Saturday, October 16, 2010

Glitches - Super Mario World: Block Duplication

  Whoa, seriously?  There's another Super Mario World glitch?  Yup, and this one is pretty neat!  If mastered this glitch can actually be used in every level and on any block, but for example I performed the glitch at Donut Plains 4.

  All you need to execute this glitch is the cape powerup and something you can throw at a block to activate it, like a Koopa shell, Goomba, or even a P-Switch.  Stand under the block but off to the left side, then jump upwards.  As you jump hold up and kick the object in your hands upward while using your cape twirl to hit the block.  If performed at the right angle and the right time, you will create a new block!
  This trick is easiest to perform on yellow flipping blocks or random item blocks as you can hit them multiple times, but I have done this on any block you can hit at least once.  Try it everywhere and see what kind of results you can get!
  Note:  Results can vary.  If a new block is generated it can be placed in an unexpected location.  Usually it's one space to the left or above the initial block, but other times it can appear diagonally, below, or a whole block away.  Sometimes two new blocks appear as well.  It's also possible that the new blocks will appear in a way that squishes Mario as if scrolled off a screen, so don't be surprised if you die a time or  two.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Glitches - Super Mario World: Wiggler Overflow

  I was discussing Super Mario world a couple days ago with my best friend and was talking about this neat trick where you use Wigglers to create a buffer overflow in the points/1ups awarded for repetitive bounces.  She had never heard of it, and I figured it was certainly worth showing off.  Therefor, this particular glitch video is dedicated to her!

  The key to this glitch is to scroll one Wiggler off screen after you stomp it so it will respawn as a normal, happy, yellow Wiggler.  Use the other enemies to increase the number of bounces as well as keep you off the ground as you maneuver back and forth between the Wigglers.  Using this trick you can actually discover the max amount of points one can achieve in the game (aside from number of lives)!
  Note:  Keep track of the points and coins as the video goes on.  You will notice as the number of enemies stomped increases the jumps in the values also increases.  

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Single Player - Batman (NES)

  Tim Burton's Batman was released to theaters in June of 1989, and almost immediately became a box office hit. As a result all kinds of tie-ins began to crop up, like toys and cartoons, to keep kids hooked on the newly budded movie franchise.
  The late 80's also was the prime of the original Nintendo Entertainment System. Naturally, marketing turned to this medium to further the tie-ins to the popular movie and licensed out to software developer Sunsoft, who you may know from such games as Fester's Quest (NES) and Blaster Master (Various Systems) as well as the GameBoy Final Fantasy titles (in conjunction with Square).
  One common reality when it comes to movie licensed games is that they are usually terrible and most comic based games suffer this fate as well. That said, Batman for the NES is a great game. It's one of the few occasions where gameplay took priority over plot or gimmicks. This is an example of what made a great game back in the old days and one of the reasons Sunsoft was a software development powerhouse in early gaming.

  It plays as a standard side-scroller with you in control of Batman. The goal is to traverse each stage, defeating enemies and avoiding hazards as you go, ending each stage in a boss battle. If you have ever played games like Castlevania or Ninja Gaiden then you'll feel familiar with the gameplay in Batman. After gaining an ammo powerup you have access to three weapons, the boomerang, the rocket gun, and the dirk with each weapon taking 1, 2, or 3 ammo respectively. Batman also has a health bar that depletes when attacked or harmed by hazards. You start with three lives and are provided with two continues to complete the five stages in the game, and you will definitely use your continues.

  The challenge is hard in this game.  Enemies get gradually stronger as the game goes on, and many times you are faced with difficult wall jumps that require pre-planning.  On top of that the boss battles become absurdly difficult starting in the third level and if you make it to the Joker you will likely never win, or have the resources to even harm him.  Life can be farmed at points with the help of dispenser enemies that drop drones regularly so you can punch them, but health doesn't last long and you'll find yourself with a blinking life gauge more often than not.

  Another problem with this game is that your ammo runs out fast when using the rocket gun or the dirk in boss battles, leaving you with no option but to try and defeat the enemy with your fists alone.  Items will not appear during the battle either, and if you die you start the fight over with whatever ammo you have left.  As a result, it's very likely you will completely exhaust all of your ammo and be left with no choice but to try and defeat the boss with your fists alone.  This puts you deeper into harm's way, and usually results in you using one of your limited continues.

  Batman isn't all bad though.  In actuality it's an amazing game for it's age as it comes with a stellar soundtrack and cinema scenes to get you into playing as the Dark Knight.  You have good control for the platforming and there are no jumps that are too out of the question.  In fairness the only real problem with this game is the lack of infinite continues.  If you could always continue again from the beginning of your current stage after you run out of lives, this game would suddenly become very beatable.  As it stands though it's a grueling task to even make it to the last level, and the Joker is almost impossible to bring down.  I've never done it, and I don't think I ever will as long as I live.
   This game isn't for everyone though.  Casual gamers may want to skip this due to it's difficulty.  Hardcore gamers though will find this title very engaging and a considerable challenge to beat, and I very much recommend it as it's one of my favorite NES games.  It's only available if you have an NES console and a cartridge copy of the game and it's unlikely it will ever turn up on the Wii's Virtual Console due to being a movie license.  However, if you are a collector and are up to the challenge, seek this one out!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Versus - Soulcalibur III and Soulcalibur IV Part 2

  Almost a full three years after the Soul series's third installment, Soulcalibur IV debuted in North America in 2008, once again predating foreign releases.  It was released to the PS3 and XBox 360, which made it the first game to feature online play, as well as HD graphics.

  The story is that after the clash between Siegfried and Nightmare in the Lost Cathedral, each with their soul sword, they released the old Hero King Algol who was sealed inside Soul Calibur.  Algol is thought to be one of the first wielders of Soul Edge, but one of the only individuals who had a stronger will than the cursed sword and thusly used it for good.  Algol's son however wasn't as strong and claimed Soul Edge for himself, turning on his father in the process.  Algol wrestled away the evil blade, but in doing so killed his son.  Knowing Soul Edge's nature and with regret in his heart, the Hero King sacrificed himself, his son's body, and a piece of the broken Soul Edge and turned into the crystalline Soul Calibur.

  Meanwhile Siegfried and Nightmare each own a fully powered soul sword now and are poised to do savage battle once again at the location of Algol's newly resurrected tower called... um... The Tower of Remembrance... and that's the entire premise of this story.  This is also one of the first failings of this game.  The story is weak.  Soulcalibur III offers the entire premise of it's story via an adventure mode for each character.  Even it's intro FMV gives you a good sense of the world as it stands in the eternal battle of souls and swords.
  That brings me to the second failing.  Soulcalibur IV has no FMV sequences at all.  All sequences are done with in game graphics, and while they look good, they aren't that good.  Soulcalibur II and Soulcalibur III had awesome FMV sequences that really set the mood and pace.  Even Soulcalibur: Broken Destiny had a FMV opening, and that was a PSP game.

  I think I've beat around the bush long enough.  Let's talk about something that really annoyed me about this game.  More or less, Soulcalibur IV was just a big advertisement for Star Wars: The Force Unleashed which was coming out later that year for pretty much any kind of device that would play a game.  For the PS3 version Darth Vader his Apprentice (Starkiller) were playable out of the box while the XBox 360 replaced Vader with Yoda, though your version's missing character could be purchased as downloadable content.

  Now I don't necessarily mind guest characters.  Link was awesome in Soulcalibur II, and Kratos is a neat addition for Broken Destiny.  That's because they look like they fit.  Now look at that picture above.  Yoda does not belong here.  Worse yet, there are a few battle areas on the Death Star.  Imagine characters from the late 16th century doing battle in space station with laser gates and space docks (even if all of these things are from a long time ago and far, far away).
  One important thing about any game is that it's immersive.  Let's imagine Super Mario Bros. for example.  What if there was a special cross over with Lord of the Rings that had Mario stomping on Ringwraiths, kicking palantirs, and dodging flaming arrows as you struggle with the burden of carrying the One Ring to Mordor.  There after you're back in the Mushroom Kingdom and solely concerned with Bowser and his antics again.  Absurd, I know.  Soulcalibur IV is equally absurd.
  The gameplay options are equally weak, featuring a simplified Story Mode which isn't much past Arcade Mode aside from little cutscenes between battles.  There is also Tower of Lost Souls which you can either ascend for special battle situations to overcome, or descend for a more classic survival mode.
  Character creation returns, but brings along new elements that served to ruin the experience.  Armor and weapons now have stats similarly to an RPG that affect attack, defense, and life bar.  Generally, you won't be able to make a character look the way you want and have decent stats at the same time.  On top of that, in battles your equipment can be broken, which more often than not leaves you with warriors running around in their underwear.
  Thankfully Soulcalibur IV is just as easy to pick up and play as it's predecessors, which for me is always a big plus.  That's not to say that the gameplay is identical though.  There is one new gameplay aspect that completely ruins the battles, especially between skilled opponents: Soul Crush and Critical Finishes.  As you defend attacks you lose soul energy until it eventually depletes putting you into Soul Crush.  If your opponent hits his horizontal, vertical, kick, and guard buttons at the same time when you are in Soul Crush, he get's to execute a Critical Finish which will instantly kill you.  It does not matter how much health you have, you lose the round instantly and move on to the next.  It's cheap and unfair and feels like a Mortal Kombat idea more than a Soulcalibur idea.

  That said, there are good things about this game that are very much worth mentioning.  Graphically it's stunning.  Levels are gorgeous to look at and characters are very smooth and natural looking.  Metal looks like metal and cloth looks like cloth, water looks very fluid, and backgrounds look naturally out of focus.
  Some battle situations allow for you to chose two characters and switch between them on the fly in a tag battle sense which is very fun, but sadly unused in any versus situation.  The feature is absent for Broken Destiny which is sad as with a little refining it could make for a unique battle mechanic for both offline and online play.
  Lastly the music is still wonderful.  Soulcalibur games have always been known for having a robust orchestrated soundtrack, and  IV is no different.  And fans of the series from the Dreamcast days can download the original Soulcalibur soundtrack for Soulcalibur IV.  The only time the music fails to keep you in the theme of the game is on the Star Wars levels, and we don't need to get into that again.
  Between weak story, bad tie-ins, empty gameplay, crappy character creation, and striptease combat, Soulcalibur IV left a lot to be desired, especially after the experience that Soulcalibur III provided.  The bar was set high and IV feel way short.  It's not even at II's level though I would put it on par with the original and above Soul Blade.   It speaks volumes when many of these complaints were fixed for Broken Destiny.
  Recently it's been more or less confirmed that Namco-Bandai's Project Soul team is working on what will likely be Soulcalibur V.  It's my hope that they're learning from the mistakes they've made, and remembering what made the series great to begin with.  It's about the gameplay and the experience.  It's about being able to immerse yourself into a world where the Spirit Sword and the Cursed Sword are locked in a struggle that calls forth fighters from all over the world.  Hopefully the next Soulcalibur will remind us why the tale of souls and swords will be eternally retold.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Versus - Soulcalibur III and Soulcalibur IV Part 1

  Originally I was going to conclude my Soulcalibur reviews by talking about Soulcalibur III alone.  Of all the games in the series it's by far my favorite, and that's a huge accomplishment after how much time I put into Soulcalibur II.  However as I began to work out what I would say about the game I found myself frequently comparing it to it's successor Soulcalibur IV.  The two games are very similar in gameplay, but the differences between the two are really the case study for what future Soulcalibur games need to focus on.  So lets get started with the best of the series, Soulcalibur III!

  This installment of the Soul series debuted in North America in October of 2005, and did so strangely before it's Japanese release.  The arcade version wouldn't appear until the following year, and the game would only appear for the PS2, unlike Soulcalibur II which saw a version on all major home consoles.  Also unlike II, III would not have any special guest characters from other franchises.  No Link of Zelda fame, nor Todd McFarlane's Spawn or Necrid.  Not even Namco's own Heihachi Mishima would make an appearance.  At the time I thought this was disappointing, now I think it's definitely a plus.

  This game would reintroduce the character of Siegfried as a default playable with a unique move set, which hasn't been the case since Soul Blade where he clamed Soul Edge for himself and thus became Nightmare for Soulcalibur and Soulcalibur II.  III also had Nightmare as a default playable, but a new Nightmare that series fans were unfamiliar with.  
  Also new to the series was Tira, Setsuka, and Zasalamel.  Each of these characters were solid additions that improved upon the depth of the battle system as well as the roster of characters.
  The storyline to this game was actually really good, especially for a Namco fighting game.  Players were finally treated to a serious throw-down between Soul Edge and Soul Calibur in a battle between Siegfried and Nightmare.  The story could be experienced by playing the Tales of Souls mode that took the chosen character on a journey across Europe and Asia in pursuit of their own ambitions.  It played out in a level by level manor with the occasional option to choose a path or stop and face special bonus opponents who may be unlocked if you defeat them.
  The biggest and most welcome addition to this game is the character creation mode Create A Soul.  For the first time players could actually build their own custom character out of parts purchased with gold won from other modes or earned via achievements.  The level of customization was fairly extensive with hundreds of parts available at the start and hundreds more unlocked through play.
  Finally there was an additional mode called Chronicles of the Sword which told an alternate story about Soul Edge based in a fictional land thrust into war.  A special custom character of your own making was the main character and the game involves moving characters around a map and attacking strongholds and other characters in either a rock-paper-scissors battle or you could choose to face the opponent in a standard Soulcalibur battle.
  However you play this game it's a huge undertaking that will keep you involved for weeks.  Between leveling up your custom characters to learn new disciplines or job classes or earning enough gold for new weapons and equipment, Soulcalibur III had a lot to offer for play value and enjoyable experiences.
  There really were only two flaws with this game.  The first was that getting new disciplines for your character could take entirely too long, and there was no way of knowing if the job class you picked would level up to have the Soul discipline of the character you desired.  As a Siegfried fan, I'd have to struggle along and play 600+ battles with other characters just to unlock the Knight job class, then likely 50+ more to level up to Soul of Siegfried style.  This is easy enough for people who have friends to play with in versus mode, but for single player it's way too time consuming.
  The other problem was that the save file could corrupt on you if you deleted or moved other files on the memory card your SC III file was on.  Usually this resulted in losing your Chronicle of the Sword data while leaving the rest of the save data alone, but for a few players it ruined the entire save, and even their memory cards.  A major flaw to be sure, but unintended and with proper precautions avoidable all together.
  That said, Soulcalibur III proved itself to be a great game and any fan of fighting games can have a great time with this installment.  Fighting games don't normally have a great deal of depth, which makes it stand out all the more.  I still recommend this game, even with it being five years old.  Unfortunately, it's only playable on the PS2 or early PS3 models if you have the game disk.
  That's it for part 1 of this versus match up.  Next time we'll take a look at Soulcalibur IV and see how the PS3/XBox 360 chapter in the Soul series managed to turn to the dark side.