrun to get a lay of each level, and the tricks involved. CV3 is a solid game, and doesn't have any sequence breaks or glitches...so it's all solid play all the time (and a tiny bit of randomness).
Next, create savestates at the beginning of each level. Grind away at the tough sections of each stage, reloading until you feel comfortable with each level. It sounds tedious because it is. Thus is any form of practice. Remember that these are save states and things that are random (such as item drops from enemies) will never behave the same way in any legit run of the game. For instance, you can't bank on the owl ALWAYS dropping a stopwatch that you have to jump over, because that probably won't happen in the same place again.
What you can do is practice good habit...jump over EVERY enemy corpse when possible, because every enemy has a chance to drop random crappy sub-weapons, and since the run is built on maintaining your sub-weapon and multiplier, if you pick up a knife drop from a merman, the run is over. Practice ways to control the randomness. The Mermen in stage 5 spawn semi-randomly from the water, but you may be able to develop a strategy that takes care of multiple formations without having to do anything different. Anything you can put into muscle memory is invaluable.
Always maintain forward momentum unless a strategy specifically involves pausing for a moment, or you have to stop for projectiles/platforms/etc.
Attacking with whip or sub-weapons is always faster while in a forward-moving jump. Always jump attack when possible.
Max your sub-weapon multiplier ASAP. You must hit 10 things with the sub-weapon to get X2, and then 10 more for X3. This allows 2 or 3 instances of the same weapon on screen at once. Hitting things includes candles, enemies, and projectiles.
Max your whip upgrades ASAP. The first can be gotten from a candle or enemy when you have 5+ hearts. The second requires 10+ hearts. You can only get the second after getting the first. These increase the damage and then length of the whip.
Jumping over enemies is quicker than killing them, so all infinite spawning enemies like zombies should be jumped. This will also 100% avoid drops since them living means they can't drop anything.
Avoid enemy drops by jumping over the spots enemies die on. If you kill them on an edge you have to jump off of, you have no choice but to wait. Flying enemies or ones that come from the ceiling (spiders) are often killed while you're directly under them, so sometimes you will get a drop that is unavoidable, and thus the run is over.
Know the heart counts you need by the bosses, having too much isn't bad, except that the counter has to count down all remaining hearts at the end of a level. Expend excess hearts before the orb materializes when possible.
Have a back-up plan. Maybe dying isn't the end of a run if you know a holy water is a room away in a candle somewhere. Sometimes it's better to reset, but not always.
Trevor jumps a set distance and height every time, he walks a set distance every time you input a forward direction. Knowing this, using visual cues for jumps, boss triggers, and other strategy is a must. Since the ground is broken up into blocks, I use them as a marker on where I need to stand to perform things. In the large tower climb rooms, a lack of visual cues likely will mean your death.
Unfortunately Giant Bomb doesn't have a guide feature anymore, which is kind of a shame as I would have been happy to create it here. Instead, I had to do it in a google spreadsheet, which is available publicly here. There's too much content and images to put it in a blog/forum post, but it's one click away and is easily navigable.
The "guide" contains a short description followed by a thumbnail image that illustrates parts of the level that are worth noting. This is not a normal guide for the game, so if you look at it not having played through CV3, you're likely to be confused as it leaves a lot of stuff out. The stuff left out is usually common sense, like "kill these enemies in a normal way that doesn't take a bunch of time" or something. Anything that you don't inherently grasp from the thumbnail will be gained through experiencing the game itself, and watching a speedrun of it.
Several images have multiple instances of Trevor, and are sometimes color-coated to denote meaning, though the colors them self don't mean anything, instead just serving to differentiate one character model from another.
This thumbnail to the left for instance, says in no words, "climb this half of the stairs, from the point Trevor is standing (he's green), do an immediate jump to the right (Right+A), and then whip in midair to hit the candle and skeleton simultaneously...which will give you your second whip upgrade.". This is why that saying "pictures speak 1,000 words" exists. It's kind of true, and I could think of no better way to actually take notes for position-based things like this.
I"ll embed an image of the entire guide below, I suppose it looks more like a flowchart or something. Remember to just go to the spreadsheet, it's more comprehensible as you can read the notes and scroll around.
NorCal Regionals 2013, a Road To Evo event, begins today! It lasts all weekend, April 26th-28th, and is the long running fighting game tournament for the Northern California scene. Expect to see some bangers including international competition such as Daigo, Infiltration, and Momochi. It's the first official Divekick Tournament, and one of the first FGC majors to take Smash seriously and give it a spot in the line-up (it actually got the most entrants well beyond any other game). Check out the trailer below, I made it! Here's my youtube channel if you're interested. Remix is available here.
Since I got back into classic/retro gaming late this year, I've had a ton of fun playing games that weren't from 2012, in the year 2012. Rather than make a confusing GOTY list that encompasses both old and new games, I figured I'd separate them. So the only criteria necessary for a game to go into this list, is for it not to be released in 2012. Here we go!
10. Kirby's Adventure (NES)
Kirby's Adventure has lot of things going for it. Multiple saves, multiple worlds, multiple exits within stages, 25 abilities that can be absorbed from enemies with the copy ability...you could even absorb multiple enemies and get an ability lottery that could net you broken late-game powers early on. You'd think that Kirby's Adventure is ahead of its time, but in reality, it came out two years after Super Mario World. It explains a lot of things, as some of the late era NES games brought in renovations found in newer consoles. Sure it had a fair amount of slowdown, but it was such a beautiful game with tons of animation and a nice color palette, that you can forgive those things. Even if it's crippling slowdown at times. And besides, it has some of the best world names of all time. Orange Ocean? Vegetable Valley? Grape Gardens? Yogurt Yard? ICE CREAM ISLAND?! I'm not sure about "Butter Building" though, they could have called it "Margarine Mansion" after all. The game also had a ton of mini-games that were actually fun, like the quick draw, egg eating, and crane game (a crane game, fun? imagine that). The bosses all had an easy strategy if you had the right power when entering the fight, but you rarely did since you always lost it or absorbed something that looked cool and turned out to be crap.
09. Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (NES)
I was tormented by this game as a child. I only ever beat two palaces, I could never reliably beat those knights or any palace bosses, and every time you died you just went back to the very beginning of the game! Even more tormented than myself was my Mother, she had beat the first Zelda and was determined to beat Zelda II. I have fond memories of her cursing those axe-throwing dudes in death mountain, and complaining that it's impossible to get the cross to travel through those areas with invisible eyeball enemies. I did a Rocky-montage playthrough of this game a while back, in the GameSpot days. It was on emulator, and I used a bunch of save states, so it wasn't much of a run. It wasn't until I watched some speed-runners play this game, that it finally clicked with me. The game's controls are incredibly intuitive, the side-scrolling combat is difficult but rewarding once you nail some of the more difficult strategies. The fairy glitch helps out a lot, letting you travel through locked doors when you run into one without having a key. There are some definite cryptic moments akin to Castlevania II, and all the townsfolk are either giving Link happy endings in their black market massage parlor, or feeding him useless dialog boxes like the famous "I am Error", or the fat lady that turns into a bat after she says "HI!". This game is brutal, but it's fucking fair, and the music is godlike. I love Zelda II.
08. Silent Hill: Shattered Memories (Wii)
I played this in 2011 a fair bit, but got distracted by other things and never beat it. I finally got around to it again in the beginning of 2012, this time the actual Wii version. This game is a re-imagining of Silent Hill for the PS1, but it sort of combines themes from multiple Silent Hills, kind of like the first movie did. The most interesting part about Shattered Memories, is that it's mostly a choose-your-own-adventure novel, and a personal psyche evaluation, and not so much a game with gameplay challenges. You don't shoot or even fight any of the enemies in the game, when it goes all icy and Silent Hill world on you, you just run the fuck for your GODDAMN LIFE and hope you're going in the right direction. To aid you with your path-finding, Harry has a cellphone that shows you a map of the area, as well as takes photos and receives text messages and phone calls. The game tailors the events to your decisions you make in these scenes when talking to a psychiatrist. Depending on how exciting or dull your answers are in these tests and riddles, you will get an appropriate representation of people and events in the game, from the eyes of the persona you portrayed. I really can't say anything else about this game, other than that there is a twist, and BOY is it a good one. There are multiple endings and ways to manipulate the scenes you get, but I would recommend avoiding any guides or word of mouth, as it's best to go in fresh and not worry about that crap at all. This is an experience you should have, and I'm not going to be one to ruin that for you should you decide to pick it up.
07. Light Crusader (Genesis)
This is one of the few on this list that I hadn't actually heard of until this year. I purchased a grip of 50 Genesis games over Amazon's digital service, and Light Crusader was included in that package. It's made by treasure and is a Genesis game made in 1995, and man both of those things show. The game itself is a floor-by-floor dungeon crawling action RPG, with a hub town and the basic setup that everyone has been getting abducted or has otherwise gone missing, and it's up to Frederick the hero to get to the bottom of this, literally to the bottom...of a dungeon that lies under the town cemetery The music is excellent, and there's some tight isometric platforming and combat to keep you interested. You find and can purchase different elements of magic, and can combine two together for interesting spell results, which will play a key role in surviving some of the challenges you'll face down below. My favorite parts in the game are the silly parts. The off-brand humor in the game is great, and beyond the intentional humor there is plenty of unintentional humor (which is even better). The physics of people and objects in the world, allow your character model to push them around the area at will, including the king, his cat, his throne, some cows in a field...anything can be nudged around with no reaction from these people. There are voice samples whenever you enter a room with a group of enemies or a puzzle, and it sounds terribly muffled...but it makes me crack up every time I hear "ANSWER THE RIDDLE" or the simple "BEAT. THEM."
06. Shadowgate (NES)
The trio of ICOM Simulations adventure games were released for multiple platforms, but they are best on the NES. Featuring some of the best music I've ever heard on the NES, and some strange puzzle solutions that can only be figured out from trial and error, these games were silly and humorous, while also offering great challenge as a kid. I used to be quite scared of Shadowgate. The torch mechanic is terrifying, as you only have so many torches in the game, and you constantly have to keep one burning. I always feared that I would run out of torches while trying to solve some of the more cryptic puzzles, and sure enough...I died many times that way. The game was pretty dark and featured some creepy stuff for a child, and you could even kill your own character with basically every item in the game. Use > Sword > Self. HE PLUNGES THE SWORD INTO HIS CHEST. Holy shit. Then the grim reaper appears and welcomes you to an eternity of hell. But you could also plunge a hammer into your chest. That sounds either impossible or really, really, painful and time-consuming. I think what I loved most about these games, is all the movies and novels they basically ripped off everything from, all the horror tropes were accounted for between Shadowgate and Uninvited. Deja Vu wasn't about horror at all, that was more noire and old detective movies, but retained most of the same charm and puzzle-solving. Just replace death with BEING ARRESTED. I choose Shadowgate because it haunted my mind as a child, but all three of these ICOM games are bangers.
05. Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake (MSX2)
It's a darn shame that this never came out in America until 2006, when it came with MGS3: Subsistence on PS2. MG2 is pretty revolutionary, and it's easy to see where the original Metal Gear Solid got its groove from, as many of those MGS elements appear in less evolved form in MG2. In the original Metal Gear, guards could only see spaces directly in front of them, where in MG2, they get an actual peripheral vision. The guards also patrolled between multiple screens, making the handy 9-screen radar important to planning routes through areas. Alert phases persisted across multiple screens, punishing Snake more for his mistakes and making stealth more of a necessity. In addition to all this, you could crawl under fences and through air ducts, and the codec conversations were more integral to the experience, featuring plenty of contacts, and story exposition. The game fills a giant hole that would otherwise not be filled in the Metal Gear story arch, if you had only played MGS1 and onward. What's funny is how Kojima essentially steals his own gameplay and plot points over and over through the entire series of Metal Gear, as many of the boss fights and sequences from MGS, appear to have been homage to MG2 parts. Which in turn makes it weirder that MGS2 is basically a retelling/simulation of the events of MGS1 with Raiden instead of snake. Talk about a mindfuck, that's what Metal Gear is all about, and it's in tip top shape back on the MSX2 computer system. The best moment is when you kill Big Boss with an aerosol can and a lighter. Like seriously. THE END OF BIG BOSS as we know it, was due to some child prank you can do with a can of hairspray? What?
04. Arcus Odyssey (Genesis)
The other Genesis Game on this list that I knew nothing about until this year, Arcus Odyssey. This is a Renovation Products publication, so in that typical fashion, it's awesome, hard to find, full of anime cutscenes, and...awesome? This is a co-op isometric action RPG, that features four characters to choose from. Each character has different vitality and strength, and has a different base weapon to combat enemies with. The typical sword hero is the easiest to use as he shoots rapid fire (as fast as you can mash) wave beam things out of his sword, directly in front of him. The lady with the Chain is also pretty unique, she can lunge it out at a great distance, or whirl it around 360 degrees to hit enemies surrounding her. In addition to the base attack, you can find several power-ups or magics to use, such as orbs that whirl around the character, shielding you from attacks, and health pick-ups that are instant, upon death, or consumable at your leisure. In the second level you will pick up a computer controlled partner if you don't have a second player, and they will generally shoot in the direction you're facing/moving. Plenty of huge bosses to fight, and treasures to find, and it's at an arcade game style pace, with continues that bring you back to the beginning of the current stage...so it's not too discouraging should you die. The weirdest choice the developers made with this game, is that by holding down the attack button, you throw up a shield that deflects projectiles. But why the attack button? It makes it annoying to get through narrow corridors, as you have to release the shield then mash on the very same button, then hold it and wait for the shield to pop up again, before getting hit. Typically the best strategy is to move as quickly as you can to advance the screen while mashing the attack, as their attacks won't have time to animate and come out to hit you. It's a really cool game, that I expect to play a lot of in the coming year.
03. Harvest Moon 64 (N64)
I love Harvest Moon. And any farming simulation chill-out type game like it. It's just my kind of zen, a cathartic experience that I can return to infinitely. Harvest Moon 64 is definitely the best of them in my eyes, as it's not too complicated, but features all the charm of a Harvest Moon, and most of the features such as marriage, home renovations, affinity building for townsfolk and lady-friends, and festival participation. Harvest Moon: Back To Nature for the PS1 is very similar, but more complicated with a larger city, swapped-around personalities on the same characters, a deeper harvesting system with gnome helpers, and a time-consuming tool leveling progression. HM64 is essentially the same game, but with less of the crap you don't want to do, better controls (not weird hit down to go diagonally down-left), and no awful saving and loading sequences between days whenever you go to sleep. What's there to say? I like the pink-haired lady, she has pink hair and is easy to build affinity with, since she likes flowers. There is an affinity glitch with Karen, where you can get her to red heart in one day, but that's sort of unfulfilling and ruins most of the game. Rune Factory carries on the torch of Harvest Moon today, with a little bit more Action RPG stuff and dungeon crawling, but nothing will be as good as Harvest Moon 64 in my opinion.
02. Adventures of Lolo (NES)
The premise of Adventures of Lolo, is you're a blue gumball dude (Lolo), and your pink gumball ladyfriend (Lala) is captured by "The Great Devil", a.k.a. King Egger. You have to traverse 10 floors of puzzles (50 stages) to rescue your girl. The puzzles consist of pushing blocks around and grabbing hearts. When you grab all the hearts, a treasure chest opens and you grab a pearl which unlocks the next room. There are many things to stop you from doing this, including Medusas that will instantly kill you if you cross their path with no obstruction between you, armadillos which hunt you down and touch you to kill you, don Medusas which are essentially moving medusas, either horizontally or vertically, a walking stone face named Rocky who runs at you to back you into a wall or corner, impeding your progress, and various other POS enemies. There are also snakeys, who don't really do anything but sit there, and usually have something to do with a puzzle solution. You can obtain various things from picking up hearts, it varies from level to level. Usually grabbing certain hearts nets you some magic power, where you can shoot it at enemies and turn them into eggs, at which point you can push them around like blocks to manipulate puzzles. Shooting them while egged makes them de-spawn for a short period, before the appear in the same place they were initially. You can also float on egg'd enemies if you push them into a moving stream of water, which is essential to complete some puzzle rooms. This game is great. Lolo 2 and 3 became progressively harder, and introduced spawn manipulation to add to the difficulty. Nothing will be as good as the original Lolo, though.
01. Streets of Rage 2 (Genesis)
Streets of Rage is a classic. It's technically a rip off of Final Fight for the Genesis, but I think it became better than the sum of its parts. Part 1 was ok, but pretty rudimentary visually. When Streets of Rage 2 came out, it blew my face off. I was stunned at how it looked just like an arcade game, but no...this was a GENESIS EXCLUSIVE. Each of the 4 characters plays pretty distinctively from one another. You have Axel, the well rounded brawler with an invincible flaming uppercut, as well as the easiest jab infinite in the game (yes you can infinitely jab enemies and bosses in this game if your timing is right). Skate is the agile and weak character, with lots of running moves, and his main exploit is the flip over grab throws that hurl the opponent across the screen. Blaze is the female of the group, and she is well rounded in the same way Axel is, but she has a Chun Li-like fireball for a special, and she's generally a bit faster and weaker than Axel. Max is the slow, high-vitality, grappler of the bunch. But in reality, he can advance the screen as quick as anyone with his command slide, and since he has grab setups that do BANANAS damage, he turns out to be one of the best characters. Max has a couple grab loops in certain areas with walls, and can do a meaty slide on an enemies wake-up and go right into an atomic drop. These are all fairly difficult moves compared to the easy Axel infinite, but they have much higher damage potential. The fact that I can learn all these techniques about a beatemup for the first time recently, shows that this game is not just a Final Fight clone. It is a complex brawler, and it's the best classic game I've played all year. Oh, did I mention the music? It goes without saying but...this is the best the Sega Genesis has to offer. Streets of Rage 3 on the other hand...well. Let's not harp on the negative!
2012 was a strange year for me, kind of dull in terms of games actually released this year...compared to 2010 & 2011 anyways. I got way into retro games, and I will definitely have to give them some props on their own list. Despite all that, some of the very best games of the generation came out in my opinion, making 2012 worthwhile. On to the top 10 (here's the GB list version also).
10. Street Fighter X Tekken (Xbox 360)
SFxTK gets a bad rep because of the excessive timeouts, jab pressure, dysfunctional launch online, and the DLC/Gem apocalypse Cashcom situation. Unfortunate, as this game is actually really good. It brings you back to the CvS2 days when fundamentals were required, and it introduces a great combo system that feels like the perfect blend of Street Fighter and Tekken. The ground bounces are just a ton of fun, as are the unlikely character combinations previously unseen in the fighting world. Here's hoping the patch brings people back.
09. Mark of the Ninja (XBLA)
I love stealth games, but even I can admit that there are some mechanics that need some working. Luckily, Mark of the Ninja addresses all of these. The controls and contextual maneuvers in this game are so fluid, so streamlined--very few games actually play this good. The game is constantly reminding you how badass you are, being a ninja and all. My recent interest in speed-running made me respect this game more, as this is a game where your performance is limited by your own skill, and there aren't sloppy mechanics mucking it up like in most games.
08. Need for Speed: Most Wanted (Xbox 360/PC)
I love Burnout Paradise. It's one of my favorite games this generation of consoles...maybe ever. And Most Wanted is essentially more Paradise. Sure, the console versions don't run 60fps, the handling feels heavier and not as white-knuckle as Paradise, and the single player isn't tied as seamlessly into multi-player as Paradise...but the autolog stuff is great, the multiplayer progression is addicting, and most of all...it's just a blast playing with friends--as we perform 350 yard jumps over buildings. Remake this game every year, I'd buy it.
07. Journey (PSN)
I was sort of put off by all the talk about this game. I felt like every sentence spoken and written about Journey was done while holding a whine glass with their pinky up and sounding very draconian...but I have to say all those things said were pretty darn right. It's one of the most amazing co-op experiences I've had, being paired up with a random person over the internet, we completed the entire Journey together. With no normal means of communication, we had to think of more primitive means to convey things. I was legitimately worried when my friend seemed to disappear in a couple levels, worried that I had lost them. But we conquered it together. Thank you random person over PSN, it was a swell time.
06. Dust: An Elysian Tail (XBLA)
When somebody tells me that a game is "basically Symphony of the Night" I throw my money at it. And that's what I did with Dust. The game is filled with anthropomorphic creatures, but don't let it deter you. Discovering areas that are inaccessible until you get a certain power. Progress in game, get power. Look at giant map screen, go back to previously unexplored area. The combo system is fairly advanced for a game of this type, and there are even a couple abilities I found that I can break the game essentially with. I don't know about you, but I feel pretty awesome when I find a way to exploit a game all by myself.
05. Sleeping Dogs (PC)
I was excited about this game when it was True Crime: Hong Kong. But all the preview events, people came out saying it looked janky and were worried for its future. The game was dropped, buy then revived by Square, under the new moniker "Sleeping Dogs." I hadn't played a serious open world game since GTAIV, and this struck a similar chord with me, brought all those good times flooding back. This game is extremely polished, with fun environmental hand-to-hand combat. The voice-acting is superb and the story is great overall. It helps that it looks amazing on PC, and the 'Hong Kong-drive-on-the-wrong-side-of-the-road' thing is quite novel. More of this!
04. Max Payne 3 (PC)
Max Payne 3 could have been a disaster, leaving Remedy's hands and all. But it turned out to be an excellent chapter in the life of Max Payne. All the staples are here, self-loathing narration, slow-motion bullet-time diving-around-corners with reckless abandon, and a messed up story strung together by shots of whiskey, interrupted by popping painkillers, one-liners, and balls to the wall action. The soundtrack featured the usual Max Payne ambiance and main theme, but went above and beyond...venturing into Miami Vice territory, like that good of a soundtrack. The particular tracks that sets the mood other than the final theme of "Tears", are the one in the cemetery and the one on the boat after waking up. If you don't know these tracks, look them up. Or better yet, play the game, as the music will hit on a different level when you're plunged into a hellhole of a situation and have to gun down tons of guys in slow motion while listening to the music.
03. Lone Survivor (PC)
When I seen the quick look of this game, I stopped it about 8 minutes in and bought the game for myself. I love survival horror, and any unique take on it in this horror-deprived generation of games, is something I'm interested in. It features a very striking blown-out pixelated art style, and heavy reliance on survival and sanity mechanics. The story is intentionally very cryptic, with a couple branching points that lead to different endings. It's so vague at times that you don't understand what's going on at all, but I sort of like that about it. Completely open to interpretation. The game is full of atmosphere, so if that's your thing...play this.
02. Xenoblade Chronicles (Wii)
An RPG as epic as this coming out in 2012 is a surprise, this type of game almost doesn't exist anymore. It takes plenty of things I love, and some that I hate, and mashes them all together, with amazing production values. The things I hate: Not being able to control the AI. It's annoying that there's combos that are completely reliant on your teammates finishing them, and they will do whatever is at their whim. MMO quests. Way too many of these, and they're all interchangeable fetch me this many items for set amount of experience and money. Grinding, holy shit. Get ready to grind in this game. You have to do those MMO quests, because otherwise it'll take even longer to get to the level you need to be at. With all that said, the story is excellent. The environments are MASSIVE and a pleasure to navigate through while admiring the scenery. The soundtrack, man. THE SOUNDTRACK IS THE BEST RPG SOUNDTRACK, in I don't know...forever? This game tears me down the middle with both love and hate, but I can't help but be blown away by Xenoblade.
01. The Last Story (Wii)
And then there's the Last Story. This game is the antithesis of Xenoblade. It's not massive and full of filler. It's completely focused on delivering a character driven story line and it's going to tell it from beginning to end. No threads will be open at the end of this adventure, it concludes everything in a gorgeously satisfying way. The combat is serviceable and almost automatic at times, there are no random battles and you can beat it without grinding AT ALL. You can beat it in 20 hours, short by JRPG standards. BUT FORGET ALL OF THAT. The soundtrack is sort of a retreading of territory by Nobuo Uematsu, but it takes on a whole new light when they are tied to the moments in the game them self. The characters are so likable in this game, I felt like they were genuine family by the end of it. I felt like I experienced all these trials and tribulations with them as they were experiencing them. I'm just going to say that it's the most touching game I've played in a decade or more...it brings me back to the fuzzy feelings I used to get playing things like Final Fantasy VII, VIII, and X. This is Hironobu Sakaguchi at his best, and if The Last Story is truly his last chapter in game development, what a way to go out.
My youtube channel has been really active lately, with a grip of Let's Plays and other miscellaneous game commentary, but I owe it all to my Final Fantasy VIII playthrough. Pretty late in blogging it, since I don't do the whole blog thing too often. Check it below and read on. (Vulgar Commentary)
The playthrough is done without leveling characters until pretty much the end of the game, at which point I power level everyone to 100. The reason I avoid leveling other than just for kicks, is because of the leveling system in FFVIII. All the enemies and bosses will level up with you in this game, which means you can actually have just as easy a time at default level. And with tricks to obtain higher level spells (card modding, etc) you can actually have a bigger advantage junctioning said spells to your characters when you're still low-level.
There are several bonus abilities that GF's learn through the course of the game, called bonuses. Once you obtain all the bonuses, you can equip them in your ability slots and receive more attribute points at each level up, which is why there's a specific time to power level to 100. As you could gather from the information I've laid out, power-leveling from the character's base level nets you the most bonus attribute points, so the no-level run is multi-purpose. You're more powerful throughout the game without leveling, and then you become unstoppable when you finally do level up at the end.
Of course your GF's have to obtain AP to make all this happen, and normally you can't do that without gaining some sort of experience from battles. The loop hole there is the command ability card mod. This is an early-game Quezacotl ability that you should learn at the offset, as you can weaken your enemies to a low percentage of health, and then mod them into cards. This nullifies any experience you'd receive from that opponent, but you get all the AP (and a bunch of cards for playing/modding).
I don't want to spill any more beans on this Let's Play, so just check out the playlist above if you so desire. I love challenging myself with this sort of thing on RPGs I'm familiar with.
Here's a list of my Top 10 boss fights. Thought I'd do one since my bud EightBitWarrior did the same. Blah blah blah exposition here it goes!
10. Dracula (Castlevania: Symphony of the Night)
Hydro Storm! Hydro Storm! Hydro Storm! Hydro Storm! Supposedly you couldn't die in this first sequence of the game, but how would I know? I used hydro storms with holy water and a full set of hearts my first time through. Don't even get hit at all really. One of my favorite moves in all video games, great soundbyte too!
09. Reptile (Mortal Kombat)
Reptile is a secret boss character that you can only find under certain conditions. I believe you had to have 2 million points, as well as get a double flawless victory on the pit stage, not use block, and end with a fatality while not using block. Or something like that. The battle itself took place at the bottom of the pit, and reptile could use both Sub-Zero and Scorpion's moves. More fun than the actual battle were the cryptic hints Reptile would leave randomly before a match ensued, such as "Tip Eht Fo Mottob". It had kids at the local arcade cracking down on the specifics for months!
08. Gi Nattak (Final Fantasy VII)
This boss was painfully frustrating, being someone new to Final Fantasy, and RPG's in general. It was only after I managed to beat him legitimately that I found out, he is an undead enemy, and thus can be killed with healing items. Yep, that means a single X-potion or Phoenix Down dropped him. Son of a b----.
07. Freya (Star Ocean: 'Till The End of Time)
If we're talking bosses with insurmountable odds, this would take the cake. A little refresher: Star Ocean is a game about really, really, high numbers. Hell, your characters max level is 255. Even though there's a cheap stun-bomb trick to employ, on 4D difficulty (the hardest), Freya had 60 million HP. That was kind of a big thing back then.
06. Nemesis (Resident Evil 3)
Although I liked the chase sequences with Mr. X more (trenchcoat guy in Resident Evil 2), those weren't really boss encounters. The cool thing about Nemesis, is he persists through the whole game, chasing after you. You can have as many encounters as you like with him, and can "defeat" him at various points. So while this is a cop out and it's technically 300 boss battles or whatever, I don't care. It was also pretty dang scary when he came around. The change in music and when you hear "STARS!" is frightening.
05. Yiazmat (Final Fantasy XII)
Among the Final Fantasy super bosses, Yiazmat is probably my favorite. Sure you have your Ruby, Emerald, Ultima, Omega, Ozma, and Penance...but they don't compare. 50 million HP, an excrutiatingly long battle, and the ability to buff and heal 500k in seconds...A true classic. It also helps that I LOVE the battle system of FFXII, so even setting up the gambits and getting your stats and items in line is a battle in its own!
04. Agni & Rudra (Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening)
The point where Devil May Cry 3 (non-special edition) went from hard to super balls hard, was as soon as I ran into Agni & Rudra. These two giants coordinated their attacks and did so much damage, and on top of that, if you killed one off too soon, the other would get super strong. I had to level up my reaction time and strategy in playing games, but the satisfying moment where you finally understand everything, and beat them like a baws...it's amazing. Makes the rest of the game incredible.
03. The Sorrow (Metal Gear Solid 3)
The realization of how The Sorrow's "battle" works is pretty great. I use quotations because you don't actually directly fight him, and if you try to touch him, you just die. All you do is walk down a river, and see spirits of enemy soldiers, listen to some back-story, then the sequence ends. When I was doing a no kill run, I noticed something weird. There were no spirits materalizing and attacking me at all. I thought it was a bug or something until I realized that it was based on all the enemies you've killed, they even display the ways that you killed them! Even the animals you kill are seen as floating carcasses. But man...Seeing that one enemy spirit at the end sucks. You know that you failed your no-kill run, and have to start all over again. FML
02. Elmdor & Assassins (Final Fantasy Tactics)
Wiegraf was hard enough, employing the "you can't reach me but I can hit you" tactic. But right after that battle, you go right into a battle on a rooftop with Elmdor & company! If you're under-leveled and lack movement during this sequence, you will have a hard time getting to Elmdor, and will have to go through his assassin friends. They have the ability to inflict stop or instantly kill if they feel like it. Seems they usually feel like it. By the way, you have to protect a girl named Rafa, and at low levels this is near impossible as they will kill her on the first turn. This battle is made harder if you're trying to steal Elmdor's special katana. What a headache, but I love it for some reason?
01. Psycho Mantis (Metal Gear Solid)
Metal Gear Solid is full of top-tier boss battles. But this is head and shoulders above the rest. The battle itself is typical, where Mantis uses his Psycho powers to levitate furniture, and he attacks you with it. The real treat is the fourth wall-breaking experience. HE KNOWS YOU LIKE TO PLAY CASTLEVANIA, AND HE CAN MOVE YOUR CONTROLLER ACROSS THE FLOOR! Sure, in actuality he was reading for Konami games on my memory card, and was just triggering the motors in my Dualshock controller...but at the time, I thought it was crazy voodoo magic. To add another layer to this battle, he would frequently black the screen out with the words "Hideo", which would allow him to get an advantage on you...but Colonel Cambell offers the advice over the codec to switch your controller to port 2 to avoid mind control! What an incredible experience.
Capcom doesn't want you to know, but the secret is out. Electric Wind God Fist exists in Street Fighter X Tekken. No really, they didn't even put it in the command list or the strategy guide.
While it looks identical to the normal Rising Uppercut follow-up from the Mist Step, the EWGF is a just-frame, meaning that the down/forward input must be hit simultaneously with MP or HP. No way around it, this move is pretty difficult to do consistently. But when you practice to efficiency, it has its benefits. EGWF is not a move cancelled from Mist Step, like Rising Upper. Because of this, you need a proper forward input, you cannot substitute for down/forward. You can shorten the input by removing the down input:
This will ease the use of the player 1 side input. It also prevents accidental Mist Stepping, since Mist Step requires proper Down input. This input allows piano/plinking methods to increase the chances of success, since an EX Rising Upper will not some out by skipping down (since EX Rising has to be cancelled from Mist Step).
Upper Body Invulnerability 1-10f
Full Upper Body Invulnerability, Lower Body Crushes Stand Attacks 1-8f
Full Upper Body Invulnerability, Lower Body Crushes Stand Attacks 1-8f
Other Differences from Rising Upper:
Purple electricity instead of blue
Different sound on whiff, hit, and block
Juggle doesn't send opponent as far horizontally
Pushes back further on block
The applications are obvious, but they include any instance where a Mist Step/Rising Upper would be used:
Anti-air (fairly invincible)
Counter Standing Pokes
Step under Projectiles
Hit-Confirm into high damage
Switch Cancel to your teammate
I'm sure this just scratches the surface on EWGF, and more sick technology using it will be exposed in the near future of Street Fighter X Tekken. That said, this should be a pretty good starting point. If you want the execution tips, you have to watch the video. Kinda hard to explain it here in text form.
Music is "Nebulosa" by DJ Cam Quartet, off their 2009 release "Diggin'". Special thanks to Rebellijin1 for his Wavedash Lesson, and SRK Kazuya forums for alerting me to EWGF's presence in SFxTK. Hope you guys get something out of it, lemme know what you think. If you like this tutorial make sure you check out my youtube channel.
I've made a simple little tutorial on The Mist Step as it applies to Street Fighter X Tekken. This video mostly covers Kazuya's proper Mist Step and wave dash, but I briefly discuss Special Steps that other characters have.
The input itself is a big point of contention for traditional Street Fighter players, because you don't usually look at "neutral" as being an input...and hell, even the input display in training mode doesn't display it. there is picture-in-picture and some tips to help you along. Pretty nooby tutorial, and I didn't even cover Electric Wind Godfist juggles (mostly because I can't do it consistently), but it has jazzy music. Jazz just soothes all the pain.
The most consistent methods of wave-dashing I have found involve the QCF > Neutral, though it's admittedly easier with a loose spring and bat top (no wonder the Koreans prefer it). Anywho, enjoy the tut!
Music is "New York New York" by Dj Cam Quartet, it's off their 2008 release "The Return of Cool", if you're interested.
Though it actually has features removed from its inception on the PSP, this is my first gameplay experience with the game and I love the bite-sized chunks of RPG experience / speed runs that this game offers. The writing is self-aware and hilarious, and the new art style is actually my preferred look for this game, since the pixel-style is hard to actually interpret on a giant HD television.
This game came out of nowhere, while returning my refurbished Wii back to GameStop, I spent my time playing this game on Dolphin in 720p instead. Boy is this game incredible. I've always wanted just a little bit more out of my Harvest Moon, and this game gives me exactly what I wanted. Farming with floor-by-floor dungeon-crawling complete with equipment, item management, and stat leveling. This game is a godsend, and I can't wait to OFFICIALLY play it on an actual Wii...though the 720p looks so good. HMMM.
I managed to find time for this gem, and I don't even own a DS. Aliens: Infestation is essentially a "Metroidvania" game with the Aliens license, which is A.O.K. by my standards. It brought a survivalist element with permadeath to your squadmates. Even though you could recruit more members after they died them by finding them lost in dark corners of the ship, I couldn't help but feel strong attachment to the originals...so much so that if one died I didn't even want to replace them.
It wasn't the mechanics that left a lasting impression on me. There was some interesting light/dark stuff to manage as you progress through the story, not to mention a psycho girlfriend with touch-of-death properties chasing you around, but Shadows of the Damned for the most part is just a serviceable Resident Evil 4 clone. Instead, it's the insanity of Suda 51's mind. The performances in this game are stellar, and shockingly enough, the boner jokes are tastefully done and fit this game like a glove. This is a game too smart for its own good. A poetic ending combined with the dulcet tones of Akira Yamaoka, top notch.
The Witcher 2 does everything a Bioware game does, but better. The character development is top-notch, and the branching points of the story leave you feeling torn on multiple occasions. There is no black and white in the choices Geralt makes, only grey. There is no right or wrong answer, and in most cases both answers lead down different but equally painful paths. You can't sit on the fence forever, you have to take a side eventually. The Witcher 2 is great at teaching you this. The combat is much more satisfying than the original, and the game looks amazing. An excellent specimen for 2011.
While the questioning segments left me feeling frustrated, given how vague the "truth, doubt, lie" choices are during interrogations, I still am enamored with L.A. Noire. The performances are top-notch from some of the best actors and actresses in the business, the facial-capture technology is mind-boggling, and the recreation of post-WW2 Los Angeles is gorgeous. I was neck-deep in dirty detective work from start to finish, cracking cases left and right. It is amazing that an adventure game can come out in 2011 with such a large budget, and be a success. The film noire twists in this game are perfectly executed, topping off an experience I won't forget.
Most people would say this is par for the course after Uncharted 2 hit the scene, but in my opinion, Uncharted 3 is a vast improvement over the second game. The shooting felt much better, the action sequences were complex and required the ability to think on your toes and be aware of your surroundings, but were not overly cheap and dragging like the end of Uncharted 2. The A.I. is pretty great in this game, flanking you if you get too cozy, and willing to rest on their laurels when you're on the move. Notice how I didn't even talk about the incredible water and sand tech, or the crazy set-pieces, or maybe the spectacular casting? That's how good I feel this game is. An Uncharted game that fits on this list just from a gameplay perspective. The multiplayer is fantastic also!
Maybe this game came around during a dark time in my psyche, but it left a profound imprint on it and still resonates with me to this day. Never mind the blade-runner-esq setting, the classic pixelated scum engine adventure game feeling...the story that is being told here is profound. The switching between characters as you are a man looking for his brother, and playing the supposed "brother" whom is imprisoned, it all works so well. Wiping people's memories to rehabilitate criminals, trying to find remnants of a past self that left behind clues on how to escape captivity, and a detective with a criminal past who is drawn to this place in some way. I can't recommend this game enough.
I know people are going to think this is a cop-out, throwing two classic titles here as one in 2011, where Ico is 10 years old...it's not. This is a release in 2011, and this is my first time playing either of these games. To say a game is or isn't art, yeah whatever, you can argue whichever you please. But perhaps these two games are more than a game, maybe this IS art? Semantics aside, Ico is a story that bleeds 10-fold the depth, in 1/5th the time as that of a normal video game...it also does it without words. Shadow of the Colossus is morally wrenching as the colossi you defeat don't seem to put up much of a challenge, instead offering gigantic puzzles to solve in each encounter. It all culminates in the end of that game, tying ever-so-loosely to Ico...just enough to get you thinking of how exactly all the pieces fit. Please Last Guardian, find a release date.
People tend to forget everything that happens at the beginning of the year, but Dead Space 2 feels like Resident Evil 4 in that respect...it out-shines beyond all the rubble that time sees to bury it with. While the core of the game remains the same from the original, the game is faster, more responsive, and much more polished. The atmosphere and sound design a groundbreaking, the abandoned space-station with the light of stars shining in through mechanical shutters, the infrequent episodes Issac has with his dead wife, it's done very well. But that would only be half the game. The other half is immensely-satisfying 3rd person combat (the best, even). What prevents this game from being a true fright-fest is that it's so damn visceral dissecting the necromorphs limb-by-limb with your "mining tools". I wanna be a fuckin' miner if I get laser-sight guns that shoot waves of plasma. Although the whole Issac taking his helmet off and talking thing is maybe not as well done as it should be (it would be better if it didn't happen period), that doesn't hinder Dead Space 2 in the slightest.
So the game I was most looking forward to this year, seems to have made the cut. What is there to say about this game that hasn't already been said? The environment you traverse, the MASSIVE world that Skyrim is, is quite the sight to be seen. The questlines are really well done, better overall than they have ever been in a Bethesda game, though perhaps not as sky-soaring of heights the Oblivion quests hit at times. I think what makes this game what it is has little to do with the sum of its parts, but instead to do with your own personal experience. Rather than explain that in detail (it would take forever), I'll say that the melee combat is much improved over past Elder Scrolls games, and the leveling system is fantastic. You really can just do what you please in that game, and it all works out...with the exception of hand-to-hand which there is no skill for. If you love your obsessive-compulsive disorder, you will love over this game. I played 100 hours on the PS3 version, enduring the horrible framerate, before beating it then purchasing it on the Xbox 360 (to put in another 150 hours and beat it again). That should say something.
A phenomenal return to form for Deus Ex, a lot of people didn't know what to expect from this game. I knew it all along, from the first look of that gold-lining around that vent-cover, to the last moment where you have to hit a (undisclosed) big red button...this is a game after my heart. Cyberpunk, grungy open-world for me to explore? Check. Nanotech-driven stat-boosting experience trees? Check. Playground of vents to climb through, keypads to hack, guards to coerce, and other environmental problems to solve? Check! The A.I. is not the best around, but one could say it's the "best" around. They're just dumb enough for you to have fun "gaming" the system and exploiting things. It's the best stealth game I've played in years, the choices Adam Jensen made are MY choices, not ones that built up a renegade meter for renegade powers. I read like a billion emails! I liked it! The level design is fantastic, letting you tackle any situation in 6 or 7 different ways. The boss battles are terrible. So what? The music is incredible. This is also my soundtrack of the year, and I highly recommend you pick up the electronic ambient goodness. I don't know how do describe this game. It's the best thing? That'll have to do.