Pacing the Cage

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Archive for the ‘Top 10’ Category

Top 10: Games where you play as an animal

Posted by ptcgaming on October 22, 2008

Not all games require you to suit up as a sword-wielding knight or machine gun-toting mercenary to fend off all enemies in your way. Sometimes, developers take the wacky (and sometimes strange) idea of making the hero, or playable character, at least, an animal. Sometimes these ideas work. Other times – and I’m giving the evil eye to you, Ecco the Dolphin – it doesn’t. So here are 10 instances where the idea worked. And if anyone can fill me in on what the point of Ecco was, please feel free to let me know.

10. Quackshot Starring Donald Duck (Genesis): Treasure-hunting Donald Duck armed himself with quite a plunger-blasting pistol in this game that was actually a lot of fun to play. Be sure to check out the Indiana Jones getup he’s wearing.

9. Kangaroo (Arcade, Atari 2600 & 5200): Those “Punch the monkey and win $20” banner ads must have come from this game. Because there isn’t much that is more entertaining than a kangaroo wearing boxing gloves who knocks monkeys out in order to save her son.

8. Yars’ Revenge (Atari 2600): I know a Yar is supposed to be like a bug, so I counted it even though it’s apparently not an Earthly one. But any bug tough enough to eat through a barrier before aiming a cannon that makes the screen flash all kinds of colors is OK in my book.

7. Altered Beast (Genesis): OK, so you’re thinking this probably shouldn’t count because you don’t actually start each level is an animal. But are you going to tell the Golden Werewolf that to his face? Didn’t think so.

6. Lemmings (PC, NES): Believe it or not, Lemmings are real animals who live in or near the Arctic. The ones in the video game look more like Fraggles to me, but I don’t guess that really matters, except for the fact several of the games levels feature lava, which I reckon is much hotter than anything the Arctic has to offer.

5. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game (NES): I was never a big fan of Nintendo’s first foray into the world of TMNT, not because it was mind-numbingly hard, but because I expected more out of the commercial juggernaut. TMNT II has a much faster pace and better action sequences.

4. Donkey Kong Country (SNES): The best-looking Donkey Kong game at its time, DKC carried the franchise to previously unexplored territory: A side-scrolling platformer with faux-3D graphics.

3. Frogger (Arcade, NES, others I’m sure): Just get your little frog across the road then across the pond. Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? But as anyone who’s ever played Frogger knows, just crossing the road can make you want to pull your hair out. And if you’re not made into roadkill before crossing, you’re then up to be the guest of honor at some alligator’s feast.

2. Donkey Kong Jr. (Arcade, Atari 2600, NES): The original Donkey Kong didn’t make the list since you play as the spawn which would eventually become Mario (Jumpman). But in this game, it was Mini DK’s turn in the spotlight as he swung across vines to save his Daddy from the clutches of Mario. And you thought Mario was all good.

1. Sonic the Hedgehog (Genesis, Sega Master System): The blue blur blew his way into our lives back in 1991 and is still going strong today with new releases coming out. The anti-Mario was actually the second pack-in game sold with the Genesis (Altered Beast was the first). Sega struck gold with this guy, as the sequel to this game is the Genesis’ biggest-selling game. The first two Sonic games were also developed in 8-bit format for the Sega Master System, so Sega fans who didn’t own a Genesis console could still get their Sonic fix.

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Top 10: Classic video game dynasties

Posted by ptcgaming on August 27, 2008

The Donkey Kong series represents the best in never getting old.

No matter how many sequels some video game companies come out with, many never get old (while some do, but that’s another topic for another time). One of the best things about long-running series is being able to see new innovations that show up with each new release. Many famous series are among gaming’s biggest sellers and have been around since video games were first made readily aavilable for the home.
Here are my top 10 video game dynasties from the 16-bit era and back. While some of these franchises have newer installments, I’m only listing some of the 16-bit and lower titles. By the way, I’m not listing every title for every franchise, because for some I might be typing all day! And as always, your comments are welcome.
10: Bases Loaded
Includes: Bases Loaded 1, 2, 3, 4; Super Bases Loaded 1, 2, 3
The Bases Loaded series was the best set of baseball games for the NES, and only World Series Baseball for the Sega Genesis rivaled it during the 16-bit age. And some titles features Ryne Sandberg on the cover, which was pretty cool in the late 1980s.
9: Street Fighter II
Includes: The World Warrior, Turbo, Champion Edition, Special Champion Edition, Super SF II, SF II Turbo: Hyper Fighting
The classic 2D fighting game was champion of the 16-bit era. The Genesis version was ideal if you had the 6-button controller, which was set up just like the arcade configuration.
8: Contra
Includes: Contra, Super C, Contra III: The Alien Wars, Super Contra, Contra Force
Contra was “run and gun” gameplay at its best, as stopping for too long would get you killed. The “Konami Code” was a necessity when playing the ultra-difficult first game in the series.
7: Ninja Gaiden
Includes: Ninja Gaiden, NG II: The Dark Sword of Chaos, NG III: The Ancient Ship of Doom
What made Ninja Gaiden games, especially the first one, so great was the level of difficulty. Ryu’s adventures were anything but a cakewalk, and the original could be downright frustrating at times.
6: John Madden Football/Madden NFL xx
Includes: Any Madden game up to the end of the 16-bit era
John Madden Football, in its infancy, was actually more fun than it is today. From the obscure team names (New Jersey, anyone?), to the ambulance crushing anyone in its path to rescue the injured player, to Barry Sanders destroying defenses, these were the franchises glory years.
5: Mega Man
Includes: Mega Man 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, Xtreme, X, X2, X3, The Wily Wars
I wish I could rank Mega Man higher. I wish it because of how MM always felt so familiar, yet so different. The first installment was punishing (the “pause” trick definitely helps), but doesn’t lose points for that. What it does lose points for, however, is the downright awful North American covers for Mega Man 1 and 2. Note to artists: Mega Man doesn’t carry a cap gun!
4: The Legend of Zelda
Includes: The Legend of Zelda, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, A Link to the Past, Link’s Awakening, Oracle of Ages/Seasons
The original is a classic, the second not so much, the SNES title is best in the series (Sorry Ocarina fans, your game is overrated) and the Game Boy editions are solid. In fact, if you’ve never played Link’s Awakening and are tired of fighting Ganon every time, I highly suggest trying it.
3: Super Mario Bros.
Includes: Super Mario Bros. 1, 2, 3; Super Mario World 1, 2; Super Mario Land 1, 2, 3; The Lost Levels; Super Mario RPG
Super Mario Bros. 3 is, hands-down, the best overall game for the NES. The gameplay, graphics and music can’t be beat. The original SMB was groundbreaking, and SMB 2 in North America was like an acid trip, while SMB 2 in Japan (Lost Levels) made you pull your hair out. All of the SNES Mario titles were solid, too, but couldn’t stack up to SMB 3.
2: Sonic the Hedgehog
Includes: Sonic the Hedgehog 1, 2, 3; Sonic and Knuckles; Sonic CD; Sonic Spinball
The anti-Mario gets the nod over SMB for its display of raw 16-bit power. Its music, speed and graphics trumped Mario, even when the plumber entered the 16-bit arena. Spinball was horrible and took away what made Sonic fun, but the other titiles provided gamers with hours of it. A fresh storyline that didn’t include Bowser made the original Sonic the preferred choice for me.
1: Donkey Kong
Included: Donkey Kong; Donkey Kong Jr.; Donkey Kong 3; Donkey Kong Country 1, 2, 3; Donkey Kong Land 1, 2, 3
Where to begin? How about with a little carpenter named Jumpman, er, Mario. That’s right, Mario used to be a carpenter but changed his trade. Speaking of which, major points have to go out for making Mario the bad guy (Jr.). The original DK and Jr. have been ported an insane number of times, and Mario is in, what, like a bazillion games now. Then there’s Donkey Kong Country. DKC made a 16-bit system look like a PlayStation on your TV, made the gorilla the hero and made a giant wad of cash off it. Plus, since Mario wasn’t officially “Mario” yet, DK has been around longer than anyone on this list. Shigeru Miyamoto, please step up and accept your crown!

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Top 10: Video game characters as Summer Olympians

Posted by ptcgaming on August 13, 2008

With the Summer Olympics in full swing, I decided to offer a list of video game characters from the past who’d make great Olympic athletes. I know some of your favorites will be left off the list, so as always, feel free to suggest some entries of your own.

10. The Special Operations Soldier from Rush’n Attack: This guy would make a great distance runner, and I can imagine him stealing one of those flame throwers to light the Olympic Flame during the opening ceremonies.

9. Pit (Kid Icarus): Imagine having a guy with Pit’s archery skills helping the U.S. win the gold. He evn looks the part of an ancient Olympian.

8. Anyone on fire on NBA Jam: Settling for bronze would never be an issue when you’re sinking buckets from 80 feet away. And watching the ball fly through the air like a comet would be awesome, too.

7. Balrog (North American version of Street Fighter II: The World Warrior): Those little white spots on Olympic fighter’s boxing gloves won’t matter when this guy starts pummelling you. Chances are after about 30 seconds you’ll be running for the exit.

6. Pitfall Harry (Pitfall!): Guy can run, jump, swing and steal your gold. Start him off with a round of gymnastics, and he’s still fresh enough for some distance running.

5. Little Mac (Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!): The Olympics are full of great stories, and what a story it would be for the little 107 lb. guy from the Bronx to take the gold over his much larger opponents.

4. Luigi (North American version of Super Mario Bros. 2): Want to win the gold in the high jump and long jump? Recruit this guy immediately. Wins spot over Princess Peach for being able to jump high as well as far.

3. Bowser (Super Mario Bros. 3): The SMB strongman villain would be a nice fit for either weightlifting, wrestling, shot put or a combination of the three. Though despised throughout the Mushroom Kingdom, Bowser would be a great addition to the Olympic roster.

2. Sonic the Hedgehog: Chances are Sonic would sweep all running events, especially at the shorter distances. The other runners would finally reach the finish line to find Sonic laying on the ground doing that taunt pose.

1. Samus Aran (Metroid): The ultimate endurance athlete. Keep in mind the original Metroid is actually a continuous game with no pauses or cut scenes unless you die or turn the game off. Realistically, you can play the game from beginning to end without pausing or quitting the game. She can do it all – runs, jumps, shoots, rolls and drops bombs without even stopping for a drink. Now that’s an athlete!

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Top 10: 5 to stay away from, 5 to replace them with

Posted by ptcgaming on July 23, 2008

Whether or not you like a game is completely up to you. However, there have been some games that have come out that were universally bad, or just bad ideas for that matter. So today’s Top 10 is a combination of 5 games I think you should steer clear of at all costs, and some you may want to try instead. As always, comments and suggestions are welcome.

Don’t play: The Adventures of Bayou Billy (NES). Being from Louisiana myself, this game actually offends me (kind of like the movie “The Waterboy” does). I don’t know if it’s the bad Cajun accents or the having to beat alligators with sticks or what. This game is just bad.

Instead, try: Double Dragon II (NES). This is, in my opinion, the best game in the NES DD series. If you like beating up bad dudes (Hey, that’s a good game, too!), this is a great title to try.

Don’t play: Sonic Spinball (Genesis). Sonic the Hedgehog is supposed to run really fast, go around loops and jump on and over enemies. He’s not meant to be confined to a pinball machine.

Instead, try: Pokemon Pinball (Game Boy Color). At least there’s an actual ball involved. Or if it’s a taste of Sonic you’re after, try any one of his side-scrolling adventures.

Don’t play: Battletoads (NES). I give this game a lot of grief, but I feel it’s justified. It’s about as impossible to complete as Contra with just three lives. For more on my grief, click the link above.

Instead, try: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game (NES). This is one of the best titles for the NES, and that’s saying a lot considering the hundreds of games for the console. Gee, I wonder where the idea for a group crime-fighting toads came from?

Don’t play: Pac-Man (Atari 2600). This port is bad – really, really bad. It’s so bad in fact not a single one of the numerous other Pac-Man ports look even remotely close to this one. There is only one board to the entire game, and it repeats over and over again.

Instead, try: Ms. Pac-Man (Atari 7800). This is a right-on version of the arcade game, right down to the title screen and (cheesy) cut scenes in between. It’s a much better option if you happen to own a 7800.

Don’t play: Pro Wrestling (Sega Master System). This is not – I repeat not – the same as Pro Wrestling for the NES. This game features four tag teams who look like bobble head dolls. So don’t make the mistake of buying this game thinking it’s the same.

Instead, try: The other Pro Wrestling (NES). No, there still aren’t any real wrestlers in this game, although I’ve read they’re modeled after real ones (I heard King Slender is modeled after “Nature Boy” Ric Flair – Whoooo!). Anyways, this is a great title, even though it also has a limited number of wrestlers. Their bodies are proportional, and the in-match action also includes a referee and cameraman.

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Top 10: That’s Not Really Fair!

Posted by ptcgaming on July 10, 2008

While these tasks are not completely impossible, they certainly had many of us wanting to throw our controllers and consoles through the TV. As always, your comments and suggestions are welcome.

10. You mean I have to destroy this city again? Rampage is a classic, and everyone who was a gamer back in the 1980s played it at least once. The problem with the game is, while it does actually have an end, it’s after you’ve played somewhere around 128 levels. That’s right, 128 levels of doing the same thing over and over again. After about Day 50, you begin to ask yourself if it’s really worth the torture.

9. Glad the updated version has a save feature. Super Mario Bros. 3 is a NES masterpiece, and still to this day one of the greatest games ever made. Too bad the original version didn’t contain a save feature. If you didn’t take advantage of the whistles that allowed you to warp ahead, you’d after three hours of game time still be stuck around World 6. The Game Boy Advance port I have of the game, thankfully, has a save feature (All of you purists can cringe now).

8. Emeralds? What emeralds? I thought those boards were for getting continues! Sonic the Hedgehog, the speedy hero’s debut on the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive, was just the right mix of fun and challenge. But all that fun got thrown out the window the first time you destroyed Dr. Robotnik only to find out at the end of the closing credits you really didn’t finish the game. Why not? Because you didn’t find all six Chaos Emeralds located in the Bonus Stages. What was really tough about getting them was you were limited on how many times you could try based on the number of levels in the game. At least in Sonic 2 you didn’t need them to actually finish the game.

7. This shouldn’t be so hard to do. WWF Wrestlemania for the NES had everything Pro Wrestling didn’t (even though the game itself was inferior) – real wrestlers, their music and some signature moves (sort of). What it didn’t have was an easy way to climb the turnbuckle for some aerial action. For those of you who actually could climb the ropes, good for you – you also knew you could only climb the two at the bottom of the ring, like the others were on fire or something.

6. Bo knows Tecmo Super Bowl. You couldn’t tackle him. Enough said.

5. What do you mean I have to start at the beginning? With all due respect to Fester’s Quest (which is my Honorable Mention pick for this blog), Zelda II: The Adventure of Link gets my award for “Game With Dumbest Rule That Says You Have to Start From the Very Beginning After Every Continue.” I know you can create some shortcuts on the overworld map as you go along, but having to fight your way every time you want to reach a temple gets quite tedious after, I don’t know, the first 300 times! And usually by the time you reach the temple half your energy is gone… and don’t get me started on the heart container/life meter argument!

4. I actually think I did break my controller because of this game. Ever played Battletoads on the NES? Ever think the game was some kind of sick joke being played by companies like Sega who hoped you’d throw your NES through the wall and purchase one of their systems? I hate this game – I really do. And I thought the air bike part, with more than 100 obstacles to duck, dodge and jump was impossible until I saw a guy on YouTube finish it.

3. You can really complete this game. You just have to try harder to not go mad over it. Many blame it for the video game crash in the 1980s. There are tons of them buried in a western United States landfill. And it was developed in something like a month or so. But E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial did have an ending, contrary to what others may say. The key was figuring out what you were supposed to do before giving up on the game. In fact, you can beat the game in about 10-15 minutes if you know where all the pieces to the phone are off-hand.

2. So let me get this straight: If he hits me once, I’m toast? The Punch-Out!! series for the NES gave us two of the most brutally-hard bosses in gaming history in “Iron” Mike Tyson and Mr. Dream. What single human being would be harder to beat? If they hit you once, you were Michael Spinks on the canvas! And for the entire first round, all you could really do was tuck your tail between your legs and hope to not get grazed by a punch. Then afterwards, you had to figure out how many times he’ll swing based on the number of eyes he blinks? Like we had time for that?

1. Commando-style action-adventure? Check. Pea-shooting rifle? Check. Three lives to complete the game? Uh, what? For the five or so people who tried completing Contra without using the “Konami Code,” let me offer you a nugget of advice: It ain’t happening. Especially in a game where one hit and you’re dead. The code is there for a reason, and that is because even the best gamer most likely isn’t going to finish this game with just three lives and a limited number of continues. I’ve tried the three-life way several times, not advancing more than one level without continuing. It would be more realistic of there wasn’t that “one shot and you’re out” rule, but I guess the folks at Konami wanted to give us a challenge no one in their right mind can complete. I guess it could be worse – you could have to continue from the beginning each time.

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Top 10: Baddest Weapons From the Past

Posted by ptcgaming on July 9, 2008

For those of us who have been playing video games for the past century or so, we’ve encountered some great weapons we’ve been able to use (See this list) and some really not-so-great ones (The yo-yo in Star Tropics for the NES. Really?). And here’s a list of weapons I’d like to have if I ever have to put together an arsenal to take on and topple, well, pretty much anything. If you feel differently or that I”ve left something out, your comments are welcome.

10. The Gatling-style gun in Wolfenstein 3D

It shootin’ time! Remember when you threw open the door at the beginning of the final stage of Wolf 3D’s first episode only to find that guy behind it holding two of these? It was good to know you had one too, and if ya didn’t there was one hiding behind a wall. Even though this gun drained ammo like it was going out of style while mowing down enemies by the truckload, without it Wolf 3D may not have been as much fun.

9. Kuribo’s Shoe – Super Mario Bros. 3

I remember wondering what the heck this was the first time I stumbled upon it. It was a strange, new enemy, and it left its shoe behind after I stomped it. What a pleasant surprise it was to learn I could take Kuribo’s Shoe for a ride, err, hop. The folks at Nike should find out what this thing’s made of, too, because even spikes can’t mess it up!

8. Simon Belmont’s whip – Castlevania

If the vampires attack, you must whip them! If they come back again, you must whip them! OK, I know, that’s not what Devo really sang, but if Simon’s whip is strong enough to slay Dracula then sign me up for one! By the way, isn’t this one of the most visually appealing games ever on the NES?

7. Gilius Thunderhead’s golden axe – Golden Axe

You’ll notice that on the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive version of Golden Axe Gilius Thunderhead’s weapon isn’t golden – it’s silver (or chrome, if you’d prefer). But one thing’s for sure: If a little old man came running and jumping at me swinging an ax that big, I’d be running for the hills. His magic is the weakest of the three heroes in the game, but he makes up for it by wielding a big stick.

6. Hammer Bros. – Super Mario Bros. 3

It’s always great to give the bad guys a taste of their own medicine. Nintendo gave us all a chance to dish out a little payback in SMB3 by letting Mario or Luigi don the Hammer Bros. suit, which could easily destroy pretty much every enemy in the game. This was great, especially since those hammer-throwing baddies have been making me want to throw the controller through the TV since 1985!

5. Spread gun – Contra

Ask anyone who has played Contra, and they’ll be sure to tell you this was by far the best weapon in the game. What other gun allows you to take out several enemies on different levels at one time? And best of all, the Spread went from vertical to horizontal during the two “Base” stages.

4. Ken/Ryu’s fireball – Street Fighter II: The World Warrior

I someday hope to have the ability to channel my own “Ha-dou-ken” and launch fireballs at others. I believe my friends would be impressed.

3. Bionic arm – Bionic Commando

Radd Spencer doesn’t jump, which make his bionic arm all the more important. But what brings it to super-cool status is that it can do so much more! The arm can grab some items and enemies. It can also deflect bullets! Can anything Batman packs do that?

2. Force – R-Type

Not to be confused with “The Force” of a certain series of George Lucas films, the Force in R-Type is a glowing sphere with three levels of power. The levels of power feature different beams and waves. What makes this weapon rank so high is that it has the ability, when used properly, to gradually destroy some of the game’s bosses on its own. You just have to survive long enough for it to do its work. It’s also used as an indestructible shield.

1. The Master Sword – Introduced in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

There may be some out there, but you’d be hard pressed to find a weapon as synonymous with a game as “The Blade of Evil’s Bane.” The scope of the Master Sword’s role in its various appearances throughout the Zelda series has been slightly varied, but for the most part is essentially the same – kill Ganon. The ability to destroy evil in general is what made this weapon No. 1. No machine gun or fireball can do that!

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