Tuesday, November 11, 2008

In Deck/On Deck: End of the Quarter Craziness Edition

Although I haven’t had too much time to play games or post, writing this I see that I’ve definitely been able to squeeze in some game time despite school stress. Here’s a quick rundown of what I’ve been playing lately. I’ve recently put all my GameCube games in a huge CD book alongside my Wii games, and quite a few of these games that I’m playing take advantage of the fact that Wii can play GameCube and Virtual Console games.


Wario Land Shake It! (Wii)

I bought Wario not long ago after I had a really shitty week. The animation and music to this game are really special, as it’s amazing to see Wario so animated and unbelievable how great the soundtrack is (tracks of which can be unlocked by accomplishing everything within a level). The gameplay doesn’t fall short either as it’s a great 2D platformer with sensible “waggle” moves that don’t disrupt the game or seem tacked on. There’s lots of challenges to every stage and each subsequent level gets tougher. Maureen has fallen in love with this game and is obsessively completing every challenge for every level. Me, I’m a bit more relaxed, just getting through levels and will go back to find treasures or complete challenges later. If you liked any of the previous Wario Land games or love 2D platformers, Wario Land Shake It! is worth your sheckles.

Soul Calibur IV (Xbox 360)

Soul Calibur IV is fantastic. Hands down the best Soul Calibur yet, with tons of characters, weapons, and a fantastic customizable character feature, it’s hard to top it. The fighting mechanics are all there, accessible to newbies but offers a lot for mastery. Yoda is a cheap character and is basically the Oddjob (i.e. banned character) from my Versus matches with friends. I’ve recently had a chance to try out the “Tower” mode, where you ascend a tower, fighting groups of enemies, one after another—not dissimilar to the Weapons Master mode in previous games. It’s cool, but ultra frustrating, and it’s hard to earn treasures—which in turn unlock an achievement. When I’ve played I’ve really tried to work on getting achievements because they are tied to getting new costume pieces. The more the merrier I say, and I’m eager to get a wealth of them before I start messing around with character creation. Unfortunately, the road to achievements has been slow. I need to get my friend back this copy of the game though and get my own! However, I’m not in quite as much of a hurry as I was. It’ll keep…

Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan! (Nintendo DS)

If you’ve played Elite Beat Agents then you probably know that Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan! is the original Japanese version of the game. Maureen got it for me for Christmas 2006 and the sequel for my birthday 2008 (because she’s the best). They are two of my all time favorites and games I practically refuse to loan out, because I never know when I’ll need an Ouendan moment. The premise of a male cheer squad swooping in to save the day in any number of problems (from helping a boy study for exams to fending off an alien invasion of robots) with a PMA (that’s Positive Mental Attitude), a dance and a song. No need for Japanese language skills, you’ll get the gist of the story of each stage. With the presidential election coming to a close and the soundtrack in my car lately, I picked it up recently as I wanted to play the level about an election (what I assume it is anyway), where a young candidate struggles to make his mark. Meanwhile, his evil opponent uses a dangerous hair spray that turns potential voters into purple wigged zombies, mindless to anything but his bidding. If it sounds pretty fucked up and wacky Jappy, it is, but it is also like 3000% awesomeness.

F-Zero (SNES by way of Wii Virtual Console)

One gaming night, Maureen and Aaron busted out F-Zero X on our Wii’s VC and raced several times. It once again drove the point home that Maureen kicks serious ass in F-Zero games. On election night, I fired up the original on VC (one of the first VC games I got, and the game that made me want a SNES way back when) and tried getting through some of the circuits. I was doing pretty well compared to earlier sessions and was really enjoying it. It’s a classic, I can’t wait for a Wii version, and I want to play more of it, F-Zero X and F-Zero GX, soon.

Starfox 64 (N64 by way of Wii Virtual Console)

I’m always imitating Peppy Hare from this game, yelling “FOOOXXXX! USE THE BRAAAAKES!” or “USE THE BOOST TO CHASE, FOX!” or “DO A BARREL ROLL!” and it drives Maureen crazy. I had the opportunity to share these jokes with Aaron, who hadn’t been beaten over the head with them, and therefore found them funny. This led to me playing through Starfox 64 in its entirety on my Wii’s VC with Aaron and I trading off at levels. This was, and is, truly a remarkable game. It’s a bit dated, though the fun is still there. We ended up on a super easy path, missing some of the better moments of the game, including a showdown with Andross that was truly challenging. Good times though. It reminded me once again why Sin & Punishment is the better rails shooter (despite it being far more linear and having less levels) and made me wish Nintendo would actually make a sequel to this series that actually is a shooter with Fox in his Arwing and not fucking around in other genres.

Streets of Rage 2 (Sega Genesis by way of Wii Virtual Console)

Aaron has this on his VC and we played it one night while intoxicated. It was very fun, and I remember how cool I used to think the series was. It’s dated, but it’s definitely better than the one-player only home version of Final Fight available on VC and a step up from Double Dragon. I also learned that the series is called “Bare Knuckle” in Japan. Isn’t that a much cooler name than Streets of Rage?
Anyway, it was a good time, and it’s aged OK, but like any side scrolling beat-‘em-up, it gets repetitive. I played as young, street-smart Skate and breakdanced my way through many a foe or locked steel door, often attacking Aaron’s controlled Axel by accident.

“Nooooooo Skate! White Man FRIEND!” I cried out in vain, as my random button pushes caused Skate to jump on Axel’s shoulders and beat him about the head.

Ultimate M.U.S.C.L.E.: The Kinnikuman Legacy (GameCube)

I’m not the biggest wrestling fan, only watching tidbits here and there, and I’m an even less of a fan of wrestling games. Ultimate M.U.S.C.L.E. definitely stands out as one of my favorite GameCube games though and has me appreciating the genre. It’s by Aki (who made many a great wrestler), it stars those little flesh colored M.U.S.C.L.E. Men lifesized and colorized, and it is too over-the-top for words. It’s tag team wrestling action with solid controls, hilarious commentary by announcers, and ridiculously damaging combo moves that see your characters flying through the air doing kicks and leg drops and whatnot with really corny names (like “Texas Condor Kick!”).

Plus there are a bunch of extra characters that I think(?) were designed by fans. From the heart-nipple Panda Man to the Frog-like Mr. French, there’s a lot of variety. For some reason, some of the game’s music got stuck in my head last week and I had to play it. It was a blast, but the overblown silliness got to be too much before long. It's something that is definitely better with four players, so maybe next time I get a crew together, I'll break it out again.

Rock Band 2 (Xbox 360)

I said it all already here. Rock Band + Alcohol + Lots of Friends adds up to tons of fun, every time (unless one of said friends is a crazy and/or mean drunk!)!

Crazy Taxi (GameCube)

“Hey! Hey! HEY! Come on in, and have some fun with CRAAAAAZY TAXI!” My brother Patrick and I used to be obsessed with this game and its Wolfman Jack sound-a-like announcer. We’d play it endlessly, especially after mastering and abusing the boost in the GameCube version (which was 100% easier to do than in the Dreamcast one). If I got into all the private jokes that came out of those sessions, it’d be a three page post. Anyway, Maureen had never seen it and I’d been meaning to show it to her forever. We broke it out, and while I did decently, but I began to see how necessary having the boost mastered is key to having a good run. It was a fun dash through memory lane, but we didn’t play too long. But with Crazy Taxi, do you really need to? I don’t know, but I do know the immortal words of B.D. Joe might have an answer: “Shut up and move your butt!”

Boom Blox (Wii)

I’ve been really curious about Boom Blox for awhile, as it’s received high accolades for being an amazing party game. After borrowing it from my bro-in-law, I’m here to report it definitely lives up to the hype. There are so many types of games from breaking up a Jenga-like tower by “tossing” a ball at the screen, to shooting games, strategy puzzle games—just a lot of different styles of play, all of them better with friends. It’s by far a better party game than Mario Party 8 because of its less involved pick-up-and-play nature and is lightyears above Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz because unlike that game, the waggle mini games actually work! If you’ve got friends and a Wii, I highly recommend this one.

Sin & Punishment (N64 by way of Wii Virtual Console)

The obsession continues. After Aaron bought his Wii, I bought him Sin & Punishment and watched him play through it in its entirety a few weeks ago. After that, I worked diligently to beat it on Normal Mode, practicing levels before playing my saved game. Finally, I made it to the end boss, where you earn more lives in a battle than you loose, so it’s virtually impossible to run out of Continues. One Saturday morning, I picked it up and continued my saved game and beat the (incredibly hard) final boss on my first try. GET BONUS! In doing so, I unlocked the soundtrack of the game, which I’ve listened to over and over until the boughs of Maureen’s patience breaks. Now, I need beat Hard Mode to unlock frameskip mode and x2 speed mode—both which make things super crazy. The cool thing about playing S&P on different difficulty levels is that there are new enemies, different attacks, and much trickier challenges. Starting in on hard, there’s a lot more stuff added over medium than I remember too. I love this game so much!

Cubivore (GameCube)

One of the advantages of having all my GameCube games in one giant book is that it makes it easy to play any of those older games a lot easier—and random, as in you never know what you might pull out next. We recently pulled out Cubivore which I’ve had in my possession for awhile but haven’t played…not, exactly anyway. Back in my game reviewing days, I played the Japanese version, Animal Leader (which was published by Nintendo) extensively, but didn’t understand any of the story. Playing it in English provided a good look at what I was missing (as the job Atlus did localizing is really nice), and was like reuniting with an old friend. The basic gameplay encapsulating the circle of life in the wild with its bizarre block art style and simple, yet very groovy music, was great to revisit. There’s nothing like clamping down on a flat flap of animal, chewing it a bit, then ripping it from its body to mutate to a new form. It’s definitely one of (if not the) weirdest GameCube game that got to our shores

Samba De Amigo (Wii)

Before your Guitar Hero whosits and Rock Band whatnots, there was Samba De Amigo. Well, I got it on Wii Friday and have been loving it! The bare bones games of the Dreamcast have been reborn with some meat on them in this Gearbox developed title with many modes, challenges, and more songs than the two Dreamcast titles combined. I didn’t get the packaged-in maracas but I don’t care; two Wii-remotes with maraca noises coming out of their speakers is just about the same. What is not the same is that you don’t need much motion to trigger the “shake;” just a little pointing up or down re-orients the cursor, so I’m digging this version a lot more than the original. Another cool feature is that your Mii is used onscreen with Samba and company while the song plays. If there are two players, both Miis are shown; if just one player plays, than a random Mii takes up the second slot. So I’ve been jamming with J, Dustin, Star Fox, Luigi, and Sarah Palin Miis while I play, which makes things interesting (not that you can pay too much attention to all the animation onscreen while playing). There’s a few mini-games as well, a couple of which are decent.

Also, there’s multiplayer, which I got to play after I conned Mareen into trying the game. Not only does she like the game, she is better at it than me! We played a couple different multiplayer modes, co-op, versus, and one called “Love Mode” where your grade is determined by how many beats you can play simultaneously. The only problem? Some of the songs were dated when the game first came out in 1999 (such as “Macarena” & “Tub Thumping”). All the same, welcome back Samba De Amigo!


Super Mario World

After Louis Armstrong’s Mario song and very horribly nonsensical YouTube videos (that nonetheless amused me) I want to revisit this one bad. I have it on VC, and though I’ve played a lot of it and beaten it, I’ve never gone through the game beginning to end. Now I’m on a mission.

Super Mario Galaxy

This one has lingered on my backlog list too long. My niece had it forever, and as soon as school lets up, it’s back to Super Mario Galaxy for me.

Professor Layton and the Curious Village

I love this game, even though I suck at the brain teasers. Once I’m out of school, I definitely plan on spending some more time with the Professor and Luke.

No More Heroes

I need to return to Santa Destroy to finish this bitch up. Just a few more assassins on my list to knock off and claim their titles!

Left 4 Dead

As soon as I get it, it’s on! Meanwhile, I should be getting all over the demo tonight-hopefully in cahoots with Dustin!

Whew! Maybe this lengthy list has something to do with me being a little behind in school? Naaaaaaaaahhhh....


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