Friday, May 8, 2015

Papers, Please: I Know a Code

When the topic for May's Monthly Musings was decided upon, I got really excited. Being a man who is ever-so-desperately pretending he isn't about to turn 30 (actually, it's not that big of a deal), I have lots of fond memories of videogame magazines. I have a nice little collection of Nintendo Powers tucked under my television stand that I like to take out and peek at every so often, as well as a large bank of memories of staring at GamePro and Electronic Gaming Monthly. But magazines are not what I want to talk about today, at least not in the traditional sense.

I'm a collector of many things: Terminator, Simpsons, and wrestling memorabilia, and videogames. Okay, so, like four things, I suppose that still constitutes the use of the word "many." But one of the sub-genres of videogame merchandise that I collect is strategy guides. The only problem here is that I've already written in the past about my weird obsession with game guides, so how do I approach this without treading the same ground? By talking more generally and also by speaking about a specific type of strategy guide: the password/code book.

With the explosion of retro-styled indie games in recent years, the thing that continuously and tragically gets overlooked in these endeavors is the inclusion of codes. Axiom Verge gave you the ability to input the exact same code from Metroid and allow you to play as a sexy lady. I mean that literally, too. It's the exact same "Justin Bailey" code from Metroid. At least change it up a bit there, Tom. But before that unoriginal example, I can't even remember the last game I played where I used a series of button presses, whether from the menus or otherwise, that changed the game in any significant way.

Oh yeah, I remember now...

Lots of modern developers include perks and unlockables for use in their games (often always used as pre-order bonuses and paid DLC), but when was the last time a modern, top-tier game allowed you to skip to the final boss from the start menu like they did in Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!? How awesome would it be if From Software made it possible for you to go right to the endgame from the very beginning of Bloodborne? It would be very awesome. That's how awesome it would be.

Every early issue of Nintendo Power included codes, maps, and revealed secrets that had previously gone undiscovered to all but the most elite of NES savants. Those tips and tricks sections (or "Classified Information" for the NP reader) shaped the way that I play games today. It was these few colorful pages that taught me to check around every corner and leave no stone unturned. It's the reason that any time an NPC says "follow me," I tune that garbage out and walk in the opposite direction, usually resulting in the acquisition of some sort of collectible.

But there's something to be said for a dedicated videogame password guide. The publisher of these books (whether written as a novel or in the traditional magazine format) did an incredible service for the children of the late 80s/early 90s. These books introduced me to the Konami Code, enabling me to finally ward off the hordes of the Red Falcon invasion. They proved to me that Battletoads continues past that first speeder-bike level.

Pictured: The most useless cheat sheet ever.

Unfortunately for me, the rise of the Internet became the death knell for codebooks. GameFAQS now provides tips and tricks for free, as well as a very active forum that answers any and all questions almost immediately. YouTube took it up a notch and not only tells you what to do, but shows you as well, leaving zero room for error.

I don't know which I'm lamenting more, the medium of password guides, or the loss of codes as a gaming concept. Either way, it's an era that we'll never see return, and an aspect of my life that I'll always cherish.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Weekly Top 5: Mario Games (Platforming)

It's been a couple weeks since I've actually posted one of my weekly top 5 blogs. I do sincerely apologize. It was the first time since I started doing them that I didn't post one, which began last summer. I had a pretty good streak going on, but now I must start over.

And the easiest way for me to get back into the swing of things is to go to my bread and butter: Mario. It may be generic to say that Mario is still my favorite videogame character to this day, and I get more excited about a new Mario game than I do most other things, but I can't help it, I love that portly plumber. You can chalk it up to nostalgia and there would be very little I could say to refute that. Mario has been with me for about 26 of my 29 years on this earth. I grew up with Mario, and now I'm growing old with Mario, though he has definitely aged better than I have.

Honorable Mentions

Super Mario 64

I'm putting this as an honorable mention out of necessity and a desire to not be sent a mailbomb. I had converted to the Playstation in the mid-90s, so my exposure to the Nintendo 64 was very limited, and the small amount of time I did own the system were spent almost exclusively playing WCW/nWo Revenge. Even if I don't have those nostalgia tingles for this game, no one can deny why it's legendary in the grand scheme of gaming.

Super Mario Bros. 2

Nothing bothers me more than when someone acts like the Super Mario Bros. 2 we got in the States isn't the real SMB2. Yes, I know it was just a re-skin of a Japanese game called Doki Doki Panic, but there's a reason for that. The reason is because the "real" Super Mario Bros. 2 sucks. It sucks hard. If this were a worst Mario games list, it would undoubtedly be at the top (or bottom?). I'd rather play Hotel Mario.

Not cool.

But the U.S. game is outstanding. Was it weird? Yes. But gaming was still in its infancy, and a lot of sequels in the era were much different than their predecessors because there was no established blueprint for what a game had to be. Castlevania II was much different than Castlevania, Zelda II was different than The Legend of Zelda in every conceivable fashion, and yes, Mario 2 is different than the original, and it's amazing. You pull a vegetable out of the ground which turns out to be a rocket ship, which then flies you to the next level. That's what videogames are supposed to be.

Stop being a retro gaming hipster and admit that Mario 2 is great.

5. New Super Mario Bros. Wii

The world rejoiced in 2006 when we finally got a new, true, 2D platformer from the Mario series in the form of New Super Mario Bros. on the Nintendo DS. It was the first one we had gotten since Yoshi's Island, and some people argue that Yoshi's Island doesn't count as a true Mario game, meaning you have to go back to Super Mario World. New Super Mario Bros. was a decent little Mario game, but it seems to have suffered a little bit from revisionism over the years, but one thing that it did was lay the ground work for it's outstanding console counterpart: New Super Mario Bros. Wii.

The real innovation with New SMB Wii was the inclusion of cooperative multiplayer. But this wasn't just a game that you played with your one friend who hadn't moved on to cursing at 12 year olds on Xbox Live. This was a game you played with that friend, his girlfriend, and her cute cousin who you have no shot with. That's right, 4-player simultaneous co-op in a Mario game. This was the future!

With one player, the game is great. With four players, it's absolute chaos in the best possible way. It's one of the few games to get a perfect 40/40 score from Famitsu, and I'm sure that was in no small part attributed to the amount of fun the game is with multiple players.

It also has arguably the best final Bowser battle in Mario's long history.

4. Super Mario 3D Land

I tend to get impatient, which is why it was such a bad idea for me to buy a Nintendo 3DS on launch day. I bought it with Bust-a-Move Universe because I love the series, but after I went through all the levels in a day or two, I went months without turning the thing on, at which point, it went right back to the GameStop that I bought it from.

Nearly a year went by and there still wasn't a whole lot on the system that convinced me to buy another 3DS. That is, until Super Mario 3D Land. I was still skeptical, knowing that I would one day own the system again, and likely at a much lower price or with a much bigger screen, but Mario's call was too great. At the time I was working a third shift job, so when my Thanksgiving morning shift ended around 4am, I headed straight for the local Meijer and got in line for four hours for the red 3DS bundled with Super Mario 3D Land to go on sale. I was not disappointed..

It's one of the must-own titles on the 3DS, and one that I felt compelled to beat 100%, which doesn't happen often. Even though I just sang the praises of cooperative multiplayer, I chose 3D Land of 3D World because of its multiplayer omission. There was a greater challenge in 3D Land, and that final level was the first and only time I've ever put my 3DS into sleep mode out of frustration.

This was also one of the first games to show you the value of the 3D technology in the system. While you can certainly find all the green stars and hidden items without it, the 3D does help you in some instances. It's a timeless game, so if you've never taken the time to play it, there's no time like the present.

3. Super Mario Bros. 3

For those of you who were born after 1990, I don't expect you to understand Mario-mania, and to a greater extent, Nintendo-mania. Nintendo was everywhere you looked. You probably already know that Super Mario Bros. 3 was first revealed to American audiences in the movie The Wizard. I'm not kidding when I say that The Wizard is legitly one of my all-time favorite movies. I even gave it its own dedicated weekly top 5 list. But that's how huge Nintendo and Mario were. They created an entire theatrically-released film that was written and built around the reveal of Super Mario Bros. 3. That wouldn't happen today. Actually, that couldn't happen today. In the age of the Internet, whatever game tried to take this same course of action would be leaked months in advance.

If Super Mario Bros. 2 was a departure (like I mentioned earlier), then SMB3 was the prodigal son returning. This felt like a next-gen game. Of course, we didn't have the term "next-gen" back then, but you get what I'm saying. Mario controlled better and had more abilities, there was a map screen (which meant that you could skip certain levels in favor of others), more power-ups, more diverse worlds, everything that had already made Mario so great was made even better here.

The only detriment to the game was it's lack of a save feature. In some ways it can be forgiven; Mario game had always been a one-sitting experience up to that point, and it wasn't until Super Mario World that Nintendo realized that the game had grown far too large for saves not to be included. But, as we know, there were ways to get right to the end of the game from the first world, so you didn't have to sit unhealthily close to your television screen for multiple hours to reach Bowser's castle.

Required playing for anyone who fancies themselves a retro gamer.

2. Super Mario Galaxy

The Nintendo Wii, at least for me, became the first Nintendo console that I purchased solely for Nintendo's first-party titles. Don't get me wrong, I certainly played lots of other games on my Wii, but it was the Marios, Wii Sports, Zeldas, and Punch-Outs of the world that made me desire the system. Due to the high demand, I didn't get mine until a year after release, but it's not that big of a deal because that's when Super Mario Galaxy launched. The Wii was the first time (and likely the last time) that I stood outside of a store all night to try and get an item. I stood outside of a Toys R Us with two friends for over 8 hours in a crippling Ohio winter. By the time the doors opened, my feet hurt so bad from the cold that I was convinced I had done irreversible damage to them.

Nevertheless, when I finally got my hands on Super Mario Galaxy, it was worth every second of pain I had endured. I went through the game with both Mario and Luigi, collecting all 240 stars in about a week. Then, shortly thereafter, my system kicked the bucket. This was very weird considering Nintendo's track record of system quality. Since the system was obviously still under warranty, they repaired it and sent it back, but I lost all of my data in the process. But I didn't look at that as a negative, it was just a reason to go back and collect all 240 of those stars again, which I did.

Super Mario 64 was a landmark evolution for the series, and even though I really enjoyed Super Mario Sunshine, it was Galaxy that was truly the next step in that evolution. A lot of people prefer the sequel, but I've always been partial to this one, which is likely because of how much I suffered in order to play it.

And I think that we would all be in agreement that Nintendo needs to either make Super Mario Galaxy 3, or an HD collection of the first two. I would buy either one of those (or both) without hesitation.

1. Super Mario World

If you want an in-depth explanation why this is not only my favorite Mario game, but my favorite game of all-time, then you can just go here. But if you're too exhausted from all this reading and don't want to read more, I'll make this an abridged version. Basically, everything that was great about Super Mario Bros. 3 was cranked up to 11 in Super Mario World. I love that Dinosaur Island is one continuous world and no longer a grouping of levels into stages, allowing you to go back and play previous levels for anything you may have missed. Speaking of things you may have missed, I love all the secrets packed into this game. I love that the only level you'll encounter the Torpedo Ted enemy in is one that requires you to sacrifice your bipedal dinosaur friend. A noble sacrifice, indeed.

The Valley of Bowser was a fitting atmosphere as a buildup for the finale, with Bowser himself flying around his castle with thunder and lightning crashing, silhouetting him every so slightly. The final battle was something that I had never experienced before, and for the six-year-old kid that I was at the time, it was a very nerveracking battle, especially when Bowser's clown 'copter begins stomping its way towards you with blood on its mind.

I own the game in five different ways (six if you count emulators), and I still play it on a regular basis. Again, you can read my full thoughts on the game in that link above, but for now, I'm going to go see if there's any other ways for me to spend more money on Super Mario World.

Thanks for reading, here's where I appear elsewhere on the internet.


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Monday, April 27, 2015

Hall of Game: American Gladiators (SNES)

On this episode of the Hall of Game, I take a look at a videogame based on one of my most nostalgic television shows: American Gladiators.

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Saturday, April 25, 2015

Error Machine Podcast 50 - Tuff E Nuff

Dustin applied for WWE's Tough Enough – 1:16

Luke played a lot of games – 5:00

Titan Souls – 5:35

NES Remix 2 – 8:50

Chris hates Shadow or Mordor – 10:45

Child of Light – 13:00

Dustin still loves Shovel Knight – 14:00

Mario Kart 8 – 15:10

Erik played Mortal Kombat X – 17:00

New releases – 20:40

Error Machine Describes DOOORS – 23:15

Best Buy gets a Splatoon Wii U bundle – 28:00

New Star Wars Battlefront and Guitar Hero announcements – 30:30

A few people watched the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer – 37:25

What music we're currently jamming to – 43:25

If we could be Transformers, what would be transform into? - 49:20

NXT comes to Columbus – 51:50

Outro and plugs – 53:30


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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

April Fools: Not "nerd"--"node."

No sentence better exemplifies how I felt about Raiden the first time I played Metal Gear Solid 2: Son of Liberty.

After the sinking of the tanker, which is one of the best opening chapters in gaming history, I was waiting with anticipation to see how Snake managed to escape the Hudson River. I was then greeted by the familiar tones and cadences of Colonel Roy Campbell's voice, a voice that put my mind at ease after a thrilling cutscene.

"Snake, do you remember the sinking of that tanker two years ago?"

"Of course..."

That's not Snake's voice. What's going on? I see long blonde hair protruding out of that breathing apparatus, and surely Solid Snake would never allow himself to have such a girly mane. After a bit more a lot more exposition, Goldilocks reveals his incredibly effeminate, beardless face to the world. Then we begin to control this impostor, and everything seems a bit off. This feels like Metal Gear Solid, but it's...different. I knew, in my heart of hearts, that eventually I was going to go back to playing as Snake--the real Snake.

Colonel Campbell informs this "Raiden" bozo that he needs to make it upstairs and log in to a node, and that's when Raiden asks one of the dumbest questions in videogame history:

No, Raiden, he didn't say "nerd." Why would you think he said "nerd"? Does a decorated veteran like Colonel Roy Campbell ever use the word "nerd?" No, he doesn't, especially not on a very serious, top-secret mission.

With this simple, four-word question, hands smacked foreheads the world over, and we're given insight as to just how much of a dork this Raiden character is. You can hear the contempt in the Colonel's voice as he corrects him.

I then make my way upstairs...

...and that's when it starts to sink in...

...this isn't a joke. This is the actual main character of Metal Gear Solid 2.

This guy.

Don't take everything I've written up to this point to mean that I don't love MGS2, because I absolutely do. It's still a very (ahem) solid game, it's just not what anybody wanted, especially not after the masterpiece that was Metal Gear Solid. Hideo Kojima had pulled the old switcheroo on us all. You have to give him credit, though, because it's unheard of today to have something like this not be known months before a game's release. That's one thing that I love about Kojima, I never know what to expect from his games. There's always a lot of speculation, but no solid facts.

Think back to when this game was released. Metal Gear Solid 2 was one of the most anticipated and hyped games of all-time, it was basically the only thing you could crack a magazine and look at, everyone was covering it. And even in the midst of all that coverage, everyone was in the dark about Raiden, the Big Shell, Emma Emmerich, and anything other than the Tanker mission prior to launch. Kudos to Kojima for not spilling the beans.

It's the lack of facial hair that throws people off.

Replacing the icon of your game series with someone like Raiden and relegating your star to nothing more than a supporting role is something that not only wouldn't happen today, but something few people would even have the cajones to try. If Gordon Freeman was replaced by a teenage kid wearing skinny jeans in the game that shall not be named, there would be a literal riot at Valve's offices. Pitchforks, molotovs, the whole nine. Raiden would eventually turn into a much cooler character, earning himself a fantastic action game in his own right, but at the time, he was the object of much ire.

Pictured: Raiden, about to cry to his LiveJournal.

After I got over the initial shock, I realized that this was still very much a Metal Gear Solid game, though it doesn't have quite the personality of its predecessor. The Big Shell is a very boring location when compared to the frozen tundra of Shadow Moses, and when you juxtapose Dead Cell with Foxhound, the latter stands head-and-shoulders above the former. MGS2's saving grace is its final two hours. The fan base is pretty split between loving it and hating it, but I'm firmly in the loving category.

The tanker mission was nothing more than a Trojan horse that duped the fans into thinking we were getting something that Kojima never intended on giving us. The guy has balls...balls that I wanted to punch back in 2000 when I played Sons of Liberty for the first time.

Most deceiving cover art ever.

But I think Kojima realized, even in a series known for its twists and surprises, that he couldn't pull the same stunt twice. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater was a return to form, and felt like Kojima's way of apologizing. We still weren't technically playing as Solid Snake, but I think playing as the soldier he was cloned from is close enough.

The Phantom Pain is easily my most anticipated game of 2015. Fingers crossed that it doesn't turn out to be a dating sim.

Thanks for reading.


Monday, April 13, 2015

Flea Market Game Finds (4/10/15)

Good morning all, I'm back for another edition of my flea market game finds videos. This week I'm tag teaming with my collecting partner, Christopher Craig Cramer, to show you all the goodies we managed to pick up this past weekend.

Not quite as bountiful as the previous video but still pretty good. Check it out.

If you're not interested in watching the video, then I'll just take a moment to write my finds here.

So, it wasn't the best of days to do the flea market thing, it was still a little chilly but there were still some people set up. First thing I managed to find were some sealed Nintendo DS games. The guy was selling them for $0.50 each, so he obviously got them from some store that was just going to toss them. Nothing really that good in there, but for $2 I picked up Jeopardy!, The Bachelor, Camp Rock: The Final Jam, and America's Test Kitchen: Let's Get Cooking. I'm not sure why I bought them, but, here we are.

Things were looking pretty grim, but right before I decided to head back home, we came across a guy that we had already stopped to check out earlier in the day, but this time he said much more stuff set up, and I found, just sitting on the edge of his booth, four different handheld systems. There was a yellow Game Boy Color (missing the back piece), two original Game Boy Advance models (one Indigo, one Glacier) that were both working pretty well, though one of them had a latch on the battery cover broken off, and lastly the Mario edition Nintendo DS Lite. If the DS Lite was in mint condition, that would be a centerpiece of my collection, however, there was a crack in the hinge piece, so the top part of the DS won't stay in a fixed position. But, for a total of $35 (which also include Kirby's Nightmare in Dream Land on GBA because it was inside one of the GBA systems), I feel like I still came out the winner in that deal.

You'll also get to see what Chris picked up in the video, but I'll let him speak for himself.

Thanks for watching, and don't forget that you can subscribe to the Error Machine YouTube channel here. And don't forget to check out the Error Machine Podcast.

Thanks for reading/watching.