Top 10 At the Moment

It’s always difficult to say what the greatest games of all time are, because our opinions are always subjective, no matter how hard we try to keep that shit out. So, I’ve decided to just make a progressive list of games that are my favorite at the moment (ATM).

I know, it’s not that interesting to hear someone else’s opinions of what they’re enjoying right now, but you know what, I don’t care!

10. Yoshi’s Island:


If you avoided Yoshi’s Island because it looked too kiddy you really need to reconsider that choice. This game may be the most masterfully crafted platformer I have ever played. Every level presents new innovation and challenge, the controls are frankly the best of any platformer I’ve ever played. The tongue is perfectly implemented, the extra floating makes Yoshi feel super powerful, shooting eggs is oh so satisfying.

Known also as Super Mario World 2, this game was originally supposed to have those pre-rendered graphics as seen in Donkey Kong Country. Thankfully, Shigeru Miyamoto decided to scrap the style and replace it with the beautiful crayon drawn style that made it so iconic and just damn beautiful.

9. Master of Magic:


Yeah yeah, whatever, this is just a Civilization clone with medieval skins. Except not! This game had so much fucking depth, complexity and originality that I still find new things to this day. This game is just, so good. There’s just nothing more satisfying then when you get that invulnerability spell and train an army of invincible griffins and just go wreck the entire map with a couple dudes. Or when you start out in the dark world and build up forces until you invade the parallel world

Orignally released for DOS by Simtex this game is currently available on GOG.com, so yeah, go fuckin sink weeks into this game.

8. Journey:


If you haven’t played this game do yourself a favor and go buy a PS3 (if you don’t already have one) and play it. This is truly the best argument for video games as art that I have ever seen. It’s simple, elegant, poetic and just so magical. The first time I played this game I cried like a little baby with tears of joy. This game fills the player with a sense of wonderment and ecstasy that can really only be achieved through this medium.

This game speaks multitudes in its silence. Never does it fully disclose what has happened, but through clever story telling and some of the greatest co-operative play I have ever seen, it sucks you in emotionally and refuses to let go. Journey may be one of the most finely crafted experiences I have ever had the pleasure to enjoy and deserves to stand on the same level as such masterpieces as Citizen Kane and A Starry Night.

7. Shadow of the Colossus


Another game that stands as an argument for games as art, this game is truly an epic experience. When I first played this in the demo case at my local game store I didn’t get it. Maybe it was because the demo started after the intro sequence so I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing, but it just seemed boring. It looked like an action rpg, but I couldn’t find any towns, there wasn’t an inventory, and my character just looked so… weird. It didn’t help that the game would start over before I could get to the first colossi, talk about a let down.

It wasn’t until I played this game at a friends house that I understood that I had been playing one of the most epic and heartfelt games ever crafted. From the first Colossi to the melancholy ending this is truly one of my most cherished experiences and a splendid game.

6. Super Metroid


You hear a lot of game critics talking about games having “atmosphere” these days, but what do they really mean by that. Basically what they mean is how well a game can imitate Super Metroid cause that game fuckin invented atmosphere! But no, seriously… it did. This game just oozed with personality and ambiance, so much so that devs are still trying to play catch up.

Based heavily off of R. Gigers Alien universe, this game gave you such an immense and foreboding feeling of just absolute loneliness that few games can conquer, especially with the hardware limitations of the 16-bit era. Also, you get to play as one of the most badass bounty hunters since Bobba Fett. This game was inventive, it was innovative, it was downright massive and nothing in this world can match the feeling of hitting a random tile seeing it blow away to reveal a new power-up… awesome!

5. Act Raiser:


If it seems like I’m putting a lot of SNES games on this list, it’s because I am. And for good reason, the SNES is still one of the greatest systems ever released and to this day holds its own against modern releases in terms of fun. And if it’s fun we’re talking about than look no further than Actraiser! Yeah!

This game, created by Quintet and published by Enix was a launch title for the SNES and boy was it awesome. This game had you playing as “The Master” a god like being whose mission is to crush the monsters of (earth?) and allow people to repopulate it. Along with a totally kick ass side scrolling action, this game also had a fully realized sim game where you control a cherub and build your towns to repopulate the world. This game also had some of the greatest music from the 16-bit era. To bad Quintet went under in the early 00’s, I sure wouldn’t mind seeing a GOOD sequel to this game.

4. The Legend of Zelda (The entire catalog)


I’ve recently been playing through every single Zelda game again and I am just floored by how masterfully crafted all these games are, except for you Skyward Sword, you just suck.

Every game brought a new and fun innovation to the series that made the entire saga grow as a whole. Sure, there were some innovations that were put into newer games just for rituals sake, and some innovations that just kind of sucked (like a side scrolling Zelda) and also innovation just for innovations sake (like that stupid fucking pointless spinning top in Twilight Princess). But when Zelda gets it right, you better believe that whatever they did is gonna be an industry staple for years to come.

3. Gradius:


Yeah! Gradius! The arcade down the street from me just got one of these machines the other month and I have been pumping quarter after quarter into this sweet machine. There’s nothing quite like having a crowd of people gather round you as you plow through the first boss on one life, and then hearing cheers when you crush number three on the same life.

I didn’t grow up around arcades since my family sort of shunned video games, so this has been my first experience of being able to plant my name among the gods on that high score board, or having random people hand me quarters when I get a game over so they can watch me keep playing. It’s something magical that I’m sure a lot of people missed out on and people that did get to enjoy it miss. So if you’re around Portland, Oregon drop into Ground control and lets play some fuckin Gauntlet Legends!

2. Secret of Mana:


Oh, so sublime! The soundtrack, the art style, that feeling when you and your friends rock the socks off a tough boss. Sure, the story isn’t FF6 tier, but it’s there, and it has a lot of heart.

Known as Seiken Densetsu 2 in Japan (cause we always have to fuck that shit up for some reason) this game got insane acclaim in Japan, but sold only moderately in other regions. Despite getting generous reviews it never took off in the U.S. the way it should have. Which is even more of a shame because Seiken Densetsu 3 is widely hailed as the best action-rpg of the 16-bit generation and never saw a release in the States. While you can get a translated reproduction, that shit is steep, son, and will run you anywhere from $50-100.

1. Aladdin (SNES)


What can I say, this game is just so damn good! It’s a serious guilty pleasure of mine and I love it to death! The gameplay is tighter than Fort Knox, the art style is original and lively, the sound effects touch my soul in a way that only the wizards at Capcom can do. Everything about this game is just pure and unadulterated FUN!

Maybe this is only up so high because I spent way to much time playing this for that Genesis vs. SNES Aladdin (which you should totally read). But I stand by this game as one of the best platformers ever made, sure it may be short, and it may be unforgiving-ly and sometimes unfairly difficult but I think that’s what makes it fun in that Dark Souls kind of way. My roommate and I played this game religiously while I was writing that article and had just the most amazing time doing it. And isn’t that what this is all about? Having fun and enjoying yourself.

Thanks for reading!

The Great Debate: SNES vs. Genesis Aladdin

If you were alive anywhere between 1990-2000 I’m sure you remember having this argument at one point. Whether it was on the playground or in the office, these games touched all demographics. Because they were so fucking good!!

I don’t know why there were so many damned good licensed games around this time, perhaps it has something to do with the fact that there were just so many that there was bound to be a decent one here and there. But I mean come on, games like TMNT 4, Batman for the NES, Indiana Jones (just to name a few) were all unique and fresh games with unique and fresh ideas. Nowadays we just get fuckin Star Wars skins on a Just Dance game and that’s innovation! Woo! Okay, to be fair the Arkham games are fucking splendid

Now, Aladdin was developed by two separate studios with two completely different styles and they were two completely different games. Each game still had you playing as the token street rat we all know and love and each one had platform-y aspects, but that’s where the time streams split and we get to parallel universe versions of Agrabah.

Aladdin on the Genesis was developed by Virgin Interactive, a subsidiary of Virgin Group (the company that has had there hands in just about every pot for the past two and a half decades). While you wouldn’t expect a company whose main purpose is unadulterated capitalistic growth to be able to put out some genuinely good games, you would be surprised. They were responsible for a ton of awesome games, like Dune 1 and 2 and Earthworm Jim. So, they were decently well suited to go head to head with one of the greatest game companies ever to grace this mortal plane.

FUCKING! CAPCOM!

Now, I’m sorry if I’m being biased here, but Capcom may be my favorite developer from the 8-16 bit era and for good god damn reason! Seriously, look at there library, you got Street Fighter 2, Megaman, Megaman X, UN Squadron, Breath of Fire, the list goes on. Capcom had already had some experience developing for Disney Interactive and had fucking nailed it, making such great games as Chip ‘n’ Dale Rescue Rangers and Duck Tales. So you could almost guarantee that they were gonna make something badass with Aladdin. And boy did they.

Let me just get one thing straight before we move ahead. I didn’t have a SNES growing up, I had a Genesis and was pretty ferocious about defending my system. I was one of the kids that would talk about blast processing, and Genesis doing what Nintendont. But to be perfectly honest I was pretty jealous. I used to go over to my friends house and play Yoshi’s Island and Street Fighter 2 and there was something about it that was just so, soulful. I don’t know how else to describe it, but when I would go home and put in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 I couldn’t feel the same amount of love that went into the game. Yeah sure, Sega was cool, and freaking Michael Jackson did the music for STH 3, but maybe being cool isn’t the end all be all of my desires when I sit down and play a game.

That being said, Aladdin on the Genesis was my favorite fucking game for almost a decade, it had style, it had swords, it had humor, and one of my favorite Disney protagonists of all time, it was the real deal. And even when I got my N64 and had games like Banjo Kazooie to play I still came back to this title. Virgin Interactive really did make an amazing game when they put out Aladdin, and also it was tough as nails! It took me years to beat the Cave of Wonders and when I did it was so damn sweet. The art style was crisp with those cell shaded graphics, the music sounded uncanny to the source material (at the time).

Now, I never truly played the SNES version until about a month ago when I picked this game up at a garage sale, actually that’s what prompted me to write this. I had always held the Genisis version as the be all end all of Agrabah awesomeness, but when I slapped that bad boy into my snes and heard that familiar Capcom jingle something wonderful happened on that there screen.

1. Presentation
Right off the bat you can see the art style in these games is supremely different. The SNES version has a much brighter tone to it with a pastel color pallet. All the characters and animations look original and fresh, and while it doesn’t stray to far from its source it gives enough to have its own charisma. Also, assets are much larger and thus have more detail and also take much more presidence on the screen.  The one thing that clearly stands out the feel of the world, the SNES version has a more varied and wider array of world decorations, making the world feel very much lived in and not just a maze of obstacles created specially for you.

The Genisis version on the other hand decided to stick very closely to its source material opting for a crisp cell shaded art style. It looks good, don’t get me wrong, but it just doesn’t really feel right. The pallet is much darker and so is the overall tone. You can see from the very beginning that  Virgin is appealing to the older, cooler market, which Sega had a foothold in, when the Genie straight up shoots eogo. There’s a lot of humor in this game, but it edges on that slightly demented humor, which works very well in games like Earthworm Jim , but feels very unsettling in such a game that’s based off of such a whimsical movie.

Winner: SNES

2. Gameplay and Combat

While the Genesis version opted to stay true to form for the art-style they took the combat in a completely different direction. Instead of being the fun loving street rat you’re a scimitar wielding murderer vanquishing everything in your path.  Which admittedly is freaking awesome. And since you have a sword everyone has a sword which makes things a bit frustrating, because enemies are ruthless, and everywhere. But, when you finally get rid of them, or find that lamp that turns them all into puffs of smoke it’s very satisfying. You do jump around a lot and climb different objects, but platforming is less of the focus in this version, this ones all about the action!

The SNES version has a completely different approach to gameplay. In the SNES version the focus is all about jumps, glides and hand plants. The game has a very well flushed out parkour-style system which has you swinging on poles, doing hand plants on enemies to dispatch them and gliding with blankets you find throughout the world.  The fluidity of the movements are very rewarding and lets you explore the world in a lot of fun and awesome ways. It’s such a common thing for games with a lot of ledge detect to often fail, but in the SNES version that was never the case, movements always connected, actions always performed perfectly and it just feels so good.

Winner: SNES

3. Sound

When I was a kid I could not tell the difference between the Genesis soundtrack and the actual movie, they sounded so insanely similar to me at the time it blew my mind that that was even possible. Listening to it now I’m still very impressed, sound compression is no easy task, especially when you’re dealing that god awful Genesis sound chip. The soundtrack is still plagued with that strange metallic sound so many Genesis games had. The sound effects are crisp and satisfying though, collecting gems has a rewarding “pa-tink”.

The sound on the SNES is again, decidedly original. All the effects have a ver Capcom feel to them and are just so satisfying. When you make a game like Street Fighter 2 you gotta know how to make some incredibly rewarding sound effect. Everything from the little boing when you pounce enemies to that glorious jingle when you get a one up just feel amazing.

Winner: SNES

The Verdict:

SNES

It’s strange, while Virgin tried so hard to emulate the look and sound of its source material they just fell short of making a game that really captures the feeling of exploring the Cave of Wonders or traversing the dangerous streets of Agrobah. While still a great game in its own respects, when compared to the fluid wonder that is Capcoms creation it’s difficult to look away from its blemishes. Capcom truly made a masterful game when they put there energy into Aladdin, they wonderfully captured the magic and fun of the movies without making just a clone. These games seems more like collaborations between studios, all of which are masters of their crafts, and while some are better than others, they still made two of my favorite games of all time.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

Minimalist Hyper Light Drifter Wallpapers

If you can’t tell, I am super amped for this game, so I made some minimalist wallpapers to sate my rabid inner fanboy. Started with pen and paper and than scanned and touched up with Photoshop, definitely not as good as the pros over at Heart Machine, but I like it. If you have any requests for coloring just let me know

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Track Review: Polish Girl, Neon Indian

Something that I’ve always thought was great about Neon Indian is their innocence and vulnerability in their music. There’s a certain purity in it that is so often lost in electronic music, a feeling of love that is thrown out in exchange for a sexy attitude or for some harder hitting beats. Neon Indian seems to abhor the idea of making “dance music” and instead writes a love ballad to their synthesizer in Polish Girl.

The track starts with the 6 note arpeggio as the lead and a warped bass line that has become one of Neon Indians signature. The lead feels like eating a piece of candy you used to eat all the time as a kid and have all but forgotten the flavor and memories attached to it, as soon as you pop it in your mouth all of your senses are flooded with summer evenings, green grass and the cool relief of night coming as the energy floods the streets. It flows through the song like an elusive smell and when you catch a sent you take it in greedily for fear it might dissipate like an unexplainable profoundly warming dream.

The lead and bass are soon joined by the sounds of electronic creatures, crickets, frogs, birds, all in a chorus of some scene on a bio-luminescent robotic lake. Seconds after the scene is set, fireworks are set off over the lake as the second lead kicks in like a dozen-dozen pre-historic tropical birds being released all at once. The spectacle continues for a while until the vocals start. The whispery style vocals of Neon Indian is a pervasive theme in a lot of electronic and indie music, often criticized, but it does have its place and serves a purpose to not burden the music with lyrics that might otherwise take away from the experience.

The song continues in a relatively predictable fashion, having set up such a wonderful framework it simply follows a standard route of Intro/ Verse/ Chorus/ Verse/ Chorus/ Bridge/ Chorus with a little synth freak-out after the first chorus being the high point of the song for me and the bridge being the lowest.

While the video for this song has a nice aesthetic, the hyper-future dark sci-fi feel just doesn’t seem to fit the song. I find it frustrating that just because something is electronic it seems to automatically mean that it is inorganic (in literal terms I guess that’s true). This song is a ride through an enchanted forest at twilight, not a dystopian cyborg future. I would love to see a switch from the standard “sound of the future” view of electronic music to a recognition of the inherent mysticism of (literally) creating sound out of thin air.

All in all, great track.

9.2

Excitement Brimming for Hyper Light Drifter

The team behind Hyper Light Drifter is in love with their game. From the beautiful soundtrack by Disasterpeace, to the stunning set pieces, everything is a hyper-imagined, neon colored, nostalgic love letter to the 16-bit era. But it’s not just a memory through rose colored glasses, this game seems to have merged the very best of past and present to create (what I hope to be) a beautifully rich and fulfilling experience.

The guys at Heart Machine are a mushy bunch, in the best way possible, lovingly pouring their hearts and souls into a shining tribute to early 90’s gaming. With a cinematic style that feels like a mix between Akira and the Dark Crystal, it creates a stunning atmosphere that is so eery and fantastical it makes me giddy to explore everything these guys have created.

The game play harkens to a much darker and more stylized combination of Secret of Mana, Gunstar Superheroes, and top down ARPGs like Diablo ll, but is really something that is wholly itself and not just a knockoff. From the pastel and neon color pallet, to the high fantasy/ dark sci-fi scenery, to the fast paced combat, this game is brimming with individuality and charisma.


The story for Hyper Light Drifter feels similar to Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke. You play as a member of a group of beings known as Drifters, Drifters are dedicated to collecting forgotten knowledge and technologies from a crumbled civilization. Our protagonist is infected  with some kind of disease or curse forcing him to travel further into the Lands of Buried Time searching for a cure. It’s unclear whether our hero gains their awesome skills from the Drifters or if the disease is giving him the power, but I sure am happy he has them, because I am so excited to cut through hordes of foes in one of the coolest looking neon blood baths I’ve ever seen.

Heart Machine has already shattered a Kickstarter campaign for Hyper Light Drifter raising a total of $640,000, beating their original funding goal by 2400%. The game is slated for release on PS4, Wii U and of course PC, having recently been “Green Lighted” on Steam, and will be coming out mid 2014.

For more on Hyper Light Drifter:

Heart Machine

Kickstarter Campaign

Pre Order Hyper Light Drifter

And as the music fades bring up shot of our hero, sitting by a fire…