Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Arcade UFO in Austin Texas -- Chunithm and Jubeat mania!

 As you can tell from my previous post about Rhythm Games . . . my family is pretty into them in general, and because of that, we all were super psyched last month when we found an arcade in Austin that featured some pretty rare and exclusive machines. Welcome to Arcade UFO!


To be honest, if you're used to a giant megaplex arcade like Pinballz or Main Event, you'll feel pretty crowded when you get inside.  It basically feels like a corner shop gas station that's been converted to an arcade featuring two rooms of games.  But, here's the thing . . . the games inside are a rare treat. You don't go there for the fine restroom accommodations (believe me, you don't), but you do go there to play games you can't find anywhere else.

That said, the owner seemed to be a super sweet guy that kept checking on our family of 5 during the visit.  The kids were instantly drawn to a game called Chunithm. The whole family ended up standing around the two Chunithm machines watching each other play.

We were all masked up of course. You'd be a fool not to in these cramped quarters

My sons were absolutely in love with the game. My youngest kept raving about how he would love to have one of these arcade machines in our house. About that time, the owner once again dropped by and let us know that . . . well . . . these two machines are half of the four total machines you can find in the US.  I don't know if that's true or not, but it seemed legit.

The great thing about this game is how you use an entire mini-keyboard to play and not only is it sensitive to finger tap, but it can also sense when you lift your hands off the keyboard and wave them above. Meaning, it has some kind of crazy sensors that look for hand motion above the keys.

The other game we were drawn to was called Jubeats. it features 16 touch sensitive squares that you tap to chase the beat.

There were a slew of other rhythm games in the place, but we didn't spend much time outside of playing these two games. You can see their full games list here.

So if you're looking for a unique rhythm game experience in Austin, do yourself a favor and head to Arcade UFO. It's a college dump that reeks of anime fans and rhythm games in all the right ways, and I'm sure if you got to know the crowd there, you could even join in their weekly competitions.

Happy dueling! 

Happy May 4th -- Knights of the Old Republic

I took some time yesterday to look back at an old classic, Knights of the Old Republic (Kotor). It felt like the time was right, seeing as:

1- Yesterday was national "May The 4th Be With You" day.
2- The original Knights of the Old Republic game was on sale for super cheap at Steam.
3- Jack Nightingale from Twitter had already asked me if I was interested in playing a little of the old Kotor series.

Why wouldn't I play as the guy with the soul patch and a scar over one eye?

Funny enough, I love Star Wars, but I've never even touched these games, which honestly seems like an oversight on my part. 

Anyway, I chose to play as the loveable scoundrel type of character, and . . . be still my heart.

*whistles* HEY THERE SEXY!

Oh yeah, I'm a charmer alright. Those 2003 graphics never looked finer. 

The first part of the game was a little bit of tutorial hell, and it seemed a little strange that the ship I was on was literally plummeting out of space, but the guy who came to check on me spent a good 10 minutes talking me through how to use the WASD keys and check my inventory.

Hurry to an escape pod, but first . . . let's talk about how to move your legs!

After finally making it to the escape pods, the real game started to unfold. I was crashing down on the planet Taris. Taris is one of those big city planets that Star Wars absolutely loves. (Coruscant, am I right?) The top layer of Taris is where the wealthy peeps chill, and as you go down into the lower levels, people get poorer and more authentic -- or "mutanagenic" as the case may be.

The Sith are in charge on this planet, and wouldn't you know it: a Jedi that was on the ship with you, and she had also jettisoned down to the planet in an escape pod. It was probably because the famous "Bastila" the Jedi was on board with you that y'all got blowed up.

The game let me know that Bastila had a history with one Darth Revan, who, by the way, used his/her evil Sith powers to cause a ruckus last week on Twitter because a Star Wars fan was using the name of Darth Revan as a gate check into the Star Wars community. 

Before you knew it, I was out and about running the streets of Taris like a madman on a mission!

Not a bad looking city scape!

It's not weird at all that I'm the only one running around here . . . let alone with two swords in my hands. Not at all! Things *did* get a little weird though when I took on a side quest to help a dancer in a cantina who just wanted to get hired there.

Super Awkward . . .

Apparently my incredibly smooth moves worked and she got the job.

Eventually I went deeper into the underground and the sewers only to encounter a pretty difficult string of encounters that required me to stop and save the game often.

An all together too familiar sight

A life spent hunting for trapped Wookies and stolen swoop pod parts is not easy, friends.  Eventually I warped back up topside and spent some of my hard earned cash on a double-bladed sword and some health packs.

Darth Maul eat your heart out

I'm not sold on this weapon being all that good, but it certainly looks cool!

So despite all the old oddities and quirks, I am having some fun playing this game! In fact, it's the oddities and quirks that seem to give it its charm. Back in 2003 I think I was too busy playing Everquest to give games like this a shot.  Glad I get to change that now.

Thanks again, to Jack for the great game suggestion! It was a really fun way to celebrate good old May the Fourth.

Happy Dueling!

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

What is it about Friday Night Funkin?

Back on the topic of Rhythm Games . . . I had a long conversation with my son last night about Friday Night Funkin. Again, it's another one of these rhythm games that he's kind of lost himself in, and yet when you look at the game you're thinking . . . what? It's just some dumb free flash game from Newgrounds? But no! It's more!


That's a successful kickstarter for the full game to be produced, and that also gives you a glimpse into the adoration their community has for this game. My youngest son even had a Friday Night Funkin video of his go somewhat viral and garnered 110k views.

He's playing a mod of the game, and that is probably the core of why this game is so successful. Their community has invented a way to change the opponents and the songs and catalog a long list of mods

Another one of the core reasons this game is popular has to be the music. It is catchy and features a lot of call and response melodies in the voice of "the boyfriend" and his opponent. In fact, the first time I was introduced to this game was during our crazy power outage incident. At one point our boys put on an amazing half-an-hour long show where they just scat-sang those weird boyfriend sounds back and forth at each other. My wife and I had no idea what was going on and it sounded hilarious like they were just making up weird melodies, but no, it was the actual songs from the game.  Kawaii Sprite, the artist behind the music, has them all up on spotify for you to listen to.

My oldest son actually asked me to create a song using "the boyfriend" sounds and some sounds for his woop character so he could make a mod for the game. It was hard to do, but I actually made something for him to work with. He constructed the sprite sheet for it and now . .. the difficult part . . . editing the xml, which I'm afraid he'll be stuck on for a while.

No purple skinned beat box monster will best me!

And lastly, part of that success has to have come from that art style . . . it's a little like graffiti art meets a chibi-esque super deformed art style characters that battle against each other in a fighting game style. And . . . I have to admit, there is one piece of humor in this game that's a little crude for my tastes, but, again, that crude humor is probably part of the formula that makes it an underground hit.  

All in all it's an interesting formula for success in this rhythm game, and somehow it all works . . . and my kids are listening and playing along. 

Happy Dueling

Monday, May 3, 2021

Loop Hero -- Enter the Necromancer

I should have probably looked more closely at the buildings you can build in your town before, but they really only seemed to matter when they matter -- but oh man, this building REALLY mattered (at least to me).

Enter the Crypt of the Necrodancer, I mean Necromancer . . .

Yes, building the Crypt unlocks a brand new class and one that is already near and dear to my heart: the necromancer. FOR I AM THE FRIENDLY NECROMANCER!! HAHAHAHA! *cute dark lightning storm sound effects*

The first play through the loop with the necromancer was awkward and difficult to play. I wasn't really feeling the power. He couldn't use the regular gear that the other classes use, but instead he only has a grimoire, 2 rings, and an amulet.  On the second play through of the loop though . . . yup, it's my new favorite class in Loop Hero.

Get them my minions!

The necromancer is all about surviving up until the moment he can conjure a swarm to destroy the bad guys. His health bar is overlaid with something called "magic hp." Magic HP is your personal forcefield of goodness because you're going to take a few hits while you summon your army, but after that . . . forget it . . . ALL WILL FALL TO YOUR MIGHT!

Check out how full I got this map while I was playing the Necromancer class.

I couldn't place any more land cards down.

It was also while playing the Necromancer that I beat the second expedition boss and opened up the third expedition.  Come to find out the second boss is a master of mirrors that also is a spiritual leader of some sort. I don't want to give too much of the story away, so I won't tell you what he's doing there and why his appearance is pretty important plot wise.

I will say that after I defeated him, a space dog thing gave me a good howl from outer space . . . also, I discovered a weird bug. 

Look at that beautiful game presentation!

Yeah, if you let your computer go to sleep mode while playing and come back to the game, it comes back shrunken like the above. It's highly annoying . . . especially egregious since this is an idle game where leaving the computer should be expected. Anyway, a quick restart fixes it, and you can still play while it's shrunken down like that. It's not the end of the world, and in Loop Hero the end of the world already happened at the start of the game . . . therefore . . . let there be bugs!

So there you go, I've beaten chapter's one and two now in Loop Hero and have established a pretty nice town. I finished 3 more achievements and continue to enjoy playing this game! I'm still uncovering surprises now that I'm 16 hours in.  Good stuff.

Happy Dueling!

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Loop Hero -- All the stars go out

 Welcome to Loop Hero . . . 

Goodbye Stars!

I'm reminded of some lyrics from the 70's band, Bread. 

If the world should stop revolving spinning slowly down to die,
I'd spend the end with you.
And when the world was through,
Then one by one the stars would all go out,
Then you and I would simply fly away

Except we don't fly away . . . what we do instead is travel an infinite loop where monsters spawn endlessly and we attempt to rebuild the world and equip ourselves with super cool gear so we can kill a lich.  

So that's what made the stars all go out . . .

Loop Hero is a pretty fun game with that good, old school aesthetic. I'm no stranger to the idle combat genre, but I have to say that this is the most ACTIVE idle game I've ever played. It could be I just haven't got to the part where I can walk away from the computer yet, but as you travel the loop over and over and defeat more and more monsters, the game naturally spits out cards, which you use to rebuild the map, and gear, which you use to upgrade your hero.

As this happens, you're earning resources.  Once you pull your hero out of the combat loop or are forced out of the loop by death, you take a portion of those resources back to town. The size of that portion depends on where and how you retreat.  

Can we build it? No we can't!

As you build new buildings for your town and place them down, you start to get new personalities in your town like this crazy, old herbalist lady. These new buildings start benefiting your play by providing you advantages when you're running the loop.

She's more like a sweet old lady . . . but something about those eyes says "sinister" to me.

After running the loop a bunch, you will eventually (and I'm not exactly sure on the particulars of how this happens) "level up" in a sense and unlock a temporary buff. This is presented to you in kind of what I call "an archero" style, where you are given a choice of three buffs and you choose one of them. Some buffs affect combat in interesting ways, or some affect resource collection.

Then after some time of circling and building up your character and map, BAM! You summon the first boss of the first map. To be honest, I'm not sure what it is that caused me to summon the boss. I simply had tipped over some threshold and put down enough cards that he came back to fight.

Au contraire squelette!

The lich is no pushover the first time you encounter him. One of my three deaths in game came from this guy.  Anyway, after defeating the lich you're then presented with the option to keep looping and restoring the map or heading home with no resource loss. You also unlock a new class (because this whole time you've been traveling the loop with a warrior) and unlock a new chapter in the story where things get much more difficult.

The most I've ever filled my map

I'm 5+ hours in on Loop Hero and really enjoying it.  If I was to make a guess of where I am in game progression, I'd say I was maybe a third to a fourth of the way through? I say that based on the steam achievements I've earned thus far and the space for adding more chapters on the home screen.  It'd be nice if I was wrong because this is a game I could put a lot of hours on.  It's super easy to play and well worth the $15 I paid for it.

Thanks to Tipa from Chasing Dings and Team Spode for the great game suggestion! It's like she knows me and the games I like to play very well! I guess playing together for multiple years does that to ya. ;)

Happy Dueling!

Monday, April 26, 2021

How does Dungeons and Dragons Work?

 A cool follower of mine on Twitter, named Guardian Eatos, asked me if I could explain how Dungeons and Dragons works.  I can do that!  

Ok, so . . . a little bit of background to D&D. As I said on my blog back in 2009 when Dave Arneson died

"So Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax are the fellas who came up with the Dungeons and Dragons game back in the 1970's, and I'd have to say, really, all RPGs in general owe something to D&D for their origins. All of you young wizards out there, thrusting yourselves into dungeons and using such things as 'hit points' or 'health,' have no idea that Wizard101 and all RPGs owe a lot to the roots laid down by these two fellas. You want high health on your character? Well, Gygax and Arneson invented the concept of health on your character!"

Since the 1970's there have been several different versions of the game released. The latest release is D&D Fifth Edition.  Fifth edition has been pretty great ever since it came out in 2014. The real question here is when will the 6th edition be released?  There haven't been any recent announcements that I know of, so you should be fine investing in 5th edition materials. It's going to happen sometime, and when it does, you can be sure we'll all be buying new stuff. Typically old versions don't mix well.

Don't be like me and buy the old edition the week before they publish the new edition.

So, the first thing I'd recommend doing for any new player is to head over to D&D Beyond. This website is great! The New Player guide they have is great. Here you can make an account and even roll up your first characters from the comfort of your own computer.

The second recommendation is that you decide how you want to play this game . . . do you want to play virtually or in-person?  In-person has been a little rough lately because of quarantine, but may I just say that in-person D&D games are about 1,000 times better than virtual games.

Option A -- So, if you're playing in person, I'd head to a local game store that sells D&D supplies and purchase a standard set of dice.  They come in a little box or bag usually and have a 20-sided dice, a 12-sided dice, a 10-sided dice, an 8-sided dice, a 6-sided dice, and a 4-sided dice.  You'll want to have all these for your first game.  

Be sure to get a set that's easy to read!

The next part involves asking around. If it's a good game shop where you bought your dice, I'd ask the guy at the counter if they ever host games for new players.  If yes, the guy at the counter will give you a time and a date to show up and maybe even a flyer if you're lucky.

If not, that's when you'll need to recruit some friends to play and one of you is going to have to be the dungeon master . . . and that's when you start laying down money for books.  As a player, you really only need the Player's Handbook.  As a Dungeon Master (DM), you'll need the DM guide, a Monster Manual, and a Player's Handbook. So, we're talking a good amount of money for all those books just so you know. (You can also find free pirated versions of the books online, but you risk getting a virus and out of date information.)

Option B -- If you're playing virtually, I'd go make an account on Be sure to read through the Getting Started page there so you know what you're getting into. 

Again, I'd probably try to convince a friend of mine to go into a game with me so I have a buddy. It always feels better to have a buddy with you when you do something for the first time like this.

Next, find the perfect game for you by using the search function to see what's out there. Be sure to click on the Advanced options and select that you want to play "D&D 5E" and fill out all the options you'd like to find in your game, and hit search!

Tons of options to narrow down the game you're looking for

Hopefully the game will be a lot of fun and be a good introduction to D&D! 

There are a lot of strange controls on Roll20. Hopefully the DM will talk you through them all or you've read all the introduction materials to familiarize yourself with them.  People are generally chill.


As for how the game works . . . Basically a DM runs the game and sets the frame for a story where you and the other players are the heroes of the story.  If it's a good game, it'll last several days over several weeks, you'll make great friends and have fantastic stories of clutch moments where you saved the day.  It doesn't always work that way, but that's when you know it went well. :)

My wife recorded a little bit of the last adventure I ever DM'd before quarantine hit, and I got some really fun emotions out of my players when their favorite NPC fell overboard in the middle of a storm on a ship.  Good times.

If you give D&D a try, let me know how it goes! I miss playing on the regular.

Happy Dueling

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Wizard101 -- Weekend Fishing Overload!

It's been a couple days and my fish collection continues to grow. Last time I posted, I was at 13 fish just starting out, and now I'm up to 68 fish.  YEAH! FISH COLLECTION!

Space is filling up fast!

I filled up the bottom level of the entrance after the second day and then today I started filling up the top tier (as pictured above).


What I really wanted to do was use the advanced housing placement feature, but I found a bug. You can only move and adjust the position of one fish. The moment you try to adjust the placement of a second fish with advanced placement, the position of the first fish resets. :(  I guess they're all bottom feeders for now.

Although all these fish fit in this house without fishtanks, it's very "underwater dim" in this house, so . . . I dunno. It's not an ideal presentation. Ah well.

I can tell already that there are two fish in particular that are going to give me fits. I gave up on the Pompeiino fish in Aquila and the Goldfin-ger fish in Mooshu. Each of those took a full batch of energy trying to summon/winnow the fish and I still didn't find them.

Along the way I've discovered that I didn't complete the fishing quests in Mooshu.  Finishing those will be super helpful since you can get a winnow rank 2 fish spell from completing the quest.

I keep thinking in the back of my mind . . . if I was a designer given the task of improving fishing in Wizard101, what would I do?  Speeding it up and adjusting the resulting gold you receive per fish would probably be the first thing on the agenda. Unfortunately these fish don't have run, attack, jump, and swim animations, so although turning them into in-game pets seems to be a win, it's not, It's a huge lose.  Anything you do with fish has to involve idle animations and that's it.

I'd probably then focus on the collector aspect of fish and make a checklist of fish more forward facing for the player. 

Making pet snacks out of fish seems to be a win, but these fish have such personalities that it almost seems morbid to do so. That said, it is very easy to end up with several duplicates of fish when you're participating in a fishing tournament or fishing for an epic rarity fish. Fusing duplicate fish or trading duplicate fish as currency could be pretty great -- then it's just a matter of the result from fusing or trading.  What could you get in exchange? I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that fishing is probably one of the least used side systems in the game. If I could trade fish in exchange for potion buffs, I might do that; for example, I'd trade 12 charred decoy for a minor fire damage boost potion. Using Alchemy as a side system that ties in to fishing could be pretty interesting. Minecraft ties fish into alchemy doesn't it?

As it is now, fishing is more just a chill activity that gets you a lot of gold in game. There are the fishing tournaments and the fish of the day, but that's pretty much it. I mean, you get a fishing experience bar and fishing badges, but that's to be expected.

Back in the day, I remember pitching a fishing app for Pirate101, but that pitch didn't go anywhere.  In my mind it was where you would come to a fishing node in your ship, and then the game would sync to your mobile app where you'd play a mini-game and get the resulting fish in Pirate101. I always felt fishing should have been in Pirate101 before Wizard101. It just made sense.

Anyway, none of these interesting questions are mine to tackle. I'm just here to collect as many fish as I can and write blog posts about it. ;)

Happy Dueling

Friday, April 23, 2021

Something Fishy in Wizard101

It's funny. The very last KI Live I did before passing the mantle of Community Manager to Mr. Manderson featured 20 or so boring minutes of me trying to catch a fish in Azteca, but the pure elation when that stupid Chupacarpe finally showed up was pretty funny.

"This is my campaign slogan for 2018: speed up my nibbles!"

. . . and then . . . I never finished the rest of the quest . . . until today! Yes, my friends, I finally caught the elusive Pirahptor fish from Mangrove Marsh, like 3 years later.  34.6 inches long and full of spitfire.

"pure water-based nightmare fuel"  I love it.

The past couple days Fishing in Wizard101 has been a super chill experience for me. I'm loving this game more for fishing than anything else right now. In fact, it's kind of making me want to catch all the fish and make one of my castles all about fish keeping. I haven't personally used fishing to scratch that collector itch inside me. I've only used it for making money, and I have PLENTY of gold -- I probably just need to do a whole bunch of hatches to spend more, but I'm already overflowing with pets to the extreme. How you like them 1st world Wizard101 problems?

 To those ends, I've purchased a twelfth castle for 100,000 gold. The Sunken Palace!  What's great about this is that you can place fish directly in the "sunken" part of this palace without a fishtank.

It's so small and cute!

There we go . . . the humble beginnings of my new collection.  Gotta catch 'em all! Only 193 more to go!  Anybody have a link to a good checklist for fishing? Catching all those seasonal fish is gonna be tough.

Have y'all seen my fishtank I got this past year in real life?  I've been doing tik toks of it.

I'm such a nerd for fish right now!  I love it!

Happy Dueling!

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

DK Country Tropical Freeze -- DONE!

Wow. Just wow. Honestly, someone more sane than me would have moved on from Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze when they saw the difficulty of that final boss, but I finished it up today at the beginning of my lunch break.

Celebrating with the kong clan.

So, what changed from Saturday to now? Here's the story: I went and did what any person would do when they're stuck on an old level from an older game -- go watch a video of someone beating the boss. That did a couple things for me. I was able to see that in actuality, I was really close to beating the boss already.  There wasn't any great strat or new thinking I got from the video. Zephiel810 basically flexed in that video by showing it could be done without any special powerups or anything. The real win for me was reading the comments to their video. 

It's not just me . . .

That gave me a bit of confidence just knowing that it wasn't just me that struggled with that end boss, but also it gave me a pretty interesting clue that made all the difference.  I was buying invincibility potions, I was using Dixie Kong for the heart boost, I was even using the roll-into-penguins trick to get hearts back . . . the real difference was ditching the invincibility potions in favor of extra Dixie Kong barrels.  

He was my Internet hero!

The finishing cinematic scene was pretty epic. You punch that walrus back to his fleet of ships and basically cause a huge explosion that sends them plunging to the depths and steal his magical horn.  You then use that magical horn to blow away the snow and ice and instead bring a magical slide of flowers to your island as all is restored to its natural order. Roll the credits.

After the credits roll there's a little secret cinematic that shows the Kong clan receiving a big gift box.

What could be inside?!

What's inside is apparently a "relic." So if you collect all the KONG letters in each and every level, you get a relic . . . you combine those six with the one from beating the end boss and it opens up a hidden level for you to play.  So . . . no . . . you're actually NOT done with the game, but . . . yeah . . . I am done (at least for now).  That final boss actually gave me nightmares in real life.

68 percent complete is done enough for me . . .

This has always been the beauty of the Donkey Kong Country series to be honest. If you didn't have the re-playability from finishing all the extra challenges in the game, this wouldn't feel like a true Donkey Kong Country game. 

Thanks again to Angela Shadowgarden for the great game suggestion.

Happy Dueling!

Sunday, April 18, 2021

CR 330 -- World of Flashpoint releases in DCUO

DCUO has released Episode 40 and it's all about Flashpoint, a comic series from 2011. The same Flashpoint that played out in Season 3 of CW's Flash (It was after season 3 that I stopped watching myself).  Things are all upside down in flashpoint, where Cyborg is the main hero while Superman is locked away in a government facility. Flash messed up the timeline and now it's going to take a lot of work to restore it.

Apparently you can read Flashpoint #1 for free on the DC Comic Subscription service if you sign up for it. I may have to do that. Apparently you can also watch the animated Flashpoint movie on HBOMax . . . also something I may have to do. (But I may have to finish watching the Stargirl series first though.)

Chillin' with the boss in Flashpoint

For players, this means we get a new duo event, a new 4-player event, 2 new raid events, and ye' old standard fare of open world daily missions. In other words, it's exactly what you'd expect from new content in DCUO.  

For me, it means my CR needle can move once again! The last time I posted a CR update on my character was way back at the beginning of January. So far my gains have only been through the standard boxes you get from completing missions and the duo. On Thursday when the new content released, I was lucky enough to find my buddy, Teal Lantern, online and we crashed through the duo without problems.

Batman . . . or rather Batman's Dad in Flashpoint . . . backed us up to take down Amazo.

The open world raids are interesting and involve taking down a couple of super villains and fighting 100 enemies.  One of the villains you get to fight is Doomsday.

Laying the smackdown on Subject Doomsday

It's a pretty standard fight, but I do like how he ends up grabbing a gigantic chunk of metal towards the end and starts smacking people around with it.

I'm pretty sure Team Spode will shift back to playing through this content for a little while, at least to do the new 4-player event and raids. It'll be fun to play through this new world with my buddies once again.

Happy Dueling!

Saturday, April 17, 2021

DK Country Tropical Freeze -- That last boss though!

My right thumb . . . HURTS!  Hours later, it still feels like all the blood has been squished out of it repeatedly. I hate to admit this, but, I can't beat that last boss in Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze. I'm out of money in game and I can't afford to buy more invincibility potions. I've played the level at least 40-50 times so far. I . . . can't . . . beat . . . it.  WHAT?!

Blow your evil horn, Walrus King . . . you are victorious . . . for the moment

I know what I need to do to overcome this level, but I really really don't want to do it.  sigh.  Funky Kong has a shop and he sells items in exchange for coins that you collect while playing.  For Boss fights, the best item you'll want to buy is the invincibility potion. I believe it might be the most expensive item in the shop at 15 coins for one.

Delicious Banana Juice!  Why do you have to be so expensive?

I fully believe the designers made this last fight so difficult because they knew you'd need these potions to beat it.  It's an absolutely unforgiving fight where you have very small hitboxes to deal with. I've beat all the other bosses, but this guy is wayyyyyy tougher than all the others, and I mean, he should be, but WHAT IS HAPPENING TO ME?! Why can't I kill this guy?!

I've battled through an underwater nightmare with a angry octopus.

He was really really angry! I've survived a myriad of maze-like minecart tracks. 

So maze-like! I've even punched a purple popsicle loving polar bear in the face.

. . . and boy did it it feel good! But this final boss is absolutely the stuff of nightmares for me.  I think it's going to drive me crazy until I beat it. Up to this point, most levels I could figure out and get past in 15-20 minutes. It's a seriously great game (as I've already said in my previous posts). BUT THIS?!?!

I just need to beat that final boss. *cries*

Can I get some well wishes?  Also, can I get some ice for my thumb?

Happy Dueling!

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze -- Punching Bosses in the Face!

I played a good couple of hours of Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze tonight, and it did not disappoint. It honestly feels like I've been starved waiting for a good platformer to come around and DK was here to save the day for me.

When I started the game play session I was sitting on stage 2-3. The first thing I noticed was, as soon as I logged in, the game said happily, hey! I see you're low on lives . . . how about we just give you 4 more because we're nice.  Thank you, game!

Only 12% completion!? Nice!

Now that's the way it should be . . . my son at one time must have paid good money to buy you, dear game, and it's only right that you don't let me suffer when I log on with a measly one life. I mean, if I die this level, you're just going to give me four more anyway.

After besting "Horn Top Hop" (which featured a lot of bellowing horns that floated you up into the air), the next level was "Sawmill Thrill."  That one took a lot of doing. Man, I love these minecart levels so much. It was an absolutely blast of a level that eventually had me jumping my cart over obstacles that were being thrown out as the level progressed and a giant Saw Blade chased me from behind.

Eventually the second world came to an end and once again I faced an unforgiving boss fight, This time against Skowl the Startling. Skowl is a giant owl who commands an army of owls that he rains down upon you.  The fight works in three phases: on the ground, up higher in the trees, and finally up in the clouds. It took me quite a while to figure out that I needed to pick up one of the owls he threw at me and chuck it back at him when he dive-bombed me.  Once I figured that out, it was just a matter of time till Donkey Kong punched him in the face and I could move on to the third world.

The third world is all about being in a Savannah Grasslands, and it is so cute. I mean, when the baobab trees started swaying to the music and you started swinging on large puppeteer giraffe necks . . . that was it. I was dead from cuteness overload. There's so much charm to the Grassland Groove level, I honestly cannot stand it. YOU'VE GONE TO FAR, NINTENDO! . . . and I love you for it.

World 3 didn't seem to pose as much of a problem as World 2 for some reason, which was fine with me. The Rhino mount made a return in the "Frantic Fields" level. The "Scorch and Torch" level featured a lot of burning trees and mechanics that involved not standing on one place too long. Twilight Terror featured vampires . . . just kidding . . . it featured a rocket that you had to keep in the air by continually tapping the jump button. 

Eventually I was facing off against the boss for World 3. Dubbed "Triple Trouble" on the World Map, this boss involved three devious Viking Monkeys that would swoop down at you . . . sometimes wielding hammers . . . sometimes exposing their butt to be stomped on. Again this fight had three phases to it where eventually the monkeys would throw spikey fruit bombs down at you until finally they'd throw a watermelon bomb instead, and you could throw that one back at them.  Again, I got to give the boss a satisfying punch in the face, and soon I was on to World 4.

World 4 seems to be all about the Underwater swimming just from looking at the map, and I do believe I see some scary kraken tentacles peeking up from the water. Oh boy, this one is gonna be fun!

Time to buy some blue balloons from Funky. I think I'll be holding my breath a lot here.

Thanks again to Angela ShadowGarden for the great game suggestion. I'm having a blast with this one!

Happy Dueling!

Monday, April 12, 2021

Now Presenting -- Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze!

I stole my son's Nintendo Switch and re-downloaded a game that he had purchased but uninstalled, and that game is none other than Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze!

What is this high resolution world of Donkey Kong?

I mean, I was even impressed over the logo splash screen here! After playing the original Donkey Kong Country the other day, this was pretty mind-blowing how crystal clear and smooth the characters and animations were.  Not to mention that the front of the game had a simply amazing cut-scene animation to really set the story and stage.

Beware the mighty bellows of the Viking penguins!

The Viking penguins approached the happy home of Donkey Kong's Island, led by a terrifying shadowy Viking over-lord. With a mighty blow of their Viking horn, a frosty wind blew across the ocean causing fierce ice to immediately form in their path and punting poor Donkey Kong and friends miles into the air like they were team rocket blasting off again. So high quality. So high budget. I loved it.

The first level of the game alone showed just how much evolution has happened with platformers over the past 20 years. Immersive things like music shifts when you swim underwater . . . heck, just having an underwater portion of a platformer in the same level . . . heck, having an insane 3D barrel shooting ride in the same level. I mean, this game really puts its best foot forward (as it should) right away.

It seems simple, but camera movement coupled with Barrel shooting adds so much depth

The same familiar mechanics are there from the original DK Country game, namely roll attack and jump attack, but now they've also added ground pounding, rope pulling, vine hanging, ducking, and double jumping as standard features. There are a lot more buttons to keep track of, and because of this, they have a super intuitive background character that pops out exactly when you need him.  What I mean by that is there's a little pig that sticks his head out of the background and says what buttons you should press to overcome this obstacle in front of you, and then it seamlessly fades back into the background. Unobtrusive tutorial moments like that (especially at the start of the game) are absolute genius. They also reused the pig character as the NPC that grants you a mid-level waypoint for when you need to restart.

Yesterday when I played this game, I ended up on level 2-3, and that was the spot where I first ran out of lives. I was actually excited to see if they were going to punt me all the way back to level 2-1 to make me start over like they used to do in the old Donkey Kong Country, thankfully no -- this is yet another huge difference between old school torture and new school thinking. Nobody likes feeling like they lost progress. Well done, Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze. Well done.

There was also an old familiar minecart level during the first set of levels that hailed back to the original Donkey Kong.  This thing was amazing. You were going in loops as giant obstacles fell down at you. There were cut-scenes mid-level! The ground was crumbling from out underneath you, and the excitement was 100 percent there.

The first boss fight was also super impressive. In the original Donkey Kong Country, you fought against a giant badger and really all you needed to do was bonk him on the head five times and you were done.  This boss fight had a huge cut scene before it and felt more like a boss fight from Cuphead than a simple Donkey Kong Country fight. Basically you were stuck in a half-pipe as a Viking seal swooped down on you . . . yes, you'd bonk him on the head, but then he'd sit off to the side and throw fish at you or command his viking penguin hoard to dive bomb you. After about 15 hits and a variety of side attacks, you'd finally get to punch his lights out and grab your prize.

All in all, I have to say (and it must be obvious since I've been gushing here), Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze is a really solid game. I wish I would have played it seven years ago when it was originally released on the Wii U. 

I'll be playing through the game a bit more and reporting my progress here as I can. Again, thank you to Angela ShadowGarden for the awesome game suggestion.

Happy Dueling! 

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Gettin Kooky with the Donkey Kong Country

I've got a new game suggestion to write about from none other than Angela ShadowGarden from the Legends of the Spiral website fame! She mentioned a certain obsession she has with the Donkey Kong Country series, and wondered if I'd be interested in giving it a look. 

Yup . . . taking a good look!

It was funny because as soon as she mentioned Donkey Kong Country, that old familiar happy tune from the game crept into my head like the earworm it is! YES! I LOVE ME SOME DONKEY KONG COUNTRY!!

After finishing Pokémon Red, one of the first things I did was hook up the old Super Nintendo upstairs and plopped in the Donkey Kong Country cartridge and started hitting those old familiar platformer levels from "the good ol' days."

To me, Donkey Kong country will always be side-related to being newly married to my wife.  Right around the release of DK Country, we had another young married couple that we started hanging out with on the regular: Dan and Melissa.  A couple of nights we took our Super Nintendo over to their apartment, hooked it up, and we all played DK Country the whole night.  Those are really happy memories. Donkey Kong Country with Dan and Melissa was epic. 

The game itself was pretty revolutionary at the time for platformers. The characters looked 3D in a 2D platformer world, the jungle-themed levels started out easy enough, but eventually you were taking on all kinds of different challenges from riding swordfish under the water, to minecart tracks that defy the laws of physics, and then back on over to a nuclear power plant. Not to mention you were introduced to a whole crew of new Donkey Kong characters like Candy Kong and (in typical 90's fashion) Funky Kong.

Oh man! That vernacular! That funky pink cap! That surfboard! That name!

And . . . this little platforming game even spawned a strange little animated cartoon series that lasted 2 seasons. The stranger thing is that supposedly this little 1997 cartoon was the "first all CG TV show made using magnetic motion capture."

I actually remember watching a couple episodes of this on Fox. 

Anyway, playing this game yesterday kind of made all these memories flood back to me, and remembering all the difficulty I had with the minecart levels came rushing back to me as well. The really interesting gate in this game centers around lives and save points. The game liberally gives you new lives in the form of bananas, red balloons, and special animal collection levels, and you're going to need them as there are some really unforgiving jumps and timing involved to get through all these levels. If you don't make it to the next save point, you'll have to start the whole chain of levels over again from the last save point. Brutal! I love it! I could hear my old super Nintendo controller's plastic stressing under my firm and panicked grip running through these old levels. 

I audibly was groaning in pain a few times when I was so close to beating a level and failed at the last moment.  IT WAS GREAT! No, seriously, it's nice when a game still manages to entertain and give you a challenge.

The Stop & Go Station level stopped me -- game over

I took a break from the painfully delightful gameplay and called my local GameStop and also the GameOver Videogame Store (super cool local used game store) to see if they had copies of Donkey Kong Country 2 or 3 . . . or even the Donkey Kong Country 3DS game, but alas . . . they did not.  Then I checked Ebay -- man I really don't like getting into bidding wars with people, but there are two copies with bids on them that would go for about 20-25 dollars right now and arrive here in a couple weeks.

The happiest discovery I made in my hunt is that . . . my son already purchased the Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze game for the Nintendo Switch a year or so ago! I've yet to find some free time to try out this newest Donkey Kong Country game, but it sounds like my review of this series hasn't come to a complete halt just yet.

Happy Dueling!

Friday, April 9, 2021

Pokémon Red -- The End Comes 44 Hours Later

Whew . . . as I type, I feel a distinct pain coming from my right hand, but I have to sit down right now and type some of this out while it's still fresh in my mind.  I just barely hit the final credits of Pokémon Red.

So satisfying . . . even with a dirty screen . . .

The game shifted big time since the last time I posted. The maze puzzles found in the game doubled down, and the sheer amount of enemies you have to wade through (figuratively and literally once you get the Surf skill) was the stuff of nightmares, but at the end of the day, really two main Pokémon carried me through the game.

1- Rafael, my starter Squirtle buddy ended up evolving into a level 64 Blastoise that was an absolute beast. His final four abilities were Fissure, Bubblebeam, Ice beam, and Hydro Pump, which actually ended up being a very weird combination of powerful hits that made his stamina a bit short-lived. By the end of the horrific final four and rival battle sequence, he was absolutely . . . out of power.

Whew . . . 258313 experience . . . that's a lot of clicking on the A button

2- That Oddish that I named Beatdrop from the other post?  Yeah, it evolved into a level 56 Vileplume wielding the powers of Mega Drain, Acid, Cut, and Double-edge.  The Double-edge/Mega Drain combo was a thing of beauty to be honest.  Its stamina won the day at the very end. I was barely scraping out a win using its acid ability, which btw . . . after using the Acid Music software to create music for so many years, I had to laugh every time I saw, "Beatdrop uses Acid."

My Beatdrop hit a little Rat at tat tat with some Acid music jams

Can I just say how cool that final four and rival battle sequence was at the end. It's really no wonder this game did so well and spawned an entire Pokémon empire. That feeling of desperation when you finally beat Lance, thinking you're done, and then realizing it's not over . . . OH MY WORD . . . so good.  I was sweating so hard in that final battle with John, my rival.  Glad I beat that guy even though I felt genuinely bad for him afterwards when Professor Oak was laying into him.

Stupid John!

Also, just a side comment about my lack of patience, I really did not have the patience for some of the maze puzzles found in the mid-game and had to look up the strategy guide to save myself a bit of time. Team Rocket's Hideout? Finding the Warden's Teeth in the Safari Zone? The Silph Company's Maze of Teleporters? Some of those were super confusing . . . especially when there was a part where you had to jump off a balcony to the next floor down, but the balcony looked like a wall! WHAT? I had absolutely no idea I could jump off of that!

Now the only question that remains is . . . do I keep going? You know it's not over after the end credits, right? heh. I honestly don't know if I have it  me to do the post-game activities, but it is pretty tempting to use that Master Ball I picked up from the Silph Building Boss to capture the level 70 Mew-two Pokémon hiding down in the Cerulean Cave. It also would be pretty great to get that Pikachu I was working up as a third to evolve into a Raichu . . . hmmm.

When I told my son that the end credits were rolling, the first thing he said was, "So are you going to do a nuzlocke for it now?"  The thought made me shudder . . . nah . . . if anything what I'd love to do next with Pokémon is shift my sights to the modern day and have a playthrough of Pokémon Sword or Shield.

Thanks again to @Jetsers for the wonderful game suggestion. It was $10 well spent and gave me new eyes for looking at an old gaming franchise. I wish I could come up with a game idea as genius as Pokemon. Maybe someday!

Happy Dueling!