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What About the Lysine Contingency…?

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…

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The Best Track in the Game #12: Battletoads and Double Dragon

Ah, woodpaneling... So very 70's. So very, Atari...

Battletoads and Double Dragon represented a novel and innovative concept for it’s time.

Bear in mind, this was long before the days of the Marvel vs. Capcom, Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, and the general cross-overy nature of the Super Smash Bros. series.

Basically it's like this. I assure that's not 2 different kinds of poop.

By taking 2 action game franchises, and marrying their character rosters and gameplay styles, the folks over at Tradewest and Rare succeeded in accomplishing 2 things:

They made the easiest, and therefore most accessible Battletoads game, and they also made the simplest, and therefore worst traditional Double Dragon game.

Bear in mind, even the very worst of the Double Dragon series (which would be Double Dragon V: The Shadow Falls) is still pretty good.

Okay, I take that back. Double Dragon V was ass... The cartoon was kinda' fun though.

Put together, those 2 facts result in a game that is straightforward, fun, but ultimately kind of mediocre in comparison to the other games in it’s respective series’.

That being said, I spent a good portion of my youth playing Battletoads and Double Dragon, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

You see, when I said Battletoads and Double Dragon was the “most accessible” Battletoads game, what I really meant to say, was that it was the only game in the series that was playable to non-Super Saiyans or non-mutants.

Or Non-Super Saiyan Mutants!

The Battletoads series is well known throughout gaming circles as being SOME OF THE MOST DIFFICULT FUCKING SHIT KNOWN TO MAN, and as such, the majority of us mere mortals simply can’t play them without tearing out our hair and/or breaking the fucking controller.

Pictured: The Result of Attempting to "BEAST" Battletoads.

Personally, I was only able to get about halfway through both Battletoads and it’s Super NES sequel, Battletoads in Battlemaniacs, and to be perfectly honest, I don’t have a problem with that.

In fact I’m proud to say that I got as far as I did.

Pictured: The Day I Beat Battletoads.

Fortunately, Battletoads and Double Dragon is quite a bit easier than your traditional Battletoads game, resulting in my having beat it about a half dozen times or so.

I also beat the Battletoads arcade game way back in the day, but that was when my parents were feedin’ me quarters at a birthday party, so that doesn’t really count.

To be fair though, most of the time I was just playing Aliens vs. Predator AKA THE BEST BEAT 'EM UP EVER.

The one thing I always found be downright mean about Battletoads games, was the fact that they always bait you into thinking that the games’ gonna’ be fun and easy by giving you a cast of a colorful and cartoony characters to play as,

Zitz, Pimple and Rash: Corporate Whores.

and a laughably easy beat ’em up intro stage:


Every fuckin’ game in the series does this, and as a kid you think that’s gonna’ be the whole extent of the gameplay experience, but no, they had to go and change up the gameplay for EVERY FUCKING STAGE.

True, for the time this was a fucking revelation in gameplay variety on a single cartridge, but for those of us who were too dumb to read the back of the box, or failing that, the instruction manual, this really fuckin’ FUCKED you over somethin’ fierce.

Needless to say, I had problems learning the goddamn Turbo Tunnel,

I had problems learning fuckin’ Karnath’s Lair,

and you can sure as hell bet I never had a chance in goddamn fuckin’ Volkmire’s Inferno:

That’s right, I remember the names of the levels.

Hard to forget when they STEAL YOUR SOUL.

Anyway, the fun part about about Battletoads and Double Dragon, was that it kept the varied gameplay of the Battletoads series, but placed more of an emphasis on the sidescrolling beat ’em up action due to the inclusion of the Double Dragons.

Billy and Jimmy Lee: Proud Owners of Pimp-Ass Pompadours.

It should be noted however, that the general gameplay mechanics of the fighting are based purely off of the Battletoads games, meaning the movement controls are “slippery,” running attacks are king, and enemies can only be defeated via flashy, and sometimes dangerously slow, smash attacks.

Make no mistake, this is Battletoads and Double Dragon, not the other way around.

Some of the alternative gameplay functions that were carried over from the Battletoads series were:

A pathetically easy Turbo Tunnel segment,

Also known as, "A Complete Waste of Time."

and a brief rappelling segment akin to the Wookie Tunnel from the original Battletoads:

Complete with Toad 'Morphin Action!

In addition to this, there was also an absurdly difficult Asteroids inspired spaceship shooting sequence in one of the later stages in the game:

Believe it or not, this was the easy part of the stage!

I fuckin’ hated that stage…

Anyway, my fondest memories of Battletoads and Double Dragon, will always be playing it with my Korean buddy from up the street.

Pictured: Said Korean. He made this, not me.

For whatever reasons, he insisted on playing the game, in particular the 3rd stage, while blasting 50 Cent’s “In Da’ Club.”

Fortunately, through the wonders of technology, I can replicate the experience for you!

CLICK HERE

Anyway, the basic plot of the game involved the Battletoad’s eternal nemesis, the delicious Dark Queen, hopping in her new Rat-Ship, The Colossus, and headin’ on down to Earth to wreak some havok.

Mmmm, sexual...

Along the way though, she recruits the aid of the Double Dragon’s regular punching bags, The Shadow Warriors and their leader, the Shadow Boss (they mean “Master”).

Oh Brock, we keep finding ways to slip you in...

This of course results in the Battletoads responding by giving Billy and Jimmy Lee a jingle.

Really!? THIS, was the best you could find?

With the “Ultimate Team” assembled, our heroes set off into the cosmos to whup the Shadow Boss/Master, and kick the Dark Queen right in her sweet, luscious ass.

Mmmm, pixelated...

*Ahem!* Pardon me…

That being said, let’s get down to the real business at hand.

The Best Track in Battletoads and Double Dragon is

The Title Screen

Why?

If ever there was a track that better represented the Battletoad’s style, (aside from their theme music of course) it’d have to be the Title Screen music of Battletoads and Double Dragon.

Despite the game being the product of dual franchises, the music, graphical style, and gameplay of Battletoads and Double Dragon are almost uniformly based around the Battletoads aesthetic.

Indeed, every track in the game includes the heavy metal-ish simulated electric guitar work we’ve all come to expect from the Battletoads games, and I for one love that about it.

Seriously man, this track has wonderful sense of “let’s go kick some ass” to it that really gets you psyched to play the game.

At the same time however, it’s not an overly aggressive piece of music.

Much like the heavy metal-ish sound I just mentioned, the Title Screen track has an appropriate sense of “fun” to it that serves to remind you of the inherently cartoonish nature of the game you’re about to play.

My only complaint about the soundtrack of the game, is the fact that it doesn’t include any of either of the two franchises signature tracks.

Both the Double Dragon and Battletoad’s themes are absent from the game, as are any pieces of existing music from either franchise.

While it may seem fanboy-ish of me to say it, I’m actually surprised that Rare went ahead and made an entirely original soundtrack for the game despite the treasure trove of existing tracks they could have recycled.

Oh well, brownie points to them for putting in the extra hours.

Anyway, it’s been a long time coming, but that’s it for The Best Track in the Game #12.

To make up for the lack of Double Dragon factoids, (I felt I pretty much covered them in some of my earlier posts) here’s the intro of the old Saturday morning cartoon I used to watch way back when!:

Man that shit sucked balls…

I love how they actually went so far as to rhyme “dragon” with “braggin’.”

Also, the repetition of “You (blank) are dragon master, NOW” is just fucking awful…

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The Best Track in the Game #1: Mega Man X

You don't wanna' see what I'm doing with my other hand...

Megaman X.  Few games have had as huge an impact on my life than Megaman X.

Growing up, I was a Megaman/Capcom nut.  I remember way back in the day, my barber (yeah, I don’t know why either) gave me and my brother an issue of Nintendo Power with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on the cover:

Back when men were men... and turtles were not yet made of rubber

Yeah, that’s the one.

Anyway, somewhere in there was a sneak peak at Megaman 2 with a fold out poster featuring all 8 of the robot masters, plus Guts Dozer, The Mecha Dragon, and the schmuck Dr. Wily.

From the first time I saw this poster, I was hooked.

I remember running over to my mom and showing her all the characters, and telling her in impossibly adorable child-speak:

“This guy, his name’s Bubble Man!  He has bubble powers!  He shoots, um… He shoots bubbles!”

Eventually, I got my mom to make me a Bubble Man helmet out of cardboard…  and a Crash Man helmet for one of the neighbor kids… and a Quick Man helmet that I told her was for one of my friends that I ended up keeping for myself.

Yeah, back then Bubble Man was my favorite boss from Megaman 2.  My brother used to give me shit about it.  He would say:

“Bubble Man’s fat.  No wonder you like him, fatty.”

So fat...

Well, can’t say my brother was ever wrong about him being fat.  At least he’s not a pussy like Metal Man AKA THE FIRST FUCKING GUY EVERYONE KILLS.

FIRST. FUCKING. GUY.

Anyway, back to Megaman X!

Wall climbing.  Dashing.  Wall Dashing.  Throwing a Hadouken.  These were just a few of the amazing innovations that Megaman X brought to the Megaman franchise.Most critical among these was the Dash, which, coupled with the ability to hug walls to slow your descent, made for precision gameplay far faster and more forgiving than the classic Megaman series has ever been.

In gaining a beam saber, he lost his cock. Tragic...

True the franchise has never been very hard, (except for the utterly craptacular Megaman X6) and I see how that could be a problem for all the Contra kids out there, but the level length, number of secrets, and plethora of colorfully animated boss characters throughout most of the games has always struck me as being among the best in gaming.

Okay, maybe X3 had too many secrets, (most of the time you found at least half of the stuff by accident) and X2’s difficulty was sinfully weak, but few people can argue that the original Megaman X was pretty much on the mark in every area.

But that says nothing for the quality of the music.

Picking a best track from Megaman X is no easy task.  When you first boot up the game, you are treated to a provocative and well-executed diagnostic sequence, followed by one of the most awesome title screen tracks EVER.


Right from the get go, best title track EVER.

And it just keeps getting better from there.

The intro stage (an innovation to the Megaman franchise first seen here) tune is exhilarating and skillfully layered.  In fact one of the most remarkable things about this soundtrack, to me at least, is the fact that it succeeded in making me feel like there was some level of importance to my actions.

The track that plays when Zero and X hold their conversations establishes a sense of brotherhood between the two characters that does a lot to add to the gravity of the conflict at hand (especially when you consider the events that precede the two instances when this track is heard in the game.)

In picking a favorite track from this game though, my objective is to select the one that is not only the most enjoyable to listen to, but the one that “means” the most to me as a whole.

Being one that plays Megaman games more often than he beats them, I tend to spend most of my time playing through the pre-castle, robot master stages.  That being said it’s natural for me to pick one of the robot master stage tracks as The Best Track in the Game for Megaman X.

Without further ado,

The Best Track in the Game is…

Armored Armadillo Stage

Why?:

The music is fast, energetic, and has a significantly longer running time than many of the other robot master themes. (I’m looking at you Storm Eagle and Sting Chameleon…) Not only that, but Armored Armadillo’s stage is potentially the most fun to play through, featuring a number of unique enemies (the “jet birds” at the end, and the tunnel digging bug-machines) and gameplay mechanics (the spiked mine cart rides).  In general, Armored Armadillo’s stage seems to have more “love” put into it than the others, and is therefore, simply more fun to play.

In addition to this, Armored Armadillo’s stage is undoubtedly the one that most people have played through the most.

No, not because it’s so damn fun, (even though it is) but because it’s the only way to get the Hadouken capsule!

Assuming you don’t suck, and don’t have to continue through any of the robot master stages, one will end up playing Armored Armadillo’s stage 5 times as much as any of the other levels in the game!  I can’t prove it, but something tells me Capcom made the conscious decision to step up their game in designing Armored Armadillo’s stage in order to prevent people from getting pissy over having to play through the stage an extra 4 times (potentially more, again, if you suck) to get a cheesy fireball upgrade.

In this is case, it worked, ’cause I have never once balked at the idea of playing through the game without getting the Hadouken.

Runner-Ups:

Storm Eagle Stage, Title Theme

Why?:


Storm Eagle’s theme has a solid reputation for being the favorite among most gamers.

It’s short, it’s sweet, it has a sort of Top Gun-ish heavy guitar feel to it, in short, it’s fucking awesome and it goes with the airport setting very well.

Storm Eagle’s theme was my favorite as a kid, and remained so until fairly recently.

As I mentioned previously, I think Armored Armadillo’s theme is great partially because it was shoved down my throat so many times over the years.  In that sense I think it’s fair to say that I enjoy both tracks pretty much equally, however one has recently begun to occupy a larger place in my memory than the other.

In regards to the Title Theme, listen to it!

It’s fucking awesome!

Even without the awesome metallic *SHING* noise when the “X” flashes into place, it’s still fucking awesome!

How could you not get crazy hyped up after hearing this for the first time!?

I know I did at least until one of the little purple flying dudes with the red nose bumped me in mid-air and knocked me into a pit not 2 minutes into my first life.  Little fucker, has the nerve to blink his eyes and bob his nose in celebration every time he hits you too…

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