Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Yeah, I'm different. So what?

Good day, fellow lasagna lovers!

Today I present something completely different. I posted this to Facebook last week, but I don't know how to make things "public" after they're posted. So here's a thing I wrote about, essentially, treating people like people. Thanks in advance for reading, and feel free to share your thoughts with me!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Top 25 on N64: #1

Hi there! Welcome to a bonus VIDEO GAME POST, sponsored by taco salad. Today I break down, in detail, my favorite N64 game! You know all of the other stuff, so let's not mess around here!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Top 25 on N64: 5-2

Hi friends!

Some of you may be chomping at the bit to read this [almost] last section so you can definitively tell me just how wrong I am. If you aren't, you probably haven't read the other posts. So here they are for your pleasure (each link opens in a new window)!

25-21: Crus'n USA to Star Wars Rogue Squadron
20-16: NBA Live 200 to Destruction Derby 64
15-11: Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards to StarFox 64
10-6: Perfect Dark to Winback: Covert Operations

Now you're ready. Grab your popcorn and let's get it on!

5. Super Mario 64

Mario's first leap into the 3D world was nothing short of wonderful, especially for 1996. The levels look great and are still challenging, even after I've beaten them so many times. A lot of the enemies are new takes on old favorites, as is the music - and both are great. Also I love how not only the Bowser levels, but his actual battles, change each time.

And while it's tough to narrow down my top aspect of this game, a big one is the ability caps. Borrowing an idea (or reusing it I guess) from Super Mario World, you activate these by hitting big switches. And then the fun begins! Invisibility, flight, and - my personal favorite - METAL. These hit boxes are scattered throughout the world, so you can do fun stuff everywhere! Woo!

Bottom line: this game is incredible. My only gripe is the lack of Luigi, but at least Yoshi made an appearance so my nostalgia was fulfilled there. If you somehow haven't played this yet, do the thing!

Also you can fly around on a bird!

4. Super Smash Bros.

Speaking of great party games, and games that make you realize you have crappy friends, this one might be the ultimate. Take your pick from (initially) eight classic Nintendo characters and kick each other's asses. The main characters each get a home stage, and there is a sweet bonus stage, all with different/frustrating pitfalls. I would have liked bonus stages for the secret dudes, but that's a minor complaint.

One of my favorite parts about this is the menu that for the longest time, none of my buddies could nail down how to unlock. Truthfully, I still can't remember off the top of my head. But the ITEM SWITCH for multiplayer is super fun and it makes me sad that my current cartridge resets when I turn off the system. Basically, you can decide how often certain weapons/poweups appear. My personal favorite? High frequency Bob-ombs! Oh what fun!

In addition to the multiplayer, the story mode is super fun. Though it does get repetitive since you have to beat it with everyone to truly finish the game - also I wish Giant Donkey Kong was a playable character. And I do enjoy the Target Practice and Board the Platforms...with most characters anyway (looking at you, Jigglypuff).

BONUS STAGE: Mushroom Kingdom! Woo!

Part of me wanted to rank this higher, but the top 3 were locks even on the original, ever-changing list. Still, #4 is a solid spot for a game I routinely got crushed at by my brother. Still great!

3. GoldenEye 007

I should have saved that Smash Bros opening line for this, because it definitely applies. Actually, it's more appropriate to use here than either Smash Bros or Mario Party. Because this is the game that everyone loved...unless you weren't good.

We have a rule with GoldenEye: the winner of each round picks the weapons for the next one. Guess who hardly got to pick Slappers Only? I have gotten better, but I still don't get to pick that often. (How fun is playing with chops, though?)

There are so many great weapons in this game, I could probably do a whole post about it. Maybe I will someday, but for now: lasers, rockets, several automatics, the sniper if you were a marksman, throwing knives - again, I could go all day. The fact that you could double-fist most of these is also super awesome. But the one that gets everyone who isn't fast enough: the goddamn Golden Gun. The one-shot kill to end all one-shot kills. It can be so cheap, but it's the best when you get it (much like my fantasy football bonuses).

The single-player mode, though I'll barely talk about it, is also super fun. It follows the film for the most part. Although it's been quite a while since I've seen it not on TV so I could be off on that. Even though trying to keep Natalya alive was not fun, at least this mode prevented the biggest crime in video gaming from being committed: screen-watching. I already yelled about this, but I always like to call out these jerks whenever I can. Stop screen-watching, you dicks!

They just don't make multiplayer this fun anymore.

Wow, this almost turned into a full post. I guess that's why it merits being in the top 3! Let's wreck stuff with lasers!

2. WWF No Mercy

Although this is a top-2 game for me, and really this could be number one, I won't go all in-depth. "Why not, Pat?" Well, dear friend, because I did most of that in my curmudgeon post.

I will say here though, that this is my favorite wrestling game ever. The engine is amazing, and more than makes up for the graphics being not so great. The improvements from WrestleMania 2000 - ladders, tables, backstage brawling, detailed story mode - are wonderful. Do I wish the game didn't lag with more than 2 people on the screen? Sure, but that doesn't kill my enjoyment.

One of the biggest rosters at the time, a fun list of unlockables (characters and "stuff"), an awesome create-a-wrestler mode to put just about anyone you could want into the game: you get all of this and more! This game is so great and I could write and talk about it for days. For now though, since we have just one game to go, I'll leave you with a 3D!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Top 25 on N64: 10-6

Hi there!

If last week's section didn't rally the troops against me, the final two certainly will! We've reached the top ten and I am excited to share my...favorite favorites with you. If you want a refresher, check out the rest of the list:

25-21: Crus'n USA to Star Wars Rogue Squadron
20-16: NBA Live 2000 to Destruction Derby 64
15-11: Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards to StarFox 64

Done and ready to shake your head some more? Good. Here we go!

10. Perfect Dark

Some of you may wonder, "Pat, how the hell can you put this so low?" And to you I say two things: It's at least in the top 10, and the game you're comparing it to will come next week.

Look, I enjoyed this game. I really did. It took what GoldenEye had and improved a bunch of it. My two favorite parts of this game are the bot training challenges, and the gun that lets you find and shoot enemies through walls.

For real. It's awesome.

But since this is my list of "games I play most" and not "best games ever," there are several titles ahead of it. Still, this game is awesome and worthy of a high ranking on any top N64 list. So go save the future and stuff!

9. NHL Breakaway 98

I did a full review of this game already, so I won't dive into it again. Although I guess I could since it's so high on the list...

Anyway, this game is still super fun for me and you should join me to play sometime. It'll be great!

8. Mario Kart 64

Ah yes, another game that is great for ruining friendships. While not the original, this is the one I always think of when someone mentions Mario Kart.

Red shells. Lightning bolts. Stars. And the wonderful - or terrible if you're in first - blue shell. The courses are fun and plenty challenging as you progress, and each character has strengths and weaknesses. Sure there's time attack and the unlockable "mirror mode," but let's be real: Battle Mode is what brings you here.

Four arenas (Block Fort #1) to choose from to humiliate up to three of your buddies. Plus, if by some bad luck/collusion you get taken out, you can become a bomb kart and ruin someone else's fun. If that's not awesome, then someone altered your dictionary. Do it up!

7. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater

It was really hard for me not to rank this higher. This is the game that made most of America realize there are other pro skaters than the title character. And helped me realize the skate deck I need to display in my future home. But I digress...

I will say that as awful as I was at the multiplayer modes (graffiti especially), they were still fun. But a main reason this ranks here is replay value. Yes, I have unlocked everything several times. Yes, I have set all of the high scores. And yet, I was just playing this game minutes before writing.

The collection of skaters is great, even though I knew who maybe two of them were at the time. The boards you can unlock for each [mostly] look great. The controls are super easy to master. And the different locations for the levels look amazing, especially when you consider the release year. All of that - plus the wonderful soundtrack! - keep me coming back, no matter how often I've done it.

Back to school!

So skate on, my friends, and watch out for the psycho bitches!

6. WinBack: Covert Operations

I have no idea how many times we rented this game before one of us decided to buy it, but what a great choice that [finally] was. For a game that has influenced many modern shooters, I don't think it gets enough love. And before you say it: yes, I am aware that this is essentially Metal Gear Solid on N64. I also don't care because this game is super fun on its own.

You play as Jean-Luc Cougar as part of S.C.A.T.: Special Covert Action Team. Your mission is to infiltrate the enemy base before they fire their super space laser at the White House. Along the way you'll encounter enemies (so many!), traps, puzzles, and stuff that explodes. The element of surprise is key here, so the run-and-gun style won't do you much good. The strategy, the story, the rocket launcher - all of this and more make me love this game.

Do yourself a favor and give it a playthrough. Be sure to move quickly and avoid the lasers! Also laugh with me about the time Bill fired a perfect strike with his controller at the game because Bump and I inadvertently teamed up to kill him in multiplayer. A million to one shot!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Top 25 on N64: 15-11

Hey, friends!

I hope you are enjoying yourself doing whatever it is while you read this. Thanks for coming! Today we continue our adventures in N64 Land as we take a look at games 15-11 on my list. Remember, critical reception isn't super important here - although I will mention it from time to time. This is mainly for me to praise my favorites. If you love or hate my suggestions, I want to hear/read about it! And if you need to get caught up, go here for part 1 and here for part 2 (both links open in a new window). For now though, let's get on with the show!

15. Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards

Kirby is a classic, I think everyone can agree. Who doesn't love hopping around as a pink ball of awesome literally eating your enemies? Not many, that's for sure.

This game is short, and not particularly difficult - especially compared to other Kirby titles. But it is super fun. The levels look great and offer unique challenges and, maybe the highlight of the game, you can absorb two powers at once!

I love this. You can either absorb two enemies at once or throw the "ability" (a colorful orb of sorts) at another enemy to combine them. One result:

Fire sword!

I mean come on, how cool is that?

14. Spider-Man

If you enjoyed the cartoon from the 90's, but have never played this game, close your browser and go on a quest. Maybe that comparison doesn't make sense to you, but it's at least better than the "don't skip this because of the crappy movies" line I had originally.

Stan Lee voice-overs. Alternate costumes with sweet power-ups. A classic the-police-think-you-are-a-big-jerk-and-you-have-to-save-the-day-to-clear-your-name story. I love this game. No matter how many times I play it, I enjoy the Spidey quips and dropkicks. Lots of action, plenty to unlock (up top for replay value!), and - for the time - sweet graphics. All of that puts the webhead in the top 15. And did I mention a lot of the voice actors from that sweet cartoon we all loved reprise their roles? Yeah, that's a thing.

Plus, unlocking all of the sweet suits is always fun!

13. Fighting Force 64

This game has a simple premise: pick a character and beat up everyone in your way. But sometimes, the simplest approach can work out very well. Despite not being highly rated, I think this game is great for what it is.

You have four choices for combat: Hawk, Mace (two all-around fighters), Smasher (the bruiser), and Alana (she has a sweet jump kick!). The goal is to stop the madman from taking over the world. During the game, you can pick up weapons - guns, bats, pipes - and use your environment to your advantage - throwing luggage in the train, for example. Again, it's simple. But it works and it's so fun, and much better with a buddy so let's do this thing!

Mario Party

This is one of the best games in the universe to find out how much your friends dislike you. Or at the very least, want to see you lose.

It's not much fun to play this game alone, even though there are a few mini-games for solo players. The all-out war of multiplayer is what makes this fun (and spawned the 78 sequels). You essentially play a board game with physical challenges at the end of each full turn. It is in these challenges that you learn of your need for better friends, or more practice to dominate.

Gotta be quick, Peach!

Racing, digging for treasure, basketball (with bombs!). These are some of the friend-losing contests you need to play to win the coins (and earn your way to the stars) here. It's all-or-nothing in Free-for-all, 2-on-2, 1-on-3 fun. So grab your best worst friends and get to partying!

11. StarFox 64

Stepping away from multiplayer - though it is in this game - let's talk about how great this "campaign mode" is. You control Fox McCloud, the leader of the Star Fox team. Your mission? To save the Lylat System from the evil Andross.

You do this mainly in your Arwing ship, but you also kill bad dudes in a TANK. Shooting lasers, droppin' bombs, saving the world: how can you go wrong? You can't. N64 wins again!

In addition to being a fun adventure, this game provides some wonderfully quotable dialogue, which my brother, best friend, and I repeat often. It's great, and so is this game. So go save the galaxy, and watch out for Star Wolf!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Top 25 on the N64: 20-16

Hey, friend!

Welcome to our second journey down memory lane and into N64-land. This week, we're really diving into games I own and still play kind of a lot. Check out part one here (opens in new window) and then let's do this!

20. NBA Live 2000

I have two words to explain why this game is here: Michael. Jordan.

First task when getting this - what a moment!

This was his first appearance in the series (I'm pretty sure), and I was very excited about it. Being a 90s kid, and a casual NBA fan at best, Jordan was #1. It disappointed me that he wasn't in NBA Jam, so I jumped at this.

Yeah, yeah I know there were other cool features here. Playing with other Legends, a nice franchise mode (especially for the time), and one-on-one mode making its debut all made this game fun for me. But the fact that I'm not great at basketball games unless the rules are off means a lower score here. Though Jordan's appearance/influence puts it just inside the top 20.

19. Madden NFL 99

The first N64 game I ever owned. I still remember opening this with my siblings on Christmas morning. Confusion was quickly replaced by pure joy as we went for the big box. And then, you know, history and all that.

Pure joy opening this on Christmas. PURE. JOY.

I thought about putting Madden 2001 here, since I may have played that one a bit more. But nostalgia, and that my brother and I could still dominate 99 today, gives it the spot. Marino. Favre. Elway. Sanders (both Barry and Deion). I could take up the rest of your screen with the great players available in this game - harkening back to that nostalgia word up there.

The gameplay wasn't super (it was absolutely better to be lucky than good here), but the debut of franchise mode helped. And 2-player co-op, which meant my brother and I could learn that the scoring stops at 256. All of that, plus the legends, adds to the replay value for me. Surprising? Well, that'll be a theme.

18. Hybrid Heaven

This is a game a rented many times (up top, Hollywood Video...and mom!) before finally going all in on it. Aptly named, this fused together a lot of different gameplay elements: role-playing, fighting, action-adventure to name a few. And this was a rarity for N64, but I enjoyed this quite a bit.

You take the role of Secret Service Agent, Johnny Slater, tasked with uncovering a plot by hybrids (genetically modified human-aliens) to body snatch the big wigs and take over the world. Yes, that is the actual premise of the game and I love it - even if critics didn't.

Wandering through an underground spaceship shooting robots, fighting mutants with wrestling moves, saving the world from an angry ET - all in time to meet your girl under the Christmas tree. Yup, I'm glad I finally got this one for keeps.

Into the Boston Crab!

17. 1080° Snowboarding

I have to give a shoutout to Bump here, since he introduced me to this game. Thanks, buddy! It's one of the more challenging games in the bag for me, but I'm still better at it than at Rogue Squadron so it goes up here. I don't know if any of the characters in the game are real snowboarders, I have actually never thought about it until just now. If they are, though, up top to their parents for the tremendous names!

Three aspects of this game stand out to me, even though I'm not great at it: Trick Attack, Big Air, and the wonderful soundtrack. Trick Attack was great because you had to land every trick before you could see how to do the next one. Some of them were difficult, but that was the point. If you couldn't hit the shifty, you probably weren't ready for the 1080. It just made sense.

Big Air was just plain fun: go as fast as you could down the ramp, then do as many tricks as possible before you [hopefully] land at the finish line. Cheers or jeers awaited, along with being able to put your name at the top of the leaderboard. Do it up!

Instead of rambling about the soundtrack (since I've gone on for a bit), I will just post a tune from it for you to enjoy. Now get out there and unlock the panda!


16. Destruction Derby 64

This might be the shortest section of the whole list, and that says nothing about how great I think the game is. It's just easier to be concise with this one. This is another game we rented a bunch before buying it and again, it was totally worth it.

Not only is it a fun racing game (who doesn't love those?), but the second objective is to wreck every other car on the track. It is just as awesome as it sounds. Add in unlockable cars and tracks, and fun multiplayer modes, and you make me wonder why critics didn't enjoy this, But forget them - I did and you should join me to play it sometime. Let's wreck stuff!


And that does it for this installment, friends! I hope you have fun playing all of these games while you wait for the next section. A quick hint: Mario makes his first appearance!

Until next week, keep kicking ass. Crap open a cold one!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Top 25 on the N64: 25-21

Hello, friend! I trust this finds you well.

This is the start of a series of posts that will go up every Wednesday, to space out the me in your life. It is a list I began compiling several years ago, and even started to present on my old blog. But, as with my album, life got in the way and this got pushed to the back burner. Plus I kept making changes, and I would rather not do that after I start the list (again).

The idea I had was to talk about how great N64 still is, and how many awesome games I can still pick up and play 20 years later. But instead of rambling about it on the show with no sense of direction, I decided to structure it a bit (and add some pretty pictures!).

This does not take into account sales or critical success, though I may mention those things a few times. There are no honorable mentions, and that's another reason this project has taken so long.

This is merely a collection of good games for a great system. Basically I asked myself: If I had a bag full of N64 games, which ones would I play most often? Why 25? I don't know. It seemed like a good number, so I'll roll with it.

Also up top to my brother, Bill, for finding the N64 and letting me keep it at my house for the time being! So without any more rambling, let's get started!