Friday, January 13, 2017

Nintendo Switch...Will it Live up to it's Hype?

If you're reading this blog, then I'm pretty sure you like video games. If you like video games, then you may have been like me and stayed up late (well, late for me at least) on 01/12/17 to watch Nintendo's presentation for their newest console, the Switch.

I haven't poured over much of the content today on social media, but what I have it seems people are firmly on one side or another when it comes to this new hybrid console....love it or hate it. I really haven't seen many people that are straddling the fence. 

You have your Nintendo loyalists that of course love it and will buy it day one. Then you have your hardcore gamers that turn their noses up towards Nintendo for a myriad of reasons. Where do I stand? That's a good question. Let me see if I can explain my stance, but first let me take a walk down memory lane and explain my relationship w/ Nintendo.


I like Nintendo. I always have. I grew up in the Atari age, in fact the last console my dad said he would ever buy me (and my older brother) was the Atari 7800. This would prove to be mostly true, then again "Santa" gave me an NES a few years later. I loved the NES. I have many fond memories of pulling weeds at my aunt's house to earn money to buy one of my first NES games, Bubble Bobble. I remember sneaking NES games with me to Jr. High school to trade with friends. I remember the first TMNT game on the NES pissing me off. Those were the times.

When the SNES came out, surprisingly I wasn't interested in games. Blame it on girls I guess. My younger brother eventually would get an SNES and I'd play it sparingly, but I really didn't do much with games until the N64 was announced. That was the first console that I bought w/ my own money. I remember the day I got the call from Toys R Us that my console was ready to be picked up. Talk about living on cloud 9. Mario 64 was utterly amazing and I couldn't put it down. Sadly, the console would ultimately disappoint me as the caliber of games just didn't capture my attention after the novelty of Mario 64 wore off.

I followed the news of the GameCube and would eventually get one for Christmas after it had been out a year or so. I thought it was a great little machine, but by that time Microsoft had already wooed me away w/ their original Xbox. It seemed if Nintendo was starting to get lost in the shuffle with more competition and as much of a fan I was, my attention (and dollars) went elsewhere. Nintendo would eventually reel me back in w/ the Wii. I bought it at launch. I remember sitting outside a Super Target in the freezing cold w/ my wife and brothers waiting to get it on launch day. I also picked up Zelda and fell in love with the game...until I had to go fishing in the game for something. 

Ironically enough, I think my favorite Nintendo console, outside of the original, is the Wii U. I agree that Nintendo didn't do the console any favors with the name and the marketing for it was horrible. I didn't buy it on launch, but eventually ponied up the money and bought a Zombi U bundle from GameStop. Today it's the most played of all of the modern consoles I have. My 7 and 5 year old girls enjoy playing Super Mario World, Yoshi's Wooly World and other games. They fight over who gets to use the tablet controller. Heck, I love the tablet controller and opt to use it over the Pro controller on certain games. 


Now comes the Switch. So far I think Nintendo has done a pretty good job at showing off the hardware and describing it's many play styles, but what concerns me still are the games. Granted a few of the launch titles and upcoming titles look good, but what I'm waiting for (as many others are) is to see what the 3rd party support is going to be like. Frankly, Nintendo hasn't had good 3rd party support for a home console of theirs since...the N64? 

The console itself is very intriguing to me. I'm not a big portable fan so that feature isn't a big draw for me, but I can see myself playing it sitting on the couch while "watching TV"...similar to what I do now w/ the Wii U. The Joy Con controllers, while small, looks to be better than I originally thought and may make playing retro games on the Switch that much more authentic if you will. I'm very happy to see a Pro style controller coming and that it's design hasn't changed much from the last generation.

I get people's concerns that the Switch may not be the savior that Nintendo needs. However what I'm already sick and tired of hearing is that it's not 4K, it's under powered, it's this or it's not this. People are complaining that it's not even as good as the PS4 or the Xbox One and why won't Nintendo just release a "regular console".

Let's face it people. This isn't the 1980's or even the 1990's. The landscape of video games has changed a lot in the 30+ years I've been on this planet. Competition isn't what it used to be and Nintendo isn't the king of the hill anymore. I believe Nintendo knows this and they've come to grips with it. Instead of trying to complete with Microsoft and Sony, they decided to take a different path and it all started with the Wii (some may argue it started w/ the GameCube). Nintendo isn't afraid of trying something new and I commend them for that. That isn't to say that things don't blow up in their face, but what I don't get is why are people bashing Nintendo for trying to be different? What's wrong with being different? Most gamers have more than one game system these days; so if they want that super powerful mega house game system to play 4K HD super graphic heavy games they can. I believe Nintendo is just trying to find their niche in this crowed market place and there is nothing wrong with that. It's fine if you don't like it. Go back to one of the other two big companies, but Nintendo is banking on people playing their games and consoles to have fun, to enjoy the gaming experience.


With the GameCube, Nintendo finally decided to use optical media for the first time...but went a different route with their mini-DVDs. Now they are going a different route w/ flash media...and I think that's pretty cool. Heck, this is one of the features on the Switch that intrigues me the most. The Sony PlayStation Vita has blown me away with the type of games they can cram onto an SD card and honestly that alone has given me hope that Nintendo will be able to replicate that (and take it to another level?) on the Switch. Even the images of the games' packaging that recently came out is starting to get me excited.
   
Will the Nintendo Switch live up to it's Hype? I think it's way to early to say. I think it'll perform better than the Wii U, but then again that isn't saying much. However taken how dominate Nintendo has been with in the handheld market ever since the original Game Boy was launched, I see them being able to market the Switch to that group as well as the home console market. I think the Switch has a lot of great things going for it, but like any platform it's the games that make the difference. While I'm glad to see that Zelda is going to be a launch title, I believe having a new Mario game ready on day one would have given the Switch a tremendously large boost. Then again, it'll take me forever to get through Zelda so I can wait until the holiday 2017 season for another big game. I know I'm in the minority here however.

   

So, did I pre-order a Nintendo Switch like the millions of others last night or in the wee early hours of 01/13/17? Yes. I kinda talked myself out of it, but then all of those great Nintendo memories rushed to the forefront of my thoughts. That and the whole Classic Nintendo debacle at retail for those who didn't pre-order. Not long before noon today I searched out various vendors online to see who still had pre-orders and it didn't take me long before I realized they were pre-selling out fast. GameStop, gone. Amazon, gone. Walmart, gone. Thankfully I did get an order in for the Switch (and Zelda) at Best Buy. The neon colored bundle was already gone so I had to settle for the basic package, but with young girls in the house that may be a good thing as I could see them fighting over who gets to play with the red or blue Joy Con controller!

Just like the video game market has changed over the last 30 years, so have I. While I still love games (obviously), I'll be 40 in a few months, have a family and a job that requires me to travel and takes up a good bit of my time. I have a lot of other hobbies as well that are constantly fighting for my attention. I'm not that 20 something guy that can sit on the couch and play games all day. If I play games now for more than 2 or 3 hours straight I feel as if I wasted my time. I don't need the Switch to be a blockbuster PlayStation or Xbox killer. I just need it to provide me with some quality, fun to play titles...which I know Nintendo will deliver on. If they get the 3rd party support that most of us would like to see, that will just be a bonus. I buy Nintendo consoles to play the Nintendo franchises. If I really want to play a big budget title I can always fall back on my Xbox One. 

March 3, 2017 can't get here fast enough for me. I'm excited about this new path that Nintendo is taking. I'm prepared for a little disappointment here and there, but I have faith that the powers that be at Nintendo will deliver on their promises. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

SALE ALERT: Retro-Bit Generations only $35!

I mentioned earlier that I received Retro-Bit's Generations plug and play console for Christmas and this evening I noticed that the price has dropped to just a mere $35 w/ free shipping on Amazon.com! If you've been on the fence about this, now is as good a time as ever to give it a try.

The game selection alone was enough to warrant a purchase for myself, especially if you are a fan of Capcom games. Knights of the Round, Ghouls & Ghosts, Super Ghouls & Ghosts. Throw in shmps like Super R-Type and Image Force.

It's no NES Mini, but for the price and game selection you really can't go wrong.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Happy New Year!!

Happy New Year everyone! While I had a good amount of time off from work to enjoy spending time with my family and time away from work...reality reared it's ugly head today and I hard to return to the "real world". While I didn't get to play as many games as I wanted to over the holidays, I did end up getting a few good things for Christmas.

All of the Disney Infinity 3.0 items (minus the Captain America set) were actually joint gifts to my girls, as was the Nintendo Amibo of Rosalina. They both really enjoy playing the Wii U and we picked these up for mega cheap at Walmart a few weeks before Christmas. I think the starter set was $8 and the individual characters were $1 each. The Inside Out set I believe was $3 or $4.

Not surprisingly my girls got me Pokemon Moon for the 3DS. I go in spurts playing Pokemon and as they get older (and thanks to Pokemon Go) they enjoy the Pokemon concept and characters more and more. I sat down to play it over the weekend while I was out of town, but my 3DS was dead. Once I get my work out of the way this week I'm going to sit down and finally experience what everyone has been talking about since it's release.


I decided to fore go the Nintendo Classic with it's horribly availability and price on the secondary market and went the Retro-Bit Generations path. With my Retro Freak recently dying on me I put this system in it's place and haven't been disappointed yet. I may do a separate post on the plug and play console in the near future, but for now I'm enjoying playing the arcade version of Knights of the Round!


My wife and I's anniversary is on New Year's Day so we skipped town for a few days and headed down to Savannah, GA to celebrate. While there I found a retro game/toy store that was pretty awesome (look for a post on that soon too) and while I was there picked up a few games that aren't pictured. I grabbed Kid Klown in Crazy Town for the SNES, a pinball game for the SNES and Qix for the original Game Boy.

The holidays were great, but I'm kind of glad they are over so I can get myself back on a regular schedule again. I still have lots of new content planned for the new year and can't wait to share it with all 2 readers of this blog! Seriously though, thanks for the support in 2016 and here's to a new year!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Akumajo Dracula X: Chi no Rondo (PC Engine)

Ask just about any PC Engine owner what one of the must have games for the console is and I'm sure that 99% of them will tell you Dracula X. Part of the famed Castlevania gaming franchises, this 2-D side scrolling game never left the shores of Japan...kind of.


The game was released in Japan in October, 1993 and is the 10th Castlevania game. The game features multiple endings, voice acting and CG cut scenes exclusive to this version of the game. Thanks to the PC Engine's CD-ROM2 and the Super System Card, this is the first Castlevania game to utilize a save system. In 1993 this feature was a huge improvement over the standard password feature. The one thing that I don't fully get is the voice acting is done in German?

The game stars Richter Belmont in his quest to rescue his beloved Annette is kidnapped by Dracula's servant Shaft. On the way he rescues Annette's little sister, Maria Renard (who becomes a playable character in the game!). The game plays like most of the traditional Castlevania games that came before it. Most of the standard sub-weapons are included such as the dagger, cross, holy water, axe, pocket watch and the grimoire - a magic spell book. If you choose to play the game as Maria she has a set of unique sub-weapons: a cat, dragon, cardinal, turtle, egg or musical notes.

The game was such a success that Konami re-released the game on the Super Famicom in Japan two years later in 1995. Akumaj┼Ź Dracula XX featured a few changes however. While the plot was the same, several of the levels were redesigned, a slightly different art style was used in the game and there are only 2 alternate levels. Maria was also cut from the game as a playable character. No surprise either than the music is of lesser quality being on a cartridge. The voice acting was removed in part of the cartridge's limitations. I believe the cut scenes remain...although they may have been removed for the U.S. Super Nintendo release, also in 1995.


If anything of this looks or sounds familiar it should. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night for the Playstation is a direct sequel to Dracula X!

I originally owned a CD-R version of Dracula X. The previous owner of the PC Engine Duo RX I bought included the burnt copy as a freebie. I can remember some rather graphic cut scenes featuring a human sacrifice and knowing Nintendo I can't believe they would have left that intact when the game was brought to the U.S. Now the original Japanese version was released on the Wii's Virtual Console in March of 2010, but I never downloaded it so I have no idea how faithful it is to the original (i.e. was it censored in any way).

It's not often these days that I care to own the original game in this day of digital download, but this was one game that I wanted the physical copy of. The problem is with it being an import and the large Castlevania fanbase that exists the game doesn't come cheap on the secondary market. If you're lucky you can get a complete copy for around $80.00, but usually it still fetches around $100.00.

Part of the reason I wasn't satisfied with a CD-R or the Wii digital version is the instruction manual and the awesome artwork. Now you can browse each individual page from the manual and see for yourself why this game is so awesome and coveted by many. (you can click on the images for a larger view)
















Earlier I mentioned that the voice acting is done in German.  Well one part of the story in the front of the manual is also written in German...odd.  After you've input your name your adventure starts off with the Prologue - Mission 0.  You can see in one of the pictures how there are differing paths between the levels. I like this as it adds more replay value to the game. I love the art used for all the characters.  By the way, the other 3 girls you see are maidens you can also rescue in your quest to vanquish Dracula.  The last two wide scans show some of the enemies and boss characters you'll run across during the game.  Most of them are just as formidable in the game as they appear in the manual.



Looking at still pictures and scans is one thing, but when talking about video games you need video.  A quick search on YouTube and I found a video featuring the opening sequence and the entire run.  The video is over 3 hours long so I don't expect anyone to watch it all, but skip around and take a look if you aren't familiar with the game.  I can't express how fun this is to play and just how awesome it is.  Hands down this has to be one of the finest games in my library.  I personally bought a PC Engine console solely for the ability to play this game.  Of course that was before the Wii (or even the PSP) was released.  Would I recommend someone today buy a PC Engine for this game?  Not really...unless you are an avid gamer.  It's a GREAT console and there are a lot of great games for it, but with the ability to download it to you Wii console or buying the relatively cheap Dracula X Chronicles PSP game, save your money.  As I said it doesn't come cheap, but if you do decide to take the plunge I think you'll be one happy gamer like myself.


Friday, December 9, 2016

Sky Force Reloaded (Android)

I like my physical games as much as any collector and I tend to stay away from playing many mobile games, however I've finally found a game that I can really get behind and feel comfortable recommending to others.

Sky Force Reloaded is the second game in the series, but boasts oh so many improvements of the original. It can be found in the Google Play store and the iTunes store for free. I've downloaded and tried a lot of different shmups and this is the first game that is fun to play.


For starters the game's visuals are beautiful. I play it on my Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 as I wanted a larger screen. Playing shmups on a small phone just doesn't do it for me. The controls are pretty responsive and there is a lot of content that keeps drawing me back in.


When you start the game you are on the overworld map if you will. The game forces you to replay the levels until you earn a certain amount of medals before the next level will be unlocked. Each level has 4 basic goals: destroy 70% of enemy forces, destroy 100% of enemy forces, rescue all people and stay untouched. 

Depending on your skill, the level of difficulty and the aircraft you are using, you may have to play the level multiple times in order to achieve these goals. Once you complete all 4 goals, the next level of difficulty will be unlocked.

 

Before you set out on your journey, you can select your aircraft from your personal hanger. At the beginning you just have one aircraft and it's pretty weak. It can be upgraded, but more on that in a minute. As you are playing you may come across aircraft parts you can grab. Successfully complete the level and you'll slowly unlock pieces to additional aircraft. As you can see from the above image, I've unlocked nearly all of the available aircraft. My favorite hands down is the one selected, the Octopus. It features multiple homing mini-rockets which really come in handy in the later, more difficult levels.

As you play the game, the destroyed enemies will leave behind stars. This is the games currency and you'll need a lot of these in order to upgrade your aircraft. You have multiple areas you can upgrade and several levels of upgrades. Most of them are self explanatory. The magnet is a helpful tool that I didn't initially pay a lot of attention to. The higher the level, the more the stars will be attracted to your aircraft.


To spice up the gamelay, cards were added to the game. These, like the aircraft parts, show up randomly as you play the game. Most of the time these items only appear on the higher levels of difficulty. These cards add new things to the game or give you new, improved abilities. 

Some of the cards may give you a laser to start the game, or increases your rate of fire. Others give you a stationary pod on the side of your aircraft that increases your firepower. The cards however come in two varieties. The ones you see in the first 4 rows are permanent, meaning you don't have to do anything with them. Once you've collected that card, you get that ability. The row of cards on the bottom are temporary cards. These come with a time limit that gives you some nice boosts...such as unlimited lives or maximum firepower. Of course once the time expires so does your boost in power.

 

New to Reloaded are pilots. You unlock these by completing certain objectives. I already played the game a lot to begin with, but now you are rewarded even more for your persistence. There are multiple Objectives to obtain, more than you see above. The more you get, the more pilots you unlock. Each pilot brings something different to the table. Currently I've been using Burton Panic as he will random trigger your laser or emit a bullet clearing EMP blast at times.


As you beat the bosses on select levels, you unlock golden trophies that you can easily share via social media. It always tracks the number of attempts (and the date) it took to beat the boss as well as the different difficulty levels you've completed.


At the end of the level you are given a summary, tallying up your base score, stars collected, humans rescued, etc. If you beat your previous best score, it will add it to your high score which is a collection of your final scores.

Enough of the boring menu screens, want to see some actual gameplay? Using my iPhone I tried to record myself playing through a few levels. It was hard looking through the phone trying to play the game and ultimately I didn't do as well as I'm capable of, but hopefully you'll get an idea of just how much fun this game is.


Through one of the many updates to the game, it now is easier to find others to play the game with. You can compete for the top score and play weekly tournaments against each other. If you like what you see and want to add me to your friends list, use this ID:

91 22 69 72

Sky Force Reloaded, and the first game, Sky Force, are some really fun shmups. They don't feel cheap like a lot of the shmup games I've found in the Google Play store. I wish I had a way to play the game on my TV with a proper controller, but for now this is my go to game that I enjoy playing for 30 mins or whatever each evening.

I will add that right now for the month of December, there is a special Christmas themed level you can play and compete in a month long high score tournament. You can't use any of your unlocked aircraft from your hanger, but give it a try as it's a challenging level with laser shooting snowmen that are sure to infuriate you!

Monday, November 14, 2016

New Additions: September / October 2016

I can't believe another 2 months has passed already since my last New Editions post. My work schedule remains busy and will be until I get into December, however I have been able to work in some time to play games more recently. Good thing too as I picked up some great new games!


I've still been focusing on picking up pinball titles that I don't have and that brought me to my first new Playstation and Wii games in awhile.


It's not everyday that I pick up a new Neo Geo MVS game, but I grabbed this beat 'em up for a great price. Since picking this up, I ordered a nice shock box for it from Southtown to complete it's look on the shelf. Hopefully Mario Pinball Land on the GBA is good.

My Xbox One collection is rather small, partly because I absolutely hate installing games to the hard drive, however I could not pass up the HD remakes of Dead Rising and Dead Rising 2. I also enjoyed the two Dead Island games and I found the collection for $20 new so I guess I'll continue to kill the same zombies I did on the 360. The Vita games (Arcana Max and Ninja Gaiden) were cheap and I've been wanting to round out the collection since I acquired the Aqua colored Vita a few months back.

My youngest daughter has been on a big Mario kick lately (thanks in part to "Mario Cat", aka Super Mario 3D World on the Wii U) and she picked up Super Paper Mario. I believe that will be the next Mario game her and I tackle. Worms Armageddon I found at one of the local shops. My wife and I played the crap out of this game before becoming parents and having much less time to spend on ourselves. We both played a quick game the other night as I was testing out the VGA connection after purchasing a new TV for my game room. We were rusty, but man is that a fun game! I think I owned Midnight Magic for the Atari 2600 back when I was a kid, either way I'm looking forward to a pinball night coming up real soon.


I'm not a huge Playstation fan, but I love the Ratchet & Clank series of games. My OCD prevents me from buying Greatest Hits type packaging, but I had to settle for Tools of Destruction as I could never find the first release...until recently at a local shop. Stefano Bruni from Facebook came through for me with a great deal on a beautiful, complete copy of Daimakamura for the Sega Mega Drive. This game frustrates the heck out of me, but that doesn't stop me from playing. The gorgeous box art is what sealed the deal for me. Waglan Land is a Namco series of games that began on the Famicom that are surprisingly fun. I love the small Famicom clam shells Namco used during this period and a eBay seller took my offer that was a good bit under his asking price. Didn't expect that. The other two 2600 games came bundled w/ Midnight Magic. Not sure if they will be keepers as they both are sports titles (skate boarding and baseball).

On the PC Engine/Turbografx front, I grabbed Tiger Road and Kyukyoku Tiger (Twin Cobra). I don't usually buy loose PCE games, but it was cheap, I love shmups and I was hoping to get a guy from Facebook to make me a custom case. Pac-Land was another cheap pick up from a Facebook group. It's not my favorite game, but I look forward to teaching my daughters how to play the game. Extreme Pinball for the Playstation rounds out the group of games.

With the holidays just around the corner I don't expect my next New Editions post to contain quite as much, however that isn't necessarily a bad thing as I have a lot games to keep me busy.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Holy Diver (Famicom)

One thing about having a lot of games in your library is it's easy to forget what you have at times. Holy Diver for the Nintendo Famicom is one of those games that simply got lost in the shuffle. I picked up this game years ago when it could be had for a reasonable amount. I had heard it was a Castlevania ripoff essentially so I was intrigued to say the least.


I settled for a loose cart of the game. I love how small and compact the Famicom carts are. The name and cover art alone were enough to entice me to give the game a try. I've heard the game's story pays homage to several 80's heavy metal bands such as Dio, Slayer, King Crimson and Ozzy Osborne. Since the games' store is in Japanese I can't confirm this, but I could care less for the story as it's the gameplay that I'm most interested in.


Irem is one of those game developers that I wasn't as familiar with back in the NES days. I was never a fan of R-Type, the only other game from Irem that I had heard of. However Holy Diver is one of those sleeper type games that deserves to be played by a wider audience. I knew once I put the cartridge in my Famicom A/V console and the title screen loaded I was in for a treat.



To me it's pretty apparent that this game borrows a lot of ideas from Castlevania and while some may say it's a direct ripoff, I feel as if the game has it's own charm and frustrations. Your character attacks with some sort of magic projectile attack. In addition to being able to attack horizontally, he can also attack vertically. This comes in handy in many areas. As you progress through the game you'll also pick up items that grant you additional magic upgrades. This magic consumes various levels of Mana. There is a gauge just below your health bar in the upper left corner of the screen. I've learned that you have to be smart when using your Mana as it doesn't replenish all that quickly in most cases. Enemies will drop small blue crystals that give you 2 points of Mana, but many of the spells will require 4 or more Mana points.


When you pause the screen you'll see the items you've collected as well as the magic spells at your disposal. You start off with Twin Fire, this spell gives you an extra projectile to attack your enemies with. It only uses 2 points of Mana for each attach. When you press the Select button on your controller you'll essentially turn your magic on and off.


The game looks beautiful despite your character lacking much in the color department. I should add that the normal gray/white color of your character changes to shades of blue when you have your magic activated. The animation is pretty smooth and the colors are vibrant. There is some parallax scrolling such as the beginning of the 2nd level. Do these winged creatures remind you of the ones from Altered Beast? 

Unlike the sluggish Simon Belmont in the first Castlevania game, your character in Holy Diver is a bit more fluid. I feel like the jumping motion isn't as stiff, though you still can't jump onto or off of steps or staircases.


Level design is pretty cool from what I can tell. I still haven't been able to get past the 2nd stage, but it appears the level design gets a darker look the further you progress. Lets make no mistake about it, this game is hard. Throw your controller on the floor and yell at the screen hard. However it's fun. Despite me not making it very far, I kept coming back for more. Thankfully you have unlimited continues, however the levels are broken up into 3 sections and if you continue you start back at the very beginning of the level. There are several religious undertones in the game so it's no surprise this game never made it to the NES.

Holy Diver isn't a perfect game, but I think it's a lot of fun. I hate to see that the game is now close to $100 on the secondary market, but I've seen a NES fan translated reproduction online. I believe it's also going to be one of the games on the forth coming Retrobit plug and play console. This game needs to be played in some fashion so when you get the change give it a try...and another...and another. It's a frustrating game, but give it some time and I think you'll enjoy it as much as I.