Review of GameTap.com

11 10 2009

gametap

GameTap is something of a marvel. For years, several players would watch as their favorite games fade into obscurity, with nothing they could do about it. Try as they like, most of the systems that house these games would eventually break, ending any chance they had of playing their classics. It wasn’t until the arrival of the XBox Live Arcade that players had the chance to purchase and download earlier titles. Since then, Sony and Nintendo have provided services of their own. Taking a nod from them, GameTap, owned by Turner Broadcasting System, decided to provide a service to old-school gamers by offering a service in which to download some of their favorite forgotten games, spanning systems from the Atari 2600 to the Dreamcast. However, is the company at the point where it is worth looking into?

Look ahead to find out.

Now, of course GameTap doesn’t have modern hits like Halo 3 or Bioshock for purchase, but there is more than enough here to play around with. For a fee of $9.95 a month, you have hundreds of classic titles at your disposal, from 1942 and Deus Ex to Toy Commander and Grandia II. Role playing, action, sports, puzzle, FPS, no matter what you are into; GameTap should have what you are looking for. Of course, there are some limitations though. If you do not have a monthly subscription, you will only have a few dozen free games to play around with, which mostly consist of low budget arcade titles. Also, if you are looking for any games from the Sony or Nintendo platform, forget it. There is always the Virtual Console or Sony Store for those though.

Nevertheless, it was quite the nostalgia trip to go back and play through some of my favorite titles from the 80s and 90s. Mega Man X3, Sonic Mega Collection Plus, Tomb Raider III, Crazy Taxi, Deus Ex, EverQuest, and several more of my early non-Nintendo favorites were all there for the taking. It doesn’t just end with games though; GameTap also has several music and television options as well. Examples being Sealab 2021 and Space Ghost: Coast to Coast, with the latter still receiving new episodes exclusive to GameTap. Every Thursday the GameTap crew updates their roster of games and episodes, with well over 1400 total media options available as of today.

I suppose the only negative that the site has going for it is the fact that several of the titles offered on it can be purchased for pocket change at used game shops. Especially titles for the Dreamcast, Genesis, and 8 bit systems. Also, a broadband connection is required in order to play the games you download, so if you happen to still be on dial up – forget about it. Requirements are needed to play games from GameTap, but they are pretty minimal. Pentium 4, Windows 2000 or better, and US/Canadian residence are really the only guidelines you have to worry about, but odds are 9 out of every 10 people meet all three of these requirements.

All in all, GameTap is a service for those who want to acquire classics from primarily the Arcade and Sega platform. The purchase of games or movies from GameTap is 100% legal, so if you always skipped out on the illegal emulator route then good for you. They may not have every single title you are looking for, primarily because they have only been around for a couple of years. However, if you are a fan of arcade classics, role-playing games, or fighting games, GameTap is the company to go with. So grab a broadband connection and ten dollars, and be apart of a service that is reliable and well worth the investment. It’s only too bad that something this convenient didn’t come around until this decade.

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Nostalgic Music 10

9 10 2009

Today on Nostalgic Music we go back to the middle of the nineties, when the SNES was on its’ way out and the N64 was kicking off the new generation for Nintendo.  One of those games that made the SNES farewell one to remember was Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars.  A game overlooked by many, Mario RPG was the joint effort of two of the greatest companies in gaming history: Squaresoft and Nintendo.  Alone they were fierce, but together they were a force no one wanted to deal with.  Combining Nintendo’s finest characters with Squaresoft’s RPG elements and sound crafting, Super Mario RPG stands as one of the most beloved games in history.

The song I’ve chosen for this game is undeniably the most popular, since it involves a certain mysterious protagonist; yeah, you know who I’m talking about.  Mario and Mallow teaming up with Geno against Bowyer was a hilarious moment, made even better with the following track — enjoy the Forest Maze.


Thanks to Youtube for the link.





E3 – Shigeru Miyamoto Hints at a New Zelda Wii

2 06 2009

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A few moments ago at his annual developer’s speech, Miyamoto mentioned a Zelda title in the works for the Wii.  There isn’t much information about it, in fact, at the moment there are only sketches of some main characters.  Regardless, it is always good to hear about a new Zelda in the vein of Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess.

Miyamoto went on to say that the game would feature a more mature Link, perhaps even older than the one seen in Twilight Princess.  This would be interesting to say the least, as most of the Link’s in the last few Zelda titles have been a tad younger (Wind Waker, Phantom Hourglass).  The new Zelda title will also most likely utilize the new MotionPlus device, which will make combat even more accurate.

That’s all for now, but check back as the information continues to pour in.

Source: Kotaku.com





E3 – Metroid: Other M Impressions

2 06 2009

SamusAranSamus is back and in a whole new dimension

Toward the end of the Nintendo conference earlier this morning, everyone had seen just about enough of charts, tween games, and odd peripherals (vitality checker?) — WTF indeed.  Thankfully, Reggie himself stepped onto the scene and introduced the core gamers to a variety of games, the last of which being the most surprising of them all.  No it wasn’t the fact that it was Metroid, we knew it was coming; it was how it was presented that stunned us.

Third person perspective?  Team Ninja? Voice acting?

Woah.

The newly titled Metroid: Other M seems to take place after the Metroid Prime Trilogy, with the emphasis on a possible new Metroid fighter.  The title “Other M” seems to indicate that Samus may be replaced in this new adventure, or perhaps step out of the spotlight for a bit.  Glad to see a Nintendo character that is willing to avoid the limelight for a while; yea, I’m talking to you Link and Mario.

Anyway, on closer inspection one can see that the game will take place in a third person perspective, with a mix of 2D and 3D elements surrounding the environment.  This is a welcome change, as the Metroid franchise was originally supposed to be a third person side-scroller/adventure.  Now I’m not saying that I didn’t enjoy the Prime series (well maybe Corruption), but it is good to see the franchise return to its roots (in some ways).

teamninja

With the recent news of Itagaki and most of his team leaving Team Ninja, it will be interesting to see how to remaining staff do with Other M.  From the trailer, it looks like several mechanics from Ninja Gaiden are already present in the game.  That being the advanced storyline and the acrobatic moves that Samus shows the first few minutes in.  Ridley looks bad-ass and better than ever, and the visuals, though unpolished, look to be some of the best the Wii has to offer.  As said earlier, it seems that Nintendo and its second parties are the only ones who can truly draw out the full power of the system . . . lazy third party developers.

The game is still far from completion, so there will definitely be more to come.  In the mean time check out the trailer from the game shown at E3 earlier today — definitely some hot stuff here.

Thanks to Youtube for the link.





Retro Review: Animal Crossing

8 05 2009

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Animal Crossing (Nintendo Gamecube)

Original release date: 09/15/02

You are a loner; one who is moving to a mysterious land for no apparent reason whatsoever. You have nothing with you, no one to accompany you, and no past to speak of. While daydreaming of what awaits you at your upcoming destination, a mild mannered creature sits in the booth in front of you. Curious at where this poor creature could be heading to, the cat named Rover, asks where you are heading. You adequately reply that you are moving, but have no home to look forward to when you get there. Shocked by the poor fool’s response, he offers to lend you a favor in the means of a job. A little inspired, you look forward to a bizarre land that may offer something unique and intriguing, something that you have never experienced before.

Welcome to the world of Animal Crossing.

It is definitely a strange title that only the people of Nintendo could bring to America. It is also as far away from a “real” life simulation as possible, despite the fact that it plays like one. Borrowing from similar genre-related titles such as Harvest Moon, this game puts you in the shoes of someone just trying to make a living. Your mission is to get situated into a new house of your choosing, get a job going, and keep the money flowing. Things do not start off easy for you though, as you come in as a homeless bum. However, help does arrive in the form of a raccoon. Yes, the odd little mammal named Tom Nook starts you off with a job to get you situated. As with other titles in the genre, patience is required to play a game like this, so do not expect action right off the bat. There is much to do, and even more time to do it, which brings around a plethora of angles in which to approach this game.

Interactivity abounds, in ways that you will both love and despise. Unlike past simulations with their own time management system, Animal Crossing does not have a stop-and-go style. This game has a real time clock; which means that if it is 12:00 AM on October 12, 2006, then that is the time on both sides of the coin. It is ever flowing, and you will see other town members going about their day, doing their own thing. Though it is fun to stalk your computerized friends for hours on end, there is a slight problem to this design. Say you have a daytime job and can only get on at night. Well, you will find that most of your village pals are asleep and unable to help you put that money in your pocket. It can be frustrating, especially if you had a set task to do for that day. So, to sum it up in a simple phrase . . . you need to have a lot of free time to play Animal Crossing.

With that said, there are some convenient positives about this time clock. Holidays and special events like Christmas and Halloween all occur on their respective dates. That way you will be able to do all the special events of the game without forgetting the day you can play them. However, that leads you to a new thought, ”Lets see, go out with my blind date to the Halloween party, or stay home and get that cool looking jack-o-lantern.” Well, unless you are really desperate for companionship, park yourself in your room and get that rare collectors item, just don’t tell anyone.

Speaking of which, the town members themselves make the game what it truly is. They each have their own personalities, and depending on how you act toward them, will affect the way they act toward you. One such way of earning their trust is doing errands for them. You will find yourself running from house to house trying to return game boys, pieces of clothing, or missing pieces of furniture. At times you will even swear that you are some sort of vassal to these slave drivers. Anyway, while it does not sound very intriguing, it is surprisingly engaging, pulling you in closer to the virtual community. As you make friends you will get letters and sometimes invitations to special events. If you act like a jerk to them they will not talk to you and probably ignore you most of the time. So, basically how you act will affect the flow of the game, for better or for worse. From the thought of a large community, you must be thinking about the implementation of a marriage system. Well, unfortunately since you are a human surrounded by talking animals, there is none. Despite this, the town system is effective in the fact that it is constantly interactive, providing a much more enjoyable experience.

As you are playing along, you will no doubt be aware of the simple control scheme going on. Also, the main menu gives you a chance to play around with a varied amount of options. You have your pack; where you can carry and hold a certain number of items. There is also the wallet, which displays how many bells (money) you currently have on you. However, it is the interchangeable character model system that turns out to be the most interesting of the features. Using the menu you can switch your sexy outfits, choose different tools, and select different items to give or drop. Now if you are familiar with Harvest Moon 64, then you will be glad to know that you control the main character just like that. No quibbles or distorted camera motions to speak of either, which provides a major sigh of relief, as it is usually the antagonist in this genre.

Yet another option Animal Crossing sports is the handheld to console connectivity. Connecting the Game Boy Advance with the Gamecube, you can make design patterns on your clothes, unlock special items, and even access a new island. The most thrilling element though is the town song variance system. You can keep the lively little default theme or even create your own town song. Feeling particularly demiurgic, I put together a version of “Saria’s Song” from the Ocarina of Time. Ah, you got to love it. And even if your’ inventive spirit is a little doused; there are plenty of catchy songs the game provides, that you can use to make your own customizable theme. There is so much to do here, and the sheer amount of secrets the game hides is immeasurable.

Suddenly feeling a bit nostalgic?

Well be sure to check out the many classic NES titles hidden within. Games like Balloon Fighter, Tennis, and Pinball have made great transitions over to the cube and are a great break from a long day of errand running. You, of course, have to earn them by finding them in special shops and events. There are a lot more available old school games than the ones listed, and all of them provide more of that delicious, old-school experience. Well, if anything it prevents the couch potatoes from having to switch systems.

The visuals of the game are dated, seeing as this was originally a 64 bit title; easily noticeable due to the simple environment, blocky displays, and occasional blurry textures. Alternatively, the sprites are cute, and the backgrounds blend well with this style, but they just do not take advantage of the system’s graphical texturing. Going a little more into character models, there is plenty of expressionism to be found, and the emotions of the characters are very light hearted and funny. If a character is sad, he or she will frown, and there will be a little rain cloud above their head. If you make them happy, they will laugh, and little “Ha Ha Ha” symbols will circle around their body. It is just the simple humor and rambunctious critters that increase the charm and provide a flipside view from the norm.

Improvement definitely occurs in the audio department. Character discussions involve familiar mumble tones, as the text displays what they are really saying. The sound effects of the game themselves are right on as well. Throwing random items in the lake and banging an axe against a tree all sound like they should. Musically present are some traditional chimes and, of course, the changeable town song that pops in here and there when you enter a certain area. As said earlier, there are plenty of great tunes that come along later in the game, so good things come to those who wait.

Repetition occurs in all sims and it will come early to some folks, which is my only small irk. One such example would be the flow of the game. Since this game is in real time, it can definitely be hard to get certain items or meet particular people. There is also only so many times that you will want to fish, do odd jobs, and search for that one unobtainable treasure. Neighbors will also often bug you with familiar tasks again and again; providing frustrating moments that will make you wish you were the only person living there. Though the traditional reoccurring style of simulations may turn off some folks, there is still some hope. Using unique codes corresponding to certain items, you can trade these sequences with people from the Internet. By doing this you can snag that obscure trinket or hidden piece of furniture you have been wanting for so long, motivating you to continue along.

At the end of the day, you are exhausted and ready to crash, knowing you have another engaging day ahead of you. It is bizarre Japanese style simulating at its finest, and provides enough twists and turns to keep the “Average Joe” comfortable for a while. There just happens to be something in simulations that puts you in the shoes of your character, more so than most role-playing titles do. Take that unique character creation and put it in an ever moving land, and you have something remarkable. This distinct world is ever moving, and it is this factor that can make or break it for those full time workers. Nevertheless, time is always progressing, and even if you are constantly occupied in life, your virtual world awaits you on the other side.

Verdict – 8/10





Pokemon Gold and Silver Remakes Officially Announced!

7 05 2009

PokemonHeartGoldSoulSilver

Well it looks like the announcement that we were all expecting finally came today.  Pokemon Gold and Silver, which many believe were the best two in the series, will be remade and available in Japan this fall.  The remakes will be called Pokemon Heart Gold and Pokemon Soul Silver, and most likely will feature some new additions, alongside that great sixteen gym adventure that the originals were famous for.

Based on the Japanese release date for the games, we can probably expect NA versions sometime between the spring and summer of 2010.  Just how long can the now 11 year old series continue to remain at the top?  Well, as long as people are willing to buy the games, and it looks to me like they haven’t had enough.  One thing is for certain though, capturing Ho-Oh and Lugia on the DSi will no doubt bring back some memories.

Source – http://www.pokemon.co.jp/info/game/g090508_01.html





Retro Review: Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask

5 05 2009

zeldamm

Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask (Nintendo 64)

Original release date: 10/25/2000

You’ve got a plan that could never go wrong. Taking a long vacation away from the world you just fought so hard for is what the doctor ordered. Exuberantly, you get on your steed and ride into the horizon. Yet darkness always waits unsuspectingly for the great Hero of Time, no matter the circumstance. Trekking slowly into an enchanting realm within a lush forest, you seem to detect something, but pay it no mind. There are ethereal spirits and wisps fluttering about the night sky creating an unsettling feeling, as if this is no ordinary place. You are finally coming toward your destination when your horse suddenly rears, sending you flying. An eerie creature grabs your belongings and rushes off ahead, leaving you in the dust. Taking heed, you quickly rush off toward the demon to confront him. However, things don’t go over so well when you finally corner him. In an unspeakable manner of sorcery you are suddenly thrown into a vision reverting you into a pitiful Deku scrub.

Could this be a nightmare?

Luckily, one of the two fairies that was traveling with the odd sorcerer is now left behind with you. Wanting to be reunited with her brother and the dark being again, she joins up with you for the moment, giving helpful advice along the way. Finally, after you make your way back to town, you confront a jolly man who seems to be a mask collector. He is determined to transform you to your former self as long as you retrieve a particular mask for him. By his description, it is the same mask worn by the very monster that put the curse on you. As you begin your quest to return to normal, you notice the moon, but it has a terrifying face. A strange premonition comes over you, and through hints and clues, you find out that the star will crash into the planet in three short days — better get moving.

Putting you in a dire situation in a dark new world is what one would think of as a positive addition to the Zelda line. Majora’s Mask is really the first title in the series to go down a separate path, rather than the tiresome “rescue the princess” charade. So, in an astute sense, it is the story of this game that drives it along. However, it is the supposed sequel to the timeless classic, Ocarina of Time. How on earth can you bounce back from such an enormous hit? Of course the idea seemed simple enough. Put Link in a completely different world and situation but keep the main elements of the original Nintendo 64 classic in tact. While it all sounds well and good, one cannot shake the sense of mediocrity emanating from the overall design. Majora’s Mask certainly tries to be innovative, but takes on the curse of trying to do too much at once.

On a positive note, the battle system from Ocarina of Time is used again in this installment. With the lock-on targeting system in place, combat has never felt more in depth. The fluid movement and simple controls coincide with an excellent camera that brings everything into an incomparable unison. But, one cannot help but feel a pre-emptive sense of déjà-vu throughout the progression from area to area. What makes matters worse is the fact that this new land feels much smaller than Hyrule, and the people that inhabit it are nearly identical to the citizens of such. Even though there are new towns and different environments to progress through, it is safe to assume that Nintendo overused the copy and paste button a bit too much.

This assumption is made apparent again as you journey through lands inhabiting previously seen races. The rocky Gorons, plant-like Deku, and enchanting water humanoids known as the Zora make their appearance again and it makes you wonder — are these the only beings in existence? What makes you forget about these troublesome rehashes is the fact that you can actually play as them. With the arrival of each new mask, the fundamentals of play from the original seem to slowly vanish, bringing a somewhat fresh element to the table. All in all, there are four temples in the game with intriguing puzzles and platform situations that help contribute to the use of these masks. At times you may have to transform into a Goron to roll over that narrow hill, engage the Deku scrub’s helicopter technique to cross a canyon, or use the boomerang fin trait of the Zora to hit a far-off switch. The classic puzzles that have become a staple in the Zelda series are all here, and the timing of them in each dungeon brings together a feeling of balance.

The other half of the proverbial pie for this series has always been exploration. From the early days on the NES to the fairly recent release of Wind Waker, sighting new territories and searching through every nook and cranny has always been part of the series’ tradition. However, as much you may want to explore this unique world, your concentration will always be distracted by one controversial detriment. This being, the falling moon and the time system deriving from it. Why, oh why do you add something like this into an adventure title that just begs to be seen? Maybe it would be easily ignorable to some, but that constant pressure of being rushed really speeds up the play, and shortens the value much more than it could have been.

That’s not to say there aren’t options available to deal with this nuisance though. Using your ocarina, you can slow and speed up time, or play unique songs which help contribute to puzzle solving. The essence of the clock moves in a similar fashion to games like the Harvest Moon series. Meaning a couple minutes in the real world is an hour or two in game, adding up to maybe five or six hours before the third day strikes. Learning how to control the clock at the right moment is interesting, but with one slip you can end up wasting a lot of time just trying not to lose your belongings. This correlates the save system to the balance of time, and you will need to revert to the first day to save . . . every single time. In the process you lose minor items such as arrows, rupees, and bombs, in addition to the people you met in that particular run forgetting your face. Also, certain events will only happen at particular moments, meaning you may have to wait prolonging periods of time, in boredom, until the situation eventually occurs. Yet, if there is a saving grace to this variation of ups and downs, it would have to be the boss fights.

From the enormous mechanical beast Goht to the maniacal sword toting shaman Odalwa, the confrontations do not disappoint. In fact, ignoring the simple enemies and ongoing ticking of the clock is key if you desire to get to these epic clashes. Each antagonist has their own style of combat and the masks play an integral role in finding unique ways to damage them. Think of Ocarina of Time‘s bosses but with more strategy involved and much more concentration required on your part. The bosses are even replay-able after you conquer them, which is an option its predecessor could have benefited with.

The music truly mirrors what is happening on screen, and definitely keeps you entranced throughout. Brand new ocarina tunes can be heard echoing alongside the classic Zelda theme, which was disappointingly absent from Ocarina of Time. The slow, melodramatic notes that play within the various temples will keep you on your feet, while a new remix of the Kakariko Village theme helps liven the consistent visits to Clock Town. Sound effects remain the same as the game’s predecessor; with sword slashes, bomb explosions, and deku nut flashes all sounding like they normally would. There isn’t any voice acting and the inclusion of a few more fresh ocarina songs would have been nice, but overall the audio certainly doesn’t falter.

Another impressive feature that Majora’s Mask has going for it is the ability to update your weapons. While you may remain a kid throughout the whole duration of the game, it is the sword upgrades that make up for this. And the missions behind their creations help bring about the only sense of challenge that coincides with the time rush. So it may just be worth it to continue progressing along, no matter how much you may dislike the new game-play system.

Majora’s Mask is truly a double-edged sword. The dark and overshadowing theme mixed with excellent boss fights and great battle mechanics bring the short-lived experience alive. Yet, the menacing time system and abundantly reused character models bring down the charm a bit. If you have never played Ocarina of Time, then by all means play this one first. The similarities may get to long time fans of the Legend of Zelda, but newcomers will not be affected by this in any way. And while it may lack polish and seem like a rushed effort at times, it is the mere point that it is a quality Zelda title that drives the force behind a confident recommendation.

Verdict – 7/10