128-Bit, 16-Bit, 64-Bit, Franchise features, gaming

Tokyochuchu on: Starfox

Ah… Those sacred days of unboxing a new console. Is there anything better in life? If you answered “no” then you should seriously get yourself a girlfriend. But hot bother between the sheets not withstanding, new consoles are ace! One of my favorite memories was unwrapping my girlfriends ti… oh, wait. Ahem. One of my favorite memories was unwrapping my brand new Super Nintendo on Christmas day. The game bundled with the console? None other than epic space shooter Starfox (or Starwing as it was called in the UK back then).

"Incoming Enemy." Still sends chills down the spine!

“Incoming Enemy.” Still sends chills down the spine!

Lest we forget, Starfox was a completely unique game when it was released. 3D graphics of this caliber had never been seen on a home console before. To get all the visual splendor up on screen, Nintendo created a new in-cartridge addition called the Super FX chip. It was mindblowing back in the day. The graphics of the future… Today! The game itself was an on-rails arcade shooter. You had your default lasers and superbombs to fire with (power-ups for which could be collected in-level) and barrel rolls, knife rolls, braking and boosting to evade with. Bar being able to switch to an in-cockpit view during space sequences, that was pretty much it. Simple, addictive arcade goodness. The game’s highlights included giant screen filling bosses, branching paths in the hubworld, a shitload of secrets to uncover and a cast of colorful characters (and yes, we all hate that bastard Slippy Toad). Of course, the game wasn’t quite perfect. Firstly, it was very short; you could finish the entire thing in under an hour and there wasn’t much replay value after you’d seen everything. It could also be said that Andross made for a particularly bland final boss (a bunch of squares assembled into the shape of a face. How uninspired is that?). But although it also hasn’t aged so well (what early 3D games have?), it was still an unmissable title back in the day.

Fox loved to shoot down traffic copters over the freeway.

Fox loved to shoot down traffic copters over the freeway.

Starfox was a very successful game on the SNES, so a sequel was duly commissioned on the N64. Starfox 64 (or Lylat Wars in the UK) mostly kept the on-rails formula intact but did offer up a few innovations. Most interesting among these was the free roam sequences, where Fox and company would switch the wing formations on their ships (that sounds familiar) and the ‘rails’ would be ditched in favor of sweet, free-form dogfighting. They also added extremely slow ground based tank sections, which nobody liked and are best forgotten about. So too for the disappointing multiplayer dogfight mode. In theory, 4 player competitive action sounds like a good idea but it actually developed into a lot of flying around aimlessly, trying to shoot targets that were almost impossible to hit. In a word; boring. Add to that the fact that the already annoying Slippy Toad had, like, a five year old ‘actor’ voicing him (shut the FUCK up Slippy!!) and the title starts to look more and more like a scarred successor. Whilst that is a little unfair (it was, in fact,a very solid action game), the 64 bit iteration didn’t quite make it into the same league the SNES original.

I seem to have some Zelda in my Starfox.

Hmm… I seem to have some Zelda in my Starfox.

The next game in the Starfox series was Starfox Adventures on the Nintendo Gamecube. This was the last game made by Rare for Nintendo before they left for Microsoft and became absolutely redundant. But actually, Rare were already starting to become redundant before they even left Nintendo. Sure, they had made the amazing likes of 007Goldeneye, Perfect Dark, Conker’s Bad Fur Day and Banjo Kazooie but their last game before Starfox Adventures was the underwhelming Jet Force Gemini. That was a game that looked great but had awkward controls and was boring to play. And so it was with Starfox Adventures too. Heck, the game wasn’t even supposed to be a Starfox title! It was originally developed as a new IP called Dinosaur Planet before Nintendo wrangled Rare into switching it over to the Starfox franchise. Hence, here we have a game that plays nothing like the first few titles and seemingly has nothing to do with the license save for a few grafted on character skins.  The gameplay itself was a mishmash of very typical Zelda tropes. Starfox Adventures took it’s place in line with a million other mediocre Ocarina of Time copycats. Simply put, it was soulless to play and an obvious indicator that Rare’s creative fire had all but been extinguished. It isn’t a game that anyone remembers when compiling a ‘best-on-Gamecube’ list and neither will it ever appear on a ‘best games that Rare made’ list. Despite being graphically stunning, it merely ended up as a poor man’s adventure game.

After Starfox Adventures, the series slipped further into despair with Starfox Assault, a lukewarm retread of the on-rails shooter formula and the pointless DS strategy game Starfox Command. A brief ray of sunshine was flashed momentarily by way of Starfox64 3D on the 3DS, which let us all briefly revisit the days when the Starfox brand actually meant something. Who knows what’s next for Fox McCloud, Peppy Hare, Falco Lambardi and Slippy Toad. Can Nintendo ever truly resurrect the franchise in a relevant way? My money’s on the “Slippy Toad Rendition” game, where we finally get to waterboard that motherfucker. I’d buy that for a dollar!

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6th-Gen, gaming

Tokyochuchu on: New Super Mario Bros. Wii

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How fantastic is Mario? Really, really, really fantastic is the answer. If you think about all the stone cold classic games that Mario and his chums have been a part of; Super Mario Bros, Super Mario Bros 3, Super Mario World, Yoshi’s Island, Super Mario 64, Mario Kart 64, Mario Golf… The list could go on. Mario was a defining element of my youth. It’s strange to think of it now, but back then I actually liked Mario over Sonic. But then my father hit me with a claw hammer and I saw sense. But I digress…

With Mario 64 came an obvious shift into 3D. The Mario of my youth was left behind in favor of the fancy-pants likes of Mario Sunshine, Luigi’s Mansion and Mario Galaxy. The relentless march of technology is all well and good but I longed for the simplicity of the old-school 2D Mario games. That’s why I’d always go back and replay Super Mario World in favor of Mario Galaxy. With the event of the DS and Wii, however, Nintendo finally relented and gave us what we wanted.

I like this level. It's probably the most memorable in the game.

I like this level. It’s probably the most memorable in the game.

“Rejoice!” we sang “The good times are back again and they are never going away!”

Well, we were half right. ‘New’ Super Mario Bros certainly isn’t going away anytime soon, as it is a humungous fucking cash cow. But it’s also the most blatant manifestation of Nintendo’s stagnation. Not to mention a shit game to boot. Nintendo are obviously unassailable legends within gaming. Where would we be without the likes of Mario, Zelda or Metroid? Still stuck in the great videogame crash of the 80’s, most likely. But the fact is that Nintendo hasn’t moved with the times. What was the last major new Nintendo IP? Pikmin on the Gamecube, maybe? Sure, Mario has made some incremental steps since the release of Mario 64 (although Galaxy is not exactly a million miles away, is it) but Zelda has been truly trapped Groundhog Day style in the same mechanics since Ocarina of Time. And as for Metroid, who knows what the fuck is happening with that franchise.

So yeah. There is nothing new about ‘New’ Super Mario Bros. Nintendo should be shaking off the rust and sprinting toward the future, not leaning on their laurels. Now, I’m not saying that there isn’t room for new 2D Mario games, certainly not. But let’s have something other than a bunch of rehashed ideas thrown to together in the shape of a cash-grab. Change up the visual aesthetic. Give us some some funny banter on the over-world screen. Or how about new characters or bosses other than Bowser? Surely something interesting can be done with Wario? There are a million ways that the company could spruce up the 2D Mario market but they don’t, either through lack of direction or laziness.

Is it a coincidence that Mario is always after money?

Is it a coincidence that Mario is always after money?

“This is all very well” I hear you say “But you mentioned that New Super Mario Bros was a shit game!”

So I did and so it is. there just isn’t anything special about New Super Mario Bros. It’s like Nintendo took the most cookie-cutter, bland elements from the previous titles and jumbled them together. But they totally left out that essential pinch of magic dust that the old games had. Almost all the stages are uniformly standard. I struggle to remember a single individual stage from the game, yet I can remember a great many from the likes of Super Mario Bros 3 or Super Mario World. The multiplayer has also been bastardized. The simple, clean turn-based mechanic of old has been replaced by a hectic, near-unplayable 4 man muddle, with no options to revert back to the original format! Then there is the movement. Mario runs like he’s moving through treacle! He’s… just… so… slow. I know he’s a fat bastard and all, but come on… And the game is way too difficult. Since when did the Mario games want to totally beast your ass like New Super Mario Bros Wii does?! Parents buying this game for their young children are going to get fucked in the butt. Literally.

So yeah. New Super Mario Bros Wii; lazy, slapdash, money-grubbing, nostalgia-soiling, overly difficult and extremely boring. Who ever thought that Mario would turn out to be such a lazy git?

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64-Bit, gaming

Tokyochuchu on: Body Harvest

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Does anyone remember Body Harvest for the N64?

Body Harvest was a third person shooter before third person shooters really existed. It was also an open world game before open world games really existed. So, you could say that Body Harvest was something of a trailblazer in videogames. Yet it seems to be completely left out of conversations that relate to gaming innovation and inspiration. That’s unfair, don’t you think? Especially when DMA, the studio that made it, morphed into Rockstar and subsequently made the iconic Grand Theft Auto III.

Awkward aiming mechanics ahoy!

Awkward aiming mechanics ahoy!

Body Harvest was an unbelievably ambitious title for Nintendo’s 64-bit box. As well as bringing new-fangled third person shooter and open world mechanics to the table, the game also let you drive any vehicle you could see. These ranged from jeeps to tanks to airplanes to hovercrafts. That was a big deal back in the N64 days and nothing like it had ever really been seen before in a console game. Added to that were the game’s adventure elements. There were switches to be pulled, bridges to be lowered and random NPCs to talk to. If that wasn’t enough, the game featured a time-traveling plot that took you to a bunch of distinct locations in different time zones. Again… Unbelievably ambitious!

How much does the Body Harvest hero look like Samus from Metroid?

How much does the Body Harvest hero look like Samus from Metroid?

What was the biggest fault of the N64? Non CD soundtracks? Nope. The horrible C-buttons or tiny D-pad that made it impossible to play fighting games? guess again. The lack of a Metroid title? BINGO! The N64 had no outing for the orange suited heroine. Now… The main character from Body Harvest wears an orange power-suit. He comes down from space in a ship that lands on the planet just like Samus’s. He fights big goo spitting aliens and has an annoying ship’s computer telling him what to do. Smells like Metroid to me! It’s not, of course, but Body Harvest was the closest thing we ever got on the N64. Which is obviously awesome by default. *Metroid fanboy alert*

Tanks for the memory!

Tanks for the memory!

Now, all this ass kissing aside, Body Harvest also had a fair few problems. It had a pretty awkward control scheme, for example. You had to aim with R, move the targeting reticule with the stick and press Z to fire. That’s a bit of a handful in itself, but you also couldn’t move while firing. And it got much worse while in a vehicle. Another issue was the amount of “shield walls” in the game. These acted like the proverbial invisible walls, hindering progress and keeping areas out of reach. The only difference is that they were visible. Highly visible, in fact, glowing like bright blue beacons in the sky… And they were fucking EVERYWHERE. During the later stages of the game, I swear you couldn’t walk two feet without bumping into one. Man that irritated me so much back in the day!

Those bloody shield walls!

Those bloody shield walls!

Still, these annoyances aside, Body Harvest deserves it’s place in videogame history. Ahead of the curve in every sense, it was pretty much a dry run for GTAIII and a true trend setter. So it’s a real shame that it just won’t run right on N64 emulators. Not that I would ever stoop to such depraved and obviously illegal practices. Butter wouldn’t melt in the Chuchu’s mouth. Honest.

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Franchise features, gaming

Tokyochuchu on: E3 2013

So E3 2013 is finally over. Phew! What a show! To be honest, E3 isn’t usually my cup of tea. I’m not a massive fan of game media (why ruin the best parts of a game before you’ve played them?) and I even question the relevance of the event in this online world of ours. THAT SAID, even I couldn’t resist the lure of the major console companies suiting up for battle. And it didn’t disappoint in that regard. I also had a lot of fun text chatting with other gamers on a great gaming website that I frequent (epicbattleaxe.com). So without further ado, let’s go through my top 5 of E3 2013.

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#5: BATTLEFRONT – When EA and Disney inked their Star Wars deal, one thing was on gamer’s minds; a Battlefront game using the frostbite 2 engine. And in an uncharacteristic, crowd pleasing move, that’s exactly what EA are going to give to us. There wasn’t much to go on at E3, just a few seconds of CGI video, but then again the ink on the deal is still so fresh that expecting anything else would be folly. I’m really looking forward to the revival of this long dormant franchise, as Battlefront 2 was great fun and one of the best games to ever bare the Star Wars name.

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#4: THE DIVISION – One thing I will say about the E3 content is that it seriously lacked color. Almost all the next-gen games strove for realistic graphics, which meant that everything became a shade of grey or brown. Too many shooters. Too much killing. I like bright, vibrant fun more than busting heads! That said, Ubisoft’s online RPG / third-person-shooter hybrid looks great. I can imagine going through this game with a buddy in tow and having a riot (literally). This is one to keep an eye on definitely.

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#3 MARIO KART 8 – Oh Mario Kart… A game that never, ever changes. We watch as iteration after iteration pushes the franchise further into irrelevan… CRASH! KABOOM! SCREEEEE… That is the sound of Mario Kart 8 bucking the trend and blowing your mind. It’s in HD and it’s obviously been paying close attention to the excellent Sonic & Sega All Stars Racing franchise. You can now drift at lightning speed and even drive on the walls and ceilings! For the first time since the N64, Mario Kart is looking fresh, hungry and reinvigorated. The case for getting a WiiU just gathered speed.

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#2 METAL GEAR SOLID V: THE PHANTOM PAIN – The gameplay footage I saw had horses. HORSES!! What more is there to say? Game over, motherfuckers. MGSV has gone from a game I had almost no interest in to one I’m now properly excited about. It’s open world. You can drive a multitude of transports. There is a greater emphasis on stealth. I’m almost peeing my pants right now. This could be a great return to form for the series. I had big problems with the overblown story telling of parts 3 & 4, so I hope Kojima has kept himself in check this time (who am I kidding). Anyway, Metal Gear Redemption / Assassin’s Creed Solid is once again relevant and firmly on my radar.

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#1 THE PS4 OWNS YOUR FACE – No DRM. Used games / lending are encouraged. No always online requirement. No mandatory spycam. Region free. Only one PSN subscription required for all accounts… And it’s 100 bucks cheaper than the Xbone! THANK YOU SONY. Microsoft tried to fuck us in the ass and ruin gaming. Sony have now diligently tended to our wounds. I could watch Jack Tretton’s E3 announcements and the crowd’s reactions to them all day. That was a sheer joy to behold as a gamer and maybe the best E3 moment of all time. The Chuchu will now be getting a PS4 as soon as the opportunity presents itself.

So there you go. E3 is dust. It was great for new console news and OK for games too. But there was no news regarding a new Metroid title. CHUCHU SAD. Come on Nintendo, get your shit wired!

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8-Bit, gaming, NES

Tokyochuchu on: Nintendo World Cup (NES)

Does anyone remember the 1990 NES classic Nintendo World Cup? Nintendo World Cup is a *ahem* soccer game (or football if you are from the green and pleasant land) where each team has six players. Although it maintains the shape of a soccer game, Nintendo World Cup actually has very little to do with soccer other than sticking the ball in the back of the net.

Offsides? Not a chance in hell! Basically speaking, there are no rules in Nintendo World Cup! Prepare yourself for the most brutal game of soccer ever. All tackles are sliding and two footed (which will instantly net you a red card in the real world). When the tackles hit, the unfortunate victim flies through the air with his eyes bulging out of his skull. Hit the same player a few times AND HE DIES!! Not only that, but his body will stay on the pitch in the spot where he fell until the match ends!

It’s not unusual to reach the end of a game and find the field strewn with corpses. In fact, my brother and I would often resort to the underhanded tactic of trying to kill all the players on the pitch and then just start scoring in the opposing team’s open goal! Be careful of the goalkeeper, though. That sumbitch is badass. He will literally kick you in the face if you get within striking distance. And if you do get kicked by him, he boots you all the way out of the penalty box! That shit puts Jackie Chan to shame. This makes sense, actually, because Nintendo World Cup was originally a Japanese game titled “Hotblooded High School Dodge Ball Club: Soccer Edition”. So when you see someone thundering a shot into another players face ON PURPOSE, it starts to make a bit more sense. And man-oh-man does it make you laugh!!

And there lies the true beauty of Nintendo World Cup. If you can make it through one match without pissing yourself laughing, you’re doing better than me. Even the players names make me snicker. How can you deny a team selection roster that boasts the world class talents of ‘Mick’, ‘Dave’ and ‘George’. Yeah, the 13 included international teams are so awesome that they’ll even play on solid sheet-ice. Now that’s some badassery!

Whether it’s the laugh-out-loud violence, the play mechanics that only allow you to control the same player throughout the entire match or the unbelievably fun multiplayer aspects, Nintendo World Cup is an excellent title that transcends nostalgia and is still fun to play.

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Franchise features, gaming

Tokyochuchu on: Wrestling games

Do you like wrestling? I sure as hell do. I’m a huge fan of the WWE. I watch every Raw, Smackdown and PPV without fail. I also go to live events to boo John Cena whenever I can (not an easy feat seeming as I live in Japan).

But how did I get into wrestling in the first place? Was I converted when I saw Jimmy Snuka do his Superfly splash off the top of a cage? No. Was I overwhelmed when Hulk Hogan bodyslamed Andre the Giant at Wrestlemania III? Nope. Did I drop to my my knees and pledge allegiance after watching Undertaker throw Mankind through an announce table from the top of Hell in the Cell? No… But I probably would have if I’d seen that particular one live. Jesus that man can take a bump!

Unusually, my entry into the world of wrestling was through videogames. Sure, I’d had some exposure to wrestling through a couple of classmates back in school but I never really got why they loved it so much.

The start of things for me came with the N64 title WCW vs. NWO World Tour. My brother and I were looking for a cheap second-hand multiplayer game and this game looked like it could be fun so we picked it up. We didn’t know any of the wrestlers or moves or even the general rules of wrestling but MAN… That game was fun! We sank a ton of time into it and no other fighting game on the N64 came anywhere near to being as good.

Back in my youth I was a Nintendo fanboy just like a certain Mr Grice. I always picked the big N’s machines over Sega’s competitors. During the 32bit era, with Nintendo lagging behind, I decided to pick up a Sega Saturn over the Sony Playstation. I mean, COME ON! How could Sony hope to compete with Sega, right? OOOOHH…..

So relatively late in the game I bought a Playstation and one of the first games I picked up was WWF Smackdown 2: Know Your Role. Not because I had become a wrestling fan but because it was made by the same company as WCW vs. NWO.

As much as we played the N64 game back in the day, it was nothing compared to how much time we put into Smackdown 2. The graphics were better, the gameplay was smoother and the create-a-wrestler options gave us an unending source of entertainment. I remember my brother and I trying to make a naked female wrestler by making her bra and panties skin colored. That was idiotically fun because you could fight men against women and when you’d go for the pin and ‘hook the leg’ the male wrestler’s animation really looked like he was fucking his opponent! Boy was that childish… but very, very funny.

Eventually we sank so much time into the game that we started to wonder… If the game is this much fun maybe the TV show could be fun too. So we started to watch Sunday Night Heat (the only WWE show on terrestrial TV in the UK at that time). We were delighted to finally see the wrestlers that we knew from the game; Dean Malenko, Albert, Perry Saturn, Billy Gunn, Scotty Too Hotty, The Hardy Boyz… The show was pretty good too and we started to watch every week. We’d also catch Raw & Smackdown whenever we could (although not having access to cable TV made it difficult).

Eventually we saw our first PPV which was Invasion, where WCW and WWE went to war and fought for supremacy in the ring. The main event saw Stone Cold Steve Austin turn on team WWE and cost them the victory. I remember actually feeling distraught over his betrayal. So much so that we immediately booted up Smackdown 2 and stuck that sum’ bitch in a three-on-one handicap match and beat the shit out of him.

From that moment on I was officially a wrestling fan.

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