• Retro Game of the Week: Earthworm Jim 2

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    Retro Game of the Week: Earthworm Jim 2

    Video games and humor go together like peas and carrots.  The amount of humor found in video games can range from subtle to extreme. Video games with extreme levels of humor are usually a hit-or-miss affair. Often-times, developers focus so hard on making a game funny that they forget about the actual gameplay itself. However, extreme humor, coupled with tight gameplay, usually results in a successful video game. Saints Row: The Third is a recent example of how to successfully develop an extremely bizarre, yet funny video game. For this week’s retro game of the week, let’s take a look at a legend amongst bizarrely funny video games: Earthworm Jim 2

    I bet you’re probably wondering why I didn’t review the first Earthworm Jim. Well, Earthworm Jim was a great game, but Earthworm 2 was one of those rare sequels that managed to outdo its predecessor. Yes, this game is Earthworm Jim’s equivalent to Star Wars’ Empire Strikes Back. The first Earthworm Jim was a great game in its own right, but its sequel took the humor and gameplay to a whole new level. Earthworm Jim 2 puts the main hero, a normal earthworm powered by an alien super-suit, in a variety of absurd situations as he attepmts to rescue “Princess Whats-her-name” from the clutches of the evil Psy-Crow. The game’s level design and gameplay elements have to be some of the most random and non-linear I’ve ever encountered. This game is literally a rollercoaster when it comes to variety: One minute you’re blasting through a typical run-and-gun stage and the next, you’re riding a rocket through the sky. The most bizarre level certainly has to be “Villi People”, where players have to navigate Jim through a set of intestines while disguised as a blind cave salamander. Even the last boss “fight” is completely unorthodox.

    The game’s sprite-based 2D graphics are your typical 16-bit affair, but the game’s overall artistic design and color palette are very well done. The soundtrack is equally impressive, and features a lot of classical and italian music. With activities that range from saving puppies to avoiding spitballs while floating through a circus, the gameplay has more than enough variety to keep gamers on the edge of their seats.

    Earthworm Jim 2 is a shining example of what happens when you successfully inject humor into gaming. From the eclectic music selecton to the wierdly awesome character design, practically everything about this game is hillarious. If you’ve never had the privilege of playing Earthworm Jim 2 or its prequel, dust off that old Sega Genesis or SNES and give it a try!

  • Retro Game Of The Week: Gunstar Heroes

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    Retro Game Of The Week: Gunstar Heroes

    Oh how I miss the days of the good old side-scrolling run-and-gun video game. During the early 90′s, action side-scrollers ruled the console gaming scene. Games like Contra and Metal Slug were extremely popular due to their insane action sequences and challenging battle sequences.  Let’s take a look at this week’s retro game of the week and a legend in the shoot ‘em up genre: Gunstar Heroes.

    Developed by Treasure, Gunstar Heroes was an innovative run and gun shooter released on the Genesis back in 1993. Players chose between playable two twin heroes: Gunstar Red and Gunstar Blue. As Gunstar Red, players were able to shoot (with a limited aiming capacity) while moving whereas with Gunstar Blue, players could shoot (only from a standstill) in any direction. Personally, I preferred Gunstar Red’s freedom of movement while blasting through each level. Speaking of levels, Gunstar Heroes had damn good level design. The game didn’t just have a variety of locales, it also threw a variety of different gameplay elements into each level as well. This game had players doing everything from piloting a ship through epic space battles to rolling dice to win a villain’s board game.

    The highlight of this game has to be the weapons system. There were four basic types of weapons: lightning, fire, homing and machine gun. Players were able to combine two weapons into one stronger one at any given time. For example, combining the lightning gun with the homing gun created a “homing lightning gun” that would cause the lightning to seek out the nearest bad guy. My favorite was the machine gun + fire combination. These epic weapons were quite neccesary to take down the even more epic bosses in this game. I won’t spoil the game for those who haven’t played it, but I will say that this game has some of the illest boss fights of any game ever made…hands down. The most memorable of these boss fights is no doubt the battle against Seven Force.

    Graphically, this game was spectacular. I dare say this game has some of the best 16-bit graphics I’ve ever laid my eyes on. The boss sprites and animations had an almost Neo-Geo level of polish to them. The soundtrack was pretty enjoyable too.

    Gunstar Heroes was one of the defining video games in my childhood life. The game’s awesome blend of innovation and stellar graphics made sure it stayed in my catalog for awhile. If you haven’t played it, I guarantee it’s a great reason to fire up that old Sega Genesis (or you can just grab it on the iPhone/iPad).

  • Retro Game of the Week: Killer instinct

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    killer instinct

    The 90s were an awesome time to be an arcade gamer. As a kid, I remember taking plenty of after-scrool trips to the local arcade on base (yeah I was a military brat..so what?). Fighting games were undoubtedly the arcade games everyone used to crowd around back in the day. While Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat dominated arcades in the early 90s, a newcomer developed by Rare hit the scene and would eventually become one of the greatest arcade fighting games ever. Let’s take a look at this week’s retro game of the week: Killer Instinct.

    As you all know, Street Fighter is known for having unique and recognizable characters. Its counterpart, Mortal Kombat, revolutionized the fighting game genre by including blood and fatalities. Killer Instinct combined both of the core elements featured in those games into a sleek, graphically superior game that took violence to a new and entertaining level. To be honest, a lot of the characters in Killer Instinct were basically rip-offs of either Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat Characters. TJ Combo was similar to Balrog, Jago had a similar moveset to Ken and Ryu, and Glacius’s abilities were similar to Sub-Zero. In short, pretty much every Killer Instinct character fit a traditional fighting game archetype.  The “No Mercy” moves that each character possessed were finishing moves executed in the same fashion as Mortal Kombat’s fatalities. Also a few stages featured stage specific finishing moves, just like the ones in Mortal Kombat.

    For the most part, this game was pretty uninspired and it probably wouldn’t have secured its place in the fighting hall-of-fame if not for one thing: ULTRA COMBOS. Once you took a certain amount of health from your opponent, you could execute a special combo that would cause your player to endlessly beat the hell out of your rival with a long, vicious combo of attacks. Ultra Combos are by far the best fighting game finishing move ever conceived. When playing with a friend, there was absolutely no better way to show them you were a boss than forcing them to watch for over a minute as you gave them an 80-hit ass kicking.

    In a nutshell, Killer Instinct was a fairly uninspired yet flashy fighting game that redeemed itself with an awesome way of embarrasing your opponents. Stay tuned for next week’s retro game of the week!

  • Retro Game Of The Week: Goldeneye 007

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    Retro Game of the Week: Goldeneye 007

    Ahh…memories. While the Nintendo 64 didn’t sell as well as its Playstation arch-nemesis, the Nintendo 64 provided an unrivaled multiplayer experience due to its out-of-the-box 4-player support. Classic N64 games such as Super Smash Bros and WCW vs. NWO (a previous retro game of the week) were truly a blast to play with a few buddies. Without a doubt, the best multiplayer game for the Nintendo 64 (and quite possibly one of the best multiplayer console games ever) is today’s retro game of the week: Goldeneye 007

    Goldeneye 007 was a first-person shooter based on the seventeenth installment in the James Bond movie series. As a movie, it was a fairly decent spy thriller about James Bond’s mission to stop a madman from wreaking havoc with a stolen Russian satellite superweapon. As a game, Goldeneye 007 was anything but fairly decent…it was incredible. To be honest, I actually played the game before I saw the movie. When I finally watched the movie, I couldn’t help but reminisce everytime a scene appeared that reminded me of the game. The game’s story followed the movie’s plot pretty well, although a few creative liberties were taken to create a better gameplay experience.

    Goldeneye 007 was one of those rare games (coincidentally developed by a company known as Rare) that had the total package: great graphics, awesome sound, creative level design, etc. .  I could ramble on forever about everything that makes this game so great but three things really stand out above the rest: progressive difficulty modes, solid weapon selection, and multiplayer.

    One of my greatest senses of accoplishment in gaming came when I beat Goldeneye on 00 agent mode. Goldeneye’s single player mode featured 3 different difficulty levels: Agent mode was easy, Secret Agent mode was a slight challenge, but 00 Agent mode was a nightmare. If we weren’t playing multiplayer, my friends and I were huddled around the TV spectating whomever was brave enough to romp through the missions on 00 Agent mode. Whether flying solo or competing with friends, Goldeneye had one of the best selections of weaponry in first-person shooter history. Players could dispatch their foes with everything from their bare hands, to sniper rifles, to the legendary golden gun. My personal favorites were the DD44 handgun and the remote controlled mines. While it was a blast using these weapons in single-player, they really shined during multiplayer matches. This game’s multiplayer was an absolute blast to play. There were a few modes to choose from but the best two were definitely the normal deathmatch mode and The Man With The Golden Gun. The golden gun mode could get quite frantic as it had players scrambling to find a gun that can kill anyone with one shot. I was a pretty seasoned veteran who won his fair share of battles in Goldeneye’s multiplayer mode. I bet you want to know my super-secret tactics for winning? Ok I’ll admit it, I was the cheap bastard who would pick Oddjob, the fastest and shortest character on the list, and ”slide” around the map on one knee blasting everone in sight.

    Goldeneye 007  truly revolutionized first person shooters at the time both for consoles and PC. Even though it’s been many years since the game was released, it’s multiplayer still runs circles around most of today’s console shooters. It’s no wonder they “re-released” it for the PS3 and Wii earlier this year. Stay tuned next week for the first retro game of the week of 2012!

  • Retro Game of the Week: Secret Of Mana

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    Retro Game Of The Week: Secret Of Mana

    After last week’s retro game review of Chrono Trigger, I started reminiscing of the many great gaming experiences I had on my Super Nintendo thanks to SquareSoft. Secret of Mana was another monumental SNES game that revolutionized the role-playing genre. This game had quite a few ground-breaking gameplay elements that still influence the genre to this day. Let’s take a look back at the unique gameplay experience this game was able to deliever; Oh… and I promise next week’s Retro Game Of The Week will NOT be a SquareSoft game!

    Secret of Mana was a japanese action RPG released for the SNES in 1993. Unlike most SquareSoft RPGs at the time, SoM featured a real-time combat system more akin to the Legend of Zelda series. This, coupled with an innovative “ring menu” system, made for a very sleek and exciting combat experience. I particularly liked how you can hold the “hit” button to charge up your character’s attack, resulting in big critical hits against enemies. The game featured three curiously unnamed (In the US version) playable characters: the hero, the girl, and the sprite. Each character had a specific strength in the group: The hero’s  was swordplay, the girl’s was healing magic, and the sprite’s was offensive magic. Players were able to control one character at a time while the game’s A.I. controlled the other two. If having two A.I. controlled companions helping out wasn’t enough, co-operative multiplayer allowed a second player (and even a third with a multitap) get into the action at any time.

    The graphics in SoM were quite good and, in my opinion, a step up from Chrono Trigger’s graphics. The fight effects were well done in their presentation, especially the way the numbers would pop up duing combat to indicate how much damage you did to an enemy. The game also had a great sense of scale and immersion. You weren’t just taken to an overworld map once you left a town, you actually had to traverse through a wilderness filled with enemies to get to your next destination. Of course, later in the game you can fast-travel over a mode-7 overworld map via a flying dragon that looks straight out of the Neverending Story movie.

    SoM’s soundtrack was like that of any other SquareSoft game: freakin’ awesome. The sound guys really did a great job of using music to set the right mood at the right time. One standout example of soundtrack awesomeness is the music that plays when the game’s antagonist, Thanatos, turns an entire town into mind-controlled slaves. It actually creeped me out a little bit.

    SoM is a real treat for fans of the retro action RPG genre. I may piss a lot of Zelda fans off when i say this, but I enjoyed this game more than The Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past. I’d hate to sound like Kanye West, but Secret of Mana is the greatest SNES action RPG of ALL TIME! Seriously…it is.

  • Retro Game of the Week: Chrono Trigger

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    Retro Game of the Week: Chrono Trigger

    If you ever listened to “Never Been” by Wiz Khalifa, you already know the beat is awesome. However, I bet you didn’t know that beat is based on the soundtrack to this week’s Retro Game Of The Week: Chrono Trigger. Let me start by saying that I consider Chrono trigger to be the greatest video game I’ve ever played. In 1995, while most kids my age were outside playing and enjoying their summer break, Chrono Trigger had me locked in my bedroom fighting beasts and evil magicians for hours on end. While most kids were out catching frogs, I was killing monsters with Frog and Crono’s X-Slash attack. While most kids were traveling with their parents, I was traveling through time to save the world from Lavos. It should be obvious by now that I ate, slept, and breathed Chrono Trigger that summer. What in the world made this game so great? Allow me to explain.

    Role Playing Games (RPGs for short) are a relatively obscure genre of video games. While recent games such as The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim have brought some mainstream attention to the genre, RPGs remain the delight of true video game enthusiasts (read: Nerds) and are rarely played by casual gamers. Chrono Trigger was a classic Japanese RPG with a rich story and turn-based combat that turned off most casual gamers who preferred twitch-based action. In fact, the most common question asked by friends who watched me play was “Why can’t you just press X and hit the bad guy? Why do you have to wait?”. Certainly, Chrono Trigger was not your typical video game; It was a thinking man’s game that challenged your wits rather than your reflexes.

    What made Chrono Trigger legendary was the sheer volume of content it provided to those who played it. It had multiple endings based on the actions you took througout the game’s story. From beginning to end, players were given multiple ways to progress through key events in the game’s narrative (there were even 3 different ways you could confront the game’s last boss). Aside from the main quest, Chrono Trigger also had plenty of side quests that were equally engrossing. Very few games, old and new, come close to the epic scale of Chrono Trigger’s story.

    To be honest, I consider Chrono Trigger’s graphics to be pretty average among games of its time. Other than an interesting mode7 (Mario Kart graphic-style) racing segment in the game, I wasn’t especially blown away by the game’s graphics. However, I consider Chrono Trigger’s soundtrack to be one of the best video game soundtracks of all time. In fact, this game holds the all-time world record of  “Most memorable melodies burned into Richie’s brain”.  All jokes aside, the music in this game is timeless. Frog’s theme, Magus’s theme, Robo’s theme, Shayla’s theme (sampled for Wiz Khalifa’s “Never Been”), and the 600AD theme are among the best of the bunch.

    In closing, this game is the reason I have such an interest in the video games of my childhood. Most of the best games i’ve played were made in the era of the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo. Back then, game developers were very limited with what they could do in terms of graphics. Since 16-bit graphics couldn’t truly make gamers “feel” like they were in the game, developers had to rely on an alternative way of immersing players into the game’s world: A great story.

  • Retro Game Of The Week: Turtles In Time

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    Retro Game Of The Week: Turtles In Time

    Alright, let’s get into the Retro Game Of The Week. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles In Time was a classic arcade beat’em up released for the Super Nintendo in 1992. Along with Streets of Rage and Final Fight, Turtles in Time was one of the many great games of the early 90s that popularized the side-scrolling beat’em up gameplay format. Each playable Ninja Turtle had their own strenghts and weaknesses, so players usually selected their own personal favorite (I was a Michaelangelo guy). The game’s plot was simple, yet effective: During one of April O’neal’s newscasts, Krang flies down in his big  robot suit and jacks the Statue of Liberty. As that is happening, Shredder takes over April’s broadcast and starts talkin’ a lot of mess to the Turtles. As usual, the turtles decide to save the day and fight their way through NYC and into the Technodrome only to find they’ve walked right into a trap. In a moment of sheer evil genius, Shredder sends the Turtles through a time warp into the past. Stuck in the dinosaur age, The Turtles now have to fight their way through time and make things right in the Big Apple.

    What made this game great was its slick combination of great gameplay and equally great humor. The Turtles would yell out hillarious ad-libs during fights, and would even throw enemies into the player’s TV screen. One big downfall to the SNES version of this game was the fact that only two players could play simultaneously, unlike the 4-player arcade version. I started to do this review based on the arcade version, but there was a good reason, or rather two good reasons I decided to review the SNES: Bebop and Rocksteady. It should be considered blasphemy to have a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game without two of the most hillarious bad-guy henchmen of all time. The arcade version did not include these two awesome bad guys, but the SNES version included the beloved duo at the end of the “Skull and Crossbones” stage.

    All in all, Turtles in Time was an awesome game based on an awesome franchise. It was fun to play alone but even better to play with a friend. My advice is to hit up Ebay, grab up a Super Nintendo with couple of controllers, and play this game ASAP!

  • Retro Game of the Week: WCW vs. NWO World Tour

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    WCW vs. NWO

    WCW vs. NWO: World Tour was one of the best wrestling games of all time, possibly even better than Saturday Night SlamMasters. Released on the Nintendo 64 in 1997, this was the game that made all Playstation owners jealous of the N64′s out-of-the-box 4 player support. Like many others who owned this game, I can recall plenty of summers nights filled with epic brawls with my friends.

    The key to WCW vs. NWO’s greatness lies in its grappling system. All moves were started by either tapping the A button to execute a weak hold, or holding the A button to perform a stronger hold. Punches and kicks were also given the same weak/strong feature. This system was revolutionary at the time and served as the foundation for the way many future wrestling games played.

    WCW vs. NWO was released in the heyday of the monday night wrestling wars. I was more of a WWF fan during the time, but there was no denying that WCW had the best video games. Stay tuned every week as I continue to review a new Retro Game Of The Week!