Metroid Fusion

On November 17, 2002 Nintendo did something unique – releasing a pair of Metroid titles simultaneously with Metroid Prime being released on Gamecube and Metroid Fusion for the Game Boy Advance. While Prime went on to revolutionize the franchise, Metroid Fusion it seems has always been overlooked as the little brother to it’s Gamecube counterpart, despite also receiving critical praise. I recently played through Fusion and it provides a gaming experience just as terrific as when it was first released nearly seventeen years ago.

same Samus, new fusion suit

Metroid Prime and Fusion were the first games in the series since 1994’s Super Metroid on the SNES, with Samus’ only appearance on the N64 being part of the roster of flagship characters in the first Super Smash Bros game. Prime made the jump from 2D side-scrolling adventure-platformer(titles falling within this subgenre will go on to be known as “Metroidvania” games) to first-person perspective, which many were skeptical about prior to its launch. Metroid Fusion in contrast to Prime, kept the familiar 2D camera and gameplay of Super Metroid while adding a few improvements. It’s certainly understandable, thought still unfair how Fusion would not receive as much attention as Prime as it didn’t present a radical change in the formula that fans had grown to love.

Metroid Fusion begins with Samus Aran accompanying a team from Biologic Space Lab, or BSL, to the Metroid homeworld of SR388. While on the surface, Samus is infected by an unknown parasite that attacks her central nervous system and later renders her unconscious and crashes her ship. The Galactic Federation rescues Samus, performing an emergency operation as the parasite, now known simply as “X” has FUSED itself so deeply to Samus that parts of her power suit were unable to be removed. A cure has been found however, as the cells from the infant Metroid that Samus has informally adopted(the same one from Metroid II) act as a vaccine and destroy the X cells as Samus makes note of the fact it has now saved her life twice. Shortly after regaining consciousness, an explosion happens at the BSL and Samus is sent to investigate; she is not completely alone this time as a new onboard computer AI is installed to assist. Samus decides to name the AI “Adam” and states the demeanor of this new partner is strangely familiar and sounds very much like her former academy officer, Adam Malkovich. Samus’ mission to investigate the disturbance at the BSL begins by cautiously making her way to the nearest navigation room to get a better layout of the facility; the BSL consisting of a Main Deck which is connected to six individual sectors, each one comprising of a different climate. Shortly after arriving, Samus learns the X parasite that nearly killed her has infested the BSL and Samus clone has been spotted destroying areas of the lab. The X parasite possesses the ability to copy the genetic makeup of its host and has created a duplicate of its most recent victim. Due to not operating at full power just yet, Samus is strongly advised to steer clear of this more powerful copycat and make her way through the research facility. Samus is able to recover her suit abilities as she progresses through the BSL before making the discovery of a secret area full of….you guessed it, Metroids. It turns out the Galactic Federation has secretly been working on a program to breed all different types of Metroids with the intent to weaponize their power. Further adding to the dangerous scenario is the fact the Samus clone, named SA-X has been alerted to her presence as has begun to hunt her down. After confronting Adam, Samus learns that the Galactic Federation has deliberately withheld certain information and power suit abilities as they feared if she were to know what was going on she would do her best to shut down the operation; they go so far as to order Samus to remain in the navigation room as Federation forces are en route to secure the facility and the SA-X, whose powers prove too enticing to resist. Samus knows the Federation will be walking into a massacre as they are no match for the SA-X, whose power will only continue to grow, putting the entire galaxy in jeopardy. Samus successfully reasons with her AI counterpart (then revealed to be very consciousness of the her former commanding officer Adam which had been transferred posthumously) and quickly devises a plan to propel the BSL down to nearby SR388 and annihilate any remaining X parasites in the process. Samus initiates the destruction sequence only after confronting and defeating the SA-X before heading back to her ship to escape the facility. Before she can reach her ship however, she is attacked by an Omega Metroid and nearly killed before the SA-X attacks the creature head-on and is destroyed, leaving Samus to finally return the favor and absorb the power of the SA-X and obtain the Ice Beam once again just in time to defeat the Omega Metroid and escape as the BSL crashes into SR388.

The gameplay of Metroid Fusion is nearly identical to that of Super Metroid, and plays just as flawlessly. You navigate your way through the Main Deck and Sectors 1-6 and acquire various upgrades for your power suit, beginning with missiles before other handy powers like Charge Beam or Morph Ball Bomb to assist you along your way. You also earn power suit upgrades such as the Varia Suit which protects you from extreme heat or cold, or the Gravity Suit which enables you to move freely underwater. This is a central formula in Metroid games and even after multiple games still proves one of my favorite aspects of the game – finding a new toy and excitedly looking for an excuse to use it. There are many corridors and hallways to search along the way to your next objective point, with many doors being locked and only accessible AFTER finding the locking mechanism for the corresponding color; quintessential Metroidvania – exploring every inch of an area and then returning(backtracking?) to a previous section as you are finally able to see what’s behind the door or where it leads(remember that door that was locked at the beginning of the game…?). One nice upgrade is the ability to grab ledges and climb up, this replaces wall jumping as the only way to scale vertical passages, at before you get the Screw Attack upgrade(another favorite πŸ™‚ ).

The controls for Metroid Fusion feel right at home on the Game Boy Advance(or DS, as I used) and are blast to play. Super Metroid utilized the six buttons of the SNES controller, whereas Fusion accomplishes this while using only four. The L shoulder button serves as diagonal aim both upward and downward while the R button is held while pressing the B button to fire missiles. The only ability found in Super Metroid not found in Fusion is the X-Ray visor which I honestly don’t find myself missing all that much. Just like in previous games, your health and ammo are acquired from defeated enemies as Samus is informed that due to her power suit being inFUSED by the X, she is able to absorb the parasitic organisms as they float mid-air. The yellow X will replenish your health, while the green X will restock your missiles, but don’t wait too long to grab them or they will attach themselves to another nearby life form causing the same enemy you just blasted to respawn right in front of you. This is also used as a puzzle element in a couple areas as I couldn’t figure out how to proceed to the next room before realizing I had to destroy an enemy and refrain from grabbing the floating replenishment as you need to allow the X to replicate an enemy a few times before allowing you to pass.

The sound and visuals of Metroid Fusion still provide the ambience and atmosphere one has come to expect from the series and proves a worthy successor to Super Metroid. The feelings of isolation and trepidation have permeated through Metroid as a series. The Alien movies have been enormous influence on the Metroid series and the games have never shied away from showing it; Ridley – one of Samus’ most recognized adversaries is named after Ridley Scott, the director of Alien. Remember…in space, no one can hear you scream πŸ˜‰

While I love nearly everything about Metroid Fusion, there are just a few critiques.

  • The story is a bit weak(story never being the strongest aspect of any Metroid game)
  • Navigation and save stations: There are numerous save and navigation rooms scattered throughout the BSL facility, almost too many. The save stations are never far enough apart to make you moderately uneasy about losing any of your progress, a contrast to other Metroidvanias where being given the opportunity to save your game is a welcome relief. This would definitely be considered a very minor nitpick, as it was a bit of a stretch to find things I disliked in the game.
  • Difficulty spike during boss battles: The overall difficulty of the game is pretty moderate, but the boss fights can prove to be surprisingly tricky. A lot of the difficulty is the fact many bosses take up the majority of the screen leaving you a very small window to maneuver around, usually sticking to the corners of the screen in Morph Ball mode.
  • Perhaps my biggest critique is the game can at times, tends to do too much “hand-holding” in regards to mission objectives. In Metroid Fusion, your AI companion Adam frequently acts as a compass by pointing out exactly where your should head next and reminding you of details that you shouldn’t overlook. The fact there seems to be a navigation room where you are told exactly where to go every few minutes. While this may have been a decision to make the game a little more straightforward or accessible to Metroidvania newcomers, it feels like one of my favorite aspects of the subgenre has been diminished in encouraging you to explore every nook and cranny of the area as you discover health tanks and missile expansions, along with clues as to where to proceed next.
saving the day against the Omega Metroid

To summarize(finally!), Metroid Fusion is an excellent entry to the series that is every bit worthy of being called a successor to Super Metroid, which is still considered one of the greatest games of the Super Nintendo, if not all-time. The game plays every bit as well as its 16-bit predecessor and the controls, along with sound and visuals are superb considering the limitations of the Game Boy Advance 17 years ago. My favorite moment of the game is facing off against Ridley X, who is defeated rather easily by a constant barrage of missiles, before absorbing the floating X to finally receive the Screw Attack. This always represents the greatest feeling in the Metroid games, the moment when you’ve upgraded all of Samus’ weapons and power suit abilities and relish the feeling of power provided by your new toys as you go to confront the final boss of the game. There’s also the fact you can connect your GBA and Fusion to a Gamecube to unlock the Fusion suit in Metroid Prime, as well as a full-version of the original NES game to play on your Gamecube, which was pretty awesome. Metroid Fusion may not have reinvented the franchise, but it certainly is among the best the series has to offer.

Have you ever played Metroid Fusion or Prime? If so, what did you think? Let me know in the comments below. I’d love to go through and write a post for every Metroid game, if nothing else to pacify myself until Prime 4 Nintendo decides to re-release more Metroid games. Well…that’s another week, another Nintendo game for show and tell πŸ™‚

Keep on playing…

Sunshine Blogger Award

Today I’m partaking in another new experience in running a blog site as I have been tagged for the Sunshine Blogger Award by Red Metal at Extra Life Reviews! If you’re not following already, I encourage you to do so as they post some of the most well thought out and thorough game and movie reviews I’ve read. As I’m still learning as I go, let’s just jump into the Red Metal’s questions first!

Have you ever been involved in an emergency?

– No, thank goodness

Worst film you’ve ever seen in the theater?

– I could probably list many, many comedies that I’ve gone to the theater to see only to think about later and say “that wasn’t that great…”, but the one movie that usually jumps to mind when I think of terrible movies that I’ve seen in the theater – Batman & Robin. The funny thing is that I saw that back in 1997 when I was 11 years old and remember saying immediately afterwards how awesome it was and how I wanted to go see it again, so while I don’t HATE the movie, it’s objectively one of the worst I’ve seen. I recently sat down and watched Batman and Robin and found myself laughing more than groaning, you know, when a movie enters ridiculously bad territory…there’s just SO many lame puns in the movie…”Freeze in Hell, Batman!”

Best film you’ve ever seen in the theater?

– This one seemed a bit tougher, as most of the movies I’ve seen in the theater usually fall into either category of “Really liked” or “Meh”. So the best answer I can come up with would have to be watching The Dark Knight in the theater, I went to see it a couple times with the second time being in an IMAX theater which was incredible and is definitely the way to watch any of Christopher Nolan’s movies. I really wish I lived closer to an IMAX theater as Dunkirk would have been amazing.

What is the strangest method by which you discovered a work you enjoy?

– I’ve been thinking about this one and I honestly can’t come up with anything too out of the ordinary, like hearing Bohemian Rhapsody while watching Wayne’s World as a kid and then going out and finding Queen albums. Another example would be discovering the writing of H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allen Poe through playing Eternal Darkness on Gamecube.

What do you feel is the greatest compilation of collected works in your collection?

– Though it’s hard for me to say what I would consider the “greatest” compilation I own, a couple of my favorites would be the collections of Edgar Allen Poe and H.P. Lovecraft I bought at Barnes and Noble years ago. Both author’s were able to create such an ominous atmosphere, often dealing with death and one’s own teetering on the brink of insanity. As I mentioned in the previous question, I knew of their writing beforehand but it wasn’t until playing through Eternal Darkness that I went out to experience their writing on my own. I pull both collections off the shelf and read every year as we enter the spooky Halloween season.

Have you ever re-experienced a work you enjoyed a long time ago only to determine it has not aged well?

– This seems to happen pretty routinely in jumping around between enough different games, especially games released in the 90’s during the transition from 2D to fully 3D games; Playstation and N64 titles generally have a hard time holding up as a result. I usually find myself mentioning games like Goldeneye or Final Fantasy VII as games that are considered all-time greats(and rightfully so!), but playing them in the current year show even beloved games aren’t immune to the ravages of time.

Have you ever re-experienced a work you hated(or indifferent towards) a long time ago only to warm up to it?

– Two examples come to mind for this: The Beatles and RPG games. As a younger lad I remember asking my mom what was such a big deal about the Beatles, a band whose only real songs I had listened to until then were their earliest songs like “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” or “Twist and Shout”. It wasn’t until I decided to find a copy of the band’s later more-experimental efforts like Revolver and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band that I finally “got it”. RPGs also took me quite a few years to acquire a taste for, but once I finally understood the approach to the games and turn-based combat in particular, I really enjoy them now. I’m still terrible at actually completing them…but that’s another issue.

What is your favorite opening theme to a television show?

– If we’re talking specifically the intro/them song to a show, it would have to be The Simpsons, probably my all-time favorite tv show. If I think about it, pretty much all of the tv show theme songs that come to mind first are cartoons…I apologize if you’re reading these and expecting grown-up answers πŸ˜‰ Another favorite opening to a tv show would be Mad Men, though not just for the opening theme song.

Excluding Western comic books, what series with a single, ongoing narrative do you feel has/had gone on for too long?

– This one I don’t have too much of a full answer for as everything I thought of I later realized was comic book or graphic novel based, like The Walking Dead. An example of a show that I always felt went on a bit longer than it should have was the American version of The Office where it went on for like 9 seasons and what would be the primary story arc would be Jim and Pam’s relationship, but this was more or less resolved only a few seasons in. Steve Carrell’s character of Michael Scott leaving the show several seasons before the end only added to the feeling the show went on for too long.

Have you ever been interested in a series only to be heartbroken when it was cut short with no resolution?

– After getting all caught up on episodes of Doctor Who, my wife and I began watching the spin-off show Torchwood. The show centers around Capt. Jack Harkness who appears throughout several seasons of Doctor Who and heads up the Torchwood Institue to investigate alien encounters around the UK. Torchwood has a much darker, more serious tone than the generally more light-hearted Doctor Who. The show first aired on BBC for the few seasons and then was bought by the Starz channel which aired seasons 3 and 4 as multi-episode specials. While the final season didn’t have a typical cliffhanger ending, it left many things unresolved as Starz at least intended to film more seasons but nothing has been created since. Another show that I loved, but ended too soon would be the show Hannibal which only went on for 3 seasons despite garnering much. The show was scheduled during NBC’s 9pm(CST) Thursday night slot and it was announced midway through the third season they would not be continuing the show. I absolutely loved Mads Mikkelsen as Hannibal Lecter and was a bit disappointed to see it end as soon as it did.

Do you prefer hardcover or paperback books?

– I don’t have a huge preference honestly, but if I have the option of hardcover or paperback books I usually lean towards hardcover books if for no other reason than I like the nice, solid feeling of holding a hardcover book in the same way that if I buy a physical copy of a movie or game I try to get a steelbook copy.

And now for my questions we’ll start simple…

The video games are bigger than ever in terms of player base as well as industry. What do enjoy most about our current generation of games and/or consoles?

What do you dislike the most about current gen gaming?

What would a game have to have in terms of bugs, mechanics, or story that would make the game unplayable to you? What would it take for you to refuse to play a game?

Think of your absolute favorite series of book/game/tv show, now let’s say it was being made into a brand-new game, but it would be developed as your least favorite genre of game. What would it be?

The Internet Age has affected gaming in countless ways, and reached another level<rimshot> with the rise of platforms like YouTube or Twitch. In what ways do you think gaming has benefited the greatest as a result of video and streaming services?

What ways do you think gaming has been most negatively affected by YouTube and Twitch?

Indie games have been given exposure never thought possible prior to the age of online platforms like YouTube and Twitch, but more specifically, what do feel is the reason that indie games are able to make you feel something that AAA games are usually unable to do?

Video games and learning haven’t always been mentioned in the same universe, but games today are far more advanced than Mario Teaches Typing. What type of video game do you wish would have existed to help teach one of your weaker subjects?

How do you feel about the constant ports and remasters/remakes of games? Is it good exposure for newer players or just more cashing in on gamer nostalgia?

Name a video game character that you feel gets more criticism/hate than they deserve?

How about a character that gets less criticism than deserved?

Thanks again to Red Metal for the tag and for everyone reading! Now for the fun part! For my Sunshine Blogger Award nominees I choose…

Streys Gaming Blog

Fitzy – Game Time

Van Rockingham – Games Revisited

Michelle – A Geek Girl’s Guide

Astro Adam – Video Games Nebula

Super Shock Gaming Zone

Kim – Later Levels

DVOWR

The Hannie Corner

Angie – Backlog Crusader

RNG

Sega’s Dreamcast – 20 Years Later

Sega released the Dreamcast on September 9, 1999 at the end of an enormous marketing campaign. The Dreamcast was the most technologically-advanced console released at the time, being met with much praise and was looking to be the triumphant return that Sega was hoping for. This momentum would not last however, as the Dreamcast would prove to be the final console Sega would ever create. Jump forward 20 years and we’re still discussing exactly what happened…

After stepping into the ring to square off against 800-pound gorilla Nintendo in the home console market in the 80’s and successfully cutting the market share of the video game industry in half during the console wars of the early 90’s, Sega found themselves in a tough spot at the end of the 20th Century. A string of hardware failures proved a huge setback as they struggled to keep up with Nintendo, there also entered a new contender – Sony, the original Playstation was released in 1995 to a whirlwind of critical praise and proceeded to rocket past all other competitors for home console supremacy. Sega’s “follow-up” to the Genesis – the Sega CD(released in ’92) wasn’t a follow up, but rather an add-on to the Genesis console, and further confused consumers during the ’94 holiday season when they released yet another add-on for the Sega Genesis – the 32x. Both of these additions sold poorly and were considered failures, the Sega CD was quite costly and difficult to develop games for, and the 32x was rushed out with no support as Sega had already been working on the Saturn. Gaming publications had already began to criticize the number of peripherals Sega had been releasing with the idea you were simply adding building blocks to a Sega Genesis, more recently dubbed the “tower of power”. Merely months after releasing the 32x in North America, Sega released the Saturn – an impressive console that played CD-ROM disc software and was capable of displaying(at the time) very high-quality 3D graphics. This would ultimately prove another failure for Sega as the console was heavily criticized for being both expensive, and having a small library of games due to the console being very difficult to develop games for. It was only a few months after the release of the Saturn that Sony released the Playstation which became the standard by which consoles would be judged as it boasted an impressive array of games as well as being very developer-friendly. All of these failures will eventually prove too much for Sega to bounce back from. The situation was dire as Sega prepared to release its next console – the Dreamcast.

We all know this was the final nail in Sega’s coffin, but why exactly did it fail? For as much as we may view the Dreamcast as an abject failure, there were things it did well, but unfortunately there was just as many things to bring it down, along with variables like simple time and place. Let’s first look at the ways the Dreamcast succeeded…

Hardware – No doubt as a response to the losses taken by the Saturn being quite expensive to manufacture, Sega eschewed proprietary for off the shelf components for the Dreamcast. The decision to utilize a GD-ROM format which proved less expensive than a DVD-ROM but still could hold up to 1GB of data, a rather impressive amount for the time. The 3D graphics boasted by the Dreamcast were certainly impressive, this also was bringing to a close the end of the “Bit Wars” of the 90’s in which game companies would take any excuse to state how many bits their consoles were able to create, most memorably with the Atari Jaguar’s advertisements about its 64-bit graphics. The Dreamcast was also the first home console with a built-in modem for use in playing games online via Sega’s own online service – SegaNet. Remember, this was 1999 – a time when Netscape and America Online were the still relevant and we were all bracing for the imminent apocalypse of Y2K. The Dreamcast also featured a controller with two “trigger” buttons on the back of it that had yet to become commonplace in the industry. Another interesting feature of the Dreamcast was the virtual memory unit or VMU, that was used as a memory card to be inserted into one of two slots found on the controller. There was also a small lcd screen on the VMU that you could see through a space in the controller that could be used for things like calling plays in the NFL 2k series, or raising virtual pets in Sonic Adventure. The VMU also had several small buttons on it allowing the card to act to be played like a Tamagotchi, concepts that would be seen in future Nintendo consoles like the Wii U and Switch.

The Dreamcast controllers and VMU were both intriguing AND awkward.

Online play – The Dreamcast also led the way(for consoles) in the integration of internet in video games as a way to communicate and compete with others. Sega first launched their own internet service – SegaNet which for a monthly subscription allowed players to connect to others and play games like Phantasy Star Online, ChuChu Rocket! or the NFL 2K series, along with the ability to chat and send email, two years before Microsoft would launch Xbox Live and dominate online gaming. This was the type of forward thinking that could have kept Sega in the game for much longer.

Shenmue was impressive back then and is still considered one of the greatest Dreamcast games.

Games – During the Dreamcast’s lifespan, Sega was responsible for some of the most creative and impressive titles around. Sega had divided up numerous teams to go out and create a library of games to support the Dreamcast, one of the biggest marks against the Sega CD and Saturn. Some of the Sega franchises created over this time were Crazy Taxi, Jet Set Radio, Space Channel 5, Skies of Arcadia and Shenmue; the latter two titles were met to great acclaim with Shenmue being one of the most impressive(and expensive to make) games to that point. Sega had also created Phantasy Star Online – an online RPG game that would be a precursor to what we would later know as MMORPGs. Sega’s exclusive 2K Sports series also demonstrated the greatness that lay ahead in online sports titles( I STILL say NFL 2K4 > Madden πŸ™‚ ). The Dreamcast was also home to an impressive collection of fighting games such as Dead or Alive, Power Stone, and the revered first Soul Calibur game. I must also mention the infamous Seaman, where you help to grow a man-fish abomination by talking to him through the peripheral mic plugged into one of the controller slots, adding to the game’s…uh…appeal is Leonard Nimoy as the narrator. Of course, no Sega console would be complete without its mascot Sonic, the title Sonic Adventure was the Dreamcast’s best seller.

One of the most bizarre games in the Dreamcast’s catalog, requiring a microphone to communicate with the…Seaman.

Let’s now take a look at some of the factors that caused Sega’s untimely defeat…

Sony – The first place we generally look when discussing the fate of the Dreamcast is Sony and its behemoth of a console in the Playstation 2. The original Playstation entered the fray while Sega and Nintendo were battling each other and captured the lion’s share of the market as it represented both forward-thinking technology and awesome titles in equal parts. Sony’s stranglehold on gaming only continued as rumors began to swirl about the inevitable release of the PS2. The hype surrounding the release of the Playstation 2 certainly stole away a lot of Sega’s thunder in marketing the Dreamcast. Information had come out that the PS2 was going to have the same horsepower as a government supercomputer, there was also the mystique around the Sony and its “Emotion Engine” which we were told would produce the most life-like graphics ever seen. I remember hearing a kid at my school talk about how the PS2 was going to have “millions and millions of polygons and is going to be so powerful you won’t have ANY LOAD TIMES”. There’s also the fact the PS2 would be backwards-compatible so gamers could still play all of their original Playstation games, something that’s always been a critical element of marketing a new console going all the way back to Nintendo announcing the Super Nintendo and facing backlash from parents who didn’t want to start buying games for a whole new system(I remember that personally). Another variable not to overlook is the fact the PS2 would use a DVD drive, something Sega had decided not to use for the sake of keeping production costs a little lower. This comes at the turn of the century when the world was transitioning from old-fashioned analog format to the newer, shiny, digital formats like DVDs, and MP3s.

Past Failures – The Sega CD, 32x, and Saturn were all a string of market failures that Sega was never able to fully recuperate from. Most consumers had seen the Sega CD an an expensive add-on to exploit current fad of FMV(full-motion video) games and unable to provide a rich gameplay experience. The 32x had a very small library of games, and fewer yet received recognition as being worth playing, with the Doom port for the 32x as being notoriously bad. The Saturn while impressive, cost $399 at launch($671 today!) and suffered from a modest library of titles all while Sony proceeded to dominate the console market with its Playstation. By the time the Dreamcast was released, many out there were understandably hesitant to invest in Sega’s newest console. The Dreamcast was quite ahead of its time as a home console, Sega had suffered huge financial losses by this time and simply couldn’t afford anything but a home run.

Sega Corporate – Both of the aforementioned reasons are responsible in part for the demise of the Dreamcast and Sega being forced out of the console business, but I would believe the final nail in Sega’s coffin is themselves. Sega’s history is full of instances where Sega of Japan would balk at an idea proposed by Sega of America, and vice versa. The Blake Harris book Console Wars(a great read BTW) chronicles former CEO and President of Sega of America Tom Kalinske’s time with the company and successfully competing with Nintendo during the 90’s, during this time there are many situations of butting heads between the two Sega headquarters. Kalinske left SOA in 1996 and the following years would prove quite tumultuous for Sega execs in both Japan and America. The corporate landscape within Sega only exacerbated the issues they were dealing with on a commercial level.

Other contributing factors for the Dreamcast’s failure would be lack of third-party support, as big publishers like EA and Squaresoft contributed nothing to its library of games. Also, the simple variable of place and time were not on Sega’s side as the Dreamcast was a little ahead of its time in online gaming; there’s still people out there with less-than-stellar internet service in 2019, the growth level of the “internet age” was just a step behind the Dreamcast. I also mentioned above the advent of the digital age – the DVD drive used in the PS2 that provided most of us the first DVD player we ever owned.

Sega discontinued the Dreamcast in 2001 and committed to creating software rather than hardware. The Dreamcast sold over 9million units is still remembered as the console that killed Sega, but I feel Sega as a company is more responsible for its fate than any console. In recent years, an appreciation for the console has grown throughout the internet, with many lamenting a console that was too far ahead of its time and disappeared just as quickly. I came across a Eurogamer article by Dan Whitehead comparing the Dreamcast to JFK in both being remembered by what they represented along with leaving us far too soon…I guess that would make Sega both JFK and Lee Harvey Oswald?

What are your thoughts on the Dreamcast? Did you own one? What was your favorite game to play for it? Let me know in the comments below. I’d certainly love to pick one up for old times’ sake. I could also use some of the games as blog fodder…I just may do that sometime πŸ˜‰

Keep on playing…

Thoughts on 9/4 Nintendo Direct

Earlier this evening at 5pm(CST) Nintendo broadcast another of its Direct presentations. Speculation about a September Nintendo Direct had been circling around social media for a few weeks before it was announced that a 40-minute Direct presentation was indeed happening, this brought upon a wave of speculation(with a dash of skepticism). It had been announced that we would be receiving more footage and information about upcoming Switch releases like Luigi’s Mansion 3 and Pokemon Sword/Shield, as well as word on the release date of Banjo & Kazooie as the newest characters in the Smash Bros. Ultimate Fighters Pass. Any time a Nintendo Direct is announced, gamer’s imaginations run wild fantasizing about what was in store, everything from earlier than expected release dates for the Breath of the Wild sequel or Animal Crossing: New Horizons to remasters of older titles to sequel announcements(Spoiler: No Pikmin 4 😦 ). While most what Nintendo showed may not have been a huge surprise, here’s a few things that I’m excited to see or find interesting…

More Switch Ports – I’m not going to get too excited simply about more games being ported to the Switch, but Overwatch being released on October 15 on the Switch is still pretty cool. Overwatch is still my favorite multiplayer game of the current console generation(Lucio main and proud!) and Blizzard taking advantage of the enormous user base on the Switch makes sense. My only concern is….the game is several years old already, I feel like I got into the game a little late and that was a couple years ago so I’m curious to see how that plays out. I’m also excited to get another chance to play Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast when upon it’s release for the Switch. I only played the game for a very short time when it was first released, so I’ll gladly take any chance to play more Star Wars games on the Switch. I also think that if EA were to change their mind and realize the units they could sell if they released something like the Battlefront OR The Sims games on the Switch, but alas, they don’t think their player base has any interest in the Switch(I guess EA is suddenly against making that extra cent?). Another Switch port that isn’t much of a surprise – Doom 64. A listing for the game was found on an Australian ratings board a couple weeks ago so the game being formally announced wasn’t entirely surprising, but still welcome. I bought a copy of Doom 64 from a local retro game store a while back and had a bit of difficulty seeing anything in the few moments I spent playing the game, the brief shots of the upcoming Switch release appear to have fixed what I had always heard was the biggest problem facing the game “I can’t see a damn thing!”. Doom 64 will be released on November 22 and hopefully won’t have the Bethesda.net login issues that infuriated everyone after original Doom, 2, and 3 were re-released digitally.

Switch Cross Play/Cloud Saves – This ties in a bit with a few of the newly announced Switch ports, namely games like Divinity Original Sin 2 and Dauntless. Both were announced during the Direct, with Divinity Original Sin 2 being available immediately. I think the most interesting aspect of this is Nintendo’s willingness to embrace the idea of cross-play between consoles. Titles like Overwatch, Divinity, and Dauntless having the ability to play across platforms will be a huge feature, they’ve already found a large audience across PC/PS4/Xbox One but will now add the enormous Switch user base. I’m still a little wary about playing a game on my Switch against someone playing on their PC, especially with the Switch being WiFi only. I mean, playing Overwatch at my local Starbuck’s SOUNDS COOL…but isn’t really the way I prefer to play online multiplayer games, especially FPS games. During the announcement of Divinity Original Sin 2 being available today on the Switch, it was announced that you will be able to use your cloud saves between both Switch AND Steam; this is an incredibly user-friendly aspect that I’m really glad Nintendo is open to embracing. Nintendo’s past hasn’t always reflected an attitude of embracing change within the gaming community as technology advances. I myself haven’t played Divinity Original Sin 2(yet…) but have heard many people praise the game since its release and being able to access my profile between Steam and Switch is a step in the right direction for integrating user bases.

Switch Online SNES – Ever since Nintendo launched their Switch Online service offering the ability to play a select library of NES games, many have anxiously awaited for when Nintendo would inevitably expand that library to include other past consoles like the Super Nintendo or Nintendo 64. A few months ago a patent for a wireless SNES controller was spotted which further amped up anticipation, this along with the fact Nintendo was releasing NES titles for its online service much too seldom, and many games were seen as questionable choice as they were fairly obscure. During the Nintendo Direct it was announced that gamers would finally be able to play SNES games as the Nintendo Switch Online service will now include SNES titles beginning tomorrow. The list of games includes essentials like Super Mario World 1&2, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, and Super Metroid, along with more obscure titles like Demon’s Crest or Stunt Race FX. The two games I’m most excited to check out right away will be Breath of Fire and Kirby’s Dream Land 3 – a game that gets quite expensive in used game stores. Nintendo also unveiled a wireless version of the iconic SNES controller to be used alongside the retro games; the retail price for the SNES controller will be $29.99 – exactly HALF of what the wireless NES controllers cost. Of course, you need to be currently subscribed to the Switch Online service to be able to purchase either controller. I was still hoping for ANYTHING Metroid-related to be announced during the Direct, so I guess another place to play Super Metroid will have to do for now πŸ™‚

Banjo in Smash Bros! – Banjo & Kazooie were unveiled as the 4th DLC character in the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Fighter’s Pass during Nintendo’s E3 Treehouse event to the elation of all those behind the #BanjoForSmash hashtag and today, we were finally given the release date for our beloved bear and bird. Shortly after the Nintendo Direct, Banjo & Kazooie will be available to use in Smash Bros. Ultimate, with a short segment after the Direct being hosted by Masahiro Sakurai himself showing the new in-game moves and soundtracks. I also love how Sakurai stated how Banjo & Kazooie were first introduced in Diddy Kong Racing on N64 in 1997 but are now currently owned by Microsoft and even though this was part of a Nintendo Direct, he encouraged gamers to check out all three games(Banjo-Kazooie/Tooie/Nuts N’ Bolts) on Xbox. Hearing a Nintendo executive telling people to go play a game on a Microsoft console is pretty funny and shows just how far along the relationship between the two Redmond, WA neighbors has come.

Here’s a link to the past entire Nintendo Direct if you’d like to check it out yourself as there’s too much to go over right now…I didn’t even mention anything about the Dungeon Builder in Link’s Awakening or Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition either did I? Either way, I’m going to kick back with my Switch and play some Smash…Guh-HUH!

Mario Golf – N64

As we approach Labor Day, we have a chance to sit back over the long weekend and reflect on everything we did over the summer months. Labor Day is generally considered the final weekend of the summer as we prepare for school to resume and enter into the autumn season(probably my favorite). While I didn’t have a particularly eventful summer, I was however able to spend my time divided between work, and other leisure activities like playing video games or writing on my blog site. I made a while ago listing some of my favorite summertime games, and thought it would be fun to write about one of the games I mentioned – Mario Golf on N64

Mario Golf was first released on the Nintendo 64 in July of 1999 and developed by Camelot, the developers behind the Shining Force games for multiple Sega consoles, which would explain the RPG elements in scattered across Mario Golf games. Camelot had also created Everybody’s Golf that was released on the Playstation in 1997, which was the game engine that was used to create Mario Golf. Nintendo fans had been familiar enough with Mario in a sports setting as Mario and Luigi were the two playable characters in the 1991 game – NES Open. There’s also the seemingly forgotten Mario’s Tennis that was released on the Virtual Boy in 1995(no further explanation required…).

The gameplay represents a pretty straightforward Golf title where some of the intricacies of hitting the links in real life had been scaled down a bit, though there are still plenty of variables that can effect your shot such as wind, altitude, or length of grass in which your ball lies. Your swing is controlled by a meter in which you try to stop the cursor at two points, the left mark which affects the power of your swing and the mark on the right reflects the accuracy of your strike. You have a bag of 14 clubs, each showing the approximate distance you could expect on a full swing; a grid also appears in the distance ahead of you to show the landing area as you strive to steer clear of water hazards and bunkers. When putting, you are able to read the green with the help of a square grid that appears over the green to help indicate the slope to factor into just how hard to strike the ball. The putting in the game is probably my strongest area, and is similar to the putting while playing golf on Wii Sports(minus touch controls, obviously).

There’s a good assortment of game modes to play in Mario Golf, from basic Stroke Play where the player who completes 9 or 18 holes with the lowest strokes taken wins the match to Tournament, Ring Shot, Speed Golf, Mini-Golf, and a Training mode where you can select a specific course and hole to practice on. The game mode I spent the most time playing as a kid however, is Get Character, in which you play against a CPU controlled opponent with the character being unlocked and playable after beating them in an 18-hole match. The game has a generous list of playable characters – from Mario, Luigi, Yoshi, and Wario to other characters only featured in Mario Golf titles like Charlie, Plum, Sonny, or Harry with each character having a different average distance off the tee and ball flight – draw, straight, or fade. Mario Golf also made use of the N64 Transfer Pack where you could transfer several characters from the Mario Golf game for Game Boy Advance that was released several months after the N64 version.

There are 8 playable courses in Mario Golf(two of them are mini-golf tracks), ranging from the more traditional country club venues of Toad Highlands and Koopa Park all the way to the more challenging courses like Boo Valley or Mario’s Star – featuring holes that are designed to resemble a different character from various Mario games. You earn points for every round you complete while playing the game with the largest amount of coins being your prize for winning in Tournament mode. Once you accumulate enough points you can unlock the next course as Toad Highlands is the only courses that is playable from the start.

What I love the most about Mario Golf is the simplicity – Mario and friends playing golf, no other frills. There’s no special shots or other nonsense that makes it hard for me to like any of the Mario Tennis games other than the original; I certainly understand that I may be a bit of a minority opinion on that. It may not be as true to life as other golf sims like the Tiger Woods PGA Tour games, but it provides a nice middle ground between arcade-y and straight-up simulation. The music provides a nice warm, relaxing feeling out on the course without being too upbeat as to prove distracting and the controls work well and still hold up pretty nicely. Another favorite part of the game is by pressing any of the C-buttons you can “taunt” the other players mid-ballflight or on the green such as Luigi’s “Mama-mia!” or Wario’s “Hurry up already!”, this always provided tons of fun while playing with friends; of course you can’t use these while your opponent is teeing off…that would be bad golf etiquette πŸ˜‰

For the many things that Mario Golf does well and I enjoy about the game, there are a few things that detract from it. There is a significant difficulty curve in getting to the point of being able to score par or birdie more often than not, part of this being that there’s not much forgiveness for mis-hits. If you miss your accuracy mark by a little too much and you will shank the ball straight left and only about ten yards out. The game certainly punishes any mistakes you make, along with the feeling that your yardages are very RARELY accurate. Also pushing gameplay to that of a golf sim is the many variables that you have to account for such as your lie, elevation, wind, or merely wetness of the grass. I spend a few hours playing the game over the weekend and while I still enjoy playing the game, it’s aged reasonably well with sound and visuals(aged as well as any 3D games of the era at least…), I feel it’s rather tough to recommend to someone that has never played any of the Mario Golf games before or simply playing solo. I may have spent the most time playing the N64 version, but in my opinion the best entry of the Mario Golf series would still have to be the Game Boy Color version that was released a few months after. The GBA release retains all of the positives of the N64 version, but the single player story has added RPG elements to it that create a little more interesting experience, due to Camelot’s work history with the Shining Force games for Sega. I encourage anyone not familiar with any of the Mario Golf games(or golf games in general) to check out the GBA version of the game.

That’s all for now! Have you ever played any of the Mario Golf games or any of the Mario Sports games on Nintendo consoles? What’s a game that you loved playing as a kid, but upon returning many years later hasn’t held up particularly well? Let me know in the comments below. I’m going to kick back and enjoy the rest of my Labor Day with my boy Dimitri and some more Fire Emblem: Three Houses!

Keep on playing…

Geek Out Challenge – Day 30

We are approaching the final day of the Geek Out Challenge. We have already discussed our geeky favorites such as movies or games or detailing our earliest or most recent fandoms. For the Day 30 challenge question we’re discussing what fandom is it that you’re most obsessive about.

Most obsessed-over fandom? – Video Games

It should come as no surprise whatsoever that my biggest obsession in life, followed by Star Wars and pizza, most likely. Video games have been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember, with my earliest gaming memories playing Mario on the family NES. I couldn’t possibly fathom the number of hours that I’ve spent throughout my life playing, reading about, or talking about video games(not sure if I should be proud of that?). I have many memories of my younger brother and I reading Nintendo Power or EGM magazines, and then sit around talking about what games we wanted to play, before figuring out how to get our parents to buy the game for us. Some of my greatest childhood memories would be things like finally getting an N64 for my birthday, or times my friends and I would stay up all night guzzling cans of Mountain Dew and playing Smash Bros and Mario Party around the living room tv. In school there were other kids that played video games, but mostly as something you would play a little bit of here and there, with the notion that gaming was simply something you would eventually “grow out of”. Fortunately the general perception around video games and those that play them has progressed significantly and with the rise of platforms such as YouTube and Twitch, gaming is now a social activity more so than childish hobby. I could into much greater detail( and length) discussing video games and what precisely they mean to me; this being largely why I started my own blog site to ramble endlessly about games.

That’s it for the final day of the Geek Out Challenge, a huge shout out to Megan at A Geeky Gal for initiating this month long challenge! I was able to participate in just about all of the daily topics which provided a genuinely fun experience as well as valuable practice writing on a daily basis, so I’ll pat myself on the back for that too πŸ˜‰ What is your most obsessed-over fandom? What do you spend more time absorbed in than anything else? Let me know in the comments below. Thank you for reading and goodnight!

Geek Out Challenge – Day 29

We are in the final days of the Geek Out Challenge, our question for Day 29 is wardrobe related…sweet! Our geeky question of the day posed from Megan is…

You’re an anime/cartoon character now! What outfit are you always wearing?

It took me longer than it should have to come up with an answer to this question, I suddenly realized there has already existed an animated character resembling myself closely enough(minus a ponytail).

Well…there you have it, short and sweet for today! I think I really nailed this one πŸ™‚ What’s your anime/cartoon character wardrobe consist of? Let me know in the comments below! Now to go purchase a hundred tacos for a Doctor Who marathon…see you tomorrow!

Geek Out Challenge – Day 28

Our Day 28 topic for the Geek Out Challenge finds us discussing our favorite movie soundtracks. A good soundtrack can add an extra sense of tension or emotional resonance when accompanying a movie, with some movies being memorable mostly for their soundtrack. For this challenge question I’m referring primarily to original score as part of a movie’s soundtrack versus a compilation of songs played alongside the movie, something like Forrest Gump which spans decades and features a large assortment of popular songs or pretty much any Quentin Tarantino movie’s eclectic array of songs kinda seems like cheating. Here’s my completely unique and original pick, here we go….

Favorite movie soundtrack?Star Wars

And here we are….yet another post where I talk about Star Wars(surprised, huh?). With honorable mentions being most any Disney movie from The Little Mermaid and on through the 90’s, I still find it hard to come up with movie soundtracks without immediately thinking “Star Wars!”. One of the most identifiable musical scores in movie history, the Main Title march that plays over the opening crawl is instantly identifiable even if you’ve never watched any of the Star Wars movies(such humans DO exist, I know several of them). Other highlights of the soundtrack include Binary Sunset, which plays as Luke views the setting of the twin suns on his home planet of Tatooine, or the heroic Throne Room that plays at the end of Star Wars – A New Hope as Han and Luke(but not Chewbacca, wookies are second-class citizens I guess?) receive medals for their victory in destroying the Death Star. And of course, I can’t go without mentioning the Cantina Theme that famously plays as Luke and Obi-Wan enter the Mos Eisley Cantina; it’s also the current ringtone on my phone πŸ˜‰

For the sake of brevity I will refer solely to the soundtrack of the original Star Wars, though EVERY Star Wars movie has a great soundtrack. Other tracks from Star Wars movies that I also love would be the Imperial March from The Empire Strikes Back which is used as Darth Vader’s theme, featuring a very Wagnerian heavy brass section as well as Duel of the Fates from Episode I: The Phantom Menace, quite possibly the best thing the movie had going for it…

I could write an entire blog post just on music from the Star Wars movies that I love; composer John Williams has orchestrated some of the greatest and most beloved musical scores in movie history, from Star Wars and Jurassic Park to the Indiana Jones and Harry Potter movies. John Williams’ scores are so great, he only needed TWO NOTES to make Jaws absolutely terrifying! Other movie composers that always provide wonderful music would be Hans Zimmer and Danny Elfman, but now I’m getting off topic and starting to ramble. In short, my favorite movie soundtrack – Star Wars

I apologize for getting this out a bit later than I intended, but plan on wrapping up our Geek Out Challenge right on schedule! What’s your favorite movie soundtrack? How about your favorite movie composer? Let me know in the comments below and we’ll see you tomorrow!

Geek Out Challenge – Day 27

It is Day 27 of the Geek Out Challenge true believers, and our topic du jour is superheroes! Whether being exposed to gamma rays, taken super soldier serums, or simply able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, superheroes have permeated our culture and everyday lives much like that of the gods and monsters of Greek or Egyptian mythology. The majority of our best known superheroes began in comic books, but as of the last couple decades these characters have become better known from the movies and tv shows based on the source material and are still some of our most beloved characters.

Favorite superhero?

My choice of favorite superhero would have to be either Batman or Spider-Man, not real unique choices, but have been a significant part of my life nonetheless. If I had to decide one JUST one I would probably lean towards Spider-Man. A superhero’s alter ego(i.e. Peter Parker or Bruce Wayen) is what gives a character any level of depth and establishes a connection between the reader/viewer and the character. Peter Parker resonates with many people in how he is just another geeky teenager before being bitten by a radioactive spider; he has the same worries and insecurities as anyone, gaining his spider-powers along the way only adds to the responsibilities piled upon him. I have always been drawn to how Peter Parker has such a strong desire to help others and do the right thing, even though he initially feels responsibility for no one other than himself. We all know the origin story – Peter’s Uncle Ben is murdered by the very same person he witnessed robbing the wrestling promoter who had just cheated him some money, pushing Peter to devote his life to using his powers to help others – “With great power, comes great responsibility”.

Peter Parker has always been interesting in how life beats him down routinely, but still never gives up and is constantly striving to be better. I’ve always found this aspect to be inspirational as he demonstrates an incredible amount of determination, responsibility and overall faith in the good of humanity, the kind of things I don’t always feel I personally have in great supply…

That’s all for now, who’s your favorite superhero? Let me know in the comments below. There’s only a few days of the Geek Out Challenge left, let’s keep the momentum going!

Excelsior!

Geek Out Challenge – Day 26

If you’re anything like me, Disney movies have played a huge part of your childhood and beyond, so for today’s Geek Out Challenge question we are discussing our favorite Disney movies. I grew up during the Disney renaissance of the 90’s beginning with The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast going into the Pixar era through today, where both Star Wars and Marvel movies are under the Disney umbrella.

Favorite Disney movie?

The Lion King

Most likely the Disney movie I watched the most as a kid; I was 8 when The Lion King was released in theaters and remember my parents finally bringing my brother, cousin, and I to go see it. I was obsessed with this movie and remember having everything Lion King at home, from toys and coloring books to pajamas and bed sheets. I had the cassette tape of the soundtrack that I would play on a little radio beside my bed at night and remember the instrumental track “…To Die For” (played during the wildebeast stampede in the movie) scaring the hell out of me. Of course, I played the Lion King game on Sega Genesis nearly every day too! While the story of the movie has been dismissed as simply “Hamlet with animals”, the movie is a classic with memorable characters that I still enjoy watching. I have not yet watched the live-action(well…kinda) remake that was released earlier this summer, but plan on doing so soon.

I could make an entire list just of Disney movies that I loved as a kid(and STILL do), but The Lion King would have to be my favorite. What’s your favorite Disney movie? Let me know in the comments below. Counting down our last week of the Geek Out Challenge, see you tomorrow and Hakuna Matata…