Saturday, February 27, 2016

Friday Night Rentals: Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

A copy of a game I haven't beaten...yet

Yeah, you read that caption right. I've never beaten Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Fact of the matter, I wish I had, but I just so frustrated by it, I allowed myself to not be engaged. Yup, you read that right, for some reason, I was never grabbed by this particular Legend of Zelda game. I was too frustrated by the game to get all the way through it. I plowed through every other Legend of Zelda that I own.  Ganon never stood a chance and Hyrule's salvation was all but assured. 

...but there's a certain point that has hung me up nearly every time that I play Twilight Princess.  Even after I pass that certain point, I feel annoyance at it's existence.  Yes, with utmost clarity I can narrow down my annoyance to one particular point:

Time to feed a stupid cat...

Yup, that moment right at the beginning of the game where you need to go fishing to lure a cat, to get it steal your fish and run home, to make the owner happy the cat has returned, so that she'll sell you a necessary item.  It was as tedious a side quest as one can think of in my opinion, and it happened right off the bat. What's worse, it was a side quest that I likely would have skipped given the choice.

Now don't get me wrong, I realize side quests have a long and glorious tradition within the Legend of Zelda universe. I like doing them most of the time, but admit I haven't completed every single one for every single game. Although getting a fully loaded set of hearts makes you feel like you could take Ganon down in one stroke; I just found myself eventually wanting to just beat the game and skipping some hunts and side quests.  So, imagine my frustration when I find the rescue of princess Zelda, the defeat of Ganon, the very salvation of Hyrule itself...hinges on you being able to catch a fish and feed a cat at the beginning of the game.  

Now, to be fair, in Ocarina of Time, you have to do a few side quest-esque things before you can go inside the Deku tree. However, those side quests both functioned to get you the sword and a shield, and they also provided you an opportunity to learn how to control your sword and do some basic blocking.  Likewise in Majora's Mask, you have to do a series of side quests before you get to the main task of freeing yourself from the "Terrible fate" of imprisonment in deku scrub form. However, you aren't just sent running around pointlessly grabbing moon tears and shrub contracts for nothing. Majora's Mask is teaching you a bit of the core of the game play and mechanics as well, specifically that of time management and task fulfillment within the game's three day cycle. These side quests were well crafted and cleverly integrated into the game both in terms of function and storytelling.

So what does feeding a cat have to do with learning core game play?  Does this cat tie in later in the game?  Do you and Ganon engage in an epic fish-off for the fate of Hyrule?


You just putz around a fishing hole like a retiree while trying to satisfy some stupid cat's afternoon munchies.  I love the Legend of Zelda games, but this was ridiculous. It brought the game to a screeching halt in terms of both action and story flow.  It took too long to figure out the right way to fish, the right fish to catch, and where to stand so as to trigger the "event" of the cat standing nearby and stealing said fish.  I'm not sure if that's because I always played it on the Wii and such slow plotting doesn't happen on the Gamecube version--my assumption is that the game is pretty much the same though.

I did play the game past catching the fish and feeding the cat.  But the damage was already done. I had gotten so bored with the game before things had a chance to ramp up, that I felt like I was plodding along, not enjoying the game as much as I would have had I not gotten stuck doing menial work so early on. I own the game, but I actually wished a few times that I had only rented it over the weekend, such was my annoyance and dissatisfaction.  

Naturally, I can't wait for the HD version to be released.

Booyah! Can't wait!

Yup, you read that part right. I can't wait. Despite the frustration, despite sometimes wishing it was just another Friday night rental; I'm a long time Legend of Zelda fan at heart and love everything about the story line and series. I'm not just looking forward to updated graphics or how great the soundtrack will sound in HD, or even Amiibo functionality (although those are definitely pluses). I'm looking forward to the opportunity to get back into this game from a fresh, but familiar perspective. I want to beat this game. I want to see the ending.  The world created in the Legend of Zelda series is so engaging, so fun, so well written that I love returning to it time and time again.  It's like a careworn novel I want to read again until the pages start to fall out, but want to read once more.

Whether the old frustrations will kick in, I'm not sure, but one thing is for sure. After 30 years of Legend of Zelda games, it still feels great to rescue Zelda and defeat Ganon; becoming not only another person who beat the game, but the hero of Hyrule.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Midweek Music Box: Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

Classic Music from an Epic Game

Time traverse the high seas!  Can you feel the wind in your face, the palpable excitement in the air?
Continuing with a Legend of Zelda-themed week, let's talk about The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker.  I love this soundtrack from start to finish, but let me single out three of my all time favorite soundtracks from this game:

Intro Music:

First I want to talk a little about the Intro Music. What a fitting way to start this Midweek Music Box, right?:

"Intro Music"

I guess it's time to confess something: As much as I like the Intro Music for Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask, it just hasn't stuck with me the way the rest of those games' music has.  Ocarina of Time has so many iconic tracks , and "Final Hours" from Majora's Mask still gives me chills. Yet...Something about the Intro Music from Wind Waker has stuck with me over the years. Whereas the others had a more somber tone, this tune felt so...jubilant. I truly felt like Link was not only destined for adventure, but he'll have fun along the way. Not that I wasn't having fun before, but Link always seemed so grim.  This time Link actually might have a bit of fun along the way, I guess being a kid helps.The simple drum beat, a whistle that has an organic quality about--as if you can image the notes piping out from a hand carved flute, and a fiddle merrily plucked.  Perhaps that fiddle alone imbues the tune with such joy.

Great Sea Theme

Nothing like the spray of the ocean in your face, the smell of salt in the air, and the cry of seagulls to get an adventure going!  And admittedly, it takes a little while to get your true adventure going enough to the point you actually hear this particular tune, arguably the most iconic theme of LoZ: The Wind Waker.

Each dip and crescendo of the strings makes it feel as if the composers found a way to capture the sound of ocean waves within music. The trumpet calls are perfect, the use of strings is perfect--can you tell that this song is in my top three favorite Legend of Zelda tunes of all time? Of course I'm directing you to a ten hour version of the song! I would say the only way I end up growing tired of it before the 10 hour mark is when my heart can no longer take pining for a real-life ocean adventure that never seems to come. (Usually that only happens around the 9 hour, 59 minute mark.)

Boss Clear Fanfare

Short and to the point, this buoyant little melody doesn't last that long, but sure packs the punch it needs to:  
Boss Clear Fanfare

Now, I think it's fair to say pretty much all Zelda games have Boss Clear or Boss Defeated music that truly makes you feel as if you've accomplished something. But to me, they always have such a serious undertone that I merely nod my head approvingly after the win. Like a parent saying, "Well done son. Now hurry on to the next quest, the next dungeon, no time for dilly-dallying." Let me give a quick example from Ocarina of Time so you can hear what I mean:

"Boss Clear"

Kettle drums resound, a cymbal clashes, digit string instruments play, followed by a kettle drum roll and final, epic cymbal clash.  Great stuff for sure, but still a bit on the darker side. Adventurin' is serious stuff ya know.  Then here's the Boss Clear Fanfare again from Wind Waker:

"Boss Clear Fanfare"

What starts off sounding as serious as the Boss Clear tunes of old transitions into what you might almost consider a joyous, celebratory song. How appropriate that the kid/cartoon link jumps and hops for joy.  He's not only excited at having survived, he's giddy at having accomplished so much. The celebratory nature of the tune is so infectious, I almost feel like punching the air in victory when I defeat an enemy.

Final Thoughts on Wind Waker Soundtrack:

I have written more stories, finished more creative works, and plowed through more difficult sessions of cleaning thanks to the LoZ: Wind Waker soundtrack.  I think the only that comes close to this is the 10 hour loop of Daft Punk's "Around the World."  I love every inch of this sound track. From the simple, quick tunes that announce you've found a piece of heart to the songs that help establish the setting of a particular dungeon or character interaction--there's just to much music to love here.  So why not give the whole soundtrack a listen?
Complete Wind Waker Soundtrack

Pretty fantastic stuff and a worthy entry into the 30 years and counting that Legend of Zelda has been with us.

Monday, February 22, 2016

A Quest Not Beaten: Legend of Zelda Memories.

The Legend of Zelda turned 30 this past Sunday, and perhaps you don't need another article to tell you how awesome of game Zelda is, do you?  Because if you don't already know that it's one of the best game series on the planet, then please go and read one of the dozens of articles--actually, I take that back.  Just go and play the freaking game!  Then you'll know for yourself why this game still remains one of the most incredible franchises of all time. When it appeared on the scene 30 years ago, it was unlike anything out there--at least, anything that I had ever played.  I almost did a "Friday Night Rentals" article about the original Legend of Zelda as it was one of those games that I rented back in the day. However, I actually got this game as a kid and even if I were to write about it, so much has already been said I wouldn't know where to begin. (Not that one more article would never appear, just not something I want to write about at this time).  Instead, I wanted to talk a bit about my experience beating the original game for the first time and that fabled second quest. 

Anywho, before we talk about some good ol' fashioned Legend of Zelda goodness for a bit, lets cue the intro music:

Ah, what better way to begin an epic quest than a bit of spirited music? Now, from the title of this article you might think I was implying that I never beat the game. Let me be honest about that....

Of course I beat the game! Geez!  It was too fantastic to put down, too rad not to play all the way through! My dad even sat down and played the game a bit such was his level of impressed-ness.  Now, it took a while to beat this game as a kid--heck, I'm no speed runner--it still takes a bit of work. What a fantastic, and new concept. An open world, full of danger and excitement. This was a Hyrule unlike the iterations we've come to know. There are no side towns, no castle settings or separate lands. Just you and a wilderness full of monsters. Yeah, there's the occasional shop keeper trying to sell potions and make a quick buck. Heck, you might stumble upon a bearded hermit wanting to give you a sword thanks to how dangerous it is to go alone out there.

So when I defeated Ganon, assembled the Triforce and rescued Zelda, it was pretty clear that was it. The game was beaten.

But no!  There was a second quest! Why? Did Zelda plan on resurrecting Ganon and letting him kidnap her again? Did the Ocarina of Time blast you into another dimension where you were back to the swordless, three-hearted whimp you were at the beginning?  I guess so, because you can start the game shortly after beating it and try The Legend of Zelda's infamous second quest.  Here, all but the first dungeon and sword-giving hermit had moved. Nothing was as it used to be...well, except for the whole "collect-the-Triforce-pieces-and-save-Zelda" thing. So how did I react to this?

At first, I was really into the whole idea of playing through the game a second time. I had a ton of fun doing it the first time around, why not do it a second time that was a bit more challenging? Sure, it was a bit harder, and navigating the first letter-shaped dungeon resulted in numerous deaths and do-overs; yet I was still having fun. Just as suddenly though, my excitement waned.  

"Why was I playing the same game again?" I would think to myself. Hadn't I saved Hyrule already? What was the point of beating it again? Was the ending likely to change? And so, I ended up talking myself out of it.  What was the point of playing a harder version of an already beaten game? I was just a kid then, and for whatever reason, I convinced myself tht finishing off the second quest was a waste of time. 

Dumb, I know, but...yeah, as a kid I just had sooooo much time devoted to the other, "more important" things (like skateboarding and watching cartoons, I guess) that I just didn't have time for another round of The Legend of Zelda. I guess now, you might call it a "gamer regret."

Oh sure, I still have the Nintendo and my original copy of Zelda, I even downloaded it on to my WiiU via the eShop so I could pop it on through the merest push of a button. Even with that going for me, I still haven't beaten the second quest in Legend of Zelda. I've gotten a fair ways in it, to be sure. For a while I incorrectly thought I remembered actually beating the second quest until I realized there were some dungeons so well hidden that I had no clue, no memory of having found them before.Then it all came flooding back.  Years later though, the truth is, I don't know if I'll ever get through that second quest. Blasphemy for a Zelda fan. Even as I type it I have a hard time believing it.

Yes, I know there are walk-thrus and hints so readily available that it's ridiculous. None of us had the kind of gaming advice back then that you do now. It was you and an issue of Nintendo Power you hoped had the hint you needed. If not, better luck next month.  So maybe I've run out of excuses. 

Maybe, rather than sharing gratuitous (and awesome) montage shots to Legend of Zelda through the years, a better tribute would be to finally buckle down and beat that second quest.  Maybe, just maybe the hour to rescue princess Zelda for a second time has finally arrived!

(Cue gratuitous box art montage)

One of the best soundtracks ever.

An epic Epic of epic epicness...

And of course this little gem that I ....

...Wait. An HD remaster of Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess comes out soon?  Guess I'll be too busy to finish that second quest after all....maybe.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Midweek Music Box: Shamus (Atari 800)

Stuff of  Nightmares....

Sometimes you don't need a full blown orchestra to convey a game's tone.  Sometimes you don't need NES chip tunes to get your skin crawling. For me, sometimes all you need are two or three notes to flood my mind with childhood memories of panic and sheer terror.  Heck, hearing the musical cues I'm about to talk about gives me the willies to this day.

Nope, not here to talk about the theme to Shamus for the Atari 800.  Well, not entirely.  Don't get me wrong though, I love the version of the Alfred Hitchcock Presents Theme that plays at the intro. It was pretty impressive back then, and it still impresses me today. I guess it still holds up as one of my favorite versions of the song. That said here is the original Alfred Hitchcock Presents Theme from the original show:

"Alfred Hitchcock Presents Theme"

It's a great tune, has a bit of mystery and intrigue in it, and it was perfect for ol' Alfred Hitchcock's show.  Heck, it stands up on it's own whether in 8-bit form or otherwise. I like hearing variations on classic tunes and this was no exception.  How ever great it was to hear the tune getting chip tuned the heck out of it, it's not the theme that comes to my mind when I think of the game Shamus.  What I am going to talk about really isn't a theme, but more of a music cue like I mentioned before. Every time I heard it as a kid my heart would race and I'd run my character to the exit or actually just ram my guy into a wall to kill him off so I didn't have to see what would follow.  Cast your eyes on the horror:

You see him? There he is!  The hopping Devil himself!  The Shadow!!!


Oh, okay, fine. If you aren't terrified, clearly you never played this game as a kid.  I know this little guy seems to do little in the way of "heart-pounding-terror" one might expect. But I was only about five when my parents got this game and it scared me half to death. Not only were you navigating odd, seemingly endless corridors, danger around every corner--but if you took too long in a room, just a few moments, the Shadow would come pouncing out from one of the corners of the screen and try to murder you. What really sold that fear though; what really sent me into a panic were those few, simple little notes that would play before he hoped out.  Take watch and listen to what I mean:


It was only a few notes to clue you into the fact some mad, hopping beast was about to jump down your throat, but that's all it took for me to nearly burst into tears from fright.  Hey, I was five at the time and the concept of a monster running at you from out of nowhere was a very real possibility back then. Monsters were plentiful back then, lurking under every bed and in every closet. Having such an idea reinforced by a video game only made it worse.  I think my parents may have even kept me from playing Shamus unless they were around, such was my level of fright. It didn't keep me from wanting to play though. I was ready for a scare, oh, okay. So I wasn't ready.

Okay, maybe through the lens of time the scare doesn't seem to hold up. Maybe, just maybe, those few notes that announce that you've dallied a little too long and might be toast don't seem as frightening now when placed up against games with hordes of zombie themed games, jump-scares like Five Night's at Freddies, or even your average slightly spooky flash game.

But by golly does it still creep me out. So who needs the rest of those things and whatever soundtracks they might offer when just a couple of notes can transport me back to the mid-80's and help me to remember, really remember, what it was like to be frightened as a child.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Friday Night Rentals: Super Contra

Hey there kids! Do you need a game with that Contra feel, but extra punishing and so difficult you'll have broken your controller before you realize what you've done?


Well, no need to look any further, because we've taken your regular Contra game and made it about a million times better!  In fact it's down right super!


That's right, it's time to talk Super C for the NES. And boy howdy, I can remember getting so angry at this game back when I was a kid. Why did I get so angry? Well, for starters I got almost nowhere in the game thanks to the fact my beloved Konami code wasn't working. Not that I needed it all the time for the original Contra, but a security blanket was a nice thing to have every now and then. Only would get a few stages in, lose all my continues and lives, and then that was it. It was time to start all over again.  I seem to recall actively trying to enjoy this game back in the day. Guess I was a little spoiled with the old school Konami code, and not knowing this actually did have an extra life code, I tried to beat this game legitimately like the chump I was.  Well, thanks to the power of the internet I found out that I was mistaken all these years and there actually WAS an extra life code!  But as I wanted to see how things went this time around playing (and now finally owning the game), I thought I play again to see if I fared any better and enjoyed the game a second time around.  So how was it to relive the game?

So, those pesky aliens are back, trying to conquer the world, and for whatever reason they have managed to recruit some humans to help them. Thankfully you've got a slew of weapons to send your treacherous fellow humans to well-deserved graves. Oh, and unleash hell on the aliens as well.  All your favorite weapons are back from spread gun to machine gun. Of course, the utterly useless laser gun has come back as well, proving once again that clearly your enemies will fool you into thinking the laser is awesome--when of course this isn't true. In fact, I almost see it as dangerous as walking around without a gun. In fact, it might be more dangerous to use the laser than to just trying to run and avoid enemy fire as you will be tempted to use the laser and die as a result.

Gameplay pretty much feels like the original Contra, which means you're in for some run-and-gun awesomeness. I wasn't kidding earlier when I said that the game can get punishing at times.  The first stage, while easy-ish, still seems to have a steep learning curve and it won't be long before you're expect to dodge weapons fire from all directions. It's especially frustrating when trying to run along along and dodge some cover-based bomb chucker--only to have some jerk bum-rush you from behind.

It's still fun though. I mean what boy back then didn't want to sit down and play as a machine-gun toting, muscled up beef-cake? In the 80's and early 90's you had guys like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sly Stallone plowing through bad guys like a fat guy with a bag of Doritos. It was an all guts, no glory type of gameplay that took no prisoners and surrender wasn't an option. It was like that with the original Contra and that action had returned full force.

The always tight control of Contra is still there in Super C, and that's both good and bad because as difficult as the game gets, you know that you were responsible for running your character into a bomb blast or bullet. No ridiculously bad hit boxes here. If you weren't tough enough to dodge a bullet, you probably didn't deserve to beat the game.

Oh, and the musical goodness from the original Contra? Don't worry, it's still here!

Gad, I miss old school Konami. Doesn't that sound track just ooze action? The beats, the tempo, the digitized drum beats. If it weren't for the fact I'm writing this little memory I'd probably pop the game in again just so I could have my guy running along and blowing away baddies to this music. 

Final Thoughts:

Confession time: when I rented this game as a kid, I only really gave it a try on the first night. Oh, I tried late into the night for sure (well, at least I tried as late as my parents allowed me to stay up). But when Saturday morning came, I tried only one or two more times. I think when Sunday rolled around I was well ready to return the game. What a pain! I was used to conquering games in a weekend, or at least left feeling like given a few more minutes I could beat it. But no, I gave up. Why? Because the game felt impossible!  When you rent a game as a kid you want to beat that game, show it who's boss--just like Arnie would!  Clearly the game was too hard and the programmers has screwed up, making an game that was impossible to beat.

Naturally, I love this game now. I get to blow up bad guys and aliens, how cool is that? Yeah, my perspective has changed. I no longer see it as just too hard or as a possibly "broken" game. It was beatable then, and it's certainly beatable now. I'm truly glad in how I've grown as a gamer....

But not nearly as glad as I am that I finally figured out that extra life code.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Midweek Music Box: Game Trailers (Game Trailer Tribute)

Yet another great site for game info, sneak peaks, news, trailers has shuttered its doors. Yes, sad to say GameTrailers has closed recently thanks to thoughtless overlords at Defy Media. It's sad to think one of the places that first introduced me to the Angry Video Game Nerd just went *poof* overnight, leaving a hole in the game news industry and ensuring that more of us might end up going to the beast-I mean Kotaku--for video game related new.  Truly, a sad thought indeed. Thankfully we can take comfort and cheer in the fact that awesome game trailers still exist, as well as the music that helps to sell them. So, in honor of one of my favorite video games sites I'm listing off a few of my favorite game trailers. Now, these by no means represent a comprehensive top five, but maybe one day some of them will make it on a top ten list....

Until then, lets kick back and listen and watch, shall we?

Metroid Prime 3

I make no bones about how much I love the music from Metroid Prime 3. I think it's just fantastic in every way. The others were great, so why shouldn't the third? What I didn't expect was this:

Metroid Prime 3 Aurora Unit Teaser

A trailer that not only showcases the fantastic way in which the Metroid Prime series could set tone through minimalist music, but a great throwback in both visual and story form alike. Then that ending music fades from the newer Metroid Prime music to something as old and familiar as Mother Brain herself.

Scott Pilgrim vs the World

A video game about a movie based on a book with surreal reality where video game rules ala' River City Ransom are a fact of life? Now there's a game I need! It had such a great visual style, the music was fun and peppy sounding, and the whole trailer was cut in such a way you could help but sense the enthusiasm:

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World game trailer

So naturally I got the Xbox 360 system game AFTER the game gets pulled thanks to stupid Ubi Soft letting the licensing expire. Thanks guys, you ruined my childhood! Well, maybe not my childhood, but definitely the chance for me to play a game that look like it kicked all sorts of butt. How could it not? Thankfully I can still watch gameplay and listen to that great chiptune goodness via various Youtube uploads.

Gears of War 3

Thankfully, there are games out there with excellent trailers that I CAN still get on the Xbox 360, and one of those games is Gears of War 3. So what music does the Gears of War 3 trailer have in it that pulled me in and made me wish to play the game?

Gears of War 3

By 2011, plenty of interesting trailers had come out in an attempt to showcase the hi-res graphics and gameplay the Xbox 360 was capable of, yet I never was really convinced to save up and get one. Shocking, I know! But as a Nintendo fanboy, I could never part with my hard earned cash for a system unless my beloved Nintendo had made it for they could do no wrong.

Shut up you.

When I saw the trailer for Gears of War 3 though, I new I had to eventually get an XBox 360. True, I'd never played the earlier installments of Gears of War. Also true, I had little frame of reference as to what the heck had happened in the previous games. Yet something about seeing a battle weary soldier looking across a devastated city, staring bleakly into a puddle of water, his own battered face the only trustworthy companion--all paired with Gary Jules's rendition of the song "Mad World"...that gave me chills. I guess when a trailer gives me chills, it's pretty much in the bag that I'll want the game--even if it means grabbing a whole new system and playing through two sequels to get there.


Don'tcha just loves it when a game has great animation, tons of fun (and funny) characters, all what taking place in a world that's so bizarre, so insane you can't help but wish you were there? Guacamelee from Drink Box Studios went above and beyond the call of duty creating a game that took place in a world all its own.

Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition

I've gushed extensively about how you should go out and download the soundtrack, now let me gush about how the game trailer did such a fantastic job showcasing the world you were about to enter. Super powered luchadors? Talking goats? Vengeful skeletons? Pop culture references both modern and obscure? Oh heck yeah! The trailer promised and delivered all while set to a fantastic, futuristic mariachi beat. It makes me wish I had some killer fiesta to attend or that it was already Cinco de Mayo so I could have an excuse to blare the soundtrack all day long.


I'll finish this video game trailer talk by giving a quick nod to Teslagrad, another game on the Wii U which I reviewed a little while ago.
Teslagrad Launch Trailer

Not only did the game look like a clever and engaging platformer, I was so drawn in by the music that I just had to get the game for that reason alone. Well, okay, maybe not just that reason. I wanted to try out an indie game or two for my Wii U, and this was one of those games that not only drew me into its world, but far surpassed the expectations I had from viewing the trailer. Definitely a more difficult game than I was expecting, but great fun nevertheless. The game promised challenge, and what's more it promised a type of music that left me yearning to hear more. I'm glad I got the game because even when I've died over and over again, I can take solace in the fact that the music is so good.

Well, there you have it. Not exactly a comprehensive list, I'll admit. However, I'm just me and not an entire business like GameTrailers was. "Was"...geez, what a terrible way to think of it. So many great gaming sites and people in the gaming industry have fallen to the weight of "was." At least I can turn to good ol' and find some great content their still..



Thanks for everything GameTrailers! I hope all of you who worked there end up somewhere great, and are well appreciated for all you do. I know that I for one appreciated it. Thanks.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Friday Night Rentals: Iron Tank

Kinda funny that a number of games on the NES involved WWII. Whether it was Capcom's 1942 or 1943 or SNK's Iron Tank, there was something both compelling and fun about playing as a WWII vet. Maybe it was because of how clear the line was between good and evil. Fascism vs. Freedom, Allies vs. the Axis Powers. Good controls vs. confusing ones....Well, enough digression into history--let's play a video game!

I was a kid and as such I understood the basic fun of the game back then and still do today: Battling foes in a tank seems like a fun time, especially when you can plow over enemies foolish enough to run at you without benefit of a tank, their uniform their only means of cover. C'mon guys! In a battle between a 20-ton iron death machine and wool, who did you think would win? Especially since I get power ups for running over you. I mean seriously, this only works for me.  Kidding aside, rolling along and rolling over enemy soldiers never grows old in the game, and it kinda makes it a shame when enemy tanks show up and put the kibosh on your whole, "Plow'em into the ground" strategy.  You can shoot a machine gun and have a variety of tank-shell power ups to use when fighting baddies, but really, did I mention the running over Nazi's thing?

In case you hadn't guesses, you're playing an overhead tank shooter game where you, and you alone are storming Normandy. Yup, the rest of the army just couldn't be bothered to show up in this version of D Day. So it's all up to you to take the beach, wipe out the Nazis, and save the world.

Anywho, although you can fire on bad guys and the power ups are interesting, I never really got used to the way you operate the tank. Pressing the "A" button shoots the machine gun, pressing "B" launches a missile, but ALSO controls what direction your turret faces. Now, this really has some advantages when you've got a slew of enemies attacking up front and want to have a bit of a rearguard. However, I felt like I constantly had to remind myself how to control the turret so it wouldn't fire uselessly into the bushes or keeping firing at an already dead enemy. Not that it's terrible or can't be learned, just the curve feels a bit steep. I guess as a kid, renting this game felt like a steep curve then and it does now as I STILL don't have a copy of the instructions in front of me. I mean, goofing around with it a bit helps you learn well enough, but sometimes trying to get to know the control scheme of a NES game while Nazi's are shooting at you feels like a bit much.

Let me take a second to point to something that I really do like about the game right off the bat, and that's the music from the game:

"Iron Tank Soundtrack"

I don't know about you, but music like this sure puts me in the mood to fight Nazi's and kick all sorts of butt in WWII.  You just gotta love the pattering snare drum beat that always seems to appear in games like this. Not only does it make the game have an underlining military feel, but accompanied by the various synthesizer crescendos, the whole thing feels like parade drill, on overdrive, in the 80's.  More specifically, an action adventure version of how WWII would have played out. I love bombastic soundtracks like this because not only do get you in the mood for the game, but they make you feel like you're playing a console version of an 80's action flick.  Tell me you can't imagine your character as some brawny muscle man with a thick accent and the capability of wielding a machine gun the size of a redwood.

Final Thoughts

I wanted to like this game a bit more when I popped it in for review, and honestly I had such a migraine this past Friday (part of the reason the review is up later) I thought it was effecting my enjoyment of playing Iron Tank. Sadly, even crushing Nazi's under tank tread can grow old. After dying over and over and over again, I found myself not so much thrown into the action as I was just trying to learn enemy patterns so that I could progress a bit further. At first I thought the game was Nintendo hard because of this. In fact, I don't remember if I made it that far playing it as a kid seeing as I likely mistook the game as one of those infamously hard games. Nope, it's just pattern recognition. Playing, dying, and repeating until you eventually reach the end.

Of course, I still found it a bit fun to play, and not just because the music was awesome (and still is).  Rather, it's because this time, as an adult, I had learned to patiently plug along. Not that I didn't memorize patterns back in the day, just that sometimes beating a game like this took greater degrees of patience then my nine year old self was willing to put up with. It almost makes me wish that as a kid I wouldn't have gotten frustrated with it so quickly.


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Midweek Music Box: Epyx/Jumpman Theme

Let's rollback time to the 1980's this week on the Midweek Music Box and talk some Atari 800 platforming.  There are so many great tunes out there from the past 10 to 20 years, sometimes you forget about the beginnings of video game music and need to see how far we've come...and how sometimes programmers worked with so little and created something epic, or should I say Epyx?

Yes puns are on the plate as well as Atari, so let's take some time talking about the theme from a gaming classic, Jumpman! but before I get too far into it, I have to say, I love the little jig that Jumpman does during the intro of the game and song. You essentially have the main character dancing to his own theme song, then immediately runs off screen, and into the action, showcasing the awesome time you're soon going to have....

But then I would immediately hit the reset button just to hear that awesome little ditty again and see Jumpman do his thing. I don't know if that was really good for my family's Atari 800, me just arbitrarily hitting the reset button like that. Truthfully, I didn't really give it a second thought because--ooo!  Here it comes again!

"Jumpman/Epyx Theme"

Isn't that just great? Granted, the composer didn't have much to work with, we are talking about an Atari 800 after all. However, rather than having an excuse of "limitations of the time" the composer created a seemingly simple ditty that gives a bit more than many modern tunes create while having the benefit of a full orchestra.  It's bouncy and peppy and crescendos at just the right moment and even has a great little finish. Sure it doesn't have much in terms of length, but it does tell you all you need to know. You are in for a fun time and a bit of an adventure. Yes, it's great when a game like Skyward Sword or Kingdom Hearts gives you a full throat-ed orchestra to help clue you in to the emotions of a game, but it need not always be that way.

Shouldn't fun game music, regardless of length, trigger just the right emotions? Jumpman's theme feels so adventurous, so full of energy, so...well, joyous.  Yeah, in the game you're disarming bombs. Yeah, even a small misstep means that you go tumbling down to the bottom like you're part of a human pachinko machine. Yeah, you're dodging sentient bullets that seem content to amble along until they notice you in their path--then BOOM, it's murder time!  But dang it, that opening song is so peppy, so hummable/whistleable; it's few short notes convey everything you would want from a game.  

A bit of excitement. A bit of action. And a whole lotta fun.