Azn Badger's Blog

What About the Lysine Contingency…?

Small Victory On Black Friday

Pictured: A big pile of crap, for half the price!

Today marked only the second occasion in which I decided to set forth into the wild and brave the insanity that is Black Friday.

Oddly enough, both times my intention in doing so was not to capitalize on the various sales events, but rather to simply take in the spectacle of watching others step over each other in hopes of acquiring a precious Tickle Me Elmo-like gift, or in the case of this year, an incredibly cheap 40″ TV.

It’s funny, whenever I think of Black Friday and other Christmas/holiday related shopping insanity, there’s one image that comes to my mind.

Said image was from one of my brother’s old Mad magazines, and to date, it serves as the definitive vision of Christmas carnage in my mind:

Pictured: "The Last Parking Space At The Mall."

It might be kind of hard to tell, as the image is kind of small, but basically “The Last Parking Space At The Mall” is a brilliantly rendered Norman Rockwell-esque painting depicting a man shooting another man in a snowy parking lot while his wife attempts to pull him back into the car.

Mad Magazine is usually good for a snicker or 2, but this painting was easily one of the most brilliant fuckin’ comedic images I can recall from my youth.

Sadly though, I didn’t see holiday mayhem of any kind this time around.

I did however get to laugh at the people standing in line surrounding the Best Buy.

Seriously man, I spent close to 3 hours in the general area, and I never once saw that line shrink an inch.

Needless to say, I never even got to set foot in Best Buy this morning.

Oh well, thanks to holiday “tent culture,” virtually all of the really good deals in there are literally impossible to acquire without spending the night outside the building.

Or at least without bringing one of these...

Which brings me to the deals that I actually did get a chance to capitalize on.

I initially set out to “do” Black Friday with a friend of mine around midnight.

Said friend ultimately ended up walking away with 2 boxes of half price golf balls, while I bought absolutely nothing.

Fortunately, there were some other sales going on in the U-district at a reasonable hour that I ended up checking out after catching a few much needed hours of sleep.

First, I went to Zanadu comics, where a 50% off everything sale was going on from 8AM to 12PM.

In case you couldn’t tell from the image above, I ended up getting a softcover copy of the absolutely massive X-Men/Dark Avengers: Utopia, as well as the first volume of Ed Brubaker’s The Immortal Iron Fist.

Truth be told, I’m not exactly salivating over the prospect of reading either of these books, however Utopia will serve to complete my Dark Avengers trade collection, and Iron Fist is a book that, given my status as a rabid kung fu movie fan, should’ve been in my collection years ago.

All together now: "WAATAAAAAHHHH!!!!"

I’m a little wary of Utopia, as X-Men books haven’t been kind to me in the past, I don’t know, 15 goddamn years; but I’m hoping the Dark Avengers stuff will help to round things out a little.

Yes. I am in fact still made about this.

As for Iron Fist, I’ve read nothing but good about it, and I’ve been putting off reading it for a really long time; so I’m pretty sure it’s gonna’ be awesome.

Anyway, 2 good to great books for 50% off = Definitely worth it in my book.

Next I went to Pink Gorilla to check out their highly variable collection of used/retro videogames.

While I haven’t found anything too special there in a few years now, I was surprised to find a perfectly good copy of Super Castlevania IV.

Outside of that though, I didn’t find anything else exciting, or failing that; worth the asking price.

Despite this, I was surprised to be given a randomized coupon at the register, with the one I drew being a buy1 get 1 free!

Upon scanning the wall, I decided to pick up Donkey Kong Country 3, a game that, while inferior to the sequel (which I already own) is somewhat rare, and often prohibitively overpriced.

Lucky me, I got it for free.

Oh yeah, and I got a free poster too.

Anyway, while I’d like to say I made it through the day without spending a decent amount of money, I’m proud to say that I at least managed to save more than I spent this Black Friday.

How did you do?

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Holy Shit, I Beat A Castlevania Game!

Well, that was fast.

Yesterday I drew a line in the sand and sand, “Goddamnit, I’m gonna’ beat a Castlevania game” and wouldn’t you know it, today I did just that.

That being said, my “Castlevania Hit List” at this point consists of #1 and 3 of the original NES trilogy, Super Castlevania IV AKA the Super NES remake of the original, and Castlevania: Dracula X the Super NES port of the PC Engine Rondo of Blood.

Admitting my distinct lack of skill at handling the series’ dreadful momentum based jumping mechanics, I decided I would make my first foray into pwning the shit out the classic Castlevania games by starting from the more forgiving, end of the timeline; and work backwards.

Getting to the point, today I took Castlevania X and kicked it’s skull out it’s ass.

No, you don’t get a pic for that one.

While I won’t go so far as to say Castlevania X was anything less than a challenge, I have to admit that I was kind of amazed by how easily I made it through the game.

In comparison to what little experience I have with the NES games in the series, I’d say X was significantly easier.

In general, the game speed seemed slower, with enemies respawning and attacking less frequently, making for a much more methodically paced game.

Make no mistake, pitfalls and “bounce back” deaths were still a huge obstacle for me in Castlevania X, however I found I was able to take advantage of the slower pace of the game to take my time in formulating strategies for whatever challenges lay before me.

Also, I must say, gaudy as they were; the backflip and item crash maneuvers came to my rescue more than a few times by allowing me to dodge some nasty hits, or bypass them entirely through the item crash invincibility frames, all while dealing a shit ton of damage.

Pictured: The life-saving Cross Crash.

In general, I found Castlevania X to be a pretty fun afternoon playthrough.

The game felt kind of short, and some of the bosses were actually surprisingly easy, but overall it felt like a decent game that I definitely would’ve enjoyed had I played it in my youth.

The one exception to the overall fun factor of the experience, as well as the ease of the boss fights, was the final battle with Dracula.

In short, Dracula was a pain in the ass.

Not overly difficult, so much as annoying as fuck; the design of Dracula’s throne room arena, combined with his predictable; but dangerous attack pattern made for a nerve wracking encounter that definitely ranks as one of the hardest boss fights I’ve ever played through.

To those that are unaware, Dracula’s attacks in Castlevania X consist of the traditional, “I open my cape and cum fireballs all over your face” type; with said instances of fiery ejaculation being the only opportunities to give ‘ole Drac a whip to the dome.

That is to say, the only time you can hit the fucker is when he’s in the process of jizzing in your mouth.

It goes without saying that Drac’s flaming rude juice is far more damaging than the Vampire Killer whip, but that’s not the real problem in the equation.

The real problem is the fact that you fight Dracula amid a series of narrow platforms surrounded by instance death pits of doom.

Basically, unless you get really fuckin’ lucky; (as I did numerous times upon eventually defeating Dracula) any hit you take, regardless of how much damage it deals, will ultimately kill you by knocking you into a pit.

Piece 'o cake...

Nevermind that Dracula’s absurd height advantage over you forces you to jump to land hits on him, effectively doubling the chances of instant death pitfall, regardless of whether you actually succeed in hitting the bastard.

Take my word for it, any kind of jumping in an old-school Castlevania game is bad news, especially when pits are involved.

Anyway, as I’m sure you’re aware, once you get past Dracula’s “jizzing in your face” phase of attack, his lifebar refills and he transforms into a gigantic Speedo-ed Devil Man.

While this form looks fuckin’ beastly, personally I found it to be much easier.

Using the handy cross/boomerang subweapon, I found I was able to deal damage and destroy most of his incoming projectiles pretty much at will, a far cry from the slow-paced chess match of the “jizz in your face” phase of the fight.

That being said, while it took me an ungodly number of tries to get past Dracula’s first form, as soon as I was consistently able to get to Speedo Devil Man, I had Dracula kissing curb in short order.

Anyway, that’s my Castlevania conquest story.

Hopefully I’ll get around to playing through some of the other games in the series at some point.

 

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I’m Gonna’ Beat A Castlevania Game Goddamnit

Castlevania has never really been one of my favorite game series.

I’ve been fascinated by the series’ music and characters for a long time now, but in all honesty; I never really sat down to play any of the games.

Truth be told, the exploits of the Belmont clan, that is; their eternal struggle against Count Dracula and the forces of darkness, managed to blow right by my radar when I was a kid.

I guess I was too busy playing Mega Man and Ninja Turtle games during the NES era to have really paid mind to Konami’s whip cracking platformer.

Nah' that's a lie... I was playing Snow Bros.

That’s not to say I wasn’t aware of Castlevania.

On the contrary, I remember reading a lot about Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest in Nintendo Power, but perhaps more importantly I remember being genuinely frightened of the cover art depicting Simon Belmont holding Dracula’s severed head.

Pictured: The cover in question.

It wasn’t so much the graphic nature of the image, blood and guts were “cool” to me even as a kid; it was Drac’s motherfuckin’ glowing red eyes that bugged me.

HOLY FUCKING SHIT!

Seriously, how could you put that on the magazine stands and expect parents to buy it for their kids!?

*Ahem!* Anyway, I remember Nintendo Power going out of their way to talk up Castlevania 2 like it was the coolest game ever, even giving it a Nester award for Best Audio.

Strangely enough, nowadays the game seems to have a pretty well established reputation as being a crytptic and poorly translated heap of garbage.

I guess people were willing to swallow a lot more shit from their games back in the day than they are nowadays…

I owned, played, and liked this back in the day. Don't ask me why...

Anyway, while I read plenty about the Castlevania games in various gaming magazines back in the day, I honestly don’t recall ever sitting down to play any of them until I was much older.

I remember reading about Symphony of the Night in Playstation Magazine, which gave it a perfect score and even went on to give it the top spot on their Best Playstation 1 Game of All Time list.

To this day, I have yet to try Symphony of the Night, largely because it’s Metroid style, backtracking heavy gameplay would likely drive me insane.

Like Zelda before it, Metroid games have always had a way of making me feel dumb and lost throughout the experience, and based on what I’ve seen of the map from Symphony of the Night, I think it’s in my best interest to stay away.

"For the love of God, I don't speak Japanese!"

Don’t get me wrong, the game looks absolutely gorgeous, with some of the most detailed and well animated sprites I can recall, (always a huge selling point in my book) but I know what I like, and I know what pisses me off, and it’s more than likely that Symphony of the Night would piss me off something fierce.

Completely dodging tremendously successful game series is not exactly a new thing for me, as evidenced by me having never played a Jak and Daxter, Ratchet and Clank, Prince of Persia, or Duke Nukem game; but in the case of Castlevania, I was always bothered by the fact that I actually wanted to play some games in the series.

More specifically the straightforward platforming games in the series I.E. the first 4, and Rondo of Blood.

Any game that includes Shoryuken-ing Minotaurs as boss characters gets brownie points in my book.

While the gothic aesthetic didn’t really appeal to me all that much, the old-school horror references, platforming action, and downright legendary music of the more traditional games in the series have always seemed right up my alley.

Hell, I’ve been listening to Castlevania music since middle school, but I only just played my first game in the series a few years ago in the form of the NES original.

That being said, while I can’t say I enjoyed my experience playing a Castlevania game nearly as much as I hoped I would have; the challenge, combined with the delightful sights and sounds left me intrigued in an oddly masochistic sense.

While I won’t be throwing down my gauntlet and saying I’m gonna’ beat Battletoads or Ghosts ‘n Goblins anytime soon, Castlevania seemed to have a reasonably challenging difficulty level that appealed to me.

The Battletoads Turbo Tunnel: SERIOUS BUSINESS.

Hard enough to piss you off, but with gameplay that feels rewarding enough to encourage you to keep trying regardless.

What can I say, I’m one of those sickos that actually liked, and beat Demon’s Souls; and is likely to do so again before picking up the sequel once it comes out.

By comparison, sacrificing a few hours of my life to Castlevania seems like fuckin’ cake.

Anyway, the point of this post, I think; is that I think I’m gonna’ challenge myself to sit down and beat Castlevania sometime soon.

Castlevania isn’t my favorite series of games, nor do I have all that much history with it, if any; this is just me saying I’m gonna’ kill me some vampires ’cause I think I’ve got what it takes to do it.

I don’t think I’ll be doing a Let’s Play, so you’ll just have to take my word for whatever accomplishments/failures I encounter.

Anyway, wish me luck!

"Pizza delivery for Mr. Dracula... Hello?... Bueller?"

 

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Thoughts On Marvel Vs. Capcom 3

It’s been 10 long years, but it’s finally happened:

Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 has finally become a reality.

While the overly dramatic statement above may speak to the contrary, let it be known; the Azn Badger has never felt any sort of excitement regarding the release of MVC3.

You see, I used to be a hardcore fighting game fan.

While I still bear a great deal of love for the characters of fighting games past, as I find them to be some of the most versatile and long-lived icons in all of gaming; when it comes to my actual skills as a player of fighting games, I’ve never been anything more than average.

That didn’t stop me from playing fighting games like a mad man… Up until the release of Marvel vs. Capcom 2.

You see, I have this friend; a Korean from Up The Street, (henceforth referred to as KUTS) who sort of ruined fighting games for me.

Like many Koreans tend to do, he became enamored with the mechanics of the game, to the point in which dedicated himself to becoming an utter beast at the game.

Seriously, the guy’s been competitive with Top 10 Evo players.

Fielding his Storm-Magneto-Sentinel team, KUTS would go on to repeatedly thrash me in MVC2, and virtually any other fighting game; in such emphatic fashion, as to utterly crush my desire to play fighting games with any degree of seriousness from that point forward.

That being said, KUTS has been consistently playing MVC2 for the past decade.

Or at least until today, when it’s long awaited (or in KUTS’ case, dreaded) sequel was finally released.

Friend that he is, KUTS was kind enough to invite me over to play a few rounds of MVC3 with him.

Introductory reminiscences aside, here are my thoughts, as well as some thoughts from my buddy KUTS, regarding our impression of MVC3 thus far:

Gameplay

MVC2 is regarded as one of the most hardcore of fighting games.

It’s gameplay is some of the fastest around, and the precision required in it’s button inputs are tuned to near perfection in the eyes of many gamers.

It’s this frenetic, yet exacting gameplay that makes MVC2 one of the least accessible, but most rewarding fighting games to date.

That being said, when you take the pinnacle of fighting game precision, and “dumb” it’s mechanics down in favor of creating a simpler, and more accessible game; the end result is a game that will appeal to fighting game novices, and likely infuriate experienced players weened on more nuanced games.

Needless to say, both KUTS and I were largely unhappy with the mechanics of MVC3.

While I’m certainly no expert player at any fighting game, I noted a great deal of frustration coming off of my buddy KUTS as we played; largely due to the slower gameplay and questionable control accuracy.

If I were to compare the experience of playing MVC3 to any other fighting game, it’d have to be the crap-fest known as Tatsunoko vs. Capcom, and the bore-fest that is Street Fighter IV.

Like both of the aforementioned games, MVC3’s control feel as if they “help” you a little too much.

What I mean to say is, in all 3 of these games; it often feels like the system gives you the benefit of the doubt for technically flawed or incomplete button inputs.

While Street Fighter IV requires a very precise sense of timing to execute effective combos, I can’t tell you how many times I found mysel pulling off special attacks, or complex chains in these games; seemingly by accident.

Make no mistake, even if I’m not an expert, I know how to play most fighting games; and few things frustrate me more than playing a fighting game seems to want to play itself.

Seriously, KUTS and I were joking that you could probably pull off a hadoken in these games simply by holding forward and mashing the punch button.

In addition to the stupid-ification of the gameplay mechanics, MVC3 also takes things a step farther by changing up the control scheme a little bit.

Assists are now assigned their own buttons, with the depressing of either of which for a second or so resulting in the tag command.

To my knowledge, there is only 1 kick button now, a button which I found myself rarely using for whatever reason.

Finally, launch attacks, formerly a command executed by pressing down-forward and fierce punch; have been given they’re own button as well.

While I found the launch and kick button situation to be odd, and difficult to wrap my head around, I’m guessing the changes were made to appeal to fighting game novices.

Of these changes, the one that I found to be somewhat intuitive was the merging of the tag and assist buttons.

Maybe it’s my tiny Japanese hands, but the simultaneous button presses required for the tag function in previous Vs. games was always something I had trouble with; making this simplification a welcome one in my opinion.

One last note:

The game seems slower, and super jumps are harder to direct in a Castlevania, momentum-based sort of way…

Roster

The roster of MVC3 is a decent mix of the classic and the eclectic.

Seriously, count me in as one of the people that thought we’d never see the likes of Dormannu in a videogame.

Oh yeah, and SUPER MAD PROPS to whoever got Capcom to put Taskmaster in the game.

There are around 20 fewer combatants this time around, with more variation between each entrants play styles serving to balance things out in some capacity.

While I can’t speak to the effectiveness of any of the characters as of yet, it’s worth noting that many of the character’s attributes seem a little unbalanced.

For instance, Phoenix is easily one of, if not the fastest character in the game; however she also happens to be fragile as tissue paper.

Seriously, one time I managed to take her down to half health with only 6 weak punches, using Viewtiful Joe no less.

Not only that, Magneto has been nerfed in every way imaginable, and Thor seems overpowered, despite his godly-status.

All that aside, I’m decently satisfied with the roster at this point.

Capcom did a good job of varying the play styles of the characters, and many are represented well via their movesets and animations.

I will say this though, Chris Redfield’s voice clips are hysterical.

Seriously, with phrases like “Eat it!”, “Taste it!”, and “Suck it!”; the man is a poster boy for the UFC generation.

Move over Brock, there’s a new meathead in town…

KUTS’ Team Thus Far:

Storm, Sentinel, and MODOK or Storm, Sentinel and She-Hulk.

Closing Thoughts

Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is a game for fighting game/Marvel fans, not the hardcore.

While it has yet to be seen what strategies or nuances can be uncovered in the gameplay for MVC3, if you ask me; or my buddy KUTS, whatever’s there isn’t going to measure up to MVC2.

That’s not to say MVC3 isn’t a worthy effort, as it is; it’s just not the same Marvel.

I will give it this though, MVC3 does have it’s predecessor beat in the presentation department.

10 years makes a world of difference in the world of videogames, and while I was fully prepared to hate the aesthetic of MVC3 based on it’s preview footage, I found I warmed up to it after awhile.

The character models aren’t as detailed as most contemporary fighting games, but the menus are designed well, the voicework is largely acceptable, and the damage effects and splashiness of the special attacks are actually quite stunning at times.

Consider that the one compliment I pay to MVC3.

Anyway, these were just my thoughts, feel free to disagree, ’cause they’re my thoughts and frankly I don’t give a shit what you think.

Thanks for reading!

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Indiana Jones Punch

I don’t know what it is, but lately I’ve been having trouble finding the inspiration to write.

It could just be because I’ve been working on my superhero story for the past several days, but I find I just don’t have a whole lot I feel like blogging about.

I suppose it doesn’t help that the internet and airwaves are clogged to shit about Sony’s new handheld, the NGP.

Truth be told, I haven’t owned or even played a handheld console since the Gameboy Advance, making me less than excited for the NGP despite the amazing technical achievement it represents.

MASSIVE HYPE in the palm of your hand!

Oh well, despite my lack of reportings/findings in regard to worldwide news and the like, I feel I should take a moment to make a personal announcement of sorts.

One of my college buddies started a website!

http://by.davidaludwig.com/

Being a prolific writer, he is using his site to host his work, both written and drawn, with updates coming quite frequently.

If you’re into anime and/or fantasy stuff, you might want to check it out.

Click the link above or the “DavidALudwig” link on the right, either one works the same.

Oh yeah, I feel I should also mention that I recently happened upon a music track that I can’t seem to get enough of!

It’s from a Castlevania Tribute album, and is apparently a remix of a track from Order of Ecclesia on the DS.

I’ve never really been much of a fan of the Castlevania series, however I must admit; it’s games have yielded a stunning number of quality musical tracks over the years.

Anyway, give it a listen, but be warned; it’s a painfully catchy tune:

Anyway, that’s all I got for now.

See you tomorrow.

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Batman: Arkham Asylum Is Good. Like, Really Good.

So, Arkham Asylum is a good game.

Like, really good.

Last night I parked my butt in front of the TV for a good solid 4 hours straight playing it, and by golly, I enjoyed every minute of it.

4 hours might not sound like a helluva’ long time to some of the more hardcore gamers out there, so allow me to elaborate.

These days I’m what is commonly referred to as a “casual gamer.”

Pictured: The Exact Opposite of A "Casual Gamer."

Not only that, I have this weird personal issue where after about an hour or so of playing videogames, I start to feel anxious; like I need to get up and do something else RIGHT NOW.

More often than not, I tend to prioritize activities like working out, going to bed early, or writing this fucking blog, over playing videogames.

In the case of my maiden voyage on Batman: Arkham Asylum last night though, this was not the case.

Near as I can tell, the game’s greatest success, is the constant feeling of progress and accomplishment that the game imparts to it’s player.

Last night I mentioned how I really don’t care much for Metroid-style games.

Like many non-Metroid fans, my biggest objection to the structure of those games, is not the fault of the designers, but rather my own stupidity.

Thought I’ve always said that Zelda games made me feel dumb as a kid, Metroid games made me feel downright “special.”

Like, helmet “special.”

Stone Cold demonstrating the image crippling power of The Retard Helmet.

Something about the layout of the map, and how the player was expected to wade their way through shit storms of enemies and hazards without knowing where to go, just never did it for me.

Though I’ve heard Arkham Asylum referred to as a Metroid-Vania style game, (a description which is fairly accurate) the experience is nowhere near as lonesome, nor the map layout as cryptic as either of those games.

Trust me, having Oracle on staff to order you around via radio every now and again is a godsend for exploration newbs such as myself.

Well hello there madam. Feel free to call me on my Bat Phone anytime you like...

In short, it’s similar to a Metroid-Vania game, but with a more structured and objective based progression.

Which is a good thing, seeing as I can think of no dumber element to a Batman game than having the player get lost.

Think about it, would the fuckin’ Batman ever get lost, much less at Arkham?

Pictured: Batman upon realizing he is in fact, a retard.

Batman is a man on top of shit in any situation, so I feel it is a wise decision on the part of the developers to have made the game’s structure reflect this.

Aside from the strength of the layout of the game, I feel that the games 240 or so collectibles really add a lot to making the player feel like their making some headway into the game, even in it’s early stages.

While part of me wants to say that, like Mega Man X3, there are in fact too many hidden items in the game, to the point in which you literally can’t turn a corner without accidentally bumping into something useful, thus far I think I actually like this element of Arkham Asylum.

It is kind of silly, walking into a room and finding Riddler trophies n’shit strewn about; but in a game with a map as large as this, any form of progress, no matter how minute, goes a long way towards making neurotic players like myself feel like they know what their doing.

Near as I can tell, this is Batman’s greatest success:

Spoon-feeding the player little rewards throughout the entire game so as to effectively stamp out the possibility of frustration.

It’s an incredibly elementary approach to game design, but it’s working for me so far.

As of writing this, I have had firsthand encounters with 2 major supervillains of Batman’s rogue’s gallery:

The Scarecrow, and Bane.

The developers take on Scarecrow was mighty impressive.

Both the level design and his costume for his sequence reflect a definite Freddy Krueger-esque sensibility, but given the seedier nature of Arkham Asylum’s art design, I feel it works very well.

Ninja + Freddy Krueger + Batman Begins Scarecrow + Psycho Mantis = Arkham Asylum Scarecrow.

From a gameplay standpoint, I found this “boss fight” (wasn’t really a fight…) to be quite entertaining.

Shifting the game into 2-D sidescrolling mode so as to allow for more streamlined movement and coordination really worked, and I applaud the efforts of the developers.

Bane, on the other hand, was a fun battle on a visceral level, however the comic fan inside me was kind of miffed by his brutish persona.

Bane as envisioned by the marketing department of the UFC...

As a kid that grew up reading Knightfall, Bane has a special place in my heart as one of my favorite Batman villains, and yet every time he’s used in media other than the comics, his character is grossly misinterpreted.

Um... No. Just, no...

Bane isn’t a massive brute or meathead, he’s a cunning and wily villain that could be called Batman’s equal on almost every level.

Oh well, my inner-comic dork’s objections aside, I’m happy that Arkham Asylum took a few seconds to at least explain why Bane suddenly went retard, not to mention Hulk-ed out beyond the realm of believability.

Essentially, Bane serves as key element to the game’s plot, not as a mastermind, or even hired hand; but as an instrument forcibly implemented by the combined will’s of The Joker and a mysterious Dr. Young.

From what I know at the 4 hour mark, the plot involves Joker using Dr. Young to extract and deconstruct the Venom Derivative from Bane, which they then mutate and enhance to create a more powerful Titan Formula which causes people to Hulk Out.

Basically, Joker plans to use the Titan Formula to create an army of Hulk-ed Out thugs to let loose on Gotham.

It’s kind of stupid, in a Silver Age comic-y sort of way, but the real experience of a game is playing it, and the minute to minute experience of Arkham Asylum thus far goes a long way towards making up for a slightly retarded plot.

Anyway, I’ve said about as much as I feel I can about Arkham Asylum for now.

I will say this though:

The combat system is a little simplistic for my Devil May Cry trained thumbs, but it’s rewarding in a “look what I just did with 2 buttons!” sort of way.

Now excuse me, I’m gonna’ go beat the shit out of some more Bat-Villains…

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Batman Games and the Azn Badger


Today, after more than a month since my last PS3 game purchase, (Demon’s Souls) I went out and bought Batman: Arkham Asylum.

This one has been a long time coming for me.

As you may have guessed, the Azn Badger is very much a fan of the Batman.

The comics, the animated series, the first 2 and last 2 live-action movies, (those other ones never happened…)  if it’s Batman related media; I’ve probably seen it or want to see it.

In my eyes, few characters in the realm of fiction better represent the embodiment of a persona crafted through sheer will than Batman.

He’s a man that chooses to be what he feels he must, and that simple element of his character has led to a seemingly neverending stream of great stories surrounding him.

It hasn’t however, led to all that many videogames that represented him all that well.

 

Batman Begins: The only game where seasoned criminals are paralyzed with fear at the sight of moving boxes.

The Tim Burton Batman movie-tie on the NES, and the Batman Returns game on the Super NES stand as my favorite Batman games of yesteryear, however aside from borrowing the sounds and aesthetic of their respective movies, neither really made use of the character of Batman in their gameplay.

The NES game was a handsome and vaguely Ninja Gaiden-esque shooter/platformer that still receives acclaim to this day.

It also has quite possibly the most awesome, and totally fucked up endings to a Batman story ever in the history of everything:

The Batman Returns game was essentially a sidescrolling beat ’em up with a few extra bells and whistles in the form of a mildly expanded repertoire of moves, (including being able to throw dudes into the background scenery!) but other than that; was little more than standard genre fare.

 

Pictured: The coolest element of Batman Returns - slamming 2 clowns faces together for twice the pwnage.

I love both of these games, and find them to be quite fun in their own right; (especially Batman Returns, which I own to this day) however I have to admit, neither game really feels like a Batman game should.

In the comics, Batman never jumped around giant factories with a laser gun strapped to this forearm.

 

Hmm, I don't remember this in the comics...

In the comics, Batman never walked from left to right and beat the piss out of a clone army of clowns for hours at a time.

 

Although I must admit, such a comic would definitely be on my "must read" list. Man, I hate clowns...

In the comics, the detective work to beating up of goons ratio is generally 2:1.

Let’s get one thing clear:  Batman is really fuckin’ strong.

Batman has told villains on numerous occasions that he could “crush their head like an egg,” and for all intents and purposes, I don’t doubt that fact.

Batman is supposed to be a man trained to the peak of human ability, so I would think crushing a human skull with his bare hands would be well within his capability.

When you think about it from that perspective, it’s hard to envision all that many people that could take a patented Batman Sucker Punch (TM) and not go right to sleep.

 

Pictured: The Batman Sucker Punch (TM) in all it's glory.

Though in many ways it might be a product of the unique and condensed structure of American comic book storytelling, I’ve always thought that Batman’s penchant for separating bad guys from their senses within a panel or 2 to be well in line with the facets of his character.

Batman is not a character that engages in dramatic and overblown, 5 minute kung fu brawls with his opponents, he is a silent predator that, more often than not, lays people out rather than battling them directly.

Although far be it from me to say that I don’t appreciate the few instances in which ‘ole Bats gets dragged into an all out slug fest:

 

Even though this was intensely one-sided, and I never got to read the rematch, this still ranks as one of most awesome moments in Batman history.

This is what initially drew me to Batman: Arkham Asylum.

Yeah, it’s been critically acclaimed up the ying yang.

Yeah, it’s gameplay is supposed to be a MetroidVania* mish-mash of backtracking heavy awesomeness.

Yeah, it even has always awesome Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill reprising their roles from Batman Animated series.

 

"Always awesome" or not, Father Time has officially backed his truck up over Mark Hamill's face and taken the mother of all corn-filled shits on it for good measure

While I obviously don’t discount any of the above, as I did in fact just buy the game today; what really got me hyped for this game ever since it came out, was that most of the reviews I was reading about placed a great deal of emphasis on the fact that in this game, you really feel like Batman.

Everything from the exploration of the detective mode, to the stealth and counter heavy combat system has been said to reflect the Batman sensibilities we all know and love to a T.

Try saying that about Batman: Vengeance, or Dark Tomorrow, or any of the dozens Bat-Failures in videogame history.

 

I like how me and my friend used to pretend that this was fun... Man I was a dumb kid.

Every kid that loves Batman has wanted to be him at some point in their life.

We do it because goddamn it, he’s just a man.

Aside from the billionaire fortune, gadgets, and unlimited resources, at his core; Batman is just a man that woke up one day and committed himself to being Batman.

Even if it’s total bullshit, and has a 99% chance of never coming true, at some point in our lives, even if just for a moment; we trick ourselves into thinking that with enough time and dedication, we could be Batman if we really tried.

 

And there's kids like this that are destined to be loser-ly for the rest of their days. Seriously, who in their right mind would want to be Robin?

While I’ve long since grown beyond thinking that, it doesn’t stop me from thinking that playing a game like Arkham Asylum could make me relive those feelings in some capacity.

As of writing this, I haven’t actually started the game, but I was feeling nostalgic, so I figured a little Bat-Ruminating was in order.

Anyway, here’s hoping the game lives up to my insanely high standards!

*It should be noted that I am not a fan of Metroid, nor am I a fan of the Symphony of the Night style Castlevania games.  This could lead to some issues in terms of my overall enjoyment of Arkham Asylum, however I am hopeful my experience will lean towards the contrary.

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The Top 10 Runner-Ups of the Azn Badger’s Top 25 NES Tracks, Part II!

After an entire week’s worth of posts, today we’ve finally reached the conclusive, ultimate and last post in the Azn Badger’s Top 25 NES Tracks event!

Today we’ll be unveiling the Top 5 of the Top 10 Runner-Ups, so get ready kids, ’cause we’re:

*Ahem!* Pardon me, I found myself suddenly overcome by meatheaded-ness…

Anyway, let’s get down to the Top 5 Runner-Ups!:

#5. Double Dragon 2: The Revenge

“Theme of The Double Dragons”


As mentioned in the Top 25 NES Tracks list, as well as numerous other articles posted on this blog, Double Dragon is THE SHIT.

Pictured: Watered-Down Shit...

I’ve loved Double Dragon series ever since I first played the second one with my brother in my early childhood, and it’s a game series that I continue to treasure to this day.

Chief among my reasons for loving the Double Dragon series, is of course the fact that it possessed one of the most memorable and enduring theme musics in gaming history.

It’s a tune that’s been used in nearly every game in the series, with each iteration making slight changes to the table.

 

*Sigh* And then there's Double Dragon V...

While Double Dragon 2 is definitely my favorite game in the series, I feel I should go on record and say that my selection of it’s version of theme for this list added no bias to my decision.

Believe me when I say this, I went out of my way to listen to all of the NES versions of the Double Dragon Theme back to back just to come to this conclusion.

The original version was too uppity for my tastes, feeling more appropriate as the background music for the 2 player game mode than a theme music for a pair of characters.

The version used in Double Dragon III: The Sacred Stones was extremely well-composed, with the most intricate instrumentation of the 3 NES versions of the theme, but honestly I felt that this resulted in it having a somewhat cluttered and “loud” sound to it that was a little bit too overbearing.

Unlike the game, which as you can see, was kind of bare...

The version featured in Double Dragon 2: The Revenge, the slowest and most laid back version of the Double Dragon Theme on the NES, and yet it feels most right.

Unlike the original version that feels too fast, the Double Dragon 2 version of the theme has a more subtle instrumentation to it, but as a result it sounds the most like a theme music for Billy and Jimmy Lee as opposed to a single scene in the game.

 

Congratulations Billy and Jimmy Lee, you have awesome theme music!

Anyway, those are my thoughts, hopefully they make sense…

#4. Journey To Silius

“Stage 1”


Journey To Silius is yet another Sunsoft game.

More specifically, it’s a Sunsoft game I’ve never played.

In fact, the first time I ever heard of Journey To Silius was less than a year ago, when I stumbled across a video about produced by LordkaT for his Until We Win series.

Pictured: LordkaT, in all his glory!

Speaking exclusively from what I saw in that video, I thought the game looked pretty fun.

The jumping mechanic, as described by Lordkat, sounded somewhat Castlevania-ish to me though, so chances are I’d probably hate it if I played it…

Anyway, while watching that video of the game, I happened to notice some of the background music playing over Lordkat’s narration.

While he is known to sometimes use music tracks from other games in his videos, I obviously didn’t recognize the music, resulting in me Youtube-ing the Journey To Silius soundtrack to find out what it was.

Sure enough, it was the “Stage 1” theme.

While this is indeed an amazing piece of NES music, I felt it inappropriate to list among the Top 25 due to my lack of history with the game.

Even so, making the Top 5 of the Runner-Ups despite me never having played the game is still quite an accomplishment.

#3. Mega Man 2

“Dr. Wily’s Castle 1”


Among Mega Man music, this one is my #2.

#1 was my pick for the Best NES Track EVER, as well as part of one of my favorite game series ever, so I feel it goes without saying that being my #2 of the Mega Man series is not far from being #2 in all of 8-bit music.

 

Lookit 'im... Bein' all smug n'shit...

This track was, in many ways, the reason why I instigated the “1 track per franchise” for this list.

Even so, though I like both tracks just about equally; deep down I knew which is one was better, and therefore most appropriate to represent Mega Man on the Top 25.

That being said, “Dr. Wily’s Castle” is an exhilarating piece of game music that was incredibly complex it’s time, and still holds up to this day as one of the better gaming compositions throughout history.

#2. Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest

“Bloody Tears”


Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest, like Journey To Silius, is another game on this list that I have never played.

That’s actually kind of interesting to note, as back in the day Simon’s Quest was regarded as one of the finest games on the NES.

I can still recall my one issue of Nintendo Power and how it sang the praises of Castlevania 2, even going so far as it award it the “Nester” award for Best Graphics and Sound of 1988.

 

Pictured: Nester. Damn I feel old for knowing this shit...

Despite actually wanting to play Castlevania 2 in my youth, like many great games back in the day; I ended up passing it over in favor of repeatedly renting Snow Bros. every weekend…

Regardless, sometime in high school I took the time to check out the soundtrack of Simon’s Quest, and lo and behold, there was gold in them there hills!

While the game might have a bit too much of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sound to it, (understandable, seeing as Konami was cranking out those games like crazy back in the day) like any Castlevania, it truly has an awesome soundtrack.

“Bloody Tears” was my favorite track I ran across in the soundtrack for Castlevania 2.

I have no idea what point of the game it’s used for, but it’s a simultaneously energetic and haunting tune that was this close to usurping the original “Vampire Killer’s” position on the Top 25.

 

Thank you hipster doofus, for providing us with a visual indication of exactly how close "this close" means. Douchebag...

Like Journey To Silius though, I simply couldn’t justify placing it on the list without ever having actually experienced the track in-game.

#1. Ninja Gaiden

“Ending Theme”


Is it just me or do the Ninja Gaiden games on the NES all have fuckin’ brilliant ending themes?

Ninja Gaiden 3 had a pretty decent ending theme, which was appropriate given that it was a “pretty decent” game.

Beautiful? Yes. Fun? Yes. Half as good as what came before it? Not a chance.

Ninja Gaiden 2’s ending has the distinction of holding the #2 spot on my Top 25 NES Tracks list.

And the original Ninja Gaiden’s “Ending Theme” gets the #1 spot among the Top 10 Runner-Ups!

The composers over at Tecmo deserve a pat on the back, ’cause damn they did a great job.

The “Ending Theme” of the original Ninja Gaiden was a fantastic piece of music that I only recently rediscovered.

I heard it when I was very young, and I remember liking it, but for whatever reason I simply didn’t remember it.

Boy am I glad I did, ’cause it is one hell of a roller coaster ride of 8-bit goodness.

As much an action piece as it is an ending track, the “The Ending Theme” of Ninja Gaiden is a terrific composition that really gets your blood pumping.

 

Uh.... Ryu Hayabusa everyone!

Honestly, if not for Ninja Gaiden 2 having a slightly better ending track, this tune would’ve made the Top 25 in a heartbeat.

Damn sequels… Bein’ all better n’shit…

Well folks, thus concludes the Azn Badger’s list(s) of the Best NES Tracks!

Tune in tomorrow for… Something other than NES music!

Seriously man, I’m done with Nintendo music for awhile

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Azn Badger’s Top 25 NES Tracks, #10-6

Hold onto your butts folks, we’ve finally made it to the Top 10 of the Top 25 NES Tracks!

Rest assured, while many of the entries on this list have been somewhat obscure, expect the majority of the remainder to consist of old favorites and themes from game series that are still going strong to this day.

That being said, let’s get to the first half of the Top 10!:

#10. Golgo 13: Top Secret Episode

“Golgo 13 Theme”


Remember when I said that you’d be familiar with all of the games in the Top 10?


Golgo 13: Top Secret Episode is a Vic Tokai espionage/action game based upon the massively epic manga series by Takao Saito, Golgo 13.

While I could bore you with a detailed description of the backstory of said manga, I find it’s easier to sum things up by saying this:

Golgo 13 is THE SHIT, and could give ROBERT FUCKING MULDOON a run for his money in terms of manliness and overall badassery.

Trust me, he’s seriously that fucking pimp…

 

 

THAT FUCKING PIMP.

 

Anyway, the NES version of Golgo 13, was neat game that I loved to play in my youth.

It was a serious game, with an involving and suitably “adult” storyline that really made you feel cool to be a part of, especially as a kid.

Basically, it felt good to play a game that had enough confidence in my intelligence to talk to me like a big kid and give me objectives that felt a little more mature than say, saving the goddamn princess.

 

*Sigh* Really?...

 

Half of the fun I had with Golgo 13, came in the form of the game’s theme music, which conveniently enough, could be brought up at any time simply by hitting the pause button!

Being as Golgo 13 is essentially the Japanese equivalent to James Bond, (only 10 times more badass an amoral) it’s only appropriate that his theme music in the game be a rousing and shlocky tune that would be right at home on a Ventures album.

Not only that, the Japanese version of the title screen has lyrics that flash on the screen in time to music, karaoke style!

I can read about 95% of it, maybe I should try and sing the fuckin’ song someday…

#9. Castlevania

“Vampire Killer”

I’ve never really been a Castlevania kid.

While I love Konami games, particularly of the 8 and 16-bit eras, Castlevania was perhaps the one flagship title in their library that I never really cared much for.

I never liked how the jumping system was heavily momentum based, so much so that mid-air adjustments were nigh impossible.

I hated the cheap, pitfall deaths that were just a constantly spawning flying medusa head away.

 

Oh you fuckin' bitch...

 

And I suppose it doesn’t help either that I don’t care much for Gothic art and design.

On the NES, the only Castlevania I ever played was the very first.

While I ended up walking away from the game feeling it was alright, but not great, the music was, and is, something that will always stick with me.

The Castlevania games are known throughout gaming circles for their incredible soundtracks, and rightfully so.

While many of the compositions of the early games have since gone on to be remixed, and usually improved, my favorite track from the original NES game was the first stage theme, “Vampire Killer.”

“Vampire Killer” survives to this day as the single most prominent theme in the series.

I love it’s light-hearted yet spooky feel, as right off the bat it cues you in on the fact that:

 

 

"This game is gonna' be all horror n'shit, but don't worry, it's still an action game!"

 

It’s a wonderful, timeless piece of gaming music history, and though I still don’t care much for Castlevania, any Castlevania; it still deserves it’s spot on this list.

#8. Super Mario Bros.

“World 1-1”


What’s this?

The Mario theme, placed at #8 on a Top 25 list!?

BLASPHEMY.

Yes, I’ll admit it, I’m surprised it’s ranked as low as it is too.

Truth of the matter is, I knew it had to go somewhere on here, but I ended up arbitrarily placing it “somewhere” in the Top 10 to satisfy my conscience, while at once ensuring that my true favorites got the justice they deserved.

The Super Mario Bros. Theme is game music.

Plain and simple.

It’s one of the most memorable and enduring arrangements in all of gaming history, and no force on Earth, no matter how hipster or counter-culture, could keep it from receiving a spot on any gaming music Top 10 list.

 

"Yeah, I don't care much for Mario, too mainstream. I only play obscure bullshit like Faria and Faxanadu... On my original NES... On a TV from 1982... While wearing a shirt from 1986..."

 

Mario games are something that I’d like to think can appeal to anyone.

They’re fun, straightforward, and typically blessed with a difficulty level that is appropriately challenging, but never punishingly so.

While I’ve always liked Mario games, in truth I never really played them that much.

My brother stomped the shit out of pretty much all of them up to Super Mario 64, but despite living in a household that owned most of said games, I spent most of my time playing other stuff.

 

 

Pictured: Other stuff.

 

I suppose I was too into beat ’em ups in my youth to take the time to sit down and work my way through the platforming goodness of Mario.

Anyway, there’s nothing I can say about “World 1-1” that hasn’t been said, so I won’t try.

I can’t say I fully agree with my placement of this particular track, but I’m happy with my Top 5, so I figure it all balances out.

#7. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Arcade Game

“Technodrome Stage Theme”


Okay, so we’re all in agreement that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was the shit back in the early 90’s, right?

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Arcade Game, was the NES version of the Konami Ninja Turtles arcade game found in virtually every arcade/pizza joint in America.

 

 

If I were very rich, and very stupid, I would own one of these...

 

While it lacked the graphical polish of the arcade version, much like in the case of Turtles in Time; I’ve always maintained that the console version was superior.

Aside from including 2 extra stages and unique boss characters, the console version also had better controls and a more manageable and less “quarter-munching” difficulty level.

Ninja Turtles 2 was easily one of the most played games in me and my brother’s NES library.

It was fun, it was a Ninja Turtles product, it had “two player simultaneous gameplay,” and did I mention it was the NINJA FUCKING TURTLES!!?

I remember bringing Ninja Turtles 2 over to my friend’s houses, playing it all fuckin’ day, and then sitting down and watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Secret of the Ooze over and over again until my mom picked me up.

 

 

Y'know, back in the 5 minutes or so we all thought this guy was the coolest thing EVER.

 

THAT, my friends, is what childhood was all about.

The Technodrome Stage Theme” is not only an incredible, and undeniably “Konami” piece of music, it was also something that was quite elusive to me in my youth.

Possessed of a rockin’ and moody quality that really jumps out to you as “last level” music, the “Technodrome Stage Theme” was a track that I didn’t get to hear that often because, well, Ninja Turtles 2 was actually kind of a hard game.

In many ways, me having only had a few opportunities to hear this track in my youth played a huge role in elevating this track to such a high spot on the list.

Oh yeah, that and the fact that it’s a fucking awesome piece of pulse-pounding, pizza-munching, teenage-mutant-ninja action music!

Turtle Power FOREVER.

#6. Blaster Master

“Stage 1 Theme”


After 3 of the bottom 5 of the tracks on this list came from Sunsoft products, did you really think there wouldn’t be at least one more game from them on here?

It’s true, I dig Sunsoft music, and when it comes to Sunsoft’s music library, I can think of no other game to better represent them than Blaster Master.

 

 

*Ahem!* That would be, "Master Blaster."

 

Blaster Master was a game I used to play at my barber’s house.

No, not the one that gave me a Nintendo Power, a different one.

Like most of the games on this list, I never really got anywhere in Blaster Master, but fuck man, I really wish I had…

I enjoyed every minute I played of the tank-hopping, grenade tossing action of the first stage in Blaster Master, and as always; a lot of my enjoyment came from the background music.

The “Stage 1 Theme” of Blaster Master is a terrific piece of music that really succeeds in capturing the colorful and adventurous spirit of the game and it’s setting.

It really feels like music you’d hear in a weird sci-fi world while patrolling the forests in a giant tank in search of your pet frog.

 

 

Hah! Thought I was kidding about the plot, didn't you?

 

That last sentence didn’t really make a whole lot of sense, so let me rephrase:

The “Stage 1 Theme” of Blaster Master is awesome, and it makes me smile, so therefore it is #6.

Well, folks, that does it for the first half of the Top 10!

Tomorrow we’ll finally be wrapping things up with the remaining Top 5, as well as the announcement of the #1 NES Track!

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