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Thursday, December 14, 2017

Mega Man 2: A Great, But Flawed Sequel

Mega Man may not have the iconic reach that Mario has (very few video game characters do) but the Blue Bomber is still a pretty huge deal. Much like Super Mario Bros. made Mario a household name, Mega Man 2 is the game that put everyone's favorite blue robot boy on the map. You've already heard all of the praise there is to be said about this game. The genius level design, the weapons you score from Robot Master, the super catchy soundtrack; everyone knows all about that stuff. Instead of talking about why Mega Man 2 is so great, we're going to discuss the blemishes. Many critics and fans don't even point these things out. I find that rather odd because quite frankly, Mega Man 2 has some pretty glaring flaws.

These things are so OP, they make all the other weapons
pretty much worthless!
Each Robot Master has a weapon for you to add to your collection after you defeat them. However, they are all dwarfed by Metal Man's weapon, the Metal Blade. This thing is the very definition of over powered. You can throw three of them at once. They can be thrown in eight directions. Many mooks and bosses fall to this sharp metal very quickly, Metal Man himself included. Once you kill Metal Man and acquire his weapon, the Metal Blades can pretty much be your regular weapon for most of the game. There will be instances where you'll have to swamp to a different weapon to kill the few foes it doesn't work on but on the whole, Metal Blades will suit most situations. Mega Man 4 has been cited as the game that made the series start going downhill with the introduction of the Charge Shot, a powered up form of Mega Man's default weapon. The Charge Shot may not consume any ammo and does 3 HP of damage when fully charged, but to get the most out of it, it does have to be charged. It also only shoots in two directions contrasting with the Metal Blade's eight. Later games would beef up the size of the Mega Buster but punish the player for getting hit while charging up, forcing the player to restart the charge. Yeah, the Metal Blade consumes ammo but it does so at such a small amount that running out hardly, if ever, becomes an issue. The Metal Blades, while a ton of fun to use, completely throws Mega Man 2's weapon balance out the window.

Getting through without the Time Stopper
is doable. It just takes memorization. And really
fast thumbs.
One of the great things about the Mega Man games is that they let you choose your order of level progression. Of Mega Man 2's eight initial stages, only about two of them present some serious hurdles to jump over and depending on whom you take out first, said hurdles can be negated by any weapons or items you may or may not possess. The stages I'm referring to are Heat Man and Quick Man's stages.

Heat Man's level is infamous for containing what might be the most hated use of the series' staple Appearing Blocks (also know as Yoko Blocks). You run into these things early on in the stage but it isn't until a little after the halfway point that they induce rage. The Yoko Blocks start appearing over a long pool of lava and eventually lead to a long bottomless pit. You can either try to memorize the pattern of the Appearing Blocks or kill Air Man and get Item-2 to bypass the blocks altogether. The later option is highly recommended because this section of Yoko Blocks quickly overstays it's welcome. Novice players that go into Heat Man's stage before defeating Air Man? Sorry, you guys are so screwed.

Shortly after entering Quick Man's stage, you'll hear this obnoxiously loud noise. That annoyance would be lasers and they are deadly as they are painful on your ears. These things will kill you upon contact and you'll always have to deal with them during the stages vertical sections. The are two sections where you'll have to descend while avoiding loud, yellow death. The first section isn't too bad but a new player will more than likely lose several lives before they know how to properly navigate these areas. Section two is where it really gets crazy. The second section of death lasers go on for a total of seven screens. Unlike the first section where you could damage boost through, you are afforded no such luxury here. The lasers in Quick Man's stage are very much trial and error gameplay for those that wish to get through these areas without any sort of assistance. You can use Flash Man's Time Stopper to make it much easier on yourself but you'll still have to hustle while the lasers are frozen.

Using the blocks over this stupidly long section
isn't really fun or rewarding. 
Mega Man 2 does suffer from some bad game design but it really comes to a head in the last three stages. The fourth Dr. Wily stage is home to Boobeam Trap, one of the worst bosses in the entire history of Mega Man. A series of five turret guns, Boo Beam Trap has lightning fast fire and they shoot at the same time, causing massive sprite flicker, much to your annoyance. The shots are also very hard to avoid. Boobeam Trap is weak to only one weapon: the Crash Bombs. While there are only five targets, you need full Crash Bomb ammo to take this thing out. So if you come into the boss room and you're ammo isn't maxed out, you've already lost. Use a Crash Bomb on a the wrong destructable wall and you've already lost. Yeah, this boss loves to fool you into wasting Crash Bomb ammo. And least we forget, you're also gonna need Item-1 or Item-3 to help you reach those high ledges to plant those Crash Bombs on those out-of-jumping-range targets. Prior knowledge of this boss is mandatory to achieve victory as there are far too many ways to fail. And when you do fail, you don't start right outside the boss door. Nope, you're going back to the midway point. If you want to refill your Crash Bombs, you're gonna have to farm for ammo in the cumbersome section of Walker and Sniper Joes outside Boombeam Trap's door. Hooray.

If you didn't hate wall mounted guns before, well, today
is a good day to learn.
The final two stages of Mega Man 2 are boss battles with no way of refilling your weapon energy and in the case of the very last stage, can pose a serious problem. Dr. Wily stage five has you face off with all the eight Robot Masters again and concludes with a battle with the mad doctor who has two forms. You might be in trouble if you've exhausted much if not all of your weapon energy in Wily stage 5. Sure, all of the bosses can be won with Mega Man's default weapon but that's assuming you can keep all of your lives and power on through. Thankfully, each Robot Master drops energy refills upon defeat.

Dr. Wily stage 6, the final level is short but has this dropping acid that can cause major damage if you take a hit, much like the final boss himself. When you enter the boss chamber you see Dr. Wily change into some bizarre alien creature. This boss is only weak to the Bubble Lead and if you don't have much of it left or you used it all up, you're screwed. Not only do all your other weapons cause him no harm, they actually replenish his energy!

I may as well mention that getting a game over does replenish your weapon energy and you've got infinite continues. But a game over also wipes out your supply of Energy Tanks, which can make getting through those last few bosses even harder. Wily stages 5 and 6 have to Energy Tanks to be found.

Mega Man 2 is a lot of people's favorite Mega Man game. I myself, like the game a lot. However, no game, no matter how great, no matter its impact on a series is immune to criticism. For all Mega Man 2 does right, it gets a number of things wrong. Even the original Mega Man? Buggy and glitchy as it was, did not pull crap like Boobeam Trap. Heck, none of the later games have the late-game-halting-issues that Mega Man 2 does. Yes, they can all be prevented, but you have to know about them before hand and that isn't good game design. We wouldn't ignore these things today so, Mega Man 2, while great in many other areas, doesn't get a free pass just because of what it did for the series.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Favorite Tunes #206: Trouble Maker

The Switch continues to kill it and EA still sucks. How's that for a topical opener? Anyway, this week, there is music from the Classic Mega Man series, Gunstar Heroes, Tekken 7 as well as SEGA's classic racing game, OutRun.

Tengu Man Stage - Mega Man 8 (PS)

With Mega Man 11 having been announced (squeee!!!) it is only fitting that I post a tune from the Mega Man series this week. While I do prefer Tengu Man's more series Saturn exclusive theme, I still get a kick out of his more cheerful PlayStation track. Tengu Man is such a smug punk that it makes beating him all the more satisfying.

Don't Slip! - Splatoon 2 (NS)

Even taking into account that the first Splatoon released on the Wii U, a console that was a huge bomb, the game did extremely well, becoming Nintendo's most recognized new IP in recent years. So of course they had a sequel in the works for the Switch. Splatoon 2 has gotten some criticism for feeling too samey but if sales are any indication, I don't think too many people mind this. Like the original Splatoon, the music for Splatoon 2 is very much on point.

I'm Here Now 7's Remix - Tekken 7 (PC, PS4, XBO)

I wouldn't call Tekken 7 may favorite soundtrack of the series, but there are some really good tracks in there. I'm Here Now was one the many good songs in Tekken 5. That intro for said game had Kazuya and Heihachi fighting off an army of Jacks. Tekken 7 let's you play out that fight with this bumping remix as your background fight jam.

Dancing Smash Hero - Gunstar Heroes (GEN)

Gunstar Heroes on the Genesis just might be the best run 'n gun game ever. It's sprites and backgrounds still look marvelous to this day, it has sweet (if broken) weapon combos and the soundtrack is some of the best music on the Mega Drive and gaming in general. If anyone says Genesis music can't hack it, point them in the direction of Gunstar Heroes soundtrack.

Magical Sound Shower (Arrange Ver.) - OutRun SEGA AGES (SS)

The Saturn version of OutRun is one of the best available. It contains a hidden option to make it run at a smooth 60 fps and has some killer arranged music in addition to the outstanding original beats. Well, at leastthe Japanese version of the game does. For some strange reason, gamers outside of the Land of the Rising sun got the middle finger when it came to these songs.

Trouble Maker - Mischief Makers (N64)

Oh, Treasure. Only you could make a game with an adorable, anime-esque protagonist who's claim to fame consists of "SHAKE, SHAKE, SHAKE!!!" Mischief Makers probably isn't the first game to come to mind when one thinks of games by Treasure. It is overshadowed by Gunstar Heroes and Sin and Punishment but it still has a cult following. This is one of those games that could use a re-release.

Favorite Tunes Database

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The EA/Battlefront II Debacle is Glorious

So how about the disaster that is EA and Star Wars: Battlefront II? Hoo boy, I tell ya, watching EA get blasted by gamers, the gaming media, the non gaming media and YouTubers is like watching a never ending train wreck. And I'm loving every minute of it. I've always believed that there is a sadist in all of us, and while some may think it bad to delight in the suffering of others, in the case of EA, it couldn't have happened to a better worse company.

EA is the cancer of the video game industry. They buy up game developers, really talented ones, spread through the company like said disease and then kill them off. Visceral Games was their latest victim but before that it was Maxis, Westwood Studios, the list goes on and on. It wasn't until the demise of Visceral Games that I realized just how many game developers EA has destroyed. Any game developer that EA sinks their talons into is living on borrowed time.

Nintendo makes lots of bone head decisions. Years after the competition has figured out how to have online gaming networks, the Big N is still floundering about. Their treatment of fans, YouTubers playing their games is deplorable and they kill off fangames, even ones that aren't remakes faster than a falling brick. However, even at their worst, Nintendo and many other game companies for that matter, are nowhere near as bad as EA. Nintendo is out to make money like any other game company but what puts them so far ahead of trash like EA is that Nintendo actually cares about delivering a quality product. EA only cares about the bottom line. They are a company that is solely motivated by greed and that business model has bitten them hard on both butt cheeks.

Disney's chat with EA probably had something to do with the fact that Star Wars Episode VIII releases this month, and having the latest Star Wars game have bullocks like loot boxes mucking up the experience certainly isn't a good look. It was enough to make EA shut off the microtransactions, temporarily, at least. But it isn't just Disney and gamers that are peeved with EA. The money grubbing company has goofed up so bad with Battlefront II that they've attracted the attention of government officials with Chris Lee calling the game "an online casino designed to trap little kids." There's also the little matter of EA losing $3 billion stock value over this whole fiasco. EA shareholders are probably up in arms while the rest of us are sitting back in our chairs, petting our cats, laughing manically.

Normally I don't root for the downfall of a video game company. I wish for them to change, to do better. EA, however, is not going to change. They are more interested in finding ways to make the most money the fastest way possible. The idea of releasing a well made product is a foreign concept to this company. Even after Battlefront II exploded in their faces, EA still went about with microtransactions in Ultimate Fighting Championship 3 and Need for Speed: Payback. I don't think a single tear would be shed if EA were to go under. For far too long EA has gotten away with murder and crummy business practices. This domino effect that Battlefront II has started is some well deserved comeuppance.

I'm sure this whole thing with EA being put on blast and losing money will blow over. Until then, get yourself some popcorn and pull up a chair because as they kids say, "Dis gonna be good!"

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Mega Man 11 is Happening

I got home from work, jumped on my laptop and went straight to YouTube. The one thing I did not expect to see as recommended video coming from Nintendo's channel was an announcement trail for of all games, MEGA MAN 11. For a brief moment, I thought this was some kind of sick joke, an April Fools prank. I quickly remembered that it is in early December, clicked the video and watch with my mouth and eyes wide open. Hell has indeed froze over because Capcom is finally giving Mega Man a new game.

Mega Man 11 won't release until late 2018 on all platforms but the reveal trailer does divulge quite a bit of info. Mega Man can slide! The Charge Shot is back! It is so dang nice to see Mega Man regain two of his lost abilities. I really like Mega Man 2 but the lengths Mega Man 9 went to hump the former game's leg was really obnoxious. It is for this reason that I prefer Mega Man 10 over 9.

Another thing I really, really like is that Mega Man 11 is not an 8-bit NES style game. I love the look of 8-bit Mega Man but I don't believe Classic Mega Man should stay there. So many games are going with the retro look that it is getting to be overkill. 2D games are great but so are 2.5D games. Besides, from what little footage is available, I think Mega Man 11 looks pretty clean.

As exciting as this news is, there is of course bound to be some negativity. What I've seen is on the smile side, but it is there, nonetheless. Some fans are disappointed that Mega Man 11 is not going to be an 8-bit game. I've seen some joke that there's plenty of time for the game to be canceled. Then you've got people saying that the game looks like trash. I think seven years without a Mega Man game has made some fans very pessimistic. At the same time, this is Capcom we're talking about here so I can see how some fans would be concerned for Mega Man 11. On the flip side, a brand new Mega Man game is the very thing fans have been clamoring for for years. Capcom is giving us what we wanted and you've still got some folks that find away to be sour on it. Only the bitterest of Mega Man fans could find a way to piss and moan about this huge reveal.

Mega Man 11 is still a ways off so there is plenty of time to iron out wrinkles. The Blue Bomber's walking animation does look stiff. Personally, I think the game looks fine from what we've seen thus far, but if Capcom makes the game look even better, I'm all for that as long as it plays well and runs smooth. 2017 is almost over but that just means there is still some time left in the year for surprises. The announcement of Mega Man 11 was certainly one of them.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Favorite Tunes #205: Chillest Game Over Music Ever

I decided to hold off on all blog posts last week due to the Thanksgiving weekend. I hope it was full of good fun and lots of good eats for you all. Now that the holiday is over, regular posting has resumed.

Major Boss Battle - Freedom Planet (PC, Wii U, PS4)

Before Sonic Mania, you had Sonic fans championing Freedom Planet as the best Sonic game that Sonic Team didn't make. There are cues from Sonic games, but Freedom Planet is very much it's own animal. If you haven't done so, check this game out and get the soundtrack while you're at it.

Blossom Haze (Press Garden Act 2) - Sonic Mania (PC, PS4, XBO, NS)

I'm one of those strange fellows that loves the Act 1 version of Press Garden over Act 2. That being said, the Act 2 version is still pretty dang magnificent. Props to the  developers for making an ice level that isn't irksome to play.

Honeyluna Ridge (Caves) - Super Mario Odyssey (NS)

It just wouldn't feel right not having a lava themed level leading up to the confrontation to Bowser. Bowser's Kingdom was not what most were expecting but in a very, very good way. On the Moon, however, is a standard lava filled section, complete with one of the most annoying Super Mario enemies, Charin' Chuck. It also comes with one of my favorite music in the game. I often have this theme playing for intense sections during post-gameplays.

Chozo Laboratory - Metroid: Samus Returns (3DS)

It has been an outstandingly good year for Nintendo. The Switch is killing it, they launched a new IP in the form of ARMS, the Zelda and Super Mario series both had major entries and Samus Aran stepped into the spotlight once again. For a series so many say Nintendo doesn't care about, the Big N gave the girl five star treatment with Samus Returns, the reimagining of Metroid II: Return of Samus.

Area 5 - Bionic Commando (NES)

The most famous theme from Bionic Commando is Area 1, which actually comes from the arcade version of Bionic Commando, a game that is completely different from the NES releease. If you've never made it past the first few areas, you might not have heard the rest of the soundtrack which is to say, really freaking awesome stuff.

Game Over, Name Entry - Altered Beast (ARC)

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, the chillest of all game over music. Call me crazy, but I don't always find it off-putting when a music track plays during a time that may not match the situation. One reason for Altered Beast's Game Over theme being so chill is because it also serves as Name Entry music.

Favorite Tunes Database

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Remix of the Week: Ghost Town (Sonic Forces)

The Genesis style music in Sonic Forces has gotten a bad rap. Granted, the Green Hill theme for Classic Sonic uses some absolutely terrible instrumentation, but writing off all of Classic Sonic's stage themes as awful? That is something I cannot get behind. Of all of Classic Sonic's music in Forces, my favorite would have to be Ghost Town, a super peppy beat. Lil Boulder's remix is worth a listen several times over.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Rhythm Raceway

2017 is a the year for many milestone anniversaries. Double Dragon, Final Fantasy, Mega Man, and Contra all turned or are going to turn 30 this year. The Mario Kart franchise isn't at the big 3-0 yet, however, it is now twenty five years old. I don't know if the arrival of the Pixel Mixers' latest album is a coincidence or not, but regardless, Rhythm Raceway is a magnificent tribute to the most famous kart racing series.

Spanning 23 tracks, Rhythm Raceway collects arrangements from just about every Mario Kart entry. The only games not represented are the arcade titles and Mario Kart 7. I would have loved to see the Pixel Mixers do a cover for Rock Rock Mountain and Bowser's Castle, but those are nitpicks more than anything. It's hard to argue with what they did give us from expected remixes to the unexpected. I never knew I wanted Frappe Snowland (Mario Kart 64) to have a rock arrangement until I heard it here. Twisted Mansion (Mario Kart 8) wasn't a bad song by any means, but it was one that I never cared for. The Pixel Mixers' interpretation of it, however, is something that I can't get enough. There's also a killer heavy metal version of Rainbow Road (Mario Kart: Double Dash!!) as well as a super chill cover of Toad's Turnpike (Mario Kart 64). I've always loved the Setup music from Mario Kart 64, despite how repetitive it can be so I'm glad it got so much needed appreciation in this album as well as Retire Theme (Mario Kart: Double Dash!!)

Like every single album by the Pixel Mixers, Rhythm Raceway is free. You get 23 splendid Mario Kart remixes, adding up to over an hour's worth of music. I cannot wait to see what game or game series these guys tackle next. Do download this alum right now.

Rhythm Raceway