Monday, April 28, 2014

6 Classic Games That Are Way Glitchier Than Anyone Realized

Glitches. Sometimes they ruin your day and sometimes they give you a Mew and tons of cash from nowhere. They may seem random, but all glitches are simply the unintended consequences of the game following its programming when a player makes input that the programmer never anticipated. Chances are that when you played these classic games, you didn't encounter any of these glitches, but little did you know what madness lurked within your seemingly solid classic games...

#6 - Sonic 3 & Knuckles
This is pretty much the case with all of the original Sonic games, but with Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles being the last entries in the series on Genesis, you'd think that they'd have more of the bugs ironed out. Well... not really. There may just be some teeny tiny physics exploits and zips (places where you can get stuck in the wall and pushed rapidly to the side) that let you skip almost all of the level... on pretty much every level. Oh well, the games were pretty much just watching Sonic go to the right anyway. In the same vein, Mega Man 2 and several classic Kirby games also have zips, although not quite as epic.

#5 - Super Metroid
Sure, Super Metroid has its fair share of sequence breaks thanks to some tricky exploits (like maintaining momentum after going into morph ball, reaching running speed in less distance, etc.), but try equipping the Spazer and Plasma Beams at the same time and all hell breaks loose. What you get is a graphical mess, a reset of all defeated bosses, collected items, and opened doors, and, if you did the glitch in the wrong place, a straight up crash. Oh, there's also a debug code left in the game that gives you practically every item in the game if you hold the right buttons when entering the room with the golden Torizo. (More info)

#4 - Paper Mario
Most of Paper Mario's glitches involve falling out of bounds or clipping through things to trigger later chapters early. That, or jumping. Jumping is tricky business. That is to say, if you can manage to jump out from a loading zone and keep hopping the instant you touch the ground, all the way to a cutscene trigger (like one of the star spirit cards), all kinds of fun things will happen. Most of these out of bounds glitches and cutscene skips are pretty dang hard to pull off though. (More info)

#3 - Donkey Kong 64
It is often said that there are no walls in Donkey Kong 64, and that's not far from the truth. For a Nintendo 64 game, DK64 has a lot going on - it needs that RAM expansion pak, after all. The thing is, it might have more going on than it can handle. All you have to do is create enough lag, usually with orange grenades, and you'll be able to pass right through many walls during the laggy frames when collision detection isn't working. This, of course, means getting practically anywhere early. Apart from clipping through walls, DK64 has tricks for duplicating golden bananas, erasing a file without erasing the time played and golden banana count, and more. (More info)

#2 - Pokemon Red, Blue, Green, and Yellow Versions
Everyone knows about Missingno., but not everyone knows how broken the original Pokemon games were in every other way. Let me just say that anyone who claims that the best Pokemon games are Red, Blue, and Yellow is objectively wrong. There are so many oversights and glitches relating to battling, that it's hard to believe anyone ever tried to battle seriously in these games. Beyond that, there are glitches that let you fly away from trainers between the time that they see you and actually battle you, allowing you to cause an encounter with basically any Pokemon or glitch Pokemon. Then there's the glitch in the Japanese version that'll let you switch items with Pokemon, walk just the right number of steps, go in a door, and end up in the Hall of Fame. There are far too many glitches to list, so have at 'em.

#1 - The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
It always starts simple: clip out of bounds, climb on some geometry you're not supposed to, roll into a bomb and slide backwards at high speed across Hyrule Field... the simple stuff. It's just when you start equipping items where they aren't supposed to go (the B button) and using bottles to overwrite values outside of the usual allowable range, that stuff starts getting crazy. One minute you'll have bugs (literal bugs in a bottle), then you drop 'em, then pick 'em up again, and before you know it, you'll have the medallions from dungeons you've never been to. Then there's the fun of wrong warping, which, if done right, can even let you go straight from the Deku tree to the tower escape after defeating Ganondorf. Fun stuff! (More info) (To be honest, this whole list could've been Zelda games. Pretty much all of them have at least one totally crazy game breaking glitch in them.)

What are your favorite glitches from classic games? Sound off in the comments! Also, check out just how far these glitches can go with the power of an emulator and inhumanly precise inputs.

Monday, April 7, 2014

13+ Metroidvania Games to Play if You Like Metroidvania Games

"Metroidvania" refers to my favorite sub-genre of 2D games; a style based on Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Such games have a focus on exploration and finding items and new abilities which allow you to access previously inaccessible areas in order to explore more. As of the writing of this article, it's been ages since Nintendo has released an actual 2D Metroid game and the Castlevania series has similarly strayed from the side-scrolling adventure style of games. But even if that wasn't the case, one can never have too many Metroidvania games to play, so here's a bunch of some good ones to try while you wait for the next 2D Metroid.

Within a Deep Forest (PC, Free)
Within a Deep Forest is a bit different from your typical Metroidvania game, since you play as a ball and must simply use your skill and reflexes to navigate difficult areas without dying. As you progress, you'll find new materials to transform into which will allow you to go to new places. The exploration is a bit lighter in this game than some, as there aren't any optional pickups to find and the different areas are all accessible from the same main hub area. Still, finding each area in the main hub can be challenging (in a good way).

Knytt Stories (PC, Free) 
Knytt Underground (PC, Wii U, PS3, Vita) (Full review)
Knytt Stories is mellow and pretty and has no focus on combat at all. It is purely exploration and platforming (which is often quite difficult). Each new ability will let you explore the vast worlds further. There are no bottomless pits and few endless skies in Knytt Stories; if you don't see a lava pit, it means you can go there and explore further. What really makes Knytt Stories shine is that anyone can create new "levels" for it, so there are tons of free games to play within the same engine. Knytt Underground is similar (though I haven't played it yet), and seems to combine some aspects of Within a Deep Forest as well.

An Untitled Story (PC, Free)
An Untitled Story was made by Matt Thorson, the same guy who made Give Up Robot, MoneySeize, RunMan, and other great free games. The graphics appear to be drawn in paint, which might turn you off to it, but it has a large world to explore, bosses to fight, and secrets to find. It holds its own just fine among other Metroidvania games.

You Have to Win the Game (PC, Free)
It's got really retro graphics and audio, but it plays like a dream. There are lots of hidden trinkets to find if you're going for 100% and lots of challenging platforming similar to that in Knytt Stories. Progression is usually fueled by activating different colored blocks, like you did with the switches in Super Mario World, and also by upgrading your own abilities, as usual. Check it out!

Shadow Complex (XBLA)
Disclaimer: I've only played the demo of Shadow Complex, but this game looks awesome and is one of the three or so games I'd want if I had a 360. Once again, it's like Metroid, but in a modern or futuristic - but not as futuristic as Metroid - setting. It also is more of a 2.5D game, since you can shoot enemies all around you, even though your own movement is limited to a 2D plane. So, like, buy it or something, 'cause I can't.

Guacamelee! (360, XB1, Wii U, PS3, PS4, Vita, PC) (Full Review)
The Steam version has custom costumes. Batman makes this scene even more amusing.
Oh man, this game is fun. It's got exploration, it's got humor, it's got a sweet art style, it's got a cool story, it's got a great soundtrack, it's got controls reminiscent of Smash Bros., it's got hard mode, it's got online leaderboards for speedruns, it's got co-op, and it's got super hard optional challenges. Guacamelee! has it all. And now that Super Championship Turbo Edition is coming out, it's going to have even more. There are even "Choozo Statues" from which you get new abilities, an obvious nod to Metroid. You should really play this.

La-Mulana (PC, Wii Ware)
If you took the unforgiving nature of the original Castlevania games, combined it with the exploration of Symphony of the Night, the utter lack of hand-holding of the original Metroid, and threw in some puzzles like Myst's, only more enigmatic, you'd end up with La-Mulana. It's brutal, and unless you have loads of time on your hands, you're probably going to need a guide to figure out some of the puzzles, but even taking that into consideration, La-Mulana is a great game and worth playing. 

Outland (PS3, XBLA)
I've just started playing this one and so far it's pretty awesome. It's similar to Guacamelee in a lot of ways, including the gimmick of swapping between light and dark in order to avoid damage, use certain platforms, and attack enemies. The art style is quite beautiful (although the music seems to be more atmospheric ambient sounds than melodic so far). It's also interesting in that many obstacles and enemy attacks shoot out unique patterns of many small bullets, very similar to what you'd see in a bullet hell shooter. So far, there seems to be less focus on exploration than other Metroidvania games have (the area maps are filled in from the start with a clear destination and optional areas rarely have more than a few extra coins), but it's still very fun and worth playing.

K.O.L.M. (Web, Free)
Onto the Flash games! K.O.L.M. stands for Kind Of Like Metroid, so... yeah, that's kind of what it's like. It's shorter than some games - it is a Flash game after all - but it has style. Rooms appear as if on a computer monitor and are often angled slightly with a cool 3D effect. It has a story too, and nice music, but basically it's about exploring and finding upgrades so you can explore more. What more could you want? There are also sequels, K.O.L.M.I.A.M. and KOLM 2.

Snailiad (Web, Free)
This game is better and longer than your typical Flash game. It is extremely reminiscent of Metroid, from its 8-bit graphics and music, to its Super Metroid-esque map and secrets. It can get pretty challenging as well. One thing that sets it apart is that, since you're a snail, you can climb up walls from the start. It's cool to see how the areas are designed so that there are still inaccessible areas, even with your apparently limitless mobility. I highly recommend this one.

Robot Wants... (series) (Web, Free: Kitty, Puppy, Fishy, Ice Cream)

Each "Robot Wants..." game is short, but oh, so sweet. It gets right to the core of the "run, jump, shoot, upgrade, and explore" formula, and it doesn't beat around the bush with unnecessary areas. If you only have a bit of time and need to get your Metroidvania fix, these games are the perfect place to start. They're just as fun as any other game, but won't take you as long to finish.

Ufouria: The Saga (NES, Wii VC)
Ufouria may be an NES game, but it has more polish than most and stands the test of the time quite well; better than the original Metroid at any rate. If you haven't heard of it, it's probably because it was only released in Japan and Europe, which is a shame, since it's really good. The graphics are colorful and look to be inspired by Hello Kitty and the music is similarly upbeat, but make no mistake, Ufouria isn't a pushover. This game's abilities come not just as items, but as different characters with different abilities, who you can switch to from the pause menu. I'm willing to bet that a lot of you missed out on this one, so give it a try and miss out no longer!

ROM hacks (Free)
I hear ya, sometimes no substitute can fill the void of 2D Metroid in our lives. For those times, there are ROM hacks of existing Metroid games, and they're often just as good as the original. Sure, like, I guess the legality is a bit questionable, but really, just play some of these. If you're like me, you already own at least one copy of the originals anyway.

Reader suggested games:
Strider (PC, XBLA, XB1, PS3, PS4) - Suggested by /u/badgeometry via Reddit
It looks similar to Shadow Complex, but with a sword instead of guns. It's kind of like a modernized version of the NES Ninja Gaiden games turned into a Metroidvania game. It's actually a reboot of Strider for NES, which was basically just that. I hadn't heard of this until today, but after watching some gameplay, it's jumped to a high spot in my wishlist. Now I'm going to have to go play the original too.

Aquaria (PC, Mobile) - Suggested by /u/badgeometry via Reddit
How could I forget this one!? Aquaria is quite unique from other Metroidvania games because you play as a mermaid-like girl and swim through the primarily underwater world. The graphics and music are beautiful and just flying gracefully through the water is fun in itself. Underwater levels tend to get a bad rap among gamers, but Aquaria makes them a joy.

Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet (PC, XBLA) - Suggested by /u/rcubik via Reddit

Similar to Aquaria, you won't be exploring on foot in this game. Instead, you'll be flying through a totally sweet looking world, solving puzzles, and fighting things. It's hard to tell how Metroid-y it is from the Steam trailer, but rcubik says that it is, so I'll take his/her word for it. In any case, it still looks totally awesome.

Monster Tale (DS) - Suggested by /u/thaddius via Reddit
Monster Tale may look and sound kiddie, but it's got everything you love about the item collection and exploration of Metroid, some Pokemon-esque, SotN-esque familiars, and unexpected challenge (if IGN's review is to be believed). In spite of it's ho-hum title, Monster Tale looks to be quite an enjoyable gem of a game.

Aliens: Infestation (DS) - Suggested by Anonymous via the comments
It looks just like what you'd expect from a Metroid game, except set in the Aliens universe and more gruesome and filled with horror. Between this and Monster Tale, I'm starting to wonder how so many awesome looking DS games flew under my radar until now.

Valdis Story: Abyssal City (PC), A.R.E.S.: Extinction Agenda (PC), Bunny Must Die: Chelsea & The 7 Devils (PC), Dust: An Elysian Tail (PC), Rochard (PC) 
Suggested by /u/duswatts via Reddit

Additional games discovered after this post was originally written: 
The Scheme (PC-88), Ori and the Blind Forest (PC, 360, XB1), Axiom Verge (PC, PS4)

Surely this can't be all of the Metroidvania games that are out there. If I missed one of your faves, suggest it in the comments and I just might add it to the list! And while we're at it with these game suggestions, you might want to check out these great N64 games you might've missed.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Facebook Buys Sony & Valve; Controls VR Market

[April Fools 2014]
(via DotTech)
Only a week after Facebook sealed the deal to buy Oculus and its virtual reality technology, the social networking company has put $30 billion more on the table to acquire both Sony and Valve, both of which had been developing their own virtual reality headsets. 

All three of the recently acquired companies had been developing virtual reality for its applications in video gaming, but the CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, has other plans for the technology. In Facebook's official press release, Zuckerberg detailed his vision for VR in the future, saying that this acquisition would "save this potentially groundbreaking technology from being wasted on gaming and refocus it where it belongs: in social networking."

As proofs of concept, Zuckerberg demonstrated how virtual reality headsets could be used to type statuses on Facebook using head motions rather than a keyboard, and also to view images of your secret crush in pseudo-3D. "With an accompanying multidirectional 3D camera, Facebook members would even be able to capture and see what their friends from elementary school had for breakfast, as if it was right there in front of them," Zuckerberg teased.
An ex-gamer's mind is blown by the potential for social interaction offered by VR. (via Tested)
While many gamers are not happy about this news, Facebook's official statement assured them that they didn't really know what they wanted and would fall in love with the new direction of virtual reality once they saw it in action. The statement also gave a prediction that video games were simply a fad as a primary reason for getting out of the market. Facebook's 300% increase in stock value seems to confirm that the public also is confident in the company's vision.

Facebook members can look forward to getting their hands on Facebook's VR peripheral, Facelook, as early as 2030 for an MSRP of $700,000. Beta versions of the goggles will also be sold to a lucky few a month earlier than the public release. For a chance to beta test Facelook, users can enter their name, address, phone number, medical history, family tree, credit card information, and social security number into the form at Winners will be notified by January of 2030 and will have the privilege of purchasing a beta version of Facelook at a $5 discount.
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