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Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back review

Posted : 5 years, 1 month ago on 2 July 2012 01:10 (A review of Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back)

When it comes to Crash Bandicoot I'll be the first to admit playing the three main games on the PS1 in reverse order was probably a bad idea. The thing is Warped was the only one I had on hand when the urge to play these titles struck, and well, it completely spoiled me. I'm sure people are probably sick of me gushing over it but Warped was an excellent product and it was refined to the point of near perfection that I honestly wouldn't hesitate to give it a ten out of ten in a conversation or review.

The problem with Cortex Strikes Back is it isn't as polished as you'd expect. I don't mean this in a superficial way like graphic fidelity (which is superb for when it was released) but a "streamline all the cheap-shots out of the experience" way. The level of cheapness ingrained in Crash 2's gameplay is simply astounding and it comes from a variety of places. Things like the hit detection on the belly flop are in dire need of work and the bonus areas are usually the furthest thing from fun when that's the exact opposite of what they should be. Worse yet are the game's hidden paths which are essentially sorry excuses to throw everything but the kitchen sink at the player. The kicker to is just when you think you're done and your guard is down - that's when they throw the kitchen sink at you.

The above situation is a real shame because when you get right down to it Cortex Strikes Back is a beautiful game. The level design and music are excellent as are the graphics which I feel even give Nintendo 64 games a run for their money. But every time the game turns a corner and those memories of the game's stubbornness start to fade something (again, there is always something) shows up and makes it take center stage once again. Compounding the situation is the fact there really isn't enough variety in the levels. Seriously, if I see another level with the words "Crash" or "Bear" in it I am going to scream and the same goes for the jet pack levels.

Annoyances aside, if your a fan of the PlayStation having the three main Naughty Dog-developed Crash titles in your library is a no-brainer. If you haven't played them and want to do yourself a huge favor and play them in order so you'll be able to appreciate the improvements each sequel brings with it. Unlike some franchises the first three Crash games get better and bolder with each step. As for the game being discussed here, Crash 2 leaves a lot to be desired to in my book but then I can't really say I dislike it either. I do wish it was a little better (polished) than where it stands now but then that probably a part of why Warped is so good. So while I would definitely warn others of game's cheaper side I'd still recommend it to anyone with an interest in platformers.


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Mega Man 6 review

Posted : 5 years, 1 month ago on 1 July 2012 10:32 (A review of Mega Man 6)

Much like Mega Man 2, I have fond memories of Mega Man 6. While it's hard to deny the series was running out of gas by this point - just take a look at some of the robot masters - there were several things that managed to grab my attention. The most important additions in Mega Man 6 revolve around the Rush adapters that grant the player the ability to turn into Jet and Power Mega Man. These forms allowed the player to reach previously inaccessible areas and helped bring back a little of the exploration that was slightly siphoned out of the games over the years.

Welcome as adapters are, they can also show one how sloppy the game can be. The first eight stages of the game play like a dream and I have no complaints. It's only after the player enters the final two fortresses do we see where how ugly things can get when game's challenges are not tackled the right way. Things are entertaining and a breeze with the right weapons/form in hand, but this slick veneer is quickly peeled away when the player is caught between a rock and a hard place. Even with advance knowledge of what's ahead it's amazing how easy it is for trouble to rear its ugly head.

Still, like the family pet the fails to do its business outside, it's hard to stay mad at Mega Man 6. This especially holds true when one considers the fact the game almost didn't make it out of Japan. With the arrival of Mega Man X on the SNES, Capcom decided to forgo publishing the game abroad; it was only after Nintendo decided to pick it up for the fading NES that we actually got the game. While it's easy to see how Mega Man 6 would pale to the first title in the X series, I think most can agree it would be annoying to have a title missing from a string of sequels.

Its interesting history and aggravating points aside, Mega Man 6 is an excellent conclusion to the NES library of Mega Man titles. While my memories don't exactly gel with currently realities - the game not being quite the juggernaut I remember - such is the fate of many of the games we grow up with. That said the game is easily a worth while investment for fans and newcomers alike.


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Mega Man 5 review

Posted : 5 years, 1 month ago on 1 July 2012 10:22 (A review of Mega Man 5)

I have to admit, I was extremely skeptical when I put down the money for a Mega Man 5 cart. In all honesty, I thought it was ludicrous that I was paying more for one of the sequels than I did for a copy of the 1987 original. Nothing in that respect has changed, but I'll be damned if Mega Man 5 didn't pull the rug out from under me despite partaking of previous, seemingly uneventful play throughs. So how did Mega Man 5 go from drab to fabulous? That's a question I'd love to answer... if I could.

Mega Man 5 is an uneven beast when it comes to overall difficulty. Fun as it still is figuring out the boss/weapon "weakness chain" it takes next to nothing to get through the initial wave of robot masters and their levels. This and the overall feel of the game changes dramatically once the player enters the fortress levels. There's an abstract sense of maturity that presides over the last portion of the game, something that reminds me of the sobering steel and seriousness of a Mega Man X game. Given that I've never been too comfortable with cuteness Mega Man portrayed with it's earlier artwork and later games like Mega Man 7 and 8, it's interesting to experience this kind of undertone at this point in time.

Interesting as this can be, the most significant change Mega Man 5 brings to the table is the fact the series has finally cleared that oddball hump that started with Mega Man 3 and continued with Mega Man 4. Even after playing through all the NES Mega Man games I still can't explain why those particular titles felt as stunted and bizarre as they do. Needless to say, I was glad to see things were back on track despite the fact Mega Man 5 doesn't deviate from the tired and true formula. Would anyone expect anything less?

While I can't say I was exactly thrilled with the price tag it carries, Mega Man 5 is a lot better than a quick glance, or a half-remembered memory would suggest. As one would expect, the game doesn't do anything radical yet there are some subvert, covert forces at work that are devilishly alluring once they're discovered. If you're into Mega Man, I would definitely suggest digging for them.


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Mega Man 4 review

Posted : 5 years, 1 month ago on 1 July 2012 10:06 (A review of Mega Man 4)

When it comes to a long running franchise, it goes without saying there are going to be moments of deja vu. Mega Man fans are especially aware of this, but even with games that don't truly evolve from sequel to sequel each one manages to contain a feel of its own. The first Mega Man was a rough sketch of a portrait that Mega Man 2 would quickly and famously streamline. Mega Man 3 would take some liberties with its game play and ultimately stifle the flow that would have greatly benefited the series. But what about Mega Man 4? Does it restore the flow of chi or only intensify an abstract case of mental blockage?

There are several things about Mega Man 4 that are more than welcome. The robot master crew is probably the most challenging out of the NES line-up and we see the introduction of some new characters like Dr. Cossack and his daughter. Okay, so these characters aren't exactly deep (like any of Mega Man's characters are deep) and only serve to fuel the "fake antagonist" scheme employed by the following two games, but they help hide the fact that Mega Man 4 is Mega Man 3's hangover. It's amazing how even the smallest thing would make me reflect on the last game in the series, not the one in front of me. Needless to say this is a losing proposition for any video game.

Because of this, Mega Man 4 lacks an identity. As laughable as that may sound given how many games there are in the series, it's this train of thought that makes it a very noticeable and extremely damaging problem. The silver lining to such a conundrum is that this indirectly gives Mega Man 5 and 6 a head start right out of the gate, something that is of the utmost importance for the titles that wrap up Mega Man's time on the NES.

Despite the fact the Mega Man 4 begins and ends on somewhat of a downer, fans of the blue bomber will find little reason not to add this to their ever growing collection if they haven't already. Mega Man's downs aren't usually as bad as those of another, beloved blue-colored character, but they can still end in disappointment. This is something Mega Man 4 proves to be true at the end of the day despite being more than adequate.


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Mega Man 3 review

Posted : 5 years, 1 month ago on 1 July 2012 10:02 (A review of Mega Man 3)

When it comes to the NES Mega Man titles, there seems to be no greater rivalry than Mega Man 2 vs. Mega Man 3. Even if a fan prefers one of the later installments, it's unlikely that these two games, instrumental in forging Mega Man's identity, end up on equal ground. So which camp am I in? Despite my best effort not to add to the seemingly endless love for Mega Man 2, I have to go with it, not Mega Man 3. But why? While I can't exactly say Mega Man 3 is "busted," there are some design choices at work here that really throw a wench in the experience for me, things that were fine last time out and should have been left alone.

A lot of Mega Man 3's problems center around boss fights. First of all, the amount of crash damage one receives from making contact with a robot master is flat out wrong. I can understand this kind of damage being higher from a fortress boss, but I shouldn't lose one-fourth of my health for what is essentially a silly hit. The problems continue as the built in invincibility period after a successful hit on a boss has essentially been eliminated. This means you can score hit upon hit in quick succession without waiting between blows. While one could see pumping ammunition down an enemy's throat as a good thing, there are times were it absolutely destroys any semblance of challenge this title has to offer.

The game's other main flaw revolves around the addition of everyone's favorite canine sidekick Rush. Mega Man 2's Item 1, 2 and 3 have been replaced by the Rush Coil, Jet and Submarine. Giving such items more of an identity is appreciated as is their necessity in navigating the levels. What's not welcome is setting up the stages and power-ups in such a manner where the player can get stuck with no recourse (other than to exhaust their lives and continue) because power ups don't respawn after death. This becomes a real issue in the somewhat pointless Doc Robot levels as do continue points.

As much as I love Mega Man, I can't give Mega Man 3 the same kind of love I give Mega Man 2. Again, there is no reason to put that game on a pedestal but it is free of the problems found here, as are solid outings like Mega Man 4, 5 and 6. That said, I have to agree with Keiji Inafune that there are many things here that could have benefited from being redone and the change in leadership from the teams that crafted the first two games definitely shows at the end of the day.


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Mega Man 2 review

Posted : 5 years, 1 month ago on 1 July 2012 09:59 (A review of Mega Man 2)

Like most fans, I love Mega Man 2. No ifs, ands or butts about it, Mega Man 2 single-handedly spearheaded my interest in the blue bomber and video games in general. That’s a tall order for any game to fill, yet as simple of a joy as the game is even today, there's something my ever-evolving self has to ask, has Mega Man 2 been hurt by the never-ending hype?

I ask this question because over the years I've seen other gamers continuously put other landmark titles I grew up with on unrealistically high pedestals. Final Fantasy VII may have been great adventure, but does a sealed black-boarder copy of the game really warrant four hundred dollars? Xenogears may have had a psychotically layered narrative that essentially turned it a playable anime, but was the game really perfect? Metal Gear Solid put you in the ever convincing shoes of a professional killer but can its aging gameplay match the cinematic quality of its story? Castlevania: Symphony of the Night may have some of the best level design out there, but was it hurt by the cascade of similar games that followed? As endless as these kinds of questions are to the people that played them, it's the rampant, blind fandom that ignores the obvious that makes one wonder how damaging such views can be.

Damaging or not, even after replaying Mega Man 2 for the first time in the last few years, I can't even begin to tear this game down. Sure, it's rather lax in the difficulty department, but that's an area I've never been too concerned with when it comes to games in general. Even running through the game like I was on auto-pilot wasn't enough hurt it, which leads me to wonder how one could even begin to take down a game like Mega Man 2 - a stake dipped in holy water? My guess is a good as any, but I wouldn’t count on it. It would probably just rise from the dead like Dracula.

Regardless of my ranting, Mega Man 2 is still the hallmark everyone remembers it being. Despite my attempt to approach the game from safe vantage point to avoid the disappointment that sometimes comes with reminiscence, my worries evaporated quicker than a snow cone on a hot summer day. Relieved as I am that the game is more-or-less timeless, I'm still uncomfortable tooting the game's horn, something I'm not afraid to do for the also stellar Mega Man X4.


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Mega Man review

Posted : 5 years, 1 month ago on 1 July 2012 09:52 (A review of Mega Man)

The original. It's needless to say that every video game series has to start somewhere. For Mega Man, the beginning was in December of 1987 on the Nintendo Entertainment System. As easy as it is for one to slap down a date and call it a starting point, when did Mega Man become a household name, when did it really take off? Look no further than Mega Man 2 and Mega Man 3.

Why am talking about the immediate sequels when it's the original that's on the table here? When dissecting a game, it's good to start with a dose of reality. Most people (Capcom included) would probably have a hard time saying that the original Mega Man was a complete success. In fact, the creation of the superior Mega Man 2 was considered a "rogue effort" by the developers involved, a project that was far from being on the front burner. So in going from one game that almost never had a sequel to a game that now has nine, where does the original Mega Man fit in beyond being a point of origin?

To get to the bottom of that question, one has to at least focus on the first three games. As odd as this may sound in this day and age, Mega Man's initial adventure was undoubtedly unique. I'm not talking about things like having six bosses instead of the standard eight or the lack of energy tanks, but the impersonal, industrial feel the stages. Other elements, like gun turret traps, the drab color palette, uneven difficulty and lack of support characters fueled the feeling that you were truly alone, that you were charged with terminating six humanoid robots with little to no explanation. All you knew was that they had to be destroyed.

This begs the question: what is the original Mega Man known for? It's collection of robot masters? It's insane crash damage when fighting the Yellow Devil? It's somewhat peculiar and forgettable level design? These are all good answers, but it's only the game's cast of robot masters that are truly memorable. Obviously, the game's music goes hand and hand with this, but beyond these simplistic yet loveable characters there's nothing here the sequels don't or can't do better.

This is why the original Mega Man is for the true-blue Mega Man fan only; casual fans can get by without or have a more engrossing time with one of its sleeker and much more welcoming successors like Mega Man 2 or 6. If anything, a NES cart of Mega Man is more of a trophy than a tangible playing experience, which is not exactly the greatest reason to buy something in the first place.


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Capcom Special Selection: Rockman Dash 2 review

Posted : 5 years, 1 month ago on 1 July 2012 01:06 (A review of Capcom Special Selection: Rockman Dash 2)

Whether it’s the world of video game music or something else entirely, it’s safe to say that surprises are usually a welcome affair. This can be especially true when they come out of the complete blue, much like the release of Capcom’s Rockman DASH 2 Special Collection. When one is honest however, the Mega Man Legends series has not been unkempt in its native Japan like it has abroad - from the 2005 PSP re-releases to the all new, original cell phone game in 2008 - perhaps it is not so surprising that Capcom has decided to officially release some more music from the series - a series whose last official soundtrack release was over a decade ago in 1998.

Overdue as it may be, even those familiar with the series’ music may be unaware of the changes that occurred between Mega Man Legends and Mega Man Legends 2 when Toshihiko Horiyama took on composing duties for The Misadventures of Tron Bonne. Wanting to make the series’ music to take on a more homogenous nature than Tomozawa’s original effort, Horiyama added the use of overarching themes to the mix. To this end, the score’s various pieces adopted a behavior not unlike those from Tsuyoshi Sekito’s Brave Fencer Musashiden, where variation upon variation of prominent themes were used to create connective cohesion between the game’s various scenes, characters and locations.

Upon returning to score Mega Man Legends 2, this element of Horiyama’s work was quickly integrated into Tomozawa’s as well. Unfortunately, the negative effects of this theme-driven approach - which can be more or less be observed by acknowledging the lack of accolades the Brave Fencer Musashiden Original Soundtrack has received over the years – was that the sacrificed individuality on a track-by-track basis made soundtrack releases for either game very unlikely, even more unlikely than it was for the first game’s score which, if it wasn’t for the well-timed formation of Capcom’s Suleputer record label the that time, most likely would have been left to the ages as well.

Anyways, regardless of the hand fate may have dealt it in the past, we now find ourselves presented with a small cross-section – seventeen out of about eighty pieces – of what Mega Man Legends 2 has to offer. With such limitations, did the best tracks make the cut? Read on to find out!

01. Title
Right off the bat, the Rockman DASH 2: Special Collection presents us with an improvement over its forbearer by, ironically, offering something that isn’t new. With the limited amount of material presented, the Japanese vocal themes are no-shows for obvious reasons. This allows the chance for a significant piece of in-game music to make a strong and powerful stance and say “this is what Mega Man Legends is about!” The disc does not disappoint, offering up the original Flutter theme from the first game and legitimizing its position as the series’ titular theme with its unapologetic, happy-go-lucky nature. In reality, it’s not really the daring proposition I’m making it out to be, but there is something about this choice that does feel defiant - forming a bridge between the two games with its pleasing nature despite its utter simplicity. (9/10)

02. The Flutter
A soft and relaxed version of “Title” above, this take paints a picture of the humble living quarters aboard the Casket‘s newly renovated airship. While “humbleness” may be the overall sentiment one can take away from this piece, it’s what one can find when digging a bit deeper that’s the real prize - weariness. This is a bit misleading however, as this “weariness” isn’t really hidden as much as it is in jeopardy of being casually dismissed as part of the initial, collective message. Neither the result of a flat-out compositional flaw nor an example of a track that loses out when taken out of context, it merely seems destined to be a track that may be under examined. Ultimately, while nowhere near as engaging as the original – not that it was ever meant to be – it’s a more than worthy addition to the series’ musical continuity, the only gripe being that in placing two variations of the same theme back to back to one another, the disc’s strong opening is inadvertently prolonged in a slightly unfortunate manner. (7/10)

03. Yosyonke Town
Representing a calm and peaceful winter wonderland, “Yosyonke Town” is another track with the ability to nail the sweet spot between simplistic and underdeveloped that many of the series’ best themes take all the way to the bank. Again, it’s clear that the environment being portrayed here is fun-filled and cold, but the message on display here is hardly one-dimensional. Emitting a simultaneous sense of warmth that manages not to betray the true nature of its surroundings, a campfire-like togetherness creeps out from the woodwork – a commentary of sorts on the resourceful people that live and love in such unforgiving conditions. Despite the duality of its message “Yosyonke Town” still doesn't ask too much of the listener, but then there is no real need to decrypt what is here either. (8/10)

04. Continent of Calinca
Surrounded by snow with only one place to go, numbers like “Continent of Calinca” stand to exemplify the extreme degree Tomozawa is willing to take in his implementation of minimalism within the music of Mega Man Legends 2. Important as it may be to present this side of the score to those listening, given the small size of the canvas available for painting, this two and half minute “crystalline hymn” (which doesn't benefit from being looped in the slightest) is a poor choice in a situation that calls for much more discrimination in what does and what doesn't make the cut. However, looking beyond the limitations placed upon it here, a better option may have been to switch to the more up-beat “attack” variation on the loop to break up the overly sterile and serene sense of stillness while covertly adding another track to the proceedings. (6/10)

05. Yosyonke Abandoned Mine
It doesn’t take long after “Continent of Calinca” to realize that area themes get the short end of the stick in this collection. Still, despite all the positives there may be in offering up something a bit more tangible and a little less ambient, “Yosyonke Abandoned Mine” also happens to be one of the score’s most uninspired and trivial dungeon themes. It’s true this typical “mine-like” number may have enough drive and operating power to make it a decent piece, yet it stands a painful reminder to the pieces – pieces with far more to offer – that remain regulated to the game rip to this day. Perhaps what is most disturbing is the fact that it almost seems like the person behind the selection process was well aware of this, but more or less chose it to employ it here as a cheap prefix to the next selection rather than selecting it based on its own merits. (6/10)

06. Jaiwan
More than any other track on the Rockman DASH 2: Special Collection, “Jaiwan” dies at the hands of its original context - this despite that fact it is comprised solely of the ingredients one would expect to find in any other Reaverbot battle theme. Not being a case where a track fails because it’s too typical, this is a case of a track failing because it overshoots the situation it depicts by a mile and a half. Indeed, the fear and drama that presides over the proceedings in “Jaiwan” blows what is a minor, inconsequential scuffle completely out of proportion to the point where it is almost laughable. Such misdirection will obviously go undetected by those who have never played the game and take each track for what it is at face value, but to those who have, Tomozawa’s gaffe – as well as the absurd amount of real estate spent on inconsequential tracks from the Calinca Continent – will remind one of the blank expression expressed by deer captured within the demanding glare of an automobile’s headlights. (5/10)

07. Jagd Krabbe Rev.
Illustrating a wonton, wreck loose battle with a comedic edge, “Jagd Krabbe Rev.” is rife with connections to past and present material. The most important of these - it’s affiliation with “Feldynaught!” from the first game - works on two levels: visual (both machines are similar in appearance and are capable of flattening a small town in mere seconds) and musical. Even though “Feldynaught!” may take its influence from the themes used to portray Reaverbots, the overabundance of intensity at its core makes it not unlike “Jagd Krabbe Rev.” despite their conflicting styles. But where previous attempts at applying “overabundance” in a musical fashion brought tracks like “Jaiwan” to their knees, the same cannot be said here, even when the crazy, Mega Man bashing voice-overs employed by Tron during the in-game battle are affixed atop it. (7/10)

08. Bola
A tightly wrought, anxiety-based number, “Bola” exposes the stubbornness that lies deep within many of the compositional builds and/or norms used throughout the music of the Legends series. In an attempt to create a musical calling for a new kind of adversary, Tomozawa tones down the bold doom and gloom of your standard Reaverbot battle theme to create what could be essentially considered a more methodical and reserved “Reaverbot Light.” This creates quite a conundrum, because, at the end of the day, booze is just another name for alcohol, and there is still isn't enough space between these “musical identities” to promote the idea that there is no connection between this character and the aforementioned creatures. Troubling as it is for the track to lack an identity to call its own, the perceived faults surrounding its grinding pace are eventually shown to be its one redeeming quality. (6/10)

09. Gargarfummi
Despite coining the theme that fuels the crowning jewel of the bunch, “Gargarfummi” lacks the credentials to change hearts and minds when it comes to the unflattering stereotypes that surround Reaverbot battle themes. That said, it should be obvious that there is a lot to be gained from avoiding the pretentiousness that ran rampant throughout “Jaiwan,” and in this respect the track delivers, steering clear of completely exasperating the player with worry. However, beyond the forward drive possibly reminding listeners of similar pieces like “Garudoriten!” from the original, everything comes right back to that underlying theme in the end, perhaps explaining why it is a little more resilient than most of its brethren. (7/10)

10. Glyde Drache Ace
The inclusion of what is effectively known as “Glyde’s Theme” wasn't so much a question of “if” it would appear as much as it was of “which version” would represent it. Thinking about it in retrospect, was there any doubt that the horn filled, free-for-all that is “Glyde Drache Ace” would take prominence? Not really. Be that as it may, as fun and energetic as this battle theme may seem on a standalone basis, there are things beyond this initial impression that drive it forward. It’s mainly the performance of horns that leads one to eventually pick away at the surface layer of amusement and expose the overwhelming since of pride and entitlement that’s just below its surface. It’s all about vanity, or, more specifically, the vanity of an overconfident adversary. This is what sets “Glyde Drache Ace” and Glyde himself apart from Bonne’s and their respective themes; both may be prideful, but where the Bonne’s portray a healthy sense of pride in what they can accomplish together (despite its legality), Glyde’s are prideful to represent a characteristic fault. (7/10)

11. Klaymoor
In using compositional schemes with their fair share of bugs, Tomozawa’s implementation of overarching themes can sometimes cause problems. More often than not, the resiliency to power through any choppy waters can be achieved, but then there are times where one is simply left stranded. Behold “Klaymoor,” a slower and even more listless version of “Bola” that surrenders any and all chance there could have been to rescue the piece. It’s depressing to see the changes made here, like the streamlined manipulation of the instruments and somewhat more tangible climax go to waste, but be that as it may, there is one thing both pieces have in their favor: a bit of hidden context. Did Tomozama take these characters discussions on the disadvantages of old age in combat into consideration when crafting these pieces? Could their slow, methodical nature be a musical extension of these characters ages? A question that is likely to never be answered, but influenced or not, they remain the hostages of their weaknesses regardless. (5/10)

12. Blitzkrieg
To say that “Blitzkrieg” is a track that delivers the kind of hard-hitting action it name implies would be somewhat of an overstatement, because while all the strife and drama one would expect to experience during a real life blitzkrieg (a sudden or surprise military offensive) is present, its far from being unrestrained. Being another example of the “reserved tenacity” the ends up dictating the pace in many of Tomozama’s battle themes, the careful application of this technique can pay off huge dividends, much like it did with in “Marlwolf!” and “The Gesellschaft!” from the Rockman DASH Original Soundtrack. This requires a poignant theme with an easily repeatable rhythm, and it’s not long before the musical, tug-of war quality of this piece reveals itself not only to be in such a league, but reveals itself to be at the top of it, perfectly summing up the quagmire of limitations Mega Man finds placed upon him in this particular battle. Combine this with the piercing percussion that accompanies and resets the track on the loop and its plain to see it’s inclusion on this disc was an absolute MUST. It is easily one of most defining moments in Legends music history. (10/10)

13. Wojigairon
If one where to take “Wojigairon” in solely on the eight second intro that opens it, there is little doubt that the phrase “you’re screwed” would immediately pop into the minds most people. Intimidating as it may be (leading to it’s incorporation within some of the late-game battle themes), it’s not really representative of the remainder of the experience, which, for most intensive purposes carries the true balk of the message. That message? You don’t necessarily need to see this twenty-two story, lava chugging monstrosity to be afraid of it. Musically, there are no real surprises; the intensity is once again kept in check as the presidio-militaristic style beats reflect the disjoined movements of a mal-proportioned behemoth. As much as a theme like this adds in the depiction of such roadblock, its workmanlike structure is far from inspiring. (7/10)

14. Hover Gustaff
Much like “Glyde Drache Ace” before it, “Hover Gustaff” is another track whose appearance may not have been necessarily guaranteed, yet was much more likely than the majority of those that didn't. A relatively high-octane number as far as Legends standards go, the flailing silliness of “Jagd Krabbe Rev.” is ditched in exchange for an upbeat and focused channel of controlled tenacity. The “controlled tenacity” exhibited here doesn't directly relate to the “reserved tenacity” within “Blitzkrieg” as one would expect; however, it does demonstrates how a minor adjustment in forward velocity can make two similar tracks very diverse. If there is anything to conclude from the experience set fourth in “Hover Gustaff,” is that it’s a very different kind of Bonne-based track, which is more than welcome, but doesn't have a real hook to it, that quality that would make it a staple favorite. (7/10)

15. Geetz
Another piece whose appearance is on this disc is nothing short of a necessity, “Geetz” may indeed be the greatest Reaverbot battle theme to grace the series. That’s a tall order for any track to fill, and sure, it’s merely one persons opinion, but with all the repressed rage from the previous “underground” boss themes coming to a head, something the rapid-fire percussion here more than sees to, this “aboveground” rendition of the theme first heard in “Gargarfummi” speaks volumes about the conflict at hand. Add in the gothic styling of the keys and the experience feels a lot more intense than it really is; it’s right in your face but at the same time it’s not. Brilliant. Not even the game’s final battle themes can touch this one. There really isn't anymore to say; with “Blitzkrieg,” “Geetz” is the simply the epitome of what Mega Man Legends 2 has to offer the listener. (10/10)

16. Mother Area
Coming off as a more appropriate choice than its icy counterpart “Continent of Calinca,” the angelic, female harmonies found within “Mother Area” reinforce the concept of one last reprieve before a final showdown. It hits the nail right on the head, and unlike “Yosyonke Abandoned Mine” is not a cheap prefix to a subsequent battle theme. At the same time however, the final battle theme on this disc doesn’t bring the pound for pound power that the omitted “Sera Computer Terminal Battle 1st Form” would have; power that would have created some truly commanding contrast. (7/10)

17. Sera Computer Terminal Battle 2nd Form
Sadly, if you where to take all the rapid-fire drumming, adrenaline and power out of “Geetz” and add a more than generous helping of “angelic hymn” to what remained you would be left with “Sera Computer Terminal Battle 2nd Form,” a uninspired variation of the game’s most pivotal battle theme. Reflecting back on this particular battle, it should be noted that Tomozama is not really misguided in the direction he wants to take this track – the idea of presenting dead and empty space in musically abstract way is dead-on considering the environment it’s played it – but the general concept that beauty can be found in simplicity starts to run out of gas here, mainly because it limits the composition’s ability to be engaging. This makes it hard, if not downright impossible, to be fair towards both this track and “Geetz” even though nothing here is terribly awry. (6/10)

As expected, the Capcom’s Rockman DASH 2: Special Collection is mainly aimed towards satisfying the series’ small yet dedicated faction of fans. While it may be a more than welcome treat, the limited amount of material presented makes for a mix of tunes that range from “they couldn’t pick anything better?” to “damn right!” that cumulatively equals out to a “I’m just glad to finally get something on an official disc!” The positive side of such a dilemma is this turns the album into a mini history lesson, pointing out the strengths and weakness of this particular score (and, indirectly, the Misadventures of Tron Bonne) when taken in as a whole. To this end, exploring what is here its time well spent, but only those who are infatuated with the world of Legends will stay.


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Kirby's Dream Land review

Posted : 5 years, 1 month ago on 1 July 2012 12:48 (A review of Kirby's Dream Land)

Being a recently re-acquired staple I lost back in 2003 when my *lovely* roommates robbed me blind, Kirby's Dream Land was the first game featuring everyone's favorite pink puffball. While my experiences with Kirby titles beyond this one are extremely limited (the only other one being Kirby's Adventure/Nightmare in Dream Land) and the fact I could probably go on and on why this, along with Metroid II, deserves a place in any serious Game Boy collection, I'll dive right into the game's two main problems:

Problem One: It's too short.

At five levels, Kirby's Dream Land is simply too short. The levels are fantastic (and beat the tar out of those in Kirby's Adventure) but the game is over before it begins. Add to this the fact the final level is basically a Mega Man-esque recap of all the bosses you've fought up to that point and it's easy to see how it's entirely possible to blow through the game in one sitting within an hour.

Problem Two: It's too easy.

Kirby's Dream Land is a cakewalk. Sure, it may be a delicious cakewalk, but it's still a cakewalk. When one can go seven to eight years without playing a game and come back to it and beat it with a single life there's nothing challenging about it. This isn't saying anything however, as some games, like Mega Man Legends, lack in this department and still manage to deliver the goods. In similar fashion to Mega Man Legends, it's possible to increase the difficulty level (press up, select and A on the title screen) to give King Dedede's minions one hell of a booster shot. Seriously, once you get to the previously pathetic Whispy Woods you'll realize the spike in difficulty is no joke - they're out for blood now - and unfortunately leave you no middle ground to traverse.

Beyond the above, Kirby's Dream Land is astounding in just about every other category. I mean really, who doesn't remember the music from Green Greens? Who doesn't remember crushing King Dedede? Sure, a lot of what's here and what I'm saying is tinged (ok, littered) with nostalgia, but after playing through Kirby's Adventure last year, Dream Land's simplicity is hardly a vice. More (in terms of Kirby's abilities) did not equal out to a better game in my opinion, nor did more levels. There's a charm here that's missing from some of the game's immediate successors; an intangible x-factor you can't put a price on.

Kirby's Dream Land may have some significant flaws, but it's one of the best (original) GameBoy titles out there. If you haven't experienced it you owe it to yourself to try it.


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Wild Arms review

Posted : 5 years, 1 month ago on 1 July 2012 12:40 (A review of Wild Arms)

Role-playing games. Final Fantasy VII. A genre and the game that was destined to define it. Final Fantasy and role-playing games may have been available in North America prior to it's release late 1997, but you could have easily fooled anyone the opposite was true when Final Fantasy VII went on sale. The rest of the narrative pretty much writes itself: Final Fantasy VII opened the floodgates, Final Fantasy VII proved to Americans that RPGs and anime could be pretty rad, Final Fantasy VII proved RPGs no longer had to sacrifice in superficial areas to compensate for their lengthy duration.

Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy VII. Yeah, I enjoyed it during its heyday. Hell, I enjoyed it way past its heyday when my friends and I had (pointless) competitions to see who could get their limit breaks at the earliest point in the game. It's an important title and still is. Would I have gotten into the genre without the marketing blitz and buzz that surrounded it? Probably not. Still, beyond Squaresoft being the obvious "breadwinner" when it came to RPGs during the 32-bit era, I can't say they produced my favorite offering. That crown belonged to a small development studio called Media Vision who produced a title called Wild Arms, a game that beat Final Fantasy VII to the market by a mere four months. As small as that window of opportunity seems, Wild Arms would need every second of it to get any kind of a jump on Square’s impending behemoth and be of any relevance.

So what's so special about Wild Arms? Why should anyone care that it was eventually overshadowed by a perceivably superior title? Well, I'm not really saying anyone should care, but I believe the game has something to offer even the most jaded fan, and this is coming from someone who actually played it after playing Final Fantasy VII. One of the biggest sins people try to peg on Wild Arms is the fact that it a majority of the experience seems to be built upon cliches. I absolutely love this argument because, in a nutshell, they’re correct. Why would I utter something that seems to defeat the point I'm trying to make? Because I've yet to play an RPG that doesn't conform to the vast body preconceived notions that comes with the territory. It's like watching a horror movie with good dialogue; does such a thing even exist? Save the world fare it may be, something all RPGs quests eventually boil down to, there’s something devilishly alluring about Rudy, Jack and Cecilia's quest even though we've seen it all before. Wild Arms manages to do that thing that all good games are capable of, making the familiar feel fresh. I love the inner turmoil Rudy faces in being a stranger in a stranger world, the initially selfish desire of Cecilia to be seen as more than a symbol and Jack’s ability to eventually overcome his darkened past. As I said, it’s been done, but it’s the manner in which it is accomplished that speaks volumes beyond the archetypes at play.

Of course, some people will have issues with the way Wild Arms accomplishes its goals. Wild Arms is a first generation PS1 title and, as expected, looks like a first generation PS1 title. Combat is presented in full 3D and the models look antiquated even when compared other early games. I’ll admit I’m not too crazy over the super deformed, bobble-head characters or flaccid design that reigns over the game’s non-boss combatants and summons but the sequels wouldn't improve on this either. Wild Arms does get what matters correct however, and that’s the look and feel of the game’s antagonists. Really, outside of Odessa from Wild Arms 2, Media Vision has found it impossible to match the power, intensity and soul of these characters and it’s not hard to see why. Wild Arms 3’s Prophets? Please. Wild Arms 4’s Brionac. Whatever. Wild Arms 5’s pathetic attempt at class/race warfare? Laughs. The Metal Demons (and Odessa) are on a completely different level than the previously mentioned forces of evil and it’s not hard to see why. Unfortunately for Media Vision, I’m no longer willing to lie to myself about what those games lack compared to the first two PS1 entries.

Another area that’s ripe for criticism is the simplicity of the combat engine. Again, I won’t deny it has little to nothing over the systems seen before it and the force system is hardly revolutionary but we’re dealing with an era before the advent of materia. People love to tout FFVII’s materia system as the be all, end all magic system but I don’t see how materia is that different from the previous game’s Esper system. In fact Espers may actually be a bit superior in my opinion. Regardless, simplicity is not always the vice people make it out to be. Sure, most battles play out the same, Rudy assaulting bosses with his ARMS, Jack nailing bosses with Fast Draws (eventually backed by Hyper) and Cecilia having a hard time striking a balance between attack and support magic the closer one gets to completing the game.

Such daggers aside, Wild Arms will probably look a lot better out of combat where its Zelda-influenced gameplay takes hold. Unlike combat, exploration of the game’s world takes pace on an overhead, two-dimensional plane. In dungeons, players will overcome puzzles with the aid of tools, objects that are unique to each character. Some of these are as simple as gunpowder bombs or as complex as Hanpan who helps you reach otherwise inaccessible switches and items. Dungeons are also teaming with traps that can inflict damage to a characters hit points as well. Going from typical JRPG combat to action-RPG like game play outside is handled with an extreme amount of care, the seamless transition easily being the game’s major calling card. Still, there are other areas of Wild Arms that are sure to impress like Michiko Naruke’s western influenced music score. While Naruke would struggle to varying degrees with games that followed, Wild Arms’ audio would prove to be an essential part in driving home the steampunk setting the game takes place in. I can’t say it’s one of the defining scores of the 32/64 bit era but for fans of video game music it’s pretty much essential listening.

I’m sure to many I've failed to offer a compelling argument as to how Wild Arms can hold it’s own to previously mentioned kingpin known as Final Fantasy VII. Despite the multitude of comparisons above, taking Final Fantasy VII down a peg or two was not my intention even though it ended up being that way. Still, while people champion Final Fantasy VII for all the things touched upon in the opening paragraph, I found Wild Arms did the exact same thing for me – perhaps even more so - despite lacking the pedigree of its contemporaries. I also think the game contains more heart than a majority of the games it was put up against back in 1997 or exist today, and quite honestly that’s something you can’t put a price on.


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