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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Contra 4 Review - DS version

For christmas back in 2013, my brother got me Contra 4 for the DS (it is also playable on the 3DS by the way).

Contra 4 Nintendo DS Screenshot
Random picture from Contra 4
Content warning for Contra 4: This game is rated T for teen.  Lots of shooting action, killing aliens, enemies blowing up, etc (think Contra 3 style graphics).   While this game is great for people 13+, this game might be too much for the little ones (especially 10 and under).  Some noteworthy content includes: at least 2 bosses turning into skeletons upon defeat, one boss gets beheaded (the "terminator" boss at the end of the second base level).  Also, in the alien hive level (level 8), the end boss is literally as 3rd person view of a giant red falcon heart (think of the final boss from Contra 1, but it is a large 3D verison of it (and it does "scream" when you shoot at it).  In the harvest yard level, there are dead bodies in the background (reminds me a bit of how it is in Mass Effect 3 towards the end of the game where  you get dead bodies everywhere in the aftermath of the alien invasion).  Not only that, but also most of the level has you literally climbing the insides of a giant alien creature (it even tries to digest your guy with stomach acid in the area just before the final boss.  Also for your own good, do not try anything you see in this game at home, EVER! (kind of like what Jamie and Adam say in Mythbusters).  No going around shooting at random people and things obviously, not unless if you are trying to wind up in jail. 

You know, when I was a kid (back in the classic NES days), I was a fan of both Contra and Super Contra, and like many classic game series, Contra has several newer titles (like Hard Corps Uprising, Shattered Soldier, etc) and now they also have Contra 4 (also known as Contra Duel Spirits) for the game boy DS / 3DS system.  I was pretty excited to get my hands on the title, especially after just playing through Hard Corps uprising before that, and was pleasantly amazed. This game is the official sequel to Contra 3 and is set about 2 years after the events of Contra 3.  After the horrors of Red Falcon's foiled genocidal war against the human race in Contra 3, things were relatively peaceful.  However peace was too good to last and before long a new alien race known as Black Viper (which is pretty similar to Red Falcon in many ways in my opinion) has come to earth and is waging its own war against the human race.  As with previous entries, commandos, Bill Rizner and his buddies are dispatched to defeat the hostile alien forces against all odds, braving 9 intense levels filled with enemies, booby traps and bosses.  In addition, the tunnel stages from Contra 1 (you know the ones where you had to walk in a frontwards direction and shoot enemies and targets to progress) are back and have been greatly improved.  By the way, many levels in the game are pretty similar to the ones in the previous games (with some obvious changes), same goes with some of the bosses in the game too.  Even the wall boss from Contra 1 (if you remember that one) is back too, and is back with a vengeance too (2 part boss battle).  Like the previous entries, one hit kills your player and you do get limited lives and continues.  Ideally you will want to play through the entire game in one sitting for best contra experience, however if something comes up and you have to stop for the day, the game does come with a limited save feature where it will save your progress that you continue later.  However, sadly you do automatically lose a continue (kind of like how it is in candy crush where if you stop during a level you lose a live) each time you do so and once you run out of continues, it is back to the beginning for you (which will likely be frustrating for some, especially if you made it really far in the game).  Also the game does come in 3 difficulty modes: beginner, normal, and hard.  Beginner mode is essentially the "practice" mode and gives you a good of what is to come in the game with some less challenging aspects (for example, in the waterfall section in the Laboratory level, you don't have to deal with the boulders that fall down like you do on normal and hard mode).  Ideally you will want to play the game on Normal or Hard because the game stops abruptly on easy mode (the game ends after level 7 for beginner players whereas you go through the full 9 levels on normal and hard mode).  The game also comes with extra features, such as a challenge mode (where you can complete various challenges for prizes and other goodies) as well as hidden game modes (such as Contra and Super Contra for extended gameplay).

Brief Review

- Feels like Classic Contra with modern twists
- New level designs
- Great background music
- Massive boss battles, including a climatic fight with Black Viper in the end.
- 3 difficulty levels: Beginner, Normal and Hard.  Note: while beginner mode is a good choice for first time players, you won't be able to play through the final 2 levels in the game (alien hive or the harvest yard level) and get to the final boss or the ending.
- If you find the game to be too difficult, there are some cheats/glitches that give you considerably more lives as well as ways to earn extra lives (usually after shooting x number of enemies in the levels).
- Tributes to levels, enemies and bosses from previous contra games, with next generation style overhaul (such as new and improved tunnel levels and bosses).
- Extra game play modes, such as challenges that you can complete and win various prizes as you beat them.
- There are at least 2 hidden games you can play in the game that unlock by completing them: Contra and Super Contra.  Can be nice if you liked those games.
- Nice voice acting too (reminds me of the guy from Duke Nukem in many ways).
- Definitely a must have for contra fans in my opinion.

Cons about Contra 4:
- This game is definitely intense and may be too difficult for some people.  One hit deaths can definitely be punishing and can even come cheaply too and there are levels and areas in the game where you can find yourself dying alot.  Two classic examples are: the laboratory level (especially during the first half of the level) and the latter half of level 4 where you have to climb a huge missile, fight a miniboss, dodge missiles and avoid falling to your death, which can be easier said than done).
- Sense of deja vu  in some levels.  By the way, if you play level 1 on hard mode, you even get a remixed version of the background music from Contra 1 during the jungle level.
- The levels are somewhat long on average and you will definitely need to give yourself at least 2 hours minimum if you want to play through the game (unless if you are an expert at games like Contra).'
- While there are "save" points in the game,  they are limited.  Also you lose a continue each time you stop for the day.

Recurring themes and levels from previous Contra games:
- Return of the "wall" boss from Contra 1 (this time in 2 forms)
- The "tunnel" levels are back (new and improved too).  In fact there are 3 "tunnel" levels to contend with.
- The Waterfall level is back during the second half of the laboratory level (even has a giant alien boss on top of it with some obvious differences).
- It appears there are some content from Operation c such as the submarine miniboss during the Harbor level (note: I haven't played Operation C yet, so I don't know how much similarities there are between Contra 4 and Operation C).
- The Hologram boss is back (from contra 1).  Even plays a remixed version of the boss music from Contra 1
- It appears that some stages have remixed music from earlier games (such as the City level where the music is very similar to that in level 1 on contra 3).
- The mutant dogs are back too (from Contra 3) and you will encounter them on the City level.  Note: while they don't attack you in "beginner mode" they will charge you on "hard" and "normal" modes after passing them.
- One hit deaths are back, same with limited continues.
- The red falcon heart and aliens are back.  This time, the red falcon heart is huge and has a 3D look.  It even "screams" while shooting at it.
Note: I don't remember seeing anything from Super Contra or Contra Hard corps.  Feel free to correct me if I am wrong though.

Overall Grade: B+

General review of Contra 4

Boy, Contra 4 is definitely a fun and yet intense game to play through.  You play through 9 levels, each with increasing difficulty and intensity, each with their own unique enemies, obstacles and even huge boss battles lurking at the end of each of them.  By the way there is voice acting in the game and if you have played through the game (at least as Bill), doesn't the voices remind you a bit of the voice acting from Duke Nukem?  It does for me which does make it pretty entertaining.  Some memorable quotes includes: "locked and loaded", "Take em out!!!"  (usually happens after dying often), and others.  This game even pays tribute to Contras 1-3 in many ways too as any of the levels and bosses do have striking similarities to the ones in the previous game (like the Jungle level at the beginning of the game, which is pretty similar to the one in Contra 1 in many ways and even has the famous wall boss battle at the end, which is actually a 2 part battle this time around). Also as mentioned earlier, the tunnel levels from Contra 1 are back too and have been greatly improved too (you even get a map on the lower screen that shows your progress through those levels too). The first tunnel level even has one of the hologram bosses that you fight in the first game too.  Also, the City level (from level 7) is pretty similar to the one in Contra 3 (the mutant dogs are back too).

The levels are pretty fun to play through and even have at least one major boss fight at the  end of the stage (my favorites are the alien on top of the waterfall section of level 2, the final boss at the end of the Harvest Yard level (final stage of the game), as well as the giant robot you fight at the end of level 4 (the harbor level).  Also like many of the newer titles in the series, the game even has various minibosses too (like the giant submarine that you fight towards the beginning or the Harbor level as well as the giant spider boss you fight in the city level to name a few).

While many people will like the action the game brings, that game may not be for everyone.  One classic example is the difficulty in the game.  Like what other people have posted about Contra 4 (like the the writer on the gamespot review of the game put it), Contra 4 is definitely HARD and may be too much for some people.   Think of it this way, you have Bill and Lance (reminds me a bit of Rambo and Arnold Schwarzenegger in a way), an army of 2 and trying to take out an entire armada of hostile alien forces. Definitely easier said than done given the odds against them   I also agree with most reviewers: most people probably won't beat their game in their first several attempts  Contra 4 is intense too.  Unlike Hard Corps uprising (the previous contra related post I did earlier), one hit deaths are back and you only get so many lives and continues before it is game over and you have to start over.  There are 3 different difficulty levels by the way, with the easiest mode being "beginner", followed by "normal" mode and "hard" mode.  Beginner mode does have its pros and cons too.  While the game is significantly easier on Beginner mode than it is on the other modes, it is not a total "walk in the park" as you only start out with 9 lives and 5 continues, though the difficulty is somewhat less intense compared to the other mode. Some notable changes includes: the absense of the boulders that fall during the waterfall portion of level 2,  the missile section of level 4 being somewhat easier (the rotating handles didn't seem to rotate as often as they do in Normal mode), the hologram boss in level 3 is a bit tougher and uses those rolling things more often.  Also, while the mutant dogs in level 7 aren't a threat in beginner mode, they will charge at you in Normal and Hard modes after you pass them (much like how it was in level 1).  The only downside to beginner mode is that the game ends in level 7 (the city level) and you won't be able to the final 2 levels of the game nor fight the final boss of the game, so eventually you will want to at least to Normal mode if you feel confident and want to access the final 2 levels of the game.  Also the lives you start with does vary by mode too as in Normal mode you start with 5 lives and 4 continues and in hard mode you only start with 3 lives and 3 continues.  Like many contra games, Contra 4 is definitely intense especially with the one hit deaths, and sometimes deaths can come cheaply too.  One classic example of this is during the first half of level 2 where you are in a laboratory and you have aliens crawling down from pipes, aliens crawling down from some walls and ceilings as well as monsters (called meat puppets btw) that basically function much like how it is with suicide bombers in the middle east where when they see you, they blow themselves up and try to take you out with them.  Ideally you will want to go through the level slow with a good weapon in hand (like the lasers and missiles to take them out quickly).  However, if you try to rush or aren't familiar with their patterns you will probably die alot and may have to use up a continue too before all is said than done, and that is only the first half of the level too.  You still have the waterfall section too with its own unique challenges and death traps (like boulders that fall down and crush you if you happen to be in their paths, turrets that try to shoot you, snipers, and other enemies that want to send Bill and his comrads to early retirements).  There is even a huge boss fight at the end of the level too where you fight snipers at the the top and later a huge alien creature too.  There are other levels like that where death can come pretty cheaply too, such as the final section in level 4 where you have to climb a huge missile aimed at a city while fighting enemies, dealing with a mini boss battle about half way through, dodging missiles and dealing with rotating handles that your guy has to grip where if you fall you die. There is even a huge boss fight at the end of the level too, which adds to the difficulty too (btw, if you get game over there too, you have to do the missile section all over again).  Also bear in mind that if you have upgraded weapons, you will lose them when you die (if you are armed with them of course) and you can switch between 2 weapons too.

  This list can go on, but there are definitely alot of ways Bill and hsi comrads can die and you only get so many lives and contiues before it is game over.  Obviously, this game might be "easy" for some while nearly impossible for others (much like how it is in other titles in the series).  On the positive note, there are some ways to simplify the game a bit.  There are sections in the where if you shoot enough enemies, you can earn extra lives and there are plenty of infinite enemy spawn points where if you have the patience, you can arm yourself with a good weapon (like the machine gun, upgraded laser, spread shot, and / or heat seeking missiles) and shoot the endless waves of enemies and gain extra lives over time.  My favorite area for this is towards the beginning of the city level where there is a section where hoards of blue and red enemy robots charge at you or shoot at you (usually in 3s) and there are places where you can simply cling to the wire above or stand on top of a building (make sure that turrets and similar enemies are out of the way before attempting this by the way) and just stand there or hang there and shoot down at enemies as they come by. You can gain almost as many lives as you want that way (though it does take time for your lives to accumulate, so patience is a must here) and there are other places for this too, such as the infinite alien spawn points in the laboratory level, mutant mosquito section in the latter half of the city level (where endless mutant bugs swoop down and try to grab you and take you to your doom if you let them (a good spread shot or heat seeking missiles could probably make quick work out of them).  Alternatively, there are at least 3 cheat codes you can exploit too (I will post them in the spoilers section) if you are struggling (my favorite is the 99 lives cheat which I will talk about .later).  Besides the difficulty you will likely get a sense of deja vu in many levels of the game though they do have their own unique twists and additions and is not nearly as rediculous than how it was in Sonic 4 (at least episode 1) where many of the levels and bosses are almost identical to the ones from Sonics 1 and 2 repectively. Another thing worth mentioning too is while the game does save your progress (where if you beat a level but need to take a break for whatever reason), it is limited.  Here is how it works in my experience: so say that you are playing through the game and get to say level 3 (the base level) and you need to stop for the day (such as going to work, doctor's appointment, interruptions, etc) the game will save your progess and you can resume later.  There are 2 drawbacks though.  1. Each time you resume your game, you will automatically lose a continue (which can make things harder for you).  2.  If you run out of continues you will have to start over from the beginning of the game (and the save file goes away too) which will likely make the game frustrating for some, especially if they were really far in the game like on level 8 or 9 and they have to start over from the beginning..

Overall, this game is awesome in my opinion and definitely doesn't dissapoint and will likely be a hit with contra fans.  Like many of the games in the series, it might not be for everyone (especially given the difficulty), but for those who are patient and good at games like Contra, it is definitely a good game to have all around.

Due to time restraints, I will have to add secrets and extra content on a different post.  I have to admit, free time has been a bit limited for me lately especially in part to the situation with my mother (she broke her ankle back in December) and I've been having to help take care of her needs, and naturally that does mean less free time fro me.  Also I do have 3 part time jobs too (along with several other blogs and websites I do as well).  Will try to add new posts as time allows.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Top 10 Favorite video games I have played for this past year year (2012-2013)

Looking for some good video games to get this winter?  Here is a list of 10 games I thought were great for this year (in no particular order).  Note: I haven't posted reviews for some of the games on the list, but I can do that later as I get the extra time.  Note: this entry is too long to do in one post, so I will have to break it down into several posts

Game 1 - Mass Effect 3

Mass Effect 3
Mass Effect 3 is currently the epic finale to the Mass Effect franchise.  This game was awesome.  In Mass Effect 3, the Reapers arrive and wreak havoc across the galaxy (makes you feel like you are in a War of the Worlds type of movie in a way) and it is up to Commander Shepard, who was supposedly suspended as captain and detained on earth in the aftermath of the events of Mass Effect 2 (probably due to both his time working for Cerberus, who later become his enemies by the way, as well as the incident in "the arrival" expansion pack where Shepard was forced to destroy a relay station when the reapers were about to invade a Batarian colony), to unite the galaxy in their efforts to stop the reapers from brining about Armageddon to the galaxy (they basically want to destroy the universe and wipe out the human race along with other races).  This game is definitely one of the kind and I definitely like the "choose your own adventure" style system that the series offers where you can determine how the game plays out and ends, by the way, this game is best played in conjunction to both Mass Effect 1 and Mass Effect 2 since not only do they give you a good backstory to what is going on prior to Mass Effect 3, but the series is revolutionary in that what happens in the first 2 games determines how Mass Effect 3 starts out and ultimately ends (such as who survives the events of Mass Effects 1 and 2 and who dies, as well as how people perceive shepard as well as romances Shepard gains in the course of the story).  While the ending could have been better, Mass Effect is definitely a thrill ride you will not want to miss (especially if you are into science fiction style games and movies like Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek).   By the way, there are multiple ways this game can end and it is possible for Shepard to lose to the reapers.  He can also get into romantic relationships with certain crew members too (my guy for example, dated Tali in his tenure, though I have heard that both Miranda and Ashley are popular girlfriends for Shepard too). 

Game 2 - Elder Scrolls 5 Skyrim

Is dragon slaying your style?  Elder Scrolls Skyrim has lots of it.  It is essentially the latest game in the Elder Scrolls Franchise and is the official sequel to Oblivion.  You assume the role of a hero (who was almost got beheaded by the Imperial Legion that has taken control of Skyrim before dragons start attacking) who later becomes known as a "dragon born", who is essentially a hero that can not only defeat dragons, but he can also gain special powers and abilities whenever he defeats a dragon (much like how Mega Man can steal the abilities and weapons of robot masters he defeats throughout the series).  Like Morrowind and Oblivion before it, Skyrim offers a huge open ended gameplay system and a huge map you can explore.  Lots of towns and villiages to visit and explore, quests to complete, factions that you can join and be a part of, abilities that you can gain, and more.  This game will likely take several months to complete (unless if you have lots of free time on your hands) but it is definitely worth it.  You can build just about any type of character (I played as a Khajit that I named after Tiger Woods) and make him a soldier, fighter, thief, mage or rogue.  There are plenty of factions that you can join too, such as the mages guild in winterhold (which makes you feel like you are in a harry potter movie in a way), the companions guild in White Run where the dragon born can gain the ability to turn into a werewolf and easily defeat enemies that might otherwise be difficult to defeat, the thieves guild inn Riften (btw, you can get access to the skeleton key which makes it so that you can break into almost any lock  in the game without having to worry about wasting lockpicks and can even give you free lockpicking training skills too), as well as the Dark Brotherhood too (which is essentially the assasins guild in the game). You can also get involved with the civil war between the imperial legion (even though they tried to kill your character at the beginning of the game) and the Storm Cloaks too.  In the main story line, the dragon born sets out to eliminate the dragon threat and defeat the evil Alduin who is an evil dragon that wants to destroy the world.  Definitely a good game to get, especially if you are into RPGs.

Game 3 - Castlevania Harmony of Despair (Xbox Live)

Quick question for you all.  Are any of you fans of the Castlevania series?  I used to not be a fan of the castlevania games, but since the SNES era of Castlevania I have been a longtime fan of the franchise and have played though many different installments of the series, including Symphony of the Night, Castlevanis 64, Lamment of Innocents and most recently, Order of Ecclesia.  Fans of the Castlevania games (especially symphony of the night era Castlevania games such as SOTN, Dawn of Sorrows, Portrait of Ruin, etc) will likely get a kick out of Harmony of Despair.  This game seems to the the direct sequel to the Gameboy DS Castlvania games (namely Dawn of Sorrows, Portrait of Ruin and Order of Ecclesia) and even comes with an arcade style feel where you go through remixed levels of the previous games (with lots of content borrowed from DOS, POR, AND OOE) fighting through hordes of ghosts, skeletons, monsters and other signature Halloween-style enemies that you would find in a typical Castlevania game.  Initially you can play either as Shanoa, Alucard, Johnathan (one of the few whip users in the game), Soma and Charlotte, though there are expansion packs that let you play as other characters such as Julius Belmont, Richter (from Dracula X Chronicles and POR), Maria (she plays much like the version from Portrait of Ruin), and even Simon Belmont (for any of you who are into the NES era style Castlevania games).  There are also 6 huge levels that you can play through, though if that seems to be too short, you can also download 4 more levels, including the pyramid level from POR, 2 maps from SOTN, a remixed level from Castlevania 1 and 3 (even has a remixed version of Vampire Killer playing in the background), as well as a level from Legend of Fuma (seems to be a spin off from the castlevania series).  By the way, if you don't like playing alone, you can also play the game on Xbox live and play with up to 8 other players on cooperative mode too.  It is also worth mentioning that the evil Count Dracula makes a return in the game (not all of the newer Castlevania games seems to have Dracula) in a 3 part final boss battle. 

Other games (note: I will expand on them over time)
Game 4 - Fall Out New Vegas
Game 5 - Hard Corps Uprising
Game 6 - Mega Man ZX Advent
Game 7 - Candy Crush Saga (facebook)
Game 8 - Battlefield 1943
Game 9 - Mass Effect 2
Game 10 - Spiderman Shattered Dimensions.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

New Super Mario Bros. Wii - Death Collection [Part 1]

Just for some laughs, here is a video I found on youtube showing off funny deaths on New Super Mario Wii.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Hard Corps Uprising Review - an explosive new addition to the Contra series

You know an Xbox 360 game that I have been playing lately is Hard Corps Uprising.
Hard Corps: Uprising
Picture of one of the levels from Hard Corps Uprising

Overview of Hard Corps uprising

I've seen Hard Corps uprising on Xbox Live and it looked awesome and so I decided to buy the game on Xbox Live (got a free Xbox live gift card for my birthday back in September used the free points to buy the game).  Anyways, despite the name, Hard Corps uprising is basically the latest installment in the Contra franchise (and this is also the first Contra related game that I have played since Contra Hard Corps on the Sega Genesis).  This game is the official sequel / prequel to Contra Hard corps (depending on how you look at it) where you play as either Bahamut or Christer (there are also several DLC characters too that you can buy, such as a sword wielding lady) as they set out on a mission to topple a dictatorship regime set up by the evil Tiberius, which is essentially an Antichrist type figure that wants to take over the world.   The game has 8 huge levels in different terrains and environments, including the desert, jungle, ancient ruins (filled with traps much like how it is in an Indiana Jones Adventure), urban environments, and even a battleship you have to infiltrate to name a few.  As with many contra games (especially Contra Hard Corps), each level is packed with enemies to shoot, power ups to get (such as the spread shot guns and other special weapons), mini bosses to defeat as well as huge major boss fights as well.   The game has 2 modes: Arcade mode (which is geared more towards hard core gamers) and a Story Mode, which is somewhat similar to Arcade Mode except that as you get points, you can let them accumulate and use them towards power ups to make your character(s) stronger, such as having more lives (up to 30 lives max), better weapon upgrades, special moves (such as being able to deflect certain bullets and shots), triple jump (similar to double jump but you can jump 3 times in a row), as well as "tough guy" which makes it harder for you to lose weapons if you get hit.  The levels are pretty much identical on both modes (though on arcade mode, you start with 3 lives and you can only get hit 3 times before your character dies whereas in story mode you can level up your character and both start with better vitality and more lives for example) and hard core gamers (as well as old time contra fans) will like Arcade mode, while casual and first time contra players will probably enjoy the story mode. 


Things you will probably like about Hard Corps uprising:

Here is a video of level 4 in the game posted by a random user on Youtube.  This level should give you an idea of what the game is like

+ Very nice next generation feel.  Definitely beats the retro versions of Contra in my opinion.  By the way, the game almost has Mega Man X9 style graphics with the 2.5d look, great bgm music, controls, voice acting and all.
+ Has many of the elements of a typical Contra game.  I like the music it plays in the title screen (reminds me a bit of how it was in Contra 1), the power up weapons, the challenge it offers, etc.
+ Huge boss fights.  Also like in Mega Man X4-X8, a warning message pops up just before you fight a major boss and unlike in many previous Contra games, almost every boss has a health bar that appears and runs down as the fights progress.  Some boss fights even have several phases too (like the boss in level 4).  Also, as with Contra Hard Corps (and parts of Contra 3 as well) you can expect at least one or 2 mini boss fights (on average) in each stage.
+ Excellent enemy design and voice acting.
+ I liked the anime scenes that appear in the opening as well as at the end.
+ There is a narrative appears on the introduction of each stage (gives you a background for each level).  It also gives you an idea of what to expect in each level
+ Excellent level variety too.  Sometimes you are on foot (much like a typical contra game), though other times you can be riding a motor bike and fighting enemies via the motorcycle (including at least one mini boss fight), surf board, hoverboard, and even a train.  Each level has its own unique theme and terrain too (the first level, for example has you going through the middle of a desert) filled with enemies, mechanical sandworms (that eat you alive if you get too close to them too), and even a boss fight where you have to fight a huge worm like boss (much like the Thresher Maws from Mass Effect or the man eating worms in Dune) in the middle of a huge quicksand pit.  Other levels include a jungle, ancient ruins, city streets, a secret laboratory you have to infiltrate, and even a level where you fight on top of a huge flying battleship (kind of like the Helicarrier from the Avengers in a way).
+ The level up system is nice to have (especially if you find the game too hard at first).  Your character starts out weak, but as your points accumulate, you can use them to buy upgrades (such as improving your weapons, having a bigger health bar, having more lives, getting special moves such as deflecting enemy shots, as well as being able to move faster to name a few).  Hard core gamers probably won't like the level up system, but they can always to Arcade Mode which doesn't have the upgrade options and everything is pre-set.  By the way you can replay levels with the upgrades (which can make them easier, especially level one).  Also, since the game is only 8 levels long, you will likely finish the game long before you get all of the upgrades (especially the more expensive ones like the 30 lives upgrade).
+ Awesome new weapons layout.  Besides classic weapons like lasers, spread shots and machine guns, Hard Corps uprising also has several new weapons worth mentioning, including: grenade launchers (shoots rocket propelled grenades that explode on contact), heated plasma rifles (it is similar to the mega buster in some of the mega man series, where you can either shoot regular flame shots or charge it up and shoot huge fireballs that go across the screen instantly defeating enemies, destroying certain enemy bullets and even doing extra damage to bosses), as well as a ray gun that can reflect bullets back at enemies (which can be more efficient against bullets instead of the reflect ability).  One DLC character even has a light saber style weapon that you can use too.
+ Climatic final boss fight that has several different phases.  I won't spoil it for you, but it is definitely climatic in my opinion.
+ Innovative controls.  At least for Bahamut (I am not sure how it works with the other characters), Hard Corps Uprising definitely takes advantage of the extra controls that the Xbox 360 offers.  Your character can shoot rapidly (with an upgrade), run/walk, reflect bullets, perform certain actions (such as hurling sandbags at enemies and causing explosive barrels to explode on enemies), do a double jump (one upgrade even lets you do a triple jump where you can jump 3 times in a row), do an air dash (one upgrade even lets you dash twice in a jump), and change weapons (similar to how it is in Contra Hard Corps as well as contra 3).  One button even lets you to become stationary and aim your weapon in all directions (can be useful when it comes to taking out enemies that sneak up behind you, shooting at turrets at an angle, etc).  Also, there is also an auto-fire upgrade that you can get that makes it so that your guns can fire automatically.


Neutral aspects about this game (things you may or may not like about Hard Corps uprising)

- New villians.  In the older Contra games (especially Contra 1-3 and even parts of Contra Hard Corps depending on the storyline paths you take), the main antagonists were an alien race known as Red Falcon.  However in Hard Corps uprising, aliens are largely absent from the game.  Sure you do get some alien-like enemies (such as the level 5 boss fight where you fight a "grey" alien and level 7 boss fight where you fight an alien looking Cerberus creature), but the vast majority of the enemies are human and machine.  Also the main villain is an anti-Christ type figure known as Tiberius (I won't spoil the final boss for you though). 
 - No more one hit deaths.  In older contra games, one hit usually meant the death of the hero (though you do usually get several lives before it is game over).  In Hard Corps uprising, your character can take several hits before he/she dies.  In arcade mode, 3 hits can kill your character, while in story mode, your character can take up to 6 hits before dying.  Obviously if you are into one hit deaths (like earlier Contra games or even the Metal Slug games), you won't find it in Hard Corps uprising.  However, if you have found previous entries in the Contra series to be too hard, you will find some relief in Hard Corps uprising (especially in story mode).
- Next generation feel.  I know that Xbox live has several 8-bit style games in circulation (like Mega Man 9, 10, and even super contra).  Hard corps uprising has an 128 bit feel (much like how it is in Mega Man X9 where it is 2.5d).  Personally I like the next generation feel the game has, but if you prefer classic 8 or 16 bit Contra, you are probably better off getting Regular or Super Contra instead).


Things I did not like about Hard Corps uprising:

- Relatively short game.  The game is only 8 levels long.  It definitely could have been a bit longer, especially with all of the upgrades available.
- Upgrades can be expensive to get and so you will have to play levels over and over again to improve your character(s). 
- Replaying each level can definitely get redundant.  BTW, don't feel like you have to get every upgrade available and so you will probably want to be selective.  If you don't like playing levels over and over again, you might not like Hard corps uprising (though you can also try Arcade mode instead or even try doing the levels without upgrades).
-  Death can come pretty cheap in some areas.  For example, in the desert level, there are quick sand sections and your character can die if he/she sinks all the way (btw, it seems like you sink faster if you crouch).  In the jungle level, alligators can eat you alive.  In some levels (especially the second to lass level of the game), it can be easy to fall to your death. You also get sniper enemies in some levels (like the ones in level 2) and if you get hit by their shots, it drains at least 2-3 units out of your health bar (which means that you have to defeat them fast and avoid their shot to stay alive).
- Special weapons are easy to lose. It is a lot like how it is in the Metal Slug series where getting hit can cost you the weapon upgrades you have (i.e., spread shot, plasma rifle, etc), forcing you to use your regular guns (though your regular gun can also be upgraded too).  There is an upgrade (at least for Bahamut) that you can get called tough guy that supposedly makes it so that it is harder for you to lose your upgraded weapons (though I haven't tried it yet).  Ideally it would have been nice if you only lose your weapons if your guy dies.  On the positive note, you can actually switch between weapon layouts you have and if you have a weapon you don't want to lose, you can switch it out with a weapons you don't care for (such as your regular guns) and save the heavier guns for when they are needed (such as boss fights or taking out bigger enemies).  For example, the reflect beam can be useful against certain enemies and boss fights that shoot bullets you can reflect (such as one of the mini-bosses you fight in level 1). 


Final thoughts about Hard Corps Uprising

Hard corps is definitely a good addition to the Contra series.  It is highly innovative and will definitely be a hit for Contra fans.  It also takes advantage of the next generation set up that the Xbox 360 offers, including better graphics, remixed music (there is even a cheat that plays a remixed bgm from Contra 1 on the first level in the game), more innovative controls, huge boss fights, as well as other changes.  Obviously this game is not going to be for everyone.  Levels can get redundant after a while (assuming you are going for upgrades). There are changes to the storyline that not everyone is going to like (such as having new villians and the lack of alien enemies which were typical of earlier contra games).  Hard core gamers will probably not like the fact that one hit deaths are gone, though arcade mode does add extra challenge to the game, though casual gamers (like myself) will probably like the story mode system that the game offers.  Even with the upgrades, levels do get more challenging as you play through the game (as you would expect in any contra game) and deaths can come pretty cheaply in various sections of the game (such as chasm deaths for example).  You start out with 2 different characters you can play as (and you can do 2 player modes too both locally and via Xbox live) each with their own unique abilities and styles, though you can also download other characters if you choose.  Despite the flaws, Hard Corps Uprising definitely does not disappoint (at least not in my opinion) and very nice and explosive addition to the Contra series.

Game grade: A

Interested in playing Hard Corps uprising?  You can find it on the Xbox Live Arcade Market place.

Similar Games you might like:
- Contra Hard Corps (Sega Genesis)
- Contra 4 (note: I haven't played this version yet)
- Contra 3 (SNES)


Spoilers section  - this section assumes either you are planning to buy the game anytime soon (maybe you just want to see how it plays) or you have played through the game at least once.

1. New villians - Hard Corps uprising has an interesting array of new villians, including clownlike thugs (not sure how else to describe them) that function as henchmen for emperor Tiberius.  Plenty of other new enemies too, including snipers, man eating alligators, security bots, turrets, etc.
2. Lack of alien enemies - unlike many earlier contra games, Aliens are largely absent in most of Hard Corps uprising (which may bring into question if Hard Corps uprising is really a sequel to the contra series or just a spin off, I don't know for sure, though it does have the classic contra feel to it).  3 of the bosses do have alien like appearances though: the end of level boss in level 4 (particularly the final form where it looks like an alien robot machine), the end of level boss in level 5 (doesn't the "person" driving the saucer thingy look more like a "grey" alien?), as well as the Cerberus boss at the end of level 7 (has an alien look to it).  In most Contra games you do have an alien race you are up against (such a Red Falcon in Super Contra and Contra 3).  Even the first Contra Hard Corps game had alien plenty of enemies and bosses you can fight.

 3. Emperor Tiberius and the final boss battle - Emperor Tiberius is the official antagonist of Hard Corps uprising and is pretty much an anti-Christ figure.  He is a charismatic dictator that forms an empire aimed at world domination.  At the end of level 8, he is the final boss of the game.  What is interesting about Tiberius is that he seems to be a monster in human form, because after you defeat his human form, he takes on a more beasty form during the second phase of the final boss, and later a demon like form (during the final phase of the final battle) that you have to fight each stronger and more fierce than the last form.  It is hard to really describe him without showing you so here is a video from youtube below that shows off the final boss fight in all of its phases.

4. Prequel to Contra Hard Corps?
While Hard Corps uprising is the latest installment in the Contra Series. I am not sure if it s actually a sequel to Contra Hard Corps or a prequel to it.  Interestingly, the main protagonist of the game is Bahamut, and coincidentally, it is also the same name of the main villain in Contra Hard Corps for the Sega Genesis.  Also, in one of the levels you have to rescue a doctor and if you remember in Contra Hard Corps, there was an evil doctor (initially he was good, but he sides with the evil Bahamut in the original game) you are up against, which may or may not be the same person.  I don't know for sure, but there do seem to be some coincidences there.  Plus there are shows and movies where a hero becomes a villain (such as the Star Wars prequel series that follow Anakin Skywalker's storyline from when he was a hero until he turns to the dark side and becomes the evil Darth Vader) and this may be the case with the hero in Hard Corps uprising, though the game doesn't actually show Bahamut turning evil (even at the end of the game).  Interestingly, according to Wikipedia, Hard Corps uprising is the official prequel to Contra Hard Corps and so the game does make an interesting backstory to the original game. 


Secret Codes and Easter eggs.  Hard Corps uprising does have a few easter eggs and cheats.  (Original source: http://www.gamefaqs.com/xbox360/997471-hard-corps-uprising/cheats for details)

1. Change the stage music in level 1.  While level 1 is loading, you can quickly enter the komnai code (up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, b, and a).  If you enter the code correctly, you should hear the words, "let's rock", and when the level loads, the background is significantly different (the same one from level 1 in Contra 1 just fyi). Note: it is not the default music in level one (a different tune will play if you don't enter the code).  Also the music does change when you fight the mini bosses and main bosses of the level.  Note: this code does not work on the other levels of the game, so it is only good for level 1.
2.  Get 30 lives: in the title screen, enter the code: Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, Click Left Stick, Click Right Stick.  If you enter the code correctly, if you go to the skill customization shop menu, a new item should appear that lets you start with 30 lives.  Note: unfortunately, you will still need to buy the 30 lives upgraded from the shop before it takes effect and it is definitely not cheap to buy either.  You will need to save up a lot of experience points before you can buy it.
3. Wall mini-bosses in levels 1 and 2.  They remind me of the stage 1 "boss fight" in Contra 1 if you remember correctly.  See the 2 images below.  The wall mini boss is essentially an upgraded version of the one from Contra 1.  2 notes: there are 2 "wall" boss fights in Hard Corps uprising (the other one takes place in level 2).  Also, unlike Contra 1, the "wall boss" is just a mini boss and not is the official end of level boss.  The real one is a giant worm like creature called the Lotus Wyrm (which is essentially Contra's version of the thresher maw from the Mass Effect series barring some obvious differences).

   That is all for now.  Do you have any comments or anything you want to add?  Feel free to leave a comment below.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

What would happen if video game villians won? Top 20 villian scenarios part 1

Hey everybody, it is me again.  Have you seen the latest Thor movie yet?  I just saw it on Sunday myself.  Anyways, just thinking about superheroes, have you ever wondered what would happen if the villians were to win somehow?  For example, like in the youtube video above, Mario always manages to defeat Bowser.  Of course, they always make it look easy to defeat a villain.  However have you ever wondered what might happen if the villians were to win in the end?  In the next few posts, I will talk about several scenarios of what might happen if video game villians were to win.  Note: this article is too long to do in one post and so I will break it up into 4 different posts.  Here we go.  These scenarios are based on pure speculation and based on the patterns are in the games and movies and may or may not be accurate, but they are my best guess.

Scenario 1: Mr Burns in Simpsons Road Rage

As you can see in the video above, Mr Burns taunts the players after each drive through in Simpsons Road Rage.  Mr Burns is definitely a character.  He is Homer Simpson's boss at the power plant and often seems to be a villain in the simpsons games and in Simpsons Road Rage, he basically wants to force citizens out of their cars and ride radioactive busses.  Homer and gang's plan to stop Mr Burns is to become taxi drivers themselves (pretty similar to how it is in Crazy Taxi) and raise several million dollars to buy and shut down the mass transit system.  Of course, doing so can definitely be easier said than done as $1,000,000 is a lot of money to raise, plus driving people around in a timely fashion can be tricky too (especially the impatient characters).  Anyways, do you ever wondered what would happen if Mr Burns had his way? Here are some pros and cons to his ambitions

- Busses and similar mass transit options do offer alternatives to cars (especially locals)
- Roads are getting more and more congested every day (with more and more people out on the road, especially in cities) and not enough is being done by local governements to fix the problem.  Sure, the local department transportaions do have plans to improve the roads and help ease congestion, but the sluggish bureaucratic process can cause projects to take decades if not centuries to complete.  Even here in the Seattle area there are many projects planned by the government to help improve the roads (such as the Alaskan way viaduct tunnel replacement, adding more lanes on 5, 405 and 90, extending the 509 freeway, upgrading 522 between Maltby and Monroe, etc).  Of course, who knows when any of those project will get done and traffic congestion will probably continue to build in the mean time. I am sure the traffic situation is worse elsewhere too (especially bigger cities like Los Angeles and New York where some of the freeways can get pretty congested all of the time).  Obviously traffic is not going to get better any time soon.
-  Curbs aggressive driving and road rage.  Obviously you never know when you will encounter an aggressive driver on the road (such as people that speed up behind you and start tailgating you like crazy even if you are going the speed limit) and I have observed that some drivers look like they have short fuses and are likely to "explode" when some unlucky driver gets in their way or the road gets unusually slow.
- can be a good way to socialize too

So, I can see where Mr Burns is coming from in his bus industry.  Of course we do have some drawbacks:
- The busses seem to be radioactive and cause harmful side effects (at least in the opening sequence of the game).  Obviously most people are not going to face radiation sickness after riding the bus, which would be inevitable if Mr Burns had his way (unless if he fixed the busses).
- Obviously it does cost money to ride the bus
- When commuting from outlying areas sometimes it is easier more convenient to drive than to ride the bus.
- Seem like there could be long lines at the bus stops and bus stations if everyone is riding the bus (which means not everyone is going to be able to catch the bus on time or make it to work/school on time either).'
- Mr Burns is not always the most environmentally friendly person in the world.  I remember in the simpsons game for the Xbox 360, he wanted to cut down all of the trees around springfield and turn them into toothpicks even though it might cause environmental disaster (according to Mr Smithers).  If he had is way, the entire planet would be like a giant industrial area without trees, less animals, and possibly more radioactive due to the fact he runs the nuclear power plant.

Scenario 2: Dr Robotnik defeats sonic
Here is a funny video posted on youtube showing Sonic's speed getting the best of him and Dr Robotnik laughing about Sonic's doom.  Here it is (warning: the video might be offensive to some):

Ah, Dr Robotnik (aka Dr Eggman) is the primary evil genius in the Sonic the Hedgehog series.  His main goal is world domination and turning animals into robots.  Standing in his way is the pesky Sonic who is a hedgehog that happens to be extremely fast and have special powers (along with his sidekicks: Tails, Knuckles, Amy, and the rest of the Sonic game).  Now what do you think it would be like if Robotnik were to wisen up and defeat Sonic for once?

- The world would be much more techonologically advanced than it is now
- the rise of robots is almost inevitable in this world and could make life easier in the long run.
- He is supposed to be a genius too.

Of course, here are some of the downsides to Dr Eggman taking over:
- Expect a totalitarian style dictatorship.  Dr Eggman is definitely hungry for power and would likely rule the world with an iron fist if his schemes at world domination were ever to succeed.  Anyone who opposes his rule would probably be arrested and either executed or turned into robots. 
- He has been known to mess with forces that he doesn't understand and could easily lead to catastrophic results.  You see this in many of the newer sonic games, such as Sonic Adventure 1 (with the Perfect Chaos monster), Sonic the Hedgehog 2006 (the Solaris project, especially with Mephiles coming on the scene, who has much more sinister intentions with Solaris than Dr Eggman does), and Sonic Heroes (where Mecha Sonic turns on Eggman and does his own thing).  Can't you imagine what it might be like if Sonic was not there to stop him?  The chaos monster would probably liquefy all of Station Square and possibly the rest of the world too.  Solaris would probably destroy  time and the fabric of the universe itself.  Mecha sonic would probably usurp Dr Eggman's throne and wreck havoc on the world.
- Most of the animal species would likely get wiped out sooner or later as Dr Robotnik roboticizes more and more animals.  Of course, with Sonic out of the way, nobody would be there to oppose him. Tails probably would have turned into a robot too (much like he almost does in Sonic 2 for the game gear when Dr Robotnik kidnaps tails), Knuckles would likely be a unwitting pawn of Dr Eggman (considering that he is prone to being tricked by Eggman), and Amy would probably be forced into a relationship with Mecha sonic (even though her real crush was Sonic) .

Scenario 3: Dark Queen from Battletoads

In the video above here is a short video of one of the battletoads getting defeated and a typical game over screen.  Note: the game over took place on level one, and that level is easy compared to many of the levels in the rest of the game (especially levels 3-12).

If you have played through Battletoads on the NES you probably know about the Dark Queen.  I haven't really played through the sequels of Battletoads, but I have played through the first game and know that she is a crazy lady that wants to make life miserable for the Battletoads and ultimately rule the world.  She is probably one of the sexiest and smartest villians out there too as she kidnaps Pimple and Angelica (one of the toad's girlfriends) and Rash and Zits (the game's protagonists) are forced go on an extremely dangerous and daring rescue mission going through 12 levels full of traps, enemies and powerful bosses each getting progressively tougher than the previous ones to save them and put a stop to the Dark Queen's schemes.  By the way for the average player, it is more likely that Rash and Zits will meet demise long before they reach the Dark Queen at the end of the Tower of Shadows level (level 12).  Battletoads was definitely one of the most difficult games I have played in my life and it took many years, tries, continues and frustration to finally beat the game.  By  the way if you thought level 3 was hard (turbo tunnel), that level is just the beginning with 9 more levels to go with each level getting progressively harder than the last ones, especially levels 7-12 where things get really crazy and there is less room for error (especially the last 4 levels of the game where there are lots of ways you can die and get game over). Anyways, it would have been interesting if the Dark Queen did succeed.  She would probably hold Pimple and Angelica as captives, while Rash and Zits would have probably been food for the Dark Queen (there is a game over scene where the Queen eats frog legs by the way) and nobody would have stopped her from taking over the world.  Also, anyone who wants to stop her would have had to go though the same 12 levels full of traps, enemies, bosses and many other ways one can die and get game over.

Scenario 4: Bowser Koopa defeats Mario and Luigi
Here is a bloopers video on Super Mario bros (the first one) and in one scene Bowser gets his revenge on Mario (see 0:29-0:42 in the video).

Bowser seems to be infatuated with Peach and probably wants to give Mario some competition from the girl (which is probably why Princess Peach often seems to get kidnapped by Bowser).  Of course, he would be corrupt ruler of the mushroom kingdom if he had his way.  Also, I am not sure if Bowser would make the best husband for Peach either considering that he is a dragon and evil.

Scenario 5: Count Dracula defeats the Belmonts.

Here is a video below of Richter Belmont facing off and defeating against Dracula in Castlevania Dracula X for Super Nintendo.

As you can see in the video above, Dracula gets owned for the 5th time in the Castlevania series (counting Castlevanias 1-4 and not counting the Gameboy versions of the game).  Count Dracula is the primary antagonist of the Castlevania series and is usually (though not always) the final boss in a typical Castlevania game.  One interesting thing about Castlevania is that in each incarnation if the game, there is usually (though not always) a new hero that ends up defeating the dark lord (be it Simon Belmont, Trevor Belmont, Richter Belmont, etc).  In some games he even gets defeated by unlikely foes too (such as own son, Alucard in Symphony of the Night, Hector in Curse of Darkness, Shanoa in Order of Ecclesia and Jonathan and Charlotte in Portrait of Ruin).   Now, have you ever wondered what it might be like if Dracula succeeded in his world domination plan for once?  Here are some pros and cons.

- He would make a charismatic ruler.
- Some people in the game series want his rule.  For example, in Order of Ecclesia and Dawn of Sorrows, there are cults, corrupt church leaders, and other people that keep wanting to resurrect Dracula.
- No matter how many times Dracula gets defeated, he almost always manages to come back (except for the Aria of Sorrows and Dawn of Sorrows timeline where it assumes Dracula was defeated for good even though his spirit still seems to linger and posthumously indirectly influence the chain of events in those two games). 
- He is a pretty fitting icon in the Castlevania series given the halloweenish feel the series has,(monsters, frankensteing, ghosts, and all).

- As with Dr Robotnik, he would probably establish a totalitarian style dictatorship and rule with an iron fist.  Like Vlad Dracula from Romania, he would probably use impalement as a form of execution too.  Of course, he might also turn foes into vampires too.
- Paranormal events would probably rise dramatically.  Can't you imagine what it might be like if you lived in the world where ghosts are everywhere (even in places and homes that are not normally haunted), alien abductions occur almost every day, strange creatures (like bigfoot and the Jersey Devil) starting going beserk and revealing themselves to everyone (including skeptics).  Demonic activities would probably rise too (such as posessions, the occult, etc).  Of course, if nobody was there to stop Dracula and his minions, nothing would be done to stop it either
- Dracula could also be a genocidal maniac too (kind of like Hitler during World War 2) considering that Dracula wants to wipe out the human race (at least in some of the Castlevania games, that seems to be his goal).  Only those loyal to Dracula would likely survive (though they might be turned into vampires too).

Food for thought: If you read the book of Revelation (and similar prophecy books in the bible), from a Christian standpoint, the bible predicts a time when there will be a dark lord that rules the world during the days of the 7 year tribulation period that precedes the returns of Christ.  Nobody really knows who the antichrist is (theoretically, he could be any politician that comes to world stage for all we know), when he is going to come to power or how is rule comes about, but according to the bible, the time is coming when the Antichrist will be revealed and will essentially set up a global dictatorship (probably the New World Order system).  Much like Dracula, the Antichrist will be a charismatic leader (many people probably won't recognize him as the Anitchrist and will instead think he is a hero and some might even think he is God, even though he is not) and will essentially be the dark lord type.  He will also be controlled by Satan himself (especially during the great tribulation period during the last 3.5 years of the tribulation period).  The Antichrist will be so powerful that he will manage to establish a totalitarian style global dictatorship and only Jesus Christ himself will be able to stop him at the end of those 7 years.  By the way, the Left Behind Series makes a pretty good portrayal of what the end times might look like and what the Antichrist (Nicolae Carpathia) will be like during those years. 

Well, that is all for now.  Stay tuned for more.  By the way, what do you think of these scenarios?  What do you think would happen if the villians above were to succeed (note: it assumes they are able to defeat the heroes too).

Friday, November 8, 2013

Xbox One commercial on IGN

Well, the next generation of game systems is almost here (a first since the debut of the xbox 360, Nintendo WII and the PS3 back in 2005).  Now in 2013 (about 8 years later), the next generation of game systems is finally here.  Nintendo has the Wii U (which is their official successor to the Wii) along with the Nintendo 3DS which is an upgraded version of the Nintendo DS.  Sony is currently developing the Playstation 4 and Microsoft is about to release the Xbox One to the public (which is their latest game system).  As an Xbox 360 fan and owner myself, I think it is fitting to share a trailer of the Xbox one posted by IGN on Youtube.

Commentary about the video:
The Xbox One looks pretty awesome at the first glance and seems to have the built in Kinect sensor too.  I am not sure when the new system will debut (though I bet it should be released in time for the holidays this year) but it looks pretty awesome.  I want to get an Xbox one myself, though I will probably do it when I have the extra money for it.

Thinking about getting an Xbox One?  You can preorder one at Amazon here

Other game systems you might like:

Xbox 360 (current generation game system)
Playstation 4
Nintendo Wii U
Nindendo 3DS

EPIC FAILS - Wii, Kinect & PS Move Funny Moments