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Saturday, January 16, 2016

My history as video gamer part 2: the 1990's (work in progress)

Ah, the 1990s.  It doesn't feel too long ago when those 2 decades came and went.  The 1990's and 2000's definitely brought lots of changes in my life and game systems have changed dramatically in those 10 years.  Interestingly, I would end up moving 4 different times during that decade.  It was also the decade when I spent the vast majority of my schooling years, starting with 2nd grade back in 1990 and ending with my sophomore year in high school (though I also went to college for about 6 years, so I didn't fully finish my schooling career till 2007).  

(coming soon): Mallard Drive house in Illinois

(coming soon):  my former homes in Silver Firs then and now pictures

Where do I begin when it comes to the 1990's?  I definitely saw lots of changes in my life during those 10 years.  Back in 1990, I was still living on Timber Lane near Lindenhurst, Illionis and I would live in that home till I was in 3rd grade.  After that, we moved to our second home on Mallard Drive (just across street where my old friend, Matt Bleich used to live, though he ended up moving to Florida many years later).  1991 was the year whem my other brother, Justin was born (November 1, 1991).  I remember me and Brett spent the night with him downstairs that night.  Video game wise, I still had the regular NES and it wasn't till christmas of 1993 till I upgraded to the Sega Genesis (though also got the Sega Game Gear maybe about a year or 2 before that).  By the way, who here was a Sonic the Hedgehog fan?  I remember playing through Sonic the Hedgehogs 1-3 as well as sonic and knuckles.  Even remember doing Sonic CD, Knuckles Chaotix on the 3DX and eventually Sonic Adventures 1 and 2 on the Sega Dreamcast.  While there are plenty of games I liked on the Super Nintendo (like Super Mario World, Castlevania Dracula X, Mega Man X, and Contra 3) I ended up getting a Sega Genesis instead.  Back then, I did not have a job, so I usually had to rely on "Santa Claus" (aka mom and dad) to buy the games or systems I wanted for me.    

(work in progress)

Brief highlights of the 1990's (which I will expand on later):
- Getting the Sega Geneis (16 bit days), though eventually I would also get the Sega CD and 32 X add ons as well
- Birth of my other brother, Justin (back in 1991)
- Going to Florida and Disneyworld twice
- Moving to the Seattle area (1994) and living in 2 different houses in Silver Firs 
- Moving to Snohomish (current house I live in)
- Middle School and High School years
- Experience with the Nintendo 64, sony playstation, and Sega Dreamcast
- Going to Canada for the first time (field trip to Vancouver, BC)
and many others.

Star Wars Battlefront Xbox One Review

Who here has played the new Star Wars Battlefront game yet?  For my birthday, I got a $50 gift certificate for game stop and decided to save it for when the new Star Wars battlefront game came out back in December, and used it to help buy the game.  By the way, I still remember when the original 2 Star Wars Battlefront games came out for the regular Xbox (some were playable on the 360 too via the Backwards compatibility feature) and definitely liked playing through the 2 games.

 Above is a random gameplay video from the new Star Wars battlefront game.

Dice's version of Star Wars battlefront definitely gets a huge makeover definitely has a "Call of Duty" or Battlefield style feel.  The game is primarily set in the original trillogy, though the game also has Sullust (seems to be from the expanded universe) as well as Jakku from Star Wars Force Awakens.  The game reminds me alot of Battlefield 1943 on the Xbox 360 in many ways, which was somewhat like an online only Call of Duty game where players can play as either as the Americans or Japanese (usually chosen randomly between battles), reliving various battles in the Pacific during World War with one side usually coming out on top at the end of each mission.  Star Wars Battlefront has a similar feel where you play either as the Rebel Alliance of Galactic empire, except that the game is much bigger.  While the game does have plenty of things for single players to do, such as training missions, battle matches (where gamers play for points) as well as an extensive survival mode where the player's character is stranded on a planet (like Hoth or Tatooine) and must survive many waves of imperial forces before being able to leave the plent, the game is definitely best played on the online multiplayer mode (aka Xbox Live).  In online multiplayer mode the game gets much more interesting and fun to do with many different modes to play in.  Some of the most popular modes to play in my opinion includes:

-Fighter squadron (where you pilot an Xwing, Awing, tie fighter or tie interceptor) and go up against other pilots (though some enemy ships are controlled by AI forces too).  Sometimes you can fly a millenium falcon or Boba Fett's Slave I ship, but you have to get a special power up to play as them.
- Walker Assault Mission.  These maps are often huge with players playing either as the rebel forces or imperials  The imperials launch an invasion against rebel forces, while it is up to the rebels to try and destroy the AT-AT Walkers.  Game ends when either the rebels destroy 2 AT-AT walkers or when the rebels are no longer able to call up the y wing squadron.
- Domination: the goal of the mission is for one side to control all of the major points on the map on a planet.
- Heroes vs Battle (perhaps my favorite).  In this mode, legendary heroe(Han Solo, Leia, Luke Skywalker) go up against Star Wars Villians (currently Boba Fett, Darth Vader, and Emperor Palpatine).  Each hero or villan has their own unique abilities and powers.  For example, Luke can whack people with his light saber and even has the force push availability, Darth Vader can use force choke on his enemies in additon to his usual lightsaber availabilities, and Palpatine can use his signature force lightning against opponents too).  Only 6 players can control a hero or villian at a time (3 per side) so whenever there are extra players, they play as either rebel soldiers or storm troopers tasked with providing protection for their heroes and villian coutner parts.  The game randomly chooses who play as a hero/villian or who plays as a rebel soldier / storm trooper and usually changes each round (one round you might play as say, Han Solo, another round you might control Princess Leia, and occsionally you might control a rebel soldier or storm trooper instead).  Also, if you die as a hero or villian, you automatically assume the role as a rebel or storm trooper.  I would like to see more heroes and villans added to the mix (such as Chewbacca, Kylo Ren, Darth Maul, etc) I am sure if they are added, they will come as DLC.

Things I like about Star Wars Battlefront:
- Great multiplayer mode.  Almost like a Battlefield or Call of Duty game.
- Lots of variety.
- Stunning graphics.  You definitely feel like you are in the Star Wars universe.  Each planet and map have their unique feels and looks.  Tatooine feels like the desert planet it was in the movies (even has a Sarlacc creature lurking in the sands too, if you know where to look).  Hoth is incredible too and feels like you are reliving the battle of Hoth from Empire Strikes back
- It is often fun playing as heroes or villians.  Adds some variety to the game play
- The training missions are fun too and somewhat extensive.  In one mission, you pilot an X wing and go up against tie fighters.  In another mission, you control one of the speeders on Hoth and have to try and destroy At-At or At-St walkers.  Conversely there are plenty of fun imperial missions too, such as one mission where you control either Darth Vader or Palpatine and slaughter rebel troops on Hoth or pilot speeder bikes on Endor too (btw they are easy to crash in my opinion, making the mission extra challenging).
- This game will definitely be a hit for Star Wars fans in many ways especially when being able to relive various battles and events in the Star Wars Saga as well as challenging other players too.

Negative Aspects about Star Wars Battlefront.  Sure this game might not be for everyone
- Limited Single player mode.  Personally I find that the online mode offers alot more than single player mode.  Single player will likely get old and boring after a while. Sure there are plenty of training missions you can do, survival maps to play through as well as battles to relive, but single player only offers so much for the player.  You will definitely get more out of the game with the online multiplayer mode
-   Limited number of maps and planets to play through.  The Star Wars universe is much bigger than planets like Tatooine, Hoth, Sullust, Endor, and Jakku.  I hope Dice and EA add more maps over time, such as Coruscant (wouldn't it be fun to relive the battle of Coruscant that appears at the beginnign of Revente of the Sith), Genosis, and even Naboo along with various maps and planets from the Clone Wars.  Even Force Awakens has got to give Dice some more inspiration too (such as the battle on the Star Killer Base).
- I would also like it if they added more heroes and villians to the mix too.  They should also include Kylo Ren, Chewbacca and other heroes in the mix.

Overall Grade: A-

Interested in getting Star Wars battlefront?  You can either buy it at your local retailers ro order it online at Amazon.

Other platform differences:
I remember trying the demo version of Star Wars battlefront on the PS4 at one of the Walmart stores, but I found the controls are easier to master on the Xbox one version  Other than that, I don't know too much about the other versions.  If you have the PS4 or PC version, feel free to share your experiences in the comments below.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

My history as a Video Gamer part 1 - NES Era

I  got an email request recently asking about my history as a gamer and I think that now would be a good time for me to share my story.  Like most kids growing up in the 1980s and 90s, I have had lots of exposure to video games in many different forms.  My history is quite extensive too.  My history is too long to do in one post, so I will have to break it up into several posts.  In this post, I will explore the NES days

Above is a picture of Mountain View, California as it is today as of 2010.  It was in Mountain View where I was born.  Memories I have of those years are very faint at best (though I do have some pictures and videos of those years) considering that I ended up moving to Illinois when I was about 2 years old.  Though sometimes I do get that home style feeling when visiting northern and central California (especially the Sacramento area).  Interestingly, I haven't been to Mountainview in many years.  Probably would not mind going there again someday seeing how much it has changed since I moved, though my family rarely takes trips to that part of California so I don't see myself going there again any time soon.

My video game history in the 1980s (NES and Atarti Era)

I don't recall owning an Atari, but I did get my first game system when I was 7, the classic Nintendo. However, I do remember when I was about 4 years old, I used to visit my grandpa on my Mom's side (Joe Shackelford) in Rancho Cordova, California (he used to live there before moving to Washington State in 2004 and later passing away during the summer of 2005) and I remember getting to know one of his neighbor's kids and playing video games with him sometimes.  Back then, my dad was in the Navy (mostly stationed in Illinois, though he was stationed in Mountain View for a while, where I was born), and remember he got deployed to Japan for a few months and me and my mother flew out to California from Chicago (yes I used to live in the Chicago area long before moving to the Seattle area back in 1994) and staying with him for several months (it was a long time ago, so I don't remember all of the details).  Can't remember if he had an atari or sega master system, but he had at least one of the 2 game systems.  I also faintly remember Aunt Linda (one of my Aunts) used to have an Atari system at her apartment (she lives in the Sacramento area too and had a son too, though I can't remember his name since he moved out when I was still young) and play some games on that.  Around the time I turned 7, the classic NES was already becoming popular with fellow kids and friends in my neighborhood and remember playing nintendo games with some of them (such as Super Mario Bros and Contra).  Eventually, I got my own Nintendo and got games like Super Mario, Duck Hunt, and others.  That game system definitely brings back memories.  I still remember playing games like Mario Bros 1 and 3, Mega Mans 2-4, Contra, Duck Tales, Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers, Teenage Ninja Turtles 2 (The Arcade Game), and even Battletoads (took a long time for me to beat that game too).  I kind of got addicted to video games during those years too as I could spend long hours playging some of the games I had and often even visited friends and playing Nintendo at their houses too (most notably playing Mega Man 2 at this kid named Stephen's house).  Also was friends with Michael Blocker and he had games like Contra, Super Mario 2, and Mike Tyson's Puch out and used to play those games from time to time as well.  I remember some of the kids gave me a hard time for being hooked on video games too, and at least one kid spreaded false rumors about me plaing Mega Man 3 while he was gone at his house, though I faintly remember that day and have no memory of going there while he was gone (hey even if I did I probably didn't know better back then considering that I was probably only 8 or 9 years old at the time).

Most memorable games from the NES days:
- Mega Man 2, 3 and 4.  I remember used to have a friend named, Stephen Santiago (lost touch with him after moving to Washington State) and I remember how I used to often have sleep overs at his house ang play video games like Mega Man 2 and 3 with him sometimes.  By the way, I did get the Mega Man Anniversary collection for the Xbox, which was fun to play through (as it features all of the classic mega man games, except for Mega Man and Bass, Mega Man 9, and Mega Man 10).  I remember I used to spend long hours playing through that game (sometimes spending several hours in one sitting playing the games from beginning to end).
- Super Mario bros.  You know you are a typical 1980s kid when you have played through classic Super Mario bros at least once or twice.  I remember getting hooked on this game too and would often spend long hours playing through the 8 worlds. I remember visiting friends and doing 2 player super mario bros with them from time to time (one person plays as Mario while others play as Luigi).  By the way, this was far cry from say New Super Mario bros Wii or Wii U where 2 or more players can play simultaneously.  Back then, players usually switched off between their characters die (which can mean long or short waits for the other player depending on how good the other player is).
- Super Mario bros 3.  This was definitely one of the better sequels in the series (besides Super Mario World and others).  The game is huge compared to the first game and features huge maps of each world.  By the way, good luck playing the game from end to end without using the whistles since back  then, there was no save feature, so if you wanted to play from end to end, you would either have to use the hidden whistles to get from one world to the other or if you are the diehard type, you could spend long hours playing the game from end to end too (definitely could take an entire day to play from end to end in my opinon considering that each world is long with several boss fights in between each world and each getting progressively harder than the previous ones).
- Contra and Super Contra.  Definitely 2 classics in the contra series.  By the way, who remembers the Komnai code (up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, b, a, start)?  It is almost essential to know for players serious about beating the game considering that getting hit even once usually results in instant death for the players and you only get so many lives and continues before you have to start over from the beginning.
- Ninja Turtles 2 Arcade game.  I remember playing this game in the arcades before a version came out for the consoles too.  Forget the first ninja turtles game, Ninja Turtles 2 was definitely awesome.  Given the difficulty of the game, along with the fact that you only get 3 continues, most people probably won't make it to the final boss against shredder though there are some cheats players can exploit to get there.  Also, the game even has its classic villans for enemies and boss fights too, such as foot soldiers, mousers, krang, baxter, beabop and rocksteady, casey jones, and even shredder himself.  The game is also one of several arcade style ninja turtles games for consoles since developers would later develop Ninja Turtles 3, Ninja Turtles 4 Turtles in Time (for the Super Nintendo) and later Ninja Turtles Hyperstone Heist for the sega genesis.  I remember you can also either play the game on solo or team up with another player and work together to play through the game.  By the way, wouldn't it be awesome if a version of the games came out for Xbox One and utilized the 4 player system either locally or via Xbox Live?  That would be awesome.  They could even remake the games and give them arcade style graphics instead of the old 8 bit or 16 bit graphics too.
-  Mega Man 3.  This game was definitely a hit in the classic mega man series.  Set sometime after the events of Mega Man 2, Dr Wily is at it again and it is up to Mega Man to foil his plans once again (a theme that would happen again and again over time).  This game is also unique in several ways that in addition to fighting the usual 8 robot masters, you also have to fight a whole another set of robot masters from Mega Man 2 (in the form of the gamma robots that uses the abilities of their fallen comrades) in remixed versions of some of the levels you went through earlier.  It is also the first game in the series to introduce Protman too (back then he seems to be hostile to Mega Man, at least till the end).  It is also one of the few classic mega man games where the boss music changes between  the regular robot master bosses and later the wily castle bosses.  In many other games, the boss music either stays the same most of the time or doesn't change till the final boss.  It is also one of the last games in the series where capcom gets creative with Mega Man's final confrontation with Wily.  From Mega Man 4 onwards, the final boss (where Wily telports around the room) is more or less the same (barring capcoms creativity for Wily's first form).  I remember some kids used to bully me over this game and one kid spreaded false rumors about me going to his house while he was gone and playing mega man 3.  My memories from the incident are sketchy, but even if I did do that, I probably didn't know better back then (was probably about 8 years old at the time) and was probably set up too.
 - Battletoads  This game was definitely one of the most challenging games I have played on the NES, but definitely one of the more fun ones too.  You play as one or 2 super hero toads in their quest to save Pimple and their girlfriend Angelica from the evil Dark Queen in an adventure consisting of 12 huge levels full of enemies, obstacles to overcome and other challenges to get through along with the occasional boss fights along the way too.  By the way, if you thought level 3, the turbo tunnel was hard, that was just the beginning my friend as the game is 12 levels long with each level getting progressively tougher to play through than the previous ones, plus you do have several more similar levels such as surf city (where you are riding a surf board instead of a bike) and volkmire inferno (where you fly a plane through a fire filled level).  The final 3 levels get insanely hard too and you only get so many lives and 3 continues before it is game over.  I also like how the dark queen taunts the players on the way.  It took me many attempts to beat the game, but eventually I was able to get to the end and defeat the dark queen on the top of the tower of shadows, with help from game genie of course.  Good luck beating the game without game genie if you insist on not cheating.
- Castlevania Simons Quest as well as Castlevania 3.  I remember the earliest incarnations of the castlevania series.  Took along time to beat Simons Quest, but it was pretty fun to play through non the less and is one of the more different titles in the series.  Castlevania 3 was pretty fun to play through too considering that you can either play as Trevor, Alucard or their allies going up against Dracula and his cronies.  It is also the first Castlevania game to feature the "big battle" boss music too (which would eventually happen again in Circle of the Moon).  By the way, newer castlevania games (especially Symphony of the Night Style castlevania) games would give the series a huge boost.  So far my favorites are probably Dracula X, Symphony of the night, portrait of ruin, dawn of sorrows, order of ecclesia as well as Castlevania Harmony of Despair.
Other honorable mentions:
- Double Dragon
- Mike Tyson's punch out - I remember playing this game with Mario posing as the referee and you do several levels' worth of boxing matches with Mike Tyson himself being the end boss in the game.
- Duck tales and rescue rangers.  These were fun game based on their cartoon counter parts, both developed by capcom.  By the way, there seems to be a remake version of Ducktales for the xbox one.
- Adventure Island
- North and South - I remember me and my brother Brett would play this civil war themed game sometimes where one of us would play as the union soldiers and the other plays as the confederates.  Doing various battles and even doing these levels where you have to try and rob a train or steal an enemy flag.  Usually Brett would beat me, but it was still fun playing through sometimes.
- Superman.  This was a classic rpg game where you play as Superman in his quest to rid the world of its villans.  Never beat the game myself, but it was fun to play nonetheless.  Kind of hard to get to the end of the game if you don't know what you are doing.
- Bart vs Space Mutants - long before the simpsons game on the Xbox 360, there was Bart vs Space Mutants.  Only rented this game, but never actually beat the game (back then, you usually had to go to the local store like Blockbuster or even Ben Franklin if you wanted to rent games).  Not sure how people rent games now that Blockbuster and many other well know video stores have gone out of business.
- Super Mario 2 (this game was definitely an odd bunch in the series compared to the other super mario games)
- and many others

Other noteworthy memories:
Picture of my former house on Timber Lane when I was living in Lindenhurst in Illinois.  The area is more developed than it used to be and obviously has new owners (also I don't always remember the extra floor there), but that is where I used live back when I was in Illinois. By the way, back in the 1980's the house used to back up to a cornfield (with a farm in the distance) and the McDonalds Forest preserve was a short walk away, providing easy access for families who want to go on a hike there.  

- Back then, I was living in Lindenhurst, Illinois (situated about half way between Chicago and Milwalkee maybe about 5 miles south of the Wisconsin border).  Lots of fond memories there (even have home videos of those years).  I remember I used to take more trips to Wisconsin than I did going to various places in Illinois.  Of course, I was too young to drive back then, so I had to rely on my parents to take me places.  I also remember going on camping trips to places like Door County and Minoqua in Wisconsin.  Even went on a cabin trip to Ely Minnesota once (north of Duluth).  Interestingly, my family is  talking about going on a trip to Door County this fall.  Not clear if or when we will do such a trip, but it would mark my second time going to Wisconsin since moving to Washington (the first time occured back in the summer of 2000 when I visited my old friend, Matt Bleich and we went on a camping trip to Sturgeon Bay in Wisconsin).
- I remember having this toy red jeep that I would drive around along with Brett and Matt.
- I had some other friends like Megan Kasper, Michael Blocker (lost touch with him, though my mother is still friends with his mother, Debbie along with her older sister, Joni), Sara Koth (lost touch with her) and Stephen Santiago.  Sometimes I would go to friends houses and play nintendo with them too.
- I don't remember doing the Sega Master system back then, though I did eventually get the Sega Game gear, which does seem to have some the games from the sega master system.  Most if not all kids back then either had an atari or nintendo.    
- I definitely have lots of other fond memories from those years, such as going to several different elementary schools before getting mainstreamed at Millburn (before then, I also attended school at BJ Hooper in Lindenhurst, a school near Lake Villa and later a school in Antioch).  Was placed in an early childhood program too, so I was pretty much in some form of schooling from when I was about 3 years old through the end of my college years.
- Used to do block parties on 4th of july, Halloween parties at my old house, etc too.
- Remember going to Chuck e Cheeses for birthdays sometimes too (most notably when I turned 5 years old).  I also used to like this girl named Heidi too (though I ended up losing touch with her after moving to Washington State).
- It was also during my time in Illinois where I would break a bone on 3 different occasions.  First time I popped my shoulder after messing around on a one of those spider web poles you see in some playgrounds (did this thing that some kids would do where you would climb around the poles before sliding down, and that proved to be a mistake for me since I lost my grip and fell).  Ended up in a cast for a while then.  Also broke my pinkie finger once not too long after that (I think I tripped on something and broke it that way).  The third time it happened was when I was living on Mallard drive and fell backwards from a playground bridge.  Was taunting some kids (didn't know better) when I slipped and fell (definitely learned my lesson from that) and ended up in a cast for the whole summer.  Luckily I haven't broken any bones since then so far.
- Unlike present time where I live with 2 dogs (a golden retriever and a shih tzu), we did have a dog for a little while there, a springer spaniel named crocket (he looked like snoopy).  Unfortunately the dog had behavior problems and did not fit well in the family so we ended up giving him away.  It wouldn't be till 1997 till we got our second dog (Teddy the golden retriever).

Well that is all for this post.  Stay tuned for post number 2 (the 1990s').

Noteworthy moments in the 1990s': Sega Genesis Days, computer games (such as Xwing and Mech Warrior 2), Sega CD, Nintendo 64, Sega Dreamcast, and Playstation.  Even moved about 4 times during those years too.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

50 Ways To Die In Super Mario Bros X

Here is a funny video for super mario fans here.