Game Review: ‘Steven Universe: Attack The Light’

Game Review: ‘Steven Universe: Attack The Light’

Steven Universe: Attack The Light is a fun little role playing game that pays homage to not only its famed source material, but to critically acclaimed games of the past, namely, the Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi franchises. Attack The Light is available on iOS and Android devices, and has a level of polish that is on par with that of console games.

When it comes to overall presentation and aesthetic, Attack The Light is extremely faithful to its source material. It features a colorful and simple art style that goes along nicely with its platform of choice, the original voice actors from the cartoon, and plenty of references for for fans to pick up on.

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Many of these references come in the form of humorous bits of dialogue, pieces of lore that pertain to the history of the Crystal Gems, and even famous Steven Universe items like Together Breakfast and Cookie Cats. Attack The Light also has a small, but cute story, and it was actually supervised by writers attached to the show.

Attack The Light is a turn based RPG in the vein of the early Paper Mario games. Players must be timely with their screen taps in order to maximize their damage output, while also minimizing the damage dealt to them. This makes for a much more engaging combat system, as you can’t divert your attention during enemy turns.

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Player take control of Steven and the three Crystal Gems: Garnet, Amethyst and Pearl (and Steven!). Garnet has the greatest damage output, and eventually gains access to a very potent spread move. Amethyst focuses on spread moves and single target attack debuffs, while Pearl is somewhere in between. Steven takes on a supportive role, meaning he can boost the Gems’ stats, heal them and even equip them with his special Bubble Shield.

Rather than a traditional turn based system, where each character gets on move per turn, Attack The Light gives Steven and the Gems a shared pool of Star Points to use, with every ability expending a variable amount of points.The characters’ most basic abilities use about one to three points, but many of the more powerful ones such as Garnet’s Rocket Punch and Pearl’s Fireball can cost upwards of six.

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The team starts with five Star Points, and Steven has access to various forms of Star Fruit that can increase their point total. In addition, all of your points don’t have to be spent in one turn, so any that you hold on to will carry over to your next turn, for a maximum of nine. The point system is a great way to give the player plenty of choices during battle, but it is also very easy to abuse.

Star Fruits are so common that you never really run out of them, meaning you can fire off powerful attacks while also running maintenance on your party’s stats. This makes Attack The Light a rather easy game, but players looking for a greater challenge can turn on Diamond Mode, which increases enemy damage, and limits your defensive options.

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Attack The Light lacks a proper armor and equipment system, instead allowing each Gem to equip up to two badges. These badges, which can be found in the field, give the Gems a variety of passive abilities like health recovery, increased defense and resistance to status ailments.

The game also has a structure that is totally befitting of a mobile game. Instead of having one large overworld, Attack The Light has a world map that would be right at home in a Mario platformer. There are a handful or worlds, each containing about six levels packed with enemies to fight, treasure to find and secret areas to explore. These levels take about 10-15 minutes to complete, making Attack The Light a very easy game to pick up and play.

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Steven Universe: Attack The Light is a great example of a game understanding its platform. A more standard RPG would have been a bit tiring to play on a smartphone, but Attack The Light was short and sweet enough to keep me entertained for the handful of hours I spent with it.

It was deep enough to hold my interest, but not so much that I ever felt overwhelmed. I’d recommend it to any fan of the show, or anybody looking for a more traditional gaming experience on their mobile device.

 

Game Review: ‘Crash Bandicoot (N-Sane Trilogy)’

Game Review: ‘Crash Bandicoot (N-Sane Trilogy)’

Crash Bandicoot is one of the Playstation brand’s oldest icons, but he’s also one that I sort of missed as a kid. I had an original Playstation, but I really only used it to play Spyro the Dragon, Pong: The Next Level and Goofy’s Fun House. Up until the the release of the Crash Bandicoot: N-Sane Trilogy, my only experience with the orange marsupial was the party game, Crash Bash.

How does Vicarious Vision’s remake of Naughty Dog’s first Crash Bandicoot game feel to someone who has never played the original? Furthermore, how does the game feel to somebody that doesn’t have any nostalgia for Crash Bandicoot? The short and simple answer… pretty darn good.

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For years now, I’ve heard people say that Crash Bandicoot plays like a 2d platformer in 3d, and this is a sentiment that I wholeheartedly agree with. It doesn’t feature any open-ended levels like the ones that can be found in games like Super Mario 64, Banjo-Kazooie or even Naughty Dog’s own Jak & Daxter, rather, every level in the game is a tightly designed obstacle course.

Linearity often gets used as a sort of negative buzzword in gaming, but I’ve always touted the idea that a linear game is only bad if the linear path is boring. Crash Bandicoot is the polar opposite of boring, as there is never a dull moment past the first few opening levels.

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Before I go deeper into gameplay, I need to talk about the control, the most essential part of any platformer. As far as the moveset is concerned, Crash (or his sister, Coco) can jump and perform a spin attack that can kill enemies and destroy crates containing Wumpa Fruit, extra lives and checkpoints. Crash normally dies in one hit, but a power-up called the Aku Aku mask allows him to take a few more. 

Overall, I’d say Crash feels really good to control. While he can feel a little heavy at times, I was really comfortable with the length and height of his jump, and loved the predictability with which he moved and responded to different enemies and obstacles. In addition, if the jump button is held while jumping on a crate or enemy, Crash will receive quite a bit of extra jump height. 

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Crash Bandicoot features a fixed camera for the entire game, and the only time this becomes a problem is when you need to backtrack through an area. There are a handful of levels that make you platform against the camera, which can lead to some uncomfortable situations. These moments are few and far between, and they usually give you a clear shot of the next platform, but it’s just something that I never really liked doing.

In order to beat the game, Crash Bandicoot pits players against a variety of challenges, and I love that they never became gimmick-y. Almost every level asks you to be competent at basic platforming, with enemies and environmental hazards thrown in for good measure. All of this leads to levels that are packed with things to avoid and navigate, leading to a really adrenaline pumping experience.

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But when Crash Bandicoot isn’t facing the camera, it’s a ton of fun. The game nails that perfect arcade-y feeling that I love so much, which also leads into what has been the N-Sane Trilogy’s biggest point of contingency since it’s release, the difficulty.

The game is hard, really hard at times, but the challenges presented are far from impossible. The game never really asks you to be perfect, just capable. Personally, I loved Crash Bandicoot’s high difficulty level, but I’m also the type of person that loves seeing and feeling myself get better the more I play.

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Levels like Native Fortress and Road to Nowhere burned through my life counter on my first few attempts. But I refused to let them get the best of me. I timed my jumps, observed platform cycles and mastered Crash’s movement skills in order to reach the goal.

Almost every time I died in Crash Bandicoot, I felt like it was my fault. Why did I go for that jump when I knew I didn’t have enough momentum, why did I get impatient and try to plow my way through those platforms? The majority of my deaths were accompanied by these self-reflective questions, meaning I almost never got frustrated.

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The one time I got legitimately upset with the game was on The High Road, the game’s second bridge level. It’s the only level that asks you to be extremely precise with your jumps, and I admittedly cheesed the level by just walking along the ropes to get to the end.

Rickety bridge aside, Crash Bandicoot gave me genuine thrills that I haven’t felt from a game in a long time. I can’t remember the last time a game gave me sweaty palms, but Crash Bandicoot managed to accomplish this more than a handful of times. There were times that I could actually feel my heart pumping as I made my way through particularly harrowing sections of the game, and both myself and Crash breathed a sigh of relief every time we completed a level.

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Crash Bandicoot also features a few bosses, and they’re all pretty standard affair for platformers. You simply observe attack patterns and watch for your opening to counterattack, while also sometimes dealing with a boss character’s unique gimmick. These bosses are nothing to write home about, but they’re also totally harmless.

During my time with Crash Bandicoot, I only did what was asked of me to complete the game, simply reaching the end of each level. But for completionists, Crash Bandicoot offers plenty of other things to do. Completing time trials, breaking all the boxes in a level, collecting different gems and relics, taking on these challenges could easily double the time that you spend with this game.

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Besides his gameplay, I can finally see why people love Crash so much. From his marketing, I always thought that Crash was a cool, edgy dude not too unlike his blue elder. But to me, he honestly felt more like a Looney Tunes character. He’s wild, crazy and borderline… insane (I’ll see myself out), but he’s also got a weird charm to him. Bonus points to the remaster’s gorgeous visuals and animations for really bringing the bandicoot to life.

I’m happy that I finally got to experience Crash Bandicoot, and I’m especially happy to say that I had a blast playing the game. Much of my gaming in 2017 has been occupied by huge games like Persona 5 and Horizon: Zero Dawn, both of which  are amazing games. But it was refreshing to play something so pure, simple and concise, and the tough but fair challenge was like icing on the cake.

My 12 Favorite Games Of All Time: ‘The World Ends With You’

My 12 Favorite Games Of All Time: ‘The World Ends With You’

This next game is somewhat of an interesting one on this list. I don’t really have any nostalgic childhood story attached to it, it’s just kind of a game that I picked up and fell in love with. I first was exposed to The World Ends With You on G4 TV’s X-Play. They were reviewing this really cool Nintendo DS Square Enix RPG, and they gave it extremely high marks.

The World Ends With You was developed by a good portion of the team that was responsible for the early Kingdom Hearts games, and Tetsuya Nomura, the creator of Kingdom Hearts, was actually the lead character designer for the title. Square Enix wanted to make a game that would take full advantage of the Nintendo DS dual screens, which led to the game’s unique combat system.

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In The World Ends With You, players control two characters at once. On the bottom screen is Neku Sakuraba, the game’s protagonist, while the top screen is occupied by one of the other characters that Neku can team up with. Neku is primarily controlled by stylus inputs, while his partner is controlled through use of the d-pad.

Instead of more traditional weapons such as swords and spears, Neku fights using Psychs. Psychs are somewhat of a catch all title for a variety of different attacks and abilities, and each character manifests theirs through different objects. These can be a stuffed animal, a skateboard or even a cell phone, and Neku in particular summons his powers through an assortment of… pins.

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Combat is pretty fun and interesting overall, but it’s definitely not the main draw of The World Ends With You. The game’s greatest strengths are its story and exploration. The game takes place in the famous city of Shibuya, and the development team went to great lengths to present as accurate a portrayal as possible. I’ve never personally been to Shibuya, but based on my readings and research, I’d say they did a pretty good job.

I’ve recently been playing Persona 5, another game that takes place in Shibuya and I was very familiar with certain locales and landmarks such as the Scramble Crossing and the Hachiko statue. The even recruited a few Shibuya musical acts to contribute to the game’s soundtrack (which is really great stuff by the way). While they did have to make a couple of alterations, like changing Starbucks to Outback Cafe, the game seems to present a really authentic representation of one of Japan’s most famous cities.

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The city of Shibuya is also intrinsically tied to the plot of The World Ends With You. The game primarily takes place in an alternate version of Shibuya known as the Underground (UG for short). The Shibuya that exists in the the real world is simply called the Realground, or RG. The UG is the setting for the Reaper’s Game, which our protagonist Neku is a Player in.

The Reaper’s Game involves the titular Reapers tasking the players with various missions over the course of seven days, and each player must pay a unique entry fee at the game’s start. Upon winning the game, the Player is given back their entry fee, and granted one wish. I know that was quite a hefty info dump, and that’s honestly not even scratching the surface of this game’s lore, but for the sake of time and spoilers, I’m gonna cut the plot summary there.

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One of my favorite thematic elements of Kingdom Hearts is the idea that we are who we are because of the people in our lives. However, it is also important for us to strengthen our own hearts for the times that we can’t rely on other people. I’m not sure if Nomura had any hand in this game’s plot, but I honestly wouldn’t be surprised, because The World Ends With You takes that idea and really expands on it.

Neku Sakuraba is a 15 year old loner. He doesn’t have any real friends, as he has chosen to block out the noise of the rest of the world by wearing headphones. But Neku is forced to change his ways once he becomes wrapped up in the Reaper’s game. Each Player has to have a partner, as they are powerless without one, and also at constant risk of being immediately erased.

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It’s really hard to put Neku’s development in words without it just sounding like the generic story of a jerk who slowly opens up his heart to others, but I genuinely do believe that his journey is something special. One of the best moments in the game, and a moment that I actually took to heart for my personal life, is Neku’s conversation with Sanae Hanekoma.

Sanae runs a coffee shop in Shibuya, and serves as a mentor character to Neku over the course of the game. He says to Neku that, the world ends with you. If you want to enjoy life, expand your world. You gotta push your horizons out as far as they’ll go”. He is essentially telling Neku, who has lived his entire life pushing others away, that his world and perspective will only grow if he creates meaningful connections with others, a philosophy that is perfectly analogous to real life.

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Neku is amazing, but he obviously wouldn’t be anything without a great cast of friends. Every character is in the UG for a reason, and this reason in conjunction with their entry fee ends up greatly defining each character’s story arc. Again, it’s extremely hard to talk about any of this without spoiling the plot, but The World Ends With You has a really well rounded cast of characters, both friend and foe.

While the game doesn’t have a sequel (even though the Android and iOS port of the game teased one), Neku, Shiki, Joshua, Beat and Rhyme all appear in Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance for the Nintendo 3ds, making them the first characters in the franchise that didn’t hail from a Disney or Final Fantasy title. It was super cool seeing Sora and Neku interact, as the two couldn’t be any more different, and it was especially cool hearing the remixes of some of the game’s awesome tracks such as Twister and Calling.

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Before I wrap things up, I wanna give a shout out to the game’s ending song, A Lullaby For You. It was performed by a J-pop star named Jyongri, and she actually recorded both an English and Japanese version, similar to Utada Hikaru and her Kingdom Hearts contributions. A Lullaby For You has gone on to become one of my all time favorite songs, and should the Kingdom Hearts series ever lose Utada, I think Jyongri would be a great replacement.

I wasn’t able to really gush about this game the way I wanted to because of spoilers and what not, but this game really does mean a lot to me. It has a special focus on real world themes that I was able to relate to, many of which I try to implement into to my everyday life.

 

My 12 Favorite Games Of All Time: ‘Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack In Time’

My 12 Favorite Games Of All Time: ‘Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack In Time’

Throughout my middle school and high school years, I was a huge fan of Game Informer. Aside from game coverage on G4 TV’s X-Play, it was my biggest insight into what was going on in the gaming industry. Every month, I would be super excited to tear through every single page to see new game previews, reviews and even the entertaining bits of trivia that ended the magazine.

When I came home from football camp during the summer of 2009, I was greeted with the July edition of Game Informer. I can still see the cover clear as day. It was all black, with the only image being that of an old, disheveled Max Payne. And at the very top of the cover, above even the Game Informer logo itself, was a line of text advertising a preview for Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time. 

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Although I was familiar with the name Ratchet & Clank, I had never played a single game. I had both a Playstation 2 and a Nintendo Gamecube, but my PS2 was almost exclusively used to play Kingdom Hearts, Dragon Ball Z and Naruto games, so I would miss out on quite a few notable games on the system, Ratchet & Clank being one of them.

The Playstation 3 is where I would really consider myself having become a true Playstation fan. I was a teenager, so my gaming taste was a bit more refined than when I was a kid, so I ended up playing all types of different games, including most of Sony’s first party offerings.

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I distinctly remember pouring over that issue of Game Informer for what must’ve been hours. I couldn’t believe how cool A Crack in Time both looked and sounded. So for Christmas that year, in addition to Uncharted 2: Among Thieves and LittleBigPlanet… I also got Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction. Even back then, I was a sucker for continuity, so I really wanted to start with the first game in this new saga of Ratchet & Clank.

Needless to say, I ended up really enjoying the game. Although the gimmicky motion control stuff was really off-putting, everything else in the game was awesome. I loved the story, I loved the characters, and I REALLY loved the gameplay. I couldn’t get enough of mowing through hordes of enemies, leveling up my weapons and collecting bolts while I explored the vast locales that the game had to offer.

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So the following year, I got A Crack in Time for my birthday (which is just one day before Christmas), and I spent the entire day playing. I was amazed at just how much fun the game was. I really liked Tools of Destruction, but I absolutely adored A Crack in Time, and it’s the game that made me a Ratchet & Clank fan.

Before I go more in depth with the game itself, I wanna talk about how it got me into the rest of the series. Not only have I played (and gotten the platinum trophy for) every Ratchet & Clank game that has come out since A Crack in Time, but I’ve also gone back and played the PS2 iterations (I also have the platinums in these games, except for Deadlocked).

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With the experience of just about every Ratchet & Clank game that isn’t a spin-off under my belt, I can confidently say that A Crack in Time is the best Ratchet & Clank game. The only aspect in which it has been surpassed is its presentation, and it took an installment on the Playstation 4 to do so.

As far as A Crack in Time is concerned, I’ll start with the story. Whenever I think about how I want the story in Sonic the Hedgehog games to be presented, my mind immediately jumps to this game. It’s everything I want out of a story, game or otherwise. It’s funny and comical, but knows when it needs to convey genuine drama and emotion. It takes itself just seriously enough to keep the audience engaged, but never gets so serious that you forget you’re playing a game about an anthromorph that fights aliens with crazy weapons.

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I won’t say much more about the story, as I really don’t wanna spoil how good it is, but I do have loads to say about the gameplay. In my eyes, the Playstation 2 games have a very clear trajectory. The first game was mostly a platformer, with bits of shooting thrown in for some added fun, while Going Commando was a pretty even split between platforming, exploration, puzzle solving and gunplay. Up Your Arsenal had a much greater focus on the weapons, but still had bits of platforming and puzzles, while Deadlocked is exclusively a shooter.

Similar to Going Commando, A Crack in Time is a perfect balance of everything that makes the series so great. There’s plenty of time to tear through the galaxy’s most fearsome creatures, but there’s also no shortage of platforming and exploration, the best example being the myriad of mini-planets that Ratchet can explore.

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These planets typically have a collectible that can be obtained by completing it’s challenge, and the challenges can range from defeating enemies, conquering platforming and swingshot challenges, or demonstrating mastery over your hoverboots.

One major thing that I feel like doesn’t get talked about nearly enough in the gaming industry, is how amazing the Clank sections are in A Crack in Time. In most Ratchet & Clank games, Clank’s sections are where the bulk of the puzzle solving takes place, and A Crack in Time is no different. But man, I can’t believe how innovative these puzzles are, nor can I even fathom how Insomniac Games came up with them.

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If I remember correctly, it was Ted Price that did an interview sometime during 2009 where he discussed the Clank puzzles. He said that he couldn’t accurately describe how they worked in words, you would just have to play them to understand, a statement that I wholeheartedly agree with. If a man that had a hand in making the game can’t describe the puzzles, I certainly can’t expect to do much better, but here’s a nice little video to give you a taste.

The weapons and gadgets are essential components of any Ratchet & Clank game, and A Crack in Time has a whole slew of them. While there are a few returning weapons like the Negotiator and Mag-Net launcher the game also introduces the Constructo weapons, and to this day, A Crack in Time is their only appearance. The Constructo weapons were an attempt to spice up the standard pistol, shotgun and grenade weapons. In addition to the normal benefits that are gained from leveling up, these weapons could also be outfitted with various mods that changed up their functions on the battlefield.

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I said before that I believe that A Crack in Time is the best Ratchet & Clank game, and I don’t know that any game will ever dethrone it. This isn’t because the game is perfect or anything, but it I can’t imagine it being any better than it already is. Again, aside from its presentation, there isn’t a single element of any Ratchet & Clank game that followed or preceded A Crack in Time that I think wasn’t done better in this game.

The story is much more engaging, the gameplay is Ratchet & Clank at its finest, there’s plenty of exploration for worthwhile collectibles, tons of post-game content, the list could go on and on. Not only is A Crack in Time my favorite Ratchet & Clank game, but it’s one of my favorite games of all time.

My 12 Favorite Games Of All Time: ‘The Legend Of Zelda: Link’s Awakening’

My 12 Favorite Games Of All Time: ‘The Legend Of Zelda: Link’s Awakening’

When I discussed my love for Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and Super Mario Kart, I put quite a bit of emphasis on two of my older cousins. As I said before, these two were incredibly influential on my early gaming years, and are largely responsible for making me a gamer today. Amongst the many games that I discovered because of them, is The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening.

Unlike games like Sonic Spinball, Link’s Awakening isn’t a game that caught my eye by being on display on their entertainment center. I actually found this game by rummaging through some of their old Game Boy games (which is also how I came across Kirby’s Dream Land). The Legend of Zelda, just the name alone caused my imagination to run wild. At that point in my life, most of the games I loved featured flashy, or at least attention grabbing cover art. But Link’s Awakening was a different case entirely.

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A bronze background with a rusted shield and sword at the forefront, what kind of adventure could this little Game Boy cartridge hold? The story begins with a young boy named Link being washed ashore by a vicious storm. He’s discovered by a young girl named Marin, and after a bit of exploration around the island of Koholint, encounters a strange owl who recounts the tale of the Wind Fish to our young hero.

In order to return home, Link must awaken the Wind Fish by gathering a series of magical instruments that are scattered about Koholint Island. Along the way, it is eventually revealed that Koholint Island is a dream of the Wind Fish, and rousing it from its slumber will cause the island and all of its inhabitants to disappear.

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I have a very limited experience with the Legend of Zelda series as a whole, but Link’s Awakening easily has my favorite story of the ones I’ve played. The characters are simple, but memorable, and waking up the Wind Fish is a genuinely bittersweet moment in the game. As a player trying to out myself in Link’s mindset, I had to consider whether or not it was even worth leaving such a fun and peaceful island lifestyle.

As much as I love the story, it’s not what made me fall in love with the game as a child. In fact, I didn’t even complete the game until just a few years ago (it was a bit too complex for my childhood self). It was the sense of wonder that the game gave me that kept me enthralled and entertained for hours on end.

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As a child, I only ever got as far as obtaining the third instrument, but the fact that I never could beat the game really bothered me. I loved simply exploring Koholint Island, and interacting with all of the locals. I’ll never forget the layout of the beach that Link washes up on, or the fact that Marin’s brother gets transformed into a Tanuki.

It sounds like it should be really frustrating experience. After all, the main objective of most games is to complete them, right? In the case of Link’s Awakening and games like it, the exploration is a huge part of the experience. In real life, I could only explore as far as my backyard and playground would allow. But Link’s Awakening took me to far more interesting locales.

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Another thing I’ll never forget is the music. The soundtrack along with the sound effects will forever be ingrained in my head, and I mean that in the best possible way. The ominous track that plays over the game’s intro, the quaint piece that accompanies Marin’s village and the head-bopping tune from the Mysterious Woods are just a few of my favorite songs from the game. Not to mention the jingle that plays when Link acquires a piece of power.

Compared to other Zelda games I’ve played, I love how different Link’s Awakening is. It’s far removed from series conventions like the Triforce, the Kingdom of Hyrule and even Princess Zelda herself, but this makes it a very unique installment in the series. It put an interesting spin on traditional Zelda stories, and ambitiously tried to fit a fully featured Zelda experience on a handheld. I’ll always treasure my memories of Link’s Awakening, and beyond my own personal nostalgia, I genuinely believe it is a great game.

Sonic The Hedgehog, Power Rangers And Embracing The 90’s

Sonic The Hedgehog, Power Rangers And Embracing The 90’s

I recently went to see the 2017 Power Rangers movie, and I had an awesome time with it. The Power Rangers have always been a huge deal to 90’s kids, but my only real attachment to the series is the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie game on the Super Nintendo. Having said that, it’s odd how much I knew was going on in the film, given my limited knowledge of Power Rangers. They are so ingrained in 90’s pop culture, that I was extremely familiar with all of the tropes and terms that are associated with the series.

My primary thought during my time with Power Rangers (again, as somewhat of an outsider to the series) was, “man, this movie really gets it.” Basically, I felt like the movie captured what I personally considered to be the essence of the Power Rangers, but with a modern twist, so much so that I actually got pretty excited when they played the classic theme song.

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The movie can be very 90’s at times. There’s plenty of cheese, cheeky one-liners, campy humor and fight scenes that feel like modern renditions of the Power Rangers’s classic fight scenes. It knows it’s a silly concept, and has fun with it. It’s very self aware, but never so much so that it detracts from the quality of the story.

For all of the laughs and humor that Power Rangers 2017 aims to provide, it also takes the time to lay the groundwork for an engaging story (as well as the eventual sequels). I really grew to love this new cast of teenagers, and I’m actually genuinely excited for the next installment.

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My overall feelings of Power Rangers 2017 are very reminiscent of the ones I have for Michael Bay’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles films, and to a lesser extent, Transformers. These movies have their haters, plenty of them in fact, but I’ll always defend the TMNT films as legitimate homages to the franchise. Unlike Power Rangers, I did grow up loving the Turtles and their various incarnations, and I consider myself to be pretty familiar with their story and personalities.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have always been silly, and they’ve always been an incredibly 90’s franchise. The 2014 TMNT movie has a fairly decent story, but great characters, action and humor (especially the elevator scene). In a similar vein to Power Rangers 2017, the Turtles felt much like how I remembered them being.

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The overarching theme between the modern versions of the Power Rangers and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is their embrace of their 90’s and late 80’s heritage. The 90’s are often looked at as a pretty divisive time. Some people cringe at the extremely in your face, and rebellious nature of the 90’s, while many other absolutely love it, big pants, neon colors and all.

As far as the Turtles and the Power Rangers are concerned, many of the complaints that their classic versions receive come from them being style over substance. They’re super charming, and have memorable moments and characters in spades, but many people argue that they didn’t have any real appeal if you weren’t in the target demographic (this is why these shows are negatively referred to as glorified commercials).

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This is something I’ve wanted Sonic the Hedgehog to embrace for a couple of years now, but I couldn’t really put it into words until I saw Power Rangers 2017. For some time now, I’ve been saying that I want Sonic games to become like Pixar movies, similar to modern Ratchet & Clank games. In short, this means fun and high energy stories, likeable characters, and engaging stories, and to be fair, the series has been trying to do this at least since 1998’s Sonic Adventure.

Ever since then, the story in Sonic games have become increasingly important, and while many of them have had various levels of quality, I do think there are some genuinely good ones in there. I love the stories of Sonic Unleashed and Sonic Colors, and as weird as this is gonna sound, I really feel that Sonic & The Black Knight has the best written story of any Sonic game. But I guess I forgot that Sonic the Hedgehog is a 90’s property, and maybe even Sega themselves did too.

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Sonic the Hedgehog is the embodiment of what defined the 90’s. He’s got plenty of attitude, lives by his own set of rules, and mocks anything slow or boring (even the famous Italian plumber himself). Somewhere along the lines however, Sonic started to get away from this. He lost a bit of his attitude, and became more of a standard hero character.

The past couple of years have seen Sega and Sonic going back to the ideas that made the hedgehog famous in the first place (especially the Twitter account). 2010 saw the entire voice cast of the series being replaced, save for Mike Pollock’s Dr. Eggman. And ever since then, Sonic has been much closer to his older, 90’s self. He’s got tons of snark and attitude, and dialogue from games like Sonic Colors wouldn’t feel at all out of place in Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog.

As awesome as Sonic Colors is, the game’s that followed represent the inverse of what I said about the modern versions of Power Rangers and TMNT. Sonic Generations, Sonic Lost World and the entirety of Sonic Boom are all jokes and no substance. To be completely fair, this works in the case of Sonic Boom, as this was its entire premise, and there have been some legitimate deep references that only hardcore fans would pick up on, as well as plenty of jabs at the history of the series.

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But in the case of the main series, the constant onslaught of jokes has started to fall flat. Moving forward, I would love for Sonic to follow the trend set by Power Rangers 2017. I’ll say it again, that movie has a really good story, tons of humor and unabashedly embraces the 90’s. Sonic stories have embraced the 90’s as well, they just need to work on the substance factor.

I don’t wanna be the guy that asks for deeper stories in my Sonic games, but if they are going to be there, I at least want them to be well written. In summation, my ideal Sonic story would be something that has the tone and plot of Sonic Unleashed or Sonic & The Black Knight, but the self aware humor of modern Power Rangers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, or even other Sonic games like Colors and Lost World.

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My 12 Favorite Games Of All Time: ‘Super Mario Kart’

My 12 Favorite Games Of All Time: ‘Super Mario Kart’

I’ve talked at length about how much I love Sonic the Hedgehog on numerous occasions, and even how important he was in making me fall in love with video games at an early age. In spite of my childhood fascination with the blue hedgehog, I never owned a Sega Genesis as a kid. The very first console I ever owned was a Super Nintendo. When I wrote about Sonic the Hedgehog 2, I talked briefly about the time I spent playing games with my older cousins, and it’s these same two cousins that I associate with all of my memories of the Super Nintendo.

At a very early age, I was given a Super Nintendo and numerous games by one of my older cousins (a different cousin than the aforementioned duo). And man, he really gave me some classics. Turtles in Time, X-Men Mutant Apocalypse, Final Fight II, NBA Jam, Super Play Action Football, Family Feud, I could sit here all day listing off amazing SNES games. But the ones that stuck out to me the most were the Nintendo franchise games, namely, Donkey Kong Country, Super Mario World, Super Mario Paint and Super Mario Kart. 

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The Mario Kart spin-off series is kinda of a weird one for me nowadays. I will always love the original game, Mario Kart DS, and Mario Kart Wii, and if I’m being fair, Mario Kart 8 is probably the strongest entry in the series. But as my gaming taste has changed, and the series has added in more and more items that stifle skillful play, I’ve found myself preferring games like Sonic All Stars Racing Transformed (similar to the people that say Crash Team Racing is better than every Mario Kart game). But we’re not here to compare and contrast mascot racing games, we’re here to discuss how much I adore Super Mario Kart!

Personal memories aside, I genuinely love Super Mario Kart, and I still think it holds up as a really good game. For the first entry in the franchise, it has very few things that I would consider flaws. The driving is very fluid, the courses are simple in design, but provide a decent enough challenge, and items, while beneficial in certain situations, aren’t overpowered like later ones in the series (no Bullet Bills or Blue Shells). My only major complaint is the fact that the computer controlled racers can activate item abilities at any time they want (especially Luigi and the Star powerup). 

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Playing Super Mario Kart gives me a similar feeling to the one I got when I played Pokemon Red on the 3DS Virtual Console last year. I didn’t bother going out of my way to get that game’s version of the Experience Share, nor did i spend anytime grinding. So for the first time in forever, I was noticeably underleveled for my Elite Four Challenge. This made for not only a much more engaging overall playthrough, but for one of the most memorable Champion battles I’ve had since I started playing Pokemon games.

Whenever I play modern Mario Kart games, I generally breeze right through the courses with very little problem (when I’m not getting peppered with shells and banana peels anyway).To be fair, this is largely due to the fact that I’m just better at the newer games than I am at Super Mario Kart, but this doesn’t change the fact that the game’s 100cc races still give me a mean case of sweaty palms. Special mention to the various Bowser’s Castle courses and Rainbow Road.

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One of the most notable things about the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis generation of games is the timeless sprite work. Many of the games that looked great back then, still look great to this day, and Super Mario Kart is no exception. Each racer’s victory animations is forever embedded into my head, and courses like Ghost Valley never fail to keep me on the edge of my seat. The game also has an awesome soundtrack and array of sound effects. As I’m writing this, I can hear the all too familiar sound of Lakitu’s countdown that comes with the start of each race, as well as the chipper tune of Koopa Troopa Beach.

What truly defines Super Mario Kart for me is the game’s battle mode, which is odd because I’m not a fan of the battle mode in any other Mario Kart game. This is where my relationship with my older cousins comes back into play. We spent hours and hours firing off shells at each other, so much so that I still remember the best strategies for each battle mode course.

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Now that I’m really thinking about it, battle mode may be the reason that I love games that reward skillful play. When I used to play with my cousins, the loser would always have to pass the controller, meaning I spent a lot of time just watching the game. So if I wanted to spend more time playing than watching, I had to get better at the game. While I never got quite as good as my elder cousins at the game, I did get good enough that they had to actually make an effort to beat me.

Super Mario Kart is by no means the best kart racer out there, but I do firmly believe that it holds up as a solid game to this day. It’s not as flashy as later Mario Kart games, nor as mechanically fleshed out as modern racing games, but for a racing game on the Super Nintendo, I feel like it holds up well against the test of time. Some of my most treasured childhood memories are centered around Super Mario Kart, and I’d love to hang out with my cousins one day to just play a couple of rounds of battle mode.