Category Archives: SNES

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH: Mega Man X

games I regret parting with Mega Man X

Mega Man X, as far as I can remember, is the only game in Capcom’s long-running and blaster-charging run-and-jump action series where an innocent-looking robot boy obliterates rogue worker automatons that I’ve beaten. Granted, I haven’t actually played all that many, and that’s mostly because they are challenging gauntlet runs that punish more than they reward. Still, back when I was younger and only had so many games to play and few IRL distractions, practice made for better attempts, and I eventually saw credits roll on Rockman’s first appearance on the Super NES. I absolutely know that getting all the capsule upgrades played a big part in this accomplishment. Without them, I probably wouldn’t have gotten past Chill Penguin. Sick frost burn.

Do you know Mega Man X‘s somewhat maturer plot? If you do, congrats. You can skip ahead two paragraphs. If not, allow me to summarize. Dr. Light created Mega Man X, commonly known as just X, years after the original Mega Man series, with a key difference: the ability to make his own decisions. However, Dr. Light was not completely blind and thus recognized the potential danger of this model, sealing X away in a diagnostic capsule for over 30 years of testing. X’s capsule was uncovered by an archaeologist named Dr. Cain almost a hundred years later. Excited by the possibilities X presented, Dr. Cain disregarded Dr. Light’s notes and warnings and created a legion of new robots that replicated X’s free will–Reploids.

Unfortunately, a virus spread and caused these Reploids turn deadly against humans. Shocking, I know. And so these Reploids became dubbed Mavericks, which lead to the formation of a group called the Maverick Hunters to combat them. Because what else are Maverick Hunters gonna do, y’know? Anyways, the Maverick Hunters were originally led by Sigma, the first Reploid created by Dr. Cain, until it also turned violent and declared war against humans. X joined the Maverick Hunters under its new leader Zero to save Earth from total evil robotic domination. It’s a story much more complicated and involved than the original NES games, which, as a young man with a blossoming brain and beginning to dip his toes in things like anime, I enjoyed greatly.

Mega Man X introduced a lot of new elements to the series. Like the Central Highway Stage, which is basically a tutorial level that allows players to get a feel for the game before setting out to stop the usual kill list of eight named bosses. It is in this level you are first taught how to dash along the ground, cling to walls, and wall jump, as well as dashing and jumping simultaneously, increasing X’s speed in the air. These modifications give X far more mobility than in previous games, which, often required precious timing and accuracy, especially when trying to jump from vanishing platform to vanishing platform. I don’t remember if I played Super Metroid before or after Mega Man X, but the wall-jumping is much easier to nail in the latter.

Besides gaining new weapons after kicking the metal butts of every robot leader, X is also able to upgrade parts of his armor, such as his helmet, boots, arm cannon, and chestplate. These are found in hidden capsules, and they are, as far as I can recall, fairly well hidden, save for the first one, which you have to stumble across for story purposes. X can also charge up the weapons he takes from defeated bosses, giving him a secondary fire mode. More options equals more fun, and some levels even feature alternate paths. Also, completing certain stages ahead of others will subtly affect the battlefield. For example, if you clear Storm Eagle’s aircraft carrier stage first, Spark Mandrill’s power plant stage will suffer from electrical outages.

And now, for everyone’s enjoyment, a list of the bosses in Mega Man X, which, at the time of its release, I thought were beyond cool, but now see that as simply uneducated madness:

  • Chill Penguin
  • Spark Mandrill
  • Armored Armadillo
  • Launch Octopus
  • Boomer Kuwanger
  • Sting Chameleon
  • Storm Eagle
  • Flame Mammoth

Actually, I still think Launch Octopus is pretty killer. We can blame that on Kojima and Decoy Octopus, I guess. Pretty much any combination of [cool word] plus octopus sounds fantastic. Like Fugazi Octopus. Or Mozzarella Sticks Octopus. See–works every time.

Giant Bomb is currently working their way through the Mega Man games with their premium video series Blue Bombin’, and I’m not sure if they’ll be playing the Mega Man X series of games, but here’s hoping they at least give the first one a chance as it certainly switched some things up for the little blue boy who could. I’ll always remember it fondly and wonder why on Earth I thought it was a good idea to give away this classic SNES cartridge (plus original packaging and manual) for a few measly bucks towards an original PlayStation 1. Sigh.

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH is a regular feature here at Grinding Down where I reminisce about videogames I either sold or traded in when I was young and dumb. To read up on other games I parted with, follow the tag.

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Grinding Down’s 2017 gaming resolutions

gd-2017-gaming-resolutions

This is always dangerous, making promises. I’ve done it in the past here on Grinding Down, only to burn myself and those written words when it, for instance, ultimately, took many more years for me to beat Final Fantasy IX. Still, it’s always good to have goals, something to reach for and hopefully achieve after putting in the hard work, and, at the very least, these empty checkmark boxes give me direction, a place to go when I’m not sure what to do next. I’m not saying I’ll be successful on every account below, but I am willing to try. For all we know, 2017 could be the year of our very unmaking, and I might as well go down fighting for a cause, trivial as some of these may be.

Right. Allow me to highlight some future gaming goals…

Suikoden III

It’s always been my intention to play (and replay) the entire Suikoden series from start to finish to get to the games I’ve never touched yet, specifically Suikoden III, Suikoden IV, and Suikoden Tactics. Actually, now that I think about it, I don’t believe I ever saw credits roll on Suikoden V, but I do have a memory card save…somewhere. I got through replaying the first two games rather quickly, but then moved on to other non-Konami adventures after that.

For 2017, I’d like to get back to collecting them 108 Stars of Destiny, especially after finally playing some Dragon Age: Inquisition last year and seeing a few strong connections between the two. The roadblock is that I want to finish up everything for Dragon Age: Inquisition first before moving on to another large, time-demanding RPG. I just became friends with Dorian and am looking to move things forward romantically with Blackwall before tackling many more side missions. It’s probably going to be awhile.

So, I did play a bit of Suikoden III a few years ago, but my PlayStation 2 copy seems scratched up and unreliable. Thankfully, during some past PSN flash sale, I purchased a digital copy for the PlayStation 3, which means I really have no excuse now. It’s installed, ready to go. The real question is, as always, what to name my castle once I acquire it.

Earthbound

I’m not sure what it’s going to take me to finally start playing EarthBound. I was hoping buying the game, for more or less zero dollars thanks to Nintendo Club’s closing back in May 2015, was a solid place to begin. Alas, nope. I haven’t loaded it up once. Honestly, having this game available on the Wii U gamepad and not actually a Super NES locked to a TV should make this process even easier, considering I can take the experience with me into bed (hey now) before the Sandman visits.

However, that would mean I’d have to put down my Nintendo 3DS for some time, and with Disney Magical World 2 taking up all my pre-sleep time and Pokemon Moon waiting in the wings–as well as the remake of Dragon Quest VIII waiting even further in the wings–this might not happen just yet. Maybe by Spring 2017. I mostly wrote that to both give myself some breathing room, but also a starting point to stick to. This one’s for you, Iwata.

Steam backlog

At the time of writing, I have 362 games in my Steam library. Yeowza. Granted, many are not installed, and not all of them are huge, triple A titles that can’t even run well on my struggling-to-breathe ASUS laptop. Many have not been played at all, in fact. See, I have a bad habit of downloading just about every free thing released on the platform, as well as gobbling up indie bundles for real cheap to bloat this thing out even more. It’s gotten to the point that, when I do finally occasionally scroll through the list, I can barely remember where some of these titles came from, and then I freeze in fear, unable to decide what to try next, eventually settling on something safe, like AdVenture Capitalist or another unsuccessful run in Runestone Keeper. This is a problem.

I’m not here to make any kind of crazy schedule, like trying to play X number of games every week. That’s not going to gel with life. I am, however, here to make an effort, and make that effort known. I’m going to start small, using HowLongToBeat to help identify the not-so-big-timesinks and start whittling away from there. My problem, and I’m sure I’m not alone in this, is that I always want to experience as much of a game as possible, that I can’t remove it simply after beating it if there are, for instance, collectibles remaining to find or extra challenges that could be accomplished. I need to work on that. I need to accept that not every game needs to be squeezed dry, leaving nothing behind but a colorless husk. For 2017, I need to let go more often.

80,000 Gamerscore

This seems more than doable, especially considering that I jumped 10,000 Achievement points in the matter of six months last year. This goal also feeds into the constant sub-goal of clearing up hard-drive space on my consoles and removing finished games, as I continue to download those freebies every month, but not do much else with them except wonder when I’ll find the time. I’m looking to polish off Earthlock: Festival of Magic real soon, as well as a number of those single introductory episodes from Telltale’s numerous adventure gaming series, which will probably help make a good step forward towards this next milestone.

Create something one might call a game or experience or waste of time

Now, I know nothing about programming and code and how to submit something for certification with the big console-makers. It takes me upwards of three minutes to remember how to hyperlink something using HTML when the button doesn’t work here on WordPress. That’s fine. I’m not looking to do all that and beyond. This can obviously be argued, but: I can draw, I can write, and I have ideas.

And so, I want to create something. An experience, with emotions and mood and meaning and jokes, maybe stuff to click on, a puzzle or two or twist you never saw coming. Something interactive. Which leads me to think that a piece of interactive fiction is a good starting area. I plan playing a few pieces of interactive fiction soon, which will hopefully help bring the inspiration juices to a boil (ew gross). The trickier part would be deciding what story to tell, y’know, from the hundreds bouncing around in my brain every day.

Well, there you have it. Five things make a post. Two named games to finally dive into, a whole bunch of things within my Steam library, a larger Gamerscore, and something creative. We’ll stop there, as any more goals will just tip the boat over.

That said, how about y’all? What are you looking forward to accomplishing in 2017? It need not be related to videogames. Perhaps you are finally ready to start cleaning up that garage full of clutter (hi, Dad!) or want to exercise more or get into knitting. Either way, let me know in the comments. I like knowing.

Doom’s demo proves one glorious, gory point

gd-impressions-doom-demo-first-level

This might come as a shock, but I first experienced Doom via its Super Nintendo Entertainment System port back in late 1995, at a neighbor’s house. I remember its red casing well, as well as my friend’s father being the sort of lawn fanatic that concerned me even at the virtuous age of twelve. This game and my copy of The Offspring’s “Smash” on cassette were items we hid whenever this man walked by his kid’s bedroom, but perhaps the topic of keeping things with parental warnings on them secret is best saved for another post.

Regardless, I am one hundred percent certain that this is not the version the developers over at id Software intended for people to play first. The SNES edition was published by Williams Entertainment and featured a custom engine programmed by Randy Linden. Naturally, this meant there were some stark differences between the PC and console versions, though I didn’t know about them back then, only years later upon reading about it via the Interwebz. One element that stands out is that, due to animation issues, there could be no enemies fighting other enemies, something that I found deeply amusing in the original first-person shooter where you fight demons from Hell.

Anyways, that’s not the Doom I am talking about for the rest of this post. That Doom is the new Doom–still just called plain ol’ Doom–from Bethesda and id Software and released back in May. I watched the Internet go all bug-eyed crazy over it and moved on with my life as, when it comes to shooters from Bethesda, I prefer the ones that let you slow down time and stuff your inventory full of coffee mugs. Well, to probably everyone’s surprise, the company kicked off E3 2016 by releasing a free demo of Doom‘s first level for all to taste, and here I am, some number of months later, ready to talk about it. Such is how my summers now go.

Let me give you some deep narrative setup so you understand why the ultra violent, ultra faceless character you are playing as is so invested in shooting demons from Hell into bloody bits with a supply of deadly firearms. As the lone DOOM Marine, it’s up to you to obliterate the relentless demon hordes invading the UAC facility on Mars. Mmm. Okay, there, now that’s done, and the guitar-ripping action can begin, and it does, oh so fast. I’m sure it is blindingly speedy on PC, but I was still charmed to see how quick and smooth everything moved on the Xbox One. There’s running, there’s gunning, there’s clambering, and there’s glory killing, all of which is happening simultaneously as a hard rock soundtrack plucked from some forgotten album collection in Satan’s attic pumps you onward.

Doom‘s demo is the entire first level of its single-player campaign, and it wastes no time getting into the thick of things. The DOOM Marine wakes up on a slab in some room of worship, grabs some armor and a gun, and begins blasting Possessed and Cacodemons in their faces. From there, it’s all forward momentum. You’ll push ahead and kill everything in your way, eventually ending up in arena-esque areas where you will have to keep moving to keep breathing. Performing a glory kill–a cinematic take-down you can activate after damaging an enemy enough–will provide you with some health pickups, so there’s more to do here than simply destroy all evil things. I also liked combo-ing one glory kill to another, feeling like a true powerhouse. You can also find collectibles in the environment, as well as take key cards off dead dudes that turned out to not be true powerhouses.

If anything, this demo worked as intended. It gave me a taste of how new Doom plays and feels without restricting the player or holding their hand through the entire experience. That first level is the first level. There’s also no strange Nintendo-like restrictions that say you can only play the demo X number of times or within a specific amount of time. I liked what I played, but I’m not ready to commit just yet, with too much still in my backlog to get through, but at least I know that when I get to this, I’ll have a bloody good time. I promise not to play this Doom‘s SNES port either…unless the rumors of cartridges making a return to the NX prove true.

2016 Game Review Haiku, #49 – Final Fight

gd games completed final fight

Jessica taken
Mad Gear must pay, says mayor
Off-screen punches win

Here we go again. Another year of me attempting to produce quality Japanese poetry about the videogames I complete in three syllable-based phases of 5, 7, and 5. I hope you never tire of this because, as far as I can see into the murky darkness–and leap year–that is 2016, I’ll never tire of it either. Perhaps this’ll be the year I finally cross the one hundred mark. Buckle up–it’s sure to be a bumpy ride. Yoi ryokō o.

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH: Samurai Shodown

Samurai_Shodown_-_1993_-_SNK_Corporation

In lieu of a copy of Street Fighter II or any of the Mortal Kombats, I had other fighting games in my collection to play on my first console, that lovable Super Nintendo currently sitting in my closet, dusty and yellow, but all the way functional, such as Killer Instinct, Shaq Fu, and Samurai Shodown. I probably have a few things to say about that first title and many, many words to write about how I got Shaq Fu–trust me, it’s more interesting than the game itself–but today, it’s all about twelve of the fiercest warriors of the late 18th century engaging in duels to the death as a dark power rises over Japan.

Yup, Samurai Shodown. It originally made its debut on the Neo Geo, but then got ported to a bunch of different consoles, which is how I ended up with a copy of it on the SNES. The SNES version is evidently a bit different than other ports, but I’m only learning this after the fact, years later, as I assumed everything I was seeing then as I jumped and slashed was how it all truly was; for example, the SNES version removed scaling, keeping the character sprites small and constant for an entire fight instead of zooming in and out of the action. Also, similar to Mortal Kombat, there’s no blood on Nintendo’s console when it comes to cutting people up with swords.

Samurai Shodown is known for being either the first or one of the first fighting games to focus on weapon-based combat–I’d later fall hard for this concept with Soul Blade on the PlayStation 1–and having a style based around late 18th century Japanese culture, such as calligraphy and musical instruments. A couple other standout elements from Samurai Shodown are camera zoom effects, randomly-dropped items like food for healing and bombs for damage, destructible environments, and the Rage Meter, which builds up over time upon receiving damage, allowing the fighter to become momentarily more powerful.

Here’s the thing. I haven’t played Samurai Shodown in a good, long while. The SNES cart left my hands probably at that time I gathered a bunch of them together to trade in at Toys “R” Us for some kind of lump discount off the forthcoming PlayStation 1. I do not remember every character and fighting stance and weapon type. That said, there’s Galford, the San Fransisco swordsman I couldn’t get enough of, and here’s why–side puppy. Named Poppy. She’s a beast, literally, and Galford can perform a special move to send her after opponents to maul them like a good puppy doggy. I mostly mained Galford, but I do remember using Hanzo and Jubei a bunch. Everybody else is a blur.

I never got to play any further releases in the Samurai Shodown franchise, nor did I really get into any later SNK fighting games. I think I tried The King of Fighters XIII once and found it bewildering. All in all, I’m a Tekken man, born and bred, as I can’t get enough of throws and countering and cool slow motion replays. It’s what I was raised on, and I’m only mentioning it now so that you’ll be prepared when you see another GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH for the original Tekken. Don’t worry, I still have Tekken 2. I’m not completely without reservations.

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH is a regular feature here at Grinding Down where I reminisce about videogames I either sold or traded in when I was young and dumb. To read up on other games I parted with, follow the tag.

2013 Game Review Haiku, #1 – Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island

games completed in 2013 yoshi's island

The wizard Kamek
Tries to steal babies, Yoshi
Endures lots of tears

These little haikus proved to be quite popular in 2012, so I’m gonna keep them going for another year. Or until I get bored with them. Whatever comes first. If you want to read more words about these games that I’m beating, just search around on Grinding Down. I’m sure I’ve talked about them here or there at some point. Anyways, enjoy my videogamey take on Japanese poetry.

What I loved about Chrono Trigger

A long, long time ago–well, back in March 2012 really–I beat Chrono Trigger. It was both a great and grueling experience, and I put down some notes on the things I disliked about the RPG legend that is legendary among RPG fans. And people reacted. Think the post even made it on Reddit. Yeeeeeah. It was like I called their sweet little grandmother a raging prostitute that was the reason STDs spread or kicked their dog into the middle of traffic on a busy highway. It’s either the depression in me or my strengthening pessimistic outlook on life that I can’t see anything as perfect. Videogames can be great, can be a lot of fun, really enjoyable–but never utopian.

Okay, that’s enough intro. I could really go on about all the little things I dislike in games I adore, but my point is just that both exist, and sometimes they co-exist, and other times one is the predator stalking the prey. For now, let’s use the  dual tech Slurp Kiss (Ayla and Frog!) and get into the love.

mighty music

Surprise, surprise–it’s amazing. Here, let me name a few tracks: Corridors of Time, the hauntingly Secret of the Forest, an overworld theme that is both whimsical and foreboding, Zeal Palace, or that battle theme that really gets you into the fight and will thankfully never leave my body. And there’s plenty more. Basically every soundbite, whether it is a song or sound effect (Robo has some great ones!), is highly memorable. Both for its quality and charm.

Chrono Trigger was scored by Yasunori Mitsuda and Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu. Mitsuda spent many nights sleeping in the office, which led to many songs feeling dream-inspired. I totally hear that. He also later suffered from stomach ulcers, and so Uematsu was brought in to finish up about ten songs. Either way, the music from Chrono Trigger is universally loved–and deservedly. I still listen to more tunes from Chrono Cross, but that has to do with a more orchestral feel to them than anything else.

The Millennial Fair

When it happens, it’s downright magical. You’re on trial, accused of trying to kidnap Princess Nadia and take over Guardia Castle. You even get called a terrorist. And you, the player, know none of this is true, and are ready to defend yourself against your accusers. But then the Chancellor begins bringing up actions you took–or didn’t take–at the Millennial Fair, where you first met the princess. Seemingly normal encounters are now twisted and distorted to make it appear like you are one shifty soul, even if you’re definitely not. Like, if you grabbed the dropped pendant before checking on the princess, you are labeled greedy and after the throne. Small things mattered. But you don’t learn this until it is too late, and so it doesn’t matter how many silver points you earned playing games at the fair: you are a criminal. And you’re put in a cell for your alleged mistreatment of the princess, which really gets the ball rolling plot-wise. It all felt so natural as it unfolded, too.

Visible enemies

My distaste for random encounters continues to grow as I get older. I find it way more annoying now, and so when a game gives me enemies on screen, leaving it up to me to fight or flee or sneak by, I am overjoyed. Granted, this phenomenon seems to be more of a later trend, making it a nice surprise when I could watch Blue Imps and Goblins wander in the grass in Chrono Trigger before taking them on. Not only do you see enemies before you fight them, the battle itself takes place right there. The UI switches to reflect this, but other than that, you are fighting where you are standing, and it’s all very quick, a definite upgrade from slower turn-based RPGs.

The jet bike race

It’s random. Really random. But I guess someone wanted to put the SNES’s Mode 7 graphics to use. The jet bike race is found in 2300 A.D., during and after Beyond the Ruins. It allows you to take a shortcut across the ruins, avoiding a couple of screens of monsters to fight. That is, if you win. Which is not as simple of just gunning it all the way. You’re racing against Johnny, a half-tricycle automaton, and he has this way of constantly inching his way in front of you. Rubber-banding, I believe it’s called. It’s tough, but at the time a great change of pace, and you can come back to race Johnny later for various prices, like a Power Tab and Ethers. Once you get the Epoch, you can skip the race entirely as it is avoidable. I’m saddened that this element never spawned a tie-in: Super Crono Kart.

That evil laugh

There is only so much a sprite character can do to evoke emotions. Usually, they hop around and squirt drops of water off their heads if excited or run back in forth in place to express various levels of excitement. My favorite little animated moment is one I discovered purely from curiosity. Games like Animal Crossing: Wild World and The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion taught me that sitting in chairs is something one can do in videogames. It’s just as exciting of an action in digital life as it is in real life. And so, when in the Giant’s Claw, I took my lead character at the time–always Crono, yo–and plopped him down in Azala’s chair. He changed. He laughed with mirth and evilness, and he looked right at me as he did it. And then he rejoined his party members to continue the hunt for  Lavos. It’s a really small, random occurrence, but I love these little additions. They show a sort of shared consciousness between the player and those that made the game, that they realized someone would try to sit here, and for that that did, here’s a bonus animation.

Right. Those are the things I loved. I hope this clears up any non-obviousness over how I feel about Chrono Trigger. It’s a fantastic game. It has some problems, but the great outweighs the bad unarguably. I played it fully once now and am glad I did. Given my gaming habits and time schedule, I doubt I’ll ever play it again, whether via New Game+ or starting all over, but other than different endings, I saw a really good chunk of the whole experience. And just like Chrono Cross, I’ll revisit the soundtrack when the mood strikes me, so it’ll always be there, the legend that is legendary.