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Having more than one system

I seem to be one of the few people on GS that only has one system, which is the Wii. I also have a PC that I can use to play games, but it's not capable of playing the newest games. One issue that people always seem to bring up with owning only one console is that you allegedly 'miss out' on a lot of games. This is true. But this also happens when you own multiple consoles, let alone all three. Unless if you're fabulously rich, and have endless amounts of time, you're always gonna miss out on a lot of games. Everyone only has so much time to play video games, and most of us have a certain limit to our gaming budget.

Now as I mentioned, I only have a Wii, and even with having 30 games for it (34 if you count discs with multiple games like Metroid Prime Trilogy), I still feel like I have a long way to go before I can consider my Wii library 'complete'. And that's not even taking games that have yet to be released into account. About half of my games I still haven't yet played as thoroughly as I would have liked, and there are still even a handful of VC games that are waiting to be beaten. Oh, and did I mention that I also like to do more with my life than just playing video games?

In the previous generation, I actually was a multiple console owner, having a Gamecube and an Xbox (and later even a Playstation 2). I noticed how difficult it was to support 2 consoles. I often had to make a choice between 2 great games being released at the same time, and eventually the Gamecube became the more neglected of the 2. After the gen was over, I actually had to compensate the damage by buying some great games I missed out on, among which such titles as Super Mario Sunshine, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, and Star Fox Assault. It was only then that I realised how good a console the Gamecube actually was, and now my Gamecube library is actually superior to my Xbox library.

Another issue is that, because you won't want to miss out on the big stuff, odds are you'll only buy the usual blockbusters. When having only one console, you'll occasionally have these periods in which not so many truly excellent games are released, and you'll take your chances with some of the more obscure, quirky games, many of which may turn out to be hidden gems. I've also done this for the Wii, and the result is that I now own games like Deadly Creatures, Mushroom Men, The Conduit, MadWorld, Rabbids Go Home, and Rampage: Total Destruction, which may not be as qualitively outstanding as your usual Marios and Haloes, but they are all sentimental favourites I would've regretfully missed out on if the Wii didn't have my full focus.

So when I look at some of my Backloggery friends, and see they have a dozen of unplayed games and heaps of titles missing from their respective 360, PS3 and Wii libraries, I can't help but think that it's not me who's missing out.

Nintendo and minimalist plot - a blessing in disguise

The release of Super Mario Galaxy 2 came with a wildly enthousiastic reception from the press. Anyone who visits GameSpot regularly won't have missed the perfect 10/10 score the game received on its site, nor its current 2nd position on GameRankings as all-time best game according to professional reviewers. While not committing myself to more self-congratulary chit chat about this game - I still attach little value to review scores - it's safe to say that Super Mario Galaxy 2 got a minimal amount of complaints. One of them, however, was the game's umpteenth repetition of the 'Bowser kidnaps Peach' mantra as excuse for a plot.

Granted, beasts kidnapping damsels in distress was never even original to begin with, and the Mario main series never made the slightest attempt to make the Bowser and Peach variant any more worthwhile (so that excludes the Mario RPGs, which often feature a brilliant plot). But does the series really need anything more? I'm not trying to come across as an apologist that tries to justify flaws in Nintendo games in some fanboyism illusion that the rules of the gaming world do not apply to them, but in the case of Mario, its overly simplistic story might actually be one of the secrets behind the series' success.

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You won't believe how much Bowser and Peach hentai I had to wade through to get this picture.

Shigeru Miyamoto, Nintendo's main man, confirms this. In a recent interview with Iwata (link below), he explains why Mario still refuses to hop onto the bandwagon of cinematic and epic storytelling that is taking a wild ride through gameland. According to him, more plot makes for less creativity, as the game would have to make more sense. The setting of Galaxy is so varied and creative, because it abides to no rules of sensibility. The sky quite literally was the limit. The more you try to let the story interfere with the gameplay, the more you will generate essentially irrelevant questions such as "what is this enemy doing here?" and "why am I playing in this setting now, and why was I in that setting a few minutes back?"

Moreover, Miyamoto is also against giving Mario too much character, seeing as he essentially IS the player. If he would be blurting out weird sentences all the time, the odds that at least a part of the audience can't connect to him anymore will be far bigger. And seeing as the Mario games do not put a heavy focus on the story, Mario can get away with lacking a deep personality. Miyamoto states that, for him, one of the most important aspects of a game is the ability for the player to connect with the in-game world. You can do that by creating an intriguing and immersive plot, but even better by leaving the details to the imagination of the beholder.

A great example of this is the Zelda series. While these games have a way bigger on focus on storytelling, they are essentially the same as the majority of the Nintendo games: simplistic at heart, but intriguing, mysterious and stimulating. Would the Zelda storyline be one of the most discussed plot-related subjects within the gaming community if all of the games went into detail storywise, and answered all questions by the end of each game? The Zelda timeline is so interesting because it is cloaked in mystique, and it ultimately probably doesn't even make a whole lot of sense. The fans fill the gaps with their own imagination.

And that is essentially what makes Nintendo games so interesting: their mysterious and apparently simplistic nature prevent the storytelling element from dictating how you should feel with this or that game, causing many Nintendo games to be the unique experiences that they are. Again, Zelda is a primary example of this, as the different art styIe the game has gone through over the years showed the vastly different points of view the series' fans had on their favourite games. Some prefered the epic OoT styIe others pledged their loyalty to the cel-shaded and more cheery presentation of Wind Waker, and Twilight Princess satisfied many fans with its darker approach to the Legend. In every installment, Link has wisely shut his mouth, proving once again why his name just makes so much sense. He truly is the link between the game and you, the gamer.

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(Shigsy's reaction to the idea of implementing metrosexual JRPG story elements into Nintendo games.)

So the next time Bowser kidnaps Peach, or Ganondorf kidnaps Zelda, just think about how the game would be if the developers would have opted for a more FF-like dialogue-laden approach to the storytelling of the respective games. Would Galaxy be as ground breaking? Would the Legend of Zelda be as mysterious? After all, one of the best aspects of a true legend is its ability to stimulate the imagination, to make your mind go wild with crazy theories and ideas how things could be, just like the minds of Nintendo's Tokyo-team must have been when they came up with the crazy and impossible worlds we ended up seeing in Super Mario Galaxy 2.

Yes, minimalism is actually something more developers should try applying to their work. Especially in an age where manuals are disappearing and games becoming digital products at a rapid pace, there is the need to maintain some of the medium's romanticism, and Nintendo provides it like no other.

Interview with Shigeru Miyamoto: http://us.wii.com/iwata_asks/supermariogalaxy2/vol1_page1.jsp

An article that served as inspiration for this blog entry (in Dutch): http://www.ngamer.nl/qontwikkeling-super-mario-galaxy-2-liep-bijna-in-de-soepq.html

Super Mario Galaxy 2 gets a 10? On MY GameSpot?

It's obsolete to inform you about this as you've already heard it elsewhere, but Super Mario Galaxy 2 gets a 10/10 from GameSpot. That's the first time in history a Wii game gets a 10 on this site, which is usually quite harsh towards Wii games, and it's also the first time ANY game review had no 'The Bad' section, listing its cons, at least for as far I can remember.

So are there any Wii gamers that are NOT getting it as soon as possible? The first SMG, which was amazing in its own right, sold around 8 million copies. NSMBW sold 15. Will SMG2 topple that? It just might. But it doesn't even matter. What we have here is a game that has amazed the critics, and will no doubt amaze the fans. 2010, the year the Wii strikes back relentlessly ...and you're all invited to join in on the fun.

Now take a good look at this box art, because you might be looking at the cover of THE defining game this gen.

Oh, how we will enjoy this.

Forgotten Mascots Overtime: Glover

In the spirit of Video Gaming History Month, Gamespot recently published an article about forgotten videogame mascots: ambitious protagonists of videogames that either flopped, or were so obscure that they were almost entirely erased by Father Time, except maybe for the usual bunch of dedicated cult fans. An interesting and good article, as the sole mentioning of such names as Gex, Boogerman, and Commander Keen took me back to those early years of my gaming life. This nostalgic trip to the humble beginnings of my addiction, however, made me come up with many names that could have, or even should have been mentioned in Gamespot's article. In the end I figured there was no other solution than to give it a shot myself.

So in this first article of the series I aptly named Forgotten Mascots Overtime, I'm gonna take you back to 1998. When this year is mentioned in a gaming context, odds are you'll think of one thing, and one thing only: Ocarina of Time. Then there were other worthy titles, such as Banjo-Kazooie and Crash Team Racing, one of the most satisfying rip-offs ever. But I doubt the name Glover will come to anyone's mind. Who? Yes, exactly.

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Glover is one of the many ill-fated protagonists to only ever appear in one game, also named Glover. It was a bland of platforming and various puzzle sequences, with the basic goal of the game being to transport a valuable crystal to the end of each level. Although the crystal would shatter into hundreds of pieces upon the slightest impact, Glover, who was actually the glove of a magician, knew some magic tricks that allowed him to transform the crystal into various types of balls (no, not those balls), such as a bouncy beach ball-type object, a bowling ball with which you could break obstructing blocks, and a small golf ball.

The game featured many challenging, and even frustrating platforming sequences, as well as some interesting boss battles, with the final battle against an enormous robot controlled by Cross Stitch (the other glove of the magician, and Glover's arch nemesis) being the absolute highlight. The levels featured familiar themes such as a dinosaur world and a horror-themed world, and more original areas such as the ones modeled after a circus and Ancient Greece respectively. The graphics for the time were downright amazing, and the music was simply beatiful. What hurt the game in the end is that the gameplay just wasn't interesting enough to warrant facing and overcoming the game's many frustrating parts, which were not uncommonly caused by camera issues rather than innovative level design.

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Although Glover started out as a Nintendo 64 exclusive, PC and PSX version appeared eventually, with the latter being butchered by the critics, as it apparently was a disfunctional, watered-down port of the original, like many N64 to PSX ports at the time (hi Shadowman). Still, the N64 version was a small success in itself, selling near to a million copies. A sequel was scheduled for 2000, but it was cancelled for unclear reasons. It's likely that publisher Hasbro Interactive realised that it was increasingly tough to compete against the many, many 3D platformers that were being released at the time, not in the last place the instant blockbusters developed by Rare. The release of the Playstation 2 only complicated matters, and as a result we never got to hear from Glover again.

And maybe that's for the better. The first and only Glover game was a modest success: while it wasn't up to par with major titles such as Super Mario 64 and Banjo-Kazooie, it stood high above most of the mediocre 3D platformers that were being put out in a time when technology could just barely keep up. This begs the question, however, how a re-interpretation of this game would fare on current-gen hardware. The camera is less of a nuisance in modern 3D games, and Wii controls, for example, could elevate a gameplay concept that was already interesting in itself. One can only dream.

Before you buy any more games

Let me just tell you that, if you have a Wii (or even if you don't), consider buying a game, or rather a disc, that will change the way you perceive games. It has recently been taken out of production, but you should find it at some stores still, or on eBay if necessary. This particular disc contains not one, but three games. Three of the best games ever made, period. Even if you're a hardcore FPS fan, a lot of FPS games might seem dull after you've experienced this gem, as it lifted the way shooter-based first person games were played to a new level. The games have often been dubbed first person adventures rather than just shooters, as there was so much more to it than simply shooting enemies. The games all contained mindboggling puzzles, required smart navigation, and presented all of this in a sci-fi setting that is simply unequaled to this date. The story was told mostly through environmental scans, emphasising the feeling of solitude that was generated through most of the series. While its heavy focus on puzzling made it resemble a first person Zelda set in the future, the subtle eeriness could well excel even the most notorious horror games in giving the player goose bumps.

While two out of three games on this disc are rereleases of games from the previous generation - the oldest is nearly 8 years old - they succeed in embarassing most present-day shooters, adventures, and games in general with their superior control scheme. There might not be a better example of why Nintendo was right all along with its motion controls: these games have the potential to redefine the way first person games are played on consoles, even if it's nearly impossible to simulate the sheer brilliance of this unique trilogy, this pinnacle of console gaming, this holy Triforce.

And yet, only half a million copies have been sold. Not particularly bad, seeing as these games proved to be an acquired taste, judging by the combination of enthousiastic reviews and sales between 1-1.5 million per game, but the thought that there are still millions and millions of Wii owners who do not have this Holy Grail standing in the center of their collection of white keeping boxes is worrying. You know how you sometimes discover, years later, that you missed out on some great game release in the past, and you have to maneuver yourself through the most obscure of stores and websites to compensate that damge? Now's the time to prevent this from happening, if only for one time, as there is literally no excuse to not give this a try. Years from now, you will look back on this with great memories, and you might even give it another shot - something which you undoubtedly will not regret.

So run to the store, and try to find your copy of this release. What is the name, you ask? You really do not know yet? In that case, shame on you, but I'll give you one more hint. The box art looks kind of like this:

Happy hunting!

Hate for the Wii

While the Wii is the most commercially successful home console this gen, it's also the most controversial by far. Being criticised is pretty much inherent to being successful, but it seems as if the Wii gets no respect at all from self-proclaimed hardcore gamers. Without reviving the whole casual vs. hardcore debate, it's at least safe to say that the main focus of the Wii is different that that of the Xbox 360 or the PS3. I'm not even necessarily refering to titles such as Wii Fit and Wii Sports, which are obviously aimed at non-gamers (a term which is often confused with casual gamers), but also some more obscure exclusives that seem try something different, something which may either succeed or fail.

Alongside the usual first-party blockbusters, the games aimed at non-gamers, and the shovelware, the Wii is home to a large collection of niche games that will only appeal to a select cult audience of gamers who are willing to try a game out even if it didn't get a 9.5 on Gamespot, nor has the title of a famous franchise slapped on it. These games are usually highly experimental, which may undermine their quality to some degree, but they are worthwhile nonetheless, and while they may not be as engaging and qualitative as, for example, the new God of War, they are sometimes worthwhile or even unforgettable experiences. People who complain about the lack of new IP on the Wii may want to look past what Nintendo has to offer, and take the time to emerge in one of the many obscure titles that have the Wii as their only home.

Examples of games that may broaden your horizons are:


Deadly Creatures



An action/adventure game that seems like a mix between Arachnophobia and God of War. While it is not nearly as epic or good as the latter-named title, it is a very interesting title that just begs for a sequel. In this game, you play as a tarantula and a scorpion, fighting your way through different areas as you uncover the dark story of two golddiggers (voiced by Billy Bob Thornton and Dennis Hopper). Some of the platforming is clumsy, and the game is a bit on the short side (6 hours should be enough to bring this adventure to an end), but the beautiful artistic design, the solid controls, and the unique concept make up for a lot. This game truly is 'something different', and even though it still is somewhat of an unpolished gem in terms of programming, it's a memorable and refreshing experience that makes me thankful for having a Wii.


MadWorld



MadWorld is a rather obvious example of a Wii-game that never quite go the recognition it deserved. It didn't do well in sales, mostly due to its bizarre presentation and gameplay concept (think Running Man in black and white, but 10 times more violent), but most of the people who have actually played it know that this is quite the game. It makes good use of the Wii controls, without making things overly complicated, and if there ever was a game that made you feel like you were actually dismembering foos 'n' suckas with a chainsaw, it's MadWorld. The arcade-like gameplay make this game more of a pick-up-and-play kind of affair, but playing it hours at a time certainly is no torture. The over-the-top humor makes the entire game more hilarious than you would from such a grim concept, right down to the credits.


Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars



Oh, how the platforming genre has fallen over the year. In the N64 years (and since long before that), it was pretty much the most prevalent of the genres, both in terms of quantity as quality. Besides the usually epic Mario game, however, platforming gems are not easy to find. That's not to say that Mushroom Men is the most mindblowing platformer you've ever played, but it's a solid 3D platformer that mainly wins due to its amazing presentation and solid soundtrack (thanks for that, Les Claypool). Like all other games I mention in this article, it's rather short and there's still a lot of room for improvement, but again, I felt like I was playing something different, even if the gameplay itself wasn't as revolutionary as you'd expect from a Wii-exclusive.


The Conduit



The Conduit is a game I have mixed feelings on. It's pretty generic when you look at the art design, the story, and the linear gameplay itself, but the controls are the best I've experienced in any console shooter, bar maybe Metroid Prime Hunters. Making headshots was never as easy as in The Conduit, and the more realistic touch of these controls make the game's limited artistic design and lack of variation in the gameplay bearable. The fact that it's an FPS and I've beaten it says enough, as I even gave up on games such as Halo and Doom 3, which were considered to be the pinnacle of their genre back then. So while this would've been another mediocre, uninspired shooter, the fact that it's on the Wii actually saved it from being forgotten altogether, and actually turned it into a very enjoyable experience. Critics will thus have to credit the Wii where it's due.


I could go on for a while, but I think you get the point. People who say that the Wii is for sisters, mothers, and parties are right: I never thought I'd see the day I'd be playing a video game with my mother for, well, hours. But that has already happened multiple times with the Wii. I can also tell from experience that the Wii is a guaranteed hit at parties. People who say that the Wii is only for sisters, mothers, and parties, though, are wrong. Beside the usual quality of Nintendo games such as Super Mario Galaxy, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Metroid Prime Trilogy, Mario Kart Wii, and many others, there's a large quantity of games to be found you simply won't find on other consoles. It's true that this can be said of any console, but it seems as if the control scheme of the Wii sometimes does add that extra dimension to the gameplay, that was promised to us when the Wii was introduced.

Small developers sometimes make good use of this, experimenting with the Wii's possibilities and implementing never seen before gameplay applications into an unusually varied amount of niche titles. While a lot of these games still contain a lot of proof of concept, they should be given a chance, as gamers these days seem to be all too spoiled and cynical. Stuff like The Conduit might not come across as terribly refreshing if you've ever played a sci-fi themed shooter, but the fact that it has the best controls in any console shooter to date makes it worth the trouble, let alone for 20 euros.

In conclusion, the controversy surrounding the Wii is not unjustified by default, but it does often lead to a gross simplification of this piece of hardware, ignoring a wide array of titles that you might not think of playing at first. Once you do, though, you might often be surprised at what you find, and glad that you decided to take your chances and go for something different.

The 11-Year Rampage



Retrospectacles was a series of articles I wrote in 2007 in which I looked back on some of my favourite retro gaming experiences. After describing my love for N64-era kart games, as well as the Grand Theft Auto games of the previous generation of gaming, I didn't have the inspiration to discuss other retro games in such a **** I informed you about some standalone ****cs in my Cult Games articles, but Retrospectacles itself went into hibernation in August 2007.

Now that the already dreadful year 2010 has been initiated, however, I thought it was time for a third article in this series. Maybe the last, maybe not. This time around, the subject is the Rampage series, an arcade ****c that got some ill-reviewed console-exclusive successors near the end of the nineties, and one more in 2006. In this article, I will tell you all about how I came to love these underappreciated gems.



Love at first fight

Back in the days when the only console I somewhat owned was the NES (it belonged to the entire family, basically), I had to resort to my cousins to experience the top notch of 3D gaming. Back in that era, this category consisted of such games as Super Mario 64, Diddy Kong Racing, and later, Ocarina of Time. Occasionally my cousins would rent a game to check if it was worth buying, because they were only a few years older than I was in those preteen days of mine, and they obviously didn't have a lot of money to spare, resort as they might to those **** jobs and chores you do when you're about 12.

They obviously were more critical than me, as I was fond of nearly every game that was halfway playable. Someone who's used to NES games just doesn't have very high standards. Mario Party was mercilessly rejected for being too kiddy (the age-old excuse), and there were some other games that I got to play sporadically until they were condemned back to the shelves of the video store that took care of game rentals by my ruthless relatives.


this could be any city really, but it doesn't matter as long as you destroy it

One of those games that left their Nintendo 64 forever after a few quick playthroughs was Rampage World Tour. I can fully understand why. It was in 2D (and apart from Jazz Jackrabbit, stylish 2D didn't exist in our minds) and monotonous as hell as you'd only knock down buildings. A primitive effort even by the largely unestablished standards of the early N64 days. But boy was it fun, at least in my eyes. I don't even remember whether they rented this game and just took it back, or bought it and traded it in, but I remember myself trying to convince them to get/keep this game like a religious zealot trying to impose his faith upon an innocent passerby.

My revelations didn't arrive, however, and Rampage World Tour only stayed with me as a vague memory from a time when Super Mario Bros. 3 was the most technically advanced game I actually owned myself.


A long-lost love no longer lost

Until recently. Upon seeing a complete copy of Rampage World Tour for the N64 on the Dutch equivalent of eBay, I couldn't help myself, and purchased it. Like the Spirit from Christmas Past, I once again heard myself convincing my cousins to get this game, only this time I was the target audience of my own desperate plea. Resistance was futile.

Rampage World Tour turned out to be more or less what I remembered from it. Incredibly monotonous and addicting at the same time. A game with a high pick-up-and-play level that can be played for hours at a time. Admittedly I had erased some of this title's downsides from my memory completely. The cheesy metal tune that accompanies your destructive behaviour in virtually all level was a complete novelty to my ears, and compared to the lack of variety between the layout of the different levels in this game, even its sequel, Rampage 2: Universal Tour, seems like a diverse gaming experience.


in Rampage, even the fourth wall is smashed to pieces

I can hardly think of any games that are easier to pick up than this baby, so it must be doing something right. Apart from technical bits and pieces, finally owning this game 11 years after my cousins had taken it back to the store, just generates an enormous nostalgia boost.

My newly acquired copy of Rampage World Tour joined my game collection in good company, though. Not long after having saved up enough money for my very own Nintendo 64, on which I spent the, by those standards, astronomical amount of 100 guilders (approximately a measly 40 euros, go figure), I saw George, Lizzie, and one of the new monsters, Curtis, staring at me from a shelve at Toys 'R' Us. This tempting scene found its origin in the box art of Rampage 2: Universal Tour. After reading the description on the back, which mentioned a mutant version of one of my favourite animals, a lobster, I was sold, and with that, the game. I admittedly have no clue what amount of money I spent on it, but by my standards in those days, it was probably equally astronomical as what I spent on the console it was for. Now that I am digging up the memory, I think I actually saw this game in the Toys 'R' Us one day, and only came back later when I had saved up enough money (i.e. when my parents had given me my allowance) to purchase this budget title.


three new mutants, ready to take revenge for Mars Attacks

Was it worth the wait? To use a good American phrase, hell yeah. I beat this game quite a few times, probably on easy with cheats (one of the few gaming habits I actually dropped later on), but at least I got to see all this game had to offer, which was a collection of similar looking cities for me to smash up while hearing the same 5 songs over and over. Yes, Rampage 2 was nearly as generic as I recalled its predecessor to be. Did I care? No. Do I care? Even less. Rampage 2, like all Rampage games, does its job well. And in case you haven't understood this by now, its job is to let you immerse yourself in humerous, mindless violence.


Rampage: Total Compulsion

One gaming habit I never lost, however, is an obsession with owning all the games in a series. It's some inexplicable compulsion that probably has something to do with me cherishing an intense hatred for the feeling that I am missing out on something. Whatever the cause is, I forced myself to go out and purchase Rampage World Tour, but it was nowhere to be seen, at least not for a price I could afford. This was before the internet was big, let alone before purchasing items over the internet stopped being clandestine and obscure. I was condemned to Rampage 2, which wasn't much of a punishment as I enjoyed it zealously.

Maybe it was due to my non-existent standards for video games that I liked this game so much, but my current addiction to this very game seems to suggest otherwise, as nowadays nostalgia is not enough to keep an old game playable for me. Back then I didn't have a lot of money, and whenever I had bought a **** game (which happened quite often), I was stuck with it for at least a month or 2. But even with a Wii and a whole bunch of kickass games, Rampage 2 manages to touch me beyond some vague sense of youthly nostalgia. I admit, whenever I even hear its ****c menu tune, I start to feel all fuzzy, let alone when rampaging through North America as an oversized rat or lobster.


sight-seeing and annihilation never blended so well

No, Rampage 2: Universal Tour is more than that. While being a light-hearted and uncomplex adventure by any means, it is still very playable. It might be weird to state how a game that got below a 5/10 from nearly every professional reviewer passed the test of time, but it did. In combination with me recently experiencing the very bearable graphics of the original Paper Mario, I will have to conclude that 2D(-****) graphics age better than their seemingly superior 3D brothers. While a great game such as Goldeneye looks like **** by any modern standards, Rampage 2 actually looks 'retro', and as you know, retro is the **** Its gameplay is typical Rampage, which means it will be the same in 20 years as it was 20 years ago, and it's loved and hated simultaneously for it.


A motion-controlled obsession

I discovered this upon replaying this game after a hiatus that probably lasted well over half a decade, back in early 2008, when I got my Wii. Seeing as my obsession with getting all games in a series never really left me alone, I checked Wikipedia to see if any sequels were made for it, apart from the Playstation-exclusive Rampage Through Time, which I never got in the absence of a Playstation in my possession (something which had always bothered me). The answer was, again, very American, namely, again, hell yeah. This blessing apparently went by the name of Rampage: Total Destruction, and was released for the Gamecube, the Playstation 2, and... the Nintendo Wii! Luckily for yours truly, the Wii version was the most complete, as it had the most cities, monsters and upgrades, so when I got my Wii in late February 2008, or rather, when I had money again in March 2008, Rampage: Total Destruction was the first game I bought for it, along with Rayman Raving Rabbids.


Total Destruction has a good balance between old and new elements

Now, the old love was not only restored, but elevated. Rampage: Total Destruction offered the most fun Rampage experience to date, and for a nostalgic old git like me, that really says something. It had a roster of 40 monsters, as opposed to the one number digits that summarised the monster rosters of previous Rampage games, and it had 3D graphics. It still wasn't the prettiest of games, but the old Rampage spirit was revived in the best way possible. Over-the-top humour, incredible amounts of violence, and tons of futile enemies trying to stop you in your tracks. Oh, the joy.

Rampage: TD didn't just offer the deepest Rampage experience by far (which admittedly wasn't the most unachievable of goals), it had some very interesting bonus content. Firstly, I got to play the original Rampage game for the first time in my life. Initially hitting the arcades in 1986, Rampage looked to me like an extremely primitive rendition of what eventually would turn out to be Rampage World Tour. Even less thought, variation, and moves, but a similar amount of fun.


good thing those monsters are destroying those inferior tiles

The fun didn't stop there, though, for my long-lost love Rampage World Tour was included in this game. Yes, I had actually replayed Rampage World Tour before getting it for my Nintendo 64. My purchase of an original N64 copy can best be seen as revenge for the defeat I suffered so many years ago, when I could not convince my cousins to keep/get this simple yet genius game. Finally Rampage World Tour would be played in my very own Nintendo 64, after a wait of nearly 12 years. Being 21 years of age upon writing this, that's a wait of about half my life.

Well, that, and the inability to save my game in the arcade port that was included on the Rampage: TD disc annoyed me a bit.


Time to go Through Time

Now that on a roll (and a rampage), I decided to set things straight once and for all. Being in possession of the charmingly backwards compatible Playstation 2, I could finally get the unreachable love called Rampage Through Time, a direct sequel to Rampage 2: Universal Tour.

Unexpectedly it fell on my doormat. The British eBay seller with which Rampage Through Time swapped owners, had failed to keep me updated on anything regarding the reception of payment, or the sending of the package. I was happy enough to finally hold this game in my hands, however, so I immediately popped it into my Playstation 2, which is not in the best of shapes, and, after a few hits on the reset button, got to experience another interpretation of Midway's arcade ****c.

It potentially has a level similar to that of Rampage 2, but a few inexplicable edits keep this game from fulfilling that potential. Unfortunately, this game has no single player. Yes, you can play it on your own, but you will constantly be accompanied by 2 computer-controlled monsters. After each historical era you have destroyed, sets of levels that vary from being set in Ancient China to the Wild West to World War 2, you will have to play a minigame based on that period in time against your opponents. If you lose that minigame, it's game over for you. This interrupts the fluidity of the gameplay, and that is a disadvantage that can undermine the entire gameplay concept of the series if it happens too often.


in Rampage Through Time, you get to go Genghis Khan on the Chinese Empire, among other things

Still, Rampage Through Time has some of the most fun levels in all of the Rampage installments, and as one of the few games in the series, it manages to break through the wall of monotony that normally is so akin to it, with tons of well-composed tunes, vastly differing level layouts, and lots of enjoyable minigames that interrupt the normal gameplay in both a good and a bad way.


Spirits of Destruction Past

Now that I own all of the Rampage games, I can fully appreciate the series as a whole, as well as its latest installment. Rampage: Total Destruction contains a lot of references to the previous games. Apart from the obvious return of Scumlabs, the corporation responsible for the mutations that keep causing the world to be destroyed by a bunch of burping monsters, there's the inclusion of V.E.R.N., the secret monster that you could transform into by eating toxic waste in Rampage World Tour, as well as the return of the religious people you can't eat without being rewarded by lightning from above. More subtly, some of the game's new monsters resemble familiar faces from some of the previous installments. Newcomers Eyegore, Wally, and Rhett resemble the veterans Myukus, Harley, and Curtis respectively.


with his Universal Tour and Through Time experience, Boris leads the way for some revolting newcomers

Despite all of these retro boosts, Rampage will never be a celebrated, high quality series, appreciated by the gaming press, nor by a broad public. This is fully understandable, seeing as Rampage has a tradition of being technically obsolete, as well as incredibly monotonous and simple. Herein also lies its strength, however. The Rampage games are easy to pick up, regardless of how many years have passed. Even after the introduction of HD consoles with incredible graphics, the old Rampage games can still be played by those who know how to appreciate the arcade ****cs for what they are. Be they a relief from more immersive games, just incredibly fun, or even a guilty pleasure, Rampage games get their true appreciation from fans willing to look past their shortcomings.


Vern rejoices as his partners in crime indulge in totally destroying the world one nation at a time

Edited some review scores

After looking at some of the scores I've given to games in my reviews over the years, I chose to edit some scores in order to make my reviews more consistent with eachother. The scores I edited:

Mario Kart 64 (VC)

Old score: 8.0

New score: 7.5

Reason: I felt that a 7.5 was too high a score for a game that is very aged. For €10 it's a good purchase, considering you will play it quite regularly. Still, I thought 'great' was too big a qualification for a game that was outclassed so many times, which is why I adjusted my score to 7.5, 'good'.

Crash Nitro Kart (Xbox)

Old score: 8.0

New score: 8.5

Reason: 8.0 was just too low a score for such a solid racing game. It still holds its ground until this day, and I prefer it over the contemporary Mario Kart: Double Dash. I actually doubted between giving it a 8.5 and a 9.0, it's that good. One of the most underrated games of the last generation.

Star Fox Assault (Gamecube)

Old score: 8.5

New score: 8.0

Reason: Star Fox Assault was the first game I reviewed for Gamespot, so maybe that's why the score seemed out of proportion when compared to more recent review scores. I still like it very much, but it just wasn't solid enough to warrant a 8.5.

Deadly Creatures (Wii)

Old score: 8.5

New score: 8.0

Reason: A really enjoyable game and a sentimental favourite, but I just felt like dropping half a point because of the high amount of bugs and defects in this game.

Mario Strikers: Charged

Old score: 9.0

New score: 8.0

Reason: It seems a bit harsh to take a full point off the score, but a 9.0 is simply too high. The game is solid and has very little cons, but it doesn't have that special and original touch that warrants a 9.0.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

Yet another observation of the game that amazed millions

After having completed Ocarina of Time for a third time, I felt tempted to post some random thoughts on it, but feared that everything there is to say about this acclaimed game had already been said before we even entered the new millennium. Still I felt the need to say a few words about it, as it is not often that I beat a game three times, be it largely due to technical difficulties regarding memory storage that I downloaded the game onto my Virtual Console. I've also felt that my appreciation for this game has slightly different origins than that of a lot of people. It annoys me when you ask people what they think is the best videogame ever, and they zealously say Ocarina of Time, just because the gaming press labeled it as such. I don't know if Zelda: OoT is the best game ever. Probably not, but how can you compare an influential adventure game such as this with a very influential shooter such as Goldeneye? This best game ever crap is nonsense anyway, all that really matters to me is whether or not I enjoy the game, and I certainly enjoyed Ocarina of Time to high extends.


A screen that probably brings back memories to all of us.

The main attraction for me when I first started playing it somewhere in '98, was the huge freedom. Compared with games such as Grand Theft Auto and The Elder Scrolls, OoT's incarnation of the land of Hyrule may not be all that impressive nowadays, but before playing Ocarina of Time, I hadn't really played a game in which you could pretty much decide what to do. Sure, Ocarina of Time, like any Zelda game, was still linear, as you could only complete the game by engaging in a pre-determined series of events, but inbetween adventures you could stroll from one town to another, play mini-games, and above all, wander around aimlessly in Hyrule. The last-name activity was my favourite when I was a kid. Although all of the dungeons and temples seemed interesting enough, I'd rather watch my cousin complete them, because I'd rather just spend time searching for whatever on Hyrule Field, and because I felt it was out of my league as a gamer. Up until then, my gaming experience mainly consisted of completing NES games with a Game Genie and shooting my way through such games as Duke Nukem, Wolfenstein, and Doom with god mode on.

Even when I got my own N64 in '99, and got my own copy of OoT in 2000 (around the release of Majora's Mask), I lacked the confidence to go anywhere past Dodongo's Cavern all by myself (even though I easily could have), and it took until 2003 (when I got the Ocarina of Time collector's disk that came with Zelda: Wind Waker) that I finally beat the game by myself the first time. It must be said, though, that by that time I already knew the game inside-out by watching my cousin play it all the time, and my own habit of wandering through dungeons that he beat. My playthrough went flawlessly, apart from when I got stuck in the Water Temple for 2 weeks because I didn't realise you could actually go in that hole in the central tower, but I think we've all been there.

But alas, I saved it on a 3rd-party memory card, so all data got erased, and since I was still addicted to wandering around Hyrule once in a while I just had to complete it again. I took out my old N64 copy of the game, and started playing it again, starting in Jabu-Jabu's Belly, where I had stopped playing an x amount of years ago, and beat the whole thing again.

Lately, my N64 has become a bit dodgy, resetting at random times. I eagerly wanted to play the game again, so I downloaded it onto the VC, and beat it yet again, also getting all Pieces of Heart for the first time. Whilst crawling through every corner of this game again, I once again realised that I have a special connection with this game. Not because so many gaming outlets label this as the best thing since sliced bread, but because of the special, near-personal atmosphere it breathes. Despite having experienced Twilight Princess's edition of Hyrule; having witnessed the enormous world of The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion; having played GTA games endlessly, OoT's Hyrule still amazes me. The game really makes me feel part of that world, of that obscure, age-old legend and all of its magic. It's a feeling hard to capture.


Even after all these years, OoT's Hyrule is the same magical place it was over a decade ago.

I don't know how to put this without sounding like even more of a melancholic git, but Ocarina of Time often gives me a sense of total happiness, of feeling at home, but when I notice it and try to capture it in words, it's gone. It's still amazing how a game that's sold millions of copies worldwide can still feel like it was made just for me. The feeling I just tried to describe is perhaps best defined as a historical sensation that never was: a slight hint of nostalgia that's gone as soon as it enters your consciousness. It's something I rarely feel with other games, although Paper Mario and Super Mario Bros. 3 are noteworthy exceptions, and not surprisingly among my favourite games ever, as well.

This feeling I got again when I recently played through this game for a third time. It also has a lot to do with some of the places (Zelda's Castle, Spirit Temple) bringing back memories from my childhood, when my cousin and I would zealously play this game. Another aspect of this feeling is related to my interest in mythology, fairytales, and legends. Especially this time around, I paid attention to references to European mythology in Ocarina of Time, and it may be interesting to list some of them:

It may be far-fetched or useless, but I like to notice these small subtleties. This is just to illustrate that Ocarina of Time is a multi-layered game, so you can keep discovering things even over a decade of its initial release, a decade filled with fans and fiends alike debating every little aspect of this game to death. A remarkable achievement for any game, as it totally confirms Shigeru Miyamoto's general ideology concerning Nintendo games, namely that the plot and concept of Nintendo games may seem simple, but often turn out to be so much richer when the imagination of the player is stimulated.

And I think the nostalgic feeling I get while playing this game is just one of the millions of ways to enrich this game with things that essentially weren't there. In this sense, it is perhaps sad that my ability to enjoy a Zelda game (and other games as well) depends on how well its atmosphere complies with my perception of the game. I've always experienced the Zelda games as being especially dark. Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask managed to fully satisfy me in this way, being quite sombre games (at least in my experience), and you can imagine my disappointment with Wind Waker being so cheery and happy. The fun thing is, however, that other people thought that it was Wind Waker that reflected the 'true' Zelda atmosphere. And that's perfectly acceptable, as there is no 'true' or 'false' in this case: all depends on how you look at it.


Cult Games - Part 1

Cult Games

Example of a cult game

Cult games edition 1: Faxanadu

Why hello there. I'm going to post, under the banner of livening up my profile a bit, a few of my old articles regarding cult games. Let me start off by giving you my definition of a cult game. It's a game that a) everybody knows, but only few have actually played; b) a very good game that's only known to and appreciated by a select group of loyal followers; c) a game about a religious sect. We can disregard the latter category for this series of articles, because I've never known such a game, apart from that one time where you could do missions for the Hare Krishna in GTA 2, but let's forget about that.

The game I want to talk about today, Faxanadu, falls into the B category. If you don't know Faxanadu, then let me start off by saying that I pity you, especially if you are into the early Zelda games. Faxanadu was much like Zelda; an RPG released for the NES, possessing over some amusing translation errors among other things, but I'll come back to that later. The main differences were, first and foremost, that the protagonist of Faxanadu, in contrary to Link, was able to jump, and that the game was a side-scrolling game, whereas Zelda (with the exception of Zelda II, but nearly everyone I've talked to thinks that one's crap) was not.

Now Faxanadu is also part of a series, Dragon Slayer, but other games from that series are so obscure and unobtainable that I just won't (be able to) go there.

I still have an original copy of this game, and everytime I find it underneath a pile of cables and connectors, the game nearly forces me to play it; a compulsion I would give in to, if it weren't for the fact that my NES isn't in what you'd call top shape anymore. Still, the catchphrase on the game itself is enthralling: "Daggers and wingboots, mantras and monsters await you."

On a sidenote, I find the inclusion of wingboots in that phrase extremely hilarious in a way. I truly wonder if some person back then thought "hm, this game looks medioc--- wait! Wingboots! I MUST have this now!" Not unlikely if you consider that the word "wingboot" indicates that you can fly, and that flying indicates that there's at least some form of freedom in the game. Compare that to the fact that, back then, games were made to hurt and annoy people, and not to offer them comfort, relaxation, fun, a good time, a relief of stress, or anything that might give you the slightest notion of the game not being extremely hard. That point being made, I still wonder what's so attractive in a game about mantras, but let's just say it's there to create a mysterious and fantastic atmosphere.

faxanadu screenshot
I've never known before that you could get armor with direct cosmetic effects in Faxanadu. Go figure.

That shoved aside, let us move on to the part where we actually put the game into the console, and start playing. The thing that has always annoyed me about this game is that you can't skip the introduction 'cutscene'. Now that wouldn't be much of a problem in itself because intro movies were rare at the time. The problem is, however, that this particular intro movie consists of the protagonist walking towards some kind of castle. Not interesting the first time, let alone the 105th time.

Faxanadu intro movie

You have now seen the Faxanadu intro movie.

Skipping all the title screens and annoying questions such as "would you like to start a new game?", we find ourselves in a dark town. The music in itself is great (you can look it up on VGMusic if you don't believe me), but it gets even better when you enter the shop. The melody, the happiness, the beat, the golds (keep reading), just everything about this tune is funny. I swear, my cousin and I at least spent an hour in the shop, jumping (with the protagonist) on the beat, by pressing the A-button in a 3/4 musical rhythm scheme (I'm just talking crap now; I never paid attention in music ****. We giggled like schoolgirls and actually played the game just for that purpose. DDR eat your heart out.

Moving on, we meet our first monsters. Now the game is pretty straightforward. You go somewhere, and they say "Oh! Woe is me! I have a problem! Maybe [name] can help me find what I need!" Now, [name] coincidentally lives in the same village, so basically you're playing medieval delivery boy all the time. In the first town, your purpose is to get a weapon. So, logically, you would go to the shop that sells them, and buy a dagger (there it is!). When you do this the first time, however, the shopkeeper speaks the now legendary words "This is not enough golds.", a phrase which in itself turned out to be an underground version of "All your base are belong to us."

this is not enough golds

Can you see the church and road signs saying "This is not enough golds.", now? Oh, boy!

Naturally, you have to travel to the other part of town, hopping your pleasant way over the first monsters (these guys do end up keeping their promises rather quickly, don't they?), visiting a king, or some other guy who appears to live inside a church of some sort. He gives you golds for being the only hero to be able to save the World Tree in which you apparently reside, and off you go to buy your dagger, and slay your first monster.

The next objective is just plain platforming; jumping on things, stabbing monsters; you know the deal. If you succeeded in not dying (because really, that's what every NES game was about), you'll find yourself in the next town, and the story practically starts all over again, with the only difference being that the weapons and the monsters grow proportionally larger.

I've never beaten this game, not even with my game genie, but it had an overall dark attittude, much like Majora's Mask in the Zelda installment. The whole game had this feeling of "the world's gonna end unless I'm gonna move real quick". In Majora's Mask that time limit consists of the infamous three-day cycle, whereas in Faxanadu it is the time before your NES blows up. Now I hear you thinking about that time in the past where you left your NES on for a week, but truly, is that even an option now? If you trust in being safe whilst a 22-year old electronic device is powered on for an x amount of days, go ahead, but I'll pass.

I don't know if I'll ever beat Faxanadu, as much as I want to. I think that fact alone ****fies it as being a cult game. If someone on these boards has ever beaten it (BEFORE I posted this article, you vultures), I swear I will call you Sir for the rest of the month. Then again, you can't prove that you did, so that's tough luck for you, pansy.

Between you and me, I tried beating this with a Game Genie, because having a cheatless run usually ended me up not getting past the second town. Then again, I did that with nearly all games. It wasn't as dishonest as it may seem now, because, as I mentioned before, NES games were PAIN, and I just did all in my power to stand up to this form of virtual tyranny, just like any honorable superhero would have.

faxanadu screenshot

What, again?

So far for cult games numero uno.
Next up: Hogs of War.

And remember, "next up" is a very loose term.