Azn Badger's Blog

What About the Lysine Contingency…?

“The One Where Goose Dies…”

Ever notice how sometimes we think we know something when all we’re really working from is just one fraction of the whole picture?

Though I think it’s kind of funny now, I realize that most of my knowledge of movies as a kid was derived from this kind of thinking.

In my youth, I didn’t actually watch all that many movies.

Yesterday I posted a list of my 5 favorite film villains from my childhood, and I couldn’t help but notice that nearly every movie on that list (except The Blob. FUCK The Blob…) was a movie I watched “almost every day.”

 

EVERY FUCKING DAY.

You see, I watched movies all the time, however the variety of films I would watch was extremely limited.

My parents and my brother however, watched all sorts of stuff, mostly R and PG-13 movies that I would have to leave the room for.

 

That didn't stop me from walking in on this one at Auntie's house though...

Despite my not having actually seen any of these movies in my youth, I would often overhear, or be told factoids about them by my parents or my older brother.

This lead to me developing a habit of becoming content with what little I knew, and often writing off the film as unnecessary viewing because of it.

It’s a strange way of thinking that seems to fall in line with that whole “astronauts and astronomers” speech that Sam Neill gave in Jurassic Park III.

In case you forgot, (don’t be ashamed, Jurassic Park III sucked balls) basically it goes like this:

Whatever man, you know you'd go gay for him.

 

“I believe that in this world there are 2 kinds of boys: ones that want to be astronauts, and ones that want to be astronomers.” ~ Dr. Alan Grant

The analogy is that some people thrive on hands-on experience in their passions, while others tend to explore them at arms reach.

In case you are already lost, what I’m trying to say is that; as a child, I feel I developed some tendencies akin to that of an “astronomer.”

In many ways I feel I am still marching down that path.

Anyway, that’s enough of that sappy introspective bullshit, the real reason I’m typing this article is because I found myself laughing over some of the ways I would pretend to “know” movies as a kid.

In general, the way I would “know” movies as a kid was by discovering one key moment in the drama of the film.

This lead to me knowing Top Gun for years exclusively by it’s soundtrack, (which my mother listened to, WAY too often) and that it was “the one where Goose dies.”

 

"So, I forget, what the fuck am I supposed to do now that I'm inside him?"

I didn’t know who Goose was.

I didn’t even know how or why he died.

Hell, at some point I even recall pondering whether he was even human, what with his name being Goose an’ all.

GOOSE.

Other examples of my “extensive film knowledge” as a kid included Rocky IV, which was “the one where Apollo dies,” either that, or “the one with the big Russian guy.”

Apologies for whatever spoilers I may have divulged just now, but come on man, if you don’t know Rocky IV and Top Gun, you sir, deserve to be hit with a tack hammer.

In the brain.

Not in the face, the brain.

In the case of Rocky IV, I had actually seen the first 2 films in the series, and had somewhat of a connection to the character.

Know what’s hella’ funny though?

You know what my brother told me when I asked how Apollo died?

He told me: “What do you think?  Some guy walked up to him and punched him in the head.”

Samuel Peter doing his best Rocky IV Apollo Creed impression.

While that’s actually completely true, Apollo did get punched to death, I just love how straight and to the point my brother was with me.

Bear in mind, we were both very young at the time.

Now that I think about it, that’s actually the exact same description he gave me as to how Superman died when Doomsday killed him the comics.

And wouldn’t you know it, my brother wasn’t lying.

Pictured: The Punch.

The list of movies I used to “know without knowing” (kind of like “fighting without fighting,” but, y’know, lame) goes on and on.

I know some of them are exceedingly vague, but see if you can recognize any of them:

1.  “The one where the bunny throws up and the hippo shoots everyone.”

2.  “The one where the alien jumps out of the guy’s chest.”

3.  “The one where the alien’s chest opens up and he pulls out a ray gun and kills everyone.”

4.  “The one where Godzilla bleeds (for the first time).”

5.  “The one where the guy gets his head stepped on.”

6.  “The one where Batman says, “Eat floor.””

7.  “The one with the black rock.”

And the trick question for the evening:

8.  “The one with the train that goes too fast.”

I’ll post the answers for those care to read them sometime tomorrow.

Filed under: Comics, Movies, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A Salute To Time Crisis: Part III

Time Crisis 3 marked a major transition point in the Time Crisis series.

While the core gameplay of Time Crisis 1 and 2 consisted of little more than ducking and shooting, Time Crisis 3 added a new spin to the mix in the form of a number of new weapons.

Wouldn't you know it, the first Google Images for the search terms "new weapons" just happens to be shit from Halo.

For the first time in the series, a new “inventory system” was added, granting the player access to a machine gun, a shotgun, and a grenade launcher at all times throughout of the game.

The addition of these special weapons changed the dynamic of the game drastically.

Selecting weapons was done by pulling the trigger while in cover, so there was very little pressure to select weapons quickly, however, by giving the player options on how they wished to approach every gun fight, it slowed down the pace of the game somewhat.

Time Crisis 3: It Brakes For The Elderly. Do YOU!?

It should be noted that the “Time” aspect of the 3rd Time Crisis, is almost entirely a non-factor at this point in the series.

In addition to this, because the expectation was that the player would be using these powerful new weapons throughout the game, the difficulty level was padded in the form of granting several enemies a lifebar system as opposed to the “one shot, one kill” dynamic of the previous games.

Yup, they've got one of these this time around.

I use the term “padded,” because the whole lifebar system felt tacked on and inorganic.

In prior games in the series, one shot was usually enough to kill virtually any enemy in the game.

These guys'll be dead in about 2 seconds flat.

Some bosses in Time Crisis 2 would take several shots to stun, but even then, none of them had a fatty lifebar floating over their head to tell you when they were going to flinch.

Or if they're BUFF, they don't flinch at all. 'Cause only pussies flinch at gun fire.

Despite the lifebars hanging over most enemies’ heads in Time Crisis 3, for the most part they didn’t flinch when being shot, which resulted in many instances where enemies would land hits on the player while eating entire clips in the face.

Strangely enough, despite the vast assortment of enemies with lifebars in Time Crisis 3, the overall difficulty level is decidedly lower than Time Crisis 1 or 2.

Once again, I attribute this fact to the new weapons.

Remember how hard Doom 2 was when playing with a BFG 9000 with unlimited ammo? That's Time Crisis 3 for you.

In short, giving the player a machine gun that never has to be reloaded is always a bad idea in a rail shooter.

Why?

Because the core gamplay, no matter how frenetic or Paul Greengrass-ed the fuck out, consists of nothing more than spotting enemies and pointing your gun at them.

Okay, bad example. Whac-A-Mole was pretty fuckin' hard...

Do you realize how easy that is when all you have to do is wave the gun across the screen few times to kill everything at once?

Well I’ll tell you:  Pretty fuckin’ easy.

Either that, or it's Gunblade. Which isn't a bad thing...

Difficulty level aside, Time Crisis 3 was a solid entry in the series.

The color palette was once again made even more vibrant than in the previous game, giving the game a cartoonish, almost anime-like aesthetic.

In fact, many of the character designs in the game reflect this trend, with outrageous, and often; flat-out stupid hairstyles and clothing being the norm for most of the cast.

Case in point:

Apparently our heroes shop at the Gap...

Sadly, not even Wild Dog was able to escape the aesthetic shift, as his appearance in the game was marred not only by the inclusion of a fruity sidekick/son(?) named Wild Fang, as well as his least pimp, and by far worst “look” in franchise history.

Damn, he got a fat head.

Interestingly enough however, one thing Time Crisis 3 did with just the right amount of flair, was it’s story.

Unlike the majority of the cutscenes in the previous 2 games, Time Crisis 3 included a great deal of action in most of it’s story sequences.

In addition to this, the player characters, Alan and Wesley, were a helluva’ lot more defined than any of the previous ones, with a goofy sort of “buddy cop” dynamic being played up between the two.

Although at no point is it ever made clear that “No one can beat them.”

SUPERIOR.

The story involves a fictional Mediterranean nation called Lukano, which is being invaded by the Zagorias Federation.

The head of the Zagorias Federation, Giorgio Zott, intends to use the location of Lukano to serve as a launch pad for tactical nuclear missiles.

Whoever the fuck named “Giorgio Zott” deserves to get smacked upside their head, ’cause that is just about the goofiest and least threatening last name I’ve heard in a while.

Seriously, that's a NAME.

Anyway, international badasses that they are, VSSE dispatches 2 agents, Alan Dunaway and Wesley Lambert, to handle the entire conflict CONTRA style.

Well okay, maybe not THAT hardcore, but hardcore nonetheless.

After a bloodsoaked beach landing, and a romp along the coast, our heroes find themselves under fire from a giant ass gunship.

GIANT ASS GUNSHIP.

Fortunately, the pair happen upon a foxy young member of the Lukano Liberation Army, named Alicia Winston, who just happens to have the world’s fastest and most well-armored jeep in the world.

Okay, maybe I lied about the whole "foxy" thing.

While riding the jeep, our heroes battle the games’ first boss as he bears down on them with his gunship.

Despite the impressive visage of taking on a big ass plane while riding a jeep, the battle is really pretty straightforward once you’ve taken out the plane’s defenses and forced the flame-haired brute to fight you out on the loading ramp.

Couldn't find a good pic. This'll do nicely though...

Other than the occasional lateral juke every now and again, the guy really just stands there and eats whatever you throw at him.

Oh yeah, and at one point he pulls a 10 foot long Vulcan out, but even so, he’s cake.

Yup, still a tool.

Long story short, he dies, the plane goes up in flames, everybody macarena.

With that, Alicia begins to guide our heroes through Lukano and towards the tactical nukes.

Unfortunately, a fuck ton of enemies show up, forcing Alan and Wesley to split off from Alicia and fight their way through a marketplace.

Did I mention Lukano was in the Mediterranean?

This was one of my favorite parts of the game, largely because of the music and the cute little motorcycle battle towards the end.

Eventually, our heroes make it through the town and reunite with Alicia, hitching a ride on a train while they’re at it.

While riding the train, a foppish, clawed ninja-like character, similar to Moz from Time Crisis 1, attacks them, serving as the stage boss.

Not the scariest boss around, but, then again looks aren't everything.

The character has no dialogue, but unlike Moz, he actually puts up a decent fight.

Oh yeah, and he doesn’t take 3 shots to kill either.

The boss moves about quickly, often forcing the player to take their shots at times when he is just likely to hit you as the other way around.

To add to the excitement of things, the train the players are on is progressively falling into a pit during the fight, causing your perspective to be obscured for most of the fight.

That's just plain unsafe.

Despite the bosses arsenal of grenades and claw slashes, he too ends up kicking the bucket like all those that came before him.

Curiously enough though, there is no explosion following his death.

NO EXPLOSION!!!!!!???

Sometime during the 3rd and final stage, Wild Dog, and his new apprentice, Wild Fang, show up for their obligatory showdown with our heroes.

Uh, nice ponytail there, Mr. Fang...

This time around, Wild Dog is looking a little worse for wear, with his hair long and unkempt, and beginning to gray at that.

Despite this, Mr. Dog demonstrates further improvements in his arsenal, fielding a flamethrower, a rocket launcher and a sword-like blade attached to the machine gun arm he had last time around.

Wild Fang is somewhat of a mystery to me, as despite his armaments consisting of little more than a Mauser pistol or two, his main method of attack involves him kicking objects at you.

By “objects” of course, I mean things like forklifts and I-bars.

You think I'm shitting you? Play the game asshole.

You know, standard stuff.

It’s never explicitly stated, however I believe one can assume that Mr. Fang has had some sort of bodily enhancements.

Although if BUFF Bryant is any indication of what a “strong” human being is capable of in the Time Crisis universe, then I could be wrong.

Anyway, the Wild Pair attack in tandem, offering up an exhilarating and diverse challenge that is definitely a step up in difficulty from Wild Dog’s appearance in Time Crisis 2.

However Wild Dog looks like shit, so the game loses brownie points for that.

Eventually, the Wild Pair is defeated, with Wild Dog going about his normal routine of, you guessed, blowing himself up.

After heated gun battles against ninjas, machine gun toting hooligans, and even the occasional submersible or two, it isn’t long before our heroes find themselves at odds with Mr. Giorgio Zott himself.

While Ernesto Diaz from Time Crisis 2 saw fit to hang back and let his dummy satellite do most of the fighting, Zott demonstrates a passion for fighting up close and personal.

Like, with a fucking sword, up close and personal.

Zott begins the fight with a submachine in one hand and a sword in the other.

He is exceedingly accurate with both, and even sees fit to borrow Johnny Cage’s shadow kick from time to time.

Do I really need a reason?

During the fight, the arena is constantly being flooded with all manner of enemies, ramping up the difficulty level to an extent.

For the final phase of the battle, Zott switches out his weapons in favor of a pair of 4 tubed rocket launchers.

8 rockets, more than enough to kill... Oh, come on, by now I'm sure you know the rest

Despite the imposing nature of a man firing more rockets than any human probably should, Zott goes down shortly thereafter, proving be a gaudy and colorful, but otherwise harmless final boss.

Also, he doesn’t explode.

WHERE'S THE GODDAMN EXPLOSION!!!?

Even as Zott bites the big one however, the missiles he had set up earlier suddenly spring to life and begin to launch!

Fortunately, Alan and Wesley have the power of “dynamic cutscene intervention,” which the put into to play just in time stop the rockets and rob the player of any measure of participation in the games’ final crisis of time.

And HOW do they save the day? Why, by doing cartwheels and shooting things, that's how!

Remember how I said the cutscenes were flashier this time around?

Well, this is just about the only case wherein I felt this was a bad thing.

That being said, thanks to the power of cool cutscenes, Alan and Wesley get to walk away from a massive explosion, whereupon they are greeted by Alicia.

Pictured: Undoctored still from the end of Time Crisis 3.

High-fives, fist-pumping, and three-way fucking ensue.

As a supplement to the main story mode, the console port of Time Crisis 3 includes a series of single player side missions wherein the player assumes the role of Alicia as she assists the VSSE agents and attempts to find her imprisoned brother.

Alicia’s missions include a new leveling system wherein her weapons start out in a downgraded state, only to steadily increase in power with repeated use.

By the end of the game, her weapons display power and rates of fire well in excess of their capabilities in the main story mode.

In addition to this, Alicia also makes use a sniper rifle, which is cleverly implemented into the gameplay by way of a zoom-in button in place of normal “duck” button.

BOOM! HEADSHOT!!!

Perhaps the most impressive use of the sniper rifle in Alicia’s game is it’s use during a pivotal point in the main storyline wherein Alicia saves her brother from Giorgio Zott by shooting a pistol out of his hand.

It’s a nerve racking, one-shot, slow-motion sequence that is largely reminiscent of Namco’s Point Blank/Gun Bullet series.

After saving Alicia’s brother, whole experience culminates with a fast-paced battle against Jake Hernandez, a traitor to the Lukano Liberation Army.

The battle is fought under a strict time limit, and is perhaps the most difficult boss battle in the entire game.

Sorry, no pics, so you're stuck with The Fat Man.

In all, Alicia’s missions are intensely varied and excellent throughout, with many of the mission adopting Crisis Mission parameters, such as extremely limited ammo, time, and even the occasional innocent civilian from time to time.

That’s not to say that Time Crisis 3 doesn’t include Crisis Missions of it’s own, however their largely the same as the previous game, so we’ll consider that covered from last time.

COVERED.

Aside from it’s exceptionally colorful and action movie-esque plot, another highlight to Time Crisis 3 was it’s soundtrack.

In short, the soundtrack of Time Crisis 3 is excellent, regardless of it’s connection to the Time Crisis series.

Time Crisis 1’s soundtrack consisted of only a minute or two of of actual composition, with most of it’s running time being made up of variations of the same core theme.

Time Crisis 2’s soundtrack was greatly expanded from the first, however the instrumentation was weaker and not as engaging as the first.

Time Crisis 3 however, has a very robust and exhilarating soundtrack, that while bearing very little resemblance, if any, to the previous entries in the series, definitely stands out as perhaps the best of all Time Crisis games.

My favorite track, by far, was the Stage 2-1 music:

A close second was the first bosses theme:

Sadly, Wild Dog’s theme is once again a step down from it’s original debut, however, given his severely demoted standing among the other villains in the game, it’s entirely appropriate.

Despite Time Crisis 3’s relative lack of difficulty, and borderline childish aesthetic, it stands as a worthy successor to the series, if not a dramatically different one.

Check back for a possible Part IV!

Filed under: Games, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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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