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The Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights, #3


Yesterday on our list of The Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights, we took our first steps into the rage inducing realm of fighting game bosses.

As mentioned previously, fighting game bosses tend to be some of the hardest challenges in all of gaming, though more often than than not this comes as a result of unfair or “cheap” elements in their design.

Whether it be by breaking the mechanics of the game, or possessing unbalanced attributes; fighting game bosses are rarely designed to function (fairly) within the established gameplay parameters of the games they reside in.

That being said, yesterday we took a look at Gill from Street Fighter III, a boss that I would personally consider to be one of the better designed bosses in all of fighting games, if not for the fact that he’s a cheating bastard that gobbles cock under the bleachers on Tuesday nights.

While I bear a great deal of animosity, or rather, straight-up HATE towards Gill, those feelings pale in comparison to those I feel for today’s entrant on our list of the Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights.

I hate Gill, but as mentioned earlier, I also respect the intelligence of his design.

#3 on our list doesn’t benefit from that luxury.

#3 is the kind of ball-stomping ass-clown that wouldn’t even get a nod from me if I saw him rescue a kitten from a burning tree.

And I fuckin’ love kittens.

#3 is the kind of unbelievably loathsome fighting game boss that only one videogame company could produce.

#3 on our list of the Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights is:

#3. Magaki – King of Fighters XI

Pictured: Kensou, standing within striking range of the mysterious Magaki.

I love their games, but goddamn does SNK know how to fuck us in the ass with bosses from the broken-as-fuck school of fighting!

Fuck that, most of SNK’s fighting game bosses didn’t just graduate from Broken-As-Fuck University, they’re fuckin’ tenured professors there!

Rage-gasm aside, Magaki is just about the motherfucking-est motherfucker I’ve ever run across in a fighting game.

I’ve beaten him before, more times than I have Gill actually; but the sheer frustration generated by every encounter was more than enough to convince me to rank him higher than the latter on this list.

While Gill is at times fair, at times borderline human; Magaki just takes the motherfuckin’ rulebook and smears pink and blue shit all over it.

Hell, that’s his M.O. for pretty much everything:

Magaki doesn’t like how his Moons Over My Hammy turned out?

Pink balls and blue floaty shit.

PINK BALLS.

Magaki gets served a tax evasion notice?

Pink balls and blue floaty shit.

BLUE FLOATY SHIT.

Should that fail, and it likely won’t, Magaki’s got his bases covered in the form of being able to neon tie-dye THE ENTIRE FUCKING screen at the drop of a hat.

Just watch this poor sap take it up the butt as he literally comes this close to besting Magaki only to have his eyes raped by the rainbow sherbet shit storm of pink and blue shit that is Magaki’s super combo:

Ouch!  No lube even….

*AHEM!* To walk into a fight with Magaki is to have your 3-on-3 fighting game instantly turned into a 3-on-1 shoot ’em up.

King of Fighters bosses often come with a write-off excuse for their extreme difficulty and cheapness due to the fact that you, the player; get to fight them with 3 characters to their 1.

Despite having 3 characters at your disposal, more often than not the balance ends up being all out of whack, with the boss being extraordinarily overpowered in every way imaginable.

King of Fighters bosses have been consistently cheap as balls since before the series was even called King of Fighters.

Fun Fact: The events of Fatal Fury actually took place during the '91 iteration of the King of Fighters tournament.

It’s a gaming tradition practically as old as Final Fantasy games having a character named “Cid.”

Fighting Magaki though, is unlike any other boss encounter in the King of Fighters series, let alone any other fighting game period.

While many King of Fighters bosses are highly mobile and make use of potent attacks designed to counter from virtually any angle, Magaki fights like fuckin’ Sagat on crack.

Nothing THIS BIG should ever be on crack.

Sagat has his high-low fireball combo, Magaki has, well, endless waves of pink balls and blue floaty shit.

Seriously man, when you fight Magaki it feels like you just stepped into a game of R-Type.

The screen is literally filled with shit to the point in which you’ll often times find yourself just throwing up your hands and saying:

“Fuck this shit! Let’s play some Street Fighter…”

Simply put, there is no “good” way to handle Magaki.

While he’s admittedly kind of Mechagodzilla like in the sense that he’s basically a slow-moving projectile platform with feeble melee skills, on every occasion you do manage to get close enough to deal damage; he’ll usually just toss you away with….. I’ll just let the picture do the talking:

EXPLODING PINK BALLS.

You can easily spend an entire battle with Magaki, that is, all 3 of your characters; without ever getting past his fruity barrage of carnage.

This would be entirely forgivable if not for the fact that SNK saw fit to grant Magaki all of the standard cheap-ass advantages they give to virtually all of their bosses.

Giving him the ability to fill the screen with projectiles would’ve been fair if not for the fact that his attributes are broken-as-fuck as well.

If he had been, say, fragile for instance; then I could’ve bit my tongue and said he was a decent boss.

But no, they gave him the ability to execute all of his moves with frame-by-frame precision and timing, and they made him absurdly powerful and durable.

Makes you just wanna' get him on the ground and do this to him!

When I finally beat Magaki for the first time, I didn’t feel any sense of pride in my achievement.

I felt like I had just lost an hour of my life to a barely decent game, and truth be told I think I actually recall saying to myself:

“Good. Now I can get on with my life and never play this shitty game ever again.”

While I actually did go back and play the game a few times here and there, rest assured, the moment King of Fighters 2002: Unlimited Match came out, I pretty much lost interest in every other game in the series outside of ’98.

Nowadays I don’t have much interest in any of them…

A bit too much of this was going on I'm afraid...

Magaki is admittedly not quite as hard as his #3 spot likely deserves, but in my mind no other fighting game boss has caused me as much frustration and borderline physical pain as he has.

During the course of our list of the Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights, I’ve stressed the fact that the best examples of genuine difficulty in boss fights are stemmed from clever and rewarding gameplay design, and not outright cheapness.

Along with Duriel from Diablo II, Magaki’s presence on this list serves as a symbol championing the power of broken game design and cheapness.

That Magaki could make me eat my words with such resounding vigor as to place him at #3 on this list is proof enough of just how motherfuckin’ cheap that pink bastard is.

In any case, here’s a video of the Apex of Pimp himself, Geese Howard; putting the hurt on Magaki as only he can:

*Gifs courtesy of Fighter’s Generation, the finest fighting game site I’ve ever known.*

Filed under: Games, The Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights, Tokusatsu, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights, #4


A recurring subject in our list of The Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights thus far has been the important distinction between bosses that are genuinely hard, and those that are merely “cheap” or “broken.”

In my mind, no other bosses in gaming embody both of these definitions with as much ease as fighting game bosses.

Given the limited functionality of fighting game play mechanics, fighting game bosses are often some of the more difficult in gaming due to the head-first manner in which they must be dealt with.

There are no switches to be flicked, or items to be used; it’s just you and them, one-on-one.

Often possessing movesets consisting of absurdly quick and high profile maneuvers, as well as enhanced attributes, fighting game bosses typically boast every conceivable on-paper advantage over the standard player characters.

What’s more, in most cases bosses in fighting games have a tendency to “stretch” the rules of their respective game’s mechanics I.E. being able to execute special attacks without charge time or possessing a few unblockable moves.

...Or in the case of Nancy, totally break the standard mechanics of the game.

These “unfair” advantages make most fighting game bosses an easy target to be labelled “cheap,” however in some cases, I actually welcome the challenge they represent.

Let me just stress the use of the word “some” in that last sentence.

Fighting games are usually won through knowing your arsenal and being able to anticipate your opponent with precision.

In games like Street Fighter, all it takes to block an attack is to hold back on the d-pad.

In that sense, the unfair advantages owned by fighting game bosses shouldn’t be looked at as straight up cheapness, but rather padding to the computer’s (hopefully) human-like AI.

The best fighting game bosses are the ones that are challenging, but human in the way they occasionally make mistakes or overextend themselves.

The hardest fighting game bosses are the ones that boast absurd attributes and flawless, frame-by-frame AI routines.

Today’s entrant on our list of the Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights occasionally shows glimmers of the former in his behavior, but most of the time he proudly embodies the latter.

‘Cause he’s an epic, diaper-wearing douche-hole.

*AHEM!* That being said, our #4 is:

#4. Gill – Street Fighter III: Third Strike

Pictured: Ken Masters lying at the feet of Gill following a narrow defeat.

Let me just get things started off here by saying that Gill is an anus sucking turtle-fucker.

Seriously man, as far as fighting game bosses go, few others have carved out a spot for themselves on my naughty list as emphatically as Gill has.

*COUGH!* Now that I’ve gotten that ugliness out of my system, I feel I’m obligated to mention the fact that Gill also happens to one of the better designed fighting game bosses in gaming history.

That should give you a good idea of how many “good” fighting bosses there have been over the years.

Gill’s natural on-paper advantages over you, the player; are extensive, to the point in which it’s hard to deny the cheapness of his design, however his AI, at least on the mid to mid-high difficulties, veers a little closer to “fair” on occasion.

Close to, but still nowhere near fair.

What I mean to say is:

Gill is a blue and red BEAST of the highest order.

He does more damage than most of the characters in the default roster.

His attacks generate an absurd amount of stun damage.

Most of his attacks strike from troublesome angles and have priority and reach advantages.

He is able to execute charge moves without charge time.

His projectiles strike twice, ensuring that he’ll win any exchange of fire.

His durability and speed are both well above average.

To fight Gill is to enter the room outgunned and outclassed from the very start.

In essence, this screen is a forgone conclusion.

While I’d never consider myself much more than an experienced novice at fighting games, to date I’ve only been able to beat Gill twice.

Once using a brute-force strategy with Hugo, and once using defensive tactics with Ken.

Both times it took several continues to achieve the serendipitous task that is defeating Gill.

You see, despite all the nasty traits of cheapness that I mentioned above, Gill also brings to the table a pair of utterly devastating super combos that do wonders to ruin his standing as a “great” boss in my eyes; and make beating him a feat often times a feat equally attributable to luck as to skill.

Allow me to clarify.

Gill’s greatest asset as a fighting game is his inherent fallibility.

While his moves and stats are all better than yours, I have to admit that Capcom did well to program Gill with the occasional human-like lapse in his concentration.

He never acts silly, or outright dumb, but there are times when Gill slips up and takes a hit he shouldn’t have, or fails to capitalize on a round winning opening.

Gill’s greatest success as a boss is that he’s difficult enough be one of the hardest bosses in gaming, while at the same time easy enough to be fought with some degree of success on every occasion.

Nothing is worse than a hard boss that doesn’t even let you get a hit off every time you continue.

I'm lookin' at you Duriel....

Nearly every time I’ve fought Gill, I was at least able to take his health down considerably, or on a good day; beat him one round.

That said, Gill’s AI generally behaves with stunning precision, making use of his high priority moves to counter most of your attacks; making him a stiff challenge most of the time.

Which brings me to the aforementioned game breaking super combos:

With a full super meter, Gill has at his command the power to instantly reverse the outcome of a round.

The gameplay mechanics of Street Fighter III restrict the players to selecting and utilizing only one super combo in battle.

Gill is the only character in the entire roster that is capable of making use of all 3 of his super arts in one fight.

One of these moves, Meteor Strike; is relatively harmless.

Meh. I've seen worse...

The other 2, are utterly devastating.

First is the fearsomely boosh-tastic Seraphic Wing:

Sprouting Wings: A sign that shit has well indeed, just got real.

Seraphic Wing is a move that drains about a third of your life bar when blocked, and virtually all of it when landed at close range.

While it can be stopped preemptively, in most cases the deployment of Seraphic Wing usually means the end of the match in Gill’s favor.

If that’s not a kick to the boner, I don’t what is.

Oh wait, there’s one more move!

Gill’s other dick slap of a super combo is his Resurrection ability:

Awr?...

Basically, Resurrection is exactly what it sounds like.

Imagine this scenario:

You’ve just spent the past hour battling Gill, continuing over and over again while cycling your way through the entire roster numerous times.

Finally, after countless attempts, you’ve managed to get the upper hand on Gill and are only a precious few hits away from victory!

The tension is palpable.

Your eye twitches involuntarily.

With the clever use of an EX attack you manage to upset Gill’s impeccable timing and rocket a Shoryuken into his chin and straight towards the realm of victory!

His life bar depleted, Gill collapses in a heap on the ground in slow-motion.

Throwing up your arms in victory, you are shocked to hear the familiar sound of a super art being deployed.

Suddenly, Gill beings to levitate, and immediately his life bar begins to rapidly refill!

Pictured: What happens when you poke the bear.

You quickly fire a Hadouken, only to watch as it is harmlessly repelled by the powerful vacuum generated by the Resurrection field.

Eventually, Gill’s health is restored in full, leaving you to fight him with what little you have left.

Exhausted from the historic effort you put forth from getting this far, ultimately you lose to Gill in the third round as you have on every occasion prior.

Such is the epic douchey-ness of Gill.

He’s better than you from the start.

He’s pretty damn smart, even when he’s stupid.

And to top it all off, he can take all of your hard fought efforts, and render them irrelevant with the use of a mere super combo, one of which he doesn’t even have to be alive to use.

To this day, I still hate Gill, however I do retain a certain level of respect for his AI design.

On a side note, I’m pretty sure Capcom was the first to make a genuinely incongruent 2D fighting game sprite, but that’s besides the point.

Gill: An atypically hard boss that has the gall to max-out his douchey-ness by holding back and shitting on you when it hurts the most.

Filed under: Games, The Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights, #7


Alrighty, now we’re starting to get to the part of our list of The Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights where the fights get just plain, Anne Ramsey-ugly.

Up until now, there was at least some quantifiable element of “fun” to be had in fighting the bosses on this list, but pretty much from this point on, the fun gets tossed out the window, and all we’re left with is 7 scalp ripping-ly frustrating douchebags that make up the stuff of gaming nightmares.

In case you couldn’t tell from my “colorful” language above, I’ve got beef with a lot of the bosses to come; in particular today’s entry.

That being said, #7 on our list of the Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights, and quite possibly one of the most unabashedly douchey motherfuckers in the whole thing is:

#7. Duriel – Diablo II

Pictured: A brave and/or stupid player faces down Duriel one-on-one.

“Looking for Baal?”

THIS…. MOTHERFUCKER.

Of all the bosses on this list, Duriel has to the one I hate the most.

It’s one thing to have your balls torn out of your scrotum and stuffed into your ears by a boss, but to have them do it over and over and OVER again without a hint of motherfuckin’ progress to show for all of your attempts, well…. That’s just plain fuckin’ mean.

Like, irrational fictional character hate-spawning, mean.

Okay, so we’ve established that I’ve got problems with Duriel.

So then, why exactly is it that I hate Duriel?

.... Pretty much sums up what to expect when facing Duriel.

That would have to be the fact that he’s a cheap, overpowered motherfucker that represents one of the steepest and most sudden difficulty spikes in gaming.

Don’t get me wrong, Diablo II is a wonderful game that I’ve happily played on and off again for many years now, (though not at the time of it’s release, my computer was too wimpy) but when it comes to Duriel, somebody at Blizzard dropped the fuckin’ ball straight through the floor and into the depths of Hell.

Let me just explain a little something about how I’ve played Diablo II, as I’m sure there’s plenty of Diablo experts out there who are laughing at me right about now:

I’ve never played Diablo online.

I’ve always trudged my way through the game solo, usually with melee-based character like a Barbarian or *sigh* Paladin

"Hi, I'm a Paladin! I suck balls like a motherfuckin' Dyson on speed!"

As far I understand, this is just about the worst way to take on Duriel, solo or otherwise.

ESPECIALLY with the fuckin’ Paladin, ’cause as I hope we all know, he sucks monkey balls.

SERIOUSLY.

Moving on, Duriel’s abilities and attributes are tailor made to chew up guys whose only option is to go toe-to-toe.

He’s beefy and can take a hit with the best of them.

He hits harder and faster than you.

He moves faster than you.

And to top it all off he strikes with a Cold Aura that slows your actions, effectively enabling him to land 2 for every 1 of your hits; as well as make escape an unreliable backup tactic.

Enough of my words, take a look at this video of a group of about players barely edging a victory over Duriel to get an idea of what I’m talking about:

The term “buzzsaw” comes to mind when watching such blood-soaked spectacles.

While all of the crazy cheap-ass shit listed above indeed sounds insurmountable, the real kicker is the fact that it didn’t have to be.

Duriel’s speed/freeze combo is a motherfucker, but the clunky nature of Diablo’s mouse driven controls and equation based combat results are in many ways equally to blame for the difficulty one faces in dealing with him.

If you were to take a boss like Duriel and drop him into a precision-based action game, there’s a good chance he’d be a little less of a prick.

Unfortunately, Diablo II isn’t a precision-based action game, leaving us with Duriel in his current state of ungodly douchey-ness.

Probably the saddest part of actually beating Duriel, at least for me; was discovering that there really was no good way to do it without exploiting the mechanics of the game.

True, I was playing solo what basically amounts to a multiplayer experience; but even so it made me sad to have to stoop to out-douche-ing the douche that is Duriel in order to finally defeat him.

The way I finally did it, with my brawny melee beast of a Barbarian, was to bring a dinky (and mostly unwanted) bow from my stash, and poke the bastard with arrows until he either beat my ass so bad I had to Town Portal my way out of his lair; or I killed him.

For all intents and purposes, my skills, my stats, and my equipment had little to nothing to do with my victory.

He had the muscle to put me down with only a few hits, no matter what.

Really, if any one thing is to be praised as the ultimate conqueror of Duriel, it’d have to be the Scroll of Town Portal.

"Winner, and STILL champion!"

I’m fuckin’ serious.

Unless you turn off the game, the bosses’ health doesn’t regenerate over time, making it an entirely viable tactic to ‘port in and out of the battle zone to re-supply as one sees fit.

This tactic can be used for any boss in the game, however Duriel was the only one I felt I had to.

If that’s not ABSOLUTELY FUCKED game design, I don’t know what is.

The only reason Duriel isn’t WAY the fuck higher on this list is because he’s just plain unfair as opposed to outright “hard.”

Filed under: Games, Movies, The Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Best Boss Music #11: Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga


Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga is one of the cutest and most endearing games I’ve ever played, on the Gameboy Advance or any other console.

Not only that, it’s also a damn fine RPG as well.

Essentially picking up where Super Mario RPG and Paper Mario left off, (and then picked up again…) Superstar Saga is a far cry from the traditional console RPG.

Name another RPG that has EXTREME JUMP ROPING!

As it’s title indicates, Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga is a game that follows the exploits of the 2 plumber brothers as they work together to recover Princess Peach’s voice (it was replaced with word bubbles that turn into bombs) from an evil witch of the neighboring Bean Bean Kingdom named Cackletta.

Pictured: The Hemaphroditic Bowser/Cackletta hybrid known as "Bowletta." You can't make this shit up...

Along the way, the player assumes control of the 2 brothers throughout the entirety of the adventure, acquiring and putting to use a number of interesting and unique powers that can be used in tandem to accomplish any number of crazy (but often necessary) feats.

 

Not sure if playing leap-frog during a life or death battle is all that "necessary," but oh well, to each his own.

It should be noted that the story and gameplay of Superstar Saga are top of their class in every regard.

In particular, like most sprite based RPGs, I found the interplay between the vocalizations, scripting, and pantomime of the various characters to be among the best I’ve encountered in any game, period.

Seriously, every character has at least some sort of trademark nuance or quirk to their movements, speech, or sound effects that makes them, and indeed the entire game world, come alive.

DISCO DANCE!!!!!!!!!!!

That being said, let’s get to the gameplay.

Being as the source material is grounded in the Mario canon, it’s only appropriate that the game include a great deal of platforming and coin gathering to go with it’s turn-based combat and level grinding.

 

While I love Diablo as much as the next dork, I thank the heavens that Mario hasn't tried to bite off it's mechanics. Yet...

The key innovation that Superstar Saga brings to the table, and indeed all Mario RPGs prior and since; is the hands-on approach to gameplay elements that are typically automated in most RPGs.

Said elements are no more apparent, than in Superstar Saga’s highly detailed and interactive combat system.

Monsters are encountered on the overworld map, not as random battles, but in the form of fast-moving and aggressive character sprites that maneuver the landscape.

Once a battle begins, the player assumes control of both Mario and Luigi in a turn-based fashion.

From there, timed button inputs are required on the part of the player to effectively attack and defend.

For the love of God, push the "B" button to not die!

Every enemy attack in the game has a means to be avoided or defended in some way, provided the player has the timing and reflexes necessary to do so.

This effectively makes the difficulty of the combat in Superstar Saga a product of the players skill, rather than the stats of his characters.

Being as I’m really an RPG guy these days, I for one really appreciated this.

 

By the way, thank you Demon's Souls for shitting all over my previous statement.

While the game was far from difficult, the battle system kept the boredom and tedium at bay for the most part, leaving me with a terrific and off-the-wall story to enjoy.

Trust me, if you’re looking for a way to indulge your inner child and feel like a 9 year old all over again, try playing Superstar Saga; you won’t be disappointed.

Anyway, this post was supposed to be about music, so what’s say we get to it shall we?

Superstar Saga, like virtually any Nintendo product, has a wonderful soundtrack.

Composed by the prolific and talented Yoko Shimomura, the whole soundtrack is very well-rounded, and more importantly; thematic and appropriate to the setting and mood.

Superstar Saga is a colorful, light, and “bouncy” game, and the soundtrack was tailor-made to suit those feelings.

Defne Adj. "Bouncy": Any game that includes a sequence wherein 2 Italian plumbers do battle with a barrel of sentient cola.

Despite this, the game is still an RPG nonetheless, and thusly features a wide array of battle themes, not to mention a few boss themes.

While every track of the game is deserving of special notice, the Best Boss Music in Superstar Saga is…

Rookie and Popple:

This track plays whenever Mario and Luigi do battle with the wily thief named Popple, and his new protege, “Rookie.”

The fun part of these battles, comes from the fact that the “Rookie” is in fact Bowser; albeit a Bowser with amnesia.

Scratch that. Amnesia and a pimp-ass hat.

Despite the memory loss, whenever the player attacks Bowser in these fights, a little light bulb will flicker on in his head, and he’ll suddenly bust out some decidedly Bowser-like moves.

I guess you could call it a case of muscle memory winning out over mental memory.

Anyway, this track was only played a handful of times in the game, but I found myself happy to hear it every time it did.

It’s far more energetic than the standard boss theme, and better composed for that matter; but in some ways I feel that Popple and Rookie’s reduced frequency of occurrence in-game is part of what makes it stand out so much.

Despite many of the other Best Boss Music entries listed on this blog being of the more epic or dramatic variety, Popple and Rookie earns it’s spot purely off of it’s fun-factor.

Let it be known, that which makes us happy is often that which is most important to us.

Tune in tomorrow for another real post!

Maybe…

Filed under: Best Boss Music, Games, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Demon’s Souls Is Hard…

 

ARRRRRRRRGH!!!!!!!

So, I bought Demon’s Souls from a friend the other day.

He told me he played it for 5 hours and then called it quits.

This is coming from a Korean fellow that specializes in, as he phrases it; “beasting” games faster than they can come out.

As fate would have it, there would be no “beasting” of Demon’s Souls for my Korean buddy.

In fact one could go so far as to say that the game “beasted” him.

Despite this, like a fool I thought I could do what my friend could not.

Before I bought the game, I read scores of reviews singing the praise of Demon’s Souls, and heralding it’s difficulty level as the Battletoads equivalent to the modern era of gaming.

While it does indeed seem like it could be a great game, make no mistake; Demon’s Souls is a punishingly difficult game, to the extent that it feels borderline unfair.

As of writing this, I’m barely 2 hours into the game, and I’ve done exactly nothing.

My first created character was a Barbarian.

I set out into the game with the mindset of creating a Conan-esque tank, however to my surprise; the Barbarian was just about the worst choice to do so, at least in the beginning stages of the game.

Turns out, despite their inherent physicality, Barbarians start out the game with no armor, and some of the worst equipment imaginable.

Not good when the game derives most of your survivability from your equipment and armor rather than your stats.

Despite spending about an hour getting a good feel for the timing and nuance of the game’s control scheme, (while dieing about 9,000 times…) I found that; for a beginner level player, a Barbarian was simply too fragile for my skill level.

Enter my second character within an hour of starting the game, a much sturdier and well-equipped Knight.

Well, after dieing every 5 minutes as my Knight, I think I can honestly say that he’s probably going to be my primary character from now on.

Every time I play Demon’s Souls, I feel like I’m moving a half-step forward, only to get thrown 20 feet back every 5 minutes.

When I said the game felt borderline unfair, I was referring largely to the checkpoint and currency systems.

The checkpoint system is a pain in the ass because, well; near as I can tell there are none.

This wouldn’t be a problem except, unlike friendlier games like Diablo; Demon’s Souls has no “scroll of Town Portals.”

Not only that, Demon’s Souls thoroughly rapes you by forcing you to reclaim your “souls” (money) while wading through every enemy in the level up to that point.

Enemy placement is always the same, and any entry or exit of a level causes them all to respawn.

My main issue with the currency system, is not that you lose all your money when you die, but that there’s no banking or storage system in the game.

Do I really have to carry all of my wealth on me at all times?

Seriously man, if you had 5,000 souls of demon’s in your possession would you go walkin’ around with ’em in your wallet?

No, you’d put ’em in a fuckin’ bank.

That being said, the currency system is largely why I’m “nowhere” in the game as of yet.

Simply put, I can never survive long enough to save up my money to purchase items with.

Not that there’s any items I want/need anyway.

I suppose it doesn’t help either that I haven’t the slightest clue how to level up my character…

Anyway, I’m whining; so I’ll stop now.

As it stands, Demon’s Souls is a brutally difficult game, but for drastically different reasons than I am accustomed to in my “hard games.”

When it comes to twitch reflexes and memorization I.E. Contra, Raiden, Devil May Cry; I have no problem.

In the case of Demon’s Souls though, the game’s difficulty comes largely from the stringent rules of it’s gameplay, as well as the fact that timing and precision are the order of the day, rather than quick reaction time or fancy button combinations.

It’s a frustrating and loathesome game that truly hates it’s players, but truth be told; I actually feel compelled to keep trying at Demon’s Souls.

After a few years of getting raped by Battletoads, I put my controller down and said “No Mas.”

Though I’ve only spent a few hours with Demon’s Souls, those few hours have shown me that; despite all the teeth-gritting frustration, there still may in fact be a game worth experiencing hidden beneath it all.

Here’s hoping I’m right…

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The Best Track in the Game #10: Axelay

That's right, I hard-modded my Super NES like a true dork.

Associative memory is a funny thing.

We all have random, seemingly insignificant little “things” in our lives that, for whatever reason; remind us of what’s most important to us.

I have a teddy bear that, while not important to me in any way, will always make me think of my Grandpa.

Every time someone mentions the words “scavenger hunt,” I’m reminded of the first time I ever got lost.

Okay, maybe I didn't get "lost" per se, maybe I was just dumb...

Playing old videogames from my youth has always been my way of revisiting old memories.

Whenever I play Turtles in Time, I think of the one time I went to the Fun Factory and got scared of the Dragon’s Lair 2 attract demo with my cousin in Hawaii.

Skip to :45 for the scary part:

Whenever I play Pocky and Rocky, I’m reminded of the time my brother and I beat the game early in the morning and our mom took a picture of us doing a “thumbs-up” in front of the end credits.

And whenever I play Axelay, I’m reminded of my friend Ben.

No, not THAT Ben...

Ben was my friend for only a few years, between 5th and 8th grade, but his influence on me to this is day has been profound.

He introduced me to the concept of self-reliance, and walking to where I wanted to go instead of always getting rides from my parents.

He taught me everything I know about Warhammer 40K and table-top games in general.

...Although maybe I should be CURSING him for this rather than praising him.

He convinced me that PC games could be fun, particularly when trying to play Mechwarrior 2 with the controls split between 2 people.

He introduced me to the wonders of Nutella sandwiches, and Munster cheese.

He showed me that one could play the cello, and do kendo at the same time.

Well, maybe not at the same time, but he was pretty good at both.

Ben also shared my passion for console videogames, though I will confess that his taste in games was somewhat different and, dare I say; “better” than mine.

Ben’s library of Super NES and Playstation games were a mix of the truly great, and what could only be described as “eclectic.”

Neither "great," nor "eclectic," this tattoo is just plain "dumb." Oh yeah, and a little bit "sad."

Rock ‘N Roll Racing and X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse I would consider “great,” however Uniracers and Diablo for the Playstation were just plain odd.

You see this? In order to play Diablo you need THIS WHOLE FUCKING CARD just to save one goddamn file!

Oh yeah, and he had some weird, esoteric game I’ve never seen or heard of anywhere else called Kendo Rage.

Apparently it was a gift from someone, so I couldn’t blame him for owning it, but either way; that game was fucking horrible.

I would say the American cover art is horrible, but the Japanese one isn't all that much better...

By far my favorite game in his collection though, was an early Konami space shooter on the Super NES called Axelay.

Axelay was, and still remains to this day, one of my favorite shoot ’em ups.

Though I tend to place little stock in games’ accomplishments based on their graphical fidelity, I feel it is necessary to point out that Axelay was a very handsome game for it’s time.

With a vast array of lavishly detailed and vibrantly animated sprites populating the games intensely varied backgrounds from stage to stage, Axelay was a stunner from start to finish.

FUCK YEAH.

The gameplay in Axelay was surprisingly varied and polished for a space shooter, to a point in which it was hard to believe the game was an early Super NES title.

The key innovations of Axelay’s gameplay were it’s inclusion of both vertical and horizontal scrolling gameplay styles, as well as a unique weapon select system that had the player outfit their ship prior to each stage as opposed to scrambling for power-ups throughout.

As you can plainly see, Axelay was a game for pacifists.

I’d like to take this moment to preach my love and appreciation for the Round Vulcan, as it was easily one of the slickest and most inventive weapons I’ve ever had the pleasure of wielding in a shoot ’em up.

Good luck with that Straight Laser buddy, you're gonna' die in about 3 seconds.

A neat feature of the weapon load-out system was the fact that, when struck by a “weak” enemy bullet, the player’s ship would lose whatever weapon they had equipped at the time (of the available 3) instead of dieing instantly.

What really happens upon impact of a "weak enemy bullet."

It was little innovations like this that kept me coming back to Axelay.

Even though Ben always had neat PC games like Magic Carpet and Descent II he liked to tool around on, when it was my turn to choose what to do, I almost always wanted to play Axelay.

I wanna' know what the fuck these reviewers were on when they tried this. Magic Carpet sucked balls...

We had an arrangement, where each of  us would play specific stages in accordance with our skill in beating them.

To this day, I still find myself reeling at the prospect of playing certain stages without having Ben there to hand the controller off to.

I still remember some of the goofy shit me and Ben used point out to each other when playing Axelay.

Ben always thought the 2nd stage boss looked eerily like ED-209 from Robocop.

In turn, I would always tell Ben that the 3rd stage bosses’ second form was clearly Leonardo Da Vinci riding in his famous pyramid tank:

Yeah, I was dumb/weird kid.

In addition to being a crazy-fun and graphically impressive game, Axelay also had the distinction of possessing, in my opinion; one of the single greatest soundtracks in all of videogame history.

That’s right, not an RPG, not a franchise game, but a lowly space shooter with no sequels.

That's right, suck a Blackanese cock fan-boys...

To think, an entry in one of the most famously quick to produce and homogenized game genres, get’s my nod for one of the best soundtracks in all of gaming…

I think it goes without saying, that THE BEST TRACK IN AXELAY IS….

EVERY FUCKING TRACK.

Why?:

Axelay’s soundtrack succeeds on so many levels, that it’s tough just remember all of them.

First off, the music is extremely well-produced, with some very powerful and dignified samples being used throughout.

In addition to this, most of the samples used in the game are from the familiar, and stellar, Konami library of the time, giving everything a comfortable air of familiarity to it.

*Sigh* It's like one big happy family.

There’s very little “tinniness” to be heard in Axelay, and sometimes that makes all the difference.

Second, the score is thematic, with a number of familiar cues being used throughout that bring a wonderful sense of crescendo and weight to many of the games’ more intense moments.

On the same note, it should be mentioned that, since Axelay is indeed a scrolling shooter, all of the soundtracks’ major climaxes mesh with the timing of the gameplay dead on.

Axelay's "Oh Shit" Moment #47

And third, the music is varied and appropriate throughout.

Axelay is a game that goes through drastic scenery changes from stage to stage, and at no point does the music ever fail to make the transition with the same gusto and grace as the games’ beautiful graphics.

No better example of this, is during the transition from stage 4, to stage 5, wherein the player jumps from a subterranean, underwater cave filled with all sorts of monstrous creatures, to a violently erupting lava planet filled with magma spewing drones and dragons:

See what I mean?

The two stages are like night and day, and yet the composer, Sotaro Tojima, hits just the right notes on both occasions.

If I was forced to pick a favorite track in Axelay, it would probably be the ending credits theme.

The track is a wonderfully exhilarating and uplifting track that brings to mind images of exactly what a “you just saved the world” track should.

Hope, triumph, and a long journey home are concepts that come to mind when I listen to this track:


The ending track of Axelay is essentially the ultimate version of what one could consider the “theme” of the game.

The melody used throughout it, is a remixed version of the opening stage track, something that I feel adds weight to the player’s accomplishments after beating the game.

It’s like the game is reminding you of how you began the experience, and how far you’ve come since.

Axelay’s soundtrack is so good, that I think I’ll be a nice guy and give everyone a download link for the entire OST:

Axelay OST

You’re welcome.

Axelay was an excellent space shooter of unparalleled balance, as well as a rare feeling of “fairness” to it.

When you got shot, the game gave you the benefit of the doubt and didn’t kill you outright, instead choosing to cripple you progressively until you wanted to die.

And when the time finally came, and you did die, it didn’t bother you, ’cause it was your fault.

YOUR FAULT.

In later years, space shooters would pop up from time to time trying to emulate the success of Axelay’s gameplay.

Philosoma tried, and failed; to mimic Axelay’s multi-directional scrolling gameplay, while modern legends like Einhänder, would borrow the weapon load-out system and take it to new heights.

Never doubt dah' powah' of 'ze Germans.

Axelay is a wonderful game with a long legacy.

A legacy that I feel very fortunate to have been a part from the very beginning.

Thanks Benedict, for all the things you taught me, and all the things you help me to remember.

You are remembered.

Filed under: Games, The Best Track in the Game, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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