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Title: ֣Happy ţ Year! Ǻǣ
Posted: February 03, 2009 (12:21 AM)
Kelvin Tay's Facebook profile
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Title: Snow draft
Posted: August 29, 2008 (03:14 AM)
Ignore this post: I'm using it to note down some stuff before I forget.

*front leg on: slide; skate
*forwards slide
*backwards slide
*garland (rhs and lhs)

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Title: My "current" favourite games, i.e. right NOW!
Posted: August 24, 2008 (03:54 AM)
Inspired by a topic created by Masters

There are currently 23, cos that's how old I am:

R-Type (ARC, but the PS1 port in particular)
Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES)
Mega Man X1/2/3 (SNES)
Contra 3 (SNES)
Final Fantasy V (SNES, but the GBA port in particular)
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (GEN)
Streets of Rage II (GEN)
Super Mario 64 (N64)
GoldenEye 007 (N64)
Star Fox 64 (N64)
Tekken Tag (ARC/PS2)
Time Crisis 3(PS2)
Final Fantasy X (PS2)
Soul Calibur II (PS2)
Devil May Cry 3: SE (PS2)
Tekken 5 (ARC/PS2)
Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence (PS2)
Castlevania: DoS (DS)
Mario Kart DS (DS)
Dracula X: Rondo of Blood (PSP remake)
Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)

I live in the past. Still.
Remember the past, but look to the future~
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Title: So I just finished Trauma Center 2 (for the very first time) in a single sitting...
Posted: August 23, 2008 (08:01 AM)
On Normal difficulty, no less. My thumb has been seriously brutalised. Flexing = ouch!

But hey, it was worth it (sleep deprivation talking here).

TC2 is a superb update to the DS original IP. The sharp, cel-shaded-esque art style of the Wii versions has translated back to the small screen rather well, and if you aren't an astute fella(like many random YouTube surfers), you probably won't be able to discern much, if anything, between this and the Wii games. Consider that a knock to the Wii's lacking hardware.

The extreme difficulty of the original has been left intact, but with three difficulty settings -- easy being easy enough so that most gamers can actually finish the game this time -- TC2 is clearly the more approachable of the two. The operations ramp up in complexity nicely, too. No random spikes here.

Now it's more or less the exact same game as TC1, with more real-life scenarios (broken bones, gallbladder removal, etc.) and less far-fetched viruses. The GUILT do return, though, but it's far less invasive this time around. If you didn't like TC1, you probably won't like this one, but if you did, then TC2 trumps it in almost every way; vastly improved presentation is the most obvious aspect, with the slightly tweaked interface, more flexible score system, smoother animations, more precise touch screen detection, and the aforementioned difficulty levels being of noteworthy mention.

The story is still a bore, though. I mean, there's nothing in the way of the drama you'd see in a typical episode of Grey's Anatomy, and don't even try to compare it to the insanely funny Scrubs. I skipped 90% of the dialogue if that's worth anything.

As such, I gorged on pure gameplay from start to finish, without any distractions. My play time reads 07:49:26 and I played on the Normal setting all the way til the epilogue. My thumb was ready to fall off after TEN bloody attempts to beat the final operation. There was absoloutely no way I'd tackle to infinitely harder X missions that follow.

But see, right there -- TC2 still offers plenty of replay value once you're done with the main storyline. Take on hard mode, where spontaneous haemorrhaging will have you scribbling like your life depended on it; strive for perfection by XS ranking every single operation -- heck, if you manage to finish (even one of) the X missions, you are truly Godlike.

But yeah, this sort of stuff isn't for everyone. At least those who were turned off by the difficulty last time will have a fair chance to explore their inner surgeon. If this was you, then what are you waiting for now? Dr Derek Stiles may not be Chuck Norris by a long shot, but he's manlier than you think.

And so is his brutal, yet brutally addictive game.


Hey! I ended up writing a review of sorts! LOL~
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Title: Nngh, stomach cramps...
Posted: August 22, 2008 (07:43 AM)
And so, I stumble across my long-forgotten HG blog. For some reason, I'd like to share my Top 10 Video Game Series. So here it is:

10) TimeSplitters
9) Devil May Cry
8) Mega Men
7) Final Fantasy
6) Tekken
5) Prince of Persia
4) Metal Gear Solid
3) Castlevania
2) Super Mario
1) The Legend of Zelda

Gameplay takes precedence; next comes consistency. Of noteworthy mention are: Contra; Splinter Cell; Time Crisis; Resident Evil; Onimusha; 2D Sonic; Klonoa; Kirby; R-Type; Gradius/Parodius; Soul Calibur; SSX; WarioWare; Call of Duty; Phoenix Wright; Streets of Rage; Star Fox; God of War; Metal Slug; Earthworm Jim; Mario Kart; Sly; Warcraft; CD Tomb Raider; Advance Wars; Persona; Metroid. Phew!
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Title: Because I promised one more Top 10 list... (response to bluberry)
Posted: May 14, 2008 (06:27 AM)
Top 10 reasons why lustercut makes me want to kill somebody?

10. Because lust is a sin
9. Because "cut" has injurious connotations
8. Because "lustercut" is such a dumb name
7. Because I said it'll kick your ass, and it will
6. Because you can't take it like a man
5. Because it's programmed to make you feel like killing things
4. Because it rips up your ass
3. Because anything which touches your ass deserves to die
2. Except your woman, but then the lust ain't a woman
1. And even if it was a woman, it still shouldn't be slamming something sharp up your ass
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Title: Current tally: 17
Posted: May 14, 2008 (12:01 AM)
Okay, this'll be it for the meantime, I think. (I might do one more tonight before I leave for my 2-day conference, but then that's it. Period.) The best ones imho are everything after The Top 10 Sword-wielders, inclusive. If I had to pick my favourites - MUST-READS(!) - they would have to be:

* The Top 10 Strange & Unconventional Weapons
* The Top 10 Sword-wielders
* The Top 10 Spiritual Successors
* The Top 10 Unique and Inspiring Gameplay Features
* The Top 10 kickass games that will kick your ass

And the BEST one would be:

* The Top 10 Most Entertaining Speed Runs

Honestly, check that last one out. Check out the links provided, too. And brace yourself!

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Title: The Top 10 Classic SNES Games
Posted: May 13, 2008 (11:41 PM)
May 13, 2008
Reason for rejection: "Too broad" (since when was this an issue??)
Games I excluded on purpose because they just didn't have that "WoahMG" impact, so don't tell me otherwise: Kirby Super Star; Lufia II; Super Mario RPG; Secret of Mana; Earthbound; Tales of Phantasia; and Mario Paint.

Uh oh! It seems like I've finally written a generic Top 10 list. And on one of the most popular home entertainment systems of all time - the SNES! If you somehow missed out on what is arguably the third best console (narrowly bested by the PlayStation 2 and the Nintendo DS) and its diverse selection of quality game titles, my deepest sympathies. At least with the PC emulation and the advent of Nintendo's Virtual Console application for the Wii, you know have a chance to redeem yourself! Sure, not everything holds up well against the test of time, but I can assure you that the following 10 games most certainly do. Go forth and conquer!

10:Chrono Trigger (SNES)
It was a tough decision which game would grab my number 10 spot. I already knew what my top 9 were right off the bat, but this placing could have easily gone to Super Castlevania IV, Super Metroid, Final Fantasy III (US), Demon's Quest, Pocky & Rocky, and countless others. Instead, I have decided to honour Chrono Trigger. The epic story spanning several time periods; the memorable cast of characters each with their own unique appearances, personalities and battle traits; a highly strategic, yet fast-paced battle system; one of the most touching musical scores ever composed; the ability to tackle a New Game + ... these all combine to give one of the best RPGs, ever. As at 05.13.08 GameFAQs' Reader Review Average is a whopping 9.7/10 from 72 reviews. Sure, the credibility is somewhat dubious, but it still makes a damn good point!

9:Final Fantasy V (SNES)
Following on we have Final Fantasy V (J). Unfortunately this gem was not officially released on the SNES outside Japan; keen gamers originally had to seek out the unofficial translation patch and play it via emulator. Despite FFV's storyline running thin towards the end, the highly customisable job system made all those random battles well worth the necessary grind; you could choose how to personify each of your four heroes on the battlefield. It was one of those games whereby things would be totally different on repeat runs. And play again I did. Multiple times, and on multiple platforms!

8:Super Mario All-Stars / Super Mario World (SNES)
I'm kind of cheating here - collectively listing 3 awesome and 1 not-as awesome Mario games together. The original still holds up well by today's standards and it was the first 2D platformer to set the standard for ALL 2D platformers to follow. Bros. 3 was a fantastic follow-up boasting tons of levels, fun power-ups and crazy level design. World took the formula a step further and made Mario's world bigger, better and more colourful than ever. All a simply divine platformers which you simply must play - not just to say that you've had a slice of gaming history, but because their overall gameplay remains timeless.

7:Space Megaforce (SNES)
Okay, here's an SNES game which you may not have heard about. It's a Shmup (scrolling shoot 'em up), but get this - it's not insanely hard as most other Shmups, both recent and old-school. However, that's not to say that there's not much action. Heck, I don't think I've ever seen any 2D sprite-based game deliver so much raw kinetic energy and incessant explosions in just the first level alone. Not only will you have the chance to switch weapons every few seconds, but when powered up you can wreak some impressive damage, even to the point where you can cause a degree of environmental damage and cut a swathe through seemingly impenetrable walls. It's visceral carnage all the way from start to finish.

6:R-Type III (SNES)
Even better than Space Megaforce is Irem's third incarnation of its headlining Shmup series, R-type III. May the 'Force' be with you. Because without this glowing pod composed of pure energy, you don't stand a chance against the relentless waves of Bydo aliens approaching you from all directions. Not only does the Force provide cover due to its indestructible nature, but it buffs up your current weapon system to turn you into a nigh-on invincible fighter craft. Of course, the levels are made nigh-on impossible to compensate with gravitational effects, camoflaged enemies and swift pulse waves of instant death challenging you to keep your mind on the game. Once you're dead, you'll need to spend an arm and a leg to to recover the Force and every single one of its myriad upgrades in order to stand a fighting chance, and it's not easy when the Force is NOT with you!

5:Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island (SNES)
Easily one of the best platformers I have ever played - yes, Yoshi's Island trumps every single one of Mario's own 2D exploits! It's a different flavour: the art-style is done in vivid Crayola; death comes from the bad guys kidnapping baby Mario, not them actually hurting you (because you're a mean dinosaur, RAWR!); the game is relatively slower paced, but the spacious levels are littered with things to discover and it's one heck of a challenge (and addiction) to achieve perfection; and, well, Yoshi's Island is simply the pinnacle of imaginative 2D platforming design. It's a must-play for every gamer.

4:Super Punch-Out!! (SNES)
They don't make boxing games like they used to. Who cares about beads of sweat dripping off a photo realistic pugilist? It's just sweat Goddammit! Ahem. Super Punch-Out!! followed in the footsteps of the Mike Tyson-endorsed NES smash-hit, but improved it ten-fold with bigger, bolder and more badass sprites imbuing each prizefighter with an egotistical personality that you just wanted to sock hard. Every boxer required a different strategy: some would constantly defend themselves while others would skilfully dodge your blows and counter accordingly; then you had the ones who would fly all over the boxing ring, or taunt you to fake you out. Sure, it's no simulator of the sport, but hell, it's even more entertaining than the real thing!

3:The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES)
You knew this was coming, didn't you? A Link to the Past is easily one of the top 3 2D Zelda games out there (#1 goes to Link's Awakening). The classic Zelda formula was introduced here and if you really think about it, nothing has really changed in the updated 3D Zeldas apart from the graphical overhaul and lock-on combat. The dungeons are sheer brilliance with creative puzzles and tactical boss fights awaiting young Link. The overworld is a massive playground full of things to do, sidequests to pursue, secrets to find, Cuccos to piss off... Link's first and only SNES quest is a hallmark of great action RPGs. And unlike Mario, Link actually manages to find the Princess within a few minutes (only to lose her until the end of the game, d'oh!)

2:Contra III: The Alien Wars (SNES)
Proving that good games don't need a good storyline: Contra III (A.K.A. Super Probotector) is all about blasting aliens and saving the world. Even Rambo can't get more cliched than that. Well, it's a manly game, and that's all you need to know. Go it alone, or even better, grab a partner, and enjoy a high-octane romp through six levels of intense firefights, waves of merciless extraterrestrials gunning at you from tanks, airships, the walls - just about everywhere you can think of. Luckily you are able to carry two different firearms with you at all times, switching between them with a single button press. Roast their asses, hit them all at once with a wide-arc spreadshot, home in with heat-seeking rockets - and get your partner to do the same. Fill the screen with bullet hell and savour every second where at least one thing, it may be you, must die!

1:Mega Man X (SNES)
This is what happens when you take an awesome character and make him look cool - throw in some fine level design, RPG upgrade elements, an eclectic synth soundtrack that still rocks by today's standards, a set of timeless boss fights, unbeatable controls making dashing and wall-jumping a piece of cake, and a difficulty setting that is virtually perfect - there you have it: Mega Man X: arguably the best game in the world; my favourite game of all time!

I hope you enjoyed that =)
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Title: One more to go... but I'm late for work!
Posted: May 13, 2008 (06:51 PM)
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Title: The Top 10 kickass games that will kick your ass
Posted: May 13, 2008 (06:48 PM)
May 12, 2008

Warning: not for the faint of heart, or those who suck at games. The featured titles all meet two criteria: they are so damn good I deem them worthy to carry the honour of being kickass; and they are hard enough to kick my ass - thus they will kick yours, too.

10:Mushihimesama (ARC)
This Shmup (abbreviated term for a scrolling shoot 'em up) was only released in Japan; your best bet if you want play it would be to get a hold of an import copy of the PlayStation 2 port. However, that's only if you are the most hardcore of hardcore gamers. Mushihime-sama literally means "insect princess" - because the enemies resemble insects. But who cares? All you really need to know is that this is quite possibly the most difficult Shmup in existence, and Shmups are arguably the most difficult video game genre. You know how fireworks look so pretty when they burst into dazzling trails of smoky light? Well imagine piloting a tiny little bug through 10 of them going off all at once. You'd be toast, right? Well as crazy as it sounds, that's what you'll be doing frequenly in Mushihime-sama. Or at least you'll die trying. Look up demos of the infamous Ultra mode on YouTube and you'll understand what I mean when I say that virtually 95% of the screen equals death. This may be the only kickass game that only kicks ass because it will kick your ass. Now that's kickass!

9:The Legend of Zelda (NES)
A Zelda game? A ZELDA game actually managed to kick my ass?! Well you see, there was a time when games didn't hold your hand; when they didn't feel bad about sending you all the way back to the title screen; when Shigeru Miyamoto couldn't care less if you weren't skilful enough to take on a bunch of heavily armoured, incredibly deadly Darknuts. Yeah, the original Legend of Zelda was a killer app that actually had no qualms about killing poor Link. Multiple times. Heck, it also featured a second quest to boot - even more difficult puzzle-wise, enemy-wise and logic-wise (trust me, you'll need an FAQ for this one). However, the magic of this legendary franchise was present from the very beginning. That is, blatantly NOT-SO humble beginnings.

8:Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse (NES)
Recent Castlevania games, the "Metroidvanias", are but pale reflections of the past - difficulty-wise, that is. Back in the days, you couldn't level up, you didn't have a wide variety of magical spells and sub-weapons at your disposal, and once you commited yourself to a jump forwards, there was no turning back. Enemies wouldn't hesitate to viciously attack you as soon as they had a chance, they'd have no qualms about slamming into your face as you made a leap across a bottomless pit, and they would inflict more damage with a flung bone than most modern video game heroes would receive if they were hit by a bus. Yeah, the classic Castlevanias enjoyed whipping your backside. Dracula's Curse is no exception. However, it did feature several new mechanics which were explored in more depth in later instalments: namely the use of an assisting partner who could be swapped in and out at will, and the opportunity to select which routes you'd like to take between levels. This made every game played a different experience. You could opt to have the agile Grant, the magically-adept Sypha, or Dracula's own son, Alucard - who is able to metamorphose into a sneaky bat - tag along with you. Each carries their own strengths and weaknesses, but you'll need their help to get by some typically tricky Castlevania platforming/enemy-overload situations. Or else you can brave it as vampire killer, Trevor Belmont, alone... Yeah, I thought not.

7:Mega Man Zero 2 (GBA)
The platform-based Mega Man games generally fall into two categories: easy and fun, or hard and not fun; few strike a fine balance between the two. Mega Man Zero 2, however, takes the best of both worlds - well, that is if you think like I do. It offers the same visceral Mega Man thrills with interesting level design, challenging boss encounters, and it is complete with Zero's wicked repertoire of saber techniques. It also features a customisable Cyber Elf system which you WILL need to exploit due to the insanity of the game without its aid. It is arguably the most challenging Zero game of them all, but just like the rest of them it's well worth your time. Just be prepared to die a lot.

6:Trauma Center: Under the Knife (DS)
Most of the things you can do in a video game are much more difficult to re-enact in the real world. For example, stealing a car requires more than just pressing a button; winning a prizefighting match means you actually have to know how to throw a punch; dancing is more than just following a sequence of arrows; and you can't refer to GameFAQs if you don't know what to say to a girl in order to have her go out with you. But some things, like basic surgery, suturing for example, are actually easier in real life. I should know. Trauma Center is more than just virtually stiching people back to life, though - this stylus-operated surgery sim demands impeccable precision when it comes to eradicating the deadly GUILT viri. If this game was real life, I would have lost hundreds of patients by now (and would likely require the assistance of an Ace Attorney who wins based on ridiculous conjecture...) But there's something about all the stylus swiping that really makes it all worthwhile. Few games have made me shake my hands uncontrollably with so much pressure on my shoulders, so much excitement. Trauma Center is one of them.

5:Ninja Gaiden Black (XBOX)
To be honest, I prefer pirates over ninjas. But to his credit, Ryu Hayabusa did make me think twice - thanks to the XBOX release of Ninja Gaiden. It was undoubtedly a tough action game with a solid dose of slicing and dicing; great boss fights, too. If you didn't learn to block and roll properly, you were as good as dead. Several upgrades later, Tomonobu Itagaki, the chauvinistic head of Team Ninja, released his director's cut in the form of Black. Neat extras aside, not only were once overpowered moves "nerfed", to encourage more skilfulness, but enemies were made more aggressive, with added grapple attacks thrown in to keep players from playing turtle. Together with some new additions to the antagonistic side, that fit the term "hardcore" perfectly, Black officially became one of the toughest, yet most rewarding 3D games in existence. Oh yeah, and the camera still sucked.

4:Ikaruga (X360)
Don't listen to Michael Jackson: it DOES matter if you're black or white! Shmups usually have some sort of gimmick to make them stand out from the rest of the pack. In Ikaruga's case, it's all about the colour - the polarity mechanic. Your typical Shmup aircraft would find it next to IMPOSSIBLE to dodge every single bullet shot in this game. The difference with Ikaruga's ship is that you absorb the fire of whatever colour you are polarised to - that is to say: nothing white can harm you if you are white, and vice versa. But this sure makes the bulk of the game one confusing mess as you struggle to react to the mass of overflowing bullets with the correct polarity in mind. So you see, you will have to force yourself to dive into one type of hazard just to escape another, and hopefully you'll be able to differentiate between your blacks and whites so that you don't inadvertently crash into the opposite colour. Polarity makes this game incredibly difficult, but also an incredibly exciting one.

3:R-Type III (SNES)
One of the earliest Shmups to grace us was Irem's R-Type; I was only 2 years old at the time! It was only the second Shmup I had ever played (I have played many more since then, of course), but it still remains as one of the very best in the genre. My love for the original R-Type is only superseded by its second sequel, aptly titled R-Type III. Once again, expedient use of the Force, a detachable energy-infused pod, is the key to success. This time, however, the Bydo alien invasion hits harder than a fistful of bricks. Thankfully you can charge up your wave cannon to an all-new hyper mode - things die fast(er) when you rapidly fire thick laser beams that explode viciously upon impact. But then there's the obligatory cooling down phase and it is here that you are left in a highly vulnerable state. Oh, and the final stages are some of the biggest pains in the proverbial: swarms of damage-absorbent enemies that force you to take the riskiest route (i.e. through dozens of enemy bullets) and physically impassable walls that can only be traversed by bravely flying right next to an enemy-spawning warp hole. **** you Irem!!! Ah, what am I saying!? I love you guys!

2:Contra III: The Alien Wars (SNES)
It was tough to decide which Contra game deserved a spot on my list; most of them are harder than the hardest thing you can think of, but most of them are also freakin' awesome games. However, it's pretty clear that Contra III is held most dear to my heart; it's one of few games I play religiously. It's only six missions long: two of them are average by Contra standards; two of them are over-the-top, literally, and aren't all that exciting; but two of them also happen to be two of the Godliest levels ever made - especially stage 4 which comprises an intense motorcycle highway chase as you are assaulted from all angles by airborne soldiers, a well-armed battleship, a tank, and a mechanical alien resembling a two-legged spider (best description I could think of). And after that, you take to the skies via helicopter - not riding one, but HANGING off one! - later gunning down the backside of that massive battleship as you hop between your helicopter's fired missiles! It's just about one of the craziest things I have ever seen and done.

1:Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening (PS2)
Judging by the opening cutscene, Dante appears to be a lean mean demon-ass kicking machine. And he is - so long as you take the time to absorb the intricacies of Devil May Cry 3's in-depth combat system. First-timers will no doubt have a hard time: the original US game's default 'Normal' difficulty was in fact the Japanese version's 'Hard' - which was downright brutal. Many hardcore gamers even succumbed countlessly to the game's very first boss! The frost spewing, triple-headed canine, Cerberus. Those who managed to quell his icy demeanor were soon assaulted by a horde of ridiculously overpowered demons, and many more just-as-intense boss fights to follow. However, once you actually know what you're doing (and this will take A LOT of practice), even a devil triggered pack of Lusts will seem like child's play. Well, not always... (bloody lustercut!!!)

So how's your ass doing? Enough abuse for you? If you have keeled over in agony, get up now! It's time to man up! It's time to play the with the best to become the best. It's time to give these games a decent shot, to be a real gamer, to start kicking ass! Honestly, though, these are some of the most exciting games you can ever experience; don't shy away from the daunting difficulty, persevere! Now I'd like to thank you for reading my kickass list, but the princess is in another castle... so go kick her ass!
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Title: The Top 10 Most Entertaining Speed Runs
Posted: May 13, 2008 (06:46 PM)
May 10, 2008
Reason for rejection: "Overspecialized"

There are games that are downright fun to play, and then there are games that are downright fun to play FAST! Now not many of us have the patience, time, skill and resources to play like a real pro. Luckily for us folk, there are those who do. Speedrunning has quickly turned into a popular gaming "sport". It's simple: beat a game, or part thereof, in as fast a time as possible. With something like Solitaire it's not really all that interesting, but whizzing past the Mushroom Kingdom as a plumber who thinks he's some sort of speedy hedgehog... now that's entertainment! Among a wide, diverse and ever increasing number of speedruns, here are my top 10 that you just have to see to believe; they are all in a single word: unreal.

10:GoldenEye 007 (N64) - Precision Control (TAS)
Now we all know that Mr. Bond is extremely fast with the ladies, but Henrik Norgren's Tool-Assisted Speedrun (TAS: computer manipulated gameplay e.g. save state abuse) proves that he's also no slouch when it comes down to forepl- er... gunplay. GoldenEye is undoubtedly one of my favourite all-time games, and the Cuban Control Center is easily one of the most challenging missions the N64 classic has to offer. That is, unless you're able to headshot every single Rareware soldier (and gun turret) the moment they step into your line of sight. If Bond was as psychic and precise as this TAS makes him out to be, his films would be shorter than the (generally) hopeless accompanying theme songs. Henrik's running time was 4:06, but that's beside the point: he managed to net a 96% head shot score, and he left me shaken, not stirred.

9:Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow (GBA) - Rushing the Boss Rush
Aria of Sorrow is a fantastic game - one the best in the Castlevania franchise. The customisable soul system made it even more of an RPG than ever before. It also featured a boss rush mode and my God - I never dreamed anyone would accomplish a sub-2 minute time, let alone 1:21:28 by Jason Hochreiter. It's not a TAS, but it sure looks like one. If the equipping screen didn't have to be brought up so often (to carefully prepare Soma for each individual confrontation) the bulk of the run would literally be Soma flying through at lightspeed. A key point to note is that the Red Minotaur soul (i.e. the humongous axe) is the friggin' bomb!

8:Shadow of the Colossus (PS2) - What would you do to save your true love?
It's a well-known fact that the bigger they are, the harder they fall. I'd like to add in that the quicker they fall, the lower my jaw will likely drop. Yours, too. The first time I tackled each of the 16 colossi, I dedicated hours into figuring out their weakspot and in planning a strategy to mount them to inflict massive damage. Now there are many ways to topple a colossus - the more insane the approach, the better the results. Most of the time. One of the more enjoyable battles is with the the towering sorcerer, Malus, who also happens to be the final boss. And the best speedrun I've seen of it is by Jarrod Mitchell. He followed the optimised strategy of firing an arrow into Malus' left shoulder, mounting its lowered hand, and then using the colossus' arm lifting momentum to help him jump across to the bracer around its neck - later moving to the head for the kill. Wait a minute! Did I say "jump"? More like he FLUNG himself skywards like a rubber band with gravity pulling him back down at precisely the right time to nail a perfect landing. This is quite possibly the single most jaw-dropping launch I have ever seen. In the words of Neo: "Whoa!"

7:Super Metroid (SNES) - Sequence Breaking
Speedrunning really took off when Super Metroid landed on Earth. The game was purposely designed to be non-linear; exploration was emphasised. However, thanks to a loose physics engine which could be easily manipulated in skilful hands, Planet Zebes turned into a world of infinite possibilities: you could skip far-out-of-reach key items, access paths that are normally off-limits before a certain point in time, tackle the bosses in a backwards hierarchy - the art of doing what technically should'nt be possible was termed "sequence breaking". You absolutely have to watch (and play) a Super Metroid speedrun and see it for yourself. The current record holder is Satoru Suzuki who blitzed through Zebes and annihilated Mother Brain in a single 32 minute sitting. It's all skill baby.

6:The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64) - The Hero of Glitches
Arguably the greatest game ever made is home to one of the most interesting speedruns in existence. They said it couldn't be done in under 5 hours, but then 2005 saw Mike 'TSA' Damiani prove them all wrong with an incredible sub-5 hour speedrunning achievement. Now a decade old, Ocarina of Time's new record holder is Lloyd 'Manocheese' Palmer with an astounding running time of 2:26:56. Numerous sequence breaking glitches were employed in this run, though, but that's what makes it so enjoyable to watch. Thorough memorisation was required to make it work - aids like the Lens of Truth had to be skipped meaning otherwise invisible platforms had to be navigated with great care . Tricks like Bombchu hovering, entering Jabu-Jabu's Belly without giving him any fish, supersliding, and tackling the temples in an unorthodox manner were crucial. Many so-called key quest items were an expensive opportunity cost time-wise; Manocheese had to find some other way to coerce the sages into conjuring a path into Ganondorf's Tower, other than by fetching all of the medallions for them. And he had to make prudent use of the classic speedrunning technique, save warping. The result is not an action-packed video; the speedrun appears to be relatively slow paced compared to others. But resourceful management and the brilliant execution of some truly awesome glitches makes this a must-see, especially if you have played/finished this masterpiece before. See, Zelda games really aren't all that time-consuming!

5:Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES) - The Original TAS
If God played video games, his name would be Morimoto. Or so that's what we all thought back in 2003. I still remember setting my eyes upon this jaw-dropping production: Super Mario Bros. 3 in 11:04 - by the way, that's eleven MINUTES, not hours. Bouncing through like plumber with a rocket stuck up his ass, Morimoto's Mario nailed one of the most challenging Nintendo-developed titles with startling precision; the final few stages were simply insane (he scored 99 bonus lives by messing around with dangerous cannonballs!) However, when the community found out that this was a "fake" - a tool-assisted speedrun - many quickly turned sour. Sure, it wasn't a humanly possible feat, and this did dampen some of its wow factor, but it was, and still is, quality entertainment - seeing one of the games that once kicked my childhood butt being molested in such a light-hearted way brings tears of joy to my eyes! This run has since been superseded by another TAS, but it will forever remain in the annals of speedrunning. Infamously, of course.

4:Super Mario 64 (N64) - 0 Stars (TAS)
This was one of the very first 3D games to be ripped apart by TAS enthusiasts. Back in 1996, critics hailed Super Mario 64 as the finest video game ever made. Now, over a decade later, we have come to realise how glitchy this "perfect" game really is (not that it's a bad thing). MIPS the rabbit and the backwards long jump glitch made it possible to complete Mario 64 with a fraction of the required power stars. Since that discovery, many more sequence breaking tricks have been found - most which are tough as nails to pull off consistently. But that's why we have TAS. And now the record is ... (wait for it) ... a whopping 0 star speedrun! (By Swordless Link.) The old runs are still very entertaining, though, as Mario covers more ground than he does in the newer, more glitchy runs, but the complete ownage of the mandatory Bowser in the Fire Sea level is still here and it speaks for itself: Super Mario? How about NINJA MARIO!

3. Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition (PS2) - True Style

It's a no-brainer that I'm extremely fond of Devil May Cry 3, but there's a very good reason why. Played on the higher difficulty settings, enemies will "Devil Trigger" and instantly become a gigantic bigger pain in the ass if you don't take them out as quickly as possible. But what is the best way to demolish a horde of demons? It's really up to you, your chosen fighting style and your weapon selection. That said, give them everything you've got! The True Style Tournament (TST) is home to some to the most legendary Devil May Cry players (and gamers in general), ever. It's not just about finishing the job quickly, but in style - utilising a myriad range of advanced movements, honed jump-cancelling techniques and a calculated, yet relentless flurry of crazy combos. My current favourites are Top Breeder's sick Dark Slayer raping of Geryon; ViewtifulMoe's crazy ass Tricking in the Love Planet club; Brea's latest SwordMaster and Free Style entries, and last, but definitely not least, her unbelievably Trick-filled, Dragonball Z-esque aerial battle with The Fallen. All videos are from the recent 2008 TST3 (see YouTube) and all videos come highly, HIGHLY recommended.

2:Contra III: The Alien Wars (SNES) - Pacifist
"A real man need not prove himself. Only those who are still uncertain of their manliness will be driven by the desire to prove that they are real men. So they engage in brawls and fights. But a real man need not assume a combatant stance. He has the ability to discipline himself and to let go of hostilities that can cause not only conflicts but harm and injury on others." (Amy L. Chaves, 1996.) Sorry about the lengthy quote, but it sums up what this incredible speedrun is all about: pacifism. It's one man versus an entire army of hostile alien scum, but there's always a chance of collateral damage. As such, Bill Rizer (AKA speedrunner Tatsuhiko) takes it upon himself to eradicate the menace with as few shots as possible, and only when absolutely necessary. What this means is that he has to avoid a motherload of charging marauders and dodge hundreds of bullets, all in the name of peace. He still blows them up good, though!

1:Mega Man X AND Mega Man X2 (SNES) - 2-in-1
How many times can my jaw drop in a single Top 10 list? Well, how about 10 times? Because it just dropped again. And I don't think I'll be able to pick it up anytime soon. In 2005, DeHackEd sped through both Mega Man X and its sequel. Simultaneously. One player, one controller, two games. Yes, he tore apart Wire Sponge while he was hitting the slopes of Chill Penguin's arctic tundra. The complete run is only a TAS at this stage, but DeHackEd has proven himself to be a talented, natural multitasker with genuinely mind-boggling snippets showing him as but "a mere mortal". X and X2 are two of my most favourite games ever; I wish I could play them both at once, too!

How was it? Have I set your gamer's heart ablaze? I love playing video games - I don't have as much time for it these days, but I try to keep an eye on the more entertaining ones. However, sometimes just watching a game being played is entertainment enough. Wouldn't you agree? You've read about them, now go and watch them!

You may notice a tendency towards Nintendo titles in my list; the undeniable truth is that this company has churned out some of the most creative, and hence entertaining games out there. I would've liked to have mentioned some other notable speedruns: the set of Metal Slug and Mega Man X runs by the legendary Mike Uyama; the Grand Theft Auto and Final Fantasy franchises - both epic in scope, both utterly blown apart in mere single digit hours; a couple of time trial racing and puzzle genre games such as the F-Zero series and Trauma Center (the record-holder really ought to consider being a surgeon); the first-person shooters that started the ball rolling - Doom and Quake; and lastly, every game where skilful sequence breaking is an option - the numerous Metroid and Metroidvania games spring to mind. Of course, there are also some impressive 100%+ runs out there, but I don't have the attention span for such things. You see, I live on the fast lane - just like a true speedrunner!
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Title: The Top 10 Unique and Inspiring Gameplay Features
Posted: May 13, 2008 (06:40 PM)
May 09, 2008
Note: I was very ill this week so I had a lot of time to kill...
Stuff I missed: Gravity - Super Mario Galaxy

What sets apart one video game from another? Aesthetics aside, what makes you want to play one platformer over another platformer? Often there is some unique gameplay feature which makes one game more enjoyable than another in the same genre. And some of these ideas inspire all sorts of creativeness. These are my picks, accompanied by the games that first illustrated the concept successfully. What's your flavour?

10:Quick Time Events - Shenmue (DC)
Action-packed in-game cinemas are always a pleasure to watch, but having a hands-on component thrown in makes them even better. The history of the Quick Time Event (QTE) can be traced back to the atrociously bad Dragon's Lair - let's forget that stinker for now; Shenmue was the first video game to popularise this mechanic. During a dynamic sequence (often a chase or fight scene) a series of button commands would appear. In order to successfully overcome the trials and tribulations you had to keep on your toes and stay in sync with the on-screen prompts; failure usually resulted in getting your ass handed to you. QTEs made those split-decision moments incredibly tense and exciting, and they have since become more widespread in their use with games such as Resident Evil 4, Fahrenheit/Indigo Prophecy and God of War all exploiting this semi-interactive element.

9:The Force - R-Type (ARC)
The Force is a piece of Bydo flesh - an indestructible living weapon. In essence it is an energised pod-shaped accessory for your fighter craft capable of granting extreme firepower when attached to the front or rear; it can also be shot out as last-ditch offence and/or used as a sentry cannon. Most importantly, though, the Force is impervious to anything and everything. You can use it to absorb enemy fire, rendering your craft virtually untouchable on the attached side. Or you can impregnate it into the chest cavity of a gargantuan Bydo alien, leaving it to mercilessly screw and burrow itself into vital organs. The Force makes R-Type unlike any other shooter on the market and despite what Irem have to say with regards to finality, it's still as strong as ever. Don't give up just yet!

8:Taking Cover - Time Crisis (ARC)
Gears of War undoubtedly made the act of taking cover a next-gen craze: Rainbow Six Vegas, Uncharted, Grand Theft Auto IV, and a couple of others soon followed suit. Backing off when the going gets rough is what any sane man would do in a such a hairy situation, popping out to fire brief spurts of lead only when things have calmed down somewhat. Taking cover is a real life saver and it makes you look cool, too. Now we all should be aware that Solid Snake, the soldier boys over at Kill.switch, and Richard Miller of Time Crisis fame were all ducking and taking meaningful cover back in the days. So you see, it's not really a next-gen thing after all, but it's still a gameplay feature that really ought to be used in any virtual portrayal of modern warfare.

7:The Sandbox - Grand Theft Auto III (PS2)
Go anywhere and do anything you want - that's what sandbox games are all about. It all started with the lukewarm Body Harvest. The Nintendo 64 wasn't exactly a powerhouse and as such the scope of what is considered to be the first true sandbox title was limited: you ride vehicles all over the place and blow up aliens - that's it pretty much. It was the Grand Theft Auto series that took the idea of a virtual playground and ran the whole nine yards with it - especially when it came to the renown GTA3 trilogy (and its two portable offshoots). The copycats soon followed: True Crime, Destroy All Humans!, Just Cause, Saints Row, Scarface, Crackdown... and even well-established media franchises jumped aboard the bandwagon with titles such as The Simpsons: Hit & Run, The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, and several Spider-Man games. So-called non-linear gaming provides increased longevity and hence more bang for your buck. Exploring an open-ended world means you can go at your own pace; take a breather if the main missions are getting on your nerves. Unfortunately, it is not too uncommon to see some lazy designs sneak in - the culprit often being the numerous side missions which can be rather repetitive and pointless. Still, sandboxing done right yields a trove of goodness. Case in point: Grand Theft Auto IV.

6:Portals - Narbacular Drop (PC)
That's right - Portal WASN'T the first game to feature two interconnected portals as a gameplay mechanic. The honour instead goes to Narbacular Drop (designed by the guys who later created Portal, duh). The idea is simple enough: shoot two portals onto any non-metallic surface; walk/leap/fall through any one of them and you'll walk/leap/fall out the other in an instant. It's a brilliant concept and it has led to some of the most ingenious environmental puzzles I have ever come across. I see enormous potential with this mechanic in the future.

5:Indirect Control - Kirby: Canvas Curse (DS)
Many devout fans of HAL Laboratory's pink... "thing" were critical of Canvas Curse. Sure, it wasn't a true Kirby title - there was no real platforming to speak of - but if I may genteely twist a common phrase: "Beauty is in the 'stylus' of the beholder". That is to say Canvas Curse excelled in a way that no-one ever thought possible (but then again, the DS has annihilated the PSP in terms of popularity and even I didn't see that coming). You didn't tell Kirby to move right or jump up. No, instead you traced rainbow coloured lines upon which Kirby would spin along. Deadly pits could be bridged with a single swift stroke and increasing Kirby's speed was just a rollercoaster loop doodle away. You could even block off enemy projectiles by scribbling in a faux wall. The only direct control you had over Kirby was in initiating his powers (or tackle), done by simply tapping his spherical hide. No more, no less. Now if only more games dared to be as different as this innovative offshoot. We've already got Line Rider and LocoRoco, but I demand more!

4:Tag Teams - X-Men vs. Street Fighter (ARC)
An honourable fight is carried out mano-a-mano. But the more the merrier, right? In the mid-nineties the fighting game genre hit a speed bump. Then came X-Men vs. Street Fighter (XSF) - the very first tag team brawler. Infinite combo glitches aside, XSF brought a never-before-seen element into the fray. Not being confined to just a single character meant that your potential movelist was doubled (or tripled in sequels); any inherent weakness (e.g. short vs. long range) able to be exploited by your opponent became moot when you took into account a counter-character partner. Would you strike a fine balance of fighting styles? Or would you compound similar attributes to give your team a synergistic advantage? With tag teaming, strategy has no bounds. On the 3D side of things, Tekken Tag Tournament (a personal favourite) showed what tag team integration could do for a fighting game. It was a little different here in that your fighters were vulnerable as they tagged in/out, and a single KO would conclude the match. But this feature alone made Tag an instant classic. Now why aren't the more recent fighting games making use of this innovative concept?!

3:Timed Hits - Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars (SNES)
Take away the epic story and most old-school RPGs fall flat. I know there are many fans of turn-based battles out there, and a few who even have a soft spot for random encounters. But honestly, wading through countless battles, where the "fun" lies in issuing orders and watching your heroes perform them one at a time, gets boring fast - especially when you are forced to grind for levels, abilities and/or items every so often. Let me just say this once: "Thank you Mario. Your Princess may be in another castle, but who cares when your debut RPG is this good!" Among many things which Super Mario RPG did right was the usage (and introduction) of timed hits. By pressing the right button at the right time Mario and co. would be able to power up their offence for more damage or additional strikes, raise their defence considerably, or even evade attacks altogether. This made battles far more involving and interesting; contrast this subtle level of interactivity to simply watching your every command execute like a broken record - how can you go back? These days most traditional RPGs have some sort of timed attack element to them, be they special manoeuvres (Final Fantasy VIII's Gunblade instantly springs to mind) or complete battle systems (Shadow Hearts' Judgment Ring). Heck, even modern action games are taking a cue from the plumber - Devil May Cry 4's Nero has timed hits by way of the Instant Rev technique which grants him a Godly amount of insane power.

2:Time Manipulation - Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (PS2)
Sometimes I can't help but feel that I should've done things in a different way. This applies to video games, too. However, more often that not, experimentation leads to death, or something similar. This was not the case in the Prince of Persia Trilogy where the ancient Sands of Time allowed our hero to right the wrongs... or right the rights, but in a different way. Before the Prince arrived, though, we had Blinx the Time Sweeping cat - star of "The World's First 4D Action Game" (oh how pretentious) - and Link of Hyrule had a brief flirt with rewinding in Majora's Mask. However, this time manipulating mechanic has not be utilised very much. TimeShift is currently the most recent title to pull out some old-school VCR tricks, but it disappointed on many fronts (being a generic first-person shooter is one of them). There is still so much untapped potential with time manipulation. Since the Prince has given up on his precious Sands in the forseeable future, who's going to carry the torch now?

1:Light/Dark World - The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES)
Call it a parallel universe or an alternate reality if you please - they all mean the same thing. Shigeru Miyamoto struck gold (again) with the release of A Link to the Past. What really stood out in that game was the concept of a light and dark world, and how things done in one realm would directly impact the other. This brought puzzle solving to a whole new level. The light/dark world mechanic was further improved in Ocarina of Time, with a particularly stand-out moment occurring when Link has to travel to the past to teach a musician an important song, a song that Link only learnt a moment ago from that same musician... in the present! Several other games have since made good use of parallel worlds that affect one another: Onimusha 3; Metroid Prime 2; Prince of Persia: Warrior Within; the Gameboy Color exclusive Zelda titles - and they have all been well received. The concept is no longer fresh, but it is one that has infinite possibilities. Unfortunately you can't force a light/dark world upon just any adventure game. But I can't wait to see what the future has in store for us yet.

My perfect game would incorporate every single one of these design features into a cohesive whole. That said, my perfect game will probably never exist. Except perhaps in my dreams - feel free to visit anytime =)
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Title: The Top 10 Franchise Evolutions
Posted: May 13, 2008 (06:37 PM)
January 23, 2008

It's amazing to see how far gaming has progressed in such a short time. Twenty years ago, 2D sprites composed of two, maybe three different coloured pixels would stutter across a barren landscape, brandishing a sword or firing pixel-sized bullets at our command - it was incredible. No joke. These days... well, you can see for yourself how gaming has changed from being a nerdy past time to a form of interactive entertainment accessible to many and rivalling that of more traditional mediums such as film and literature. A lot has changed and you may not believe it until you see it for yourself. Here are my Top 10 Franchise Evolutions that will take you on a trip down memory lane. Sit down, grab some munchies, open up YouTube and enjoy the ride.

10:The Elder Scrolls: Arena -> Oblivion
The first Elder Scrolls title offered a lot to keen gamers: an immersive spell creation system and a vast world to traverse. It was truly ahead of its time - perhaps too ahead. It was plagued with problems associated with over-ambitious DOS projects - the randomly generated dungeons offered something slightly new every time, even a system crash if you were unlucky! The difficulty was much too hardcore as well. It was a niche game, for sure. It all changed when Bestheda released Oblivion. The 4th official instalment features endless customisation - character classes, skill sets, mastery levels, the works - and an open, "sandbox" style world nearly larger than life. Seriously. If our world was a fantasy, it would be called Oblivion. Beautiful has never been a more appropriate description.

9:Pokemon Red/Blue -> Pokemon Diamond/Pearl
Apart from ditching the primary colours for some precious stones, Pokemon has undergone an evolution that many saw coming, but it still manages to impress nevertheless. We started out with 151 to catch and now we have 493; we started with some basic elemental movesets and we now have more focused properties to make most Pokemon viable competitors in any team (excluding the uber-cheap Ubers, of course). There is now a Global Trading System which allows trainers to trade Pokemon online, without hassle, and fully integrated Wi-Fi multiplayer modes. It isn't quite perfect, though, with the game still reliant on heavy grinding and battles as slow paced as they were. But the #2 best-selling video game franchise of all time has improved remarkably since its inception that despite all the minor faults, I am inclined to give Pokemon a spot in this Top 10 list. That and because this IS "NintenFAQs" after all - and I don't want any hate mail.

8:Grand Theft Auto -> Grand Theft Auto 3: The Trilogy
Grand Theft Auto 3 wasn't just another sequel, but a total facelift, extreme makeover, a renaissance. Yeah, stealing cars and beating pedestrians senseless was fun from a 2D overhead perspective. But a fully polygonal city loaded with fully polygonal, albeit poorly rendered human models to shoot, uppercut, or run over with an ambulance is just so much more. The mission variety is immense, the scope is incredible (riding a speedboat, piloting a helicopter, base jumping - damn!) and the drama so intense at times that I'm at a loss for criminal adjectives. Nevermind the somewhat stodgy graphical style - Grand Theft Auto IV's arrival is imminent. Not that it really mattered, though.

7:Ninja Gaiden (1998) -> Ninja Gaiden (2004)
Truly tough games are a rare breed these days. Can any modern-day video game live up to the hair-ripping standards set by infamous NES classics such as Battletoads or Ninja Gaiden? Well, the latter's descendant would like to have a word with you. Ninja Gaiden's 3D revival brought about a whole new world of pain. The more combat-orientated gameplay is a dream to play, and with tons of Ninja half-breeds ravaging you within seconds if you don't learn to stop, block and roll in time, it is a game that will only reward the dedicated - with lots of tough-as-nails bonus content and enough ninja action to fill several film reels. But it's nice to know that enemies now - while still cheap in that they hide out in camera blindspots - do not respawn if you take so much as a pixel-sized step back. The original Ninja Gaiden was extremely hard, too, but for all the wrong reasons. I'd say it was more frustrating than a real challenge - I think I nearly committed Ninja Suicide in the final level.

6:Resident Evil -> Resident Evil 4
I'll be honest with you: Resident Evil was an amazing game back in its time, but time has been cruel to this cheesy B-grade, interactive action flick. Cringe-worthy voice acting, find-a-key syndrome, bland (yes, BLAND) pre-rendered backdrops and my God - the tank controls. It's just laughable these days. Okay, so Resident Evil 4 hasn't totally erased all of these features, but they have been toned down somewhat and the presentation and action set-pieces are some of the best in ANY action game. Throw in the Wii Edition's precision aiming and tons of zombies- I mean, crazed villagers to shoot up and you've got one of the finest evolutions in gaming. Will we look back at Resident Evil 4 in ten years time and laugh at how ridiculous it is? I think not.

5:The Legend of Zelda via buttons -> via touch screen
No other series has successfully strayed from the beaten path more times than The Legend of Zelda. The move to 3D with Ocarina of Time practically defined the action-adventure genre. The Four Swords proved that multiplayer Zelda does work - although its downfall was the poorly implemented multiplayer connection scheme which was far from approachable. Not surprisingly, the latest deviation comes in the form of Phantom Hourglass for the DS. It follows on from The Wind Waker, retaining its unique and charming cel shaded style, but the fully touch-based control system opens up a whole new way to play. It's not for everyone - extended play will give you hand cramps and the overall game is rather simplistic - but who knew that Link could make such a glorious transition with everything we've come to love about Zelda - the interesting dungeon designs, the incredible boss fights, the awesome special weapons, etc. etc. - revitalised with an intuitive touch-based interface so easy that even my mother can play! I can't wait to see what's next.

4:Prince of Persia -> Sands of Time Trilogy
Here's another game that was downright unplayable (even more so) in the 8-bit age, but has seen something of a revolution in recent times. Prince of Persia was Jordan Mechner's artistic tribute to puzzle-based action-platforming. Time was of the essence as the Prince had only one hour to nimbly make his way through a trap-ridden dungeon - to defeat an evil vizier and save a lovely princess, no less. Rotoscoped graphics combined with meticulous animation gave the Prince's movements a creepy degree of realism, but the controls flat out sucked. However, with the Sands of Time Trilogy, the move to 3D was not only handled masterfully - control issues practically nonexistent - but the essence of the Prince's exploits - acrobatics and... free running - were kept intact. Plus you could rewind time if you accidentally leapt to your death - which is always cool.

3:Super Mario Bros. -> Super Mario Galaxy
One of the greatest 2D platformers ever has just become one of the best 3D platformers yet. And I'm not talking about Super Mario 64 - a sublime experience despite a world of camera issues. Super Mario Galaxy may not look much like the original Nintendo hit (jawdropping graphics can do that to you), but playing it brings back many fond memories. Only this time, Mario doesn't just move left and right, but up and down... and upside down! The focus is still on quick reflexes with a string of crazy power-ups to lighten up things and plenty of hidden secrets to boot. Super Mario Galaxy is THE next-gen Super Mario Bros. (well, Super Mario Bros. 3 if you want to be pedantic). I don't know anyone who has played a NES, but hasn't played Super Mario Bros. I hope to say the same thing about the Wii and Super Mario Galaxy in twenty years time.

2:"Classicvania" -> "Metroidvania"
If the above terms are foreign to you, 'tis a shame. The Castlevania series has never stood toe to toe with the likes of Mega Man, Samus, or even Dante, but now in its 21st anniversary (and counting) the series has never been in a more primed position. What started as a simple left-to-right action platformer has now turned into a regular foray into Dracula's castle, occasionally spilling out into the beyond, with a heavy focus on exploration - courtesy of Metroidal inspiration - and a myriad of modern RPG elements such as upgradable skills, rewarding sidequests, a balanced (or broken if you will) levelling up system and enough weaponry to hack, slash and shoot Dracula to hell and back a billion times over. What's even more brilliant is the transition to the portable medium; the "Metroidvania" series is a perfect fit for Nintendo handhelds as proven by five successful titles thus far.

1:Tekken -> Tekken 6
The uninitiated may see Tekken 6 as nothing more than an extremely good looking fighting game - HD graphics and all. But look back to the original King of Iron Fist Tournament and you'll notice a remarkable evolution that has taken place. In little over ten years, not only has the character roster doubled - from less than twenty to now nearly forty - with every fighter having an incredible array of unique moves and animations to call their own, but series conventions have shifted - from a simple exchange of blows on a linear plane (with no respect for gravity) to full 3D movement via side-stepping/walking, precision frame-based tactics, advanced gameplay styles including multiple stance switches, counters, parries and stylish throw escapes, the introduction of walls and a brief fling with terrain undulations. It's disappointing that the popular Tag element is still MIA, but we can't have everything, right? Nonetheless, the Tekken series has shown an incredible evolutionary shift that deserves nothing but the number 1 spot in my surprise Top 10 list of 2008.

With the move to HD I can only hope that more franchises will be invigorated in the years to come. We've already seen some notable evolutions that just missed the cut including Metroid Prime, Final Fantasy X+, Legacy of Kain/Soul Reaver, Tomb Raider (Crystal Dynamics), Call of Duty 4, and too many fighting games (and their multiple "upgrades") to count. Coming soon we have got Street Fighter IV which looks to improve on the original success story in a whole new way, and Bionic Commando looks quite promising despite the original sucking as much as many NES games do. Did I miss something? Do let me know - I always welcome feedback so long as it is readable. It's amazing to see how far gaming has come in such a short time, isn't it? Take it easy. As long as great games are being made, I'll always be here. Hopefully.
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Title: The Top 10 Spiritual Successors
Posted: May 13, 2008 (06:34 PM)
September 08, 2007
Update 2008: Ikaruga - Radiant Silvergun; Rock Band - Guitar Hero

“Tangible vessels perish, but their spirits keep on burning.” This saying holds true for videogames. As opposed to direct sequels/prequels, spiritual successors do not continue an existing storyline, nor do they typically share the same characters and/or world. But in keeping with the same developers and hence production values (in most instances), and maintaining the guts of genre, style and theme, these ‘successor stories’ are, more often than not, met with widespread acclaim from both veterans of their source material as well as newcomers. Although they may appear to be totally incomparable to their inspirations at first glance, conceptual lore pervades throughout to provide – in most cases - a wondrous and somewhat rose-tinted experience that’s both old and new at the same time. These are my Top 10 Spiritual Successor Stories.

10:Maximo (PS2) – Ghost ‘n Goblins (Multi)
The two knights – Arthur and Maximo – have much more in common than simply being slaves to Capcom. Both of them have had their special ladies whisked away by a maniacal demon. They both then set course on a perilous journey through the lands of the undead, somewhat unprepared, with naught but a single pointed bit of metal and some incredibly fragile armour. But when the goings got tough, when the endless mobs of zombies, skeletons and those pesky floating ghosts overwhelmed them to the brink of insanity, both Arthur and Maximo were manly enough to press onwards in their underpants. The way these optimistic fellows saw it was that once they rescued their fair maidens, it’d be one less step (not having to remove their over-garments) before the victorious shag. As far as spiritual successors go, Maximo clearly embodied the craziness of Arthur’s legendary strides, maintaining not only the absolutely brutal difficulty with endless waves of hellspawn, but also the mad-cap life system by way of how much clothing they had left on their skin.

9:Fallout (PC/Mac) – Wasteland (Apple II/C64/PC)
As their titles suggest, both of these games are set in a post-apocalyptic world where nuclear fallout has lead to the earth being run down into a harsh wasteland. You may not have heard of the latter, but in light of recent news - regarding a next-gen sequel to an RPG that doesn’t feature such juvenile, nonsensical creatures like chocobos, slimes and summon spirits - I’m sure you are at least familiar with the critical acclaim of one of the finest PC RPGs ever – Fallout. It improved upon its predecessor by adding in a staggering number of recruitable NPCs, a time-based mechanic that ensured no slacking around, and refined customisation that enabled the player to control the development of a diverse range of skills and attributes - everything from handling big guns to lock-picking and even gambling. This game makes the often-prophesised apocalypse seem like something we should look forward to.

8:Famicom/Advance Wars series (NES/SNES/GBA/GCN/Wii) – Fire Emblem series (NES/SNES/GBA/DS)
Technically speaking, Fire Emblem preceded what we now know as Advance Wars. However, back in 1988, Intelligent Systems started the ball rolling with Famicom Wars that saw assorted little red men hop into slightly larger tanks to engage in combat with their blue-coloured counterparts. The simple turn-based strategy was adopted into the Fire Emblem series and was eventually transformed into the now-famous, Byzantine weapon triangle. Although both games are set in entirely different worlds and eras, with fearsome fire-breathing dragons inhabiting one and military aircraft capable of carpet bombing acres at a time in the other, both Intelligent Systems helmed franchises offer deep, rewarding, strategic turn-based gameplay loaded with rich appeal and nigh on unlimited replayability.

7:Paper Mario/Mario & Luigi series (N64/GCN//GBA/DS) – Super Mario RPG (SNES)
Who would’ve guessed that slapping Mario and co. onto an RPG would yield such a success story? (Not a trick question...) But then Square sent in a letter of resignation, later flanking Nintendo’s rival - Sony - on the rebound. Mario’s role-playing days were over. Or so we thought. As the N64 was hanging onto its last lifeline, Paper Mario was born. It may have eschewed the lush, isometric graphical style seen in the plumber’s debut RPG, opting to go for a simpler, cleaner and obviously flatter look, but the underlying turn-based, but action-orientated, battles still kept their zany addictiveness. Sometime later, the Mario & Luigi portable series began its run on the GBA. Now with his dim brother in tow, Mario firmly established himself as a real rival to other esteemed RPG households. I mean, who needs a sword when you’ve got on a pair of shoes that can crush absolutely anything you step on.

6:Shadow of the Colossus (PS2) – ICO (PS2)
This highly artistic duo may be as far apart as possible where story and the key goals are concerned, but with both games featuring a washed out, yet picturesque, dreamy world, backed up by some of the finest orchestral works to ever grace a videogame soundtrack, they are nevertheless, inextricably linked. From Ico’s pledge to a lovely white maiden - to escape together from the enchanted shrine that an unfortunate fate has placed them in – to the lone Wanda who has only a mystical, flimsy blade and his trusty steed to aid him on his incredible undertaking - to topple the sixteen gargantuan colossi that hold the dormant power needed to reawaken his recently fallen sweetheart; ICO was a masterpiece in gaming that never received the attention it deserved (at least, until recent times), but Shadow of the Colossus’ larger-than-life approach managed to smash its way into the hearts and consoles of countless gamers, proving that such a beautiful game is capable of stirring up our psyche in a way that no-one could have imagined a decade ago.

5:Bioshock (PC/X360) – System Shock 2 (PC)
Surprise, surprise – as if you didn’t see this one coming! The underwater city of Rapture is your dystopia. As you attempt to discover what secrets this gritty, but gorgeous lost world holds, you’ll encounter various hostile forms that will require more than just a high degree of expertise with various killer firearms; you’ll also need to skilfully integrate a myriad of plasmids into your genome to confer special functions such as the power to discharge electrical bolts of energy, the ability to unleash a swarm of infuriated insects, and even the occult phenomenon that is telekinesis. System Shock (1 and) 2 heralded the first FPS to masterfully incorporate similar RPG elements, along with a dark, foreboding atmosphere to boot. Bioshock has since modernised that revolutionary design with some incredibly smart AI, an immaculately polished interface, and a pristinely grim environment in which you’re able to tear down to shreds in a flurry of orgasmic fireworks.

4:Starcraft (PC/Mac/N64) – Warcraft II (PC/Mac/PSX/Sat)
Both of these franchises are currently alive and kicking (hooray for Starcraft II – finally announced, nearly a decade later after the original!) Warcraft may have a larger fanbase (*cough* WoW), but many hardcore RTS gamers will no doubt see its sci-fi offshoot as quite possibly the most balanced and engaging strategy game ever. Yes, even to this very day. With a marked distinction in gameplay tactics between each the three complex races, a horde of brutal units with which to ravage the fantastic sprite-based maps, a cosmic mythos that trumps any human/orc-based feud that its progenitor can conjure up, and an eternally addictive multiplayer mode via LAN or over the net, Starcraft is the ultimate in RTS, period. Until the second coming...

3:Soul Calibur series (Arc/DC/Multi) – Tekken series (Arc/PSX/PS2/PS3)
Tekken was owning up the 3D beat’em up scene with Virtua Fighter being its only real competitor. In an effort to create a worthy equal, the same development team – Namco – decided to cast forth a selection of fighters spanning years of rich history, equip them with a bounty of ferocious arms, and bring them into a Tekken-esque fighting system modified to suit - heavily modified, that is. 8-way walk allowed for a degree of freedom of movement previously unheard of in a fighting game; ring-outs were introduced to pose a serious threat to turtle-style brawlers who were constantly on the run; guard impacts turned a precise defence into a fearsome offensive starter; nearly everything that made Tekken so damn godly (sans the ridiculous juggling) was meticulously ported over to the most comprehensive weapons-based fighter conceived. Sure, the Tekken scene has regained its momentum with Tekken 5 and its various upgrades, slightly overshadowing the luminosity of Soul Calibur, but they are now so different with respect to playing styles that they both deserve to share the top spot for the best fighting games ever. As for myself, I’m now a retired veteran pugilist, but the soul still burns ever so brightly.

2:Nintendo DS – Game & Watch
Eh? I am error? No - seriously, this hardware evolution is no joke. Back in 1980, Nintendo and the creative Japanese mind of Gunpei Yoko brought to the world the Game & Watch system: a handheld electronic videogame unit. Over the next couple of years that followed, a few screen designs were tossed around – amongst other things, the dual-screen version that came with the now-classic Donkey Kong was let loose in 1982. It’s hard to believe that it took the collective brains over at Nintendo HQ more than twenty years to finally reinvent the dual-screen concept in the form of the Nintendo DS - the (stealthily) touted successor to the illustrious line of GameBoy derivatives. With a new-fangled touch-sensitive screen, a built-in microphone and backwards compatibility to a plethora of GBA titles, the DS was fully equipped to handle nearly anything one could possibly throw at it. Well, Sony did. They revealed their secret little weapon shortly thereafter in the form of the PSP; it had a widescreen plus a graphical and sound system that obliterated the measly ‘advanced’ specs of the DS. However, Nintendo’s propensity towards innovation and ingenuity paid off in the end with limitless third-party support, in addition to its already sound first-person teams, to provide games and ‘non-games’ to cater for people that fit into virtually any demographic you can name. The Game & Watch was an oddity which wasn’t very well received during the days when videogaming was a hobby usually reserved for then-dubbed ‘geeks’. The Nintendo DS, on the other hand, has not only shattered records worldwide, but it looks set to be the most successful (handheld) console ever.

1:The “Castleroid/Metroidvania” (PSX/GBA/DS) - Metroid 2D series (NES/GB/SNES/GBA)
There was a time when gamers would say, “just one more level” - but, then Metroid showed up. Instead of moving from one end of a 2D landscape to the other, the goal of Metroid was to search down the entire planet of Zebes and annihilate the tyrant Space Pirate leader, Mother Brain. However, it wasn’t as easy and knocking on her front door; a variety of obstacles of all shapes and sizes – lava pits, heavily armoured pirates, seemingly insurmountable cliff heights – stood in Samus’ way. Before attempting to locate the final boss’ lair, Samus would first have to track down a bevy of special weapons and ancient devices to give her the edge. This encouraged exploration in a way that offered the gamer free reign over where they wanted to go (and in the case of ‘sequence breaking’, when); what equipment and stock they wanted to obtain; and how they would go about it. This freedom was borrowed by the PS1 Castlevania title, Symphony of the Night, and has since gone on to be a mainstay in the series’ portable follow-ups (dubbed the ‘Castleroid/Metroidvania’ to show the association between the two, as well as to distinguish them from the earlier, classic-style Castlevanias). Instead of playing as a fully-suited, inter-stellar bounty hunter, Castlevania put you in the worn shoes of a noble Vampire Killer, exchanging the plasma-based firearms in for a myriad of melee weaponry, from swords to scythes, and of course, the mighty whip. These days, 3D and HD may be all the rage, but let us not forget that 2D games still deserve a place in the gaming community. While they may not be as good-looking as their evolutionary forms, contemporary 2D games, like Castlevania and its ilk - spiritual successors to the videogames of yore - demonstrate that they can be just as fun and often-times more appealing than the next big budget, over-hyped extravaganza.

In this day and age, the videogame library is stacked with sequel after sequel after prequel: Resident Evil 0, Devil May Cry 4, Tekken 6, Dragon Quest 9, Final Fantasy... 13!? Sure, originality doesn’t arise as often as the sun, but we can definitely do much better than rehashing the same story, the same concept... the same blah - day in, day out. This is what spiritual successors represent: beloved gaming ideals reworked to provide an entirely fresh perspective and to reinvigorate a tired genre. Key concepts aren’t just refined – they’re given a total overhaul. Honourable mentions that missed the cut include Perfect Dark (GoldenEye), Bully (Grand Theft Auto 3/VC/SA), Crisis Zone (Time Crisis), and Jak & Daxter (Crash Bandicoot). The near-future looks promising already with the likes of Crysis (Far Cry), Hellgate: London (Diablo), and Kiki Kai World (Pocky & Rocky) - and we can only hope that more inspirational successors are on their way, perhaps to quash the dreadful curse of sequel-itis that the modern gaming world has been afflicted with. “Tangible vessels perish, but their spirits keep on burning”
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Title: The Top 10 Sword-wielders
Posted: May 13, 2008 (06:30 PM)
April 28, 2007
Update 2008: No More Heroes - Travis Touchdown and his Beam Katana

The art of combat has always been an inviting aspect of video games. Everyone and their second cousin, twice removed knows that the sword is the primary weapon of choice where virtual fighting is concerned. We wish we could wield one in real life, but these days it's all about practicality and firearms rule that roost. In the land of gaming, sword-wielders are still as prevalent as ever. But with such a diverse variety of warriors, who are the best of the best out there? This is what I have attempted to find out, and my quest has led me all over the place, to hell and back. While it's always sad when some great names just miss the cut, it's even worse when I had to omit MORE than the amount I'm about to talk about here! Nevertheless, the selection I have here comprises the most up-to-date pure awesomeness of heroes, heroines and villains who show immeasurably sharp skill in their chosen profession.

10:Nariko & the Heavenly Sword -> Heavenly Sword
Heavenly Sword is a brand-new IP set to provide us with buckets of intense, visceral combat come the end of this year. There isn't a heck of a lot known about this game still, but judging from gameplay snippets there looks to be enough sword-swinging action to satisfy the cut-throat in us all. Why does Nariko, the heroine of the game, come in at number 10? She is essentially a female version of the half-demon half-human being whom everyone loves - Dante! She has the ability to morph her one and only sword into various forms, from its initial chunky design to long-range extendable chain-blades, and she can quickly make mince-meat of anything that stands in her way. This is pretty damn important too, seeing as once she stops fighting with the Heavenly Sword, her life begins to drain! It's like Crank, but instead of adrenaline it's all about mortal combat.

9:Pyramid Head & the Great Knife -> Silent Hill 2
This 7-foot tall monstrosity is one ugly mutha... but I'd be more concerned about making a quick escape rather than sit and stare, as it lurches towards me with that heavy blade screeching as it drags along the floor. It brutally kills anything, whether it be a human or a fellow freak of nature. It may not be very agile, but it doesn't really need to be; one well-aimed swipe equals good night, restless dreams for all.

8:Derek Stiles & the No.15 Scalpel Blade -> Trauma Center: Under the Knife/Second Opinion
A surgeon being placed in a list of the finest blademasters the world of gaming has to offer?! Yes, and there isn't any doubt in my mind. The scalpel could be considered to be miniature sword used indirectly (and directly if you should slip..) to cause massive damage to even the tiniest pathogen. Respect given where it is due - Derek Stiles is not only a whiz with incisions and excisional biopsies, but he also has the Healing Touch which makes his sword-wielding skills that much more potent, performing the most delicate procedures at the speed of light with perfect precision.

7:Samanosuke & the Onimusha Blade -> Onimusha: Warlords/Demon Siege
The way of the samurai has a whole new meaning as far as Samanosuke is concerned. Utilising a myriad of demon magic, he is able to infuse his chosen arm with a power able to rip through the Genma like scissors to paper. With sufficient soul energy he can transform into an Oni warrior, and with the Onimusha Blade in hand, not even the legendary general Nobunaga Oda can stand in wake of its destruction.

6:Raiden & the HF Blade -> Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
He may have been somewhat of a wuss back in the era of Sons of Liberty, but a few years later he returns to us as an enlightened cyber-ninja boy with a thirst for Metal Gear blood (or is that oil?) Who knows if he still uses that thin, fragile-looking High Frequency Blade? But if the trailers are any indication, High Fatality Blade suits the abbreviation just fine! As much as I admire Snake for his solid stealth, the new Raiden is more stylish than Tommy Hilfiger, more deadly than old man Shinobi, and more manly than all the 300.

5:Soma Cruz & the Claimh Solais -> Castlevania: Aria/Dawn of Sorrow
Strictly speaking Soma isn't a specialised swordsman, but a soul-stealer who wrecks havoc by recycling the powers of evil and redirecting it back at them. He is a versatile warrior, able to wield everything from katanas, whips and guns, or he can just fight it out bare-knuckled. He's that good that he deserves a top spot in my list. The legendary holy sword Claimh Solais is a big-ass blade nearly twice his size and probably about ten times heavier, yet Soma is able to swing it from head to toe as if it were as light as a feather. Not only that, but he can combo aerial attacks into ground attacks cancelling into backdash attacks... in other words with ATT+106, DEF+4, STR+7, CON+7, INT+7 and the ability to hit multiple times in a fell swoop, I think you would know the outcome of his rage. Later the sword lost a fair bit of it's broken properties, but as long as there's another beastly blade nearby (King Arthur's mythical Excalibur set in stone even!) this high school exchange student of all trades needn't fear.

4:Nightmare & Soul Edge -> Soul Calibur series
The evil sword has consumed its owner, and so the sword-wielder in question here is really the soul of the weapon itself! A once gallant knight is now the ultimate cursed being, thriving upon spilt blood and the life-force of everything that is innocent. His giant blade, the Soul Edge, with its gruesome eye popping through the infected metal, is the grim reaper on the stage of history. Countless lives have been lost at the tip of this eternal evil, and the dark knight seems to show no signs of stopping anytime soon. Even without the human Siegfried in its possession, the armour commanded by the soul of the blade is enough to obliterate any army thrown at it. He may look big and slow, but one counter-hit rook splitter will make you think again. Top-tier for sure.

3:Squall Leonhart & the Gunblade -> Final Fantasy VIII
This taciturn protagonist may lead the confusing fantasy with a cold-heart, but as a man of the sword, there isn't a finer example. The gunblade is a cool conglomeration melding the strength of RPG steel with an extra shot of napalm in the morning. In reality it may not be a very practical weapon, but if you could actually perform a Renzokuken flurry, I'm sure no-one would tell it that to you! Squall and Seifer are masters of this fusion arm, but the lead always comes out on top where skill is concerned. If a series of multiple explosive hits isn't enough for you, Squall can also tie up loose ends with several finishing moves at his disposal. So what's on the menu for today? Lion Heart for another barrage of even more mind-numbing slashes, or Blasting Zone for a literally earth smashing crash from the heavens!

2:Zero & the Z-saber -> Mega Man series
He's a reploid who aids the main mega man, X, in the quest for justice and peace between humans and their robotic creations. Zero's preferred method of attack is full-frontal slicing & dicing, and he is able to dash up and jump in your face in nearly zero seconds at that! By retiring mavericks he is able to gain new saber moves, from rolling dash attacks to my favourite: flame-uppercut slashes in the style of Shoryuken! Zero has been blown to smithereens more than a few times, yet he always comes back a few years later boasting more power than ever before! What gives? Is he really the ultimate creation of the infamous Dr. Wily?? So legendary is his status that a century after his apparent demise, a new Zero is reborn. While technically inferior to the original model, he still owns up the place, criss-crossing, thrusting, diving and soaring with his signature neon-green light-saber with the grace no human could ever dream of.

1:Dante & Alastor/Rebellion -> Devil May Cry series
The flamboyant son of Sparda kicks up a storm of sword swinging madness so strong that even devils may cry. Don't let his cocky attitude fool you - Dante is a man who talks a lot of trash, but takes it out just as well. It's all about style with this half-blood, and arguably the flashiest is the stance he takes as a Swordmaster. If you think you can utter a mocking laugh from 10 metres distance and remain safe, he'll show you a thing or two; before you drop your last note, Dante will have swooped in with a Stinger stab, strung it into a multi-hit combo of slashes, ending that sequence with a High Time uppercut. He would then have leapt up to pursue you with an Aerial Rave, slammed you back to the ground with a Helmet Breaker, and Prop Shredder spin-slashed your mangled, fallen body. After taking a brief rest taunting your helpless self, he would then have charged a Drive shockwave to slam you against the closest wall, before finally finishing the job off with the flurry known as the Dance Macabre, cancelling to the Million Stab routine, and then the final decisive thrust. The greatest sword-wielder ever? OH HELL YEAH!

Guns are bad. In real-life they are nothing but weapons of mass-destruction and in gaming, I've had enough shoot 'em ups to last me 'til the end of days. Okay I exaggerate a bit, but when compared the honourable blade, it doesn't quite 'cut' it :P Of this list, I hope you have learnt a lot about the sword-wielders who have changed my life in more ways than one. Sadly some legends were missed: Link and his Master Sword, Bleach's Ichigo and Zangetsu, Cloud and the Buster Sword (one Final Fantasy is enough here), Metaknight, Ryu Hayabusa, and a whole host of Tales of characters. But I still think that the ones that are listed here cleanly slice & dice the rest up any day of the year! "Live by the sword. Die by the sword"
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