A very rare Saturday post for you! I’ve put up a bit more Samus artwork from Metroid Prime this morning. More to come!
All posts for the month April, 2011
Posted by WildcatJF on April 30, 2011
Sketchy shetches this week. Sorry. Let me start that over minus the terrible repetition.
I have two character sketches and some face sketches done in various mediums for you today. The characters are Kristyn and Trent – I’m pretty happy with both.
Lastly, I was bored and unable to find my drawing pencil for a bit, so I grabbed random implements and doodled some faces. Clockwise from the top – Chad, Mike, Claire, Takara, Janelle and Alexia. Takara turned out the best, I think.
Posted by WildcatJF on April 29, 2011
It’s been some time since we’ve focused on one particular game – now’s as good as time as any to showcase what could very well be my absolute favorite – Capcom’s Mega Man 3 for the NES. Composed by Yasuaki Fujita (aka BUNBUN), this soundtrack has stood the test of time and remains one of the finest chiptune renditions of the NES era. I’ll share 10 of my favorites off of this STK, starting with two I’ve covered previously. Enjoy!
Proto Man’s Theme
Let’s start with my absolute favorite gaming song of all time. When I first heard Protoman’s whistle in game, I loved the way it sounded. When I finally beat the game, my happiness kicked into overdrive. Protoman’s Whistle Concert is beautiful. It captures the mystique of Protoman’s character perfectly. It stands tall among the NES compositions, to me easily at the top. But ultimately, the song is just well composed. It fits the mood following MM3′s conclusion. It helped me love the character of Protoman. It’s one reason I love MM3 in general. And it’s just a great, great song. It cuts a little short in the game, but you can find the complete tune on this Youtube clip.
I believe I wrote my original notes on this in a hurry, because they are a bit crap. XD Snake Man’s frantic theme slithers its way from its thumping strike of an intro into a very melodic bridge that I greatly enjoy. It’s my favorite “lair” piece in the series.
A slow start builds into a triumphant declaration of gaming goodness once this theme gets going. Always liked the energy in this one – pumps you up for the battles ahead!
Posted by WildcatJF on April 28, 2011
I know I said I was done with these, but I wanted to spotlight a few titles following the N64 and Game Boy Advance that I felt were notable (and give Warioware its proper due). Anything that’s a sequel to a prior spin-off will not be covered! Also, I’ll be not going as lavish on the visuals as before – the boxarts and a couple examples of the game’s art will be it this time. That said, let’s see what Mario’s done on the Gamecube, Wii and DS that is off the well-worn Super Mario path.
Other Heroes than Mario Leading the Way:
Luigi lands his first Nintendo-made starring role, equipped with a ghost-nomming vacuum and a flashlight against a bevy of spirits, ghouls, and Boos. Not a bad game by any means, but probably not the best one to launch your hardware with! Luigi’s Mansion introduced Professor E.Gadd into the Mario family, although following the Gamecube/GBA eras he’s been notably absent. Perhaps he wasn’t as welcome a guest as Nintendo hoped, eh?
Developed by the ever-loved Treasure (who made Gunstar Heroes, Ikaruga, Radiant Silvergun and Sin & Punishment), Wario’s muscles get a fantastic workout as you get to clobber Wario’s treasure, which has been converted by a sinister Black Jewel into monsters and beasts. With throws, blows and leaking noses, Wario’s first console platformer was very solidly done, if not a bit repetitive. I like it, but I just don’t know if I’m going to replay it anytime soon…
Super Princess Peach
TOSE handled Peach’s platforming debut, which combined Mario mechanics with a very cliched “Emotional Vibe” system that gave Peach special powers depending on what mood she was in. Using these feelings, she had to rescue Mario and Luigi from Bowser for once. Novel! Despite the sexism, it’s considered a great game, although it’s rather hard to find now.
Dance Dance Revolution: Mario Mix
Konami and Nintendo mixed together their large franchises for a one-shot Dance-off, with the unusual choice of making Waluigi the main antagonist. It’s the closest he’s ever been to being more than Wario’s second banana! The game features mixes based on Mario tunes, but Konami didn’t release any other DDR material for the ‘Cube, making it a game for the really hardcore Mario/DDR fans that yearned to see such a union.
Mario Superstar Baseball
Another outside company handled Mario’s baseball antics – Namco! I’ve not played this or its Wii sequel, but I’ve heard they’re okay. I don’t like baseball that much, so color me uninterested.
Super Mario Strikers
Next Level Games began their Nintendo relationship with what could be considered the most extreme (or XTREME, depending on how you look at it) take on Mario and his friends with Strikers, a crazy soccer game. The first did well enough to launch a Wii sequel that improved a lot of the nitpicks from the first, but I’ve not tried this out yet, so I’ll cut further speculation out. The devs would go on to make the Wii Punch-Out!! update, which was pretty huge. I’ve included Peach and Daisy’s art here mainly because it’s so unusual to see them displayed in this way officially in the Mario canon. This is probably the only time you’ll see their navels. :p Kind of ballsy, really – usually Nintendo’s pretty conservative with them. Very big shifts in their designs to go from dresses and high heels to these.
Mario Hoops 3-on-3
The developer roulette now lands on Square-Enix, the most improbable developer of a basketball game you may be able to fathom, but lo and behold, they did do such a thing. With cameos from some Final Fantasy characters, it was the first (but not the last) mix-up between those two universes. The game was panned a bit for its controls, if I recall, but again, I’ve not tried it out, so I’m not going to judge!
Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games
An epic crossover spurned on by the rivalry of the 16-bit wars, Mario and Sonic united with their respective allies and foes to tackle Olympic events. Sega handled the development duties with Shigeru Miyamoto supervising, and I guess they’ve been a hit, since we’ll be seeing a third chapter for the 3DS and Wii this year.
Mario Sports Mix
Square-Enix takes on Mario and sports a second time, this time adding hockey, volleyball, and dodgeball to their prior basketball concepts. Dragon Quest’s Slime joined up with the Final Fantasy crew to make this a three-franchise crossover. I’m more interested in this due to liking volleyball and dodgeball, but I doubt I’ll ever get it unless I find it cheap somewhere.
Unquestionably the biggest hit Nintendo’s had with Mario spin-offs in the last two generations is the Warioware, Inc. line of mini-game hi-jinks, hosted by everyone’s favorite farting garlic-eater, Wario. Here he’s been recast into new clothes, starring alongside a unique cast, and thrust into spearheading a rogue developer that cranks out short games on the cheap. It’s a very unique premise that Nintendo went all out with, with six games in the series so far and no sign of it slowing down. Somehow or another I’ve not tried these out – I’ll have to remedy that one day.
Posted by WildcatJF on April 28, 2011
After Sunshine’s spottiness, Nintendo decided to send Mario’s next 3D outing into the hands of relatively new developers – EAD Tokyo, who had one game under their belt, the DK Bongo-driven Donkey Kong Jungle Beat. That game was well-received (save the hardcore DK fans clamoring for more of Rare’s DKC universe to be involved), and Nintendo threw what could be the greatest gift/challenge at them for their next project – making the next 3D Super Mario. Luckily for us, EAD Tokyo rose to the task, and delivered a solid beginning to a whole new mini-franchise.
The game’s plot is pretty standard Mario fare – Peach invites Mario to the Star Festival at the castle, which he gladly accepts and begins meandering over there like a lovesick bird that can’t fly (that’s how I interpreted his happy run at the beginning :p ). But before Mario makes it there, Bowser shows up in his airship (loved the SMB3 reference!), hi-jacks the castle and, utilizing amazing talents stolen from space, rockets Mario out of the atmosphere. Luckily, our bedazzled hero lands on a planet, and discovers the galaxy surrounding the Mushroom Kingdom. He meets up with Rosalina, the “Queen” of this galaxy, who agrees to allow Mario to explore her observatory (the game’s hub) in order to rejuvenate its Star power (which Bowser usurped)…and sit in on her Storytime to her Luma friends (who consider her to be their mother). Yep. Anyway, in the end, Bowser is defeated, Peach and the Mushroom Kingdom are rescued, and Rosalina leaves the intrepid hero and his Princess to return to their home deep in space.
Before leaping into the gameplay, let’s focus momentarily on Rosalina, the third official member of royalty to enter Mario’s canon. Peach remains the most notable, naturally, and Daisy continues to serve as an accessory to Kart/Sports/Party games, but Rosalina has had the distinction of being in two main games to the series, supplanting Daisy’s lone appearance (and in Super Mario Land, at that), given her more clout. She’s definitely more important to Galaxy than its sequel, which pushes her into the game’s conclusion and Super Guide aspects and ignores her otherwise. Here she’s the head of the game’s hub world, protector of her children Luma and to the universe itself, and has yet to be captured by some spiky turtle dictator. So, she’s a bit more empowered than Peach. Her design comes from a very similar cloth to Princess Toadstool’s, save a large clump of hair covering her right eye, the blue dress that is different in style, and her wand waggling. But I like her character, and think she’s a solid addition to the line-up. It’s nice to see a princess who is NOT constantly threatened of being the victim of kidnapping, and she certainly has some power buried within that wand of hers, if my memory of Mario Galaxy 2 is any indication.
Okay, tangent over. Mario Galaxy is a far superior product than Mario Sunshine was. For one, it feels far more polished and creative, channeling a lot of Mario’s past into its design. The levels are more linear than Mario 64 or Sunshine’s, feeling much more like one of the 2D Mario titles but done in three dimensions. There’s alternative paths to take, which may lead you to hidden stars. But Mario’s platforming is radically different than before thanks to the spherical nature of the planetoids he’s running around on. Being in space opened up several gameplay possibilities that Nintendo keenly capitalized on (and its sequel perfecting, but that’s the next article), making this feel both similar and distinctly different from Marios of old. These spheres, for example, are not flat – Mario can gallop all over them, and by doing so is able to run underneath some platforms, a mind-bending exercise that takes some adjustment to get used to. “Falling” into a pit is also a change, as there are holes all over these globes to avoid, and not all of them lead downward. It’s a fresh spin on the Mario model. The game also breaks things down to smaller chunks – there’s rarely a huge field to cover ground on, but far more often it’s a small planet with its own unique task, and then Mario leaps through space to the next challenge, and so on. It’s a refreshing break from the more straightforward approach the prior 3D Marios took with enormous areas to explore, and while it sort of strips away some of the discovery Mario 64 pioneered so well, it’s well-executed and rarely becomes a thorn.
I’ve felt that Mario Galaxy was attempting to channel the aura of Super Mario Bros. 3 at times, and one reason why I feel that way is the reintroduction of suits to the Mario power-up catalog. There’s four in total, on top of the Fire Flower, Ice Flower (making its debut) and Starman – Bee, Boo, Spring and Flying Mario. Bee Mario lets you hover for a bit, as well as stick to honey panels. Boo Mario allows you to float around like a Boo, turn invisible and pass through certain walls. Spring Mario, probably the most reviled power-up in the franchise due to its iffy controls, gives Mario some spring to his leaps and allows him to jump incredibly high, but is frustratingly difficult to control, since he’s always bouncing. Flying Mario revisits Mario’s SMB3 colors and gives him the ability to soar around like Mario 64′s Wing Cap, but it’s more a bonus than anything else. Galaxy 2 would expand upon this, but I’ll cover that in the next piece. The Fire Flower and Ice Flower were timed, compared to before when the Fire Flower lasted until Mario was hit by something, mainly to minimize abusing their powers. Ice Mario also could skate on the water, and looked like Metal Mario but frozen…which was kind of cool.
Beyond Rosalina and the Lumas, a Toad Brigade was introduced in Galaxy. These intrepid Toads would follow Mario into the levels, often leading themselves to the platforming at hand, and offer advice or suggestions on where to go next. They kept this for the sequel, which I liked – it’s nice to see Nintendo using the Toads for more than mere Bowser fodder. Another nice thing about Galaxy is that it brought back a rather prominent Mario character who had been squeezed out of making an appearance in Mario 64 and Mario Sunshine for inexplicable reasons, and would have this aspect thrown in his face in cameos in the Paper Mario series…
That’s right! Luigi FINALLY returned to the fold after skipping out on Mario’s prior quests, and even was playable for those dedicated players who conquered the game with all 120 stars. You could play Super Luigi Galaxy and try to redo that feat with Luigi, who was much more agile in the air but had terrible traction. It was really nice to see Luigi come back – I’ve always liked him more.
Galaxy also had a dynamic final encounter with Bowser, one of my favorite fights with him and is probably the one aspect the original game has over its sequel. The final brawl with Galaxy 2′s Bowser, unless it improves significantly with having all of the game’s stars before tackling him, is a very unexciting rehash of what you did before, plus one extra step. I was rather disappointed. Galaxy’s, meanwhile, was quite epic and awesome.
All and all, the first Galaxy was a fine return to form after Sunshine’s mediocrity. However, Galaxy 2 is a far more refined and incredible game that really took the building blocks behind this game and reimagined them beautifully as an ideal sequel, making this effort seem more conservative, which works against it at times. The hub world was bloated and a chore to hike around, the worlds are less inspiring than the sequel, and the Spring power-up makes too many appearances. I like Galaxy, but the sequel is far superior.
Posted by WildcatJF on April 28, 2011
While I was checking out J-Rock bands for a soundtrack for Shi (long story), I discovered Ellegarden, who are really good! This is one of their bigger songs, I guess, but it’s excellent! This is off of Dynamord, I believe. It would help if I read Japanese or the poster of this provided some sort of information. XD They’ve broken up, but they at least left a solid amount of good music behind.
Posted by WildcatJF on April 27, 2011
Let me tell you about a phenomenon called “GRABBIN’ PEELZ!”
Some time following the release of Left 4 Dead, Valve’s zombie FPS, one person…or maybe multiple people, I don’t know…noticed that one of the survivor characters, Louis, had strange enthusiasm upon discovering the Pain Pills item, something that grants the user temporary hit points. Said person (or somebody else who was alerted of this enthusiasm) brought the character models from Left 4 Dead into Garrysmod and went to town, using in-game music in tandem with Louis’ voice clips to make…this.
Ever since the initial video, the GRABBIN’ PEELZ! meme (also called “what happens when X gets Y”) skyrocketed. There have been tons of videos using this formula, set to the same music and everything, and though people would mix things up by adding their own little embellishments every once in a while, you still ultimately wound up with the same thing. As you’d figure, not every GRABBIN’ PEELZ! video (and its variations) were all that funny…but I’m here to spare you the torment of cruising pages and pages of mediocrity to get to the gold. (more…)
Posted by TEi on April 26, 2011
More preliminary text for you today – this is an updated (but still outdated – there will be some significant changes to this narrative when the comic is officially going) introduction to the plot of Black Blood. This was originally composed in 2005 or so, give or take. It showcases Krodor, the villain who was in the teaser two weeks back, as well as a major character, Lauren, who you have not seen yet. This is part 1, so expect the next to appear on the following Monday. I hope you enjoy it!
An elf steps outside of the cave he was once barred inside of into the dew of the morning. This man was known as Krodor, the Deathcaster. He wielded great magic, magic so fearsome that he could destroy the world with the undead armies he can summon to his beck and call. The King of Aika sentenced him to suffer for these last five years, but finally he was able to crush the holy magic that shielded him inside. His white and red robe blows in the wind, as does his silver gray hair. The stench of death he breathes. The skulls on his necklace rattle loudly. He looks at his bleached skin, as white as the snows of Ica, where he comes from. Normally the Ice Elves have no magical talents, but Krodor is a stunning exception.
“Today…is the day I take over…where death, chaos and mayhem rule over life, justice and sanity. TODAY!” he screams, and begins his dreadful match towards the capital city of Aika.
The King of Aika felt unease as the night crawled closer. It felt like some sort of impending dread was coming right at him. “Are you alright, my Lord?” Lauren, the head of the King’s Knights, asked him.
“Ay, but a feeling in my gut tells me that something evil is coming this way.”
“Not on my watch, my Lord.”
Suddenly, a loud noise comes from the drawbridge. The King stands up and proclaims, “What was that?”
A guard rushes into the throne room, breathless. “Our bridge has been destroyed, my Lord! A necromancer has slaughtered the front line and is leading the deceased towards the throne! Escape, before you be…..”
Suddenly, the guard stops. His skin begins to fade to gray. “A little late with the warning, but nevertheless, you will make a nice addition to my army,” an echoing, dark voice calls. “Ah, King Arthus, how nice to see you again.”
“Krodor, you bastard! How dare you step foot in my kingdom after what you have done! How did you escape?”
“It took time, but the dark arts are more powerful than the weak holy magic you used to seal me in that wretched cave. Now, it is time to seek my revenge on you, King Arthus. Make you suffer a fate worse than the one you sent me to!”
Lauren dashes in front of the king, drawing her sword and shield. “You will not touch my Lord, foul demon!”
Krodor laughs at her and snaps his fingers. Lauren suddenly flies across the room, carried by two pale ghosts. She quickly whispers a holy word and the ghosts vanish, and she skids across the floor. “Ah, you must be a paladin,” Krodor mutters.
“Yes, I am. Blessed by the King himself.”
“Hmph. No matter.”
Krodor begins to compile a bunch of random words together, and suddenly the light from the room is swallowed into a ball of energy. Krodor juggles it around, staring at the King. “This is for you, old fool. Now that I have returned, stronger than I ever was back then, I will take over this world! You made a grave error in banishing me, and now you will see why!”
Lauren runs back over to Krodor, but the castle floor cracks and skeletal hands reach up and stop her by grabbing her legs. She slams into the floor, and tries to pull her legs free.
“Enjoy YOUR banishment, Arthus!!!” he screams. His eyes turn red, and he throws the ball of light straight at the King.
“NO!!!!!” Lauren screams.
The ball strikes the King in his heart, and he falls to the ground. Lauren feels the hands on her feet break, and she quickly runs to the King. She touches him and her hand freezes. She gasps and pulls back. The King has been frozen in some sort of icy stone. She shakes her hand and the ice falls off to the floor. Krodor begins to laugh menacingly. She wipes the tears off of her cheek. The odds of taking down the necromancer by herself were impossible…she’d have to run and avenge her King another day. She darts behind the throne into the halls.
“Follow her! If she lives, she may destroy my plans!” Krodor shouts from behind her.
“Curses…I was hoping he didn’t see me.”
She runs up the flights of stairs into her room. She opens the door and quickly kicks her shelf over in front of it, barring the approaching undead. She grabs a knife, an amulet and a segment of a staff the King ordered her to protect, and begins to make a rope from her bedsheets. “Must hurry..”
A tap begins on her door, which quickly turns into pounding. She looks out the window, and looks at the moat below her. “I don’t have much time…I’ll have to pray as I fall.”
She ties the rope she had going so far to the bottom of her bed, and throws the other end out of the window. The top of the door shatters, and the undead begin to crawl into the room. She gasps in surprise, and quickly climbs out of the window and descends the rope as quickly as she can. She reaches the end and notices that the drop to the moat was still pretty far down, but she had no choice – she has to possibly live by jumping or die by the undead who were starting to pull the rope upwards. Quietly she prays that she would land safely. She then releases her grip on the rope and begins to fall backwards. The wind plays with her hair and she watches her life flash in front of her eyes. How her brother, Zachary, left the family and never returned, how she followed in his footsteps, but not running away from her family, how she protected the King’s son from a small band of bandits, earning a place with the King’s bodyguards, then eventually becoming the leader…to now, failing her King and now plummeting into a moat. She feels like she had no reason to live now. She had failed in her job, her mission, her life. Arthus is stone, and she couldn’t save him. That’s what she was supposed to do, but now…
Posted by WildcatJF on April 25, 2011
A twofer of Nintendo arcade classics today, as I am in haste.
49. Donkey Kong Jr. (Arcade, Nintendo)
Brief Synopsis – In this sequel to Nintendo’s arcade smash, Mario has taken revenge on his foolish ape Donkey Kong for the events in the last game, locking him up in a cage and transporting him back to the jungle. However, Mario’s lone villain role does not go unnoticed, as DK’s son, Donkey Kong Jr., arrives on the scene to rescue his father. He has to climb his way through four levels, dodging Mario’s gadget goons and other obstacles, to make it to the lock and push the key into it. An entertaining game for sure.
Why is it Missing? – I wish I knew Nintendo’s logic for excluding their own arcade history. If it wasn’t for Donkey Kong, Mario Bros. and the two games here, they may not have gotten the vital understanding in game design that led them to becoming the giants they are today. Alas, Nintendo doesn’t want to share that with its current customers as of right now.
Other (Legal) Options – The NES port of DK Jr. is available on the Virtual Console, and unlike its prequel, it contains all the levels. It’s just not quite as nicely animated and is less colorful. NES owners have two choices – the aforementioned port and Donkey Kong Classics, which combines the first two DK NES ports into one cartridge. The arcade cabinet is something I’ve not seen, but I’m sure it’s a little more popular than Radarscope or Sky Skipper. :p
50. Punch-Out!! (Arcade, Nintendo)
Brief Synopsis – The very first game in the storied Punch-Out!! franchise puts you in the shoes of a wireframe challenger attempting to win the World Video Boxing Association championship. Defeat rival boxers (designed by Shigeru Miyamoto) by dodging and punching at the right moments to work your way up the ranks!
Why is it Missing? – Two factors here. One, the previous diatribe I rambled off above applies to Punch-Out!! too, but secondly, and more technically, Punch-Out!! utilized two monitors in its original cabinet, one with your boxer and his opponent on the bottom, and another with the information pertaining to the match on top. One could argue that most of that is unnecessary, but it would require significant dev time to modify for the Wii. Unlikely.
Other (Legal) Options – There’s the bevy of sequels that have come out for the NES, Super NES and Wii, which would be easier to track down than the original arcade cabinet, and all of them are Wii-accessible. I wish purists the best of luck with the cabinet – I’ve seen one once, but it was in a Nevada casino arcade and was in use several years back, but that’s it.
Posted by WildcatJF on April 25, 2011