Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Fighting Games!!

The greatest genre you’re not playing

Episode I - Button Bashing Roots.

When I was growing up my first exposure to fighting games was Street Fighter II’ Turbo - Hyper Fighting on Super Nintendo. I didn’t actually own the game myself, but I played a lot of it at a friends house. This was back when I was about 7 or 8.

Having served my years with the NES I had seen my share of games where the objective was to kick ass...but Street Fighter II was different. It was 1 vs 1, I could either walk towards or away, crouch or jump, and every button initiated a punch or kick of varying strength. This was my first true taste of a “Fighting Game”.

Basically you had 2 ways to play... either against a friend, or we could choose a character and then try and complete the arcade mode with them. Although both ways of playing were essentially a mess, not because of Capcom (who made this great game) ...but because in “Arcade mode”, we would get our ‘n00b’ asses handed to us by the computer, and in “VS mode” neither of us had any real grasp of our characters, and thus the natural human instinct of “button mashing” kicked in. Although because of that, any wins (via button bashing) never really felt like wins.

Still, regardless of the frustrations and the complex difficulty the game threw at fondness for the Street Fighter series was born with my very first hands-on with it.

I credit that to a mix of the following; the characters stood out, it was my first taste of a true fighting game, and although I sucked at was rewarding when I managed to learn something, whether it was remembering 1 of a characters ‘specials’ or simply a tactic that would work against the computer (M. Bison’s Slide for instance, []).

There was also a sense of unique-ness to every fight too. Sure I’d taken Little Mac to as far as I could memorise attack patterns for in “Punch-Out” [NES], but that was more about timing than fighting...
I’d also fought my way through random henchmen a plenty in “Turtles” on the NES, Final Fight on SNES, or Streets of Rage/ Cyborg Justice/ Golden Axe, etc on the Megadrive, but your movesets in these games were always quite limited...

However with Street Fighter... as well as Mortal Kombat, Clayfighter, Killer Instinct, Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, and other crazy fighting games I played as a kid. It felt more like what a fight should feel like...even with the addition of fireballs and many other crazy shenanigans.

Fast Forwarding to my teenage years... I still had respect and nostalgic love for Street Fighter II, backed up by the fact I usually had a copy of SFII on each and every system I had (except my N64...because the once rumoured Street Fighter 64 never got made).

Still though. Even during my teenage years, and closing in on hitting twenty, I had never really “up’d my game” in terms of making any real improvements at the fighting games I would occasionally pull out from time to time. At the most I would go as far as to perhaps look up a characters move list on the internet or someplace, and try to mash those moves out as much as I could in hopes it would get me the win...and sure it would work against much less experienced friends, and perhaps get me through the first 3-4 matches of the 1 player Arcade mode, but this never was enough to motivate me into putting that many hours into whichever games in question.

It was a trend between many of my friends too. Everyone I knew had at some point or another owned a fighting game, but in comparison to the rest of the games they owned, they barely got that much play time. Nor did I know anyone who was actually truly impressive at any of these fighting games.

I didn’t really give it any extra thought though. I just presumed fighting games were just destined to not really last you that long, that they pretty much where the kind of games you would whip out every other month...perhaps to see if you would randomly be any better at the game now... or maybe you had some friends round and wanted to mix up your multi-player gaming sessions with something violent and different to whatever else you’d be playing...

...and that was that. I remained oblivious to the true depth, the true reward, that lay within fighting games. That was until...February 2009, but I'll fill you in on the rest in Episode II.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Retro Monday: N.E.S (original and best)

In light of the recent 25Th Anniversary of the brothers Mario and the release of Super Mario Bros All stars on Wii (which Brapscallion took a look at in last weeks Retro Monday) i decided to talk today about perhaps my favourite console of all time. The original and best, the 8-bit monster - The Nintendo Entertainment System. A CLASSIC !
Originally released in Europe and Australia in 1987, I received mine quite late on in 1990 for my tenth Christmas. The main reason I'm writing this is the warmth I feel every time I think of playing the old dear titles. Amazing games like Mario bros 3, Zelda and Duck Tales. My fondest gaming memories all took place whilst burning away the wee hours hooked up to this genius piece of kit.

I can honestly say the single reason why I'm such a game freak now; is because of this machine, as I'd got it late on the wealth of cartridges that were available to buy was HUGE. Well to a ten year old, I'd say so.

As one of the best presents I had received came all sealed up bundled with Mario bros, Double Dragon, Duck hunt and the Zapper i was literally beside myself. I'd been buying (well, my mum had, as i said i was 10) as many game magazines around winter as i could in anticipation in what Father Christmas could be bringing, it was too much, I had to know everything about the Console, titles released, new games coming out, graphics, everything. I attribute that OCD behavior and quest for game knowledge in every console and every title I've played or heard about since. It's made me how I'am today, always seeking info, the next nugget of news, scanning sites such as IGN and Kotaku everyday. Listening to hours of podcasts from the Gamespot team or the U.S Hotspot. Other people will be just like me on this front, they'll all have similar stories and fond memories about their first love.

BINGO, their it is, my first love, that's why i chose the N.E.S to write about today, it kickstarted my official geekdom. It was the first machine, my first machine.
xx Nintendo xx
Check out this American advert for the full NES Rob the Robot pak. Cheesy but timeless...

Boxart for the OG zelda, still good....

So what kept me glued to this machine, every night after school and every weekend for YEARS. I'll tell you; no, I'll list them for you... this is a blog site after all and i do love lists.

My top 8 NES titles:

NO.8 - Double Dragon 2

I spent MANY a play-through's with a buddy on this wee beastie. I can still remember arguing with my friend about who would be Jimmy Lee and who would be Billy Lee. As their moves where identical and they looked just the same (was a NES remember) i guess it came down to playing the guy with the blue shirt or the guy with the red shirt.

NO.7 - Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers

Oh gooood times spent on this mad-cap platform game, as a BIG TIME fan of the show i loved the fact i could play as all the characters. I'm humming the theme in my head as i write this. An underrated classic.

NO.6 - Mega Man 2

Officially one of the HARDEST games ever made. I never finished it. I did spend godless hours trying to hone my platforming skills on it though. As tough-as-they-come monster that became a NES poster child for smashed up pads everywhere. Curse you Dr.Wily. Loved it !!

NO.5 - Ducktales

Another TV game adap, this one featured Scrooge McDuck and the pint size trio Huey, Duey and Looie. A classic platformer where i'd spend half the game time on foot and the other half bouncing on Scrooge's cane. It was a masterclass in capturing a brilliantly designed world with it's TV counterpart. Everybody - "Ducktales, woohoo"

NO.4 -Kickle Cubicle

Sublime level based 1 screen puzzler, mixing action and ice. I spent so long trying to finish this one, eventually i broke through to the final level. My tale doesn't have a good ending because in the midst of doing so, i leapt of my chair knocking my NES and freezing my game in the process. It didn't register my save and I'd lost everything... i should have written down that damn level code.

NO.3 - Legend of Zelda

What's to be said about this game that hasn't before...
A timeless piece of work that introduced us to the kingdom of hyrule. Will always be in my top 5.

NO.2 - The Adventure of link

What! Top down action, and now this. Side scrolling too. Amazing stuff, for the first time i felt at home with my new genre of choice. Action RPG. Splitting the games view' into 2 modes was genius and a great use for a hub world, infact that leads me nicely to my number one spot...

NO.1 - Super Mario Bros 3

The king of platformers, one of the greats and my personal favourite game of ALL TIME.
Never to be toppled in my eyes. It left an echo so loud that every other Mario game since has borrowed from it, the overview map, the choice to store power-ups, the suits.
(to read more about this giant, check out one of my early Retro Mondays for a full gush)

Punch out!



So, the NES, in a nutshell the machine that made me, me. Right I'm off now Albion needs cleaning up some more before i can move onto pastures new, Rome for example (wink.)
For more Retro fun with us at Gainboy remember to check out our footage at Blackpool's Retro Expo '10. Loving the sites and smells of the old-school.

Peace and Love
Dr Lucian Sanchez (aka Marc)

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

The Wii-Nut

4 years late. If you were 4 years late for something, you might as well not turn up at all. Imagine turning up for someone's 18th 4 years late. They'd be 22. Yet that's what I've done. Spurred on by a combination of my girlfriend gently nagging and the beautiful limited edition Mario Red console, I decided that I would reward myself. The first Paycheck from my new job, I rushed down to my local Gamestation after work, and picked it up. I had just bought a console that Grandmas and JLS are currently promoting.

Look at these Douchebags.

And I really like it. I reckon you've heard enough from absolutely EVERYONE on the subject, but it's a really enjoyable experience. I'm completely sold on the idea, and have been frankly blown away by the level of innovation the console sometimes comes up with.

I'm sure it'll gradually get less appealing over time, and it'll gather dust until the next Nintendo-developed title is released, but I'm ready for that, and fine with it. For the moment, however, I'm fully enjoying it. I was having a couple of beers and playing it with my girlfriend at the weekend when I figured it out. I had a moment of clarity, a breakthrough!

The Wii is a snack. a Peanut. No, a Wii-Nut!

If gaming is food, then the Wii is the snack element of it. It's a light bite, a bit of what you fancy in a small portion, that perfectly fills a hole with frivolity and brazen-ness. It's not classy, and it's not particularly well thought-out a lot of the time, but it's just what you need.

And I don't mean this in any derogatory way whatsoever. Of course I don't, I just told you how I'm absolutely loving it.

But imagine the Xbox or PS3 is like a meal. Depending on the game, it could be a steak dinner or a plate of crap. But it's aim is to fill you up, give you a full experience and be 'everything you need'. Most of the time, this is what I want. The DS and especially the PSP is a lunchbox. It's trying to fit the meal into a smaller form, but trying to give you it all still.

Mii. Bowling.

But the Wii, the Wii is a pub snack, and it's absolutely brilliant for it. When I'm having a few beers with my mates, or my missus, I don't want a meal. I want a bowl of peanuts there, for grazing and to allow the fun to flow, without anyone being bogged down. Same with my gaming. Wii-Nuts. Get it! Yeah I know, it's terrible, but it makes some kind of sense. The snack can be shitty, but it can also be brilliant. It could be a stick of celery, or it could be organic handmade honey-roast cashew nuts. See, you're now hungry from just reading that.

It's so good for it, too. I'll fire up Boom Blox and play it for 30 mins, get another beer, and then plug into Wii Sports resort and play a bit of Table Tennis, before deciding it's time for New Super Mario Bros Co-Op. All 2 player, all the time. It's an experience that demands human interaction, and demands company. It's a console that strips back to it's roots in the days of playing with others for the fun of it. No achievements, no online lag, no collectible gun camo. Just straight-up playability. Miyamoto made a bold move by dismissing all these things and more, but I finally get it. He's made the NES again. He's made games about family, and about friends, and about beers. He stripped it down, and to great effect.

And what a fantastic addition to my gaming, and to gaming in general. As time has indeed proved for the Wii, the market can accommodate both casual and hardcore audiences, and thrive. And those of us who sit in the middle? Well, we're getting spoilt.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Retro Monday: Super Mario All-Stars (SNES/Wii)

Within the last month, I've decided to finally succumb to my girlfriend's wishes and my inner Nintendo fanboy and purchased a Wii. I'm building up to some mega blog post filled with insightful metaphors and loads of fancy talking about it, but it's going to take me a while to summon up that kind of brainpower. In the meantime, let's talk about about Mario All-Stars. See, we CAN be topical! A Retro Monday that is both retro AND contemporary, the little Italian's plumbers greatest hits collection, or 'Now that's what I call the invention of game mechanics and industry-changing techniques and ideas'. Yeah, Mario always has been kind-of a big deal.

Released on Friday, Mario All-Stars is a compilation based on a Super Nintendo game, in which the 3 Super Mario Bros titles are put in one neat little package along with 'The Lost Levels' (Super Mario Bros 2 in Japan). All re-touched and re-done for the 16-bit era, the games were a great introduction to people who may have not played Mario before, and a great refresher course in those that did. All in a single package, I liked the game.

My main problem with the SNES game is the touching up though. As any die-hard Mario fan will attest to, the memories are what drives the series. When I switched on the SNES, the graphics overhaul was undoubtedly an improvement on the original, but it didn't feel the same. It felt a little more rounded, a bit too colourful for my personal tastes. I always thought it was a bit like eating an ice cream with extra sugar sprinkled on the top. Just a little too much.

Old Nes Super Mario Bros

New All-Stars Super Mario Bros

Nevertheless, it meant I got to play the Japanese Mario Bros 2, with it's invisible platforms and general bastardry, and got to properly get to grips with the Western Mario 2, which I never got a pop at first time round. Both were lovely additions, and the package itself was a delight. The little touch of the characters chatting before the title lights up was lovely, and it felt like real value, and a proper addition to a SNES collection.

This time round, it's a little more disappointing. Why? Because it literally hasn't changed.

In reality, it's a SNES Emulator on a disc. They haven't even bothered to fix the screen ratio properly. It's a pretty lacklustre attempt. One which, in my opinion, doesn't really celebrate the 25 years of Mario (we all know it's 27 really). What it does is more cement Nintendo's reputation for laziness when it comes to some of it's titles. Would it of killed them to add a little more to the package? The CD and booklet that came with the game was good, but the game itself could of been just that little more special.

I mean, they could of released a new package, included Super Mario World and a whole host of stuff. Put some Yoshi's Island on there? Paper Mario? All this would of EASILY fit on a Wii disc, and would have made it astonishing. I know it would of been more effort, and I know it might have taken a little longer, but come on guys, give the little plumber a bit of a celebration. He is getting on a bit, after all.

So what can I say? For a grizzled Nintendo veteran, the package was ultimately a tad on the disappointing side. I can see parents showing their kids this and getting them excited about the good old days, but for me, I just wish they'd done a bit more. I reckon you'd fare much better by getting yourself an original Nintendo Entertainment System, and blowing into a good old grey cartridge with 'Super Mario Bros 3' emblazoned up on it's plastic case. Either that or Mario Galaxy. Wahooooo.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

GainBoy Gets ART- 4


Another installment is here. Our fantastical series in which our good friend and all-round solid chap Heartbox to come up with classy Game Art. Well, we think it's classy.

Check it out below, and let us know what you think!