Azn Badger's Blog

What About the Lysine Contingency…?

Used Game Store Grand Opening Today!

Pictured: My buddy posing with a Halo dude. No, I don't ACTUALLY know Wes Studi. One can dream though...

Today I was fortunate to have attended the grand opening of a new used game store in my neighborhood.

Technically it was actually re-opening of a currently existing store, but in all fairness the changes made to the building were extensive to the point of being a brand new facility.

The store was called Game Gurus, and to my surprise; they went out of their way to throw a little party for their grand opening.

There were free hot dogs and popcorn, 50 cent games for sale in the parking lot, (mostly crap, but even so, 50 cents for a 360 game is pretty good regardless) and a raffle giveaway every 10 minutes.

For what essentially amounts to a mom and pop videogame store, I was amazed by the great lengths that the owners went to in making a good first impression.

While I was mulling about in front of the store, rooting through the cheap games my friend and I, who shall henceforth be referred to as Wes Studi; happened to notice an enthusiastic fellow customer perusing the wares while wearing what appeared to be a ODST getup.

Wes Studi insisted I take a photo of the 2 of them together, and as you can see at the top of this post; I did just that.

For a guy that’s not really up on cosplay, I have to say; they guy had some pretty snazzy digs.

Seriously man, the guy had some sort of microphone system built into the helmet that made him sound all loud and bell diver-ish.

Anyway, as impressive as the outdoor festivities were, the actual store itself was something to behold.

Though the shelves and inventory were arranged much like a typical Gamestop, there were a lot of little bells and whistles in Game Gurus that will no doubt lead to the risk of theft; but were nevertheless enticing to potential customers like myself.

For instance, throughout the store there were several monitors hung from the ceilings, each with a playable game console and single controller hanging from the ceiling like a mobile.

I saw lots of people messing around with these demo rigs, and it put a smile on my face to see little kids stand on their tippy-toes to try and get a grip on the dangling controllers.

In addition to this, there was also free to play, 2 player MAME arcade rig with Street Fighter Alpha 2 loaded on it.

I played Wes Studi a few times, and though my joysticks’ kick buttons weren’t functioning, I had a lot of fun.

By the way, I won every round.

*ANYWAY* On our way out, Wes Studi and I also took a minute to check out the “back room” of the store, where they store not porn; but rather a cache of about 6 Xbox 360’s running Black Ops, Marvel vs. Capcom 3, and a few other shooters.

From what I understood, all of these rigs are free to play on the weekends, which in my opinion; is a great gesture to make the store out to be a neighborhood hang out for the kids.

Despite all the fun toys scattered about, the one thing that made me think to myself, “I might have to come back here sometime;” was the fact that the inventory was pretty solid.

While obscure consoles like the Turbografx 16 and Wonderswan weren’t on display, pretty much every major American console from the 8-bit era up was for sale, along with countless games to go with them.

Best of all, they had seemed to have a fairly robust selection of Super NES titles, with many of the rarer titles coming with their original packaging.

While I saw some extraordinarily rare stuff there, Wes Studi and I both ended up walking away with pretty basic stuff.

Having no job will do that to yah’…

Wes picked himself up a copy of Eternal Darkness, Mega Man X: Command Mission, and Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles, while I got Pitfall: The_Mayan_Adventure, Gradius III, and X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse at a special 2-for-1 price.

Nothing special, but I saved a few bucks and walked away happy regardless.

All in all, I was wholeheartedly impressed with all the love and hard work that obviously went into the new Game Gurus store.

I sincerely thank the owners for their efforts, not just to make a good neighborhood store; but to reach out to the kids in the area and provide a fun place for them to hang out.

Back in my day, if I wanted to go to an arcade my only option was a laundromat with Primal Rage and Area 51.

Given that it’s within walking distance of my house, and the fact that Pink Gorilla’s inventory has been kind of iffy in the Super NES area as of late; I could see myself doing a lot of my retro game shopping at Game Gurus from now on.

That’s not a knock on Pink Gorilla, ’cause don’t get me wrong, I love them; but I’m jus’ sayin’ is all…

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Azn Badger’s Top 25 NES Tracks, #15-11

After 2 days and 10 tracks of preliminaries, today we finally get to the real meat of the Top 25 NES Tracks!

That’s right folks, today we’ve reached: THE MIDDLE-TIER.

 

Pictured: The Middle-Tier.

 

That being said, what say we get to the crazy-awesome music, eh?:

#15. Shadowgate

“Main Theme of Shadowgate”


Shadowgate represents one of the very few point-and-click adventures that I ever really got into.

You remember that one scene in the movie Big where the young Tom Hanks character gets pwned by the wizard for attempting a seemingly logical course of action?

Hey, I would've said "melt wizard" too if I were playing...

Well, for the most part; that scene was indicative of my experience with adventure games as a child.

In fact, pretty much every graphic adventure game made prior to the revolutionary LucasArts SCUMM interface was simply too cryptic for me to grasp.

Shadowgate, while indeed released sometime after Maniac Mansion and it’s SCUMM system, was a graphic and text based adventure game that really drew me in, clunky interface and all.

I find it's always a good idea to "Hit" EVERYTHING. Y'know, just in case...

While most of my memories of the game were of dieing seemingly unfair, and unwarranted; deaths, I honestly never felt any frustration over this.

Shadowgate was a game that set out to be creepy and moody, and in the eyes of my very young self; it accomplished this in spades.

Playing a huge part in this accomplishment, was of course the haunting soundtrack of the game.

While there actually weren’t that many tracks to be heard throughout the course of the game, the overarching “Main Theme” of Shadowgate was a track that you never got tired of.

Equal parts foreboding, energetic, and mystifying; the “Main Theme” of Shadowgate is a wonderful piece of gaming music that, once heard, will never be forgotten.

Especially when you’ve died to it 40 billion times…

40. BILLION. TIMES.

#14. Super Dodge Ball

“Doppleganger Match”


Super Dodge Ball is yet another SUPREMELY BADASS effort from the folks over at Technos.

Like many games on this list, Super Dodge ball was a game that my brother used to rent quite frequently.

I remember getting my ass pwned by him in Bean Ball games over and over and over again, largely because, like any good older brother; he never taught me how to do the Super Shots.

Kind of hard to tell from the pic, but those 2 guys in the air? Yeah, they just got knocked across the ENTIRE FUCKING PLANET with a dodge ball.

Anyway, Super Dodge Ball was a crazy-fun game, that while a little bit too easy for it’s own good, played host to one of the coolest final battles in NES history.

Essentially, the final match of the game has your team USA pitted against the COMMUNIST and therefore, EVIL dodge ball team from the USSR.

After a (presumably) epic match, the sky suddenly turns a devilish shade of purple while the court is occupied by dopplegangers of your team!

EPIC.

Despite the game being based around fucking dodge ball, for whatever reason I thought this final battle was just about the coolest thing ever when I first saw my brother get to it.

Maybe it’s just ’cause I was there to see and listen to it with my brother, but this match, and this piece of music will always stick with me as one of my favorite NES boss themes.

#13. Bionic Commando

“Area 1 Theme”


Bionic Commando was a great ass game that I wish I had gotten a chance to have played more of as a kid.

I loved the main character’s design, and his bionic arm, so much so that I used to draw him on my place mat in elementary school.

No, you don’t get a pic for that one…

The problem was, I only ever got to play the game when I was at my neighbors house across the street, however most of the time I’d get kicked off the NES so they could play Sid Meier’s Pirates.

Arr!!! Shiver me timbers! Yo, ho! A Pirate's life for... I fuckin' hate pirates...

That being said, I never really got much of a chance to get very far in Bionic Commando.

Thankfully, all I had to do was play the first stage to hear the best piece of music in the whole game.

“Area 1” is a very primitive sounding, (even by 8-bit standards) but extremely well composed piece of music.

With a military-ish cadence, and a heroic melody, “Area 1” is a terrific track that is well-deserving of the #13 spot on this list, as well as the honor of being considered the theme music for the entire Bionic Commando franchise.

#12. Adventure Island 2

“Boss Theme”


C’mon now, don’t tell me you thought I’d leave out Master Higgins?

Adventure Island was one of my favorite game series as a kid, and in my opinion, 2 was easily the best in the series.

As previously mentioned, the “Boss Theme” of Adventure Island 2 is fuckin’ badass, so much so that it got my nod as being one of the Best Boss Musics in gaming.

That being said, among purely 8-bit competition, the “Boss Theme” of Adventure Island 2 is definitely deserving of a place on the list of the Top 25 Best NES Tracks.

I love the build up of this track, how it starts out slow, then explodes into a frenetic cacophony of kooky, island-y badassery.

It’s the perfect piece of music for killing giant plants and or crabs to.

Or better yet, CONQUER THE WORLD TO!

#11. The Legend of Zelda

“Overworld Theme”


*Ahem!* Fanboys… You may suck it.

That’s right kids, the “Overworld Theme” from The Legend of Zelda didn’t crack the Top 10!

While it may seem blasphemous to some, bear in mind; this is my list, and as such, it caters to my particular tastes.

Pictured: My Particular Tastes.

That being said, I didn’t place Zelda and Final Fantasy where I did for the sake of being cruel, or worse yet; “counter-culture,” I simply did so because there’s a shit ton of other music tracks out there that I genuinely hold in higher esteem.

Now that I got that out of the way, let me say this:

The “Overworld Theme” is a beautiful piece of music.

Despite it’s 8-bit nature, the “Zelda Theme” has gone on to grow well beyond the realm game music and become widely regarded as a classic tune worthy of universal praise.

While all that may be true, it doesn’t change the fact that virtually every memory I have of The Legend of Zelda is a bad one.

Getting lost, killed, and just plain frustrated was the order of the day just about every time I played Zelda, and I’m sorry to say, it’s left me negatively biased in regards to it.

The “Zelda Theme” is a great piece of music, that I listen to on my Ipod every now and again, and enjoy a great deal.

Unfortunately, it’s also an older arrangement of the 8-bit days, and as such, it leaves a little to be desired in terms of the fidelity of the music.

While skillfully composed, the “Zelda Theme” still hasn’t really lived up to it’s potential in my eyes, and has yet to have a proper rendition to capture the full glory of the music.

And that, my friends, is why the “Overworld Theme” gets dumped in the #11 spot on this list.

Oh yeah, that and there’s exactly 10 other pieces of music I think are better.

Duh.

Well folks, today we cleared the middle-tier of the list!

Tomorrow we’ll be cracking the Top 10, and with 2 classic tunes of gaming history already ranked unusually low,  there’s no telling what’s coming up next!

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The Best Track in the Game #6: The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

Yes, that is in fact a WWF European Championship belt. Hey, everybody needs a hobby.

After yesterday’s Zelda rant, I figured I should follow thing’s up with a Best Track in the Game of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.

A Link to the Past was the only Zelda game released on the Super NES, and with good reason.

For Zelda fans, everything they remembered and loved about the original NES Zelda, as well as a host of new improvements and innovations that have since become adopted as standard elements in nearly every Zelda game since.

Despite the fact that the publication was owned and operated by Nintendo, it’s worth noting that Nintendo Power magazine had A Link to the Past rated as their #1 game for no less than 5 consecutive years.

That’s roughly a whole console generation to you and me.

Well... Maybe just me.

A Link to the Past was one of those games that I just didn’t get.

As a child, I played A Link to the Past exclusively at my Double Dragon neighbor’s house, thusly placing me in a positive and energetic environment to play the game, while at the same time limiting my actual hands-on face time with it.

As a result, I didn’t end up hating A Link to the Past the same way I did The Legend of Zelda, and Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link.

Don’t get me wrong, the game still made me feel dumb, just not to the same extent as those that came before it.

I don't think this guy needed help to feel dumb. God rest his soul.

We already went over that yesterday though, so for today we’re gonna’ keep things on a positive note.

For the most part.

Improvements to the gameplay of A Link to the Past included a greatly expanded inventory of unique items and equipment, including the Pegasus Boots for running, and the wicked-awesome Hookshot for, well, hooking and shooting things.

Yeah, even I thought the Hookshot was pretty pimp.

Not as cool as the motherfuckin' Sky Hook though!

Like previous games in the series, secret passages and sealed off areas were scattered across the map.

This time around however, much of the player’s ability to explore the environment was largely tied to the abilities given to them by various items they acquire throughout the adventure.

For instance, those black stones that I mentioned in yesterday’s post, were only able to be picked up upon acquiring the Titan’s Mitt in one of the games earlier dungeons.

8TH. FUCKING. DUNGEON

Whatever man, fuck you.  I beat the game eventually…

In addition to the new equipment, the gameplay was also enhanced  by the expansion of Zelda’s famous dungeons into multi-tiered structures with numerous floors.

This element of the gameplay not only increased the overall size of the game, (which was already made larger by the increased storage capacity of the Super NES’ cartridges) it also had a hand in enhancing the complexity of some puzzles.

A common element to many puzzles in A Link to the Past involved dropping down to lower floors in the dungeon from specific locations to find otherwise unreachable rooms or treasures.

In many cases, both as a child and just recently when I finally finished the game, I found that my simple, non-Zelda attuned mind had difficulty memorizing the layouts of multi-tiered dungeons, largely due to the top-down view.

First screen of the game: "Holy shit! I'm lost!"

From a bird’s eye view, room layouts become familiar and easy to remember, however when it comes time to connect those rooms into a coherent, interconnected whole, I just couldn’t do it.

I know, I know, “Use the map dumbass.”

Well, for your information, I did, and it helped sometimes, but not when I got lost.

Speaking of “lost,” did I mention that A Link to the Past introduced the popular Zelda concept of “The Dark World?”

It's okay, I don't know what the hell this is either. It's got that one dude from Scarface in it though, so yay!

The Dark World in A Link to the Past, was a unique concept that took the classic overworld map of Hyrule used in the previous games in the series, and effectively doubled it in size.

You see, a key element in the storyline of A Link to the Past involves Hyrule’s resident douchebag, Ganon, and his ownership of a “Golden Power” that created a twisted parallel world.

This parallel world became layered on top of the original Hyrule, and could be accessed by way of numerous portals scattered across the map, as well as through the use of the awesome Magic Mirror.

Magic Mirror, more like Magic "Get The Fuck Out of Jail Free" Mirror. Bless you Nintendo...

By giving the player two maps that they could transport between at will, Nintendo succeeded in not only creating a massive game world, but also in pissing me off by creating various puzzles and secrets that could only be solved or discovered through careful observation and manipulation of how the two worlds connected.

Trust me, it always sucks to see something cool just down the hill, only to find that it’s inaccessible unless you jump back and forth between the two worlds and put your non-linear thinking cap on.

My non-linear brain gets stumped by “creamy” or “chunky.”

SUPER CHUNK!!!? Man, now I'll never be able to decide...

As icing on the Zelda cake, A Link to the Past featured a wonderfully composed and technically advanced soundtrack for it’s time.

Koji Kondo, the legend that brought us nearly every major Mario and Zelda soundtrack, served as A Link to the Past’s composer.

... Okay, apparently he's also a fuckin' Nazi. Go figure.

Like many of the video games from major franchises of the time, A Link to the Past’s soundtrack was a thematic mix of old and new.

Many of the tracks and audio cues (I.E. the “item get” and “secret uncovered” cues) present in the previous games were remixed to great effect.

Fortunately, Mr. Kondo also succeeded in creating a number of brand new tracks that managed to live up to expectations, with some, like the Hyrule Castle theme, being utilized in future games, thusly securing their place in thematic history.

That being said, I can’t believe we’re already there, but it’s time for the Azn Badger to reveal that the Best Track in the Game is

Overworld Theme (Dark World Version)

Why?

*Warning!* Cock-sucking up ahead! *Warning!*

The Dark World theme is the Armored Armadillo stage theme of A Link to the Past.

You listen to it a fuck ton of times throughout the game, and yet you relish every moment of it.

Me saying that about a piece of music featured in a game I mostly hate, speaks volumes as to the quality of this track.

I love that it has an element of severity, of, dare I say it, “darkness,” that seems to resonate from the faux midi strings.

The Dark World Theme is a terrific action and adventure track that goes together all too well with the bizarre and hostile landscape it inhabits.

End cock-sucking.

Runner-Up:

Overworld Theme

Based on it’s pedigree, most would expect me to declare the Super NES version of The Overworld Theme as The Best Track in the Game for A Link to the Past.

However, in my opinion, I feel that this particular remix is a little weak when compared to some other versions.

The original Overworld Theme was tinny and hollow, but it had a strength to it, a soul, that made it timeless.

This version feels a little too “pokey” to me, like it really is just the theme music of a little boy traipsing through the woods on a bright sunny day.

To me, the Zelda Theme has always been about bombast and adventure, about a larger than life fantasy that demands a bold and powerful theme so audacious that it would sound downright ridiculous when played over anything pertaining to real life.

Unfortunately, no one told these guys.

In my eyes, the Zelda Theme has yet to be done justice, even when presented in orchestral form:

To me, this version has the appropriately “big” sound to it, however it’s conducted far too slow a pace.

It’s a wonderful composition, and many great renditions of it exist, however I feel that we have yet to see the definitive version of the Zelda Theme.

That being said, that’s all I’ve got to say about The Best Track in the Game this time around.

Have a good night watching Lost and not reading my blog.

Imma’ watch my brand spankin’ new DVD of Fire of Conscience or some shit.

Payce.

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