Past Expiration: Steambot Chronicles

Past expiration is my clever term for talking about a game that is way past its prime. In this case, an action RPG involving mechs and music that came out on the PS2 in 2006. Topical!
 

Steambot Chronicles (or Customization: The Game)

I first learned about Steambot Chronicles from a Jampack Demo Disk Vol.12 I bought specifically to play Okami way back in 2005. After wringing out the short bits of Okami as much as I could, I checked out the other games out of boredom. One of them was a game where you played as a kid named Vanilla as he wakes up on a beach, meets a girl named Coriander and rides an abandoned mech called the Earl Grey II. It was also pretty short, the but the personality test in the beginning coupled with the promise of hot mech-on-mech action in an RPG format piqued my interest enough to buy the full game when it came out. It turned out to be a pretty solid experience (but with plenty of rough edges) with one of the greatest instruction manuals ever printed. It also lets you customize the shit out of damn near everything related to your character.
 
First off, spoilers. I'm not holding back on anything. There's probably a handful of people who actually played this game, and a smaller amount still who actually beat it. If you have any interest in this game or bought it and never finished it but might be planning to at a later date- you should probably stop reading. You know, if you care about that kind of thing.
 
 User created Jack Frost cameo, ho!
Steambot Chronicles is an RPG published by Atlus about a world that has built up around what are essentially bipedal automobiles. The short hand for this is Trotmobiles. You'll run into plenty during the adventure since they do everything from haul lumber to wage wars. You only control one through the game, but since you can change almost everything about it from the color to the body to the license plate, that doesn't stop you from making the most badass Trotmobile on the block. You can even change your Trot's name from Earl Grey II to something like Widowmaker. Or Metal Gear. Of course most of the parts and junk I had to buy after doing jobs to earn money, but Trot materials trickle in like any old RPG. The best parts are won from boss battles like elephant tusks. I went through the whole game with elephant tusks on the front of my robot like I just got back from a safari.
 
There's also an option to custom edit license plates at garages. Leading to scenarios like the above where you have a popular mascot showing up on the bumper of your Trotmobile. Provided you have the skill and the patience, of course. I didn't have any of that so the height of my creativity was a Bomb-omb. Cause it was easy to make.

 
Mech Cars aren't the only thing you control though. The main character is a kid named Vanilla. His name is appropriate because he's essentially a blank slate ready to be filled player behavior. That doesn't mean he's a heroic mute. Vanilla has plenty of voice acting and plays the Commander Shepard-esque style of saying something along the lines of the dialogue option you chose. You can be straight laced hero of the day, or a dude so mean he can overthrow the main villain of the game and take over as a criminal overlord extraordinaire. The game has a pretty linear plot at the end of the day, but it allows a handful of impressive choices along the way. To give you an idea how the public at large handles your attitude, they have a title and reputation that updates as you save the game and go from one day to the next. At one point I was the Snobbish Hitman because I wore a white suit all the time and won battles fast.
 

Get Your Tank On

 Desert Rumble with a Dumb Jerk
I'd say the catch of this whole experience is controls. Trotmobiles move like tanks. You have two analogue sticks and you'll use them. Pushing up on both of them is forward movement. Pulling back on one while pushing forward on the other will turn you around. It takes some serious adjusting to get used to Trotmobiles, especially in battle since the cheating AI bastard is omnipotent and can jump around while firing heat seeking missiles, no problem. Since mech adventure and combat is one of the biggest selling points of this game, not adjusting means a long road of frustration. Most battles you don't have to win. Losing means you miss out on cool parts for your Trot, but there are only a handful encounters where you absolutely have to win. In Steambot Chronicles, failure is always an option and the story adjusts to how good you are putting down greedy jerks or rowdy gangs that get in the way. I was so-so at the end of the game. I had to reload a lot of battles because I really didn't want to miss out on special parts.
 
 I wanna be a Cowboy, baby
Since this game is an RPG it requires a lot of management of various stats like fuel and food. Fuel can easily be recovered by wasting enemy mech, buying fuel cans, or hitting up a garage. Ammunition is a little tougher to come by. Outside combat and travel, Vanilla handles like any blond, upbeat RPG hero but with an appetite. If he goes hungry he starts limping everywhere at a snails pace. This really only becomes an issue when I was trying to buy new clothes and items for my house. I decided to dress my Vanilla up in a turban and a British Empire looking military outfit. It worked pretty well. It was really easy to spot Vanilla in cut-scenes.
 
 
So Bad it's Good
My favorite parts of this game are a lot of little things. Gameplay wise, you can do a ton of stuff around the world. Fight trots, play pool with most of the major cast, dig up fossils for the local museum, play music on the street for cash, etc. Most open world games have this down to a science nowadays. But Steambot Chronicles isn't really open world. A lot of these jobs open up as you go through the story. But that's okay, because the main story has plenty of little quirks that I've come to love.

For instance, the last boss in the game is a dude named Dandelion. A lot of characters are named after food or flowers, but Dandelion takes the cake because he's the final boss. I couldn't name many games where the ultimate antagonist turns out to be a mild mannered musician turned revenge craving gang lord named Dandelion. I guess because Steambot Chronicles hits a family-friendly edge of a world where no one is really all that evil. Just angry people who make bad choices. There's a gang called the Killer Elephants that's ultimate goal is to travel to the moon (well the boss does anyway). The Bloody Mantis crew is a little more military but still hit a vibe of being unscrupulous businessmen who hike oil prices for profit. Major conflicts in this game invoke a lot of bloodless carnage where nothing really changes around the world, probably because it would take too much code.
 

Tone Deaf

The worst part of this game has to be the music. Yes, Vanilla joins a band of roving musicians. Playing gigs involve a lot of timed button presses with various instruments... but no matter how well someone performs you get a lot of awful music. Actually, it's a lot of the same awful music. For a traveling band, they have a really small set list what with inspiration for all across the land. At one point I worked with an ex-band member to pioneer the first electric guitar in the Steambot universe and... was sorely let down by an even more awful song. The worst part is that these band sets are required to move the story along. So I had to sit through a lot of crappy music. It's probably best if you mute the game, play a better song and pretend you're doing that. Another option is to go evil as soon as you possibly can and that way you don't have to do any more music sets since you're too busy taking over the world and spiking oil prices.
 
Steambot Chronicles is a pretty impressive game that goes up and down like a roller coaster due to pacing, music, controls, and funky difficulty. The one thing it had on me was customization. The quickest way for any game to reach my heart is give me an option to customize my character in as many ways as possible, and Steambot has that in spades. It didn't take long before I was rolling around in a blue Trotmobile with a drill arm and elephant tusks while wearing a white suit and fedora that would fit right in with any smooth criminal. I hear that they're working on a sequel that's coming out on the PS3... but that was such a long time ago that I don't know if it holds any truth. Not to mention it's on the PS3 and I don't have one of those yet. Still, it was an interesting and quirky game that would probably land somewhere on the Deadly Premonition scale of "it might be trash, awesome, or maybe both".
 
 The Game's Villains
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Past Expiration: Blast Corps.

Past expiration is my clever term for talking about a game that is way past its prime. In this case, a high tension puzzle game involving demolition and runaway nukes that came out on the N64 in 1997. Topical! 
 

Blast Corps

Blast Corps is a crazy little game from Rare that scratches every itch for blowing things up in creative ways. The story involves a truck carrying nuclear warheads that have begun to leak radiation. The drivers have bailed so the truck is on cruise control with no regard for what's in front of it. One tiny bump will set off the warheads and cause a nuclear explosion. The titular Blast Corps is a demolition crew that have been contracted to clear the way by any means necessary and save the day. However, they aren't your average demo crew. They have access to your standard fare of construction vehicles like bulldozers and dump trucks, but they also use mechs with jet packs, missile launching motorcycles, and rocket powered cars that can belly flop into buildings with catastrophic results. The kind of stuff that would put modern militaries to shame.
 
But hey, you're here to save the world, not take it over.
 
 Let's Wreck this Town!
Standard levels involve driving a vehicle (or sometimes combination of vehicles) and destroying every structure that's in the path of the warhead carrier truck. You'll get a helpful arrow that changes colors based on how screwed you are and how fast you should move. Early stages are simple pleasures like demolishing a town with a bulldozer. Or dive bombing office towers with the J-Bomb flying mech. Blast Corps vehicles are all pretty sweet and fun to use with the exception of one bastard truck known as Backlash. Backlash is a dump truck that destroys things by drifting into targets with its pointy back end. The mechanics for pulling this off are so totally wonky that nearly every Blast Corps player hates it with no end. Myself included. Of course, it's no wonder that the hardest levels in the game have you exclusively use the Backlash through the whole stage.
 
One notorious example is Diamond Sands. One of the hardest goddamn levels in video game history. I don't consider myself an emotional video game player. I've never cried due to a player character's death or tragedy in a game. However, Diamond Sands is so totally frustrating that I broke down in tears when failing the stage at the very last second. Of course, I was twelve or so when I played Blast Corps on my N64. But the feeling of absolute hatred and terror for Backlash and Diamond Sands have never left me to this day. 
 
Fucking Diamond Sands!
Unless you have some familiarity with how Blast Corps handles, explaining the level might not have the same effect as actually seeing in action. You drive Backlash around raised train tracks that you can't cross. There are buildings on the tracks that can only be destroyed by hitting them from both sides of the track. To get from one side to the other, you have to use inconveniently placed tunnels. The warhead carrier truck starts so close to the first obstacle that you almost lose immediately unless you're the master of using Backlash. I found a YouTube video of one player doing a speed run of Diamond Sands. I salute anyone who managed to beat that stage, and in awe of anyone who can beat it on a regular basis. Now that I'm rolling up on near two paragraphs talking about one stage, I guess it's a good time to point out that Blast Corps can be murderously hard.
 
 Weeee!
It's not all bad, though. The simple fun of destroying buildings because you're supposed to is great. Using crazy vehicles like somersaulting mech suits to rip through a refinery is followed with all kinds of neat explosions and collapsing effects. Plus, beating the later Blast Corps stages is fist pump inducing for how satisfying it feels to succeed. A few levels have hidden vehicles to make things easier, and I haven't even gotten into the side stages. Racing, obstacle courses, Pac-Man simulations, playing pool with a Bulldozer... this game has some amusing diversions from the carrier stages. It also has the A-Team van you can drive and a knock-off of the Duke Boys' General Lee (complete with awesome sounding horn). You'll also have plenty of stages to hate the Backlash some more. And last but not least, Blast Corps... ON THE MOON!
 
Blast Corps also has some of my most favorite music. Obsidian Mile is possibly the most upbeat song included in a game about demolition I've ever heard. Although, most people seem to know Blast Corps for Simian Acres. You know the one. The country hillbilly-esque song that plays in the first level. That's one pretty good too. Graeme Norgate does great work in this game. And it's good that he does, because you'll hear songs over and over on harder stages where you're losing every other attempt. If Diamond Sands had Obsidian Mile playing, I think it would have been a much more tolerable stage.
 
I'm always a little bummed that Blast Corps never caught on and didn't get a sequel or follow up or something. I'd love to see more intricate levels where blowing up buildings takes a little more thought. Maybe how they collapse and such. Some more crazy construction vehicles to roll around in. More awesome music. A new system so Backlash doesn't totally suck. The game was in on the crazy story so getting a sequel up wouldn't take a whole lot of work. Hell. Just reboot the whole game and do it over. The idea of a game playing as a demolition crew working for the betterment of mankind is definitely one of the more original concepts for a video game. And I'd love to see it again.
 

 Damn you, Backlash! Damn you!



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My Red Dead Redemption Song

Tryin' to be a Cowboy (Set to the tune of Kid Rock's "Cowboy")

I bought a new game, it takes place out west,

where all the ladies come equipped with scripts and great quests,

Locate a gang in the hills, kill em' like Clint,

Find an old hot spot to play cards with gents,

Ima John Wayne it up and down the road,

lookin' out for gold, till the day grows old,

Then go find a killer killin' the most,

and shoot that sum-bitch until he's toast.

Sombreros in the sun, outlaws on the run,

Kill a dozen deer so I can buy a gun,

Get into some trouble,

I planned to steal a train until the game burst my bubble,

Rob a stagecoach driver cause I accidentally pressed Y,

And can't escape the law no matter how hard I try,

John Marston, he's the real McCoy,

But only in the cutscenes, cause I'm trying to be a cowboy, maybe.

-Chorus-

(With the six shooter shootin' and the hot lead flyin')

Cowboy, maybe.

(Spend all my time in and out of crime)

I'm trying to be a cowboy, maybe.

(Fightin' all right when the Dead Eye meter's gaining)

Cowboy, maybe.

(I can get shot from a mile away!)

I bet you can't hear my horse when I ride on in,

It goes quiet like, cause it's shot dead once again,

Mean cops, mean gangs, mean around town all the time,

It once was bad luck, and now it's just mine,

Trains and plains, wild hogs and fights,

Far from the cities and the pity, forget dead to rights,

And if the slice is right, don't forget my knife toy,

It''ll be going multiplayer today cause I'm trying to be a Cowboy, maybe.

-Chorus-

-Piano Break-

Yeah, cannon fodder you can call me dead,

Rollin' non stop into bullets aimed right at my head,

See me, holed up, in a corner reloading like molasses,

Going "Holy shit, faster!" I'll end up dead in Manassas,

Shotguns sing it, just wing it, buckshot filling the wall,

Call me slow, in the show, with speed set at crawl,

No remorse for other players, cause they ain't nice,

They're shoot your ass once, and rape your horse twice, boom!

Curses fear, no good will found here!

It ain't an online match till someone calls you a queer.

Slick like West Dickens, ride like Slim Pickens,

They tell me to run but, hey, I ain't chicken!

Why they gotta pick on me?

Shoot me up, steal all my EXP?

I ain't no jerk, just a regular player,

I pull like a Brad, but win like failure,

Curse like sailor? Talk like you're sick?

I bet half of these lines probably end with a dick.

Spend my half my time getting called out online,

But I'll be back to single player in a matter of time!

-Chorus-

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Past Expiration: Saiyuki Journey West

Past Expiration is my clever term for talking about a game few or no people will ever have a chance to play or see. In this case, a game that came out on the PlayStation in 2001. Topical!
 
My roommate first introduced Saiyuki: Journey West to me in college. He was taking an East Asian Studies class and the Chinese text "Journey to the West" inevitably came up. So as he was planning to show this game in class, it first made an appearance in our dorm room. I have a passing familiarity with the Journey West story. A monk from China travels to India in order to update their texts and traditions on Buddhism. There's a lot of mythology that gets packed in there like the monkey king and demons. Anyways. He showed me the first chapter of this game. Time moved on, a trailer was released for Enslaved and it reminded me of this game. I decided to go back and check it out. I have this bad habit where people show me something neat and I don't usually pay attention until years later. 



 
Saiyuki: Journey West is basically Final Fantasy Tactics goes to China before going to India. It was published by Koei, which isn't that surprising because Koei has this plan to monopolize every piece of East Asian story / war / period / mythology and turn it into a game. It's turn based strategy on a grid with height, movement range, etc. You take a small party and dominate the world! Well, dominate random monsters and thugs in China and India at least. This game is a whole lot easier than Final Fantasy Tactics. As long as you don't attack or cast a spell you can hit back as many times to try out different positions and test out spell ranges. If you accidentally hit X on the wrong spot, no problem. Hit triangle until you're back to the beginning and try again. It's so damn handy, I don't know how I played FFT without it. 


The trade off is that this game has a lot less depth than Final Fantasy Tactics. When you get a character, the only customization you'll have access to is changing around their armor and spells. Weapons are upgraded, so you won't be shopping for swords or guns or ninja knives. It's not that bad though, your second party member runs up on dudes and hits them with a rake. It's a lot more entertaining than it sounds. Killing a giant golem thing with a rake is pretty awesome. You can train at dojos and take jobs from cities but it ends up repeating a lot of battles over and over again at places you've already seen. Also, attack bonuses are boiled down to superior ground. There's no evil random number generator screwing you when you aren't looking. There's no percentages of how successful an attack will be. You either hit the guy or miss because you tried to hit them head on or from lower ground.
 
This game is also pretty linear with a handful of branching paths... But hey, you're going to India. Journey west. One direction. That's how you get there.
 
This game isn't great on exposition. It lingers on somethings while glossing over others. You'll get the gist of the story, why things are going on and what you're doing, but if you're wondering why or how one of your characters can turn into a giant fish monster... sorry. Who is Kannon Bodhisattva? I don't know, but you better do what she says because she works for Buddha or something. Where are all these mean freaks that look like various animals coming from? China (and India) in this game are just dangerous like that I guess. Still, I love the character design and any game where you can choose to be male or female is a nice aesthetic option. And curiously, this game keeps track of tons of random battle stats. At any time, you can find out who does the most damage in your group. Who got hit with the most punishment. Who had to pull out of the battle the most. Stupid stats are my favorite. Like Resident Evil 5 tells you how many shots you fired from every single weapon in the game.
 
Saiyuki: Journey West is no historical text. I'm sure this game takes as much liberties with the Journey West story as Hollywood does with any historic movie. Still, it's a lot of fun.
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Names on the Brain

After working on the Giant Bomb wiki, I've learned that I have a fondness for games that give names to their enemies and bosses and show it in-game. The best example in recent years I can think of is Okami. Every imp, wheel, spirit, and emperor of eternal darkness was introduced with an awesome painting and had a name to go with it in the bestiary. A few re-releases of games have been adding a section in the game where you can scroll through the list of unfriendly faces that try and kill you, like Chrono Trigger. In some extreme cases, like Star Fox 64, the only way you can really find out what everything is named is with the help of a player's guide where there are pages and pages of info on the biggest weapon and the littlest fighter that ever crosses the screen.
 
I just find it better that a name goes with the character. I don't care if it's something dumb like "Crazy Flailing Ax Guy Who is Also on Fire, Dude". As long as it/he/she has a name. Mega Man is probably the master of this with sheer simplicity. Which one is Fire Man? Probably the guy who is shooting fire all over the place. The lesser enemies had names but you would never find them in game, but at least the bosses were covered. It doesn't guarantee a good game, but the polish is nice. It also helps share your frustration with other people by quickly identifying a lame boss or enemy. Helps with communication too.

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The Taco Bell Bacon Ranch Tortada

In the spirit of the days when Giant Bomb tackled all sorts of crazy food and energy drinks, I wanted to write a bit about Taco Bell's newest offering. So this blog post is about food and the unnecessary detail that follows. The Bacon Ranch Tortada is pretty filling for it's size. I almost considered buying two of them but I was careful not to have eyes bigger than my stomach. It's got chicken, bacon, chopped tomatoes, lettuce and ranch. The one I got was pretty dry and needed a lot more ranch, but it was tasty. The wrap style makes it a clean food item to go after for the most part. A few pieces of chicken and tomato spilled out when I picked it up. I don't go to Taco Bell a lot, but basically my bar is set at the Cheesy Gordita Crunch level and the tortada has a long way to go before it beats that. I don't know if I'll go after the Salsa Roja Tortada. Spicy things really aren't my style.
 
As that joke goes, Taco Bell food is the same five ingredients repackaged in different ways. And the tortada isn't a bad way to do it.

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Late to the Party: Bayonetta

 When did this game come out? January? I bought it recently and played it, so I'm pretty late to the party.
 
I finished Bayonetta and I have this problem . . . I don't know where to start. To call this game crazy is too light. That would be like calling a nuclear bomb detonation a inconvenience on an otherwise pleasant day. No, Bayonetta is complete bone crunching madness. Everything from the character design to the game play to the plot is the game thumbing its nose in the face of safety. Every time I had an opportunity to go "This is crazy" the game responded with something bigger and more outlandish. Fighting on the wing of a speeding aircraft isn't crazy in this game, it's like an afternoon walk. Firearms on shoes pass as normal. Surfing on a bent piece of metal in the heart of a water spout while an angel monster tries to blast you with eye lasers is kinda crazy. Then I played long enough to get to the point where I was riding a motorcycle up a multi-stage rocket while it was in flight . . . into space!
 
This game has single handedly ruined my definition of crazy.
  
That said, I had tons of fun from beginning to end. As soon as I bought the Breakdancing move and saw it in action I knew I had to stay with this game. If I could, I would have beaten every stage doing nothing but head spins and roundhouses while bullets and casings fly every which way. All the moves in this game are slick and satisfying. I've seen people saying this game is close to the style of Devil May Cry but I got more of a Ninja Gaiden on the X-Box vibe. You have tons of cool moves and weapons to kill enemies, but they also have tons of cool moves and weapons to kill you. Not to mention the difficulty runs about the same speed. I started off pretty confident and scored a gold trophy in the intro on normal. And then the game started to crush me routinely. Still, it's hard to complain when you can put rocket launchers on your feet and kick missiles at enemies. Not to mention the quick saves between life bars on boss fights. Dear god, the boss fights. This game only knows how to make them in one style, completely gargantuan.
 
I've never seen a game nail the "spin 360 degrees while shooting in all directions" as well as this game has. The guns don't do a whole lot of damage on their own, but it's so much fun to do a full circle and start hammering away on the fire button as Bayonetta starts whipping her guns around in the style of every action movie ever. And when that gets old, she can also do it with her feet which is nuts, but hilariously awesome at the same time. Then I did it with shotguns and somehow it becomes even more awesome. I think an alternate title for this game could have been escalation, because that tells you everything you need to know. At one point profanity is nearly essential because words fail to do any justice to describe the situation. I suppose you could also call it dumb. But it doesn't feel all that bad to find the absurd application of firearms entertaining. Fun doesn't have to be complicated, subtle, or dead serious every single time. If you're telling me that there's going to be a fight on an cruise missile while it's flying around, I'm on board.
 
After playing this game, I will probably have to compare everything to Bayonetta to measure how crazy it is. At least until I see something even more bizarre however unlikely it might be.

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The Big Mega Man Rundown, Part 2

Part 2 of the big Mega Man rundown includes the other five games. No mystery there. This is probably the craziest back end because Mega Man games start popping up on other consoles all over the place. 

Mega Man 6 (released 1993)

 Blizzard Man can dance
Mega Man 6 feels like the game where Capcom finally decided that they were going to stop holding back on robot masters that reference other cultures or might appear to be playing to a stereotype. With that in mind they totally let loose and left no stone unturned coming up with some pretty questionable designs if you think too hard about it. It's justified by the story which involves an international robot tournament set up by the not-so-mysterious Mr. X. Basically Dr. Wily in a paper thin disguise hijacking robots from all over the world in an attempt to take over- again. When this game came out, I couldn't decide if it was surprising that Dr. Wily was still the last boss, or that it was just too hard to break from tradition. This game was alright, nothing too amazing or disappointing. It's solid if just a bit forgettable.
 
I remember it because it was the game where Rush was dropped in favor of strange armor that Mega Man put on to fly around and break blocks to access alternate routes and pick up E Tanks hidden away. I was about halfway through the game before I was okay with it, but I prefer Rush to funky armor. I was too young to put together Flame Man's middle eastern reference. What with a robot wearing a turban controlling an oil field in all. Tomahawk Man was more my speed. Plant Man was universally hated for being a dumb design. But my favorite from 6 was Blizzard Man, only because when he enters the boss lair, it looks like he's doing a little dance to the boss music. Plus he's got skis and turns into a rolling ball. If I had to place him on the map, I'd say . . . Canada? Yeah. Canada. Heh. 
 

Mega Man 7 (released 1995)

Mega Man's first game on the SNES turned out to be a pretty awkward thing. I bought it with my own hard earned money from doing chores around the house and took a long time to adjust to how big everything was on screen. Mega Man was a freaking giant compared to his sprite on the NES games. The Met enemies were freakish and sliding and jumping felt off. But after awhile it became easy enough and Mega Man 7 is a good enough game. The only thing I didn't really care for was how you only had access to four robot masters at a time. After you beat the first four, you did a weird half-time boss and then the other four came in. There are two parts of this game that drove me absolutely insane when I tried to beat it. Bass with his armor in Dr. Wily's castle and the lass boss. I thought I would never beat this game ever. It was insane to me that Wild Spring was the last boss' weakness because I really sucked at using it. However, Mega Man 7 has some of the most memorable music in the series. I love the robot master boss tune. It's my favorite boss fight music over all.  

Codename: Slinky Man
My favorite robot master from this game is Spring Man. He's just so dumb he slips into some weird zone where he becomes awesome. Really, his battle animations sell it. One of this attacks involve jumping toward Mega Man, grabbing him, and then slamming him into the ceiling of the boss lair. Afterwards, he throws Mega Man aside like he's getting rid of a piece of garbage. It's so good. My friends just called him Slinky Man though. That's what we though his name was when we saw his picture before the game came out. Spring Man did not disappoint. A lot of bosses in Mega Man 7 have really good moves. Turbo Man gets his transformer on. Slash Man jumps around like a lunatic. Shade Man does his best Dracula performance and sucks Mega Man's . . . blood? Oil? Fluids? Whatever. I have to say that I didn't really care about Bass, but he's way better than doing a palette swap of Mega Man and calling him Evil Man or Doppleganger Man. 
 
 

Mega Man 8 (released 1996)

 He's a blast *rimshot*
This is my least favorite Mega Man game ever. In fact, I hate this game a lot. I remember being so bummed that I couldn't play it when it first came out because it was on a PlayStation. The first time I was able to play it was when the Anniversary Collection came out. My excitement was quickly smashed under a barrage of terrible cut scenes, terrible voice acting and goddamn awful level design. Hey, if you like Dr. Light sounding like Elmer Fudd, that's fine. Mega Man sounded like a five year old trying to be deadly serious and I think that's what the whole problem with this game was. Mega Man 8 tried to take itself really, really seriously. And when you have a boss called Clown Man in the game, you've already shot yourself in the foot. I like to think this is where Capcom realized that Mega Man was a game that didn't modernize well. Thankfully they had the presence of mind to stop, where a series like Sonic the Hedgehog kept running into the wall of terrible games. The thing I hate most about this game was an ice sled section that came up in Frost Man's stage and another time in Dr. Wily's castle. I have not the words to express how much I hate the sled sequences in this game. URGH. 
 
This game also had some pretty terrible music with the exception of Astro Man's stage. Everything else is pretty forgettable. My favorite robot master in Mega Man 8 (because I forced myself to pick one) is Grenade Man. I like his design and the idea of a suicide robot built like a grenade . . . but he's really creepy. He's a masochist and loves to get hurt. And blown up. And shot. His voice samples don't help. But at least he looks cool. But yeah, Mega Man 8. Worst game in the series. I don't care about evil energy or Duo and it's a good thing they haven't shown up again. The less I see about this game, the better. 
 

Mega Man 9 (released 2008)

Best stage music ever! 
Mega Man 9 was an incredible surprise when it was first announced. I couldn't be more excited for the idea of making games in the style of older titles. Not every game needs to become 3D and be dominated by a next-gen brown color scheme. Making something simple in the style of an NES game for the year 2008 is a stroke of genius in my opinion. After all, do you need anything more from a Mega Man game other than navigate a stage, fight a boss, get a new power, and beat Dr. Wily? Not to mention Capcom has dozens of other Mega Man franchises where they can do things like Battle Network or the ZX series. It would be a fair claim to say that Mega Man 9 trades on nostalgia but that's not necessarily a bad thing. The catch, however, is that Mega Man 9 is sadistically hard. I mean it is really, really hard. Hard to the point of being obvious that they went out of their way to make this game stupidly hard. Mega Man games were tricky, but they were never this mean. If someone never played a Mega Man game and tried to get into 9, they would be totally put off. 
 
I like that they made this game but I think they went a little too overboard with the difficulty. The hardest game from the NES series I can think of is Mega Man 2 and it's nowhere near as tough as this game. As a slap in the face, they offer Easy Mode as downloadable content. Bad form. Still, there is a lot of awesome in this game. The music especially. I love Galaxy Man's theme and he's a pretty cool robot master too. He transforms into a UFO and drops Black Holes as bombs. Pretty sweet. Where's that Killstreak reward for Modern Warfare 2? Deploy Black Hole. Awesome. This game also did the impossible by introducing Splash Woman, the one and only female robot master. If this game came out when I was seven it would have blown my mind. Technically, woman ends with "man" so it still works in the spirit of the series. But that's probably splitting hairs or getting into an unnecessary debate on Mega Man ethics. Oh you laugh. I assure you, those people are out there. It's still great that this game exists. Awesome. 
 

Mega Man 10 (released 2010)

I really didn't expect Capcom to roll out Mega Man 10 as soon as they did. I'm surprised this game got made at all. Maybe it makes sense to round out the series and end on a solid number. This time they show mercy and tone down stupidly hard jumps and badly placed mini-bosses for more entertaining adventures. And if normal mode is still too tough, you don't have to buy easy mode to enjoy the game. At this point they've let loose and decided that any design is a good robot master design- Sheep Man included. This is one of my favorites. Probably just behind Mega Man 5. It doesn't really do anything new but the experience is fun. The robot masters all have great animations, and Nitro Man is cool on wheels. He can drive up the wall and deploy what looks like Metal Blades that roll all over the place. This game has a lot of great music and there aren't any lame cutscenes that leave a bad taste in your mouth like Mega Man 8. If you told me that I would still be playing Mega Man games in the year 2010, I wouldn't believe you. 
 
Zero to cool in sixty seconds 
They had a lot of fun with the Dr. Wily fortress. The first stage is practically unforgettable the way they set it up and you get to meet a bunch of old friends if you've been playing this series from the beginning. However this game also has the easiest Dr. Wily fortress boss EVER. Period. Of all time. Crab Puncher is probably the easiest thing to kill ever. I beat it on my first try with half health and couldn't believe it. If you use it's weakness it goes down twice as fast. It's really surprising and refreshing at the same time. After fighting nine bosses in the last stage, it's unusual that they would give you a break with the Crab Puncher. 
 
After playing and beating Mega Man 10 I can say that I wouldn't be surprised if Mega Man 11 came out next year or two years from now. Once Capcom hits a stride with a series they will keep releasing games for it. Expect the Super Mega Man Collection (including games 1 to 10) sometime in the near future. Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if they kept going until they hit 20. In a few years, I might have to make another post adding on to the extra games they've released. 
 
As long as they're fun, I'll play them.
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The Big Mega Man Rundown, Part 1

Mega Man 10 came out a few weeks ago making the classic series finally hit double digits. When it starts up, it has a full list of the Mega Man series from No.1 to No.10 and the years they were released. I realized that I have been playing Mega Man games for a long, long time. The first one I ever played was Mega Man 3 on a friend's NES. The first one I ever bought (or more like my parents bought) was Mega Man 2. I was big into robots when I was really young and seeing the next set of "Man" designs was a real treat. Knowing the cold hard fact that there are ten of these games is funny and awesome all rolled up into one. Ten is a nice round number so I wanted to collect my thoughts as I go through each one and measure them with what I know now. 

Mega Man (released 1987)

 Dude, he's on fire
             I never started this series with the first game and I'm really glad I didn't because the first Mega Man is terrible. I had this same reaction after playing Super Metroid and then wanted to go back and play Metroid on the NES. A lot of the problems with this game comes from the fact that it isn't made very well. All you have to do is play Ice Man's stage with the flying platforms that shoot at you to understand what you're up against. The screen flickers because it can't handle the action and you end up phasing through the flying platforms if you get hit. Or play Guts Man's stage and wrestle with the platforms that ride on rails and dump you at the worst possible moments. As an added bonus, spikes can kill you even as you're flashing. The animations for the bosses are probably only two or three frames (attack, not attack, move) and if you manage to play long enough to reach Dr. Wily's castle, the Yellow Devil will eat your soul (unless you glitch his ass, fair play as far as I'm concerned). Since I played 2 way before I ever got around to playing 1, I should have seen this coming. Still I was curious what I missed. Things this game did do well is the boss select concept allowing you to play in the order you want, and the hideously awesome cover art. I still have the NES cartridge of Mega Man in a shoebox along with my still functioning NES. I beat this game once and never touched it again.  

My favorite robot master from this game is Fire Man. I intend to make the captions on pictures as cheesy as possible in honor of the cover art. Bad is good, baby. 
 

Mega Man 2 (released in 1988)

Mega Man 2 was my very first Mega Man game when I got an NES. It came loaded with eight robot masters, awesome music, decent game play, and could actually handle the action it was dishing out. We had this game at my daycare and took turns playing it to death. Nearly everyone started with Metal Man so his stage music is permanently stuck in my brain along with the clown robot that rides the gear and tries to steamroll you. The other part of this game I will never forget is the gargantuan pit right before Heat Man that you can only navigate by jumping across goddamn disappearing and reappearing blocks. The kids at my daycare nicknamed it the "Duh Duh Blocks" after the sound effect when they blink in and out of the wall. I always skipped it by using Item 2 (Rush Jet before Rush Jet). The only time I actually tried to jump across using the blocks was after the Mega Man Anniversary Collection came out for the PS2. Bubble Man sucked, Flash Man's music was the shit, and Dr. Wily turned into an alien at the end of the game (but not really).  

Still pretty cool 
There are also a lot of things about this game that I don't share with what I see on the internet and hear from other people. Air Man (contrary to the popular song) was hardly a blip on the radar. Quick Man was the "hardest" robot master in my circle of friends. Also, the Dragon Robot boss in Dr. Wily's first stage is a total joke to beat. Stand on top block, fire Quick Boomerang, get hit and fall down to middle block, jump back up to top block, repeat. The Security System Boss in the third stage was the hardest fortress boss. I didn't learn until years later that you can kill it with the Crash Bomb without running short on energy if you put bombs in just the right place. It's actually really cool that people can play the same game and get a totally different vibe from it. I'm sure there are plenty of things people can't share with me when talking about Mega Man.  
  
 
Oddly enough my favorite robot master from MM2 is Air Man. I liked his design and his stage music was really catchy. Not to mention, his power can kill that jumping lunatic Crash Man in one hit if you're lucky.

Mega Man 3 (released 1990)

 He will, he will, shock you
Yes! This is one of my favorite Mega Man games ever. This is the standard I hold other Mega Man games up to. I couldn't tell you how crushed I was when I heard Mega Man 9 was going to be based on 2. When Mega Man 3 introduced slide, it was mind blowing. I spent the better half of this game just sliding around like an idiot. Slide to pick up that energy pellet. Slide to get to that ladder. Slide across the room. Slide because I just wanna. Not to mention 3 has some of the more memorable robot masters. Top Man, Snake Man, Needle Man, etc. Gemini Man was always considered "Mr. Cool" among my friends for some unspoken reason. And don't forget Hard Man. I was probably immature as a kid, but even I was like "Really? Hard Man? C'mon!" There are so many great music tracks and most of them in Dr. Wily's castle. Stage 1 in MM3 beats out Stage 1 in MM2 in my opinion. Plus the boss music for Dr. Wily is one of the greatest ever. But the real reason this game is so great is because it's practically two games in one. I'm talking about the Doc Bots. 

It's always hard to recapture the first time you do or see something incredible. But after beating the eight robot masters of MM3 and seeing the funky Doc Bots show up, it was something else. The stages got harder and changed a bit but nothing was quite as awesome as fighting all the robot masters from MM2 again. Holy shit. It was so incredible. At least it was incredible until I realized that Quick Man was back. Then I killed him and things were incredible again. The only things that didn't work so well with the Doc Bot stages was the level design. In Needle Man's stage, if you played through the bottomless pit section with Rush Jet and died somewhere near the end, the strategically placed energy pellets that let you refill Rush's energy didn't respawn, so you couldn't make it unless you got a game over and restarted the stage. Or maybe if you got incredibly lucky drops after killing enemies. Repeat playthroughs made the Doc Bot section a little taxing, so memorizing the code to go straight to Dr. Wily's castle was gold back then. Mega Man 3 is awesome.

My favorite robot master from MM3 is Spark Man, mostly because his expression when he tosses his ball of electricity is hilarious. 
 

Mega Man 4 (released in 1991)

         
Dust Man has exactly one fan
Mega Man 4 is something of an odd duck. There's just something about it. It's nothing to do with the game play. The introduction of a charge shot was completely awesome . . . but I don't know. Maybe I'm just not digging the whole Red Scare/Russian vibe that runs through the whole thing. The robot masters are okay with a few standouts. Skull Man might as well be the official mascot of Dr. Wily and all thing associated with Dr. Wily. The stages do some interesting things going to places like a junkyard and an underground mine. You know, I think it has to do with the boss music. Mega Man 4 has the least interesting boss music in the entire series (with the exception of the Dr. Wily fight). It put a huge drag on it because the same music is recycled for fortress bosses too. At any rate, Mega Man 4 exists. It's an okay game. Probably one of my least favorite of the series, but not the worst. 
 
I remember this game mostly for the robot master levels. They had some sort of gimmick that made every stage have at least one part that really sucked. The robot whales in Dive Man's stage. The funky half-circle moving platforms in Bright Man's stage. The dust crushers in Dust Man's stage. The switches that spawned platforms in Drill Man's stage. I mean it goes on and on. This shit is now standard in nearly every Mega Man game, but at the time it was a little hard to take in. There was a time when I thought I would never get past Dust Man's stage because of the stupid crushers. This game also pulled the first of many "Dr. Wily is still behind everything". Who knew in a few more games it would be as predictable as a Scooby Doo routine? Dr. Cossack has a sweet castle though. 
 
My favorite robot master from 4 is Dust Man. I think he's cool. Most people think he's the dumbest thing ever. So I guess that means I am the one and only Dust Man fan. Go Dust or go home.
 

Mega Man 5 (released in 1992)

 
 Explosions will definitely be involved
Mega Man 5 is my most favorite Mega Man game ever.  
 
Even after playing MM9 and MM10, it's STILL my favorite Mega Man game ever. The music hits all the right notes with me. The level design is sweet. I mean, this game has an anti-gravity stage! C'mon, anti-gravity stages are the best thing ever. You also get to ride a train and kill robotic chickens. If that wasn't enough, you get to hop on a jet ski. Not to mention you have the full use of slide and charge shot if you want to use it. Nothing is made artificially hard by hindering your abilities. The fortress bosses are cool and this game also introduces Beat. Your homing bird of death that will kill the last form of Dr. Wily dead no problem at all. I could go on and on. The only part of this game that I hate is Crystal Man's stage. There are these shafts that drop crystals into bottomless pits. The opening to jump across is pretty small, and sometimes it feels random. They kill me just about every single time. Other than that this game is golden. 
 
I suppose it helps that this game has my favorite robot master of all time. Napalm Man. To give you an idea of how old I was when this came out, I had no idea what Napalm was. Or Vietnam. I had to hit up a dictionary and ask my parents questions to which they had the understandable reaction of "Why are you asking about Napalm?". A lot of robot masters have funky designs and a few aren't that threatening. Napalm Man is one of the few where he looks like he was designed to blow shit up until shit no longer exists. Grenade launchers, missile launchers, treads. I don't know why he's purple but that's probably thinking too hard. It was very satisfying to see Napalm Man come back in the Wily Archives in Mega Man 10. After I got over the initial shock, I immediately picked up on his pattern and had a nostalgic moment to remember. That might be a spoiler. But if you've read all the way down here about some guy's opinion on the Mega Man series, you probably already know about the Wily Archives anyway. 
 
That covers the first five games. I'll be getting around to the other five another time. It's late where I am, and I've had one hell of a time adjusting to Giant Bomb's system on putting images in topics. Hopefully everything turned out well and looks okay.
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RE 5 Gold: Lost in Nightmares and Desperate Escape

After putting in some time with the main story and Mercenaries Reunion, I got around to trying the two bonus scenarios included in Resident Evil 5: Gold Edition. I held off as long as I could because I remembered bonus scenarios or extra stories in Resident Evil games are always, always hard. I remember playing the "4th Survivor" in Resident Evil 2 and getting killed by dogs in the second room (that was a long time ago). Closer to RE5, "Assignment Ada" from RE4 was brutal until I managed to beat it somehow. To tell the truth, I don't honestly remember all the details of beating Assignment Ada, only that Krauser at the end was a total bitch and that I got the Chicago Typewriter for my trouble. One thing Lost in Nightmares and Desperate Escape have over previous bonus modes is the ability to choose a difficulty. You can make it easy and check things out, or crank that shit up to Tofu Survivor levels. Like knife only, no spray cans kind of shit.

 
Lost in Nightmares  
 
Lost in Nightmares feels like a prologue to Resident Evil 5 that was cut somewhere as the game was developed and brought back to life as DLC. It's pretty short with the exception of one part that drags out forever and banks a lot of appeal on nostalgia. The beginning is like a long list of "remember when . . ." from the very first Resident Evil. Remember zombie things jumping through windows? Remember plaques and crests? Remember when you found a magnum and there were only 6 bullets for it? Yeah, Lost in Nightmares trades with that kind of currency. There's only one enemy type in the whole scenario, which is some strange shout-out to Lisa Trevor from the Resident Evil GameCube remake. You spend very little time running around a mansion before going underground and navigating mazes and such. 
 
However, one thing I was surprised with was how different my playthrough was compared to Brad's when he did a Quick Look of Lost in Nightmares for the site. He went head on with his first enemy and had a fight in a narrow dungeon hallway. When I ran into my first enemy I got flanked by two of them and was nearly trapped between anchor toting freaks with eyeballs on their backs. At one point I was swarmed by four of them. I didn't kill any of the Anchor freaks until I absolutely had to in order to beat the scenario. It was interesting to think that if I played again online or with Jill, the enemy locations might switch again. Still, it feels bare as far as extra scenarios go in Resident Evil games. Like I said before, it's more like a prologue. You find a mansion, shoot a few monsters, lose a hopeless boss fight, Jill falls out a window, skip ahead a few years to Chris Redfield in Africa, start the real game. 
 
Desperate Escape  
 
Desperate Escape lives up to its name. Your best course of action through the whole scenario is run run run. Get the hell away from TriCell Africa. It's pretty much like the Mercenaries mini-game with a cast and a story. No matter where you go or what you do, guys will keep coming until you are dead or a timer runs down. The majority of them are Majini with melee weapons and dynamite but they also throw Executioners and Chainsaw Majini at you as well. I was playing on normal, so it never felt like ammo was a problem. Healing items though are rare like a damn endangered species. I was sitting on shotgun ammo, machine gun ammo, a magnum and several grenades and I haven't even gotten to Josh yet. But I was in the orange zone for health nearly the entire game. This is much harder than Lost in Nightmares but there's a lot more meat to the scenario. Again, compared to Brad's run in the Quick Look he did, my weapon set was very different. I picked up a shotgun and another handgun compared to his PSG-1. And the Executioner he tangled with jumped me much later on in the stage.
 
Also, a helicopter pilot dies. Anyone who cries spoilers at this point should know- If you are a helicopter pilot in Resident Evil, you are going to die. No exception. This game series has a proud tradition of killing off anyone who flies a whirly bird and tries to be a big goddamn hero by saving the player characters. Brad Vickers survived a game or two, but even he got what was coming to him. I mention this, because Desperate Escape takes itself a bit too seriously and tries to act like the death of the pilot is some shocking development. The characters act that way. I laughed because I knew it was coming, and the game did not dissapoint. Don't fly helicopters in Resident Evil kids, you'll live longer (but probably not by much). Desperate Escape has the most replay value, because I could see co-op runs of blasting through the gauntlet they throw at you getting pretty frantic. Playing this on higher difficulties (and the zero margin for error Professional Mode) could keep serious RE players occupied for some time. 
  

 
I'd say that Desperate Escape is my favorite of the two simply because it has that feeling of "4th Survivor" where shit is going down and you're out of luck. The more I think about Lost in Nightmares, the more I would have liked if it was the beginning of RE5 (with a few changes for pacing). It quickly goes over how far the series has come and then shifts to Africa for the central story to begin. The player knows what happened to Jill and they can wonder what exactly went down between Wesker and Spencer before they showed up.

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