The Top 5 Halloween Video Games

Ah, October is finally here. Tis the season of spookery where we can indulge in all manner of occult entertainment. Video Games have a unique quality of being able to immerse you in another world and this can be really effective in a scary setting. These games I’ve picked aren’t necessarily the scariest but I do think they embody the Halloween vibe and they’ll definitely get you in the October mood.

 

5. Luigi’s Mansion 2: Dark Moon (2013)

Platform(s): Nintendo 3DS

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Mario’s not the only one who can tackle ghosts, ever since his first solo game in 2001 Luigi has been linked to the spirit world. While Mario would take on ghosts with a thundering “Yahoooo!” Luigi is more likely to run from spooks and possible cry hysterically.

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This is part of what makes the game so interesting. At times you feel like you’re forcing Luigi through this haunted house filled with ghouls of all shapes and sizes. He shivers and jumps whenever anything goes bump around him, the character animation is so expressive. Your task is to suck up all the ghosts using Luigi’s ghost vacuum the Poltergust 5000. Sometimes you’ll have to solve puzzles to reveal the ghosts or just check every draw until one pops out (much to his chagrin). Luigi’s Mansion is the video game equivalent of a fairground haunted house… Dare you enter?

 

4. Costume Quest (2010)

Platform(s): Xbox 360, PS3, PC, iOS

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Costume Quest is an underrated gem, it’s also one of the only games I can think of that’s entirely set on Halloween night. You and your friends are out trick or treating when all of a sudden these goblin guys come out and steal everyone’s candy! Even more unfortunate for your character your little brother/sister (depending on your gender choice) is kidnapped because they were dressed as a giant candy corn. So you’re forced on a quest to rescue your missing sibling before your parents find out. On your way you’ll have to fight your way through various goblin enemies but the great thing is that when you enter into battle all the kids transform into an exaggerated form of whatever costume you have on.

You start off in a cardboard box robot outfit but when you’re in battle you’re an anime style mech that shoots missiles, wear the Statue of Liberty costume and you can heal everyone with a blast from her torch and my personal favourite is the french fries costume which turns you into a Tim Burton-esque spider with fries for legs that can stun enemies with a shower of grease and salt.

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This game is just a fun time all round. It’s not especially hard so anyone could enjoy it and there are lots of goofy moments hidden around the areas so it really rewards exploration. It’s not a long game either and can probably be picked up cheap these days. It’s the definition of short and sweet… you know? like candy?…I’ll see myself out.

 

3. Mortal Kombat X (2015)

Platform(s): Xbox One, PS4, PC

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The Mortal Kombat series has always taken heavy influence from horror and action movies. In this latest instalment they ratcheted up the movie references and started adding some classic horror characters into their roster. By the time all of MKX’s DLC had been released you can play as Jason, Leatherface, Predator and the Alien Xenomorph.

mortal-kombat

People have been debating for decades about “who would win in a fight…” regarding all of these characters and in MKX is the first time we got to test some of those theories. What makes it even better is that they’ve all been lovingly crafted to include lots of movie references in their abilities and moves. You also can’t forget about the Mortal Kombat cast of characters which includes many weird, wonderful and monstrous people. Put all this together and you’ve one hell of a hyper violent monster mash on your hands and on a dark Halloween night, what more could you ask for?

 

2. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (1997)

Platform(s): Xbox 360/One, PS3, PS1, PSP

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Castlevania: Symphony of the Night practically oozes atmosphere from the moment you start the game. The opening sees you reenact the ending of the first NES game, facing off against Dracula himself within minutes of starting up. It’s a scripted fight that you can’t lose but it really feels good to blow up Dracula with a rocking guitar soundtrack as your backing.

After this flashback you’re given control of Alucard (the son of Dracula) after he senses a disturbance at the castle. There you’ll have to fight your way through all manner of creatures including wolves, zombies, skeletons, living suits of armor, bats, venomous plants, floating acid skulls, medusa heads, hunchbacks, creepy Lovecraftian horrors and even Death himself shows up. Drac’s castle has everything you need to throw the best Halloween party in the world.

This game is like a good horror movie. It has amazing visuals but some admittedly cheesy dialogue throughout (the intro conversation with Dracula being a highlight) but Castlevania’s hallways full of macabre hell spawn are definitely worth a visit for any intrepid vampire killers.

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1. Batman: Arkham Asylum (2009)

Platform(s): Xbox 360, PS3, PC

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I don’t often see Batman come up when people discuss their Halloween viewing but he totally should be. The Bat’s rogues gallery is the stuff of Halloween nightmares. A killer clown, a human scarecrow, a crocodile man hybrid, a mad hatter, a roided pro wrestler and this game is all set in the insane asylum that they all call home.

Batman: Arkham Asylum is an excellent game whether you’re a Batman fan or not. It can also be devilishly creepy when it wants to. You spend the entire game exploring the asylum after all the inmates have escaped. In between fighting thugs you spend most of your time investigating the tragic histories of famous batman villains. You never know what unsettling situation is round the corner but the game really knocks it up a notch when you meet The Scarecrow.

After taking a dose of his fear toxin Bats starts to hallucinate in some pretty creative and sometimes 4th wall breaking ways. Rooms start to repeat, Batman’s forced to relive the death of his parents and at one point the game resets and the intro sequence starts again making you think the game may be broken.

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You’ll never forget your first trip to Arkham Asylum, it’s masterfully crafted fun house of terror and what I think is the best game to get you in a creepy Halloween mood.

Blood Red Throne – Union of Flesh and Machine Review

When I first heard this band’s 2007 album Come Death they quickly shot to the top of my favourite bands list. They were everything I’d been looking for since I got into death metal. They had plenty of fast technical riffs but also knew when to slow it down which is something death metal bands often forget. A textbook example of the genre, this is a band you could show someone if they ask “What is death metal?”. Over their next 3 releases they’ve been consistently good but unfortunately “Union of Flesh and Machine” was a disappointment to me, in a pretty unusual way.

 

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This newest release marks a change in singer for the band and it is immediately noticeable. The new singer’s voice is a bit lower giving the songs some more bass. I feel like the band might have adjusted their guitar sound to match his voice because everything sounds a bit lower. I don’t know if I’m sold on this new sound, it does make them sound heavier overall but they lose some distinction in the riffs and at times it can sound like a dirge.

 

The first couple of tracks “Revocation of Humankind” and “Proselyte Virus” are great openers. They hit hard, fast and never slow down. As you can tell by the album cover and song titles BRT are unabashedly death metal. All the songs are about murderin’ or gross things happening to people and that’s fine. Sometimes I just want a band that doesn’t take themselves too seriously especially in the metal genre which I believe to be inherently ridiculous to begin with.

 

Track 3 is where things start to get problematic for me though. First red flag is the song title “Patriotic Hatred”, sounds like a polite way to describe racism. The next thing I noticed was the voice over at the start of the track and my heart sank. They’ve used some voice over from the video game Hatred which is a horrible game both quality wise and in concept. Hatred gained some bad publicity October 16th 2014 when it’s first trailer hit. It’s essentially a game where you control a white guy with long black hair and a trench coat who decides it’s time commit a mass shooting. You’re literally given points for killing innocents and police officers and in the end blow up a nuclear plant to take out most of New York.

 

Basically it’s the game that all politicians think Grand Theft Auto is. They touted it as a response to political correctness in games so naturally it was championed by far right gaming hate groups like gamergate. Then it came out and people realised that in addition to it being a tone deaf white power fantasy it was also a crappy game and it got destroyed by any review site that bothered to cover it (most refused). The icing on this poop cake is that the developers (Destructive Creations) made the news again for alleged links to hate group Polska Liga Obrony (Polish Defence League) which they of course denied.

 

I messaged BRT just to make sure they weren’t racists and while they were fairly condescending in tone they did explain their side:

 

 

 

Why Blood Red Throne decided to hitch their wagon to a garbage fire like Hatred is beyond me. Frustratingly the song is actually pretty good! Just give me a version with the voice over track muted and I honestly would have liked this album a lot more.

 

 

After this momentous low point the album gets better. “Homicidal Ecstasy” kicks in with a really powerful main riff. It a prime example of how to slow down your death metal but still keep it heavy and intense. The title track “Union of Flesh and Machine” is another standout track but after that the album does have a bit of a lull. There are a few songs that sound similar to previous tracks in structure but I’ve played in metal bands and I know how easy it is to form song writing habits so I can’t judge too much.

 

The last two tracks are pretty much bonus tracks. “Leather Rebel” is a Judas Priest cover in a death metal style of course. Priest songs work well when a heavier band covers them probably because they influenced their style anyway. They approximate Rob Halford’s high vocals using the backup vocalist’s higher pitched screeches. I’m not that much of a fan of these type of vocals, he sounds a bit like Tokka from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Secret of the Ooze.

 

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The last track “Mary Whispers of Death” is a redone track from their first album “Monument of Death”. Before I realised this I was going to say this was my favourite track on the album but I guess that just means I much prefer their old writing style.

 

I was really looking forward to this album coming out but it’s just been a massive disappointment in a multitude of ways. It’s a very rare occasion that my two favourite things video games and death metal come together but unfortunately it was in the worst way possible. If no more of my favourite bands could associate themselves with racist game developers that would be great, thanks. I can only hope that this is just growing pains because of their recent lineup change and hopefully they’ll be back on top form for the next album.

 

★★☆☆☆

The Top 5 Darkest Pokémon Fan Theories

Being one of the biggest video game series of all time, Pokémon has built up an understandably huge and rabid fanbase. In the few years between main game releases fans can sometime get a little bored and come up with theories to explain things that you never even knew needed explaining. Granted, a lot of these veer off heavily into fan fiction territory but some of them raise legitimate questions. So grab a bowl of creepy pasta and settle down for the darkest fan theories in the Pokémon world.

 

Disclaimer – There will be many PokéPuns throughout this post, I will provide explanatory links for the uninitiated.

 

5. Gary’s Raticate didn’t make it off the S.S. Anne

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Everyone who’s played Pokémon Red/Blue/Yellow will remember this rival battle. The S.S. Anne is a pretty tough area, there’s no way to heal on the ship and just as you think you’re done battling all the passengers Gary Oak shows up to halt your progress. In this battle he uses a Raticate that you’ve fought before a couple of times before but unfortunately this is the last time it’s ever seen in the game.

raticate

Some fans have theorised that Raticate was badly injured in the battle and through the confusion of being stuck on a cruise ship Gary wasn’t able to get him to the Pokémon centre in time. This is given credence by the fact that the next time we face Gary he’s in Lavender Tower which is essentially a multi storey Pokémon mausoleum and Raticate is missing from his party.

 

It’s a fun story to explain where it went but it’s more likely that Gary just boxed his Raticate like many of us did because it’s not a very good Pokémon. Or maybe his Pokémon we changed so he wouldn’t be too difficult to fight when you get there. He certainly doesn’t act sad when you meet him again, he even makes a pun that your Pokémon don’t look dead and goes on to say that he’s at the tower looking for a Cubone. Unless of course he’s using humour to cover his guilt? We may never know.

 

4. Gengar is Clefable’s dark reflection

 

Being a ghost type Pokémon makes Gengar’s very existence a dark idea. Nobody wants to think of poor cute Pokémon dying. People have noted some spooky similarities between Gengar and Clefable which have lead them to the conclusion Gengar may be a shadow version of Clefable come to life.

 

The similarities start with the body shape, their silhouettes are very close and the PokéDex entries log them at very similar heights and weights too. Their main types are also a mirror of each other, Normal type moves can’t hit a ghost type Pokémon and vise versa. According to early development art these two were also some of the first Pokémon ever designed so maybe they were supposed to be linked in some way.

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The problem with this theory is that it doesn’t explain either of their respective previous evolutions. Cleffa and Clefairy don’t seem to have anything in common with Ghastly and Haunter. Plus none of the in game material makes any reference to them being related in any way. One thing is that Gengar’s name is probably a reference to a doppelgänger which is a spirit that mimics people so maybe there is some truth to this spooky theory.

 

3. Ditto is a failed clone of Mew

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Being the first super secret Pokémon in the game’s history and supposedly the progenitor of all Pokémon life, Mew has always set imaginative minds racing. Back in the 90s kids would swear blind that you could find him by using Strength on that truck next to the S.S.Anne and you would try it because Mew was so mysterious and there was no internet back then to check. This failed cloning theory however does not seem as Farfetch’d when you look at some of the in game evidence.

 

It is well documented through some journal excerpts you find in the Pokémon Mansion on Cinnabar Island that Mewtwo was cloned from the newly christened Mew after scientists discovered the endless possibilities of its DNA. Throughout these “years of horrific gene splicing and DNA engineering experiments” it’s entirely conceivable that one of these failed attempts could have resulted in a Ditto. That’s not all we have to go on though, Mew and Ditto both have almost identical heights and weights, they are both gender-less and they also share the same colour for their normal and shiny variants. Ditto’s whole gimmick is that their only move is transform which copies the opponent’s appearance and moves. Who’s the only other Pokémon who can learn this? You guessed it, Mew. The last piece of evidence is that from Pokémon Yellow onward you can find Ditto in the Pokémon Mansion which is believed to be the remnants of the Lab where Mewtwo was created.

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Unfortunately people finally asked the Pokémon creator if this was true at a Q&A and he had no idea what they were talking about… But isn’t that what he’d want us to think? Never give up on the conspiracy! Wake up Mareeple!

 

2. Cubone is an abandoned Kangaskhan cub

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Cubone’s story is already one of the darkest and saddest things in the game. Categorised as the lonely Pokémon it is said to wear the the skull of its deceased mother, at night it cries mournfully which causes its skull helmet to rattle hollowly.

 

There are many references in the PokéDex to Cubone’s mother but it has never been formally named as another Pokémon species. This has lead people to theorise that Cubone could be an abandoned Kangaskhan cub. Kangaskhan is a kangaroo-like pokemon that is always pictured with a cub in their pouch. They are said to fiercely protect their young at any cost, perhaps even the ultimate cost in some cases. Perhaps the abandoned cub was forced to use the skull and another bone for protection thus starting off a new evolutionary line which would eventually lead Cubone to evolve into Marowak. Other people think that Marowak was originally supposed to evolve into Kangaskhan but this idea was scrapped late on in the game’s development. Again, the Pokémon creators have never confirmed any of these claims so we’re just left with our imaginations running wild.

 

1. Ash is in a coma throughout the anime series

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Now this is one definitely crosses a line into the fan fiction. It seems to have originated on creepypasta.com which is a site where people share ghost stories. This theory concerns the Pokémon animated series and doesn’t really have anything to do with the games. In the first episode of the show the main character Ash and his Pikachu are attacked by a big flock of Spearow. In this bout Pikachu uses the power of a thunderstorm to to launch a massive attack on the angry birds which results in everyone getting knocked back by a big explosion. Some people think that in this moment Ash is put into a coma by the electric shock and the rest of the anime plays out in his head.

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The theory is that Ash’s subconscious is trying to protect him from possible brain damage which also lets him live out his Pokémon trainer fantasies in piece. After this incident in the first episode the tone of the following episodes do change a bit. The series bad guys Team Rocket are a lot less menacing after this and become more of a comedy mild annoyance as the series goes on. In the now over 900 episodes of the show Ash has never physically aged a day but other characters have. The police officers and medical staff all have the same appearance and name, this is flimsily explained away by them being identical twins in the show.  His traveling partners could also represent aspects of himself. Brock being a surrogate parental figure and Misty, his ideal love interest. It might also explain why Ash always saves the world and meets all the legendary Pokémon yet nobody knows who he is and he never gets any recognition for it.

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Overall this bit of fanfiction is a bit heavy handed and pretty easy to poke holes in but it would make the Pokémon anime one hell of a dark story if true. If you want to read the full coma story you can get that here.

 

So that is what I think are the darkest Pokémon fan theories on the internet, there are plenty more if any PokéFans out there have the stomach for it but for everyone else here’s the Pokémon theme song to cheer you up!

 

Diablo III: Reaper of Souls – Ultimate Evil Edition Review – Ps4

I am very late to the Diablo party. It’s a video game series I’ve always heard talked about in high regard but I didn’t have a PC good enough to play the older titles. Thanks to it making it’s way to consoles I was finally able to see what I’d been missing out on.

Traditionally Diablo games are played with a mouse and keyboard like most MMO’s, you click on enemies to attack them and it helps you navigate the complicated menus. So for the PS4 version that had to adjust the menus and the combat to better fit a controller. The combat side of the game translates perfectly but the menus were quite fiddly. Even after multiple hours with the game I would still mess up and end up on the wrong screen or accidently sell something. Luckily Diablo III is a very forgiving game, if you do sell something by accident every merchant has a record of everything you’ve sold and you can buy it back for only a little more than what you sold it for. 

This was one of the main things that impressed me about the game. They’ve done away with many annoying things you usually have to do in RPGs. Every character can generate a magic portal to take you back to town if you need to sell items and when you’re done you go back through it and continue exactly where you left off . You can sell any type of item to any vendor, no running round to find the armor guy just to offload that crappy shield you picked up. Almost every new area has a waypoint that you can teleport to easily from town. Little things you probably just accept in other games but it’s refreshing to see a developer make these quality of life improvements.

A Family That Slays Together…

One of the big things that attracted me to this game was that you can play the full story co-op, with up to 4 players either locally or online. I wanted a game my fiancée Danielle and I could play together that wasn’t too demanding gameplay wise and this was perfect. The game is played at a top down view so both of your characters can run around independently but you can’t go too far away from each other so no one gets left behind. Each player gets to make their own character, with their own items, gold and experience. Gone are the days of player 2 getting the short end of the stick and having to be Luigi or something.

I chose to make a Crusader who’s a slightly more defensive warrior type with a sword and huge shield. While Danielle went with the Demon Hunter who’s an archer that gets access to a host of animal companions like a bat, wolf or even a hog (much to her delight). We didn’t really plan it but these characters went really well together, I would wade into the hordes of enemies and pull their focus while Danielle rained down pointy death from afar. 

Here’s a picture of our heros after finishing the game:

A Lust for Loot

This game is all about loot. You’re constantly picking up better armor and weapons throughout the levels and it’s never not exiting. Regular enemies and chests will drop a few items but when you beat a boss or uncover a secret chest they explode in a fountain of coloured items. It’s a great complement to your victory over a boss as everyone dances round their corpse collecting goodies, it just feels good inside.

There are a lot of different armor sets to collect so the look of your character is always changing. You can dye each individual piece to your liking and even make it invisible in case you don’t like the way a helmet covers your characters face but still want the bonuses from wearing it. You can even change the way weapons look so if you have a strong bow that looks boring you can give it the design of a legendary one but keep all the stats of the original. They really went above and beyond on these features, Blizzard is the same company that makes World of Warcraft so they probably have a lot of experience with what gamers want for outfitting their characters.

Any Way You Like It

Diablo III really does encourage you to play the way you want to play. Once you get far enough in the game there are 11 difficulty levels to choose from. We played the first 4 acts on Normal but by that point we were steamrolling everything so we upped it to Expert. This made the final battle an actual challenge, we had to come up with strategies and actually dodge the boss’s attacks which we hadn’t had to worry about before.

You can change the difficulty at any time from the pause menu so if you get in over your head you can always fall back to Normal. I love this part about the game because it means even if this is your first ever video game you could still beat it and be finding cool items but if you’re an RPG veteran you’ll be rewarded for playing on harder difficulties with more gold and XP.

Story Bored

The main story mode is made up of 5 acts in this version of the game, each one sees you explore themed areas and ultimately fight a big demon boss at the end. Unfortunately the story was the weakest part of the game for me. There’s just nothing special about it, it’s your standard video game fantasy story you’ve probably heard 100 times before. Your hero sets off on a globe trotting quest to save the world by defeating Diablo’s demon generals before confronting him yourself and your character is the only one in the world who has the power to do this. Granted, they don’t really take the story that seriously themselves because most of the characters are usually cracking wise as long as the world isn’t in imminent danger. 

There were charming characters along the way though. My favourite was Zoltun Kulle who is an evil ethereal wizard you’re forced to bring back from the dead because you need his help. He follows you round on one quest constantly saying evil things and trying to recruit you to help him take over the world while your character politely declines. I really wish we could have taken him through the whole game.

Overall we really enjoyed our time with Diablo III, we played the whole game co-op locally and it worked perfectly. If you’ve been curious about the series this is a great jumping on point and it can be enjoyed by players of any skill level.

★★★★☆

Jake’s Top 5 Worst Cartoons Based on Video Games

Cartoons and video games are are like the only two things I cared about as a kid. I’ve always loved animation, when it’s great it can take you to fantastical worlds that you can’t experience with live action shows. That’s one of the same reasons I love video games too. So surely if you combine the two things it can only get exponentially better right?… right?!

Well no, not always. So let me take you on a journey through my wasted youth in this top 5 worst cartoon shows based on beloved video game franchises.

5. Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the realm 


Now this isn’t an automatically bad idea. Mortal Kombat is a game series so violent that they had to create an entire rating system for video games just for them. The problem was kids loved it, so they created this show to be a Mortal Kombat product that parents could let their kids experience guilt free. 

Unfortunately they forgot the part about actually making a quality cartoon. The character designs are pretty good even though they’re from the less successful Mortal Kombat 3 but the animation is just cheap. Characters routinely stand around with weird expressions on their faces and appear in front of objects they should be standing behind because the animators messed up with the layers. 

The fights end in some extremely unsatisfying ways usually with one punch or kick sending a person flying back 50 feet or someone just dodges and lets the bad guy fall off a cliff. My favourite part is where Reptile and Sonya square off and he just runs up and kicks her in the butt, then does it again 4 more times while she tries to get up… MORTAL KOMBAT!
All the characters act really immature. Sonya is the whiny teen of the group and takes every opportunity to shout her catchphrase “Kombat Time!”. Raiden at one point calls the group “Mortal Butts” as an insult that only a 5 yr old would find funny. And we find out that Jax was a fat kid in school and teasing still hurts his feelings awwwwwww. 

It was an awful show but when you’re a kid that just wanted more MK it was all we had, sadly. Here’s a montage of some bad moments if you want to check it out yourself.

4. Super Mario Bros. Super Show!

Yay! Mario, the most famous video game character in the world! There’s no way they could mess this up.
Now I know what you’re all asking, “who’re those old creepy dudes?” why it’s mildly successful pro-wrestler Capt. Lou Albano and Canadian television actor Danny Wells playing Mario and Luigi of course! 

The creators decided to bookend the episodes of this cartoon with boring improvised live action segments that usually involve trotting out some “celebrity guest” from the network’s other TV shows. I don’t know about you but I always wanted to know what the Mario Bros got up to in their plumbers workshop in front of a fake studio audience.

That’s not to say the cartoon was any better though, instead of exploring the world of the Mario video games or referencing any of his in game adventures they went with scintillating storylines such as: While trying to catch Koopa in Jungleland Mario suffers from amnesia and is convinced by an ape couple that he is their child, Posing as Judge Koopa he sentences Mario and Co to the prison of Koopatraz where he is also the warden, Mario and Luigi take to the skies to stop Koopa and Lakitu from taking over Pastaland with the help of a used magic carpet salesman, Koopa kidnaps Santa Claus in order to ruin Christmas, Koopa’s road gang has stolen all the spaghetti sauce in Car Land so Mario’s group must work to get it back and many more horrible ideas!

Almost every episode was a bad movie or tv show parody and the ones that weren’t had a bad cover song in the episode. Probably so they didn’t have to write any dialogue for a few minutes. The only good part of any episode was the end credits because you knew you were free of this abysmal show but also because you get the live action Mario Bros awkwardly dancing in front of a green screen. Come on everybody! Do the Mario!

3. Street Fighter (The Animated Series)


This show is hilarious for all the wrong reasons. It’s horrible looking animation and stupid dialogue all combine into a deliciously bad mixture and I kinda love it. 

Looking back at footage of this show I just have no idea what’s going on. They were so cheap with the cartoon you can see the individual frames of animation a lot of the time, which should never happen. It suffers from similar problems as the MK cartoon except it takes them to a ridiculous level. Characters will show ridiculous feats of strength and agility only to be swatted aside by whoever they’re fighting and there are multiple times characters just fall over for no reason. 

This show also has the most animation mistakes I’ve ever seen in a cartoon. The characters randomly grow and shrink in size to such a noticeable degree that you’re left unsure if it was intentional. It constantly breaks the laws of physics in it’s own world. 
I feel like if you watch too much of this show you might go literally insane. Just see for yourself:

The only thing it gets right is that characters all have the right costumes and special moves so I guess one person working on the show knew their stuff.

2. Captain N: The Game Master


A 90s kid and his dog get sucked through the TV into Video Land which is apparently where all our favourite obscure Nintendo characters live:

This show’s worst offence is that it’s boring. It shouldn’t be hard to make a story about a kid getting sucked into a video game considering that’s probably the dream of their target audience. I think one of the reasons it failed was they clearly couldn’t get any of the famous characters to accompany our hero. He gets lumped with Kid Icarus, Simon Belmont and Mega Man (who inexplicably sounds like he smokes 100 packs a day). Three characters that I never heard anyone my age mention until I started reading about games on the internet. 

The villains are even more perplexing and obscure. For henchmen we’ve got Eggplant Wizard who is an enemy from the game Kid Icarus that turns you into an eggplant (or aubergine to the UK crowd) and King Hippo who is one of the boxers from the Punch-Out!! Games. But our main attraction here is their leader Mother Brain from the Metroid series. In the game Mother Brain is an evil sentient bio organic computer that shoots lasers at you. It doesn’t really have any characteristics or personality till later games. So for the show they decided to give it a face and have it sound like Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors. It even has heavy lipstick and eye makeup which just makes me think of Frank N. Furter too!

But despite these wacky characters to work with they still managed to make something boring. Looking back I think they ignored the source material a little too much and their own interpretations were just plain weird.

1. The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog 


This was one of those cartoons that I genuinely thought would hold up until I revisited it and learned how wrong I was. This show is one of the messiest and obnoxious things I’ve ever seen. I can deal with intentional chaos in comedy, I’m a big Tim and Eric fan but this Sonic cartoon is just disgusting. It’s a complete assault on all 5 senses and a few more that I didn’t even know I had.

The characters are repulsive in every way, just look at this vomit:

I think they were going for a Ren and Stimpy sort of vibe with the art style but they didn’t have the talent to pull it off so it came out more like Worker and Parasite.

Every character’s voice is shrill and annoying, especially Scratch the chicken robot henchmen who punctuates every sentence with an ear piercing high pitched “AHA HAHAAAAAAAA”. Most episodes involve Scratch and Grounder (out resident Bozos) setting traps for Sonic to run into that even Wile E. Coyote would be embarrassed by. They don’t even have any real motivation, Dr. Robotnik just stamps around saying “I hate that hedgehog!” whenever Sonic escapes one of his traps.

I’m surprised I came out of my childhood with any brain cells left after watching this abomination. Luckily for us the show had to succumb to the Children’s Television Act which meant the episodes had to contain a portion of educational content which is where we get this gem from:

Yep! That was Sonic telling kids what to do if someone touches them inappropriately. Unquestionably good advice but such a hard pivot considering the pointless cartoon trainwreck that came before it.

So that’s it for this dark window into how I spent my time as a child in the 90s. If you want to watch any of this junk they’re pretty much all on YouTube in their entirety because not even the creators care about these shows anymore.

PlayStation NEO and the Future of our Consoles

As you may have heard, GiantBomb.com broke a story last week about Sony getting ready to annouce a new model of the PS4 which could be out as early as this holiday season.

Codenamed NEO it would essentially be an upgraded version of the PS4 we have in stores now. We can expect it to load games faster, be able to display slightly better graphics and hopefully have games run a little smoother. However in the leaked documents Sony states that the NEO is not intended to outright replace the PS4. 

Starting in October all new games will be required to have a “NEO Mode” and a “Base Mode”. NEO Mode games will be allowed to have improved visuals and performance but are not allowed to have additional gameplay features. So they couldn’t do something like exclusively offer 2 player co-op play only to NEO owners. It’s good to see that Sony are taking steps to stop the base PS4 becoming obsolete as soon as the NEO hits but it’s still a bit worrying.

This is the first time one of the big companies in video games has proposed anything like this. Sure there have been console redesigns to make them smaller and have bigger hard drives. but we’ve never had an update that would change the way games are developed for the system. The only example that’s close to this is the New Nintendo 3DS which released last year but unfortunately there have been some problems with games not running as well on the older hardware version. As I mentioned above Sony seems to be setting guidelines to specifically avoid this problem but it’s still something to think about.

Also yet to be announced is whether the NEO will help improve Sony’s Virtual Reality headset when that launches later in the year too. The PS4 is a lot less powerful than the minimum spec PCs needed for the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive VR headsets. Performance is very important for VR games, any stuttering or drop in the frame rate for visuals can be the difference between motion sickness and a truly immersive experience. Depending on how this is handled PlayStation VR might only be worth having if you can run the games in NEO mode. 

Microsoft have also expressed some interest in upgradable hardware but they seem to be going down a more PC-like upgrade structure. Where you would have options to purchase separate pieces of hardware much like PC owners do now. Microsoft have been going big on Windows 10 as a gaming platform so they probably want to have a unified experience on the Xbox and PC. Whether or not Sony’s plans spur them into action on this earlier than planned remains to be seen.

Nintendo are more than likely going to be announcing their next console in June at E3. All we’ve heard so far is that it is codenamed The NX and may be some kind of handheld/console hybrid. Where you would be able to take your games with you and play them on the go then continue on your TV when you get home. Nintendo haven’t been the leader in graphics and hardware since the Super Nintendo days so it will be interesting to see if they try and match the PS4 and Xbox One in terms of power. And if that was Nintendo’s plan then has the PS NEO thrown a spanner in their works in terms of bragging rights?

It looks like we might be shelling out cash on some new consoles earlier than we all thought. Like every year, all we can do is wait for E3 which is June 14-16. Typically this is the place all the big companies unveil their new toys so we’ll know for sure then.

Street Fighter V Review – PS4

  
  
In February I wrote about how I thought Street Fighter V was not worth buying at it’s time of release. Since then they have made some of the promised upgrades so when I saw the game had been discounted to just under £30 I decided it was time to check it out. 

SFV is the newest numbered entry in one of the longest running fighting game franchises ever. The first entry in the series was originally exclusive to arcades in 1987, there may only be 5 numbered entries but Street Fighter is famous for re-releasing games with new additions to prolong their lifespan. The first ever Street Fighter game I played was Super Street Fighter II Turbo which is actually the 3rd revision of that specific game, Phew! So this actually makes SFV round about the 19th unique release! Everyone still following along at home? 

It’s totally understandable that fans were disappointed that SFV launched with such a barebones list of features considering this isn’t Capcom’s first rodeo.

Missing Pieces

  

  

Street Fighter V shares a lot of similarities with many other fighting games on the market today. A regular match is best to 3 rounds with the first player to reduce the other’s health bar to zero winning. Each character has their own set of unique normal and special fighting moves they can use to do damage and trick your opponent into letting down their guard. Street Fighter is often likend to the video game equivalent of chess because it pits two people against each other in a pure test of skill. 

Unfortunately this isn’t very good for new players who can be completely outclassed if you venture online without training enough. This was the first thing that disappointed me about SFV, they still haven’t figured out a good way to teach new players how the game is played. You’re thrown into a pretty basic tutorial up front that shows you what buttons to press to do some moves but it doesn’t tell you why you should use certain moves in certain situations. Sure you could go online a find some of this out yourself but you shouldn’t have to do that. 

If you dig a little deeper into the options they have added character specific tutorials that go into more detail about the tools each character has but this is simply a video clip and a text box overlay. It doesn’t show you and then let you try it out for yourself. You’re just supposed to watch it then commit it to memory. Some of this was fine for my needs because I’ve played most of the games in the series but I couldn’t help but put myself in the shoes of a novice player. If you’re approaching this game with no prior knowledge I really think you’d have a pretty frustrating time at first, until you read some online guides or watched some YouTube videos. I just can’t help but think there’s a step they’re missing in there. Capcom should find a way to help new players make that transition from noob to pro without having to seek help outside of the game.

As I mentioned previously, Capcom did make good on their promise to update the game in March to add some new features and a new character. Frustratingly Capcom was keeping quiet and the update didn’t show up until March 30th which sent forums and subreddits into a rage but they’ll always be able to say that they technically hit their March deadline I guess. 

These features were the aforementioned character specific tutorial videos, up to 8 player online lobbies, the online shop (where you can purchase additional content) and 10 challenges to complete for each character which sees you performing progressively harder move combos. These are all things that definitely should have been in the game from the beginning but at least we didn’t have to purchase them separately so that’s something.
  

My Fight Money!

  

 

The online store at the time of writing is a complete mess. It seems as though they made it as convoluted as they possible. First of all there are 2 types of currency, Fight Money is what you earn from in-game actions such as winning matches and generally just playing the game. Then they have Zenny which is a premium currency you can buy with real money but as of right now this hasn’t even been added into the game yet! I’m just not a fan of this dual currency system, it comes from free to play mobile games and I don’t think it has a place in a full priced retail game. 

There are items in the store that probably should just be included as unlockables in the main game. Each character has the default costume and classically in Street Fighter you can select color variation on this outfit so for example Ryu can have his classic white outfit and red bandana or you could change it up with a blue outfit and yellow bandana. In SFV you only start out with 2 colours for each character and 8 more can be unlocked by beating the game’s survival mode on various difficulties. The remaining colours 11-15 have to purchased from the store on a per character basis. I don’t think you should have to spend your currency just to unlock what is essentially a colour swap of content that is already on the disc and when they add the option to be spending real money on this it’s just going to get messier.
  

Choose Your Character

  

One thing that’s always a constant in the Street Fighter series is a cast of interesting characters to choose from, let’s do a character rundown:

Ryu: Our wandering hero who is looking for the answers that lie in the heart of battle. Ryu is the classic beginner’s character that has been in every main SF game. He still does all the things you know and love. He throws fireballs, has his Shoryken flying uppercut and the spinning hurricane kick.

Ken: Ryu’s old sparring partner Ken also makes an appearance. He’s a lot like Ryu having the same basic special moves but he’s a bit quicker and has some more complicated combos to learn. He also has a better Shoryken than Ryu which travels further and sets the opponent on fire!

Chun Li: Another returning veteran. Chun Li is probably the fastest character in the game. Be ready to defend against a relentless barrage of kicks from all angles if your opponent picks her. 

Nash: As of right now considered to be the best character in the game we have Nash. Killed by the big bad M.Bison earlier in the timeline he’s now back as a reanimated corpse out for revenge! Nash has his own fireball variant the sonic boom and he can also teleport behind your opponent making it harder for them to defend.

Dhalsim: The stretchy, fire breathing yoga master is back. In past games Dhalsim has been a bit of a slower character but in SFV thanks to his teleport and air attacks it’s surprising how quick and aggressive he can be played in the right hands.

Cammy: The deadly british secret agent who’s bent on taking down Bison and his crew. Cammy is another speedy character who can rocket across the stage with her spiral arrow corkscrew kick which if timed right can also slip under your opponent’s projectiles.

Alex: Is the first of 3 wrestlers we have in SFV and he’s also the first downloadable character added post launch. Alex is a powerhouse, he hits really hard but is a little slow. If you get close to him you’re probably going to get powerbombed but he can also leap across the stage to grab you if you try to back off.

Laura: A Brazilian jiu jitsu fighter who somehow can electrify her opponents with judo hip throws. Laura’s a character who can have trouble if you keep her away with projectiles but once she gets in she’s in her element.

Necalli: Some kind of ancient soul devouring demon man with sick dread locks. Necalli is one of the new characters and he’s pretty fun to use. He charges around the stage clawing at his opponents and he can also stomp and pound on the ground to create blasts under his opponents.

Vega: The prettiest matador/cage fighter in the land is back. Vega is as imposing and tricky as ever in this game. He still has his trademark claw weapon which gives him good attack range and he still jumps off the walls to surprise people with german suplexes and strikes from above.

F.A.N.G: One of the new bad guys under Bison. This guy is pretty interesting, most of his special moves have a poison effect that will slowly drain the opponent’s health until they can land a hit on you. He’s also pretty goofy looking so it can be hard to tell where his attacks are coming from.

Zangief: Another veteran of the series the Russian wrestling champion of muscle power is back! He plays pretty much the same as he always did, your strategy should be to get close enough to put your opponent in his patented spinning piledriver. It can be risky against more projectile heavy characters but the reward is great.

Rashid: This guy is a new character who has the ability to shoot mini hurricanes across the stage with his super fast kicks. They can be hard to avoid as they go diagonally from the bottom to the top of the screen and while dodging this Rashid can still be attacking you.

R. Mika: A female wrestler from Japan who can rush at you with all manner of strikes to put you off guard. Unique to her is that she can call in her tag team partner to hit you from any side so you’ve got to keep an eye out for that during the fight too.

Karen: Is a highly skilled aristocrat with a disdain for those she deems lower class. Not the most exciting character to watch as most of her special moves are variations on kicks and punches but in the right hands she can be totally overwhelming.

Birdie: A huge chubby punk guy from London who uses his mohawk like a rhino horn to charge his opponents. He’s one of the slower guys but he can use bike chains to grab you from across the stage so he doesn’t always need to get close to hurt you. 

M. Bison: The evil dictator himself is also back to terrorise the world. Bison hasn’t changed much from the previous games. He still has his head stomp and his flipping knee attack but now he can also grab your projectiles out of the air and fire them back!

6 Buttons and a Joystick 

One thing I can’t fault in this game is the fighting. Actually playing the game feels great which is technically the most important thing in a fighting game but it’s a shame the whole package couldn’t have been held up to this standard.

You can really feel the impact of some of the hits, the fighters also do quite a lot of damage compared to Street Fighter IV so the matches have a quicker pace and are more tense when you get down to that last bit of health. They’ve also changed the way defending works in this game. In past Street Fighter games any special move that hit you when blocking would slowly chip away at your health. So if you had a pixel of health left your opponent could just mash out specials until one hit you but in SFV a move will only K.O. you if don’t block it. I think this makes it more exciting as you have to outsmart your opponent if they’re hanging on with the tiniest amount of health and blocking all of your fireballs.

Also new to this game is the V-system. Each character has a unique V-Skill activated by hitting the medium punch and kick buttons together. For example Ryu’s is a parry that can negate an attack giving you a chance for a quicker follow up or Dhalsim’s is to float in the air when you jump to avoid projectiles or mess up your opponent’s timing. They also have a unique V-Trigger activated by pressing the hard punch and kick buttons which is more of a long lasting effect but can only be used once a round typically. For V-Trigger Ryu gets increased special move damage and Dhalsim creates a carpet of flame that drains your opponent’s health if they stand on it.

In addition to this each character has a special meter which when full lets you unleash a Critical Art. Which is basically a big special attack that does a big chunk of damage if you hit but will probably leave you vulnerable if they block it. These character specific super moves are really visually impressive and are always crowd pleasers for anyone watching.

  

  

There are a lot of options during a match which is good but I often found myself forgetting to use a lot of this stuff in the heat of battle.

Another problem I found with the controls is they don’t map to a PS4 controller very naturally. You have to use the shoulder buttons for some of the attack buttons as you ideally want to use all 6 of them. Luckily I have an arcade stick controller so this wasn’t a problem for me but it’s something to consider if you only have the Dual Shock 4. 

I can’t really recommend SFV to a beginner who hasn’t really played a fighter before. I don’t think they would have a good time with it. I’m not sure if the problem of introducing new people to the genre has been solved yet but SFV didn’t do anything to help that cause. Capcom very clearly catered to the hardcore fighting game community which will probably hurt the overall sales but the diehard fans will be too busy playing it to care.

★★★☆☆