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    1. Heretic: Shadow of the Serpent Riders Retrospective

      Welcome back to the Nostagia Train – the series that brings you back in time to enjoy the beloved or not-so-beloved games of our past.  This time, we are headed back to 1994 when FPS shooters involved tricky mazes, creatures from another world, and mild motion-sickness. Following the success of Doom and Wolfenstein 3D, Heretic: Shadow of the Serpent Riders was a dark, medieval take on the first-person shooter.
      A twisted atmosphere of ambient noise and uncertainty around every corner, Heretic is more than just a Doom clone. While most of the game takes cues from its predecessor, Heretic manages to stand on its own as a pretty solid game. There are a few functional changes and a different theme bundled with a little online multi-player option that makes this game worth checking out.

      Heretic: War of the Serpent Riders
      Three devious Serpent Riders with powerful magic have sought to control the kings of the world and wage war. However, the Sidhe elves resisted the riders. They sacrificed their own power to stop the kings from tearing each other a part at the cost of their own magic. Thus, the elves were rendered helpless before the Serpent Riders and forced to go into hiding. One remaining warrior, Corvus, seeks vengeance against the Serpent Riders and sets out to defeat the weakest first – D’Sparil. Will his vengeance be realized and can he make it home alive?



      Navigating the City of the Damned
      Heretic is your basic first-person shooter, but with a few perks. Unlike previous games, you can actually look up and down in this game! It’s a little change, but it really helps when you’re trying to find out what’s shooting you.  A less helpful tidbit is the introduction of gibs – that way you are pleasantly reminded of the fact that you died a horrible, skin-melting lava death.  Oh yes! And you can fly. So, there’s that.
      Aside from these small changes, game play is very similar to other FP shooters of the era. Players must navigate through a level-based structure with varying degrees of difficulty. Find weapons, find keys, find treasure and murder the bad guys.  Part of the fun of these games is figuring out the puzzles and unlocking the door forward to the next, more difficult level of the dungeon. That, and the abusive cheat codes.

      Trying to cheat, eh? Now you die!
      One of the best parts of Heretic and games like it is throwing on the cheat codes and slaughtering your foes. There are several codes for “god mode” or “all weapons” – but don’t go typing in IDKFA of IDDQD just yet. The game actually punishes players that try to use the secret codes from Doom. If you don’t believe me, give it a try!  You can download the game on steam!
      Overall, Heretic: Shadow of the Serpent Riders is one of those games that slipped through the cracks. While the story isn't much to write home about, the actual game play is where Heretic shines. It was released at a time where Doom was king, and the release date had it competing with the next level of gaming. It had missed its mark, but it really is a solid game. If you are into old school first-person shooters, Heretic is really worth spending the time and money on. If you end up liking it, there are two sequels!
      So, what do you think? Want to head back into the past? Where should we go next? Let us know in the comments below!

        • Post Type: Editorial
    2. Chrono Trigger Retrospective

      Our next trip on the Nostalgia Train brings us to a true SNES treasure. While this beloved system had many memorable games, it’s truly an experience to play this classic. Chrono Trigger is regarded as one of the best RPGs of all time. With a rich story, easy-to-grasp gameplay, and an outstanding soundtrack, it’s no wonder this title always seems to end up at the top of any “Greatest Games of All Time” list. What else would you expect from the creators of Dragon Quest, Final Fantasy and the Dragon Ball series? Seriously, all of the stars aligned on this project - complete with the musical genius of Yansunori Mitsuda and Nobuo Uematsu.
      While not overly complicated, Chrono Trigger is a masterpiece with outstanding graphics, multiple endings, and a New Game+ option that will keep you playing time and again. Originally released on the SNES in 1995, this JRPG favorite has been re-released on the Playstation, Nintendo DS, and it’s available for mobile download. If you’ve never gotten the chance to play, you are in for a treat.

      Hopping into the Epoch

      In 1000 AD, it's time for the Millennial Fair, and our hero, Chrono is enjoying the festival. Lucca, his best friend, shows off her latest invention when things suddenly go awry. Something strange happens to Lucca’s volunteer, Marle, and the three are thrown through time on an epic adventure. What starts as a search and rescue mission turns in something much more as Chrono and friends stumble across a shocking discovery. With the future in imminent peril, Chrono, Marle and Lucca must come up with a plan to save the world!

      Finding the Chrono Trigger

      Like most RPGs, Chrono Trigger is a sprawling adventure, but this journey takes us through time. Players guide a three-person party through various dungeons, trials and towns in search of information or treasure. What’s unique about this game is the use of time travel.  The main objective is to ultimately stop the apocalypse, but there are so many intricate plot details that create a wonderfully lighthearted, yet poignant narrative. Most of the mechanics are the same as other RPGS, but with unique designs. You encounter enemies directly in the field, and with minimal transition time, the fight begins. Player position actually effects the battle. Enemies move around and characters can be tossed across the screen. It makes for some interesting strategy changes, especially when trying to hit multiple enemies with one attack.
      There’s a total of six playable characters and one secret character. Like most RPGs, you have complete control of your party’s equipment. The party’s stats and abilities increase as they fight battles, which increase in difficulty over time. As characters level, they gain access to new abilities called Techs. While Techs and magic spells are character specific, Chrono Trigger adds a new twist.
      Characters can combine their turns to form Dual Techs and Triple Techs. It's important to try out different party combinations in order to discover all of these unique abilities. These special techs pull the efforts of two or more party members to create devastating attacks. It's debatable whether or not the Dual or Triple Techs are worth the cost, but that really depends on how you want to use your party.

      Multiple Endings and New Game+

      Besides battling bosses, there are plenty of side quests, secret missions and puzzles players can tackle across the different time periods. While these objectives are like many other great RPGs, Chrono Trigger created concepts still used in games today.
      After playing through the game once, the New Game + option appears. This allows you to retain most of your items, (provided that they are not directly involved with the storyline) levels, and techs to use at the start of a new game. The New Game+ option is pretty incredible, especially if you are a completionist gamer. Of course, this option is very helpful for anyone who wants to experience every single hidden ending that Chrono Trigger has to offer! There are thirteen in total and each is unique to how you defeat the game. The DS version expands upon the New Game+ idea by adding an additional dungeon and an optional final boss.  With so many side quests and secrets, Chrono Trigger keeps giving players  reason to pick up the controller again.

      Chrono Trigger: A Journey Through Time

      Chrono Trigger is an innovative RPG that paved the way for future genre classics, but it's very hard to capture the same magic. A truly remarkable tale of friendship, love, and sacrifice, this game has a solid plot that leaves a mark in my heart. It found a way to marry literary genres together into one epic story with heart-pumping action, touching and silly moments, and many surprise endings. Supported by an enchanting soundtrack and amazing graphics, considering the designer and the time period, it is a privilege to play this game.  With so many positive elements, Chrono Trigger certainly does earn a spot on every "Greatest Games of All Time" list.
      So what do you think? Have you played Chrono Trigger? What's taking you so long!!! How about Chrono Cross? Or perhaps Final Fantasy? Let us know in the comments below!


        • Post Type: Editorial
    3. Milon's Secret Castle Retrospective

      Welcome back aboard the Nostalgia Train - the series that takes a look back at crazy movies and games from our past that we love, hate, and sometimes forget about. Today's trip leads us back to the NES era - a time of masterpieces and some rather obscure titles. In honor of those forgotten cartridges, I give you Milon's Secret Castle. There's much to be said about this game and very little makes sense. It is one of those titles that you may have lying around or in the bottom of a box in your basement. Just remember, all trips down memory-lane aren't going to be good ones.

      Milon's Complicated Story
      As a gamer fires up this game on the good ol' NES, it becomes immediately apparent that it will be a bit of a dumpster fire. There is no explanation and no story; players are set before a castle with three doors, a well and that's it.
      After some digging, I finally found the game's story! It revolves around young Milon, who lives in a land where people use music to communicate with each other - but he can't understand anyone. Apparently, he's music illiterate. He decides to travel the world. Before he leaves, he wants to visit the Queen. Wouldn't you know it, she's been taken by an Evil Warlord. (As you do...) The court magician appoints Milon to save her. He gives Milon...bubbles and tells him the castle where she's being held has all sorts of tools for him, and that's it. Milon's off to save the day.

      Stormin' the Castle
      Milon's Secret Castle doesn't just lack a cohesive story, it doesn't really make any sense at all. A young man saving a girl is a basic trope, but why would Milon even attempt to meet with the queen knowing he could not communicate with her. If all the inhabitants of the land he lives in only communicate using music, why would he think the royal family was any different? For that matter, how in the world did the magician even clue Milon in?
      The story itself doesn't scratch the surface. Players aren't even clued into story, so it doesn't really matter. Playing the game is just and needlessly complicated.

      Sticky Platforms and Curious Secrets
      The game-play for Milon's Secret Castle isn't overly complicated. Milon is given a life bar and a single life. He can run, jump, and shoot bubbles. He has to enter the castle and discover the secrets within while battling beasts. There is no rhyme or reason to the placement of things, but Milon must fire his bubbles at everything. Bubbles will kill enemies, reveal secret doors, and break blocks.
      Players have to find the hidden shops, music boxes, and items in order to battle stage bosses. After defeating these bosses, Milon gets stronger and gamers advance to new parts of the castle to repeat the process all over again.

      Milon's Secret Castle: Keeping it Secret
      Looking past the story and the weird weapon, one of the things that makes this game frustrating is the difficulty. Unlike other platformers, when Milon gets hit, there is no 'post-hit invisibility.' He also has a very small life bar. When that depletes, it's game over. Players have to start at the beginning. Of course, if you manage to make it past the first boss, there is a trick to starting where you left off. Also, there are ways to increase Milon's health, but it's so minuscule it's barely worth it.
      Another pain point with this game is a lack of direction. While it's pretty neat that players can complete the game in any way they wish, it doesn't clue gamers in on what to do. The secrets are hidden so well that hardly anyone knew they had to look for them. The boss chamber only fills once certain bench marks are complete. Players can't even exit a level without finding a door first.
      Couple all of these grievances with sticky controls, respawning enemies, and cryptic hints, and you've got yourself a pretty terrible game. While it isn't the worst game, it's almost not worth remembering. ALMOST.
      So, play on, gamers. What do you think of Milon's Secret Castle? Want a more truthful review? Check out

        • Post Type: Editorial
    4. TMNT IV: Turtles in Time Retrospective

      Bury my shell at wounded knee after you jump back onto the Nostalgia Train. Our next trip takes us back to one the greatest times in video game history! The Super Nintendo truly was a golden era of video games, and this month's entry is no exception. Was there a better way to spend time with your siblings or friends than punching out foot soldiers in different time periods? The answer is always no. That's when I usually pull out my cartridge of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time.

      Cowabunga! Big Apple (3 Am)
      TMNT: IV is such a popular game that most enthusiasts call it merely 'Turtles in Time.' It's a 'beat'em up' with a simple premise and easy game play. Players join our heroes as they track down Krang and Shredder after the villains steal the Statue of Liberty during a televised tribute. Of course, this mission isn't so simple; Shredder has his own plan to banish the turtles into a time warp. Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael, and Donatello must bash their way through legions of baddies in the past, present, and future in order to find and return the American symbol to its rightful place and time.

      Turtle Power! Turtles in Time
      While the plot is nothing really to write home about, it's perfect in its simplicity.  You'd be hard-pressed to find a deep plot in any game focused on beating your enemies to a pulp. Of course, the focus of this game is the addicting game play. To start, players select their favorite turtle; each has particular strengths and weaknesses. The object is to fight through each level and conquer the end boss, ultimately reaching Super Shredder and retrieve the Statue of Liberty.
      Each stage has different hazards and obstacles to overcome, such as moving platforms, falling rocks, and spaces that freeze a player dead in his/her tracks. At one point, players must throw foot soldiers at the screen in order to continue on. At the stage's end, the turtles must face the likes of the Baxter Stockman, Leatherhead, Beebop, Rocksteady and many other familiar TMNT enemies. While the game provides a fair amount of challenge with limited amount of lives and continues, it's not overly complicated and it's an easy game for just about anyone to play.


      The Co-op Game of Champions
      The past has given us plenty of fun and frustrating co-op games: Contra, Battletoads, Super Mario Brothers. Time has also given us some pretty interesting TMNT games - like the impossible one for the NES. Put those together, with
      , and you have a co-op game for the ages. 
      The cooperative play in Turtles in Time is seamless; players can fight alongside one another without attacking each other, but the game does require a bit a strategy. Health - or pizza- is limited, as are special attack hazards located in particular levels. Also, there are quite a few levels that throw out two bosses at the same time. It's times like these that it helps to have your best friend ready to punch out a mutated warthog.

      Technodrome: The Final Shell Shock
      After 25 years of awesome, this game is still one of the best ways to kill an afternoon. (Or an hour...depending on how good your teamwork is!) While there are certainly other amazing games out there, TMNT IV: Turtles in Time is the perfect game for endless amounts of beat'em up fun. In fact, I think it's about time I picked it up for another play-through. So what do you all think? What's your favorite co-op game? Have you picked up Turtles in Time lately? Let us know in the comments below!

        • Post Type: Editorial
    5. Mike Tyson's Punch Out Retrospective

      Welcome back aboard the Nostalgia Train! Our next trip into the past is a nod to the late Muhammad Ali; I’m pretty sure if video games existed during his rise to fame, this game would have been named after him. Alas, the times did not coincide. We still ended up with the best boxing game ever; Punch Out!!  Originally called ‘Mike Tyson’s: Punch Out!!’ in North American, this gem from 1987 had gamers bobbing, weaving, and weeping as they faced a gauntlet of powerful opponents.
      [caption id=attachment_4052" align="aligncenter" width="751] Keep laughing, jerk.[/caption]

      Living the Dream: Fight to the Top
      Little Mac, our protagonist, has a dream to punch his way through the ranks of Boxing’s greatest champions and face off against Mr. Dream himself. Before he can face Mr. Dream, he has to knock down a legion of quirky and tricky boxers.  Little Mac must complete each ranked match in order to rise in the rankings.  He must bust through the minor and major circuits, conquer the Title Bout, and earn his time in the ring with Mr. Dream.
      While there isn’t too much more to the plot, and there isn’t much of a need for it. It’s a classic tale of an unknown’s rise to the top.  It’s the 'every man’ story: someone with a dream up against the odds with the desire for glory. Just make sure you have a pen and paper handy; otherwise, your dream may end before you fall asleep.
      [caption id=attachment_4051" align="aligncenter" width="747] Mr. Tyson...or Mr. Dream...Whatever[/caption]

      Rising in the Ranks: Eye of the Tiger
      Punch Out!! pits Little Mac up against 14 opponents. There are three boxers in the Minor Circuit, four in the Major Circuit, and six in the World Circuit. The final opponent in the game is Mr. Dream/Mike Tyson.  Players must defeat each opponent in order to work their way up to Mr. Dream.  If Mac happens to lose a bout, it’s no big deal; he has the chance to have a rematch. Unfortunately, if players lose a Title Bout (the match at the end of each Circuit,) he will drop down in the ranking and have to face a previous opponent. The penalty for losing the Major or Minor Circuits is falling back one place. For the World Circuit, Mac will fall back two spots.
      Between Title Bouts, players are treated to a training cut scene. Mac follows after his trainer, and the players are gifted with a pass-code. Nope – there was no saving in Mike Tyson’s Punch Out!!  We had pass-codes that would return us to beginning of whichever Circuit we were about to start. Thankfully, this includes the fight with Mr. Dream.

      Training Montague: Learning How to Fight
      Punch Out!! is a fighting sports game. Players control Little Mac as he faces off against various opponents of exponential difficulty. His moves are limited to left and right jabs, dodging, and a powerful uppercut.  As the round begins, the timer is set and the match commences.
      Mac must dodge punches and lay a few of his own in an attempt to knock out his opponent. For every punch he lands, Mac gets points. He can also gather up to three stars at a time – those are used for uppercuts. Players can get these stars when they strike an opponent at a specific time. For instance, when Von Kaiser crouches low, players can hit him in the stomach and retrieve a star.

      Roll With the Punches
      Mac must watch his hit points and his hearts. If a player is hit, Mac’s hearts and hit points drop.  In addition, his hearts will also drop if an opponent blocks his punches.  When a player loses all of his hearts, Mac will turn pink and he will not be able to punch.  Mac will have to dodge and block until he recovers some of his hearts. When all of his hit points and hearts have depleted, Mac will be down for the count. Players will have to mash the buttons in order to get Mac back on his feet.  He can only be knocked down three times in any bout.
      After three minutes, the round will end – and players get a chance to recover some hit points by holding down the buttons.  This trick only works a few times, so gamers need to be choosy about when they use it. Players can finish a match by either knocking out their opponent (if he stays down for ten seconds), knocking them down three times in a row, or by a decision – that is based on point total. However, some opponents can’t be beaten by decision and must be knocked out. If Mac loses three times or is defeated in the ‘Dream Fight,’ it’s considered an automatic game over.
      [caption id=attachment_4050" align="aligncenter" width="679] Good luck remembering that code![/caption]

      Final Bout: TKO
      What can be said about this thrilling, blood-pumping boxing game? Well, the characters are both amusing and challenging – it’s interesting just to
      just to see the skills each of them has. That novelty fades when those challengers start pounding Mac into the ground. The game presents a fair, sometimes more than fair, amount of challenge, especially when it comes to the Dream Fight. 
      But no matter how many times Mac gets knocked down, players will want to pick him back up again for another shot at the title. It truly is classic; if you’ve never played this game before, it is worth it. There is a nice balance of light-hearted fun and fine-tuned skill in this old school game. So, float like a butterfly and sting like a bee while you take on
      to win the championship. You’ll be happy you did. 

        • Post Type: Editorial
    6. Wolfenstein 3D Retrospective

      Welcome back to the Nostalgia Train! This month’s entry will focus on an old gem from the PC world – we’re talking MS-DOS. Of course, following its release, this first-person shooter (FPS) was ported to various computer systems and video game consoles. This game made killing Nazis an art form; it is the one and only, awesome, adrenaline pumping Wolfenstein 3D.
      Covert spy, William B.J. Blazkowicz, is attempting to escape from Castle Wolfenstien. This game basically set the standard for the genre of shoot and run, while greasing a few Hitlers in the process. Armed with a gun and a huge…talent, William is on a mission to escape and stop potential chemical warfare.

      Break on Through This Rusty Cage
      Wolfenstein 3D is the
      to Castle Wolfenstein and Escape from Castle Wolfenstein. Players take control of William in his efforts to escape and sabotage the German prison. Armed with only a pistol, players navigate the maze-like dungeon shooting down his captors. The actual premise isn’t much more than that, and besides historical references, the game isn’t based off any truth. 
      The objective of the game revolves around killing enemies, collecting treasure for points, and gathering any artillery laying around. Gamers are pitted against enemies of varying strength and equipment. These enemies could be lurking behind hidden walls, around corners, or they could blitzkrieg you as soon as you open a door. The goal is to reach the exit with as much health and gold as possible in order move on to the next level. So players best find the keys and the exit door, or Will might end up among the bodies on the floor.
      It’s a good idea to watch the health percentage; as a gamer takes damage, the toll is shown on poor Will’s face. Though incredibly alert when 100% healthy, as players take damage, over time his visage will slowly deteriorate.

      Storming the Castle

      episodes; each episode contains nine different levels. While the first three episodes follow the story at Castle Wolfenstein, the last three serve as a prequel where Will is looking to discover the plans for chemical warfare. Both still play the same; kill Nazis, get treasure.  In each episode, the subsequent levels are reached by elevator or an ‘exit’ that is found only by exploring the maze. There are plenty of Nazi guards and dogs to kill, and players must replenish their health and ammo on their journey. Of course, if a gamer was to run out of bullets, he or she could always use the knife – but if we’ve learned anything from that could be a rough time. What’s exciting is that surprise attacks go both ways, so it is very possible for a player to sneak up on an unsuspecting guard. 
      Unlike normal enemies, a boss cannot be ambushed. These baddies are located at the end of each episode on the final mission. Even Hitler himself will face off against Will toting four chain guns. With that type of fire power, gamers should hope they have enough health for that final boss.
      Players can acquire a few different guns: the pistol, a submachine gun, and a rapid-firing chain gun. Unfortunately, Will is a captive, so he only begins the game with a pistol and his knife. A positive is that all the guns use the same ammunition. Through exploration, gamers can find new guns, collect ammunition and health, or obtain extra lives. For each episode, players start with three lives; it is possible to obtain more, and besides finding ‘extra life’ tokens, there’s another way get them. To add additional challenge to the game, it’s possible to collect treasure for points. When players grab enough points, 40,000 to be exact, they get an extra life.

      Oh, If These Walls Could Talk
      Of course, there are many wonderful things to search for in this game, and it is a maze which adds a fair amount of challenge. If that isn’t enough, many of these objects can be found out in the open, but there are other ways players can earn points. The easiest way is grabbing treasure, but at the end of each level there are certain challenges gamers can complete. Each of these tasks brings a twinkle to a completionist’s eye, as he or she realizes that hitting the following goals can earn additional points: 100% kills, discovering 100% of the secrets, finding all of the treasure, or having the lowest record time.
      The secrets could be anywhere, so part of the fun is searching the rooms, walls, and swastikas for a secret compartment that may lead to hidden treasure.

      Killing You until You Die From It
      A wonderful thing about Wolfenstein 3D is your ability to pick the difficulty: How tough are you?
      [caption id=attachment_3903" align="aligncenter" width="788] Well...when you put it that way...[/caption]
      Of course, the more docile the answer, the less challenging the game will be. If that isn’t enough, there are secret codes available – like so many other games back in the day.
      Simply pushing I –L – M simultaneously grants a player all guns, ammo, and keys, while entering the command “goobers” open the world up to endless cheats such as: warping, god mode, removing health, boosting weapons and health, even slow motion. However, these codes don't work on the most difficult setting. Whatever amount of challenge you prefer, this game offers it.  If you're interested in shooting Nazis, Wolfenstein 3D is available on Steam, the PlayStation Network, and iPhone.  Stay tuned for the next trip on the Nostalgia Train. 

        • Post Type: Editorial
    7. Contra Retrospective

      Welcome back to the Nostalgia Train! Today’s trip back in time leads us back to the by-gone era of the NES. This game was an essential for any Nintendo owner at the time – and hell, it’s what we had for multi-player back in the day. I am, of course, talking about
      Originally an arcade game, this gem was ported to the NES on February of 1988. Players take control of two
      as they battle their way through several intense levels in order to take down the big alien boss bent on world destruction.  It’s a simple concept with a basic plot, and it is crazy fun -- but it is not easy.
       Your Mission Should You Choose to Accept It
      It’s the year 1987 and the evil Red Falcon Organization is planning to conquer the world.  Commandos Bill Lizer(Mad Dog) and Lance Bean(
      ) of the Contra unit must lay the smack down on the enemy and uncover the true nature of their malicious alien leader. 
      There really isn’t much else to the story than that; then again, what are you really looking for in a game like this? In single player or two player mode, (for that time, an uncommon feature we take for granted today) players control the commandos and navigate through eight dangerous levels.  Each “stages” is comprised of two parts: the full platform section, and the final showdown. The platform section consists of basic side-scrolling dangers such as pit falls, respawning enemies and other treacherous traps. The second section includes a narrow hall full of obstacles like trip wire, rolling traps and armed guards that leads to the level boss.
      Players must blast their way through each stage equipped with only their rippling biceps and their guns – that is, of course, if they don’t find power-ups. Players can find power-ups in level by shooting letter-based falcon symbols. These packages contain machine guns, rapid fire bullets, laser guns, and barrier protection.  Even with the power-ups, this game is extremely difficult.
      [caption id=attachment_3585" align="aligncenter" width="476] So harsh, but true.[/caption]


      Glutton for Punishment
      The game starts off easy enough, but by the time you manage to make your way through the first level, it’s not an unusual thing to find yourself down a few lives. The problem is you only have a few to begin with. And by a few I mean– you can only die three times before you are forced to restart the level.
      Contra can become quite difficult when the enemies constantly respawn – they pop out nowhere. There is no shortage of things trying to murder you. Of course, you can gain another life bar by defeating enough enemies. Depending on how good you are at the game, it is possible to make it through all the levels with the original life bar.
      If a player gets hit three times, (without gaining any extra life) he or she is sent to a game over screen.  This wouldn’t be so bad if players were given unlimited continues, but they are given a very small amount. If there are no more continues, players have to start back up at the very beginning.
      [caption id=attachment_3575" align="aligncenter" width="1916]
      The key to everything!![/caption]
      The Konami Code: What’s The Password?
      How was it possible to even beat this game back in the day? Well, if players managed multiple attempts, eventually they could master a game like this. On the other hand, anyone could just use the legendary Konami Code. Yes – Contra is one of the first games ever to feature this hidden treasure. If a player enters the code as the starting screen scrolled across, instead of starting with three lives, players would have 30. In addition to extra lives, if gamers still found the stages too difficult, they could retry the stage rather than starting over from the beginning.

      Contra: A Game Worth Dying For
      No matter how simple the design or the plot is for Contra, it is still one the most enjoyable games to pick up again and again. There have been re-releases and sequels, but this one is still the best. While not revolutionary in any way, Contra reminds us that games don’t need fancy graphics or a deep plot to be a whole lot of fun.

      Oh yah! Click
      to watch some kids have fun and fail at Contra.

        • Post Type: Editorial
    8. Bionic Commando Retrospective

      Hello retro gamers of the world! Welcome to the Nostalgia Train, the monthly installment that takes a look at older video games and really basks in how amazing or horrible the past truly was. This month’s installment is none other than the puzzle-platformer Bionic Commando. Originally release as ‘Hitler’s Revival: Top Secret’ or Hittorā no Fukkatsu: Toppu Shīkuretto in 1988 for the Famicom, Bionic Commando for the

      Ladd Spencer is a futuristic solider for the FF Battalion equipped with a gun and crippled by his inability to jump. No worries about jumping though; Spencer has an awesome bionic arm with a grappling gun. He can swing himself across the screen, grab items, and stun enemies with his handy robotic appendage – so who needs jumping?

      The Dossier: Finding Super Joe

      on his journey to save the Commando Super Joe from a thinly veiled futuristic Nazi-like regime. (Yay, censorship!) It’s the Federation pitted against the “Badds” Empire. The Federation gains the upper hand after discovering an unfinished Imperial project by the name of “Albatross.” The Empire’s lead general, Generalissimo Killt, is planning to finish the project. Super Joe (named for the 1985 Commando title from Capcom) is sent on a secret mission, but he ultimately fails. It is up to Spencer to rescue Super Joe and uncover the secrets behind project Albatross.  Bionic Commando’s story is relatively simple, like most games back in the NES era. It’s a basic war scenario; our hero is against some steep odds, but eventually comes out victorious.
      Censored!  Nintendo Says No
      [caption id=attachment_3033" align="alignleft" width="469] Gasp! How dare they![/caption]
      This daring mission pits gamers against a recognizable pure evil. However, pure evil wasn’t exactly something Nintendo wanted to sell to audiences back in the day. All Nintendo games were heavily censored for violence, sexual connotations, religious implications, profanity, or a number of other nonsense reasons.  Despite all the censoring, it’s painfully obvious that the Empire is based off Hitler’s Nazi regime. The “Badds” are original called the “Nazz,” the Swastika insignia are replaced with eagles, and the end boss Master-D was originally named Hitler.
      [caption id=attachment_3031" align="alignright" width="128] But we can't call him Hitler![/caption]
      Also, I guess it was okay that the villain shouts a single profanity and meets a gory end.  It seems random that these aspects would be left in the game after considering all the work done to alter all of the other references and plot points.  The plot itself is nothing spectacular, but that is de-emphasized by game play.

      Game Play with "The Claw"
      Bionic Commando is unique for an action-platformer. As the game opens, players must navigate a numbered map by helicopter, avoiding enemy trucks, and descending to each section.  The game has two different perspectives: overhead encounters, and 2D platforming. When Spencer’s chopper encounters an enemy truck, he must battle his way through enemy territory. These mini sections are done in overhead perspective; players can shoot down enemies in order to obtain eagle-shaped markers for extra continues.
      [caption id=attachment_3041" align="alignleft" width="360] I came in like a wwreckinngg baalll![/caption]
      The 2D platforming begins when a chopper stops on a numbered space.  The game contains two different areas: combat areas and neutral zones. When entering combat levels, players can select Spencer’s weapon, ‘armor,’ a specialty weapon, and a communication device.  Once he descends, Spencer must navigate enemy grounds,
      through with his bionic arm and mowing down enemies with his gun in the process. As gamers forge on, they must find communication rooms to reach members of the Federation for assistance or to ‘wire-tap’ for enemy intel. It is imperative to reach every communication room in order to progress with the game.  At the end of each combat zone, there are final “bosses” protecting a mechanical core. Once the core is defeated, Spencer will receive an item – whether it is a gun, a communicator, or piece of armor. 
      [caption id=attachment_3042" align="alignright" width="421] Words cut deep, too![/caption]
      Neutral zones are levels where gamers can collect information or items. Since these zones are ‘combat free,’ if Spencer fires a couple rounds, he will be attacked immediately. Of course, if an Imperial solider attacks you, none of that will happen. So…I guess they are ‘selectively’ neutral. It’s important to explore every area in the game to find Super Joe, gather all of the items, and to really master Spencer’s bionic arm.

      Overview: The Best and The Worst
      Bionic Commando’s game play is incredibly fun. While there are moments that are ‘Nintendo Hard,’ it isn’t impossible to beat. There are some fairly challenging levels and the bionic arm mechanic adds a certain level of puzzle solving to the scheme. The bionic arm can go one of three angles: overhead, directly across, or 45 degrees. This provides a bit of a challenge when navigating the levels.  Re-spawning enemies is also a thing; some levels have enemies continuously dropping from the sky. Regardless, the game has a nice amount of challenge.  On a side note, the NES release was ‘re-balanced,’ and some of the areas were re-worked on a lower difficultly level.  So, if this game was ‘too easy’ try the Famicom version!
      [caption id=attachment_3039" align="alignright" width="1600] I'm sure it's fine.[/caption]

      The Sounds of War
      One of Bionic Commando’s best features is the music. It really adds layers to the game, providing an upbeat and memorable soundtrack.
       helps set the tone for the game. It adds layers of tension and desperation that perfectly suit a war-themed narrative.
      Final Thoughts
      Bionic Commando is considered one of the best NES titles of all time. While it has a few remakes and an indirect sequel, it will never match the nostalgia of the good ol’ NES version. It’s one of those classic games that players remember fondly and wish to pick up again and again. Seriously, pick up this blast from the past and kill some Nazi---I mean, Badds. You’ll be happy you did.

        • Post Type: Editorial
    9. Chrono Cross Retrospective: A Serge of Destruction

      If it’s not the first I’ve ever seen, it was one of the first I’ve ever beaten. One of the most underestimated and unknown RPGs is a proud bearer of the Squaresoft label. Yes, before Square Enix was a thing.No, it is not the Final Fantasy series. I'm talking about the "Chrono" series, more in particular, Chrono Cross. 
      Chrono Cross is a fantastic RPG that is not only beautiful to look at, but it is fun to play. With awe-inspiring screen shots, spectacular imagery, and enchanting music, this game is easily one of the best I've ever played. I’m not saying it’s the best, but it holds a special place in my heart.

      Don't Go Breakin' My Heart
      But, that stuff isn't the half of why Chrono Cross is important. This is first game I ever beat by myself, on my own, no help, no guide, and no brother-- in fact, I beat it before he did!(Now that I think about it, I’m not sure he ever did.)

      Granted, I did beat other games about the same time, but here's a little scenario of what my gaming life was all about during the 90's:
      When growing on games, I used to watch my oldest brother, Dennis, play everything. He would work his way through Final Fantasy 1, 2(IV), 3(VI) , and Mystic Quest on the Super Nintendo. He displayed his air skills with Mario's jump, Dixie Kong's funky hair, and Ryu/ Ken's Hurricane Kick. He punched out lights in Final Fight, Mortal Kombat, and Killer Instinct. Finally, when the Playstation came around, he put his skills to use with NHL EA Games and the famous Final Fantasy 7.
      Yes, Dennis was a gaming master. For fourteen years, I would watch him, open-mouthed, saliva frothing as he battled
      , King Koopa, and conquered his foes with Dhalsim and Glacius. 
      However, whenever he approached the ending of a game, he would pause the game, turn to me and say, "Get out. You have to beat it for yourself if you want to see the ending."

      Crushed Hopes and Dreams
      My heart would be crushed. I would curl up into a ball and sob for hours upon hours, not knowing if Cecil, Rosa, Kain, Edge, and Rydia defeated the evil Xemus, not understanding what happened after Chun-Li faced off with M. Bison, and dying to know what horrors awaited Diddy and Dixie Kong. After all, he let me watch the end of Super Mario World. Why did he stop now?
      [caption id=attachment_2194" align="alignright" width="340]
      Honestly, it was kind of
      What better way to keep your little sibling busy without missing game time? Just simply convince the little one that watching a video game is just as awesome as playing. 
      Still, this all raised a question in my mind as I mopped up my tears and broken dreams; why didn't I try to play a game? I'll admit, it enhances the gaming experience to beat something on your own, but really, was I worthy of such a task?
      After Dennis banned me from watching him beat games, I tried to play the games I wanted to see the endings for, but everything was much too hard. I was so YOUNG and FOOLISH! I didn't know to grind in RPGs like Dragon Warrior, I would mash on the buttons in a sad attempt to form combos, and I was slain by the simplest of goombas.

      Placing the Blame
      [caption id=attachment_2195" align="alignleft" width="300]
      Okay. This wasn't me...but I was used to seeing this.[/caption] 
      I blame him, mostly. He always hogged whichever system we had, letting me watch him play. After a short time, I realized I was trying to pull off tricks my brother would on his best days. I was enthralled by the story, not the game play. He was far more skilled at these games- I mean, he had some practice. I decided if I wanted to beat a game, it would have to be one I never watched him play. Then I could go back and beat them the way I liked to play.
      I had to develop my own style. I had to pick my own fighter, choose my own adventure. In essence, in order to become a gamer I had to discover and play a game on my own.
      I don't know why I picked up Chrono Cross. I'd never played Chrono Trigger. Quite frankly, I was afraid of RPGs. But when I first turned it on, a whole new world was opened up to me, and I fell in.
      One of longest games of my life(up to that point), I played night and day in order to defeat this game as completely as possible. Only after I purchased the guide, years later, did I find that there were multiple things I didn't know about and all of my efforts were fruitless, rotten, and smashed with a hammer.

      Getting in the Game
      Chrono Cross is an RPG sequel of the Square company's Chrono Trigger. It follows the journey of a young man named Serge, who becomes trapped in an alternate universe where he has 'died'.

       It is masterfully put together with a wonderful soundtrack that takes on a character itself. 

      Serge ends up helping a girl called Kidd search for something called the 'Frozen Flame' hoping to find a way back to his own world. As the game continues on, he encounters a number of playable characters who can join the party. There are so many, it is impossible to get them all the first time one plays the game through.
      In fact, it is impossible. Certain choices a gamer makes can determine which characters they get as the game progresses. When a player reaches the end of the game, they can save it, and start a new game, carrying over everything the player found in the previous adventure, but the player pretty much begins at a lower level.
      When the player reaches a certain point of the game, it is possible to transfer all of the characters from the first game. That is the only way a true gamer can get them all!

      Get All The Characters!
      I continued to work my way through this RPG, taking in the story, discovering and exploring all parts of the map, and pressing on toward the end. Beating a game on my own proved to be one of the most thrilling experiences in my lame young life. (Don't judge.)
      I discovered the art of leveling up, magic allocation, and upgrading weapons. The game system was different than most I'd watched Dennis play. The characters equip armor, weapons, and accessories like most rpgs.
      The magic system required elements, and each character has his or her own 'elemental' specialty. Serge's element is white, which is weak again black elements. His use of white elements is stronger than any other character without the 'white' element specialty.Also, when a character starts off, he or she can only equip a few elements. Element usage reflects in battle; if a player can't hit the enemy, the element gauge doesn't go up. The more a character hits, the higher the level of spell can be cast.

      Moving Right Along

      Plus, Serge and his buddies get to travel around the map getting all kinds of vehicles, party members, and different shenanigans. Serge's main concern is Kidd and her nemesis, Lynx.
      The story takes some interesting twists, and much of it is shocking as well as enthralling. I found myself rushing through the game to see what would happen next in the story; this wasn't a good thing necessarily. In my haste, I missed crucial moments in the game and forged through a bit under leveled. Of course, the thought of missing things in the game made me want to replay it in the New Game + mode. Also, after beating Chrono Trigger, I played through the game again and freaked out about the connections.
      Nothing is better than seeing something in a game, movie, or anything that you can recognize as a reference. You can take that to the bank. Really, think about it. But you have to have someone who appreciates it, otherwise, it's only you freaking out about it; which is still fun in my book. Perhaps I would have appreciated the references in the first play through had I beaten Chrono Trigger first, but alas -- it was at a time Super Nintendo games were getting harder to find.

      Hiccups in the System
      I digress. 
      As I made my way to the final few battles, my PlayStation fell prey to one of the many designing flaws most new technology has; it stopped working properly. It is easy to see where this story is going.
      Honestly, I should have prepared for such a problem, but at the time, I just wanted to beat the game. In lieu of revealing key plot points, I approached the final battle with knowledge, with satisfaction, and with earnest.
      Truth be told, I was more excited by the fact that no one had helped me with this game. I was hyped with the knowledge that I would be the first in the family to defeat Chrono Cross and bring Serge back to his own time.
      If you haven't played the game, I guess the things ahead are semi-spoilers that are vague enough that they shouldn't matter. Then again, the game was released in 1999. This game is almost old enough to vote in the US. But, you have been warned.

      Spoiler Alert!
      [caption id=attachment_2199" align="alignleft" width="249] We had been through so MUCH!![/caption]
      Anyway, after everything Serge and I had been through, I wanted to save Kidd from her torment, release Lynx from his bounds, and end the horror of this twisted world. By using the obtained 'Chrono Cross' I completed the game with the 'perfect' ending. In order to use the device, my characters had to cast spells in accordance with the sounds of the Chrono Cross. When a player casts an element, a sound goes off and the meter is filled with that color. When the succession of the element casting is complete it is a rainbow of magical power, which surges through the enemy and ends the game.
      I had done it. After six different attempts, I had achieved my goal. As the end credits played, my next goal was to save the game and all of its glory in order to start a new campaign...to get everything I possibly could.
      And that is when the game began to skip and glitch.

      Chrono Cross: The System Glitch
      I recognized the signs. My brother was playing NHL and was on the verge of defeating the Nashville Predators when the game could no longer recognize the disk. It skipped through a slap-shot and shut off. He wasn't happy.
      I wasn't happy either. It took me almost a half hour to cast the stupid Chrono Cross in succession and I wasn't about to lose all of my progress.
      Then it dawned on me; I had read on the internet somewhere about PlayStations going buggy, or maybe it was Game Informer? I can't remember where now, but it was worth a shot.
      [caption id=attachment_2200" align="alignright" width="420]
      This was me too...only with a more positive outcome.[/caption] 
      I stretched my fingers out to the PlayStation, and slowly inched the tips beneath it. Gingerly twisting the device, I managed flip the console upside-down. The credits finished.
      As I'm writing this, I feel the urge to play through it again, because...for the life of me...I don't remember the ending. I was too busy trying to save my progress. It makes me sad, actually, to think I was more concerned with saving all of the cool stuff I managed to get, but then I realized that it was something more than just 'stuff'. Everything I managed to pick up in the game was a small victory, and finding it was more difficult than slaying any boss monster. Granted, those battles were tough, and each was greeted with a challenge that made the victory that much sweeter, but all of that hard work makes the ending seem far too simple.

      Think about it.
      All of the energy put into RPGs, do the endings really satisfy? In most cases, I'd like to say no. The endings are anti-climatic, and often a let down. I want to know what happens next. Like in the movies, when the hero does what we all think he or she is going to do, and the day is won; we are all brought back to earth when the credits roll and a big THE END appears. But it's not the 'real' end. Who cleans up that mess?

      Games are about the play, about the win.

      The end of Chrono Cross was bittersweet in many ways. I didn't want to leave the characters, I couldn't enjoy the ending, but I pressed the power button with one comforting thought; There are at least eight different ways to beat this game and each has a different ending.
      What do you guys and gals think?  What was the first game you ever beat? Any mishaps happen to you when playing? Let me know in the comments below!

        • Post Type: Editorial

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