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Game Overview: 8-Bit Runner-Up
May 31st, 2008 by Dan

Here’s the funny thing about this list of all-star games per era I’ve been constructing: there are more than three games that I feel are worth mentioning. What’s a guy like me to do?

The answer is simpler than you think. I just write blog posts about the ones that didn’t quite make it. These games do not automatically earn spots at the Table of Honor, but they are definitely all-star games and the post will be tagged as such. Some eras will have only one game in them, like the 8-bit era, but others will have several runner-ups spread across several blog posts.

So what’s bringing up the caboose of the radical games from the 8-bit era? What just couldn’t pop the bubble and make its way into the top three to receive such a dubious awesome award? Why it’s Bubble Bobble!

Runner-up: Bubble Bobble

You boot up Bubble Bobble, select 2P mode (is there any other way to play?) and then subject yourself to some difficult, old-school, tortuously hard gameplay. Now, given some of the videos and whatnot that I’ve seen related to Bubble Bobble, it seems that it was my youth and lack of practice that caused me to be so bad at the game, it being yet another NES game that I never actually completed, but I still stand by the fact that the epic journey of Bub and Bob (they had names?) was and still is quite challenging.

I have so many memories of plowing through the levels of Bubble Bobble with my brothers, encasing monsters in bubbly prisons and transmuting them from their monstery essence to delicious treats for us to eat. The wikipedia article lists all sorts of complex bubble jumps and other moves that, as far as I knew, none of the three of us ever mastered or even cared about. That never mattered though, the fact of the matter was that Bubble Bobble was fun and we totally loved to play it, die, and start over. If there were ever a game that needed a DS or XBL update, this would undoubtedly be in the top ten list.

Check out this Video Game Vault feature on Bubble Bobble:

So with that, I officially close out the 8-bit era, but feel free to throw out any suggestions that you think deserve to make this list. If I’ve played it and have something to say about it, I’ll either laud the game as genius as I have for this past four or I’ll let you know why you’re wrong.

Game Overview: 8-Bit All-Stars
May 30th, 2008 by Dan

Insert another credit, because it’s time for your weekly video game news and you’ve just hit the Game Overview screen.

Due to some poor life decisions, I find myself stranded for five weeks without any video games. What’s a guy to do, right? Well, rather than just giving you some of the headlines from the week’s video game news in lieu of what I was planning to be gameplay impressions, reviews, and the like, I’m gonna start a five week “All-Stars” feature. Each week we’re going to look at a video game era and spotlight my top three games from that era. Each of these games will also receive a place setting at the prestigious “Table of Honor” feature that I’m working on. Here’s the weekly plan:

Week 1: 8-bit Console Era
Week 2: 16-bit Console Era
Week 3: Post-16-bit Console Era, Pre-Current Generation
Week 4: Pre-Current Generation PC Games
Week 5: Current Generation

Yeah, the categories are broad, particularly weeks three and four, but it’s how I want to do them, so get off my back!

The 8-bit era. According to Wikipedia, this is the third generation of video games, and what a generation it was. You see, it technically began before my lifetime. The Nintendo Entertainment System was released in the US on 18 October 1985, just under four months before my actual date of birth. Wikipedia lists its official end at 1992, but the 16-bit systems debuted much sooner than that, with the Sega Genesis launching in the US in 1989 and the Super Nintendo hitting North American shores in 1991. It was a tumultuous time for video games, with the Video Game Crash of 1983 seemingly spelling the end for video games. Thankfully, Nintendo came along and decided to show everyone there was a new sheriff in town. Games couldn’t be officially published without the “Nintendo Seal of Quality,” limiting the crap that could just be shoveled onto the system, but that didn’t stop a huge flood of relatively crummy games from hitting the system anyway.

Of those games, I distinctly remember three stand-out games from the era, my personal top three:

Here’s a hint for the first of the three, it was damn near impossible to get anywhere in this game without: up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, b, a. That’s right, #3 on my list is the original Contra

#3 Contra

While my family didn’t technically own Contra, I still have fond memories of visits to our friend Angel’s house where we either got our collective asses handed to us by aliens (apparently? I had to look it up) in their family room or wobbling around on Angel’s super rad water bed (DISCLAIMER: I no longer find water beds super rad). There was something about Contra that other games we’d rented or played just didn’t have. The controls were tight, we had co-op two player mode to help with the levels, the guns were wicked cool, and the levels were way varied. You started side-scrolling, but then you were in quasi-3-D and, before you knew it, you were now fighting from an almost top-down perspective. It all just clicked together so seamlessly. You want proof that this game is good? I don’t think I ever made it to the third level and I still think it’s great.

I’m not even going to comment on how long I’m sure this took this dude to do, but check out this AMAZING no-death run of Contra split into two parts. It’s sure to knock your socks off.

Man, it would sure be cool to be able to destroy that guy and then steal his video game prowess…If that wasn’t as blatant a hint as to the number two game on my list, I’ll just come out and say it: Mega Man 2

#2 Mega Man 2

Take a look at that box art in the above link. Does that make any sense at all to you? It sure as heck didn’t to me as a kid. Mega Man didn’t look like a real dude and he sure as hell didn’t hold a pistol. I guess I can understand the marketing boys not wanting to put what the actual Mega Man looks like on the box, but they did it with Mario, right? I’m sure it doesn’t help that real life Mario looks way scary

Anyway, let’s talk about the gameplay a bit. Mega Man was one of my first encounters with a non-linear game. I’m pretty sure we owned a golden Legend of Zelda cartridge, but the gameplay baffled me and I can’t remember if we had it before or after we got Mega Man 2. That’s all beside the point anyway, which is: How cool is it that you get to pick which Robot Master you fight first? My personal favorite first start was to hit up Metal Man, since he was easiest to beat (Wood Man was another popular choice of mine) without any of the other powers. After that, it was kind of a crap shoot of trial and error for the non-web-enabled gamer of the late 1980s/early 1990s to know where to head next. At some point, my brother somehow found out what order you were supposed to fight them in, possibly through a strategy guide, and we were actually able to see the final sections of the game against Dr. Wily. Those were definitely a challenge and way tough, but also lots of fun to play since you had Mega Man’s full repertoire of weapons at your disposal. Here’s another game that I don’t remember ever beating, although I do remember fighting a dragon for some odd reason or another. All in all though, a tight gaming experience with a creative mechanic to me at the time. Stealing powers and knowing that they were strong against another guy, just brilliant. I do have one thing to say though, I’ll be god damned if ever beat Quick Man. Those beams of energy were way cheap…

Below is some dude’s tribute to Mega Man 2

Man oh man, what could possibly be the best of 3 on a system like the NES. Which game could be first on my list, but 3rd at the same time? Ok, ok, enough lame hints, you probably already know I’m talking about Super Mario Bros. 3.

#1 Super Mario Bros. 3

SMB3 is, and always will be, as close as you can get to perfection embodied in 2-D platformer. Just about the only criticism I can come up with, and only after wracking my brain, is that the myriad of suits are sometimes very situational and there aren’t enough opportunities to get the cool ones like the Tanooki, Hammer Bros., or Frog Suit. Other than that, Shigeru Miyamoto proved not only that lightning can strike the same place twice, but that it can strike the same place twice more awesomely than the last two times it did. The innovative map screen was incredible, the tiny details, like sliding down hills, were intricately placed, you could fly, you could store power-ups, and you still retained some of the most vital Mario abilities, like warping from world to world.

My vivid memories of Mario 3, again at Angel’s house or rented, really just highlight how absolutely incredible the game was. I still, to this day, think of those days as a kid playing SMB3 when I see that opening red curtain. I still remember those days when I play the Mario Brothers mini-game. I still remember that time in my life when I see the opening to the first level. Having never actually owned the game and due to the lack of a battery backup system in the original cartridge, I never did beat the game way back in the day. I did, however, get a chance to come back to it with the release of the Game Boy Advance SP. The Christmas of my junior year of high school, there was a bundle available for Christmas: Buy the Game Boy Advance SP, get Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros. 3 bundled in and a rebate for headphones. I’d been wanting to pick up a GBA SP for a while at that point, since it featured a backlight, which all original GBA owners know the system DESPERATELY needed, and bundling in SMB3 made it a no-brainer. I resolved to never use a warp whistle and to play every single level available, regardless of whether or not I had to in order to reach the castle. It was beyond rewarding to finally finish it about 10 years after I started it.

This game is definitely tough, but I guarantee you that if you play through the entire thing, you will know what it is to have fun playing a video game. There’s no complicated camera, no objective set other than reach the end and basically almost no plot at all, and no maneuvers more complicated than maybe holding a direction and another button down, but in this way we see what it is to truly have fun with a game. Playing SMB3 I feel like I really do understand what Miyamoto talks about when he goes off about how games are too complicated nowadays and how we should refocus on what makes a game fun.

For more video game video fun, check out this speed clear of SMB3:

There you have it, my top three games of the 8-bit era. Many of you might be complaining about the lack of Sega Master System games (or anything outside of NES games), but, truth be told, I’ve never even touched a Sega Master System, much less played or even seen one in real life. I can’t have a favorite game I’ve never played, can I? Tune in next week to see my favorites of the 16-bit era. This time I’ll be able to include Sega games (will any make it?) and we’ll see games that are far more complex in almost every respect than their ancestors.

A few words on what will become my “Table of Honor” page. Basically, it’s a Hall of Fame page for the best examples of just about any category I talk about on this blog, including video games, music, movies, technology, and books. Once I finally debut this feature, I’ll be sure to post something about it.

Filmmakers Bleed: Indy 4
May 29th, 2008 by Dan

Let’s start with three words: what the heck? Hopefully you can guess where this review is heading, so if you’re concerned about spoilers, just skip to the part after the spoiler tags where I tell you to save your money unless you absolutely love Indiana Jones or you thought that Temple of Doom was the pinnacle of the series. Everyone else is better off just waiting for the rental.

SPOILERS

So Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (henceforth known as IJATKOFCS) starts innocently enough. It’s the 1950s, the world’s a different place, it’s the ATOMIC AGE! We’ve advanced so far in the world that we even need to use CG prairie dogs! A military convoy shows up at a secret base in Nevada or New Mexico (who cares?) and then the first sign that this movie is headed in a bad direction becomes apparent. The military guys who are secretly bad guys break into the secret base and turn out to be NAZ–COMMIES? Are you serious? They’re Russian Communists…COMMUNISTS! Do you know who Indiana Jones fights, no matter what year it is? NAZIS! I’m immediately disappointed that the bad guys are not Nazis, but at this point I’m still willing to see where this can possibly go. Lucky for me, it goes precisely where I don’t want it to go, no matter how much I’m desperately pleading with the screen to not do it: aliens.

So in the first 15 minutes I already think this movie is shit. I mean, Russians and aliens? The Ark of the Covenant, the Holy Grail, heck, even the goddamn Temple of Doom, while metaphysical, are definitely not sci-fi. Perhaps I’m being too picky, but Indiana Jones is not a sci-fi series at all and taking it in this direction is just a bad move. If this isn’t absolute evidence that someone needs to take any and all writing implements away from George Lucas, give him a severe knuckle-rapping, and forbid him from ever writing another word, I don’t know what is.

The plot plods along, introducing Shia LaBeouf, who everyone already knows is Indy’s son, but has to wait for the movie to introduce this fact, who does a barely passing job in a poorly written film (perhaps not his fault, plenty of more talented actors have faltered under George Lucas’ terrible writing. I’m not talking about Hayden. He’s just awful). The group ends up in South America, finds out clues, goes on the run, swings on vines (SO STUPID), and finally gets to this forbidden city. The alien skull is returned, the Russians all die, Indy escapes and gets married, happy ending.

/SPOILERS

The plot to this movie is just asinine and stupid, the acting is only passable most of the time, CG is way overused, and the whole thing just comes off as silly instead of cool or fun to watch. Seriously, like I said before, save your money and rent this one or you’ll want it back. To be fair, I know plenty of people who are huge Indy fans or who are immune to terrible movies who were able to enjoy this movie, but in general I’d recommend avoiding paying more than $5 or $6 to see this.

Wednesday Morning Quarterback: Whoa, What?
May 28th, 2008 by Dan

You’ve probably heard the saying that hindsight is 20/20 on Monday morning, so just imagine how well I can call ‘em two days later on Wednesday. That’s right, it’s time for Wednesday Morning Quarterback, your weekly sports round-up.

I know I talk about how insane this is to begin with all the time, but how about those Tampa Bay Rays tied for the best record in the MLB with the Chicago Cubs. Who could have ever expected this last year? The Rays have been an under 0.500 team for their entire history. Maybe that name change wasn’t as stupid an idea as I initially thought it was…

Florida continues to hold on to first place mostly thanks to an amazing sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Another challenge is upon us as we take on the slumping Mets (they did just win one against us though), the NL East second place Phillies, and the dominant-at-home Braves before coming back home to take on the anemic Reds. Go Fish, stay strong.

Embedded Reporter: Maya Angelou
May 26th, 2008 by Dan

Deep from the trenches, it’s time for your Monday video feature: Embedded Reporter.

Graduation has come and gone for me this past weekend, which is why I haven’t had any posts since Friday. Our Convocation speaker was the amazing Dr. Maya Angelou, who gave a very cool speech on Saturday. You can watch the speech (in Realplayer only at the moment, WTF?) here.

She’s definitely a great speaker and funny when she wants to be. I hate to brag, but she beat the pants off of my brother’s convocation speaker four years ago, General (Ret.) Wesley Clark. To be fair, the president back then, Jeffrey Lehman, knocked the socks off of the dull speech by our president, David Skorton. He’s just so boring I can’t stand it.

Anyway, enjoy the convocation video while you can, it’s supposedly going to be removed from the website at some point due to copyright concerns.

Game Overview: MGS5?
May 23rd, 2008 by Dan

Insert another credit, because it’s time for your weekly video game news and you’ve just hit the Game Overview screen.

Metal Gear Solid 4 comes out in a few short weeks and it will be the end of an era. Twenty years of Metal Gear and we’ve finally hit the end of the series. :sigh: What a great time…wait, what?

Video game news has been abuzz since about last week when Konami made it clear that there will, in fact, be a Metal Gear Solid 5, despite Kojima’s statements in the past that MGS4 would be the last MGS game ever. While gamers are used to having Kojima claim to be done with the series permanently, they certainly didn’t expect to see another announcement so soon.

The basic gist is that while it may not be a “Solid” game (as in involving Solid Snake), there will be more Metal Gear games, even if the numeral isn’t exactly 5. Kojima wants his production company, the aptly named Kojima Productions, to be involved with the game, but he would be willing to put someone else in the actual role of producer.

My reaction is, predictably, bittersweet. I mean, who wouldn’t want to see more Metal Gear games, right? Then again, how would the series proceed without Solid Snake and with his entire story told? I can say from the get-go that I wouldn’t want to see the series keep on extending the story of Snake with Snake retired and whatnot, but then again, would another game that had nothing to do with Snake even really be a Metal Gear game? I suppose if I stopped to think about it, we did have that in Metal Gear Solid 2. Sure, we played as Snake for a while, but the story had just about nothing to do with Solid Snake, aside from him actually appearing in the game. In the end, it was still a good game without Snake being the player character, so I suppose it could work.

I think the main concern that I would have with a new Metal Gear game is that I would want Hideo Kojima involved. Anything made without his strong input in some way would be objectionable to me. We’ll see what happens.

Grand Slam: Holy Cow!
May 22nd, 2008 by Dan

Holy cow! The Marlins beat the undefeated Brandon Webb and the Arizona Diamondbacks 3-1 last night!

Be sure to check out the recap by clicking the video link in the article I linked.

Boy does that stadium look empty with its MLB lowest average attendance…

Wednesday Morning Quarterback: Senior Week
May 21st, 2008 by Dan

You’ve probably heard the saying that hindsight is 20/20 on Monday morning, so just imagine how well I can call ‘em two days later on Wednesday. That’s right, it’s time for Wednesday Morning Quarterback, your weekly sports round-up.

Yesterday saw two amazing athletic events up here at Cornell’s Senior week with a miniature golf tournament and two games of bowling.

Golf did not go so well for me, as I fell one stroke behind Yin and brought up the rear of seven golfers. The best part was that it all came down to the last hole, which I botched on the last shot to give Yin the win. The main event was $5 placed on Lee and James’ game, which Lee was in jeopardy of losing for about 3/4 of the match, but a few bad holes put him securely in first (of the two).

The surprise mostly came from Ben, who had a very disappointing outing in their last match (which neither Yin nor I were a part of) that he mostly blames on using a red ball and his inability to contrast the ball with the felt due to colorblindness. One neon yellow ball later, he dominated us all with a great golf score.

Bowling went a little better for me with my first over 100 game of the year (I’m not very good). This match was a lane vs. lane cumulative score competition. Yin and Duffy couldn’t manage to make it in for the first game, so we played with our abridged rosters and lost by about 40 pins. After getting warmed up, our completed roster came back for victory in the second game after naming ourselves Team Awesome and naming our neighbors, due to their bowling at the time of naming, Team Meltdown. In the end our awesomeness didn’t quite end up demolishing the competition, but we still won by about 10 pins and I bowled a 106, which is pathetic, but still over 100 and so I am proud.

In more serious sports news, the Marlins are still in first, but are facing their largest challenge in the year so far with a three game set against the Diamondbacks. So far they managed to put up a win against Micah Ownings, but tonight’s game is against the 9-0 powerhouse Brandon Webb. Those nine wins are not just a National League high, but a high in the entire majors. The next highest win count is a three-way tie between Daisuke Matsuzaka of the Red Sox, Joe Saunders of the Los Angeles Angels, and Edinson Volquez of the Cincinnati Reds, each with 7 wins this season. It’ll take a bit of a prayer and hopefully great bat-work by the Fish to hold on to the wins. Speaking of great hitting, it should be noted that as of today, there is at least one Florida Marlin in the top five of every one of the categories measured by baseball for league leading hitting. Keep it up Florida.

Embedded Reporter: Metal Gear Retrospective
May 19th, 2008 by Dan

Deep from the trenches, it’s time for your Monday video feature: Embedded Reporter.

You may or may not realize that Metal Gear Solid 4 is a mere month away, but Gametrailers has and they’ve started one of their amazing Retrospective series last week about Metal Gear. Episodes one and two are up, so check them out below already!

Bookmark This!: Wikihistory by Desmond Warzel
May 17th, 2008 by Dan

Here’s a funny little short story that I had forwarded to me by the CIT social list. Anyone who has ever posted on a forum will most definitely enjoy it.

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