Gamer Reviews: Elder Scrolls IV OBLIVION (XBOX 360)

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This was the first game I ever purchased when I bought the XBOX 360. I had skipped the first XBOX so this was my first foray into what Microsoft could do. I still remember my visit to gamestop around two weeks after launch.

ME: Do you have any Xbox 360s?

GAMESTOP EMPLOYEE: *eyebrow raised* Uh … yeah man. We got lots of them.

ME: *Feeling foolish for misreading system launch hype* Ah ok. I’ll take one.

GAMESTOP EMPLOYEE: Okay man. Cool. Is that all?

ME: *Remembering as a kid, new systems came with games* Uh, does it come with any games?

GAMESTOP EMPLOYEE: Naw man. You gotta buy the games.

ME: Cool. Yeah. I know. Um. What’s out that’s good.

GAMESTOP EMPLOYEE: *Thinking a true moron was in front of him* Well … people have been liking Oblivion, but we only got one copy left. It’s the big box special edition.

ME: What does that mean?

GAMESTOP EMPLOYEE: A bunch of extra features. A map. A documentary.

ME: Ok. I’ll take it.

GAMESTOP EMPLOYEE: Cool man, check it, why don’t you wait here a sec while I grab the console from the back.

I stood there three minutes then browsed the limited selection of games and picked up Perfect Dark on top of Oblivion. I went to check out and another Gamestop employee walked out from the back as the receipt for $440 dollars was handed to me.

GAMESTOP EMPLOYEE #2: Hey dude, you got my copy. Good on you!

ME: Wuh?

GAMESTOP EMPLOYEE #2: Yeah, that was my copy. I just traded it in today.

ME: Why?

GAMESTOP EMPLOYEE #2: Just wasn’t my thing.

Me: *Fuck* (in my head)

Shit. So I had been baited to buy the Oblivion. It had probably been some Gamestop challenge to try and sell the game within 2 hours for free pizza or something. Undaunted, I went home and hooked up the XBOX 360 and did all those stupid updates and set up a gamer profile and then popped in the Oblivion disc. I laid the system flat because I didn’t quite understand how the XBOX 360 was meant to stand straight up.

After a short intro and Patrick Stewart’s voiceover, I was immersed in the game. I was stuck in the sewers with nothing. I literally began my XBOX 360 experience punch rats with my fist. From there, I learned how to game all over again. I added all sorts of weapons and armor and potions and conquered many quests. It took me at least 7 hours to learn that I could hyper jump from checkpoint to checkpoint. I must have ran on foot in those hills getting attacked by raiders for like 80% of the first day.

Was the game good?

I think I didn’t turn it off till 4am, so yeah, it was good.

What were the highlights? I think learning about the arena and being able to fight as a gladiator was a major surprise. When I found out I could gamble on myself, I was happy with glee because I was one invincible motherfucker in the arena. My next favorite highlight was walking in the citadel and fighting the city guards, who would whoop my ass until I beat the game and got the best armor and shit. Then, around 20 hours in, I discovered if I just dropped all my heavy shit and just ran through the little hell levels, I could beat it in like 3 minutes, plus, I didn’t need to complete all the quests for the final battle. (Hindsight, it would have been cooler to go through the story and get all the support from the side characters and battle with them alongside me, but I got the gist with half the cast)

It was a game that told me what gaming had become since my college days. It was epic storytelling and immersive and took me around 40 hours of my life and I thank Bethesda Softworks for it.

Gamer Rating: 10/10 Scrolls

GAMER INTERVIEW: GREG THE GAMESTOP EMPLOYEE

Yeah man, I remember him. The store was empty because we were located right across from a Walmart that sold the XBOX 360 for a lower price than us, plus they have a real cool concept where a shopper can eat McDonalds while shopping. We surely don’t have a McDonalds in here, but if we did, I would totally be eating fries all day. But this guy, he had this real elitist stink to him, almost like he expected the store to be filled with Board games but then was trying to play it off like he wasn’t. He then asked me where all the Super Nintendo games were, and I’m not gonna lie, I just kind of thought I had the stupidest customer in the world in front of me. I then told him we didn’t carry that in stock anymore, but we had a new system, an XBOX 360. He took the bait. So check it, this is what we did, I had my friend Jack print out a new price that was $15 higher than the special we were running that week, and he snuck it over and put Oblivion on the shelf when this schlub wasn’t looking. We charged him the extra $15 and went over and got us some tasty McDonalds. 

NOW CHECK OUT MY COMMENTARY REVIEW OF THE GREATEST FIGHTING GAME OF ALL TIME

Game Reviews: Star Wars Rebel Assault (PC)

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Do any of you remember Star Wars Rebel Assault? It was quite the unique game that was ahead of its time in many ways, but had a bunch of confusing moments that made my head spin. I owned this game back in the day and played it around the same time as X-Wing for the PC. The game aimed more for a cinematic experience and had numerous movie cut scenes between chapters. What bothered me and still bothers me a little is they used a new character on Tatooine to train up, disregarding the movie canon in some flabbergasting ways. Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 10.38.43 PM.png

This guy, “Commander Farrell” is confusing to me. I don’t remember seeing him in the movie (more on him later) and think if anything, he actually resembles Tycho from Return of the Jedi more. (Tycho was the one who led the tie fighters away from Lando in the flight to the core reactor). Anyhow, this guy along with a woman pilot are your primary teachers in the game.

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The game is a pretty closed world. The flight paths are very narrow. You can move a little bit, but for the most part, you are taking the hits and dodging stuff while shooting targets and accomplishing objectives. When this came out, it looked state of the art. Now it seems a bit constrictive. Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 10.40.04 PM.png

I still remember this stage. I called it “Stone Pillar” stage and remember getting frustrated as hell. I don’t remember how many A-wings I lost, but let’s just say I would question the logic of training of the rebellion for putting their pilots through crazy shit like this.

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One X-Wing vs a Star Destroyer? Of course! This was the big sell of the game. Everyone wanted to go heads up and take one of these suckers down and boast to your lunch table that you were the greatest star pilot in the galaxy pretty good at the game. This was the most memorable stage of the game for me.

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Now we are on Hoth attacking AT-AT’s? Okay, who cares about movie cannon. I guess the Empire is striking back really hard now even though the rebels haven’t blown up the Death Star yet. It was a fun stage and ahead of its time. Many games since then have done a version of this stage. What I found funny was seeing the lasers actually having an impact on the armor.

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If you managed to get through the Hoth stage, you would finally get to the attack you bought the game for. The cinematic cut was pretty cool, although a random Star Destroyer shows up to defend the death star with tie fighters then jumps into hyperspace. I don’t know if the game designers had the game done and said to themselves “hey, the game isn’t long enough, so lets add some random stages.”

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Here we are in the trench. The cockpit looks pretty cool, however the trench looks a bit like the old Hollywood movies and the green screen look for the background. There were a bunch of random objectives just to get to this point that I don’t remember from the movies. By this point, I just want to blow this thing and get the heck out of here. Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 10.44.14 PM.png

But then WHAT? Did Lucasarts not have rights to show the Falcon and Han Solo in their own game? Commander Farrell aka Tycho shows up in his puny A-wing and saves the day and shoots Vader outta there. For the life of me, I didn’t understand why they couldn’t give fans the satisfaction of Han and the Falcon coming in to save the day.Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 10.43.51 PM.png

Are you confused again? You just got saved by the A-Wing and blow up the Death Star, then all of a sudden you are being celebrated on Yavin IV all by your lonesome. I was so confused. You were not Luke Skywalker in the game, but now you dress just like him from the movie? Instead of Han and Chewie walking down, they have nobody? Not even Commander Farrell?

Overall, the game has some nostalgic appeal to me, however, I don’t think I ever want to play through it ever gain. It was clearly one of the many Star Wars games that let fans down and was a money grab to exploit fans who only wanted to replay the events of the movie.

Game Reviews: FZERO (SNES)

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Do any of you remember this classic? When I was like 10, I had a dream. I was going to be the fastest FZERO driver on the planet. Surely, hovercraft death racing would take off by the time I grew up. I had the entire backstory memorized to. (Back in the SNES days, little booklets would tell you some history and give an overview of the controls … unlike today where games give you a damn 30 minute tutorial to learn the controls)

So like any young kid with dreams, I logged hours and hours making sure I could handle all my crafts. I would run down stairs and grab dinner and bring it back to my room because “I was in the middle of competition, Mom.” Screen Shot 2016-04-09 at 4.33.11 PM.png

There was the Blue craft. Boy, did it steer like a can of death. It was almost like the ailerons were still in prototype mode. Whenever you skidded a turn, you kind of skidded. It was the “all around” car.

There was the Green craft. This thing is like a tank. It had the most horse power and could take lots of hits. It handled turns ok and but wasn’t exactly the fastest.

There was the Yellow craft. There wasn’t a kid on the block I knew who used this dainty piece of crap. It had the worst power and would blow up so damn fast if you wanted to “bump the person a little bit to let them know you’re there.” It handled turns the best and accelerated pretty good, but who gives a crap when yo are 10 when you want to ram some shit.

Then there was the craft I used the most. The Red craft aka the “flaming” craft was packed with the best engines the future could buy. It had the best top speed but the acceleration was total shit. Undaunted, I set many track records with the red car after learning the secrets to each track (hug the corners and tap the acceleration on the turns). I wonder if Twin Galaxies will honor FZERO records? I think after dedicated training, I could amaze the FZERO talent scouts of today. Maybe there is some parallel universe I can walk into and battle it out like THE LAST STARFIGHTER.

If any of you tout yourselves to be an FZERO champion, speak up, and we will compare times on “THE TRACK.”

You know which one I’m talking about. The one built for one purpose only … FZERO top speed.

TALKING ABOUT SPEED, CHECK OUT WHO HOLDS THE CURRENT SUPER MARIO RECORD

 

Game Reviews: Super Mario Speed Running

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I discovered a few months ago the video game subculture of Super Mario speed running. If you search youtube, there are many champions of past and present showing replays of their great achievements.  According to the official site http://www.speedrun.com this the current record list. Behold the glory. If there was a Gamer Olympics, America would dominate the sport of Super Mario speed running. We hold 16 of the top 20 spots.

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An interesting observation is that there seems to be a new breed of speed runners. The vast majority of the records have been set in the last few years. Can you imagine Trevor Sequin right now? He was king of the Super Mario world 11 years ago. He walked the walk, and strutted his stuff like he was about to get his own brand of hot sauce (that’s another story). Trevor reigned for 2 years until Scott Kessler beat him. I want to know this story. Did Trevor come out of retirement and start training to regain the record at this point? Or was he fine watching his title get smashed over and over? (Trevor, DM me on twitter and we can tell your story)

The current record holder is a player named darbian. Wow. What a time. You can watch his accomplishments on youtube. I don’t know how many hours it took to accomplish such a feet. I surely would like to know the training involved. People might not respect eSports at the moment, but I believe it is the future. The hand to eye coordination required and dexterity is something we might need when the Alien Invasion comes (i.e. Pixels, The Last Starfighter, etc).

As for me. I played Super Mario a ton. It was the first NES game I ever played (no, duh, right? It came in the system along with Duck Hunt). I never beat the game. I always got stuck at level 8-2. It would be the story of my adolescence. I took the crazy beanstalk adventures but never got the princess.

She was always in another castle.

WHY STREET FIGHTER 2 IS MY FAVORITE FIGHTING GAME EVER

Game Reviews: Clash Royale

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Clash Royale by Supercell

As an avid player of Clash of Clans, I watched with anticipation when Clash Royale was released in beta test. Clan mates told me to download it on some other server, and I frantically tried for twenty minutes to switch and reboot on my iPhone but couldn’t find the game. Canada. Sweden. Argentina. It didn’t matter. It was like a gamer mirage. I was forced to watch youtube videos which looked a little disappointing. But then I finally downloaded the game a couple weeks ago at the urging of another clash addict.

I now have a Clash Royale problem.

It is one thing to have an addiction to one game, but now with Clash Royale I find myself playing it at all hours of the day. When I wake up. When I eat lunch. When I watch TV. When I lay in bed. The game is deceiving in a way. It has four slots to fill with chests after a win. It keeps you checking to open chests that open after time expires (3 or 8 hours). What gamers don’t quite realize is as you level up, it becomes harder to win, and at the highest levels you will find yourself playing for thirty minutes to get your four wins. We are being programed in the Supercell way by giving us fast upgrades and easy battles and slowly turning the water on high.

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The moment I realized I had a problem was this morning. Usually I shut off my alarm eight times on my phone before slowly reaching over and refreshing my Clash of Clans account like an addict. I don’t know how long I’ve been doing this, but it is habit like brushing my teeth.

This morning I refreshed my Clash Royale account first. Then fought four battles.

Hello. My name is MM Leonard. I am addicted to Clash Royale.

I am only a level 6 right now. I don’t really have any tips to give right now. I prefer using a card deck of the giant, goblin hut, the giant skeleton, the knight, the barbarians, the musketeer, and the balloon. Sometimes I do the inferno. Sometimes I do the skeleton hut. Sometimes I use a witch. I wait until he other players attacks first and do a counter move then drop a giant or knight on the opposite side. I don’t know if there is a name for this yet in Clash Royale lore. Call it counter punching. Barbs counters land units. Musketeer counters the dragon and minions. Arrows counter the skeleton mass. The witches are good behind a heavy unit.

Supercell was smart learning from their Boom Beach disaster. I thought the game sucked and I quit after a week. Based on the adoption level of my my Clash of Clan mates, they agreed it sucked and the majority of them quit. Supercell then went the Angry Birds route and used the proven characters that they have curated over the years. This is the heart and soul of their games. Much like Super Mario. It took them some time, but they had to level up someday too.

NEXT: REVIEW OF SUPERCELL’S SMASH HIT, CLASH OF CLANS

Game Reviews: Street Fighter 5

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When I was between the ages of 10-12, I played Street Fighter 2 like a boy with a vision. I beat the game with every character except Dhalsim because he was slow as hell and couldn’t beat some of the faster characters. Maybe there is a person out there that was the greatest Dhalsim player this side of the Mississippi. Maybe it got him somewhere.

Street Fighter 2’s popularity peaked right before Mortal Combat came out and hours upon hours were spent learning the special kill moves to “finish him.” Challengers would show up to my house and I would vanquish them one by one (my memory is biased). My mother would bring us food and snacks and every three minutes there would be yelling as epic clutchness surely ensued the end of every round.

My player of choice was Ken. He was like Ryu, except he wore red. Why Capcom made two characters that are exactly the same, I don’t know. I’m sure there was some cut-scene story to it. Ken in a way taught me all the karate I’ll ever know.

I have two distinct memories of how Street Fighter 2 paid off for me.

I remember in college when someone dusted off their old SNES and brought it to the dorms. I walked down a hall to see a crowd in one room and jostled my way in to see what the commotion was about.

They were playing Street Fighter 2.

The owner of the system was defeating everyone easily. “He is unstoppable” said his roommate. Others nodded in approval as if they had just seen a miracle. I hadn’t played the game in at least six or seven years, but anyone that knows what it was like to play Street Fighter 2 at its peak knows the memorized moves stay with you forever, much like the Contra code.

“I can beat him,” I said.  The crowd grumbled like I was the biggest gamer poser. Supposedly this guy had just left a hundred dead bodies on the floor and was thought to be untouchable. They handed me the controller and he picked Guile.

I picked Ken.

The first round kicked off and my hadouken was just a powerful and fast as I remember. It was all muscle memory. Ken beat Guile in round one and the crowd was roaring. The owner’s hands started to sweat. He looked at his controller to act like maybe there was something wrong. Round two kicked off, and his sonic booms were no match for me. The key to Street Fighter 2 is know it is a block and counter game. You block everything from a distance and up close, you usually do a low sweep or grab-and-throw. I won the game and the crowd was shocked. I tried standing up like a champion. All those hours as a kid paid off, somehow, someway.

He wanted a rematch.

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This time he chose Ryu. He wanted to prove I was a fluke. It would be hadouken vs hadouken. With a crowd of countless people (it was probably only a dozen), we kicked and punched and uppercutted but it was no use. I had simply “trained” more for this moment than him. I beat him again and he finally handed the controller to someone else saying he was tired. He could still hold his chin up. He was like 40-2 for the night.

That was my first memory of Street Fighter 2.

Whenever I pass by an arcade, I look for four games, all from the early 1990s. This is one I’ll stop and donate a quarter to. That quarter usually lasts me twenty minutes, except for one time in Vegas. I was at Circus Circus.

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Yes, the mythical casino of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. The place is a relic at this point, but one cool thing is that it sports an awesome arcade in the back. So after losing maybe $150 in roulette, I roamed the place broke. In the arcade, I spotted the machine. I put in a quarter and began my usual 20 minute campaign. It wasn’t a regular machine, maybe it was Marvel vs Capcom or some variation. About five wins in, some Asian guy about twenty years older than me showed me a shiny quarter and motioned that he wanted to play against me. The only common language he spoke was Street Fighter. I said ok and he stuck in a quarter.

I beat him. He looked a little upset, but nodded gracefully.

I continued playing.

He came back with 4 fresh quarters. I nodded in approval and we played four more times and the result was the same. He nodded gracefully again and smiled but he wasn’t someone who gave up easily.

Then he came back and placed five dollars in quarters on the screen (for those who never played in an Arcade, if you place a quarter on the bottom edge of the screen and top of the dashboard where the planes meet, the quarters will stand up and make it easy to show how many you have left while not really blocking the screen). I looked at him, and he nodded as if this as life or death. His asian wife held on to her purse about five feet off to the side (she probably feared getting blamed for jinxing him). Part of me wondered if he was a designer on the original game. If you are reading this Circus Circus Asian man, let me know, because that would be an epic fact.

We kicked and punched each other in Circus Circus that night. Somewhere in his stack of quarters, he did beat me. Evidently he finally cracked the code to my weakness, which I won’t say, but there is definitely a character and sequence of moves I’m not great at stopping. It was fun.

When I rented Street Fighter 5 on PS4 this past weekend, I wish I could say the same. First the game asked me to download a 37 minute update. WTF? Then it has a minute of cutscenes to teach people who to fighter. WTF? Then each match takes like 20 second to load to a cutscene you only want to skip. WTF? The basic combos are all the same. Do all kids need a damn tutorial to play any game? What happened to just putting in the game and hitting start? Evidently the entire game is online, just playing with lag with other online players and ranking up. I have skill, but no time, so I stuck to the single player campaigns which are easy. I beat half the character’s storyline and barely got hit. The graphics are surely better and combos are kind of cool to see, but there is nothing original about the gameplay other than a random dancing bear with a red collar on one of the stages. I then decided at 12:30pm to try to do the 100 person survival mode. Here you fight a hundred players by only getting small boosts after each round. I put it on the hardest level … “hell” mode. I expected a tough fight. Instead, I vanquished the first 10 opponents easily. Evidently kids these days still don’t know how to block like I was taught. I was bored and tired and shut the game off. There is probably a kid out there at the top of the Street Fighter 5 PS4 leaderboards who thinks they are the greatest ever, but they would be greatly mistake. Somewhere in the world there is a middle aged person working at a job they loathe, with the golden reflexes of a champion.

I won’t be playing Street Fighter 5 ever again, but will still stop if I see the old arcade machine somewhere, or will ask about the old SNES you have in the corner of your living room if you invite me over. Don’t be sheepish. Let’s play.

NEXT: A GAME REVIEW OF CLASH OF CLANS (HOW I GOT SUCKED IN TO THE GAME)

NEXT: THE SUPER MARIO SPEED RECORDS (HOW FAST CAN THEY BEAT IT?)

Game Reviews: Contra (NES)

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For those of you born after 1990, you do not know the awesome that is known as Contra. This was the game where you could enter the secret thirty-man code (up up, down down, left right left right, B, A, start!) and boom, you and your buddy would run the through the game blasting the enemy as if you were invincible.

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And do you remember the S-gun? Spreading red balls of glory to an enemy near you. It was glorious and epic and deadly. I don’t remember how many times I beat the game without the thirty-man code, but it doesn’t matter now, does it? It was the coolest feeling you could have without having a damn game genie.

I played this game with friends whenever they came over. The coolest thing you could do to help a bro out was to lend them a life. To ask, “Can I borrow a life” was like “Shit man, I suck.”

I don’t know how many times I beat it, but I think I want to beat it one more time. It is time to search ebay and score myself a great copy.

Classic Game rating: 9/10

CHECK OUT MY STORY ON BUYING THE XBOX 360