Azn Badger's Blog

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The Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City Trailer Gets It Right

Do you remember back in the day when pre-rendered cutscenes were the coolest shit ever?

I sure do.

Back in the early days of CD based gaming, pre-rendered cutscenes, that is, ones produced outside of the in-game engine; seemed almost like a reward for playing some games.

Remember booting up Final Fantasy VIII for the first time?

Still don’t like that game, but damn that’s a good opening.

In most cases, cutscenes were used to bookend the gaming experience and/or highlight set piece moments that likely couldn’t be produced in-engine.

In keeping line with the (eventual) point of this article, Resident Evil games serve as a good example of this style of implementation for pre-rendered video, though the majority of the minor cutscenes were also produced in-engine.

I know I’ve used that clip before, but I don’t think I need a reason to justify re-using it.

On the other hand though, many other games, particularly in the early and mid-90’s, went so far as to “wow” gamers through essentially structuring the entirety of their gameplay around FMV.

For example, the early multi-platform game Braindead 13, in the tradition of Dragon’s Lair, was essentially one long interactive cutscene:

As was Cyberia, though with several shooting and adventure segments interspersed throughout.

In retrospect, many of these videos served to break up the flow of the gameplay of the games they inhabited, but back in the day, just the act of seeing full-motion video on a game console was akin to bearing witness to black magic.

Maybe it was just the fact that I was very young when it came to prominence, but to me, FMV in games was a big fucking deal.

Now that I’m older and decidedly more curmudgeonly and cynical, know that FMV has it’s ups and downs.

Perhaps one of the biggest “downs” that comes to mind, pertains to it’s use as an advertising tool.

It’s funny, for as long as I can remember, videogame advertising has been obsessed with finding ways to reel people in without showing a pixel of the actual product.

Pictured: An Earthbound ad. A failed experiment in "unjustified scratch and sniff" advertising.

Similar to a horror movie with a shitty-ass monster trying to sell itself by teasing but not showing said sad-ass monster in it’s advertising, videogame advertisers are a sneaky lot that get off on deceiving their audience.

It’s very likely that it’s just a cultural trend that just happened to grow up with me, but for whatever reason, most of the game ads I can remember throughout my life, both print and video; have done well to conceal the nature of the in-game product they were selling.

Hell, in the 90’s, it was far more common to see totally fucked up and insane imagery as game advertisements than it was to see screenshots of the actual games.

It was the 90's. Don't ask....

Guess that’s to be expected for an era when words like “radical,” “tubular,” and “EXTREME” passed as colloquialisms.

Now that I think of it, even the cover art of most American games was deceiving to some extent, often adopting an art style that was contrary to that of the (very likely Japanese produced) in-game product.

I’m rambling.

The point I’ve been trying (and failing) to lead up to with all of this, has to do with the new trailer for Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City.

In short, I thought the imagery was stunningly rendered, the action sublime, and all in all, I really liked it.

I’m still cautiously optimistic about the game, as though I love the setting of the game, (between #2 and #3, my favorites) as well as the concept, at the end of the day the thing just won’t work without decent gameplay mechanics.

That being said, while this trailer did nothing to address my concerns regarding the gameplay, it did do well by my in the sense that it did what many other pre-rendered trailers have failed to do in recent days:

It showed off actual gameplay mechanics, in the context of a pre-rendered video.

Allow me to explain.

Remember that super-duper overhyped pile of sappy bullshit that was the initial trailer for that super-duper overhyped plate of fuck-sauce that was Dead Island?

Remember how, with the exception of the location, the zombies, and maybe a homemade bludgeoning instrument or 2, absolutely nothing in that trailer was featured in the actual game?

Well, that my friend is an example of a game company trying to sell it’s “meh” product with an overproduced ad campaign.

While it’s entirely possible that Capcom is essentially trying to do the same thing with Raccoon City, I appreciate the fact that they took the time to inject their fancy FMV trailer with a few nods to the actual gameplay.

How did they do this, you say?

With all the subtlety of a sledgehammer, that’s how.

I don’t know if you’ve been following the development of Raccoon City with the same fervor I have, but if you’re at all in the loop, you’ll have noticed that many of the sillier and less organic moments in the trailer reflect actual elements of the gameplay.

For instance, there is a sequence wherein one of the Umbrella commandos notes that a man’s blood trail is going to attract zombies and other creatures.

Later on, a pheromone grenade is tossed during a battle, leading to one of the soldiers spouting exposition regarding it’s function in attracting monsters.

Throughout the trailer there are instances of melee combat peppered throughout.

Towards the end, there was a sequence where a soldier grabbed hold of a zombie and used him as a human shield.

All of the techniques listed above were confirmed to be usable in-game in some capacity long before this trailer dropped.

Not only that, the underlying story behind the trailer, the clashing of Umbrella and government sponsored troops amidst a battlefield of T-Virus creatures, fits the mission statement of the game to a “T”

In short, I’m proud of Capcom for putting their name on a trailer as beautiful and informative as this one.

Sure, the script was kind of shitty, (what Japanese-written English script isn’t?) but at the end of the day, I’m just happy the damn thing at least tries to exposit some of the gameplay mechanics despite the decidedly pre-rendered nature of the video.

Pre-rendered video trailers are a double-edged sword in many ways.

They are useful for building hype, in that they are often beautiful and cinematic in nature, however too often they pay far too little service as to the actual nature of the product they are selling.

In a perfect world, movies and games would be advertised strictly with materials cut directly from the source material, however when budgets get inflated to the point they’re at nowadays, I can see why production companies feel the need to put together these fancy ads on the off chance they might get a few more buyers than they would otherwise.

All it takes is a bunch of dumbasses thinking this represents what they buy when they pick up World of Warcraft:

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The Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights, Runner-Ups


Well folks, it finally happened.

Yesterday we finally finished working our way up through the ranks of The Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights, and named Mike Tyson as the rightful owner of the #1 spot.

As per the norm whenever I put together a top 10 list, today we’ll be taking a look at some of the runner-ups to the list.

Some of the omissions surprise even myself, so expect a few exceptionally tough cookies to pop up in the proceedings.

That being said, let’s get to take a look at the top 5 runner-ups, presented, for my convenience; in no particular order:

#5. SS01-Schwarzgeist – Einhander

Pictured: The Astraea FGA Mk.I does battle with the heavily armed orbital satellite, the SS01-Schwarzgeist.

In case you’re wondering “Schwarzgeist” is German for “Black Ghost.”

With a name like that, the developers of Einhander were pretty much obligated to make this guy totally badass.

To be fair, they also went ahead and made pretty much the entire game absolutely fucking badass.

I’ve mentioned Einhander elsewhere on this blog, but for those who might not know, the game is a supremely difficult Playstation 1 scrolling shooter developed by Square.

While the game is populated by a host of tough bosses, each sporting a number of variable attack patterns depending on the approach you take in fighting them; “The Black Ghost” is likely the most difficult overall.

He also happens to have one of the better tracks in the game as his battle theme.

Boasting an absurdly complex attack pattern that is nearly impossible to grasp without burning a continue or 2, “The Black Ghost” is a brutal challenge that is nevertheless, much easier to defeat through brute force than pure skill.

That is to say, coming into the fight with the right weapons *Cough!* Grenade Launcher! *Cough!* is key to victory.

The fact that “The Black Ghost” has a definable and not all that well hidden weakness, is likely the reason he didn’t make the Top 10.

Despite this, his despicable variety of attack patterns, combined with Einhander’s unforgiving gameplay system of only allowing you 1 life before each continue; make a strong case for his presence among the runner-ups.


 

#4. Isaac Frost – Fight Night Champion

Pictured: Andre Bishop goes toe-to-toe with heavyweight champion Isaac Frost AKA The White Guy.

Another game that I’ve mentioned elsewhere on this blog, Fight Night Champion’s inclusion of a nearly invincible final boss came of somewhat of a surprise to me.

Then again, these days it’s almost a tradition to include at least 1 overpowered athlete in sports games.

That’s right, I’m lookin’ at you Tecmo Bowl Bo Jackson and NBA Jam Scottie Pippen

Designed to be fought in a round-to-round, objective based system; the actual procedure involved in fighting Isaac Frost contributes almost as much to his difficulty as his actual fighting ability.

Possessed of unbalanced punching power, speed, and stamina, Frost holds all the cards from the opening bell, and yet his beastly-ness is further bolstered by the fact that the game forces you to fight him a certain way.

Essentially, throughout each round of the fight you are required to follow a pre-determined gameplan, be it using your legs and hanging back, or landing haymakers to the body.

It’s an entirely inorganic procedure that doesn’t exist outside of the “story mode” of the game, resulting in whatever skills you learned playing the game competitively getting tossed to the curb in terms of usefulness.

To date I have yet to beat Isaac Frost, largely due to his insane attribute bonuses, but the fact that the game forces me to fight him the way it wants me to really grinds my gears to an exceptional degree.

With that, I leave you with this video of Frost obliterating Super Middleweight, Anthony Mundine:


 

#3. General Akboob/Hitler – Total Carnage

Pictured: Captain Carnage and Major Mayhem do battle with the giant heads of General Akboob and Adolf Hitler.

In terms of pure quarter munching arcade shooter goodness, few games can measure up to Smash T.V. and Total Carnage.

Virtually identical in terms of gameplay, both are exceedingly difficult top-down shooters that absolutely revel in chewing up players and spitting them out.

While every second of these games is a challenge of the most epic variety, the bosses featured in them are quite likely the most difficult aspect of them.

On that note, I don’t think many people would argue with me in crowning General Akboob, the final boss of Total Carnage, as the toughest among them.

His pattern involves filling the screen with projectiles at all times.

Most of his attacks have an accurate homing capability.

And worst of all, he has no less than a half dozen forms, one of which is a giant Hitler head!

I have no idea what that has to do with anything, especially since the very Russian looking/sounding Akboob is supposed to be Middle Eastern, but whatever it was the 90’s.

Anyway, all of this results in a horribly drawn out battle of endurance.

… A battle of endurance in a game where your character dies in one hit.

You do the math.


 

#2. Emerald and Ruby Weapon – Final Fantasy VII

Pictured: 2 brave parties face down the infamous Emerald and Ruby Weapons.

I just realized this, but there weren’t any RPG bosses on our list of the Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights.

I’m guessing it has something to do with my own (heavily biased) opinions, but the simple fact of the matter is that I really haven’t played an RPG since Final Fantasy VIII way back in ’99.

I did however, play quite a few before that point, mostly of JRPG variety.

That being said, while I’ve heard that some of the Shin Megami Tensei bosses are absolutely balls out insane in terms of their capacity to rob you of hours of your life, I haven’t actually played any of those games, so I don’t really have an educated opinion in that matter.

The point is, from my experiences with pre-1999 RPGs, Emerald and Ruby Weapon were the only 2 bosses that I recall having an inordinate amount of trouble with.

From what I hear, the debate rages on which of the 2 is more difficult, though I got my ass served by both of them equally, hence their dual ownership of the their spot among the runner-ups.

I remember Emerald had, no joke, about a million hit points, and Ruby was able to eject your characters from the fight, making doing battle with either of the pair an absolute pain in the ass.

From what I’ve been told, much of the strategy involved in defeating either of the 2 involves an incredible amount of dedication and prep work, as well as a healthy dose of luck.

When Final Fantasy VII came out, I was barely a pre-teen, so I had neither the patience nor the intelligence to figure out which angle to attack them from.

This resulted in me getting literally whipped to death by Ruby, and sat on by Emerald more times than I’d care to admit.

That being said, here’s a clip of some Narutard beating them both into the ground.

Don’t ask me why he dubbed the Final Fantasy themed J-ballad over it….


 

#1. Geese Howard – Fatal Fury

Pictured: Terry Bogard blocks a Reppuken from his nemesis, Geese Howard.

Geese Howard was, and always shall remain, one of the toughest bosses in all of fighting games.

Oh yeah, and he’s quite possibly one of the pimp-est videogames of all time to boot.

That’s saying a lot considering how far fighting games have come since 1991.

Possessed of a limited, but utterly devastating repertoire of moves, Geese was tough to beat for all the reasons you’d expect an SNK boss to be.

He was better than you in every way, especially in his capacity to dole out chip damage on par with some of your clean hits.

Despite this, I’d hesitate to call Geese cheap, merely inordinately difficult and just a little bit frustrating.

Much like Sagat from the original Street Fighter, Geese was a fighting game boss who’s bread and butter consisted of brutal and relentless fireball traps.

Perhaps worst of all though, ‘ole Geese also had a counter-throw capable of cancelling most of your melee attacks.

I don’t think I have to tell you that he often employed this technique with pinpoint timing, often using it to ruin your offensive rallies at the most inopportune of moments.


 

Thus concludes The Azn Badger’s Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights!

Thanks for reading!

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The Top 10 Videogame Songs, #1


A funny thing happened when I was putting together this list of my Top 10 Videogame Songs.

I changed my mind.

You see, I made the banner for this list around the time I came up with the idea for it, long before I even assembled it’s contents.

I selected the opera sequence from Final Fantasy VI for the background of the banner because I knew the song contained in that sequence was going to have a place on the list.

I had no idea what that place was going to be, just that it was going to be in there somewhere.

Color me surprised when that place just happened to be the #1 spot.

I mean, I figured the opera scene would be in my Top 5, or even the Top 3; but truth be told I honestly didn’t know it was going to be #1 until, well, yesterday.

On that note, I apologize for the banner image, as I know it likely ruined some of the surprise by consisting of an image from the #1 game on the list.

It’s not all my fault though, as a few days after I started posting on this topic, I found I kept rearranging the Top 10 as I was went along.

One thing lead to another, and by yesterday, I found I couldn’t without good reason, make this list without putting the opera scene in the top slot.

With that, I give you the #1 of our list of the Top 10 Videogame Songs:

#1. Final Fantasy VI – Aria de Mezzo Carrattere

Before you ask, no; I didn’t pick this one because it has a fancy Italian name.

I’m not a Square/JRPG whore either, so don’t try to call me on that bullshit.

The last Final Fantasy game I played, was VIII, way back in 1999.

Before that though, Final Fantasy VI was, and likely always will be; my favorite in the series.

Hell, if it weren’t for Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy VI would probably be my favorite console RPG of all time.

Pictured: One of many moments that make Chrono Trigger the SHIT.

Something about the characters, the design aesthetic, and unusual severity of the storyline in VI; just made it special to me.

My love for the game aside, “Aria de Mezzo Carratrere” is a brilliant song, and a gorgeous example of a story-within-a-story.

While the Super NES’ technical limitations made the lyrics of the opera laughably incomprehensible akin to the voice of the teacher from the old Peanuts cartoons, the first time I heard it in-game, it was hard not to be touched.

Sorry, couldn’t help myself…

Simply put, console games didn’t do what the opera scene did at that point in time.

In spite of the technical limitations inherent to the 16-bit era, one could very clearly see and feel the story and emotions that the creators of the game were trying to get across.

It’s like watching a Godzilla movie.

Everybody knows it’s just a guy in a rubber suit, but if you use your imagination, and play along, the artistry and craftsmanship of the miniatures and crappy effects add up to something far grander.

Pictured: ART.

Despite how far games have come, watching little 26 pixel tall sprites bounce around and pantomime their drama for us is something that, when done well; will always “do it” for me.

Anyway, for better or for worse, the opera from Final Fantasy VI is the best of my Top 10 Videogame Songs.

The strength of the lyrics and music, combined with it’s stunning contribution to the fantastic game it played a part in, not only secured it’s place on this list, but managed to (eventually) win me over and propel it all the way to the top spot.

Hopefully you all had fun reading this list.

I certainly had fun writing it, though I only hope that my pick for the #1 spot wasn’t as controversial/surprising to the rest of you as it was for me!

THANKS FOR READING!!!

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The Azn Badger’s Top 25 NES Tracks, #20-16

Well folks, yesterday we covered #25-21 of the Top 25 NES Tracks.

That particular tier of the list was seemingly dominated by Sunsoft games, movie tie-ins, and sports games.

Funny how shit like that works out…

Anyway, today we’re taking our first step up in quality, from the bottom tier of the NES’ best, to the, uh, “slightly-higher-than-the-bottom” tier!

That being said, let’s get down to dah’ music!:

#20. Final Fantasy

“The Prelude”


Haha!  That’s right, SUCK IT fanboys!

Final Fantasy has never really held a special place in my heart.

Neither have RPGs for that matter.

I played the original Final Fantasy as a kid, and simply couldn’t get into it.

Similar to my experiences with the Zelda series, I felt I never knew what to do, or where to go, ultimately resulting in me wandering the landscape for a time, only to run into a pack of imps and get my party of green-as-fuck level 1 heroes ass-fucked into oblivion.

 

 

That's a lot of Imps...

 

To this day, I haven’t played a new Final Fantasy since VIII, and I haven’t truly enjoyed any since VI.

Yeah, VI was the shit…

 

Name another game where you can Suplex a fuckin' Train. I dare you.

 

That being said, my lack of appreciation for the Final Fantasy series is what places “The Prelude,a classic of gaming music history as old as myself; so low on this list.

It’s a beautiful, almost whimsical piece of music, that certainly still endures to this day, but to me; it’s just the title theme of a game I hated as a kid.

Did I mention all the fanboys can suck a big fat Blackanese cock?

 

 

...Or at the very least, a big black dildo.

 

#19. River City Ransom

“Boss Theme”


River City Ransom is AWESOMELY FUCKIN’ BADASS.

Seriously man, the guys over at Technos deserve a fuckin’ Earth Badge for everything they put into The City of River Ransoming, ’cause the whole game is a work of genius.

 

 

Unlike this man, who is sadly, NOT a Real Genius...

 

You take Double FUCKIN’ Dragon, which is already BADASS as is, then throw in some AWESOMELY shitty dialogue and a leveling/shopping system, and you’ve got the AWESOMELY FUCKIN’ BADASS game that is River City Ransom!

 

 

Game writing at it's finest.

 

Excuse me, I think I just came in my pants…

*Ahem!* Anyway, River City Ransom was, and is, an awesome game that I spent hours upon hours playing in my youth.

That being said, though there are many great pieces of memorable music in the game, most notably the standard street brawling theme and the shopping music, I feel that the track that best represents the game, is “The Boss Theme.”

Full of energy and pulse-pounding drama, “The Boss Theme” invokes all of the emotions that a boss theme should.

The only other track that could possibly eclipse it, is the River City Ransom version of the Double Dragon theme, though that loses out by a hair due to the fact that, well, the Double Dragon theme actually sounds a whole lot better in the Double Dragon series than it does here…

#18. Snow Bros.

“Stage 1 Theme”


You knew they were gonna’ pop on the list somewhere, but did you really think the crack covered snow men would rank so low?

When forming this list, I did what I could to check my ego at the door and really try and place these tracks appropriately.

While I love Snow Bros., and all of it’s music, deep down I knew that, musically speaking; it’s far from a work of art.

 

Unlike THIS, which is... Probably the most terrifying thing I've ever laid eyes upon...

 

As mentioned in my Snow Bros. article, the “Stage 1 Theme” is a piece of music that I hummed throughout my childhood, such that my mother still knows the tune to this day.

It’s a wonderfully light piece of cutesy music that has a “rotundness” to it that really goes well with the chubbiness and slow-footed nature of the title characters.

I love the “Stage 1 Theme,” and it pains me to place it at #18, but sadly I simply can’t justify placing it any higher.

*Sniff!* Fuckin’ principles n’shit, makin’ me shit on Snow Bros…

#17. Battletoads

“The Battletoads Theme”


There are few 8-bit era themes as rockin’ and kick-ass as “The Battletoads Theme,” and by golly, I love every note of it.

It was tempting to put the stupid-ass “Pause Screen” music on the list as another joke entry akin to Skate or Die 2, however I managed to restrain myself.

While the Battletoads game is, as indicated in one of my previous articles, far from one of my favorite games; the Battletoads themselves are a different story altogether.

In the early 90’s, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were king.

 

 

Gods among men, they were...

 

It doesn’t take a genius to see that the Battletoads, Biker Mice from Mars, Street Sharks and Extreme Dinosaurs were all lame attempts to cash in on their success.

 

Pictured: The Ninja Turtles for the UFC generation...

 

That being said, while very little of it actually came to fruition, the Battletoads were, at one point; in line to get their own cartoon, comic book, and action figures.

Because my brother and I had a subscription to Gamepro (back when it was actually good), we caught word of this very early on, and in fact were treated to a some of the early comics printed in the pages of the magazine.

 

Yeah, something tells me it was a GOOD thing this never got aired...

 

Needless to say, the Battletoads, despite starring in a series of games that were frustratingly difficult, were pushed on me pretty aggressively as a kid.

Whoever was head of the marketing department for the Battletoads deserves a pat on the back, ’cause despite having little to no positive memories of any Battletoads games, the ‘toads still have a place in my heart.

A lot of my love for the Battletoads though, springs from the awesomeness of their theme music, which is why it sits comfortably on this list at #17.

#16. StarTropics

“Dungeon Theme”


StarTropics was and is, a tremendously fun, rewarding, and unique game.

While I never actually beat it, (got close though) I have many fond memories of watching my brother play it day in and day out.

I loved the world map, and how it reminded me of Hawaii.

 

Heh heh, it's funny 'cause it's butt...

 

I loved the goofy noise the submersible made when it dived.

Most of all though, I loved the straightforward nature of the action levels and the “Dungeon Theme” that played over them.

The “Dungeon Theme” was unique in that, while most of environments that the action scenes took place in were scary looking caves, the music was very upbeat.

It had an island, almost calypso feel to it that really got you into the action, while giving everything a colorful and inviting feel to it.

It also did well to set up the drastic change in musical tonality that would occur when the “you’re getting close to the boss” music would transition over it.

Startropics is a game series that I could see myself sitting down and playing through someday.

It’s also a series that I sincerely hope gets a continuation or remake at some point.

Here’s to hoping for a return trip to C-Island someday…

 

 

Mike Jones: Adventurer, Hero, and Banana Holding Buffoon.

 

Thus concludes the slightly-higher-than-bottom tier of the Azn Badger’s Top 25 NES Tracks!

Check back tomorrow when we finally start getting to the good stuff in the middle-tier of the list!


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