5 Stupid Moments in Video Games – Gaming no be smart.

Sometimes games go just a little bit off piste…

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I’m sure I’ve mentioned before (I’m too lazy to look through my posts to find it) that video games are a great medium for creating whatever the hell you want.  Fancy a cooking game in which you’re an elephant chef plotting world domination through amazing cuisine?  You could probably make that.  Somehow.  Having said that, just because you can doesn’t mean you should.  Here are 5 games that decided on including something bizarre and out of place.

Mario
Is this as weird as the internet’s reaction to finding out he has nipples?

Oh, and spoilers obviously.

Assassin’s Creed 2 – Fist Fighting the Pope

Assassin's Creed
Assassin’s Creed 2 (2009)

This is generally considered to be the best in the series (although I preferred Black Flag) as it refined the previous game and removed the tedious bits but hadn’t quite reached the level of feature creep of the later games.  As Ezio (and sometimes Desmond) we murder our way around renaissance Italy to find the piece of Eden that can control people’s minds.  Or something to that effect anyway.  At any rate, the magical McGuffin ends up in the hands of a bad man who has become Pope!

Assassin's Creed 2
Doesn’t exactly make the most intimidating opponent really.

Cue a final boss battle to prevent the evil Pope’s dreams of world domination by punching a fat old man in the face repeatedly.  After all that had come before, it was something of an anticlimactic final confrontation.  If they’d played it for laughs then they might have gotten away with it, but instead it was done with all the gravitas of any other final boss confrontation.  The cutscene afterwards was confusing (although fairly cool if you were into the overarching plot) and the whole thing felt a bit of a let down.  At least they didn’t have him summon Jesus for a final beatdown.

Final Fantasy X – Tidus Laughing

FFX
Final Fantasy X (2002)

I couldn’t not include this.  Whilst at this point in the game, FFX was fairly light-hearted, this seemed completely out of place.  Tidus is told to laugh at the ocean for reasons. And laugh he does!  With the most painful fake laugh in the history of mankind.

I’m sure I read somewhere that this scene comes across better in the Japanese version of the game.  But that doesn’t matter to me.  This was cringey and painful.

999 – Elevator Sex

999logo

Yep, you read that right.  999 is basically Saw with time travel (sort of…it’s complicated).  9 people are trapped in a sinking boat full of numbered doors and potential for nasty, violent death.  As our hero and his newly found comrades explore their seafaring prison the find themselves occasionally split up from the rest of their group.  Our hero and his childhood friend find themselves alone and contemplating exploring the lower decks via an elevator.

9 doors 9 persons 9 hours
This is how it starts. Seems pretty harmless to begin with.

At least that’s what it’s meant to be (and in fact is).  But due to some extremely painful miscommunication, our character thinks that his friend is propositioning sex in an elevator.  “Down there… I’d get soaking wet…” June says with Junpei assuming she means something other than the elevator traveling down to a flooded deck.  It felt like such a bizarre scene in an otherwise pretty serious game.  It stuck out like a sore thumb to me.

Mass Effect 2 – Mordin Singing

Mass Effect 2
Mass Effect 2 (2010)

Out of place or not, this was just brilliant.  Mordin is a seriously successful Salarian Scientist (say that after 3 pints!) who is added to your crew part way through the game.  Pretty handy in a fight and always on hand to do offer insight whilst Garrus is busy calibrating everything, he apparently has a soft spot for singing.  Gilbert and Sullivan songs in particular.

Press him enough and he sings.  And boy is it funny.

I am the very model of a scientist Salarian
I’ve studies species turian, asari, and batarian
I’m quite good at genetics as a subset of biology
Because I am an expert which I know is a tautology.

It was completely out of left field for me, and whilst it stood out as an oddity in an otherwise fairly serious game, it was funny (and well done) enough to stand out in a positive way.

Heavy Rain – Press X to Shaun

Heavy Rain
Heavy Rain (2010)

This is cheating because it’s a glitch but IT’S MY LIST AND I’M CHEATING SO WHAT!  Heavy Rain is a game full of heavy themes.  Self mutilation, childhood trauma, and sexual assault can come into it depending on the routes you take.  All this can be made a whole lot lighter thanks to the Shaun glitch.

Heavy Rain
SHAUN!

I have no idea how this is triggered, but doing it results in the lead character, Ethan, yelling “Shaun!” every time X is pressed, regardless of the scene he is in.  Driving?  “SHAUN!”  Having a conversation?  “SHAUN!”  Having awkward sex with your new lady friend?  “SHAAAAAAUN!”  It’s utter gold.

What do you think?  Are there any stupid or bizarre moments that you’d like to include?  I almost mentioned what’s hidden in Papyrus’ head in Undertale but I feel it fits into the game pretty well.  How about you?

 

 

 

5 Of The Best Sonic the Hedgehog Levels – Make Sonic Great Again!

Sonic Mania is kicking in!

Remember when Sonic the Hedgehog was actually pretty great?  Pepperidge Farm remembers.  I should point out that I’m from the UK and have no idea what Pepperidge Farm even is.  Anyway!  Sonic used to be great in the Mega Drive era.  Then 3D happened and pretty much everything went to pot for the blue blur.  Hurtling along at high speeds worked well in 2D as fine control was less essential when dealing with a flat plane, but the switch to 3D made precise control more important and much more difficult to do at high speed.  Things like a homing attack helped, but quick movement and sudden camera cuts made controlling a high speed hedgehog quite challenging.

Sonic the Hedgehog
The Sonic Twitter account is still a bit mental.

That’s not to say there weren’t any good stages in the 3D games, it’s just that most of them were a hard to control mess.  With Sonic Mania here now (and my not having enough time to play it yet), I thought I’d look back at some of the Sonic games I’ve played and pick out a level from each of them that I found memorable and enjoyable.  These are in chronological order and are from games in the series I’ve played.  I’ve made sure to include a couple of 3D levels as they weren’t all appalling, honest!  Oh, and Sonic Generations isn’t allowed as they’re mostly redone versions of ones from previous games.  On with the show!

Sonic the Hedgehog

Sonic the Hedgehog Logo
Sonic the Hedgehog (1991)

Labyrinth Zone

Ahahaha.  Just kidding.  No.  No way in hell.

Green Hill Zone

Yes it’s the obvious choice, but this is as memorable to me as World 1-1 in Super Mario Bros.  The bright colours, the catchy music, and the pace to the level.  Everything combines to make this a fun level and a great introduction to the character and the core of the game.  We have loops, simple enemies, and a silly boss to take down at the end, as well as access to the Special Stages if we can hold onto 50 rings by the end of the acts.

Sonic the Hedgehog
The iconic first stage of a franchise

This is one of those Sonic levels that recognises that the speed is one of the best aspects of the game, and it avoids dropping hard to predict obstacles and limits the slower paced platforming sections.  There were other great levels in the game, but this is the one that will stick with most players.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2

Sonic The Hedgehog 2 Logo
Sonic The Hedgehog 2 (1992)

Chemical Plant Zone

I could throw a dart blindfolded at a Sonic 2 level dart board and hit a fantastic stage without any trouble.  The vast majority of the levels in Sonic 2 were brilliant, but the one that stuck with me (other than Emerald Hill Zone, but I can’t just pick all the opening stages) most was Chemical Plant zone.  A far cry from the first world, this toxic facility is filled with purple water that can slow down the careless player significantly.  There are multiple paths to taken with plenty of opportunities for high speed sprints along with those iconic loops.  Plus those tunnels that send you hurtling around the levels!

Sonic the Hedgehog 2
Second game, second stage. To be fair though, almost every stage in this game was excellent.

This is one of the stages I would play repeatedly to get better and better times.  I can’t remember exactly but I think I managed to finish act 1 in under 45 seconds once I’d figured out the best route.  To my mind, that’s when Sonic is at its best: a level that’s enjoyable enough to make you want to strive for your personal best.  Normally I avoid water levels like the plague, but avoiding the water is part of the fun in this one.  It’s nice to see this one make an appearance in Sonic Mania.

Sonic 3 & Knuckles

Sonic the Hedgehog 3
Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (1994)

Sky Sanctuary

Sonic 3 & Knuckles was great.  Slotting the Sonic 3 cartridge into the back of the Sonic & Knuckles cartridge turned it into one super long game with additional features.  I can’t think of any other game that did this, but I could be wrong.  In a similar vein to Sonic 2, there are a lot of good levels here, but I’ve gone for Sky Sanctuary.

Sonic the Hedgehog 3
Whilst speed can be an option here, it’s pretty easy to fall to your death if you get careless. Good reactions, memorisation, or taking your time are the order of the day.

This is a bit of a slower level than others being as it’s a late game zone.  Unlike most late game Sonic levels though, this one is bright and colourful. The music is excellent and the multiple paths that levels in later 2D Sonic games tend to be known for are even more prevalent here as the level takes place over multiple tiers accessed through teleporters.  The boss is good fun and the end of level dash up a collapsing pillar looks great.  A rare good stage that goes against Sonic’s strengths.

Sonic Adventure 2

Sonic Adventure 2
Sonic Adventure 2 (2001)

City Escape

Yep, I’m skipping Sonic Adventure.  Looking back, most of those levels were pretty poor, although Emerald Coast had it’s moments.  Like the whale bit.  Anyway, I really liked most of the Sonic stages in this game.  Some of them were really hard to control, and most of the bosses were awkward to fight, but there were some fun ones to play.  City Escape is the obvious one for so many reasons.

Sonic Adventure 2
Rolling around at the speed of sound…

It plays to the usual idea of first levels in a Sonic game: fast paced, bright colours, and a catchy soundtrack (if you’ve played it, I know you’re singing it to yourself right now).  From a fun “skateboarding” section at the start, to grinding rails down staircases, culminating in being chased down by a truck.  It used pacing well, with slower sections to take down enemies followed quickly by another burst of speed.  I loved that in Sonic Adventure 2 you could come back to the level with newly acquired items to find new routes.

Sonic 06

Ahahaha!  Are you kidding?!

Sonic Unleashed

Sonic Unleashed
Sonic Unleashed (2008)

Rooftop Run

I like Sonic Unleashed.  Sure there “Werehog” stages were weird and constantly having to talk to other characters got in the way of the gameplay, but the Sonic levels were actually pretty good fun.  You didn’t have to worry about stretchy arms for one thing.

Sonic Unleashed
Whilst the 2D sections were better for the most part, the 3D parts weren’t bad compared to some of the other efforts in the franchise.

Rooftop Run was an insanely fast paced stage that rapidly switched between 2D and 3D sections.  Tons of loops and grinds, plenty of enemies to burst through using your dash, a great soundtrack (seriously, it’s one of the best ones) and fantastic visuals.  It’s a shame that more of the game didn’t make use of this style.

There are tons of Sonic levels I’m a fan of.  Star Light Zone, Sky Chase (controversial!), Icecap, Metal Harbour.  Researching for this I found loads of Sonic games I hadn’t played before (mostly handheld ones) which I plan to rectify where possible!  What are your favourite Sonic stages?  Is there one I’ve missed?  Let me know!

 

5 Movie-Based Games That Weren’t Terrible

There was a time in gaming’s long and sordid history when most major films had to have a video game tie-in.  And most of them were terrible.  So terrible that they almost destroyed gaming (thanks E.T.).  We’ve had some that should have worked but were badly made (Fight Club was a wasted opportunity), others that shouldn’t have even been considered (Wayne’s World exists for some reason), and others still that confuse me (Street Fighter: The Movie which is a game of a film of a game).  But sometimes game developers, movie makers, and people with cash manage to get their shit together and make something genuinely good.  Here are five such examples.

Street Fighter
This is either the worst movie of all time or the greatest parody of all time.
As ever, I must have played these games.  Whilst they don’t have to be directly based on a single specific movie, their source material must be clear and there should be a direct link to the movie(s).  Whilst researching this I found far more than I expected, so narrowing it down became tricky, but narrowed I have!  Read on!

Aladdin

Aladdin

Probably my favourite “classic” Disney film, Aladdin is a retelling of the story of a young boy who finds himself in possession of magic lamp containing a genie who grants him 3 wishes.  Aladdin obviously uses it to impress a girl because that’s pretty much always the case in old fashioned stories.  Anyway, magic, murder, marriage and everyone lives happily ever after.  The ones who survive anyway.

Aladdin
Jumping on camels makes them spit. Just like in real life!
As was the case for most games of this era, Aladdin was a platform game retelling some of the key scenes from the movie.  The art and music captured the style of the film perfectly and the tight controls  gave use a mechanically solid game.  The platforming was fun, with simple sword attacks and ranged moves forming the combat (cutting the guards trousers to make them fall down was a nice touch).  Other stages involved magic carpet flights and boss battles to keep the game fresh.  It worked surprisingly well (I played the superior Mega Drive version by the way!) and it’s a pity that most other Disney video games couldn’t match the quality here.

Wolverine

Wolverine

So the film wasn’t great.  At all.  Every character was used badly, Deadpool couldn’t speak(!) and the whole “Origins” movie idea fell at the first hurdle (although I feel it paved the way for First Class).  Still, the Wolverine movie series managed to survive somehow, and the tie-in video game was actually tremendous.

Wolverine
Visually, the game was so much more violent than the films.
Playing as a solid hack n’ slash game, Wolverine follows the plot of the film closely enough but makes it as violent as a game featuring a man with claws in his hands should be.  Logan carves through enemies with his claws, dishing out brutal finishers (the helicopter moment from early in the game proved rather memorable for me) with a surprisingly solid set of combos that can be upgraded.  Solid controls and fun boss battles keep the game from getting stale (plus the fun Easter eggs that parody other games are enjoyable to find).  The visuals are excellent, with chunks of Wolverine being blown away, exposing his skeleton before gradually healing.  It’s a well put together package that was far more enjoyable than its source material.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Scott Pilgrim

I love this film.  I know it’s not great, but I enjoy watching it so much with it’s fun visuals that do a good job of bringing the books to the screen.  Michael Cera looks the part and I still like seeing the man who would be Captain America exploding in a skateboard accident.  It’s what I would call a guilty pleasure if I felt any guilt for liking it.

Scott Pilgrim
A 4-player co-op brawler. What’s not to like?
Feeling very much like River City Ransom, you and up to 3 allies select a character from the story and proceed to fight anyone and everyone that gets in your way.  You’ll collect money to spend in shops along the way to strengthen your character (which you’ll need to, it’s pretty tough) before confronting the boss.  I found the controls a little loose at times but playing anything that reminds me so Streets of Rage and its ilk is alright by me.  Visually it’s great too, using the style of the books combined with a retro graphical style.  I’m hoping this one eventually comes to backwards compatibility, but with all the licenses involved I suspect that’s wishful thinking.

TIE Fighter

TIE Fighter

Right, this hasn’t aged brilliantly (especially as far as visuals are concerned) but it’s story and experience are a wonderful extension of the Star Wars universe.  This doesn’t tie into a specific movie, and tells its own set of stories but it’s a great tale of galactic battle, subterfuge and FLYING ALONGSIDE DARTH VADER.  Sorry, I got overexcited there.

TIE Fighter
It doesn’t look pretty by today’s standards, and it probably doesn’t play all that well either nowadays, but damn was it a great game in its day.
Game’s like this are less common these days.  It’s a narrative driven (with multiple branches in fact) space combat simulation.  You need to manage your TIE fighter’s (or bomber, interceptor amongst other craft) resources to be as effective as possible whilst you crush the Rebel alliance.  The controls were excellent (assuming you used a joystick) and the missions varied.  The graphics do not hold up well, though the sense of scale you get as you fly beside a star destroyer is impressive.  It’s a shame we’re unlikely to see many (if any) Star Wars games in the future, as a modernised version of this could work very well.

Ghostbusters

Ghostbusters

What can I say about this movie?  You all know it, you probably love it, and you’ve probably seen it more times that you’ve had hot dinners.  It’s amazing that there have been so many shoddy games to come from the franchise considering how easily it should translate.  From the fairly shonky Commodore 64/NES/etc. game, to the horrifially overpriced 2016 spin-off, there have been very few good games in the series.

Ghostbusters
For a nearly 10-year-old game it still looks pretty damn good.
Thankfully, the 20099 release fixed that, with an original story (purported to be Ghostbusters 3 in essence) in which you play a new character alongside the original cast.  The story was fairly standard, with ghosts having taken over the city meaning someone’s gonna call the Ghostbusters.  You would control your character, exploring environments (some surprisingly creepy) with your PK meter to find and catch ghosts.  Combat came down to weakening ghosts with your proton blaster (or alternative weapon) before slamming them into a trap.  It all worked really rather well with solid controls and good visuals to go with the fun gameplay.  I loved that crossing the streams with your teammates caused you to get knocked back.  There was even a really rather good mutliplayer mode that died way before its time because it wasn’t Call of Duty.

As ever, there are a few honourable mentions.  I didn’t put Goldeneye above as I feel it has not aged very well at all.  Whilst the single player is still great, with a ton of content, the multiplayer feels pretty shoddy with a horrible framrate.  I suppose I didn’t know any better at the time.  Blade Runner is a great and, for its time, very inventive adventure game with multiple endings.  Alien: Isolation is an excellent survival horror game in which you feel under constant threat; it’s just a shame that it goes on a bit too long and becomes a slog towards the end.  Spiderman 2 deserves a mention for its fantastic swinging mechanics that developes are still trying to live up to to this day.  Finally, a game I rarely see mentioned: Starship Troopers which was a rather fun RTS game that received a lot less attention than it deserved.

Have I missed any?  Are there any movie-based games that you think deserve their time in the sun?  Let me know, I’d love to give them a look!

Desert Island Digital Downloads

Trapped on a desert island? No hope of rescue?! Better get some video games out then.

Have you heard of Desert Island Discs?  It’s a very British thing really.  It was a show on BBC Radio 4, originally created in the 1940s.  The idea was you would be stuck on a desert island for an indeterminate amount of time and you would have to choose 8 songs to have on the island with you.  It’s a really neat concept that’s had a huge number of celebrities on over the years, and I’m very much going to steal it and make it about games.

Now, the assumption here is that I would have access to a machine that could play any game from any system, and would be powered by some unknown electricity source.  There would be no internet though (otherwise I’d just e-mail the nearest boat) so multiplayer only games won’t be allowed.  In spite of the title, these don’t have to be digitally downloaded titles meaning disc based ones are fine but I’m assuming that all currently available content is included with the game.  Also, one game per franchise, otherwise this would turn into a Dark Souls love-in  Finally, I don’t have to have played these games, meaning that I could be flat out wrong with some of these.  So feel free to call me out on my idiocy in the comments.  So, it’s time for me to crash land on an island.

The IT Crowd
E-mailing the emergency services is always the best option.

XCOM 2 + Long War 2

XCOM 2 Logo
XCOM 2 (2016)

Alright, let’s get the obvious one done.  I love this game.  I poured 150 hours into the previous entry (which is a lot for me) and probably even more into the classic.  I would have spent more time on it if this sequel hadn’t arrived.  It improves on XCOM in almost every way.  More content, new aliens, greater challenge, and with the Long War mod this a single game could go on for hundreds of hours.  And I very much doubt I would get bored of it.  Every battle feels different, and allowing your soldiers to die eliminates them forever making every decision count.  And die they will, assuming you don’t save-scum it…

Diablo 3 – Ultimate Evil

Diablo 3
Diablo 3 (2012/2014)

Ok, I know it’s better when played with other people, but I find this quite cathartic to play alone.  Mowing through hordes of demons with your chosen class, forever finding more and more powerful loot to take on greater challenges is really rather satisfying.  This version of the game game with the Reaper of Souls expansion which included a new act and a seemingly endless Adventure mode.  Add to that the seasons (I know it’s online, but it’s still a great feature) that changes the game on a regular basis and you have a lot to play with if you have to time to play it.

Persona 5

Persona 5
Persona 5 (2017)

This is an inclusion that I haven’t played but I’d dearly like to.  In fact I’ve never played a Persona game at all (although I have dabbled in a couple of the other SMT games).  The style of this is what grabs me.  I love the art style, the cutscenes, the story (what I know anyway) interests me, the music sounds excellent, the time management aspect in which you live your double life is right up my street too.  Apparently it’s also enormous, with a lot of high quality content for those willing to spend the time on it.  Perfect for if you have the time to spend on it.

Baldur’s Gate 2

Baldur's Gate 2
Baldur’s Gate 2 (2000)

I know the logo above is for the re-release, but I love this game either way.  Baldur’s Gate 2 is based in the Forgotten Realms world of Dungeons & Dragons and contains a fantastically complex story (I mean, it is Bioware), interesting and varied characters, and dragons!  It’s old fashioned, ugly (by today’s standards) and a bit clunky at times, but it’s a game that I would love to spend the time to go back to this, find all those quests I never experienced and the party members I never spoke to.  It’s hard as hell too!

One Finger Death Punch

One Finger Death Punch
One Finger Death Punch (2013)

This is an odd one, as games like this tend last just a few minutes, but this is one of those that will result in hours being lost.  One Finger Death Punch is based on the old stick figure Flash games from years back, but made so immediate and simplistic, yet challenging and varied that you’ll find yourself in a Zen-like state for hours on end.  Entirely mouse driven, a left click attacks to the left and a right click attacks to the right.  Enemies will approach you from one side or the other and your job is to punch their faces in.  There are weapons to use, knives to deflect and light sabre rounds.  It sounds so simple (and in essence it is) but it can become supremely challenging in later stages, and the survival mode can last hours if you’re good enough.

The Binding of Isaac

The Binding of Isaac
The Binding of Isaac (2011)

So much content!  I suppose a rogue-lite would be perfect for this sort of situation, as it’s forever changing.  The Binding of Isaac has you fighting hordes of grotesque enemies using your tears as weapons.  Along the way you’ll find items to power you up and chances to sell your soul to Satan for even more power.  It’s hard, varied, and unpredictable.  Plus the expansions add a huge amount to the game in the form of new items, characters and game modes.  This game has been out for years and still has a huge following, and with good cause.

Heroes of Might & Magic

Heroes of Might and Magic 3
Heroes of Might and Magic 3 (1999)

There are plenty of games from this series to choose from, but the ones I remember most fondly and the second and third entries.  I’ve played the more recent ones, but they seem to go for a more serious approach and feel less fun.  This is a turn based game in which you improve a stronghold with buildings that generate creatures and items for your heroes.  You then send you heroes out to explore the land, collecting resources, conquering new strongholds and defeating your enemies.  Games can take a huge amount of time (especially if you set up an 8 players game) plus there’s a campaign to play through.  Many an evening was lost to this game, and it may well help me keep my sanity on this sweet desert island.

Civilization V

Civilization V
Civilization V (2010)

I struggled to decide which entry to go for here.  I had tons of fun with the second entry in the series when I was younger and I very much enjoyed Civ IV as well (although the unit stacks made it a pain to play).  I felt that, after a ropey launch, Civ V is the best one that I’ve played.  Taking my empire from fledgling village to world spanning colossus is consistently enjoyable.  Add the fact that games can end up being nigh on endless (this short article sums up how some games can end up if you let them keep running) with that dreaded “one more turn” feeling and you can lose yourself forever in this.

That’s 8!  I wonder how many hours that would keep me going for.  There were others I considered, such as Football Manager, Bloodborne/Dark Souls, and Cities: Skylines but I ended up settling on these.  How about you though?  If you were stuck, what would you take?  I’m sure you’ll have ideas that I haven’t even considered so let me know!  I’ll be sure to pack them on my next flight…

 

5 Utterly Awesome Boss Fights – Spoiler: No Ornstein & Smough!

Bosses don’t have to be tough to be an epic encounter.

So not so long ago I went on a bit of a rant about bosses that beat the ever living crap out of me.  Whilst an absolute pain to beat, they were a fun challenge and satisfying to defeat (apart from that arsehole Capital B).  Whilst challenge should certainly be an aspect to a boss battle – after all they are there to test your skill – a good boss battle doesn’t necessarily have to be tough to be a fantastic experience.  A combination of the right challenge level, sound and visual design, and sometimes doing something a bit unexpected can lead to a tremendous scene that will prove memorable for years to come.

Scarecrow
I’m of the opinion that this is one of the smartest boss fights in gaming. It used Arkham Asylum’s mechanics in unexpected ways and managed to make Scarecrow more memorable than The Joker.

So here are 5 awesome boss battles that have stuck with me.  Usual rules apply: only one game per franchise, only games I have played and bosses I have beaten.  You won’t find a disappointing Vaas knife fight here!  I’m not including Scarecrow from Arkham Asylum though, as that was so good it practically feels like cheating.

Oh, and spoilers obviously!

The EndMetal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

Metal Gear Solid 3
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (2004)

First off, a series famed for its boss battles.  I had this game at university, and I always remember a housemate of mine describing this fight as “a deadly game of cat and mouse”.  Whilst amusing, it’s actually a pretty accurate description of the encounter.  The End is an elderly sniper and member of the elite Cobra Unit that Snake needs to take out.  He can be seen at various points in the game, and you can even kill him before the boss encounter if you’re quick.  But doing so means you miss out on an incredibly tense and varied battle.

Metal Gear Solid 3 The End
You can even eat his parrot if you manage to catch it.

In a large forest arena you’ll need to find and defeat The End, who is trying to put you down with a sniper rifle.  Most of the time you can’t see him so finding him is half the battle.  This is where Kojima and co managed to put together something rather special as there are so many ways to go about this.  You could use thermal goggles, or perhaps try spotting his bird to indicate his location.  Maybe you’ll watch for the sun reflecting off his sniper scope.  Sometimes the camera will shift to seeing through The End’s rifle to hint at his position.  You could beat him by sneaking up on him altogether or, as some players discovered, by not playing the game for a week and having The End die of old age.  Such a smart experience as you sneak, watch, and try to outdo this master sniper.

Flowey – Undertale

Undertale
Undertale (2015)

I was super late to the party with this one and had a lot of concepts in the game spoiled for me.  I put this one off for a long time because of that but I’m glad I finally settled down to play it.  The story was interesting, the characters varied and the battle system very much out of the ordinary.  Talking to the monsters rather than fighting them?  It felt pretty novel to me.  And whilst I haven’t gone for a pacifist or genocide run yet, the final boss of the neutral run was completely unexpected.

Undertale
You go from 8-bit (I think) pixel art to this monstrosity. I genuinely did not expect this boss design, nor how intense the battle would be.

In Undertale, you survive by moving your heart to avoid attacks in a bullet hell style.  The final boss really pushes your ability to the limit in this regard, but also messes with you as a gamer.  You’ll suffer damage from a series of attacks, then Flowey will save the game’s state and load it up again several more times to cause that same damage multiple times.  If you die, Flowey will shut the game down and when you launch it again he’ll taunt you over how many times he’s killed you and how much he’s looking forward to tormenting you forever.  Going from a heart warming game to this insanity was unexpected and unbelievably memorable.

Bell Gargoyle – Dark Souls

Dark Souls
Dark Souls (2011)

I was torn between this one and Father Gascoigne from Bloodborne, but I went with this as the location felt great.  For me, this is where Dark Souls really started and felt like my first real challenge.  Whilst getting here certainly wasn’t a walk in the park for me, the Bell Gargoyle trounced me several times more than any previous encounter.  I suspect that the fact it was the first real hurdle for me helps make it more memorable.

Dark Souls
I loved the feature in this game that allowed you to cut off certain enemy’s tails to acquire new weapons.

The battle takes place atop a church with the city sprawled beneath you.  The gargoyle swoops down to land on the roof and just goes crazy on you.  Once you get through the early onslaught and start causing some damage you feel pretty positive…then his friend shows up and you get a two on one battle to the death.  The environment, the desperate struggle to take down one enemy only to have his buddy show up, and finally surviving to ring the bell atop the tower.  It all comes together as a memorable encounter that tells you what this game is going to be going forward.

Senator Armstrong – Metal Gear Rising

Metal Gear Rising Logo
Metal Gear Rising (2013)

Right, this one is allowed in alongside Metal Gear Solid 3 for two reasons.  Firstly, because this is technically a spin of and is arguably its own franchise.  Secondly, this is my list and I feel like cheating a bit so nyah!  This game is full of crazy boss fights, including building sized mechs, robot chainsaw dogs and ninja cyborgs.  Picking just one of these is difficult enough, but I’ve gone for the final encounter.

Metal Gear Rising
Nanomachines, son!

A loud metal soundtrack, sword wielding robots, an inferno surrounding the combatants and an evil senator with even more bonkers policies than Trump (not trying to get too political here).  This is a boss fight that will really test the skills you’ve developed throughout the game (and took me a while to beat).  Taking down Armstrong is no easy task, requiring skillful use of your blade slicing abilities and well timed dodges.  This is Platinum at their absolute best and I’d dearly love a solid current gen port of this.

Bob Barbas – DmC: Devil May Cry

DmC: Devil May Cry (2013)
DmC: Devil May Cry (2013)

Ok, so this wasn’t the most well received reboot with many arguing (myself included) that the series didn’t really need one.  However, this is actually a pretty damn good character action game, with solid controls, a well thought out soundtrack and a werid interpretation of Dante that I’d prefer not to think to hard about.  It also has some top boss battles!  Ferris wheel demons and underground slug monsters were certainly memorable, but it was the manipulative news anchor that stole the show.

DmC Devil May Cry
He’s certainly not one of the hardest bosses I’ve ever faced, but the it does so much so well!

This is easily one of the most visually creative boss fights I’ve ever seen.  It uses the fact that Bob is a corrupt news anchor and runs with it by having the whole fight be themed around a news report.  You’ll fight through the perspective of a police helicopter’s camera, charging down a path made of news channel logos and listen to Dante’s name being slandered through propaganda infused reports.  Dodging lasers and explosions whilst approaching Bob’s digitised head to cause damage may be the way to win, but the framing of the encounter is what really makes this.  How many boss fights manage to make facing additional enemies interesting?  I certainly can’t think of many.

Some honourable mentions as ever.  I’ve mentioned Metal Gear Solid’s Psycho Mantis in the past as being very creative (that series is just incredible when it comes to bosses).  The Sephiroth battle in Kingdom Hearts was impressive for many reasons.  It was unexpected, challenging and full of fan service.  Jecht from Final Fantasy X is one I found quite memorable due to the catharsis is provides Tidus.  Whilst the encounter itself wasn’t all that incredible, the significance of it certainly is.  And Wyzen from Asura’s Wrath was a sight to behold.  Whilst the fact it was almost entirely a QTE works against it, the visual spectacle more than makes up for it.  Oh, and there was this guy from Serious Sam:

Serious Sam
The scale of this boss was insane for the era!

I notice that many of these are fairly recent.  Are modern boss encounters really more impressive than older ones?  Or did I just not play the right ones as a youngster?  Let me know if there are any I should experience!

 

5 Bosses That Gave Me a Serious Kicking – Bullied by big bosses.

Not so long ago, I talked about how looking at guides for games is absolutely fine.  I even included Dara O’Briain’s remarks on video games being the only form of media that denies you access to more of it unless you prove you’re good enough.  I mentioned how there really should be ways for anyone to experience the stories that games provide.  But that’s not how games work (well, most of them anyway).  There are bosses.  Those big chaps and chapettes placed in your way to test you on everything you’ve learned so far.  Sure, you’ve eliminated those enemies, mowed down the mooks and bested many baddies, but can you face down this ridiculous robot?  That colossal creature?  Those ferocious fighters?  Alliteration aside (ha!), let’s have a look at some of those end of level guardians that have given me a serious run for my money.

Earthworm Jim
Bob the Goldfish was not one of the toughest.  His level was a pain though.

Some rules as ever.  Only one boss per franchise and only bosses I have faced and defeated.  Oh, and if you’re offended by crude language, this is one of very few posts I write that will contain swearing.  Because, seriously, some of these guys are absolute dicks.

Psycho Mantis – Metal Gear Solid

Metal Gear Solid
Metal Gear Solid (1998)

Let’s start light.  Because Psycho Mantis isn’t terribly difficult once you know what to do.  In fact, I technically didn’t find him all that difficult when I played this, but I’ll explain that in a moment because I recognise why this clown is so difficult.  You see, you can’t shoot him.  He dodges everything as though he can read your mind (he can because Metal Gear Solid is insane) and react before you fire.  Not only that, he will also attempt to control your companion, Meryl, and attempt to have her kill herself.  The strategy to defeat him, as I’m sure many of you will know, is to swap your controller from port one to port two on your console, thus confusing Psycho Mantis and allowing you to shoot the crap out of him.

Metal Gear Solid
Sadly, the memory card reading trick didn’t work in the PC release.

In terms of boss battles for the era (or indeed any era), this was very inventive.  And if you don’t know how to beat him, I can see how this could be incredibly challenging.  Now, on to how I managed to beat him.  I played this on PC, in which to defeat him you need to play using the keyboard.  I did not have a gamepad for the PC and used the keyboard for the whole game so he proved to be only mildly challenging.  Still, I thought this boss should be included due to the potential challenge.

Ornstein & Smough – Dark Souls

Dark Souls
Dark Souls (2011)

Alright, let’s get this two bastards out of the way.  The Dark Souls original gank boss.  The multi-man brawl that From Software have tried to emulate ever since.  One of the hardest bosses in the series (I know there are others that people consider harder, but this pair whooped me for hours).  Bosses in Dark Souls are no joke, but here we have two hard ones at once.  One (Executioner Smough) is big, powerful, and capable of destroying the pillars that provide cover.  The other (Dragonslayer Ornstein) is quick, powerful and has wide sweeping attacks that are hard to dodge.  Keeping an eye on both of them whilst trying to land even a couple of hits to whittle down their health is extremely challenging.

Ornstein and Smough
Can you guess which is the slow, powerful one?

Oh OH, and once you beat one of them, the other grows to twice the size and becomes even more powerful.  Just to make sure you get no breaks.  Because letting up just isn’t Souls style.  If you defeat Smough first and take on a doubly powerful Ornstein then prepare for the battle of your life because he is an utter arse once powered up.  The gorgeous journey through Anor Londo up to this point simply cannot prepare you for the pummelling you’ll face here.  Victory is unbelievably satisfying, even though it took me summoning two phantoms to help with taking them down.  I love this series, but there’s no way I’m going back to take them on again.

Lou – Guitar Hero 3

Guitar Hero III
Guitar Hero 3 (2007)

This is a weird one to include, but it is a boss battle.  Guitar Hero 3 had a story mode of sorts, with your band being confronted by the devil (Lou) for a final face-off.  Boss battles in this game were in the form of songs in which you and your opponent you play sections against one another, with powerups allowing you to disrupt the other player.  Attacks could make notes become invisible, or one of your strings to break which makes playing a section correctly much harder.  The final song was a rather creative rock cover of the rather excellent The Devil Went Down to Georgia by The Charlie Daniels Band, with a ton of notes everywhere.  Playing this in the game was hard enough, but throw in disappearing notes and buttons that temporarily won’t work and you have a recipe for plastic guitar breakage.

Seriously, this is rather good, and the Guitar Hero 3 version is pretty good too.

No meaning to brag, but I was pretty good at games in this series.  I could rattle through most songs on expert mode without too much trouble.  But this.  This song with those stupid attacks was near on impossible.  I eventually beat this, but only by swallowing my pride and dropping down two difficulties to normal.  I know, I still feel the shame burning me now.  I really liked the plastic instrument craze, but this boss battle song crap can piss right off.

Shao Kahn – Mortal Kombat 3

Mortal Kombat 3
Mortal Kombat 3 (1995)

I was torn between Shao Kahn and M. Bison from Street Fighter 2.  I went with Shao Kahn because he’s such a cheap git.  M. Bison can be beaten with careful zoning and good positioning.  Shao Kahn needs Sub-Zero and a shit ton of luck.  Shao Kahn can practically dash right in front of you and send you flying.  Over and over again.  Along the ground or in the air.  The dash attack also breaks your block.  Oh, and he has projectile attacks which he can spam.  Plus a hammer attack that can stun you.  So my experience was something like this: jump attack lands on Kahn, hammer to me, dash attack me into the corner then I die.  This happened many, many times.

Shao Kahn
I’m not sure if this is Shao Kahn or Triple H arriving at Wrestlemania.

I know I finally beat him based entirely on luck.  Sub-Zero could freeze Shao Kahn in place, allowing an upperful (one of the most high damage single attacks).  I used that and resorted to staying crouched and hoping an air dash attack would come my way, allowing another free uppercut.  It went like this for a long, long time until I finally bested him.  A dishonourable victory perhaps, but that’s what he gets for being such a wanker.

Yellow Devil – Mega Man

Mega Man
Mega Man (1987)

Oh this guy can just fuck right off.  Cheap, extremely hard to dodge, takes ages and can pretty much only be beaten by luck, glitching, or having more patience than Jesus.  In fact, I’m pretty sure Jesus would just switch the game off and play something else.  Like Doom.  Anyway, the Yellow Devil is one of the final bosses you face in Mega Man and it is a bastard of one.  He starts by flying in piece by piece from the left, and good luck if you don’t know the pattern by heart.  You’ll almost certainly get hit by one or two pieces (suffering significant damage) before he opens his eye for a split second to fire.   I hope you were paying attention in that one second as that’s the only chance you have to damage it before the pieces fly to the other side of the screen.  Repeat until you die.  And I did.  Repeatedly.

Mega Man
Ah, the Thunder Beam. Yellow Devil’s only weakness. Especially if you glitch it…

To be fair, with enough care and attention Yellow Devil can be taken down.  It’s just the number of times you need to face it before you have the patterns down.  And once you lose all your lives its back to the start of a long and difficult level to get back for another go.  That’s the bit that irritated me the most.  Once I got past that, I managed to wear him down.  But getting to that point was a trial.  This was not the last time this boss appeared in this (or other) series.  The music was pretty exciting for the battle too.  At least, the first few times.

Some (dis?)honourable mentions.  Vicar Amelia from Bloodborne took me a long, long time to get through.  She hits hard, moves quickly and could heal most of her health back mid battle.  If you couldn’t out-damage her heal you didn’t have a hope.  Another boss I had to summon for.  Then there’s Capital B from Yooka-Laylee.  I think I’ve made my feelings on this arsehole clear before.

Yooka Laylee
Don’t look so smug you utter bastard.  I got you in the end.

Who’s kicked your ass repeatedly in games?  Don’t feel the shame, share below and feel better about yourself!  Carrying that defeat around will just bring you down, share it with the group…

 

5 Cases of Terrible Voice Acting – Speak friend and enter!

That’s Charles Martinet up there you know.  He’s Mario.  That is not how I expected him to look.

So there was that voice actor strike a little while back.  Is that still going on?  I’m pretty sure it was to do with pay and conditions.  I’m not going to get into the rights and wrongs of it, but I am going to take the opportunity to mock some genuinely terrible voice acting in games.  Bad voice acting really can take you out of an experience when it’s so jarringly bad.  Even in a game that isn’t very good to start with can suffer even more at the hands of bad vocal work.  On the other hand, there is the occasional “so bad it’s good” set of vocal lines that can occasionally work if you’re going for a B-movie style.  But more on that later.

David Warner
David Warner played Jon Irenicus in Baldur’s Gate 2. I can’t think of many “real” actors being used in games well, but this guy is Irenicus as far as I’m concerned.

Anyway, you know they rules by now.  Games that I have played only, one game per series etc. etc.  I normally wouldn’t post videos, preferring to go for screenshots, but to fully appreciate the sheer awfulness (is that a word?) I feel a video is somewhat necessary.  Enjoy!

Resident Evil

resident_evil_logo
Resident Evil (1996)

A classic!  In so may ways.  It brought survival horror into the mainstream.  It was genuinely unsettling at times.  The graphics (for the time) were excellent.  That first meeting with a zombie!  But the voice work was cheesy beyond belief.  This is what I meant with “so bad it’s good” B-movie style.  The cheesy dialogue actually works for the game.  But that doesn’t change the fact that the line was delivered so badly.  I accept the writing being wonky, but considering the context of the scene, it comes across so badly acted.

Almost crushed to death, having been confronted by zombies, and we’re giggling about being “a Jill sandwich”.  Plus Barry not managing to say Jill correctly.  Apparently the voice actor started laughing during the reading of the line, resulting in it sounding like “Jiggle”.  But obviously doing another take is something other game studios do, so it was left in.  Then there was the “Master of unlocking” quote later on.  Just cringe worthy.

Mega Man 8

Mega Man 8 Logo
Mega Man 8 (1997)

Mega Man 4 is my favourite in this series.  This is most likely due to it being the first one I played, but I still stand by the fact that it was a good entry to the series even though it was a touch easier than some of the others.  Mega Man 8 was released on the Saturn and PlayStation complete with animated cutscenes featuring voiced characters.  Whilst there were some laughable ones, none quite takes the crown of “Most Terrible Voice Acting” like Dr. Light.

I’m not one to make fun of someone with a speech impediment which may account for the mispronunciation of “Dr. Wily”, but the lines are just delivered so poorly.  There’s utterly no emotion to them, and at various points the person delivering them sounds as though they’re drunk!  This didn’t really effect the main game too much as they were confined to animated cutscenes outside the stages.  But good god they were annoying and stuck out like a sore thumb.

Dynasty Warriors 3

Dynasty Warriors 3
Dynasty Warriors 3 (2001)

The Dynasty Warriors games are something of a guilty pleasure for me.  I’m not under the illusion that they’re excellent games, but they can be extremely cathartic.  Taking out hordes of enemy units before confronting their commander is rather satisfying.  Battles are often interrupted by by brief cutscenes of the commanders taunting each other before engaging in battle and it is some of the most terrible, cheesy vocal work I have ever heard.  But it somehow makes the game better for it.

Just listen to it.  I don’t think I even need to say anything.  It’s hilariously camp nonsense, with lines delivered as though they’re sitting in a living room mocking each other over a game of Street Fighter rather than fighting to the death on the fields of battle.  “Feel the power of my maaaagiiiiiiic!” sounds as though it’s being said by a character on South Park rather than a Chinese mystic.  The thing is, I think the game would actually be worse if the lines were delivered seriously.  This is the perfect example of “So bad it’s good” in video game voice acting.

House of the Dead 2

maxresdefault
House of the Dead 2 (1998)

I love light gun games and I love this series.  House of the Dead is one of those go to light gun games for me, alongside the likes of Time Crisis and Area 51.  Well paced with interesting boss fights (linked to Tarot cards apparently) and typing tutor spin offs of all things!  There aren’t all that many voice lines in the second entry in the series due to the plot being completely meaningless; but those that are there…

I’m not sure the voice actors knew what the characters were going to be doing in the game.  It’s as though each person was given just their own lines and recorded after reading it once.  No one seems to have a single emotion.  Maybe the real zombies are the humans!  Is that what’s happening?  Is the game that deep?!  No.  No it isn’t.

Shenmue

Shenmue
Shenmue (2000)

I feel bad for including this.  I really enjoyed the game in spite of some bizarre lines that were repeated far too often (“Do you remember the day the snow turned to rain?”) or delivered in such a stilted way.  The bad voice work did break the immersion from time to time, which is a shame as it was pushed as being an immersive experience through its day night cycle, genuine weather transitions and it’s time based system that I only really recall seeing in Dead Rising since then.

The lines from some of the characters are delivered in such a forced way.  Nothing feels like a genuine, flowing conversation.  It’s more like they’re a conduit for information (which I suppose they are) and nothing more.  It’s an issue that came up quite regularly in the era, but when this game was supposed to be so immersive, badly delivered voice work sticks out a great deal.

A couple of honourable mentions.  Earth Defense Force has some absurd lines that result in more than a few chuckles.  This may be due to translation showing cultural differences between territories.  Sonic Adventure is also a fairly poor one at times.  The line delivery isn’t always terrible, but the sound mixing is a mess meaning some lines can’t be heard over the background music and sentences are cut off part way through.  This is compounded by some of the characters having such grating voices.  Also: Big the Cat…

How about you?  Can you remember any dreadful voice work from some of your favourite games?  Has it ever ruined the overall experience for you?  Let me know.  I could always use a laugh!