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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

This blog finally lives up to its title

As you're probably aware, my computer's internet went kablammo last week. During the week away from everybody, I realized I had random thoughts that I'd normally get off my chest to somebody online but couldn't due to my computer woes. Here's a list of random observations I made.

-Labyrinth Zone is not hard: Just very boring. I died twice while attempting to play through all of Sonic 1. I had a good chance to beat the game in one sitting for the first time in my life. But no. I hit Labyrinth Zone Act 3 and just thought "Y'know, I really want to be doing something else right now."

-Crushing =/= Instant Death in Sonic Generations (except in special occasions). I find that very odd indeed.

-The more I think about the "All Toasters Toast Toast" scene, the less sense it makes. Why are there so many toasters plugged into one outlet? Why toasters? Why does toasting toast automatically turn the power back on? Why wouldn't you just unplug them? Who are the "they" that have a saying about toasting toast? Don't you toast bread, not toast? Blah, I say, blah!

-The ending credits song from Super Mario Galaxy 2 is guaranteed to give me goosebumps.

-Sonic 1 had the same or very similar badniks in each zone. Sonic 2, CD, and 3K all changed that. Adventure went right back to the same enemies in each area (minus a few exceptions). What's up with that?

-I realized 90% of Sonic 06 was completely erased from my mind. Seriously, my brother mentioned White Acropolis the other day and I had to think for a minute to know what he was talking about.

-Each of my eyes see a different hue better than the other. My right eye sees more vibrant reds while my left eye sees more vibrant blues and greens.

-Replaying Sonic Adventure's Sonic stages on the Dreamcast was less enjoyable than I hoped. Why? The control stick for the Dreamcast just plain sucks.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Melody Time - Overlooked Gems of the Mega Man Franchise

This time, it's time to look at some Mega Man tunes that I feel are overlooked. I'm going to go with a one song per franchise limit (Franchises being Classic, X, Zero, ZX, and Battle Network because I don't give a crap about the other 2). Once again, these aren't like my favorite songs from the series or anything, they're just songs I feel don't get enough love. Alright, let's begin!

Mega Man & Bass - Magic Man

I love this song. It's really unusual for a Mega Man game but it's so dang catchy and happy and bouncy and trouncy and goofy and lovely and...
I also love that it keeps building on the same basic melody. Because it's awesome.

Mega Man X8 - Ride Armor

The game may be a bit mediocre, but this song is pretty kick ass. It also helps that the stage itself is at least pretty to look at...which is more than I can say for most of the stages in this game.

Mega Man Zero 4 - Straight Ahead

Totally cheating by using the remastered version but whatever...
Anyways, this song gives you the perfect driving beat to make you feel like the current situation is dire...which it was in the game. The song is pretty good in the game but I like this version for having the main guitar in tune as opposed to starting out of tune and readjusting on each note.

Mega Man ZX Advent - Overloaded (Highway)

The song that inspired me to do Mega Man's overlooked stuff now. For some bizarre reason, this song entered my head 2 days ago and hasn't left since. It's weird because I didn't care for it until it suddenly popped in my head without warning. Now I love it.

Mega Man Battle Network 2 - You Can't Go Back (Final Area)

Honestly, I could have almost put anything from Battle Network here because the entire series is pretty much overlooked (myself included) but this song is really really good for a final area. I loved it from the moment I heard it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Demopalooza Part 1

I was bored last weekend so I decided to download a whole boatload of demos for my XBox360 that I never use. Most of these games I had no intention of ever actually buying, so my rating for each one will simply be either Very favorable, favorable, indifferent, unfavorable, or very unfavorable. I'm going to try to go in order of when I downloaded them but I've played so many I might forget the order.

Fable III
My roommate during my Freshman year of college actually bought and beat Fable II. There were quite a few kinks in the adventure but for the most part, it looked like fun (I never actually played it). I figured I might as well give Fable III a try. Much like in Fable II, you play as a hero in the making who, after facing tragedy, must set out on a quest for justice. In Fable II, the tragedy involving yourself as a child seeing your sister killed by a vicious ruler. In Fable III, you are a prince. The tragedy actually unfolds depending on our choices. You have to choose who will die: your girlfriend or a bunch of innocent strangers. I picked the girlfriend. Now, at any other time in the adventure this would be a big decision but this game decides to throw it at you 10 minutes into the game. Therefore, you have no attachment to any of the characters making your decision...well, not that important. Also, her "death" is handled in a terribly emotionless way. She just says "you made the right choice", they take her away and you swear you'll "never forgive you for this!"...and that's it. You don't see her die, you don't have a scene saying "oh, she's dead." Hell, you don't even really regret it. It just kind of ends.

Which brings me to another point. In Fable II, your character is mute. In Fable III, he's got full voice acting. I kind of thought this was a poor choice. Fable is supposed to be about you crafting your own hero through your actions. He has the voice you imagine for him. Here, he (or she) already has a voice and a personality.

Anyhoo, going on to gameplay, after a good 25 minutes, you finally learn how to cast a fire spell before going through a spacious underground cave filled with bats. Lots and lots of bats. Every 10 feet, you have a flock of bats attack you (although I don't think they actually do damage). Each time, you just mash the B button to shoot fire at them. If this sounds repetitive, that's only because it is. Seriously, the game even "punishes" you for trying to break it up. Every time I though "let's just charge up my fire spell", a bat would hit me and break the charge.

After all of this, you get to interact with villagers. This complex system involves either giving them money, shaking their hand, or grabbing their hand and taking them with you. The last one they will do even if they don't know you which just makes it incredibly weird. There's also a guide system to guide you to your next objective. In Fable II, it sucked. It would sometimes disappear without warning or suddenly tell you to do a 180 and go back. hasn't improved. Neither has my dog companion who is supposed to bark when he's found treasure. 90% of the time, he started barking, I'd follow him and we'd find...nothing. Good job, boy.

Finally, we get to fight some actual monsters with guns and swords in an underground cave that looks identical to the underground cave earlier. The sword is almost immediately rendered useless. After the first few foes, you get the gun and the game proceeds to fill each room with so many skeletons that trying to head into the group with a sword only results in them knocking you around. Therefore, each fight basically amounted to me running away, turning periodically to fire my gun/cast fire spells. It all felt very repetitive.

However, I could see potential in the game. If Fable II was anything to go by, once you get more spells and find more towns and meet more people, the adventure would get really fun. I could get a sense of that here but the limitations of the beginning of the adventure hindered that.

Overall, it was a lengthy demo that wasn't really enough fun to make me want the game, but the bad points weren't quite bad enough to make me hate it.

Length of Demo: About 1 hour
Overall opinion: indifferent

Dead Rising
Here's the Dead Rising demo in a nutshell. You start the game. It loads. You see a cutscene that has no relevancy because it's not from the beginning of the game and you have no idea what's going on. You are given a mission. You spawn in an atrium in the mall with quite a few zombies. You go one of several directions. A cutscene plays. The end.

I guess the point of the demo is to show you...Um...the weapons? The zombies? I don't know. All I know is it only lets you attack a bunch of generic zombies with 3 weapons. The fun lasted about 1 minute and then it was pure boredom. For some reason, this took up 1GB of space on my hard drive. The Fable III demo took up 2GB. 2 times the size, 12 times the gameplay. That means this piece of shit took me about 2 hours to download.

Length of Demo: About 5 minutes
Overall opinion: Very unfavorable

Coming up next time: Mass Effect 2 and Tomb Raider Legacy

Friday, October 14, 2011

Melody Time - Overlooked Gems of the Sonic Franchise

From now on, if I have something music-related to talk about, I'm going to call it Melody Time...because I use this blog enough for you to have to search for titles to posts.

So, today while playing Sonic Advance 2 (short review - way worse than I remember it and the worst bosses in the series: the 1st game is better), I was thinking of songs that I really like but people don't really seem to talk about much. Seeing as how I've been on a bit of a Sonic kick recently, I decided to list 5 of these songs here for you. I'll probably end up doings these for other series as well. These are not my top 5 or in any order, they are just 5 songs I like that people seem to overlook.

Sonic Advance 2 - Ice Paradise Act 1

Might as well start with the song that inspired this article. While I know people like the song a lot, it just seems to more or less only come up if people mention the Advance series, and from my experience, people don't really mention the Advance series often. What I love about this piece is how it bucks the more low-key tone of most ice stage songs in video games and goes for something fun and lively. For an example of what I mean, look up Ice Mountain Zone Act 1's song from Sonic Advance for the usual ice tone and then back to here.

Sonic Advance - Secret Base Zone Act 2

Speaking of Sonic Advance, here's a lovely tune from the first in the series! If the song for the 1st act gives the perfect vibe for a sneaky entry into a secret base, the 2nd act goes for the Hell that breaks loose after the intruder alert sounds. It's an easy song on the ears for a game with a lot of really forgettable tracks, and I love the frequent pauses just before the end of a phrase (see 0:22 for an example of what I'm talking about).

Sonic 3D Blast - Boss 2

Sonic 3D Blast is a pretty...ok game. I don't hate it like a lot of people do, but it sure isn't the first place I'd go for Sonic fun. This song, however, is outstanding. I dare say out of the regular boss themes, it may just be my 2nd favorite Genesis one (or maybe overall) right after Sonic 2's classic Robotnik March. I think most people forget it exists due to the game it's buried in but this is a song that deserves to be talked about! The only problem is that it's regular boss music. The final boss music is such a let-down in comparison.

Sonic Adventure 2 - Mission Street

Mission Street is most likely my favorite Tails level in Sonic Adventure 2, and it's almost exclusively for the music. Even if it's horrendously inappropriate for having seen half of the moon blown up and the military having a bounty on your head, it's so calming and happy. I just love the opening moments of the stage: the loading screen flies away, Tails drops into view on a quiet neighborhood street, and the drums kick up like "here we go."

Sonic Unleashed - Eggmanland Day

This one is probably less overlooked than the rest, but I'm still surprised it doesn't come up as often with people talking about Sonic music. Then again, that's probably because the people who played the 360/PS3 version of the stage are suffering from PTSD. However, to be quite honest, I actually really enjoyed this stage. It's like Eggman is throwing everything he's got at you all at once and you'd better be ready for it every single second. My first time through took me 57 minutes of game time, which seems about average from what I've seen. I've gotten it down to about 27 minutes but it's still one nasty son of a gun even when you know its traps. Still, even if it's a bit overkill, it was great to see a series with stages that seem to get shorter and shorter suddenly throw an absolute marathon at you. Anyways, the song perfectly balances the Hellish nature of the stage's obstacles with a lovely melancholic piano.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

In Retrospective - Sonic Advance

Sonic Advance is the closest Sega ever came to a true Sonic the Hedgehog 4. Now, I'll be honest: I do like Sonic the Hedgehog 4 for what it is. However, it just changed too many things while basically completely ripping off previous zones to really deserve the title. Sonic Advance feels far closer to classic Sonic: Sonic doesn't run quite at the speed of sound, there's 2 acts per zone, each zone actually has "Zone" in the title, Eggman being at the end of the last act as opposed to in a separate stage, no map screens, no switching characters mid-adventure, etc, etc. It seems like Sega knew what people wanted and delivered...for the first few zones anyways. Unfortunately, the latter zones, while still decent, really flesh out the differences between this Sonic and the one of yesteryear.

Controls - For the first three zones, the game feels more classic than modern. The stage design feels closest to Sonic 2 with fast paced sections mixed with a few slow bits and fairly quick Acts. Sonic feels slightly more sluggish than usual - he takes quite a bit of time to accelerate to top speed, although it's nowhere near as bad as Sonic 4. He also DOES have a few new moves. He can grind like in Sonic Adventure 2, but the ability isn't really used often. He can use his somersault, also like in Sonic Adventure 2 although it never seems to come in handy since you're generally moving fast enough to just press down and roll through hazards instead. Finally, he has an air dash performed by pressing the d-pad twice in mid air. I didn't find out about this until the 3rd Zone in this run through. Clearly, it's been 10 years since this game came out and if I didn't find out about it until now, chances are it's worthless. That leaves the same moves Sonic had in Sonic 3.

Knuckles and Tails return and pretty much handle exactly as they always have albeit with a melee attack assigned to the B button. Amy can't spin dash and can't jump directly on foes. She sucks. Once you beat the game with her once, you'll never feel the need to play as her again.

Gameplay - Now, for the actual game. Neo Green Hill Zone is the usual...well, zone with green hills...that typically starts Sonic games. It feels most like Emerald Hill Zone to me, which is not a bad thing. It's a perfect zone to say "Sonic's back in 2D" after a very long hiatus. Hidden Base Zone feels like an easier Metropolis Zone. However, there are enough gameplay differences and graphical differences to make it feel original, such as the removal of crushers and the inclusion of poles you spin on. Again, it feels very much like it walked out of Sonic 2. Casino Paradise Zone is like a hybrid of Casino Night and Carnival Night. Even some of the enemies are the same. I'd like to note that there are no slot machines here. In fact, there's almost no actual Casino elements in the Zone - just lots of those moving blocks and conveyors found in Casino Night. Again, it feels very much like Sonic 2 without feeling like a clone. It's a good balance between originality and nostalgia.

Then we get to Ice Mountain Zone. Act 1 is fine. It basically feels like if Ice Cap Zone were guessed it...Sonic 2. Act 2, however, REALLY shows you how sluggish the controls are. This act features extended underwater sections. Water hinders Sonic's mobility making him slower. This is common in Sonic games. What's different here is how much slower he is. Handling Sonic underwater is downright frustrating. When moving platforms become involved, you find yourself jumping way in advance of when you think you should. I'd honestly say Sonic becomes nearly three times slower underwater. Combine this with enemies that pop out of walls with almost no warning and you've got a recipe for cheap hits. Until this point in the game, I hadn't died. I lost 3 lives on this act because it seemed like every time I thought I was compensating for Sonic's slowness, he'd grow even slower than I remembered. It REALLY doesn't help when the boss fight is underwater. You pretty much have to jump as soon as the icicles he rains from the ceiling fall. Even though they look way too high, by the time Sonic gets his chili-dog loving ass in gear, they'll almost be too low.

Up next is Angel Island Zone. This has nothing to do with Sonic 3's Angel Island Zone as it's more like Sky Sanctuary. In fact, it's not even made clear why we're in Angel Island but then again, it's not clear why we're in any zone in Sonics 1-2. This zone seems to be built on one thing: cheap hits. There's so many spikes that randomly pop out of the floor, moving platforms that crush you against a ceiling that's not visible until it's too late, and springs that shoot you to a tiny platform you won't notice until you go sailing past. I got a game over in Act 2 (seeing as how I only had 1 life after the Ice Mountain Zone Act 2 disaster) which brings up another point: this game is overly forgiving WHILE it's screwing you over. It's as if the game designers went "Huh, you know. People might get pissed if we send them back to the beginning of the zone because we made a platform come from nowhere and crush them." "Do you think we should remove the platform?" "Nah, just make them go back to the beginning of the act when they get a game over!" Seriously, getting a game over is like a slap on the wrist. "Oh no, I lost 2 minutes of hard work!" You never feel like you're actually punished for failure but then again, that failure sometimes isn't even your own fault. Basically, the solution is to reduce the number of pure bullshit deaths. I know Sonic games have always had their cheap moments with spikes popping up from nowhere but this game goes overboard.

Next up is Egg Rocket Zone Act 1. This level kicked my ass as a kid but I found it to be quite easy this time around. The biggest problem is that it's a maze. I'm fine with mazes, but there are times in this stage where you don't know you're going backwards until you suddenly realize you've been here two minutes ago. The act is unique and it gets points for that: There's 3 "stages" of the rocket with a 5 minute time limit for section. However, it's long. I'm fine with long acts - Sonic 3 is full of them. However, having an act that's almost 3 times longer than any other level in the game is kind of odd.

Next is Cosmic Angel Zone Act 2. Why they didn't just drop the Act numbers and call them separate zones like Sky Chase and Wing Fortress is anybody's guess but oh well. For being a last level, it's not really that hard or nearly as cheap as the previous levels. It's pretty fun. The boss can be annoying and it REALLY kicked by butt as a kid but I've since realized how to actually fight him.

Finally, there's X Zone. It starts with fighting the first bosses of Sonic 1 and Sonic 2. I like those bosses and I always kind of saw it as a joke that Eggman would use his most half-assed inventions against you at the very end. My only complaint was that Sonic 3 was left out. As for the real boss, I thought he was hard until I realized a very simple strategy: Duck against the opposite wall. If he fires a bomb, quickly jump over it and go back to ducking. If he uses his arm, wait to jump until he fires (no shit). If he uses his laser, it'll miss you as long as you duck. Just wait until he moves across and hit him. Rinse and repeat. Game beaten!

Well, not quite. There are special springs in Act 1 of each zone that take you to the special stage where you can get Chaos Emeralds. These special stages are hands down the worst in any Sonic game. The depth perception is mind-numbingly awful. I can't even beat the first one. Thank God they fixed this shit for the other two games.

Music - The music is ok. Some tunes are catchy although nowhere near as catchy as any of the Genesis tunes. The sound quality, however, is horrendous. I know the GBA doesn't sound too well, but this game really seems to flesh that out. It does get bonus points for continuing the Act 2 remixing Act 1 trend that would move on throughout the rest of the Advance games.

Overall, the game starts off really strong but gets more annoying as it goes along. It's not a bad game by any means - it's quite good. It just doesn't live up to the expectations set by previous titles in the series. Now, I suppose that's obvious, but when it was released, keep in mind it was the first new 2D Sonic game since Sonic and Knuckles. Still, it at least upheld more Genesis-era conventions than its successors. In fact, it quite literally is the transition between the Genesis games and the more modern 2D games - the early zones being the Genesis years and the later zones being the more luck/memory/pit based stuff seen in Advance 2, 3, Rush, and Rush Adventure. For better or worse, it changed 2D Sonic as we knew him.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Odds are, if you're reading this, you've played or heard of the very early version of my arcade shooter project, Primary. If not, it's the first game maker game I intend on finishing. Featuring music, stages, gameplay, etc all made by me (sound effects are a maybe there), it will be a project that I hope I can publish on YoYo Games' website.

For those unfamiliar, in my game you play as a rainbow ship capable of shooting yellow, blue, and red shots. These shots all match the colors of corresponding targets. Hitting targets with the matching colors results in 25 points while hitting with the incorrect color causes the target to charge at you (not necessarily a bad thing in all situations). Much more important than just hitting the targets is allowing the colored targets to reach their matching colored score bar at the bottom. Targets that hit this bar give you 100 points. However, allowing incorrect colored targets to reach the bottom results in a loss of health.

If this sounds complicated, it can be at times which is why the final version will include a practice mode to hone your skills on any of the 35 stages (7 Sectors, 5 stages per sector).

Here's my progress so far:
Menus: About 50% complete (nailed the design I want, just have to retrofit old menus and add new ones)
Stages: 5 of 35 done (Sector 1 complete)
Music: Title Screen/Menus, Sector 1, and Stage Clear complete
Targets: Yellow, Blue, Red complete
Power-ups: Hearts, 1-Ups, Rainbow Shot complete
Sound Effects: 0% Complete
Overall Progress: General idea nailed, just need stages and power-ups to spice it up along with sound

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Sonic Generations - Stage List

As you may or may not have heard, the stage list was leaked for Sonic Generations. I was actually going to make this list before this leakage and update it as the stages were announced, but this works too. I'm going to list the stages I thought should have been in the game, the stages that I thought were the most likely to be in the game, and the stages that actually are in the game. Even before the list was leaked, I had assumed there would be one level from each of the main games since modern Sonic games don't have more than about 8 levels (rightfully so, these levels are absolutely gigantic compared to normal levels when you think of how fast you're going and yet it's still 2-6 minutes long.) Of course, this is true for the PS3/360 version although the 3DS version apparently breaks off after the classic zones and heads in the handheld direction (Advance/Rush games, anyone?)

Sonic the Hedgehog

What I thought would be in it - Green Hill Zone
What I thought should be in it - Green Hill Zone
What is really in it - 360/PS3: Green Hill Zone 3DS: Green Hill Zone

Although I like Star Light Zone the best out of the original Sonic the Hedgehog's zones, there's no denying that Green Hill Zone is absolutely iconic and it would be a crime not to include it in Sonic Generations. Of course, it was as obvious as it possibly could have been that if any zone would be coming back, Green Hill Zone would be it.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2

What I thought would be in it - Casino Night Zone
What I thought should be in it - Oil Ocean Zone
What is really in it - 360/PS3: Chemical Plant Zone 3DS: Casino Night Zone(?)

Casino Night Zone is arguably the 2nd most iconic Sonic zone ever after Green Hill, but I understand not going with it. The stage probably would have had a rather awkward transition to 3d, and I always figured if Casino Night didn't get in, Chemical Plant probably would. Oil Ocean is simply my favorite zone in the game and a massive oil refinery would have been very different from usual 3D Sonic fare. Now, the 3DS version has different zones and I've heard Casino Night had been all but confirmed for that version. However, all but confirmed isn't confirmed, so there's the question mark.

Sonic the Hedgehog 3

What I thought would be in it - Ice Cap Zone
What I thought should be in it - Hydrocity Zone
What is really in it - 360/PS3: None(!) 3DS: Launch Base Zone(?)

My only major complaint about the official level selection is the executive decision to lump 3 and Knuckles together. Really, I have the fanbase to blame: If people hadn't counted them as one game all of these years, we probably would have one stage from each now. As for me, I've always counted them as separate adventures. Sure, they were meant to be one but that's not the way the cookie crumbled. Either way, I thought Ice Cap would get in since there would be no other Ice stage candidates and its music is famous. Hydrocity is my favorite Sonic zone ever and it would make a perfect water stage. Alas, it was not meant to be. While Launch Base Zone itself hasn't been confirmed for the 3DS version, Sonic 3's final boss (fought on the platform beneath the Death Egg, mind you) has been, so it would only make sense.

Sonic and Knuckles

What I thought would be in it - Flying Battery Zone
What I thought should be in it - Flying Battery Zone
What is really in it - 360/PS3: Sky Sanctuary Zone 3DS: ???

Asking most people what their favorite zone in Sonic and Knuckles is would likely result in two answers: Flying Battery Zone and Lava Reef Zone. Therefore, I thought Flying Battery would be the best candidate. However, Sega surprised me with Sky Sanctuary, and I'm not disappointed really. Just imagine how amazing those floating ruins will look with glorious HD visuals!

Sonic Adventure

What I thought would be in it - Emerald Coast
What I thought should be in it - Windy Valley
What is really in it - 360/PS3: Speed Highway 3DS: none(?)

It's no secret Sega loves that giant killer whale. Every time they show a screenshot of Sonic Adventure, there it is. The chase sequence has been replicated countless times with either different vehicles or even more killer whales. I thought they'd jump at the chance to throw that whale at us again, but they've shown restraint and gone with Speed Highway, which I'm thrilled with because it's one of my favorite stages. I wanted Windy Valley because I both loved it and thought a floating ruins stage would be unique. Sega agreed on the floating ruins but not the stage itself. 3DS is listed as none because it's rumored to have only handheld stages.

Sonic Adventure 2

What I thought would be in it - City Escape
What I thought should be in it - City Escape
What is really in it - 360/PS3: City Escape 3DS: none(?)

City Escape is my second favorite Sonic level ever. Every time I pop in Sonic Adventure 2, I absolutely must play it. It's one of those stages that's absolutely impounded into my brain forever. Therefore, I'm absolutely ecstatic that it makes a return for Sonic Generations although I can't say I'm surprised. Now, I will say something here: Yes, I know there's lots of city stages in Sonic Generations, but when it comes down to it, the city stages tend to be the very best stages, especially so in modern Sonic games. Therefore, I really don't mind having so many of them. It could be worse: you could have to play Pyramid Cave or Crazy Gadget. Remember that.

Sonic Heroes

What I thought would be in it - Seaside Hill
What I thought should be in it - Hang Castle
What is really in it - 360/PS3: Seaside Hill/Ocean Palace 3DS: none(?)

Seaside Hill is probably the most memorable stage in Sonic Heroes and I'm not surprised it's in Sonic Generations, although fusing it with Ocean Palace was a nice touch. However, I would have preferred Hang Castle since it would have been a very unique environment. Plus, the gravity switching would have been crazy with modern Sonic's fast paced action.

Sonic the Hedgehog (06)

What I thought would be in it - Crisis City
What I thought should be in it - Crisis City
What is really in it - 360/PS3: Crisis City 3DS: none(?)

Crisis City was the most memorable stage in Sonic 06, even though much of it was for the wro-THE WHOLE CITY'S ON FIRE! THE WHOLE CITY'S ON FIRE! THAT TORNADO'S CARRYING A CAR! However, playing it with what is sure to be a much better control scheme and with better visuals should be great. Besides, the mach speed section at the end of the original seems like it was made for Unleashed/Colors' control scheme.

Sonic Unleashed

What I thought would be in it - Apotos
What I thought should be in it - Spagonia
What is really in it - 360/PS3: Spagonia 3DS: none(?)

Hallelujah! Spagonia is my absolute favorite Sonic level ever with City Escape being a close 2nd, so when the City Escape trailer confirmed both, it was an immediate win in my book. Really, I have nothing more to say. The stage kicks ass. I just hope it's still got its famous clock tower descent!

Sonic Colors

What I thought would be in it - Planet Wisp
What I thought should be in it - Starlight Carnival
What is really in it - 360/PS3: Planet Wisp 3DS: ???

I just knew if Sonic Colors were in it, Planet Wisp would be. Really, any of the stages would have been just fine, but Planet Wisp will probably look amazing in HD. However, you know what would have looked even more amazing?: Giant rainbow lit ships traveling through hyper space and magical light paths forming loops around said ships.

Even though I didn't get all of my wishes, I thought the overall level selection for Sonic Generations was great. Leaving Sonic 3 off was a mistake but none of the chosen stages are bad by any stretch of my imagination.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Mr. X's Roller Coaster Road Trip Part 3

The last part. Yay, I'm finally done! Of course, it's not like anybody actually gives a shit or even read it but oh well.

Part 3 photos here

Part 3 glossary follows...

The Who and the What Now? - Cedar Fair
Cedar Fair is a company that owns many different amusement parks around the country including Cedar Point and ValleyFair! (the two parks that make up its name), Knott's Berry Farm in California, Carowinds on the North and South Carolina border, Kings Dominion in Virginia, and much much more. They are most known for adding major coasters to a few of their parks and snubbing the rest, filling their parks with trash cans, and not too bad operations and staff.

The Who and the What Now? - Premier Rides Spaghetti Bowl with an LIM launch? What?
Premier Rides specializes in roller coasters with LIM launches. LIMs are magnets that propel the train forward with a fairly great amount of acceleration. This ride launches riders into a very compact layout full of twists and turns that resembles a bowl of spaghetti, hence spaghetti bowl coaster.

Ride Review - Flight of Fear
Flight of Fear is a great ride with lots of intensity. However, it has one big flaw: The ride slams on the brakes halfway through. Normally, these brakes are only supposed to slightly affect the ride during normal operation and only slam on the brakes and stop the ride in case of emergency. However, they slam on the brakes all of the time here, which leads me to believe it's the park's fault. 8/10

The Who and the What Now? - Arg, the Flying Dutchman and the curse of Vekoma!
A flying dutchman is a roller coaster model made by Vekoma. Riders are lowered into a laying position before being sent out of the station. It's called a lay-down roller coaster in Roller Coaster Tycoon 2. This absolutely sucks because it forces all blood to rush to your head. The company that makes it, Vekoma, is notorious for really rough roller coasters as a later ride in the trip will reaffirm.

Coaster Review - Firehawk
The actual ride is fine, but the extended amounts of time spent in the laying position in the station and after the brake run really cause blood to rush to your head. It's just really really uncomfortable. 6/10.

The Who and the What Now? Arrow Dynamics
Arrow Dynamics is an ex-roller coaster company that is known for being the pioneers of the modern steel coaster. They teamed up with Disney to make the first tubular railed steel coaster, the Matterhorn, in Disneyland which instantly became the industry standard for steel coasters. During the 90s, up and coming companies took steel coasters to the next level, and Arrow could never quite catch up with the youngsters. They were bought out by S&S Power in the early 2000s.

The Who and the What Now? - Grayout
Graying out is an early form of blackout and comes from either exposure to really intense g-forces or prolonged exposure to mildly intense g-forces. Blood begins rushing from your head, causing your vision to become distorted. In my case, my vision began to lose color and I saw black spots for about half a second. After the event, I was perfectly fine.

Coaster Review - Backlot Stunt Coaster
Backlot Stunt Coaster (formerly known as The Italian Job Stunt Track) is a great family coaster with surprising intensity in the first helix/spiral. There's some fun special effects and a quick pop of airtime at the end. 8/10.

Coaster Review - The Beast
My official review is summed up by my brother's quote: "It's long and in the woods." The first two thirds are just fast and in the woods. While this is nice, I wish it did a bit more as it just gets boring after a while. Luckily, the ride ends with a helix that is probably as intense as a wooden coaster can get. It's a decent ride with several rough patches. 7/10.

Coaster Review - Diamondback
Diamondback is a B&M Hyper coaster. There's a lot of hills filled with airtime which automatically makes the ride great. However, the layout leaves much to be desired. It's pretty much a bunch of hills, a turn, a bunch more hills, a turn, more hills, the ride's over. It gets really repetitive, especially since the turns have almost no positive g-forces like they should. The ride also vibrates horribly at the bottom of each hill, which is not supposed to happen. 9/10 but barely.

The Who and the What Now? - B&M Hyper whata?
B&M is short for Bolliger and Mabillard, which is pretty much like the Cadillac of roller coasters: you are almost guaranteed a great ride, although they play it safe so they are rarely exceptional. A coaster is a hyper coaster if it is between 200 and 299 feet. It's giga if it's between 300 and 399 feet and it's strata if it's above 400 feet (nothing has surpassed 500 feet...yet).

The Who and the What Now - Suspended Coasters and the Irony of Flight Deck
A suspended coaster is a coaster in which riders ride in a ride vehicle that is suspended below a track. The ride vehicle is free to swing from side to side throughout the ride. The first prototype suspended coaster was the Bat, which opened in...Kings Island. However, due to many many many maintenance problems, the ride was removed after just three years. As a "sorry for the **** up", Arrow basically gave Kings Island Vortex. Many years later, Kings Island built Top Gun, which was the last suspended coaster Arrow ever made. That means Kings Island was home to both the first and last suspended coasters.

Coaster Review - Flight Deck
Flight Deck has a surprising amount of intensity, especially since suspended coasters are known for mostly being pieces of crap. There's lots of optical illusions where it looks like you're going to hit stuff. I really like it. 8/10.

Coaster Review - Adventure Express
What could be a decent family ride is ruined by jerky transitions and a laughably bad ending. 5/10.

Coaster Review - Vortex
Vortex has really jerky transitions and is just mediocre overall. 5/10.

Coaster Review - Flying Ace Aerial Chase
It exists. It's surprisingly rough for a kiddy coaster. 5/10.

The Who and the What Now? - The coaster that doesn't exist
The large roller coaster that doesn't exist isn't just any roller coaster: it's the tallest wooden coaster in the world. Son of Beast opened as the tallest and fastest wooden coaster in the world and the only wooden coaster with a loop. However, after two accidents involving structural problems, the ride's loop was removed and the trains were switched out for lighter ones. However, that didn't stop the ride's reputation for being both one of the most boring and roughest roller coasters out there. It was so rough that it spawned several injuries that led to lawsuits. Midway through the 2009 season after yet another lawsuit, the ride closed and has been standing but not operating ever since. This year, Kings Island's map was redrawn and any traces of Son of Beast have been removed, hence the ride that doesn't exist.

Coaster Review - Woodstock Express
It's a faster than expected kiddy coaster. Nothing special. 5/10.

Coaster Review - The Racer
The Racer is a decent coaster that would have a quite a bit of airtime had we sat in the back. It's really smooth despite its age. In fact, it's the smoothest wooden coaster in the park. 7/10.

Coaster Review - Invertigo
Invertigo sucks. It left my collar bone, shoulders, and feet hurting for an hour afterwards. My brother's back hurt for a few days afterwards. Do not ride. 3/10. Sadly, there are two rides I've been on that are worse than it.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Mr. X's Roller Coaster Road Trip Part 2

Seeing as how the Rapture wasn't today, looks like I get to continue my trip report! Huzzah! I recommend having this open in one tab and my photos open in another tab. Again, my photos have descriptions on photobucket while this post will have a glossary of terms and reviews (although not nearly as much as last post).

Part 2 can be found here

The Who and the What Now? - Water coasters...not to be confused with water coasters
Water coasters such as Wildebeest at Splashin' Safari are waterslides that propel riders in intertubes uphill using magnets, water, or conveyor belts. This is not to be confused with a water coaster (That makes sense, give two things the same name), which is a boat ride that periodically attaches to roller coaster track for a roller coaster section (see water coaster in Roller Coaster Tycoon 2).

Coaster Review - The Howler
It's a kids coaster with one notable feature: It slams on the brakes so hard at the end it's painful. 4/10 (yeah, there's much much worse things in this world)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Mr. X's Roller Coaster Road Trip Part 1

If you're reading this, odds are you care enough about me to already know where I've been for the better half of this week. If you don't know, then I was on a 4-day 2-park roller coaster road trip to ride roller coasters at Holiday World in Santa Claus, Indiana and Kings Island at Kings Mills/Mason, Ohio. If you don't know, I am a roller coaster enthusiast (although not an official member of American Coaster Enthusiasts). I enjoy riding coasters and have an almost encyclopedic knowledge of coasters. This will be my photo trip report of my adventures. However, don't worry if you aren't familiar with coaster terminology. I am writing this to be as descriptive as possible and help possibly teach you a few things about roller coasters and history. Alright, let's begin.

...Actually, let's not. Seeing as how this site sucks, I'm going to use photobucket to post my photos. In the descriptions, I will have the original captions I planned to use here. Alright? Got it? Good.

...Actually, not good. Turns out photobucket sucks too. Therefore, I will have a sort of glossary here for reference. I may use some coaster geek terms in the photos and will describe that here in a segment called "The Who and the what now?". I'll also have "Coaster Reviews" for those who don't want to actually look at the photos just to know how I liked the rides.

The Who and the What Now? - Who is CCI?
CCI, or Custom Coasters International, was a wooden coaster manufacturer that was founded in the early 90s and went bankrupt in 2002. They have both some of the best wooden coasters out there...or so I'm told. Until this trip, the only one I had ridden was The Boss at Six Flags St. Louis and it sucked. Some people from CCI split off in the 90s to form their own firm, GCI or Great Coasters International which specializes in twisted Wooden coasters (see Wooden Twister Coaster in Roller Coaster Tycoon 2) and still operates to this day. The remaining members of CCI founded The Gravity Group in 2002, which has made some of the best wooden coasters to date including The Voyage, also in Holiday World.

The Who and the What Now? - What is airtime and how can it be "ejector"?
Airtime is the result of negative g-forces at the top of a hill on a coaster. Negative g-forces are difficult to explain, so I'll do my best. Say you have a ball. You toss it up in the air and it goes 10 feet into the air. Now, you put the same ball on a tether that's 7 feet long. You throw the ball in the air with the same force, but the tether pulls the ball back down before it reaches 10 feet. Now pretend you are the ball and the coaster train is the tether. Your body wants to go farther into the air, but the train prevents that. The result is your butt lifting out of the seat: a sensation known as airtime. Floater airtime is when your butt leaves the seat but only just a bit. Ejector airtime is when the force is so strong, you almost feel like you're standing and you can feel the restraint straining (ok, it's not really straining, but it feels like it) to keep you in the train. That is the sensation most coaster enthusiasts (myself included) count as the best to experience on a coaster.

Coaster Review - The Raven
The Raven is constantly near the top of coaster fans' wooden coaster lists...and I really don't know why. It was fun, yes, but nothing special. There was only a little airtime and the ride was over faster than you can blink. Overall, I'd give it about a 7/10.

Coaster Review - The Voyage
Wow. Holy shit, this ride is awesome! Crazy amounts of ejector airtime mixed with sections of twisting track made this ride my instant favorite coaster of all time! However, it did have one rough patch near the end of the ride, but overall it was spectacular! Of course, the trip was still young and there were many coasters to go, so just because it was number 1 now doesn't mean it would stay that way. Still, 10/10

Coaster Review - The Legend
The Legend is a unique coaster in that it's more about lateral g-forces (being forced to the side) than airtime or vertical g-forces (being forced into your seat, the opposite of airtime). I don't care much for lateral g-forces but it was at least different than usual coasters. 7/10 but slightly worse than The Raven. Slightly.

Part 1 can be found here

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Portal 2

My introduction to the wacky world of Aperture Science came last school year when I saw my roommate playing some random game on his computer. I helped him figure out a few test chambers, thought the game looked interesting, and went on with my day. Fast forward to last summer. My XBox360 had been collecting dust for a long while and I was looking for a new game to play. I remembered my roommate's game and downloaded the demo off of XBox Live. I played the demo, finished it, and immediately played it again. The idea of creating portals is simple, but to see such unique ways to use them was excellent...and that was just the demo. I bought the full version and played through it in two sittings: one for the test chambers and one for the escape. The plot, while simple, was great and GLaDOS made a witty, hilarious, and twisted homicidal villain. The song at the end, "Still Alive", sums up the whole game perfectly: witty, funny, and dark all at the same time.

Portal 2 tops it.

Really, I was looking forward to some of Nintendo's releases later this year but I doubt they'll compare (although, Super Mario 3DS has the potential). Although the gameplay isn't as improved from the original as I would have liked, everything else is improved greatly.

Let's get that gameplay issue out of the way. I was hoping the added features such as gels, funnels, and the like would make things delightfully more complicated yet not too frustrating. While the last few test chambers did this, there seemed to be a lot of puzzles that boiled down to "look around for a place to shoot a portal, shoot that portal, go on to the next room" especially during the middle section. This actually tripped me up a few times because I was trying to make the game more complicated than it needed to be. However, saying it isn't an improvement over the original isn't exactly an insult. The gameplay in the original was superb and this game's is too. It's just not knock my socks off amazing. Hopefully, DLC will fix that.

What it doesn't improve in gameplay, Portal 2 improves in storytelling. Within the first 5 minutes, you're introduced to a new character and experience a hilarious, chaotic, and somewhat dark view of a post-apocalyptic Aperture. It shows that Aperture is no longer the series of clean test chambers and a few backstage areas as seen in the first Portal. It is massive and full of rooms with distinct character. I'll go into more story detail in my spoiler post later but it is easily the best narrative I've ever seen a video game. It is full of humor, great characters, truly surprising plot twists, and surprisingly touching moments. Speaking of characters, all of them meet and possibly exceed the bar set by GLaDOS in the original. This is the best voice acting I've heard in a video game by miles. I encourage you to stop and just listen to what the characters have to say as some of the best lines actually come when you loiter.

Music is mainly just meant for atmosphere, but works effectively. It often pipes up when you're using one of the new toys to play around with such as floating through excursion funnels or flying through the air between faith plates. The end credits song has a rather different feel than "Still Alive" and I think I prefer it. While Still Alive has more clever lines, the new end theme is just a great stand alone song that wraps up the story nicely (NOTE: DO NOT LISTEN TO IT IF YOU HAVE NOT BEATEN THE GAME, IT CONTAINS SPOILERS)

Graphics-wise, the game looks impressive most of the time. The wide open areas of Aperture look amazing and the lighting effects while Wheatley lights your path look almost real. However, there are a few weird things that just don't look up to snuff. The plants in the early part of the game look really flat and splashes in water looks terrible. Overall, though, I'd say it's still the best game I've seen graphics-wise.

I have yet to play co-op, but I can say just by playing single player, if you have the means, buy and play this game. Portal may have been a great game, but Portal 2 expands it by giving it a bigger heart. Even though it's fairly short (7 hours or so), it's an experience I wouldn't pass up for the world. It might factor into my top 5 favorite games of all time. I'll likely do some spoiler discussions sometime but I don't feel like it now.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Have you ever found yourself so bored...

...That you sign up at random websites that you'll likely never go to again? I know I do, hence why I signed up at formspring. If you ever find yourself needing something to do, go ahead and ask a question or two! (That rhymes, Marge, and you know it rhymes!)


Pancakes are better than waffles. They're all floppy and it's easier to spread peanut butter and jelly on them. Plus, they're soft like heaven unlike waffles, which are often crunchy.

Consider this blog updated. Happy, Brawl? Look what you made me do!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Donkey Kong Country 2 Revisited (Part I)

Artwork for Gangplank Galleon

Over the past few weeks, I randomly started listening to Donkey Kong Country music. A few months ago, I played through the original Donkey Kong Country in its entirety on the Virtual Console (I own the original but didn't have access to it at college). While it was still fun, part of my enjoyment was hampered by the delay between my Wii and the TV, so I was discouraged from buying the latter two games in the series. This weekend, I decided to play Donkey Kong Country 2, what I consider to be the best game in the series. It has superior gameplay, music, plot, and difficulty when compared to the other two games, and was a huge part of my childhood. For the longest time, my brothers and I struggled to beat the game. We got stuck in two different levels in Krazy Kremland and could only dream of the day we'd finally make it to the later levels. With only images in a crappy unofficial guide showing us what the rest of the game was like, it was a long time before we finally made it to the end of the game. It had been many years since I last played and while the original intention was for me to just play random fun levels, I ended up playing every level through K. Rool's Keep, and my opinion of certain levels have changed. I'm just going to break down my opinions level by level.

World 1: Gangplank Galleon
Gangplank Galleon was K. Rool's ship from the first game and has since run aground (as said in the instruction manual). One thing about this game that I loved was its sense of irony: A King had a pirate ship in the first game, and the Kaptain has a Castle in this game. Anyhoo, this is one of those first worlds that is permanently ingrained into my brain.

Level 1: Pirate Panic
The good old first level. The music mirrors that of Jungle Hijinx from the first game in the fact that both start off with mostly environmental sounds before beginning the actual song, giving a subtle nod to the predecessor. The level is fairly short and easy, of course and introduces Dixie Kong for the first time. To quickly back up here, in the original DKC, I ALWAYS played as Diddy. His maneuverability and speed made him far more fun than Donkey (and is also something that is sorely lacking in DKCR). However, in DKC2, I ALWAYS played as Dixie. Simply put, Helicopter Hair makes her the best out of all Kongs. However, when I was a kid, I never used Diddy's Cartwheel attack, let alone the cartwheel jump. Replaying this game with that knowledge, I definitely used Diddy way more than I ever did before. However, I still prefer Dixie.

Anyhoo, I didn't play much of this level because I had recently learned of the existence of warp barrels in all of the levels of the first two worlds in both DKC2 and DKC3. Just proves that these games still had secrets for me to learn after all these years. Naturally, I warped to the end of the levels where I could remember the warps. This was one of those levels.

FYI, as a kid, my brothers and I always used the Kremcoin code in this stage (look it up if you don't know it) so I have never found all of the bonus rooms in the game.

Level 2: Mainbrace Mayhem
The first of the sail levels and the only one with bright and clear skies. I've always loved this environment, and I really don't know why. Maybe because there is no obvious comparison to the original games and is unique. I don't have much to say in these early levels, so...

Level 3: Gangplank Galley
For some reason, I always confuse this stage and the first level. I always seem to think this is the level with Rambi, but it isn't. Speaking of Rambi, he's so awesome both in the first game and in this one. Stupid Ellie the Elephant, taking his place in the third game.

Level 4: Lockjaw's Locker
As a kid, I always loved water levels. They seemed so cool, and I don't know why. Hydro City Zone, this level, and some of the Mario 3 ones were some of my favorites. And then, Mario 64 came out and this thing called "oxygen" suddenly became required for video game characters. Sure, Sonic needed oxygen, but in Sonic 3, bubble shields fixed that problem. Anyhoo, as much as I liked this flood ship environment, I used the warp barrel to speed to the end.

Level 5: Topsail Trouble
Back up to the sails, but now, the storm has started. Here, we get introduced to Rattly, who quite frankly kicks ass. However, his only flaw is that half of the time when you jump, you can no longer see the platforms below you, which becomes a huge pain in the ass in a certain later level involving a certain rising green liquid.

Interesting to note here, in my old unofficial player's guide, there's a single screenshot of this level with a black and blue background, like a night storm. I can match up the parts and say it is in this level, but I've never seen that background here. Can anybody enlighten me on this?

Boss: Krow's Nest
This is one of those odd situations where I did worse now than as a kid. I actually died on Krow this time around, although it's not entirely my fault. I can't remember my first hit against me, but I believe it was due to myself temporarily spacing out. However, for the second hit, something weird happened. When eggs start spewing out of the nest at the end of the fight, one of the eggs didn't fly up before coming at me, and hit where I was going AND fell at double the speed. I'd never seen that before, and I doubt I'll see it again.

That's all I've got for now. Stay tuned for Part II: Crocodile Cauldron!

Welcome Aboard!

I just started this blog to talk about the random things that are in my head, whether that involves movies, games, travel, and whatnot. Pardon my dust as I'm still setting up the place.