Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Collections and Remasters I Actually Want

With so many developers resorting to various collections, remasters, and ports of their previous games, I think it's safe to say that we all feel a little burnt out. "We want new IPs," we cry from our keyboards. We want something original. Is that too much to ask?

However, just recently Capcom announced the Disney Afternoon Collection, featuring six of their classic NES titles. For those of you too young to remember, Capcom's licensed games are standouts among the glut of garbage games we had to wade through in the late 80s/early 90s. The collection features DuckTales, DuckTales 2, Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers, Rescue Rangers 2, TaleSpin, and Darkwing Duck.

I was lucky to get in on the NES collecting scene before the prices of those games skyrocketed. If you were to try to procure those six games on their original cartridges today, you'd be spending more than what it costs for a PlayStation Pro system. So, needless to say, $20 for six of Capcom's best games on the NES is a steal.

This announcement got me to thinking, and even though I too am guilty of sometimes complaining about the constant ports, remasters, and collections, there are a few series and games I wouldn't mind seeing getting a second chance on current systems.

The Dead Space Collection

The original Dead Space is one of the best survival horror games ever. I was constantly on edge, and never felt like I was in control of the situation. The game genuinely stressed me out, and I would never pass by a save station without using it first. I even sometimes bargained with myself about playing the game. Okay, let's just play this one chapter, and then we'll go get ice cream. Well, not exactly, but it was something similar to that.

Dead Space 2 is my personal favorite in the series. It was more action packed but still kept you checking around every corner to prevent any unwanted scares. Dead Space 2 is to Dead Space what Aliens is to Alien. Similar idea, same threat, but more things blowing up. Dead Space 2 was the exact opposite to me in terms of stress level, I actually beat this one in three sittings, I couldn't put it down. It also has one of the best opening sequences I've ever played, and that very well may be the scariest part of the entire game.

Dead Space 3 is the black sheep of the franchise, but I liked it quite a bit. People seemed to be down on the optional cooperative scenarios, which I didn't mind. The one criticism I do agree with is the crafting system. The previous two games had ways to upgrade weapons, and that was great, but I couldn't get a hang of the crafting aspects and after a while just stopped caring. Just make the plasma cutter more powerful, that's all we need. The game was also somewhat non-linear, and had several crafting or upgrade items that could be found if you chose to take on side missions. We can ignore how silly the final boss was...actually, EA, if you just want to retcon that part out with some extra content (like you did with Mass Effect 3), I would be alright with that.

Since this is a collection, it should go without saying that I would expect all DLC to be included in the package.

As an added incentive for PS4 owners, how great would it be if the Wii game, Dead Space Extraction, could be optimized for play on PlayStation VR?

The Contra Collection

Listen up, Konami. I'm going to say this real slow so you'll understand:

I. Will. Give. You. Money. To. Play. Your. Classic. Franchises.

It's as simple as that. I don't care if it's just a cash grab and you give nothing more than the bare bones on all of these games. I don't care if you put in any fancy-pants museum features or concept art or any of that. Just let me play the Contra games in one collection. It doesn't even have to include every Contra game, just the good ones is all I ask.

This collection should be comprised of Contra and Super C (the NES versions, not the arcade), Contra III: The Alien Wars, Contra Hard Corps, Contra: Shattered Soldier, and if they can make it work, Contra 4.

I know I already said they don't have to throw in any extras, but it would be nice if they threw in the original Probotector versions of the games as well.

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars Remastered

The Grand Theft Auto series has always been hit or miss for me. My introduction to the series was Grand Theft Auto III, which I loved. I enjoyed the follow up, Vice City, even more. San Andreas did nothing for me, I think GTA IV is the most overrated game of the last generation, but GTA V is outstanding.

Then there's this plucky little standout title they originally made for the Nintendo DS and then ported to the PSP. I remember there being a number of people both shocked and/or confused at the idea of a mature rated title appearing on Nintendo's kid-friendly handheld. It is a bit strange, I suppose, but I'm glad Nintendo allowed it, because Chinatown Wars is my favorite game donning the Grand Theft Auto name.

Not only does the game return to its PSone roots with the top-down perspective, but the game within the game (i.e. the drug dealing) is really well done. As terrible as it sounds, I became downright enamored with becoming a drug dealer in this game. I was constantly on the lookout for someone selling drugs low and then finding someone to sell them to for profit. But it wasn't always that easy, sometimes the person selling or buying the drugs would be an undercover police officer, and you'd have to shoot your way out of the situation.

The game's setting was a nice change of pace from the typical giant metropolis you see in the console GTA titles, and the driving and shooting was serviceable enough to never be frustrating. I would gladly pay $20 for a downloadable version of this game on current consoles.

Mega Man X Legacy Collection

This one is a bit of a cheat because it already exists as a collection on the PS2 and GameCube, but so did the original Mega Man collection, and I bought those again when they were released on current systems, so why not do the same with the Mega Man X games?

When the Mega Man Legacy Collection was released back in 2015, I was a bit disappointed that they stopped with the NES hexalogy and didn't give us all ten games that fall under the Mega Man banner, especially when you consider just how amazing Mega Man 9 is.

But the Mega Man X series is the real deal. I had fallen off of Mega Man after the NES, but having gone back and played a first few entries in the X series, their superiority is evident. Everything got better: the music, the boss weapons, the bosses themselves, the level design, and an added incentive to explore each level for upgrades.

Some might say the series eventually took a wrong turn and just kept going, but when you look at Metacritic scores, only one game in the series (Mega Man X7) received below average scores, while most hover in the 70s or higher.

I have no knowledge of how the original Mega Man Legacy Collection performed for Capcom, but I would imagine the cost to produce the game was fairly low, and I can't imagine the amount needed for this collection would be much greater, so perhaps it's worth the risk.

The good news is that there are several ways to play these games outside of their original means, which is a good thing, as Mega Man X2 and X3 are two more games that will put a decent hole in your bank account, but it would be great to have them all in one place with some bonus material.

The Castlevania Saga

Few series hold as special of a place in my heart as Castlevania. The original game was one of the first video games I ever played, and even though I didn't beat for the first time until last year, it's a game that I revere as highly as games like Super Mario Bros. 3 and the aforementioned Contra. The only problem here is that Konami hates us. With a fiery passion, they hate us.

There are two problems this collection faces. First, there are nearly 20 games in the series chronology, and a lot of them play exactly the same. As much as I enjoy the 'Metroidvania' genre, I try to abstain from playing too many of them in short periods of time. They eventually become cumbersome. Secondly, if we're trying to get every main entry in one collection, we're looking at 3D games that wouldn't work too well on a handheld, or a console release with three titles designed for the Nintendo DS hardware. Of course, the latter of those two seems like an easier fix, especially when only Dawn of Sorrow made any real use of the DS touch screen.

We'll forego the Lords of Shadow series, as it's a different timeline and two of the three games therein are mediocre if I'm being generous.

It's a shame that Konami doesn't look upon their franchises with the same lens as their fans, and I hate to think of this once mighty series of games going out with zero fanfare. The last canonical Castlevania game in the original timeline was Order of Ecclesia, which, despite being one of my personal favorites, isn't the unintended sendoff the series deserved.

I can only hope Igarashi doesn't do with Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night what Inafune did with Mighty No. 9, and that it'll be a proper spiritual successor to the Castlevania name.

What other collections, ports, or remasters would you like to see?

Don't forget to check out everything else I'm doing.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Breath of the Wild is one, big Rocky montage

On a recent episode of the Error Machine Podcast, we delved deep into the world of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The nearly two hour episode covered everything from the hype surrounding the game to our littlest of nitpicks to the build up for the final battle. On the podcast, Erik Snedegar brought up an excellent point when he said that the entire game is just hype for the final battle with Ganon, and that couldn't be a more apt way to sum up the game.

Don't misunderstand me, there is a whole lot more to the game than just "go here, do this," and I wouldn't dare trivialize everything it does right by saying so. The ultimate goal of the game is to, of course, kill Ganon and free Princess Zelda, which is the same basic plot we've seen in many Zelda titles. But every previous game in the series required specific boxes to be checked and certain obligations to be fulfilled before facing the ultimate evil.

Here, however, your goal is singular, and that is, as it says on your Adventure Log during the entire game: "Destroy Ganon."

I did every optional piece of the main quest, and with each successive Divine Beast I tamed and every subsequent boss I bested, the anticipation and anxiety of my eventual confrontation with this supreme evil only grew that much greater. The cutscenes that would follow each "dungeon" featuring the fallen Champions were nothing more than exposition in which the Champion explained how they were too weak to defeat Ganon and that they'd been waiting 100 years for another opportunity.

Even something as small as learning recipes that could be used to make more powerful elixirs and meals that would replenish more life felt like skills that would help in the final approach. Every time I learned something new, every time I would cash in Korok seeds for a new inventory slot, every time I would use Spirit Orbs to increase my health or stamina, when I found the Master Sword, when I would upgrade my armor, every single thing that I did in the game, no matter how great or small, felt like reaching the summit of a new mountain.

The Rocky film that Breath of the Wild seems most comparable to is Rocky IV. At this point, Rocky is the champion and is considered the best boxer in the world. He's rich and famous and is living the American dream. He even has a robot, which is the easiest way to point out human success.

An amateur boxer from the Soviet Union by the name of Ivan Drago shoots up the ranks, challenges former champion and Rocky's best friend, Apollo Creed, to an exhibition fight, which results in the Russian fighter killing Apollo in the ring. Rocky has no choice but to challenge Drago and avenge his fallen comrade. The montage that takes place before the fight is pure cinematic gold.

Even though Rocky is the champion, he's the underdog. He chooses to fight Drago on his home turf in front of a crowd of hostile Russians, and even his own wife doesn't believe he has what it takes to defeat Drago. This is not unlike the story of Breath of the Wild. Link is the Hylian "Champion," he enters Hyrule castle--which has been overtaken by hostile enemies--to fight Ganon, the one who killed his friends, and even some of the other Champions and townsfolk doubt Link's ability to win the battle.

In the end, good triumphs over evil, Rocky knocks out Drago (spoilers for that, too, I guess), Link bests Ganon and seals him away, and all is well. I must say that if you take the time to tame the Divine Beasts, the beginning of the final battle is well worth that effort. It has a great build up, a satisfying payoff, and tasks you with putting all of your previous learned skills to the test. It's the culmination of an 80-hour montage

If there were anything that I could count as disappointing in the game, it's the lack of a human form for Ganon. All game long it's pounded into your head that you have to beat Calamity Ganon and that's he's the purest form of evil in the world, but you're never told exactly why or how he got to be this way. We don't get any face to face confrontation, no stare down, no villainous monologue, just a boss fight.

This does not, however, make victory any less sweet.

Thanks for reading, and don't forget to check me out everywhere else.
@TheDustinThomas on Twitter
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Monday, March 27, 2017

Error Machine Podcast 106 - Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

For the first time in over a year (probably), Erik Snedeger returns to the Error Machine Podcast to help the rest of us heap loads and loads of praise upon The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. We don't spoil anything but still manage to talk about a lot of different aspects of the game, including experiences that no one else among us has encountered.

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Thursday, March 16, 2017

Resident Evil 7's success and what it means for Capcom

Resident Evil 7 is officially a success for Capcom. The game has already recouped its development costs with 2.8 million units sold worldwide thus far. Interestingly, this pales in comparison to the amount of units sold for the two previous numbered entries, Resident Evil 5 (8.08 million), and Resident Evil 6 (7.83 million), though its still very early in the game's life.

However, there's one thing that needs to be taken into consideration when comparing Resident Evil 7 with RE5/RE6. Not only is Resident Evil 7 a success financially, but it was also a huge critical success, garnering very high and even some perfect scores from major review outlets.

After Resident Evil 5--despite being what I consider an underrated game--deviated even further from the paths set by the early games than even Resident Evil 4 did, fans started begging for the Resident Evil franchise to return to its horror roots. What we instead got with Resident Evil 6 was a game that was too big for its own britches.

This is six protagonists too many.

It was 25 hours longer than it had any right to be, was overly convoluted, and added gameplay mechanics that fans never expected to see in their beloved franchise, like swimming sections, car chases, Michael Bay levels of explosions, a cover-shooting system (expanded from the one introduced in RE5), a stamina meter, and way too many cutscenes. Resident Evil was having an identity crisis. It couldn't tell if it was Resident Evil, Call of Duty, Gears of War, or Metal Gear Solid, so it tried to be all of them and succeeded at being none of them.

I'll go on record and say that I think the Revelations spin-off games are excellent and should be played by any fan that may have skipped them. But it seemed Resident Evil was content with fading into obscurity after the abysmal Operation Raccoon City and Umbrella Corps receiving many "Worst Game of the Year" awards in 2016.


Then Resident Evil 7 breathed new life into Capcom's dying IP. As someone who has been a fan of the series since its outset, I can say that the game deserves the high praise and perfect scores that it's receiving. So many things were done right. To me, the two things that make a truly good survival horror game are making the player feel vulnerable at all times and making you not want to progress in the game.

That second one seems counter-intuitive to general videogame design, but survival horror fans don't come to the genre to feel good about themselves, they enjoy the tension and the rush of not knowing what's ahead. Several times during my playthroughs I would hear a tapping on the windows or footsteps on the floor above me, making me dread my inevitable trek up the stairs.

Mainly to avoid creepy grandma at all costs.

I could sit here and lavish praise upon RE7 all day, but what I really want to discuss is what this means for the future of Capcom.

I'm 31 years old, and the first time I picked up a videogame controller was at the age of 3 with the NES. Two game companies that I grew up with were Capcom and Konami. Contra, Castlevania, and Metal Gear are three of my favorite series of all-time, but because of the changing climate in games development, it's unlikely that I'll ever see anything outside of spiritual sequels to these franchises (don't you dare try to tell me that Metal Gear Survive is a true sequel, I'll have none of it).

So with Konami lying in the grave and waiting to have the dirt piled on, my attention turns to Capcom, who are also responsible for delivering some of my favorite games ever. Despite positive reviews, Street Fighter V left a sour taste in the mouths of fans due to all that it was lacking in terms of the overall user experience. Devil May Cry was unnecessarily rebooted with a redesigned Dante that no one liked. Conversely, Dead Rising 4 relied too heavily on the appeal of its main character and delivered a sub par open-world experience. And finally, we have Mega Man, who has been MIA since 2010.

Mighty No. 9 turned out to be a colossal flop, but the one thing it did have was a very successful Kickstarter campaign. Keiji Inafune was very forthcoming with what Mighty No. 9 was: a spiritual sequel to the Mega Man franchise. The game may have burned a lot of fans by the time it was released, but if anything, that Kickstarter should have sent a message to Capcom that we do, in fact, want to play these games and are willing to give you money to do so.

Perhaps even too much money.

Resident Evil 7 received praise for returning to its roots and giving us the type of experience that made us fall in love with the series to begin with. However, critical praise doesn't pay the bills, so it's understandable why Capcom would continue to deviate from the traditional Resident Evil formula until it eventually became a (terrible) competitive shooter. One can only hope that Resident Evil 7 winds up selling close to the same numbers as RE5/RE6, so as to prove to Capcom that what's old is new again.

There's no game that I can think of that Capcom could make that I would want more right now than a new Mega Man game in the style of Mega Man X. To me, that's when the series was at its peak, and unfortunately I've had to resort to games other than Mega Man, like the Azure Striker Gunvolt series, to scratch that itch.

From the bottom of my heart, I hope that Capcom takes the ball and runs with it. I'm truly rooting for them to make a gigantic comeback, and hope that Resident Evil 7's momentum propels them to future greatness.


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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Ranking Nintendo's Home Consoles

All aboard the hype train.

With the impending launch of the Nintendo Switch, I figured now would be the time to rank Nintendo's home consoles. Despite the Switch being the home/portable hybrid that it is, I will primarily be playing it as a home gaming device--at least my intention--and that's why I'm ranking only the home consoles with this article.

As always, whenever I do a ranking-based writing, I feel the need to clarify that this is simply my opinion, and is based on my experiences with the consoles. Your experience was different than mine for each of these beautiful machines, so your level of love and affection will differ, so let's keep it clean.

6. Nintendo 64
Released: September 29th, 1996 (NA)
Favorite games: WCW/nWo Revenge, Goldeneye 007

Coming in at the bottom of the barrel is the one Nintendo console that I just never got into. Outside of a six month ownership where the only games I owned were WCW/nWo Revenge and Fox Sports College Hoops, all of my time spent with the Nintendo 64 was at various friend's houses during birthday parties and sleepovers.

Since becoming a collector, I've acquired most of the N64's more popular games, but I'll be completely honest, I'm not into those games as a lot of people are. Super Mario 64 is revolutionary, but I don't love that game. I think Ocarina of Time is just above average, and I just simply don't like Star Fox 64. I did enjoy Goldeneye 007's multiplayer mode, which outside of the aforementioned WCW/nWo Revenge was the game we spent the most time playing at birthday parties, but I was so terrible at it that I found myself becoming increasingly frustrated with each successive match.

I spent a lot of time playing as this guy.

If we can blame anyone for the loveless relationship I have with the Nintendo 64, it's Sony. I was so entrenched in the world of PlayStation that I didn't feel the need for any other consoles. This is where I found my now deep and abiding affection for series like Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil, and Twisted Metal. The Sony PlayStation seemed like a much more adult console, and since I have an old brother who was approaching his teens at the time, he was adamant that the PlayStation was the way to go, and I followed.

5. Wii U
Released: November 18th, 2012 (US/CA)
Favorite games: Super Mario 3D World, Splatoon, Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze

For those of you who aren't familiar with this piece of hardware, let me fill you in. The Wii U was a videogame console created by Nintendo and released in 2012. To this day, many people are still unaware that the thing exists, and among those who are aware, a percentage of them don't know that it's different from the mega hit Wii console.

While that paragraph was written for humor, you'd be surprised how many people come into my store looking for Wii games, and when I ask "Wii or Wii U?" the confused patron asks "What's the Wii U?" That still happens to this day, and it's really a shame. The Wii U has some of my favorite games in recent memory and some of the best games for respective franchises. Super Mario 3D World is absolute incredible, Yoshi's Woolly World is the best game adorning the Yoshi name, Super Mario Maker gave me the ability to play and create a never ending number of Mario levels, and Splatoon is perhaps the best new IP of the generation across all consoles.

The off TV play was a great addition (though it's not something that I ever used), and laid the framework for what we'll be getting with the Nintendo Switch. It's a shame the Wii U floundered the way it did, but Nintendo really has no one to blame that on but themselves.

4. GameCube
Released: November 18th, 2001 (NA)
Favorite games: Resident Evil 4, The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker, Mario Kart Double Dash

Another console that I shunned in favor of a Sony system, this time with the PS2. The difference between the GameCube and N64 for me is that I actually spent a lot of time playing the GameCube in its prime. My buddy had one, and we were dating sisters at the time, so we had a lot of GameCube parties. I also played it to mentally escape the girl I was dating (I never said it was a good relationship).

I know this is going to sound like blasphemy, but I think all of Nintendo's franchises that had mediocre N64 titles had much better entries on the GameCube. I like Super Mario Sunshine more than Super Mario 64. I like Wind Waker more than Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask. I like Mario Kart Double Dash more than Mario Kart 64. And even though I've never been high on Super Smash Bros., my friends sure were, and Melee to them is the be-all and end-all of fighting games.

Throw in some genuinely great third-party games like Eternal Darkness, Resident Evil 4 and REmake, an inferior but still solid upgrade of Metal Gear Solid, and couple those with Nintendo's new games like Luigi's Mansion, Metroid Prime, and solid sports titles in Super Mario Strikers and Mario Superstar Baseball, and you've got yourself a console that has a little bit for everyone.

3. Wii
Released: November 19th, 2006 (NA)
Favorite games: Super Mario Galaxy, Punch Out!!, Donkey Kong Country Returns

What's better than a GameCube? Two GameCubes duct taped together!

I don't care what anyone says, the Nintendo Wii is a fantastic system. There's a reason the thing sold over 100 million units, and it's not just because everyone's grandma bought it. 100 million Nintendo Wii systems, that's an insane amount of units sold. That's, like, three times the population of the entire planet (though I admit that fact checking is not my strong suit).

I bought one, you bought one, you probably know a guy that bought three and sold them all for twice as much as he paid. The thing was a phenomenon, and was still very difficult to find two years after its launch. These days we like to criticize the thing because of all the garbage games that wound up on it, but the system did have some truly great games. Super Mario Galaxy is my favorite game to come out this century, Twilight Princess was a top quality Zelda game (I know, it's not the "true version" of the game, please get over yourself), and many people swear by the Resident Evil 4 port as the best version of the game.

But let's not look past Wii Sports, the pack-in game. We can downplay it as nothing more than a tech demo, but I played a whole lot of that tech demo, and so did you. The motion control was such a cool thing, and while many companies tried to break that ground in the past, their results were sub par. Having motion control that worked just felt good. Was it perfect? No. Did I have to calibrate it every so often? Yes. But that's a minor annoyance. When you consider the ability to play Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros. online with friends--which I did a lot of--it only increases its value to me, despite the online not always being stable.

It's fun to take our shots at it now and try to discredit it as a viable gaming platform, and even though there's lots of third-party garbage on the system, there are a lot of really great third-party games as well, like Lost in Shadow, Dead Space Extraction, Muramasa, No More Heroes, Zack and Wiki, and many more. Looking back, I think the Wii deserves its place (as of right now) in the top half of Nintendo's consoles.

2. NES
Released: October 1985 (NA)
Favorite Games: Super Mario Bros. 3, DuckTales, Castlevania

This was very hard for me. I will preface this entry by saying that the NES is my all-time favorite videogame console. It's the first system I ever owned (or played, for that matter), it's the system that began this love of videogames, and the thing owns my heart completely. That being said, I can't let it take the top spot for several reasons, which I'll comment on in the next entry, but for now, let me heap praise upon praise on this revolutionary machine.

There's a reason that I still get calls at work--every single day--asking if we have the NES Classic in stock. There's a reason why the thing is still hard to find (outside of Nintendo's lack of production). It's because the NES changed the world. That's not hyperbole. The NES was estimated to have been in 1 of every 3 homes in the United States at its peak. It's still Nintendo's second highest selling console, second only to the juggernaut that was the Wii. This console is the reason my grandmother--God rest her soul--called every videogame system "a Nintendo."

We all know that this was a very different time, and nothing in better evidence of that than the fact that we who were around for it still hold even bad games in high regard. Remember Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? The one that confused every kid in America because the cover art depicted every turtle wearing their comic book red as opposed to the various colors we knew from the cartoon? That game is terrible. Screw the bomb diffusing section in particular, and I've still never gotten past level three. I hate that game. I love that game!

But the NES is also responsible for cementing many characters places in videogame history. Mario, Link, Mega Man, the Belmonts, Samus. The good games on the NES were more than just games to us. They were life-changing adventures. They were the topic of recess conversations. They laid the foundation of what we thought was possible in our own lives. Maybe we couldn't grow up to be a young elf boy slaying Ganon, but when we thought about The Legend of Zelda, we were inspired to conjure up new adventures in the backyards with our friends.

Very few things in this world have impacted my life as much as the NES has, and for that, I salute you, NES. God bless you. Now cue the National Anthem.

1. Super Nintendo
Released: August 23rd, 1991 (NA)
Favorite games: Super Mario World, TMNT IV: Turtles in Time, Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball

Every game that I loved on the NES, the SNES had a better sequel to. If you've read my writing for any length of time, you already know that Super Mario World is my favorite game of all-time, but we also got a better Legend of Zelda game, a better Contra game, better Mega Man games, better Castlevania games, better Kirby games, the best TMNT game ever, and the list continues on and on and on.

It also helped that the system actually worked when you turned it on.

The RPG really hit its stride with the Super Nintendo with the Final Fantasy sequels, Chrono Trigger, Earthbound, Secret of Mana, and again, the list just continues. The ports of games like Street Fighter II, Mortal Kombat II, Sunset Riders, and NBA Jam may not have looked as great as their arcade counterparts, and some concessions had to be made for them to be on the SNES in terms of gameplay, but as a kid, I didn't care or notice. They still played great, and many of my elementary school weekends were spent with an SNES controller in my hands, a pizza on the table, and my best friends on the couch beside me.

Even though the NES was my first console, the Super Nintendo is the one that makes me the most nostalgic for my childhood. Many of its titles I would consider some of my favorite games of all time. I already mentioned Super Mario World, but Turtles in Time is probably my favorite beat 'em up, and Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball is still, without question, my favorite sports game ever.

The face of greatness.

Many SNES games have aged beautifully, and now that I'm older and understand a little bit more about how videogames work, I'm able to appreciate them even more than I did as a young tyke. The Super Nintendo didn't perform as well as its predecessor due to the fact that it had a legitimate competitor in the Sega Genesis, and even though I still hold a bigger place in my heart for the NES, I can't deny that the Super Nintendo is the zenith of Nintendo's home console line.

Thanks for reading, don't forget to check me out everywhere else I do stuff!

Twitter: @TheDustinThomas
Error Machine Podcast


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Error Machine Podcast 103 - Super Morning Team

Christopher Craig Cramer returns on this episode as he and Dustin talk Rocket League, flea marketing, and Resident Evil 7. Luke is also here to talk about John Wick 2 and Fire Emblem. We also talk about the Zelda expansion pass, the rare SNES games that got lost, and a possible Cave Story port to the Switch.

0.50 The return of Christopher Craig Cramer 
2.05 Super Morning Team 
3.00 Steel the American Gladiator 
8.15 Luke saw John Wick 2 
11.30 Flea marketing returns 
15.00 Chris and Dustin played Rocket League 
19.20 Luke is still playing Fire Emblem Revelations 
22.20 New releases/For Honor 
25.15 Sniper Elite 4 
27.40 Halo Wars 2 
29.50 Azure Striker Gunvolt: The Anime 
33.30 Error Machine Describes: Y.A.S.G. 
40.15 USPS loses $10,000 worth of rare SNES games 
47.45 Cave Story maybe getting physical Switch release 
51.31 Breath of the Wild's expansion pass 
1.02.07 Resident Evil 7 Spoilercast 

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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Does Backwards Compatibility Matter to You?

Recently, Grand Theft Auto IV became backwards compatible on the Xbox One. Any time a game becomes backwards compatible, I think to myself "that's rad" and then put on some wicked bad shades and throw on a backwards t-shirt featuring Bugs Bunny and Taz (who are also wearing clothing in an improper fashion).

A picture for those of you too young to remember how rad we were in the 90s.
However, I did not carry out this particular wardrobe upgrade when GTA IV was announced as backwards compatible. Instead, my reaction was one less of excitement and more of confusion. If I were to give Grand Theft Auto IV a very quick and dirty review, I would say the combat sucked, the driving was terrible, I hated every character, the world was drab, and I don't understand why so many gaming outlets gave it their game of the year award in 2008. I just can't understand who would want to play GTA IV on their Xbox One when you already have a far superior Grand Theft Auto game available to you in GTA V.

Look at that big, dumb face.

While at work this past week, a customer asked me if we had a copy of 2009 Ghostbusters on the Xbox 360. After looking it up in our inventory, I discovered three things:
  1. We did not have it.
  2. That game is super overpriced, and the reason for that is...
  3. It is backwards compatible.
Like clockwork, any time an Xbox 360 game becomes playable on it's successor console, the price shoots up, and I don't understand it. The games don't suddenly become harder to find, but the demand for them skyrockets. I'll be the first to tell you that I absolutely loved the 2009 Ghostbusters game. I pre-ordered and paid the full $59.99 on release day, receiving the sweet pre-order bonus t-shirt that I was too fat for at the time. When I discovered I could play Ghostbusters again, I got really excited. I still have my copy, so I could just pop that bad boy in and immediately I'm transported back to New York City in the midst of a paranormal epidemic. But why would I want to do that?

The problem backwards compatibility causes for me as someone who works in video game retail is that suddenly we have an influx of people looking for the latest backwards compatible game, then our warehouse sends us twenty more copies, and then all those people that bought the game realize they didn't really want it and then trade it back in to us, and now were sitting on a ton of copies that we can't sell.

If you're thinking "Dustin, isn't that a good thing? You get the sale and then get the trade in a couple of weeks later, that's what your company's goal is." And to you, I say "Hey, you're right."

That's it, you're right, there's no argument I can give to that. You make a valid point. You were right, and I was wrong. Sitting on so many copies is sometimes a nuisance, but it's always better to have too many copies than too little.

Getting back to the "why" that I proposed earlier, why would I want to play Ghostbusters again?
Why would I want to play Grand Theft Auto IV again?
Why would I want to play Alan Wake again?

Did I really just say that? I love Alan Wake. It almost cracked the top 10 when I did my top games of the century list a few weeks back. But as much as I love that game, it's been backwards compatible for over a year now and I haven't even taken it off the shelf. I keep telling myself that I need to play it again, but I haven't, and don't see myself doing so any time soon.

In fact, the only backwards compatible game that I've played any amount of is Dead Space, and the only reason I did so is because it was the first episode of Til Games Do Us Part that my wife and I did, and I thought it would be fun to freak her out.

I was right, it was incredibly fun.

But I haven't gone back to Dead Space since and likely never will, despite being an amazing game.

The problem lies within. I, like a lot of gamers, feel the need to stay current. I feel like I need to be playing the latest hotness at all times. Financially, purchasing the Nintendo Switch is not a good idea for me right now, but my pre-order is still intact. I want to be one of the first to experience The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I want to be able to talk to my friends about it. I want to be able to talk with my customers about it. I want to talk about it to all 20 people that listen to the Error Machine Podcast.

Perhaps another reason backwards compatibility isn't very important to me is because I'm a collector. I'll occasionally sell or trade a game, but I never get rid of my systems (I've made that mistake before and regretted every moment until I got that system back). I never got rid of my Xbox 360, so if I wasn't all gung-ho about replaying Alan Wake during the years prior, why would I get so excited about being able to play it on my current Xbox console?

If they can shoehorn in new Twin Peaks references, I'm back on board.

But there are many people that are not like me. Many people part ways with their systems to put towards the purchase of the latest and greatest console, but I don't allow myself to do that. I can almost guarantee you that despite the fact that the Wii U has some of the best games I've played in the past few years, I will never bring that thing out of the box again. The collector mentality rears its ugly head yet again.

For people that no longer have old consoles for whatever reason, backwards compatibility is a big thing. If I didn't still have my copies of games like Alan Wake, Left 4 Dead, Portal 2, and Ghostbusters, I would have been right there alongside my customers that had a sudden and irrational frothing demand for Call of Duty: Black Ops.

Some people are upset that the Switch won't be compatible with Wii or Wii U games. That shouldn't surprise anyone. Yes, their recent track record has seen them promoting backwards compatibility as a reason to purchase their systems, but prior to the Wii, there had never been a Nintendo home console with backwards compatibility. Let us not forget the shoulder-padded moms of the early 90s upset that they were being "forced" to buy a new Nintendo.

I wish my official title could be "Super-Nintendo User."

Let me clarify that I'm not upset that backwards compatibility is a thing. For anyone that wants it, I'm glad that you have it. If you're not like me and find yourself playing those older games again, I'm very happy that you have a way to replay these games that you love.

The point I want to make is that I don't think backwards compatibility should be something to get upset over for not being present on a new system. A game being backwards compatible on Xbox One should not cause a sudden spike in a game's price. The prices of games like Red Dead Redemption and Grand Theft Auto IV increased anywhere from double to quadruple what the price was before being updated.

The pricing structure of any consumer product is dependent upon supply and demand. Supply is up, demand is down? Prices plummet. Supply is low, demand is high? Time to sell that NES Classic on eBay. But backwards compatibility increases demand with no change to the supply. These games aren't being produced anymore, but they're not hard to find. Walk into any used video game store, pawn shop, or flea market and you're going to find a copy of GTA IV with Niko Bellic's big, dumb face staring back at you.

Seriously, so big and so dumb.

Red Dead Redemption
sold so many copies that it's like that old saying about spiders: You're never more than eight feet away from a copy of Red Dead Redemption. That game is suddenly $25+ despite being overrated and terrible. Yeah, I said it.

For me, backwards compatibility isn't a selling point and honestly doesn't matter to me a whole lot. It's a nice feature for those that want it, but it's not something that I feel needs to cause the kind of frenzy that it does. A popular game becomes backwards compatible and suddenly it's trending on Twitter.

I feel like backwards compatibility has a lot more impact on the gaming industry than it should. But, at the very least, it beats paying $60 for a remastered version of the same game.

What are your thoughts on backwards compatibility?

Thanks for reading, and don't forget to check me out elsewhere on the internet.

Error Machine YouTube page
Error Machine Podcast


Friday, February 10, 2017

Thoughts on Tim Lambesis' Release from Prison

(Before reading, understand that this blog is not being written for the purpose of debate. This is a blog written by a Christian man and former huge fan of As I Lay Dying. This isn't about news, this is a blog written by a man that loves the Lord, and simply wants to give his thoughts on Tim Lambesis.)

For those of you that haven't heard, former frontman of metalcore band As I Lay Dying, Tim Lambesis, has been released from prison after serving less than half of his sentence for attempting to hire a hitman to kill his wife.

Back in May of 2013, when the story first broke that Lambesis had been arrested, I wrote a blog the very same morning giving my thoughts and expressing my confusion over the situation. A little backstory first:

I'm a Christian. As I Lay Dying was touted as the premier Christian metal band for a long time, and they were easily my favorite group. I found much inspiration from the lyrics Lambesis would scream. Even songs with darker subjects still had an underlying message of hope. So many people have the mindset that as Christians, life is supposed to be all sunshine and rainbows, but it is, in fact, the direct opposite. Jesus Himself even told His disciples "And you will be hated for My name's sake." (Matthew 10:22 NKJV) and "From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force." (Matthew 11:12 NKJV)

One thing that my Pastor always stresses to people going through trials in life is that God never promised us happiness, He promised us joy. There's a big difference between happiness and joy. So, for me personally, when the storms of life raged, I turned to bands like As I Lay Dying for the message of hope, as well as the aggressiveness of their sound, as I've been a fan of heavy music for the great majority of my life.

I looked up to Tim Lambesis. And when he fell, I felt like a lost sheep. During this process, The Lord showed me just how dangerous it is to put our hope into anyone or anything other than Jesus Christ. That's what happened with Tim Lambesis, he began to put his faith in the things of this world: fame, steroids, promiscuity, and I've even heard reports he had fallen into harder drugs like heroin. Tim Lambesis began to let the wrong people speak into his life, and as a result, fell away from his faith in Jesus.

In a recent interview with Dokken guitarist George Lynch--who had a relationship with Lambesis--Lynch stated that Lambesis' faith and knowledge of the word of God were on theologian levels, and every argument Lynch made that were contrary to Tim's beliefs, Lambesis had an immediate rebuttal.

So what causes a man with that much faith to fall? There's no definitive answer, and it's easy for someone like me to ask that question because since I've begun a faithful walk with Jesus, I've been fortunate enough to have not been tempted by the things of my past. I don't know what happened with Tim Lambesis, and I can only pray that his time spent in jail was a redemptive process orchestrated by the King of Kings.

I find myself with mixed feelings following the announcement of Lambesis' early release from prison. In May of 2014, he was sentenced to six years in prison, but was released after meeting less than half that sentence. I believe in forgiveness, but I also believe in justice. Even if he had served his entire prison sentence, I still think that would be too little time for the crime he attempted to carry out. Many people find their faith while imprisoned, but that doesn't mean there aren't still consequences for their actions.

However, I'm not here to judge whether or not the man served the correct amount of time. If I had the power to determine that, I wouldn't be writing this blog right now because I would have a much more important job to do. I'm also not going to sit here and tell you that I'll never listen to As I Lay Dying again, because I still do on occasion. I still find those lyrics to be incredibly powerful and uplifting. I'm able to separate the art from the artist, which is why I'm also able to find spiritual inspiration from a band like Hatebreed.

Still one of my favorite songs ever.

The only thing that concerns me is that I'm afraid Lambesis is going to benefit from his crimes. He will likely return to making music, and people will listen to it. He will likely write a book about the whole ordeal, and I'm sure it'll be a bestseller. He will benefit from this, but his family won't. His former wife and their adoptive children, where is the upside of this situation for them? Does As I Lay Dying get back together after this? I doubt it, as it seems his former band mates have moved on to their new project, Wovenwar (which is terrible), and want nothing to do with Lambesis any longer.

Few other details have been released about Lambesis and his return home, but I'd be interested to know where he stands on his faith now. He claims to have lost his faith prior to his imprisonment, but he's had a lot of time to sit and think about things for the past two-and-a-half years. As a fan of his art, I pray Hebrews 12:29 over him, that he be consumed by the fire of God, and that his greatest days lie before him and not behind him. I pray that he begins to burn for Jesus with greater fervor than he ever has, and that his failures become a testimony to the greatness of an all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful God.

And for any person reading this that professes the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, understand the dangers of putting your hope into anything other than our Savior.

"And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, "It is a ghost!" And they cried out for fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, "Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid." And Peter answered Him and said, "Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water." So He said, "Come." And when Peter had come down out of the boat he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, "Lord, save me!" And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him and said to him, "O you of little faith, why do you doubt?" And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, "Truly You are the Son of God." (Matthew 14:26-33 NKJV)

Tim Lambesis took his eyes off of Jesus, and therefore, sank. Let this be an encouragement to you to keep your eyes fixed upon the one true Son of God, and when the tumultuous waters of life seek to destroy your ship, fear not, for the One who has the power to calm the waters is also the One who created them.

God bless you all, and thanks for reading.