Thursday, June 19, 2008

If you've been wondering where I've been...

Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time/Darkness for DS. Go get it. Now. I have to go, I'm wasting precious playing time.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Sonic the Hedgehog: Part 2

I really don't know whether to call Sonic the Hedgehog 2 my favorite in the series or not. If Sonic 3 and Knuckles together are considered one game, than THAT is the best, but separate, they are too short. Plus, Sonic 2 has some great levels, and some great music...

Sonic 2 is the first game in the series to do away with 3 act Zones - it's a blessing and a curse, in my opinion. There are far more zones in this game than in the first, but you only get two levels of each (besides Metropolis Zone and the later levels), which is good for zones that suck (such as Labyrinth Zone from the first Sonic, or Oil Ocean Zone from this one) but bad for zones that are amazing (Casino Night Zone could be ten levels long and I wouldn't get enough of it).

Anyway, the game starts out with Emerald Hill Zone, which, like in all Genesis Sonic games, is grassy, green, and easy. There are a lot of loops, hills, and jumps, which make for good Sonic levels, in my opinion. Probably the only complaint I have about this zone is the annoying monkeys who always throw coconuts at the exact height you always are hitting them at. But, you get used to it and know when to attack, so they quickly stop being a problem.

The easy, rolling hills of emerald are gone for the second area, Chemical Plant Zone. I have mixed feelings about this zone - the first act is great, with plenty of loops and not a ton of those annoying tunnel things that take too long. The second act has a ton of those annoying tunnels, and a section near the end that consists of climbing up these rotating blocks - while underwater, with no air bubbles in sight. Immediately after this is a section where you must make a tricky jump, and if you miss, you have to do the underwater block climb again, but you're more likely to drown at this point because the water is higher.

Allow me to break it down for anyone who hasn't caught on to my point yet: UNDERWATER AREAS IN SONIC GAMES SUCK BALLS.

And if you are already sick of water? Too bad: next up, Aquatic Ruin Zone! Half of the zone is underwater, and half is not - the first act isn't bad because other than one short part, the underwater section is entirely optional. The second act has a tricky jump at the beginning, which, if you miss, means you must spend pretty much the rest of the level underwater, grabbing air bubbles along the way and dodging underwater arrows. You can get through the level while staying above water for most of the time, though, which makes this zone one of the better Sonic water levels.

After a decent boss fight, you get to enter what may very well be my favorite Sonic zone of all time: Casino Night Zone. There are pinball flippers, bumpers, neon lights, springs, springs that you have to hold the jump button down to send Sonic flying really high, and slot machines that can give Sonic a ton of rings. Both acts in this zone are fantastic - they are great to navigate and allow for some amusing distractions. It's really too bad you are limited to 9:59, because I have spent more than that in both of those zones, just playing slots and bouncing around before. God, what a great zone. I finished the first act with 237 rings, and the second one with 247. And that was just playing the slots a few times - I could've kept playing, but knew I was going to beat the game, so I moved on. (As an aside, it's too bad the Sonic pinball game they made, Sonic Spinball, controlled like shit - if it controlled like in Sonic 2, that game would've been infinitely more playable.)

After the Casino Night, we return to the great outdoors for the Hill Top Zone. I'm not quite sure why, but this zone has always seemed weird to me - it's too easy to be this late in the game. I think it and Aquatic Ruin could be switched, and it would make more sense. Oh well. It isn't a bad zone, not at all. There are some areas where there are earthquakes, and they could prove challenging to some people, I guess.

Next we enter the Mystic Cave Zone. I would just like to say that the music for this level may be some of my favorite in the game - although Metropolis Zone is awesome as well. This level has these little firefly bastards who are probably the most annoying enemy in the game - they become invulnerable just when Sonic is about to reach them, causing the player to lose all his rings. There is also a glitchy spike pit near the end of Act 2 that I've died in many times. What happens is that you pull this switch so a bridge comes down, but when you jump off the switch, Sonic just drops straight down sometimes, right into the goddamn inescapable pit. Also, if you die on the boss, you get to fight him with no rings until you beat him - they put the continue pole at the bottom of a jump where theres no rings - fun!

Next we enter the most bland, boring zone in the game - Oil Ocean Zone. The level is like a huge, boring ass maze. Sonic barely builds up speed in this zone - except for when he is shot about by the cannons, but the player doesn't control those anyway so they are pointless to me, and holy shit are there plenty of cannons. There are also these annoying floating sea horses that shoot bullets sometimes rapidly at you, which annoy the piss out of me as well.

Next up, the three act long Metropolis Zone. I would just like to say that I appreciate the reference to Fritz Lang's 1927 silent movie, Metropolis. After having seen the movie in a recent class, parts of Metropolis Zone remind me of the worker's section of the city from the movie. The Sonic zone, though, isn't quite perfect - the exploding star fish are annoying as fucking hell, and the parts where you have to run up and down these goofy screw things take forever. The boss of this zone is difficult as well, and you will get hit plenty of times trying to defeat him. Overall, though, the 3 acts don't disappoint.

I guess at this point Tails remembers he has a plane, so he and Sonic take to the skies to chase down Robotnik in the Sky Chase Zone. Why they didn't just fly over the previous levels to chase Robotnik, I don't know, but whatever. This zone is only one act long (although I consider the next zone to be an extension of it), but that is good because the plane gimmick gets annoying about halfway through the level. It is slow paced and boring, so I guess the programmers decided to just move on and make a regular Sonic level.

Which is a good thing too, because Wing Fortress Zone is fantastic. You are climbing the outside of this huge airship to get to the cockpit to fight Robotnik, and there is this huge sense of height to the level since there are plenty of parts where you can fall to an instant death. Once you beat Robotnik, Sonic chases him to his space station, the Death Egg (a reference to the Death Star, which it even looks like in later games).

I would just like to point out that Sonic can drown while underwater, but he can ride on the outside of a ship all the way into a space station without choking - what the fuck is up with that? I should at least get the drowning 5 second counter right before he docks, just to keep accurate.

Anyway, you have to fight two bosses, Metal Sonic, and a giant robot that looks like Robotnik to beat the game. Like in the last Sonic game, you get no rings to do it, which is quite difficult given the task.

Regardless, I would say that Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is a solid improvement on the first Sonic game, which was already pretty good to begin with. Hopefully within the next couple of days, I'll play through Sonic 3, so I'll see you then.

Sonic the Hedgehog: Part 1

I decided since I haven't gotten my goddamn Kirby 2 yet that I'd play another game I've had for a while. I'm going to be playing through the four main Genesis Sonic games (Sonic 1, 2, 3, and Knuckles) and writing about them here.

Sonic the Hedgehog caused me to forgo getting a SNES when I was a kid. I wanted his games, because he was really fast and cool, and Mario seemed fat and slow in comparison (since then, I've realized that the Mario games are really the better games, and they are just as fun to try to run through as fast as Mario's fat ass can). I sold my NES and all my games and got myself a Genesis.

And holy shit was the difference amazing. I went from basic 8-bit, limited palette NES games to the lush, awesome looking world of 16 bits, with Sonic blazing by. The trees, man - they looked 3-D! At least in the first level, anyway.

Green Hill Zone is a pretty good set of levels. I may as well say now that Sonic 1 is the only game in the four games I'll be playing that have 3 levels in each zone - something I missed in all the others. Anyway, Green Hill Zone fits the description of what I would call a good Sonic level - it is fast, there are few breakups in the speed, and there are rings aplenty. Obviously, being the first level makes it easy as hell, but that's OK.

The level design takes a bit of a dive in the second area, Marble Zone, though. The level begins pretty good, you are running fast and jumping over small pools of lava, thinking to yourself that you're on board so far, and then, all of a sudden, WHAM. You hit a wall. And you have to descend into this annoying, slow-paced crawl through this goofy dungeon that looks somewhat like a lava-filled slaughterhouse. Sounds cool? It certainly does, but it doesn't belong in a Sonic game. What the fuck the designers were thinking here, I don't know. It's like they decided to make a really fast paced game, but figured that the game should be more like Mario, who was obviously who Sonic was designed to compete against. Only it's not fun. In fact, it sucks, especially after the fast paced first zone. Although the fourth zone is the worst, but we'll get to that later. This is also the first level you are introduced to the exploding robotic worms, who, once exploded, bounce all over the fucking place and will CHASE YOU ACROSS PLATFORMS until they go off screen. Say goodbye to your rings.

The third zone, Spring Yard Zone, begins what I believe to be a "tradition" in the first three Sonic Genesis games: a casino level (Sonic and Knuckles doesn't have one). This zone gets back to what I believe to be a good Sonic zone - fast paced and fun. That is, except for the annoying elevator parts. You have to jump between these stupid, slow moving elevators to get through the levels, and they take for fucking ever to move. I also noticed there are a series of odd words in the background - "UP ON CPU" in some areas. I don't know what this actually means, but I would think it'd be pretty cool if it was a jab at Nintendo, with Sega having released the Genesis while the NES was still Nintendo's main console.

And then, theres Labyrinth Zone. There are some bad levels in the first four Sonic games, but this zone is the absolute worst. Take everything you know and love about Sonic games and just flush it down the shitter when you get here. You have to go underwater, where Sonic becomes slow as hell (even Mario's fat ass moves faster underwater in HIS games!) and get this - you can even drown. In the NES and SNES Mario games, Mario couldn't drown. Sonic can fucking drown. And he continues to drown throughout all four Genesis games. I'm no game designer, but that's fucking stupid. "Let's make a game all about speed; then, more than halfway through the game, let's include a level explicitly designed to cause players to move through it exceptionally slowly - but if they don't move fast enough, they will FUCKING DIE! ...Unless they reach some bubbles. But let's not make the bubbles just be there when you reach them - no fucking way. Let's make the players wait, sometimes awhile while watching a fucking countdown to their DEATH, before a bubble comes." And they put in these gargoyle heads that shoot out deadly red spit bullets at random goddamn intervals - sometimes a split second after one another! Jesus, give me more of that! And the boss for this zone is a good idea, but because of all the things I just listed about this zone, he sucks. Also, if you die on the boss, you have to fight him with no rings, no air bubbles (if the water catches up to you) and have to dodge spears and gargoyle spit! Fuck Labyrinth Zone to the depths of hell.

After that miserable pile of shit zone, you get Star Light Zone, which in my opinion is the best zone in the game. Sonic gets his speed back here, and there's loops and spins and all that good shit. It's funny, I have very few complaints about this zone - it's really well done and is pretty much exactly how a Sonic level should be. Even the boss is pretty fun - you have to shoot either Sonic or these little spiky balls up at Robotnik by flinging them with see-saws. Pretty good shit.

Then there is the last zone, Scrap Brain Zone. It's a tough level, and I've lost many lives here whenever I play through Sonic 1, but I stand by the design. You can get lost, and you can get killed pretty easy, but if you know what you're doing, you'll be fine. The third act is pretty short because of a cool shortcut - if you miss it, it's more delicious Labyrinth Zone shit for you. Hell, even if you make it, you have some Labyrinth Zone shit.

Then there's the final boss, and it is here that the tradition is born where you don't get any fucking rings to fight him with. He shoots electricity at you when he is offscreen, then when he tries to crush you, you can dodge him then hit him as well. It can be tough, but once you beat him, you complete the game. Sonic is running back through Green Hill Zone (which now has purple flowers rather than yellow and green, for some reason) with some animal buddies, and you get a short screen if you either did get all the chaos emeralds or didn't (Robotnik is holding the remaining ones and laughing at you if you didn't).

Sonic the Hedgehog is a great game. There are swings and misses, but overall it is a fun playthrough. It's too bad you don't get to use the Spin Dash in this game, but oh well - it would be weird here anyway. (Although I hear that in the GBA remake, they put in spin dashing - too bad that version was ported so shitty.)

Stay tuned for a Sonic the Hedgehog 2 post.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Another lucky find, but still no Kirby, dammit

My goddamn Kirby's Dreamland 2 still hasn't come yet. I emailed the seller yesterday, but I haven't heard from him since. I really want to play that damned game.

But, unfortunately, I can't. I did, however, pick up a copy of Super Mario All Stars + Super Mario World for the SNES today, for five bucks. Apparently, somebody thought it was some sort of chicken wing, because it was dipped in barbecue sauce. No kidding - I reeked of barbecue sauce by the time I had finished cleaning it, and I had to shower because I had no idea where the barbecue sauce came from or how long it had been on, in, and all over the cartridge. Miraculously, though, none of the sauce had gotten on the sticker, so now it looks like I have a damn clean, fine cartridge which as of right now, is selling for 16 bucks minimum with a day left to go on eBay.

I swear, one of these days I'm going to go in there and find a 1990 Nintendo World Championship cartridge and I will shit myself on the spot. It'll probably be dipped in Honey Mustard sauce and have teeth marks in it, but oh well.

Anyway, I played through and beat Mario 2, which I haven't done in a couple years. I had no problem this time - I believe I died a few times in World 6, but that was from carelessness on my part. I had a pretty good time playing it. When I was a kid, the game seemed so ridiculously hard to me, that I would basically make it to the warp to World 4 and then lose all my lives. Even Wart wasn't a problem for me - I believe I died on him maybe twice, which for me is good because I could never beat the fucker as a kid.

There are some elements of Mario 2 I'd love to see make a comeback, though. The little Ninja guys (who I would love to link you to, but I can't remember their name nor have the patience to try to really search Google to find them) would be awesome enemies to chase Mario around in his next 3d game. Or perhaps New Super Mario Bros. 2 (god damn, I still hate that name) will have them in it. Killing Birdo like 20 times throughout a game is never a negative thing, either. I don't want to be able to pick up enemies by standing on their heads, but I do like being able to pick up vegetables out of nowhere and throw them at enemies. Also, some of the bosses would be sweet to fight again, perhaps in 3d as well (Fryguy comes to mind).

Anyway, its a good game, but I have little else to say about it. I want my fucking Kirby's Dreamland 2.


Maybe tomorrow.