Tag Archives: Gaming

Plan for 2017 for This Blog

It’s hard to believe that April is almost around the corner, and I still haven’t posted a new mini-review or the review for DKC Returns! As per usual, things have come up in the past few months that have completely stalled my progress on working on either of those reviews. I will say that I’m not planning on doing a mini-review before the DKC Returns review anymore, since I lost interest in the game which I was planning on reviewing (Overwatch). To be honest I haven’t even finished playing through DKC Returns yet (and I’m planning on playing it through on both the Wii version and the 3DS remake if time allows for that), and this is thanks to a certain game that has been very popular recently (of course, it’s Zelda Breath of the Wild). I’ve also had to scrap certain post ideas as they eventually weren’t relevant after many months of sitting unfinishing (I was planning on doing a “Top 10 Pokémon Games” list back when it was still the 20th anniversary of Pokémon, but that list started sometime around March last year and never got finished). 

Also, I haven’t given up on the Minecraft adventure map, but I haven’t had any time to work on it since 2017 began. On an interesting note, it’s been more than two years now since the original (quite meh) Version 1.0 of Golden Continent released. I had thoughts of maybe working on the adventure map quite a bit to get some sort of update out by that time, but that didn’t really work out. I obviously can’t even remotely give any sort of release date for Version 1.1 (and I’m not going to bother with calling it “alpha V1.1” or whatever, it’s currently a massive update to the map regardless, so the update after that will just be called Version 1.2, if I ever even get there). However, I can say that when the map update does eventually get released, it will be good (unlike V1.0, in my opinion). My most recent roadblock with the map has been dungeon design, but a few reviews of some Zelda games by a YouTuber named “KingK” have given me a new perspective on dungeon design. I’m currently figuring out designs for individual rooms and puzzles to place in them, but the overall dungeon structure has been greatly aided by KingK’s 3D Zelda reviews.

As of right now, I have a feeling April will be completely bare when it comes to blog posts, but I should have something coming out at least by late May. Thanks for sticking with this seemingly deserted blog for quite some time (if you did).

[June Update: I haven’t gotten much further in playing DKC Returns, but the Minecraft map has gotten a lot of attention from me lately. To be frank, I haven’t had a lot of time to play games, which are pretty much the backbone of this review blog. Normally the summer is a time that I can finally spend a lot of time on games or reviews, but I’m going to be a lot busier this summer than normal. I will try to get something out eventually (very reassuring, I know), but I can’t make any guesses as to when that will be, as I didn’t even make my last guess. I might make a Saturday Gaming Stuff after E3, just to share my thoughts, but I can’t make any promises as to when I’ll post that (it may be the Saturday after E3 or a few Saturdays after, depending on how much time I have to work on it). Thanks for reading this (if anyone has), and I hope to return with improvements to my review style.]

Holiday 2016 Giveaway (PS3, Wii U, 3DS, and Steam games)

The giveaway has ended! Thanks to those who participated (and sorry for such a late update to this post here, I’ve been kind of busy lately).

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Welcome to this post-Christmas giveaway that I’ve been accumulating games for quite awhile for! Most of the codes are from Humble Bundles, and this giveaway will include games for the PS3, Wii U, and 3DS, and a couple $10 Steam games will be given out too. I originally hosted a giveaway last year on another site, and that didn’t get any activity on it, which is why this giveaway is being hosted here (so I can actually give something away this time). Here’s a list of the available games:
**—Games—**

*PS3:*
Wolf of the Battlefield: Commando 3
Super *Puzzle* Fighter II Turbo HD Remix
Final Fight Double Impact
LOST PLANET 3
Super *Street* Fighter 2 Turbo HD Remix
Remember Me

*Wii U:*
Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition
BIT.TRIP Presents… Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien
Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse
Swords & Soldiers II

*3DS:*
Flipnote Studio 3D 
Retro City Rampage: DX and its 3DS theme
Rhythm Thief & the Emperor’s Treasure
Nano Assault EX
**(Please check to make sure a game is on your preferred system)**

*Steam:*
Two $10 (or less) Steam games of two commenter’s choosing (state the name of the game in your comment; including games on sale, if you’re wondering). You can list two (or more) games if they both (or all) together fit within the $10 range. 

If you want to know some of my recommendations, I think Terraria, Garry’s Mod, Guacamelee STCE, Shovel Knight, Portal (and its sequel), and a few guilty pleasures of mine, Gunpoint and Spore, are all great games. As for other highly acclaimed games (that I haven’t had the chance to get), Stardew Valley, Ori and the Blind Forest, Elder Scrolls IV (GOTY edition), Fallout New Vegas, Cities Skylines, Battleblock Theater, Crypt of the Necrodancer, XCOM Enemy Unknown, and Psychonauts. This isn’t every great game under $10 on Steam at the moment, but it’s just some ideas in case you don’t know what you might want.

**—Rules and Requirements—**

As for the rules, only one game per person (aside from the exception for Steam games up above). To enter the giveaway, comment a game and your most beloved gaming-related memory. This giveaway will run from now (December 26 at 12 PM EST) to December 30th at 5 PM EST. Comments will be picked randomly through [this site](http://andrew.hedges.name/experiments/random/pickone.html). Winners will be PMed a game’s code (or in the case of Steam, I will give more detailed instructions through a PM as well) at the latest by December 31st at 5 PM EST.

Thanks for participating (if you do), and have a wonderful day!

(Also, I am somewhat prone to making small mistakes in things like this. If you spot an error or if something is unclear, please tell me.)

Donkey Kong Country 3 (SNES/Wii U VC & GBA) Review (Donkey Kong-a-thon Part 3)

Welcome to the third part of the Donkey Kong-a-thon review series! With the first two games in this series out of the way, we’re now going to be delving into the third game in the original DKC series: Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble. Before I get started with the review, you may want to check out my review of the first and second DKC games if you haven’t already.

As I’ve stated in the previous reviews, this review series was an afterthought after I finished playing DKC 1 and 2. If it weren’t for this review, I most likely wouldn’t have played this game as soon as I have after playing the first and second games, but I hope that I’m not going to be burning myself out on this series anytime soon, since I still have three more games after this to review in the DK series. 

Also, I apologize for the delay for this review, but I was procrastinating a bit on playing this game. Donkey Kong JungleBeat’s review should be out sooner than this review (or even the DKC2 review) took to come out, since it’s a shorter game.

And, I also apologize for any possible jumps in subject matter that may have occurred in the review, as I had to rewrite quite a few sections in order to fit everything in.

With that intro out of the way, let’s get started!

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Introduction:

When it comes to the Donkey Kong Country games, I have a memory of the games that is paralleled only by Pokemon or Zelda. However, these memories all started with one game: Donkey Kong Country 3 for the GameBoy Advance. You may remember about what I said in the last review about the small amount of time that I spent with the GBA version of DKC2, and if you don’t remember, I lost DKC2 on GBA when I was fairly young. Because of that, DKC3 on GBA took its place as the only DKC game that I played back then when I was only five or six years old. It also happened to be the first DKC game that I ever beat, but I’ll try to not let any of these things influence my opinions on this game.

With some nostalgic feelings that I have toward the game and with time away from playing the game since I was younger, I’ve been excited to see my updated opinions on the game since I last played it, because I really remember loving this game, and I might have even said that this game was my favorite DKC game back then. With this introduction out of the way, let’s get into the meat of the review.

Story:


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This story, much like the original DKC1 and 2, has a less up-front story, and in order to figure out the extent of what’s going on, you must read the game’s manual (or look it up online, like I did). Not even the GBA version has a story cutscene at the beginning. This story is basically taken right out of the game’s manual.

Following sometime after Donkey Kong Country 2, Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong go vacationing in the Northern Kremisphere (Hmm, what an unsuspicious name…), and Dixie Kong is not invited for whatever reason. A large amount of time passes with no word back from Donkey Kong or Diddy, and Dixie is worried that something may have happened to them. Dixie traverses to a point in the Northern Kremisphere, and she stops by Wrinkly’s home to see if she knows anything about where the two other Kongs went. After leaving Wrinkly’s home with no help, Dixie comes to Funky’s boat shop, where Funky “gives” Dixie her nephew: Kiddy Kong. Dixie and Kiddy then go on a quest across all of the Northern Kremisphere in search of Diddy and Donkey Kong. The story continues on from there in the game.

This story kind of reuses the basic premise from DKC2 of one of the Kongs getting captured, but I still find it to be quite charming at the least. The story, despite not being very up-front, actually has more in-game exposition in the middle of the game, unlike DKC 1 and 2. The plot is only slightly more complex once you get further in, but it’s overall a decent plot for a non-story-based game.

Environment:


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While I feel that DKC1 had a decent amount of somewhat generic themes and that DKC2 really went wild with creativity pertaining to the level types, DKC3 is a bit different from the other two. DKC3 manages to mix the appeal found in the more natural DKC1 themes and DKC2’s interesting and diverse themes, and it actually works out really well in my opinion. Some themes are a tad generic as DKC1 had, such as a plain, old cave theme, but they still feel more characteristic and creative than DKC1’s themes, in my opinion.

There’s quite a bit of variety in the themes of this game, which include: mills, stilt boardwalks, the insides of trees, coral reefs, waterfalls, and more. Not all of these themes are quite as unique as, say, DKC2’s themes, but they all still feel more fresh than DKC1’s themes. Underwater levels have returned in the form of coral reef levels (which are exactly like the water levels from DKC1), but they don’t quite have the same environmental variations that DKC1 had. Water levels in DKC1 had two true variations (the normal and “Poison Pond” version), but the coral reef levels in DKC3 have two slight graphical change variations (one regular and one slightly darker used for one level). Of course, there’s much more variations in other themes, though I wouldn’t want to spoil many things (since one of the bigger variations is one of my favorite levels in the game).

Overall, I prefer DKC2’s theme variation and color, but DKC3 has so much atmosphere in its level themes (and music, but I’ll get to that later). DKC3 manages to still be better than DKC1’s somewhat bland themes at times, and it still has unique feeling level themes in this point in the series.

Gameplay:


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The game runs off of the same basic formula that DKC1 and 2 go off of, which is basically “make it to the end” while trying to find Bonus Rooms and DK coins if you want to do so. Once again, Dixie returns from DKC2 with her same features as in that game (she has a slow rolling move, but she also has the ability to glide downward with her banana-shaped ponytail) and is still as useful as ever, and the new character this time is the cousin of Dixie Kong, the often-hated Kiddy Kong (and his mouth is very creepy-looking in his official 3D model). Kiddy has a similar weight and feel to Donkey Kong from the first DKC game, and he has almost the same exact moveset (though he trades the near-useless hand-slap move for a more useful move that allows Kiddy to bounce on the water a few times in order to reach two or three Bonus Rooms in the game). Overall, the game still plays very similar to the previous ones in terms of the characters.

This game is quite different, however, when it comes to normal DKC level design, and it really shows in most levels in the game. The feel of certain levels in DKC1 and 2 have been mixed together to form a blend of both wonderful… And absolutely terrible level designs. In my opinion, the good levels outweigh the amount of bad levels, and I do prefer most of the good levels in DKC3 than the best of DKC1; however, the problem comes when the game tries to be harder by introducing bad or annoying mechanics.

I wish to end the gameplay section for this game more positive, as there are many more negatives to talk about here than previous games. Therefore, I will be talking about the negatives in the game first, and there are quite a few more in DKC3 than the previous DKC games.

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Where do I start… Okay, I’ve never cared for the new toboggan levels, which are the “minecart” levels in this game. Everything about these leave a bad taste in my mouth, including the near split-second reflexes needed for even the earlier stages, the far too fast speed that the toboggan goes, and the often annoying level design that is designed to be trial-and-error. These levels aren’t unbearable or anything, but they are a huge step down from the unique roller coaster levels in DKC2 and a small step down from DKC1’s minecart levels. Granted, DKC2’s roller coaster levels had potential visibility issues by going too fast, but you are able to (I didn’t even know this before I played DKC2 again for my previous review of it) control your speed by pressing left or right, which means that any speed issues can be blamed on trying to play the levels too fast (which I definitely did). I’m getting off-topic now, however. The toboggan levels in DKC3 are my first problem with the game.

My second problem with the game is that some other levels in the game can have gimmicks that feel like they weren’t thought out very well. For example, want to play an underwater level where the main obstacle is dodging annoying enemies while having the screen be darker until you poke a glowing fish? How about playing a vertical autoscroll level with bad enemy placement and a very small margin of error (on two occasions, both in different level types)? And it doesn’t stop there, because why wouldn’t you want to play an underwater level with wind physics (in the GBA version anyway)? Perhaps a level where you go “Sonic” speeds toward enemies that you can’t see until they’re right on top of you? Okay, okay, maybe I’m getting a bit too extreme here, but there really are a lot of levels in the game that have very poor mechanics.

But, that’s actually all of the major negatives that I wanted to go over. Now, we get into the positives here, and the game does truly shine in many aspects (some more so than previous DKC games). For example, though a select portion of stages have mechanics that honestly want to make me pull my hair out, some stages that have interesting mechanics actually shine brighter than some of the better stages in DKC1 and 2 (although not many do). For example, one stage puts you into a factory stage while you must dodge fireballs from someone (or something, since you never see what’s shooting you) while ducking for cover occasionally. Another interesting mechanic used well is in one of the later levels in the game where progression is made by jumping on top of barrels flying upward from a central point in the stage, and you must occasionally turn these barrels into explosive TNT barrels in order to kill a tough enemy blocking the way. These very diverse level mechanics with so much creativity put into them are one of the best things about this game. However, I want to save the rest of my thoughts on the levels themselves for a little bit later. Why? Because we have to get into the other things that have changed substantially.


Possibly one of the biggest immediate changes is the world map, which now allows you to swim to the different areas on the map, and the world map now contains several secrets too. What this means for this game is that you now occasionally have options on what you want to do next, and on one occasion, you get to choose which world that you get to go to next (this happens twice in the GBA version with a newly-included world). You will also be able to get a water vehicle right after you get Kiddy Kong, which allows you to get to the first world. This water vehicle can be upgraded after a few worlds, and aside from the final “completionist” upgrade for the vehicle which allows you to reach the true ending of the game, they really only serve a purpose for basic progression. After entering into the first world, you will be greeted with a familiar sub-map style to the previous DKC games, but you’re also able to swim around when there happens to be water, which allows you to find secrets inside the worlds too.


Let me get a little off-track here for a minute, however. In DKC1, you really didn’t have collectibles in the main stages that went toward some ultimate goal, but rather, the old collectibles gave you lives. In DKC2, you got three brand new collectibles in the form of Banana Coins (which are now called Bear Coins in DKC3), Kremcoins, and DK Coins, which allowed you to buy advice/save, access new levels, and have bragging rights, respectively. In DKC3, however, there are two new types of collectibles: Banana Birds and items traded by the player to new NPCs in the game, called the Brothers Bears. Banana Birds and the items traded with the Brothers Bears serve no purpose outside of reaching the true ending for the game, which means that you can play practically all of the game without having to bother with these new NPCs, if that’s not something you want to do. The trading quests themselves that the Brothers Bears give you aren’t very interesting or worthwhile in my opinion, but they’re a decent distraction from the main game. From certain trades, however, you can obtain certain Banana Birds, which help to give these trades purpose. The other Banana Bords, however, are found encased in crystals inside “hidden” caves in the world map and sub-maps, and you’ll need to complete a very simple and repetitive game of Simon in order to free them from their crystallized prison. These new collectibles are decent distractions from the main game and add a bit of atmosphere to the in-game world, but the reward for getting absolutely everything in the game isn’t stellar, if you want a true reason to go out of your way to get these collectibles.

If I can be honest, I have no idea if I forgot to talk about this mostly minor feature in the DKC2 review, but Swanky Kong, the Kong who typically runs mini-games in DKC2 and 3, now returns with a third-person shooting mini-game, which makes you fight against Cranky Kong (also used in a unique boss battle near the middle of the game). This mini-game is rather short and doesn’t have a lot going for it, but you do get paid out in Bear Coins and extra lives somewhat generously, even if you lose.

Now that I’m practically done with talking about the major changes to the overall game mechanics, let’s hop back into the game’s design and level features. In terms of the levels themselves, there’s not a lot more to talk about, actually. Therefore, I mine as well talk about some design changes that help DKC3 to continue to stand out amongst the other two highly acclaimed original DKC games. This time around with animal buddies, we have one true new addition in the form of Ellie the Elephant (who replaces Rambi the Rhino), though a new, stage-limited animal buddy, Parry the Parakeet, makes a few appearances. There really are only a few stages in this game, compared to DKC2, that heavily use or require animal buddies, and, like I said, I think it works for the better in letting DKC3 stand out from its predecessors. The stages that use the animal buddies this time around are almost all great (aside from one majorly flawed level later in the game), and I think that they manage to stay relevant compared to DKC2’s wild usage of animal buddies.


The basic structure of how Bonus Rooms present themselves have also seen a slight improvement in my eyes, as there are now always only two Bonus Rooms per stage (until the final, optional world). This makes it easier for people like me, who want to collect everything, to know when they can finally just relax and breeze through the rest of the stage. The challenges in the Bonus Rooms themselves, however, have seen quite a bit of a downgrade from DKC2, in my opinion, since around half of all of the Bonus Rooms contain brand new “Green Banana” challenges, which are often luck-based sprints through a room filled with instant death hazards. I must say that Bonus Rooms were handled much better in DKC2, aside from DKC3 making it more convenient to know exactly how many Bonus Rooms there are in each stage. If I can be honest, I don’t think that the Bonus Rooms are quite as well-hidden or as thought out in many cases as DKC2’s Bonus Rooms felt. As a side note, I feel that the sub-maps’ indication of levels that have no more collectibles to find is much more “sophisticated” in a way than DKC1 or 2’s method, since levels are visibly marked on the map by two flags (one for beating the stage and one for showing that you’ve collected everything in that stage). 


And now, we enter one of the bigger improvements in DKC3: the boss battles. In DKC1, boss battles weren’t very exciting, and they often boiled down to being repetitive, easy distractions that often got reused. In DKC2, we got bosses of a much higher quality and creativity than the first, though I feel that they were all mostly a bit too easy, aside from the final boss. In DKC3, we have boss battles with unique mechanics on almost all occasions. None of the bosses in the SNES version feel like an afterthought at all, while maybe one or two bosses in DKC2 could be a bit boring. This, in my opinion, isn’t a major improvement for the game though, since a lot of them, though very creative, are often a bit too easy, aside from one or two bosses.

Overall in terms of gameplay, I feel as if a lot of the levels were given much more thought than some of the most creative levels of DKC2, and some of them truly are really great in execution. The world in the game feels a lot more alive this time because of the newly added NPCs and the slightly more direct approach to the story this time around, and many things see minor improvements all throughout the game, including bosses. However, I’m not too fond of a few of the mechanics used in certain levels, and some levels feel a bit bare or boring at times. The Bonus Rooms leave quite a bit to be desired in how they’re hidden, and they often have more luck-based challenges this time. In my opinion, I still prefer the levels on DKC2 over this game’s levels, since DKC2’s levels have a much higher overall quality, but I still think that this game has quite a few good or great levels (and some that are better than some of the levels in DKC2). I will say though that I still prefer this game’s levels to DKC1’s levels.

Oh yeah, the GBA version also adds a new world and changes the mini-games that Swanky has into an entirely different one that now nets you a Banana Bird for completing rather than just extra lives and Bear Coins. (it also gives Funky a new, though mostly bad, set of mini-games, and Cranky gets his own mini-game, which is all right). Some other things are also changed as well, but most changes are respected in my eyes, since certain things in Bonus Rooms are fixed and an improved camera now makes some possible camera issues better.

Graphics and Performance:

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This is how the original SNES version looks.

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As you can see, the GBA version doesn’t look very far-off in terms of graphical fidelity (though, the camera is slightly more zoomed-out in the GBA version, leaving certain sprites less clear on occasion).

In terms of graphics, the SNES version looks absolutely fantastic, though the overall graphical quality can vary from one level type to the other. Environments look very atmospheric and often have a surprising amount of detail put into them for the SNES. I’ve somewhat neglected to mention this until now, but quite a few of the original 3D models for certain characters or enemies look absolutely terrifying sometimes:



However, you can never see these horrid occurences in-game (aside from in pixelated form), which means that your nightmares won’t include these from playing the game. Unless you get nightmares from seeing them here… Oops, sorry.

Er- let me get back on track… The GBA version of DKC3 looks stunning for the GBA, and it manages to pull off almost all of the neat graphical effects present in the SNES version. If I can be honest, however, I don’t recommend playing DKC3 on GBA through the GBA Player for GameCube, since it causes many of the colors to appear washed-out compared to the original version. As much as I may hate to say it, the best way to replay this game while preserving its graphical fidelity is by emulating it (if only Nintendo would put the GBA DKC remakes on the Wii U eShop, but I doubt that would happen at this point). Playing the game on an actual GBA SP like intended will most likely be fine as well, if you don’t mind playing on a very tiny screen.

As for performance, lag tends to be completely minimal in most cases, and the SNES version definitely outperforms DKC2’s rare occurrence of lag. The GBA version appears to be just as stable, which impresses me due to the system’s limitations.

Music and Sound:

All right, here’s my main reason for this review having to cover both the SNES original version of DKC3 and the GBA version. Why? Because, they both have completely different soundtracks from each other, and I think that both are great… but in very different ways. 

I wish to tell a small story here… Back in 1996 with the development of this game underway, Eveline Fischer was chosen to compose all of the level, boss, and map screen themes throughout the game, and David Wise was brought aboard to help out with a few other themes. Fast forward to 2005, David Wise is chosen to do the porting of the SNES version of DKC3’s soundtrack to the GBA, and David Wise explains that the GBA’s sound capabilities would never be able to faithfully recreate the SNES version’s spundtrack, due to it containing a substantial amount of bass. Seeing as it would be mostly useless to try to recreate the original’s music poorly, David Wise decided to compose an all-new soundtrack, and I’m personally glad for this decision, as it now gives us two amazing soundtracks, both with unique styles.

Many other people, now including me, have already said that DKC3 on SNES features a very atmospheric soundtrack compared to the GBA version, and I can’t help but agree completely. The SNES soundtrack is most definitely very atmospheric in its execution, but despite what some may say, I think that these tracks are all very well-made and have a very high depth to them that take quite a few listens to appreciate. I must say that the soundtrack definitely fits the theme of this game with its more direct approach to story and the more detailed stages with background set-pieces, and this soundtrack overall is very soft and bass-y (though some tracks are very snappy). Here are a few tracks from the SNES version that I love:

Here’s Sub-Map Shuffle.

Here’s Enchanted Riverbank.

Here’s Hot Pursuit.

Here’s Nuts And Bolts (no, not that Nuts ‘N’ Bolts!).

And here’s Rockface Rumble.

The GBA soundtrack, on the other hand, is much more snappy and up-front with its music and rhythm.

Here are a few tracks from the GBA version that I absolutely love:

Here’s Treetop Tumble.

Here’s Water World.

Here’s Waterfall (a.k.a. Cascade Capers).

Here’s Jangle Bells (though it’s actually Hot Pursuit).

And here’s the GBA version of Nuts and Bolts.

Overall, I find myself preferring the GBA soundtrack, since it has some of my favorite DKC music tracks (especially Waterfall/Cascade Capers). While I do also like or love a lot of the SNES soundtrack, I find myself only preferring one or two tracks from the SNES version (Frostly Frolics is one of them, especially since it’s one of my favorite music tracks from the SNES version, and it became mostly ambience in the GBA version). If I can be honest, I love both, and I wouldn’t be happy without either one.

Final Thoughts and Score:

With all of my previous thoughts out of the way, I must say that, while I do like this game more than DKC1, there are quite a few things that end up placing it below DKC2 for me. Though this game has a lot of great level mechanics, some of them fall flat on their face, and a few other design choices don’t help the problems in some of the levels.While I did enjoy this game quite a bit, I must say that I overall didn’t end up feeling completely satisfied afterward. 

To expand on what I mean (after this has been uploaded for awhile), I feel that the overall game design and presentation are things that I prefer to DKC1, as level designs have more interesting structure and set pieces than DKC1, much like DKC2 had really nice looking and feeling levels. However, I feel that the level design can be much less appealing at times in DKC3 than DKC1, and the overall quality of the game is lowered because of it. DKC1’s levels were laid out in a way that makes speed-running and playing the game for the first time quick and easy, while DKC2 and 3’s are laid out so that there’s a lot more stuff to do to make much more enjoyable and detailed, as well as making repeat playthroughs much more fun. 

(If you don’t get what I mean, I prefer the way that the levels and structure of DKC2 and 3 work, therefore I prefer to play those games, even though I consider DKC3 to be the lowest actual quality of the original trilogy.)

So in case you’re wondering, DKC3 is my least favorite DKC game (the “Country” part is important for later…), and of the original trilogy, DKC2 is the one that stands out the most to me. So for the the score:

I’ll give this game a 8 out of 10: even though I prefer playing this game to DKC1, it still feels like it ends up being of a lower overall quality than DKC1, which is why I’ve rated it lower than my original 9 out of 10 for DKC1.

(Small Update: I changed the score from an 8.5 to an 8, since I felt that an 8.5 was a bit too generous after re-reading the review a few more times. To be honest, it would probably be closer to a 7.7, but I don’t like to get that specific in how I rate most games, since it’s really just a number.)

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This has truly ended up being one of my longest, most in-depth reviews I’ve ever written. Once again, I apologize for the wait for this review, and I hope to be back sooner this time for the Donkey Kong JungleBeat review.

Also, progress on the Minecraft map slowed down a bit, since I wasn’t able to work on the map for two weeks. A developer diary will be out sometime in the coming weeks, going over the Forest Temple, Windswept Caverns, and Sky Temple. The Water Temple will be covered along with a finished Path to the River Source and also an altered Dark Dimension dungeon (as always I won’t be going too in-depth with the dungeons, however).

(Edit on September 16: Well, school has begun again, and I’ve been completely swamped in every way with homework and writing projects. Mostly because of those writing projects, I haven’t felt much like writing recently, and as a result of that, the Minecraft map is going to take most likely until November or December to get the alpha version of 1.1 out. I’ve honestly hit a bit of “designer’s block” (like writer’s block except for design), and that’s hindered my ideas for the dungeons, which are all that’s left to finish up now until I can release the alpha version. I truly apologize, once again, for these broken release date promises, as I usually set them with the mindset of me working on it continually, but I almost never have. As for the JungleBeat review, it’s getting there, but I still haven’t had much time to work on the review.)

This was easily one of the hardest reviews that I’ve had the privilege of writing, and I’m glad to be able to get back to some simpler reviews starting with DK JungleBeat.

(And yes, I have updated this review quite a bit, and I may change it more in the future.)

Thank you so much for reading, seeya!

Golden Continent: Rise of the Dark Forces (Minecraft Adventure Map) Version 1.1 Developer Diary #11

Welcome, finally, to the next developer diary for Golden Continent: Rise of the Dark Forces. I have some great and possibly disappointing news to tell in this one.

Wow, I’ve been working on this version of the map since February 2015. I remember my original goal of just adding in the new areas to 1.1 and only recreating the Water Temple dungeon… That sure changed! Since around August or so last year, I’ve been busy constantly coming up with ideas to make this map something special by practically remaking the entirety of the map to be something I would want to play. I’m not a fan of what I had made in Version 1.0, mainly because it feels very lazy to me now, but Version 1.1 (even the alpha version) will be the start of what I really want for the map.

Aside from that rambling, I’ve made a lot of progress inside of the map, fixing redstone structures to be more reliable (a lot of my older redstone usage was still in effect, and it often broke), adding a lot more depth to the different structures in the map, and, currently, making puzzles and challenges for the early dungeons in the map. I’ve already finished up completely the new revisions to the Stone Temple (aside from one room, which will be in the full 1.1 version), and I’m fairly satisfied with the new main puzzle in the dungeon that I’ve created (it’s not fantastic, but it’ll do).

Of course, it would seem like I would have made MUCH more progress by now, right? I mean, the release date is in less than a week, and I haven’t even mentioned progress on the Forest Temple, Sky Temple, or Water Temple? Well, I chose a bad time for a release date. I’ve only recently realized that May 31st was right before the end of school for me, and I’ve also had some personal stuff that’s halted my map’s progress on several occasions. I’m almost 100% certain that the map will be done within two or three months (hopefully just two months), and the reason why two or three months is necessary is because I felt like I was possibly rushing the map now. I want to really take my time with building the Forest and Sky Temples (the Water Temple is actually pretty close to being done), and I want to make revisions to the Dark Dimension dungeon in the middle of the map (not as drastic as the other dungeons, though). I’m also very close to finishing up the Path to the River Source area in the River Haverna area.

And… one thing that I wanted to get out of the way now, since some things weren’t looking well-made beforehand, is expanding the outside of Mt. Olrin to be more of a mountain range than just a single peaked mountain (I’ve also removed the unnecessary clouds around the original Mt. Olrin peak). The outside of the mountain will be used in the Mt. Olrin dungeon in Version 1.2 as well, which is why I wanted to go ahead and make it a lot bigger. Here is what I currently have:

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It took me roughly 3 days to build that, and it’s still going to be updated a bit later in the full Version 1.1 (as well as having the mountain range continue on around other areas of the map). I have big plans for the dungeon inside of Mt. Olrin for Version 1.2, but, for now, I have to focus on other areas of the map that haven’t even been really started yet. The next thing I will be working on is the Reversal Woods and the Forest Temple (and the Sky Temple area after that as well). As a note also, the alpha version of 1.1 won’t contain the Wilted Tree mini-dungeon, as I need to change some other things before then, but you will still be able to obtain a shield by travelling to the outside of the dungeon.

Hopefully this wasn’t too disappointing for those who were expecting the map in a few days; however it most likely was a bit disappointing, and I apologize if that’s the case.

Thanks for reading this eleventh installment of my developer diary for Golden Continent: Rise of the Dark Forces. (Next time, I will discuss the Forest Temple, Sky Temple, and Water Temple.)

(Edit on September 16: Well, school has begun again, and I’ve been completely swamped in every way with homework and writing projects. Mostly because of those writing projects, I haven’t felt much like writing recently, and as a result of that, the Minecraft map is going to take most likely until November or December to get the alpha version of 1.1 out. I’ve honestly hit a bit of “designer’s block” (like writer’s block except for design), and that’s hindered my ideas for the dungeons, which are all that’s left to finish up now until I can release the alpha version. I truly apologize, once again, for these broken release date promises, as I usually set them with the mindset of me working on it continually, but I almost never have. As for the JungleBeat review, it’s getting there, but I still haven’t had much time to work on the review.)

Also, as for other posts, school has halted those a bit. I’ll return with a DKC3 review in the summer.

How to Conquer Canary Mary in Cloud Cuckooland in Banjo-Tooie!

Ah, Banjo-Tooie. I’ve only just completed the game for the first time finally, and I was glad that I finally did it!

But, there was something so atrocious and vile that nearly caused me to forgo from completing the game 100%…

Canary Mary…

In the second world, you first encounter Canary Mary and do a few races against her, quite easily in fact, but then she decides to fly away toward the clouds, which contain the races that have brought so many people to tears because of how ferociously she flies compared to your small mouse kart.

Well, I’ve figured out a strategy or two for beating both Canary Mary races.

Strategies for First Race:

The first race starts off much harder than the whole race really is. As you start the race, Canary Mary will fly off very quickly, and you may get the “Where are you?” message from her quite a few times before getting accustomed to the button mashing present in the race.

As you start, mash the buttons until you are at the same position as Canary Mary. Once you reach this equalized position, keep pressing the button at the correct speed to only keep up with her. If you get too far ahead of her, she will “rubber band” in front of you faster than you are going at the moment. She will keep her rubber band speed for the entire race after this, which causes an increase in button presses needed to beat her. Once you near the end of race is when you should finally begin full button mashing again.

Of course, if you hate yourself, you could just button mash your way through the whole race, which is actually possible, but still, it’s very painful and would take many tries for anyone playing the XBLA version.

Now, with the easier, Jiggy-awarding race out of the way…

Strategies for the Second Race:

This is the race that nearly made me quit my 100% completion attempt for this game. I haven’t seen such a tedious and completely unfair race in a video game in my entire life.

Canary Mary will start off the race much more forgiving than last time, gladly, but she will absolutely demolish you if you take advantage of this more-forgiving start. Once again, she will rubber band ahead of you if you go too far ahead of her at a few select points, but this time, her rubber band speed will be nearly impossible to surpass, unless you have a turbo controller (but then you obviously wouldn’t be reading this guide, would you!). Because of this, you can never surpass her after a certain point or else the race will be almost impossible to beat. Instead, keep just barely behind her or just at the same position as her at all times, and do not button mash (except to catch up to her at the beginning). This will be very easy to keep up until the end of the race. At the end of the race, you will arrive a mere distance away from Wumba’s Hut, and Canary Mary will turn sharp towards the finish line regardless of where you are and speed up also if you try passing her. Even if you’re speeding up within four or five seconds of the finish line (while still being just barely behind her), she will most likely finish near milliseconds before you. Instead of this torture, right as the second-to-last camera angle change in the race happens (the camera should have just begun looking up toward Banjo and Canary Mary), pause immediately. Pausing will allow your fingers to take a small break before the final push to the end. After your hands are rested, start pressing at the same speed as before, unpause, and count to seven or eight (yes, this sounds crazy, but it’s the only way I managed to beat her). Once you’ve gotten to eight, stop pressing the X (or A for N64) button at all. Now, count to four or five, and (here’s the final part), mash X (or A) as fast as you absolutely can until the end of the race. She won’t have enough time to screw you over by speeding up right at the end, and you will have built up enough speed by stopping and letting her get ahead to be able to finally win the race. 

I can’t recommend just button mashing through this race at all. A turbo controller obviously would be able to surpass her, but your hand will be a lifeless, carpal tunnel brick by the end of it all if you try this normally.

The sad thing is that this race has become near impossible in the XBLA version, and that’s why I made this guide in the first place. Rareware used the N64’s button lag to its advantage in these races (and in other games as well), and without it, you can’t move quite as fast in the XBLA version without pressing the button much more.

Hopefully this guide helps someone in taking down this horrendous creature, mainly in the XBLA version, but I wouldn’t doubt that some definitely would still have troubles in the original, regardless of button lag.

Donkey Kong Country (SNES/Wii U VC) Review (Donkey Kong-a-thon Part 1)

Welcome to the Donkey Kong-a-thon! In this series I will be covering Donkey Kong Country 1, 2, 3 (DKC 3 specifically for both SNES and GBA), Returns (for both Wii and 3DS), and Tropical Freeze. I will consider going over Donkey Kong 64 at a later date if it is requested, but it will indeed be sooner than later if it is requested.

I’m going to preface this review by saying how much I really love the Donkey Kong Country series, and that this review was really more of an afterthought after playing through Donkey Kong Country 1 and 2 on the Wii U Virtual Console (and it gives me a chance to play DKC 3 for the first time in quite awhile). I can preemptively say that this is the most fun that I’ve had in months! Now that I’m done with singing my praises before the review, I shall now sing my praises inside of the review.

Without further ado, let’s get started with this review.

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Introduction:

First off, I want to tell a story: back in 1993, Nintendo’s SNES was in a technical specs war with Sega’s Genesis/Mega Drive console (although, Sega was the company that “started it”), and Nintendo needed an incredible game to showcase the power of their system. Around the same time, the company Rareware had just made a costly decision to purchase SGI units (advanced, for the time, 3D graphical units) which could allow for 3D models to be converted into a high-quality 2D sprite. Nintendo soon became aware of Rareware’s graphical capabilities, and Nintendo purchased almost half of Rareware (and Rareware became a second-party company). The Stamper brothers (the founders of Rareware) pleaded to Nintendo if they could make a brand new game centered around Donkey Kong (DK wasn’t as popular anymore at the time), and Nintendo accepted the idea. And in November 1994, Donkey Kong Country for the SNES was released and eventually managed to sell nine million copies, making it the second best-selling title on the system, and it was a huge factor in Nintendo “winning” the technical specs war between the SNES and Genesis/Mega Drive.

It’s truly fascinating to look at how this game came to fruition primarily from the competition between Sega and Nintendo. However, I typically don’t fill the Introduction section of these reviews with how the game came to fruition, but I usually tell the story of how I came into buying this game and my impressions of the game before I purchased it. But this story was too fascinating to skip out on telling once more.

As for my normal Introduction, I honestly only first played/purchased this game recently while it was on sale on the Wii U eShop, whereas I had played both Donkey Kong Country 2 and 3 when I was much younger (both on the GBA with their respective remakes). I really expected to possibly not enjoy this game as much as DKC 2 or 3, but I still had an open mind toward the quality of the game.

Story:

The game itself doesn’t greet you with an opening cutscene or text scroll explaining the story, but, like most non-RPG games at the time, you would need to look in the game’s manual to competently figure out the story of the game that you were playing. The story from the manual states that the menacing King K. Rool and his Kremlings have invaded Donkey Kong’s homeland (DK Island), have stolen all of the bananas from DK’s prized banana hoard, and have captured and stored Diddy (DK’s nephew) into a barrel to keep him from stopping them or alerting DK. Upon DK exiting his house and entering his banana hoard’s cave, he covers his face in shame at the absence of his hard-earned sum of bananas. DK comes across the barrel containing Diddy and bursts it open by throwing it. With Diddy by DK’s side, both DK and Diddy progress through DK Island to stop King K. Rool and get back DK’s banana hoard.

Of course, for its time, this is nothing groundbreaking or new, but it’s still a charming story (and I like it).

Environment:

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This game is obviously going for both a cartoony and realistic approach (levels sport realistic settings and looks, but enemies are artistically cartoony), but I honestly think that the more interesting well-designed cartoony characters give the game a lot of memorable moments and levels. As for the environments themselves, every level follows some theme such as jungles, caves, underwater, temples, and snowy mountains. Each level following a different theme makes the game much more enjoyable and pleasing to look at, and they often have theme-specific enemies and hazards. Snow levels usually start out with clear skies, but midway through the levels, the sky darkens and a blizzard appears.

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Each stage-type gives a different feeling based on the lighting, graphics, background effects, and music, and it does what it attempts to do extremely well.

This is honestly one of the best atmospheres in games that existed at the time, and it still entirely holds up today.

Gameplay:

Donkey Kong Country has a simple to learn and difficult to master feel, and I love it so much. Each level will have you playing as DK and/or Diddy going from point A to a checkpoint barrel to point B with enemies sprinkled around as you would expect. Early levels start out easy with many extra lives, and later levels can be much more challenging while still being fun.

DK and Diddy can both use their signature rolling move and can both jump on most enemies and kill them. DK can kill two of the beefier types of enemies and has a hand-slap move which can do… something? (From experience, I’m still not sure what DK’s hand-slap does in this game.) Diddy can maneuver much quicker and has a smaller hit box but can’t jump on certain enemies without being knocked back. Both DK and Diddy control satisfyingly and have a distinct feel, but I do end up preferring Diddy in most every situation.

As I stated before, each level follows a theme, but most levels also do something new and exciting that keeps you waiting for what’s to come in the next level. For example, most stages have theme-specific enemies and hazards that differentiate them from others, and the game progressively manages to mix these themes together to make a wonderful hodgepodge of interesting and memorable level design.

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As for the level design, it’s fun and well-designed as to give new players time to react but also to give experienced players looking for bonus rooms a much more satisfying experience. However, a few levels do have some camera problems, which don’t break the game by any means, but they’re still minor annoyances nonetheless (Poison Pond, the first minecart level, and Forest Frenzy as the main examples of what I’m talking about). There’s not one level which I hate by any means, but some levels are indeed of higher quality than others (take the final non-boss level for example, which is one of the most creative and difficult levels in the game).

Within many levels, you will be able to find animal buddies that you can hop on top of to help you to get through a level. The whole list of animals buddies are “Rambi the Rhino”, “Winky the Frog”, “Expresso the Ostrich”, “Enguarde the Swordfish”, and “Squawks the Parrot” (although Squawks only has one level). Most animal buddies are useful (with the exception of Expresso the Ostrich, who is unable to jump on enemies without sprinting away into a bottomless pit), and each one is typically used well inside of levels that include them. You are also able to find different animal buddy tokens hidden (or in plain sight) throughout levels that take you to a special bonus stage when three of a single animal’s tokens are collected. These stages will have you collecting hundreds of stars for extra lives, and they can be quite rewarding; however, it is quite annoying that these bonus stages always send you back to either the beginning of the stage or the checkpoint, which can ruin the pacing of my difficult level. I personally don’t care all too much for these animal buddies, but they do help to spruce up the gameplay.

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Also, bonus rooms with extra lives and animal tokens are located among every non-underwater/boss stage. Most bonus room in the game are located behind invisible holes in the sides of walls, and they can be broken open throwing a barrel into the spot or by walking into the hidden stage’s entrance while holding a barrel as Diddy (the main reason why I prefer Diddy for normal play). They aren’t required to enjoy the game, but bonus rooms have a decent amount of fun to them that can add some small replayability.

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Overall, Donkey Kong Country has fantastic structure and level design, and any flaws with the gameplay are miniscule in most cases.

Graphics and Performance:

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For the time and even now, this game looks great and is still appealing to look at. The SGI-made models look grand (and even better-looking) as 2D highly-detailed sprites, and everything has a true sense of depth. Backgrounds are detailed and atmospheric at times when they need to be, and the graphics overall were absolutely beautiful then and are still great to look at even now.

As for the performance, there’s a select few times in which the game itself will slowdown due to the amount of enemies on-screen, but nothing is noticeably bad at any given time.

It looks and performs fantastic overall.

Music and Sound:

I shouldn’t even need to speak as to why this is one of the greatest video game soundtracks of all-time, but I know that I must anyway. David Wise, Eveline Fischer/Novakovic, and Robin Beanland all composed a fantastic soundtrack for this game (Robin only composed one track), and you will never be able to forget tracks like Forest Frenzy, Treetop Rock, Life in the Mines, and most of all DK Island Swing. Although, my personal favorites are Ice Cave Chant, Fear Factory, and Forest Frenzy:

Here’s Ice Cave Chant

Here’s Fear Factory

And here’s Forest Frenzy

(I finally fixed the video issue :D)

The whole soundtrack (with the exception of maybe Misty Menace) is one of the most memorable of any game ever, and it deserves all of the praise that it gets.

Final Thoughts and Score:

Donkey Kong Country 1 for the SNES (even now: almost 22 years later) has proved that some games age extremely well and are nearly timeless with their appeal. There are only a handful of moments where I was just a bit annoyed at some camera issues, but I’d still say that Donkey Kong Country 1 on the SNES is worth its $7.99 eShop price tag (for quality alone). You may also find the GBA remake of the first Donkey Kong Country more viable if you don’t own a Wii U or SNES.

I personally feel that this game truly deserves a solid 9 out of 10, and it still holds up today, even after a whole 21 plus years, as still one of the best and one of the most creative platformers in existence. Buy it if you haven’t already done so.

I hope that you enjoyed this review of mine for Donkey Kong Country 1 for the SNES and Wii U Virtual Console. I will be releasing the review of Donkey Kong Country 2 in a week or two if you are curious. Also, I’m planning something special related to Donkey Kong Country within the coming weeks. Stay tuned for more info!

Thanks for reading this review! It means a lot to me that someone could have trudged this far down through this whole review.

Once again, thanks. Seeya!

Taking a Trip Down Memory Lane #1: Flipnote Studio and Hatena

Welcome to a new three part series (I’ll be releasing all three at the same time) that I’m going to be delving into about discussing three games/services that were a part of my “childhood” (or just nostalgic in general) that I very fondly remember. Welcome to Part #1 about Flipnote Studio/Hatena.

Back in 2009-ish to 2013-ish, there was an amazing flipbook-style animation-making and online sharing service available for the Nintendo DSi. This service was Flipnote Studio (for drawing) and Flipnote Hatena (for sharing online with others). As for the animation app itself, it was well-made with many tools to choose from, and you could even add sound/sound effects and extremely low-quality pictures.

These easy-to-use and expansive tools began the perfect storm… called the community of Flipnote Hatena. But before I get into that, there’s some things I need to detail about the service in general. First off, before you could even fully use the service, you had to sign up, and, believe me, it was way too complicated. The most I remember of it, is that you couldn’t sign up on the website like any normal website, but you had to fax (in 2009-2013, mind you) your requested username, password, and service ID to Hatena Co., Ltd.’s offices, which I guess allowed parents to have more control over whether or not their children could join this free community. Occasionally, there were weekly animation contests run by the service, where you could make a high-quality animation and have your post put on a pedestal. Another thing is that there are these things called “stars” (basically unlimited likes), which you could add to any post if you liked it, hated it, or if it asked nicely, but there were steps above these called “colored stars”, which increased in rarity by color (and you could buy them with real money and give to people who made a really great quality animation). On one side, you had many people making animated cartoon dubs over popular/funny audio, people using pre-existing sprites to make animated “video game” series, people who made unique animations of stick figures very fluently fighting other stick figures, people who made animations dubbed over songs, and people like me who only drew extremely low-quality versions of all of the above. This wasn’t the majority of the users of Flipnote Hatena, however. On the other side, you had people constantly making “animations” asking for stars, colored stars, comments, etc.; people constantly making things against-the-rules so that the mods had more work to do; and people who posted nothing but drawn “messages” over a whole 100 page animation (most of which had a color layer placed on top of the text so that you were required to download and erase the color to even see the message). This was the actual majority of the community, and it was 90% of all the flipnotes on the site. However, the good typically out-weighed the bad in terms of what people added stars on, and, therefore, what you’d typically see on the front page of the service was always decently great (I know that’s a strange combination of words, but it’s the best way to describe it). All I can say is that the community was mostly made up of… emotional teenagers, high-skilled animators, and lazy kids like me.

I can’t entirely recreate the awe and wonder that there was inside of the service back when it was new, and I’m honestly out of things to talk about inside of the service. However… if you happen to own a DSi and still want to make/watch more flipnotes, there is a fan-made service called “Sudomemo”, which is nowhere near as big as the original in terms of community (obviously since it’s not an official service), but it is still a good service from what I see (a little over-saturated with Undertale flipnotes and single-page drawings, but it’s still decent enough).

In all honesty, however, I don’t think that anything can quite recreate the magic and wonder of the original service when there was a flood of unused creativity coming from even the youngest of children to the skilled artist. Also, I just realized from this whole thing that my old animations made no sense whatsoever back then, and I definitely don’t know what I was going for back then.

Anyway, that’s all that I can say about this service/app with words of my own.

If you want to check out the other two parts in this series, you can find Part #2 (about Minecraft) here, and you can find Part #3 (about Pokemon) here.

Thanks for reading, seeya!