Gratuity “Tip” Tucci is an eighth grader at Daniel Landry Middle School, assigned with writing an essay with a minimum of five pages about the true meaning of Smekday. If her essay is chosen from thousands of entries, it will be buried in a time capsule to be opened a century into the future. It all began when we found out that there was intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. Life of extraterrestrial proportions. Anarchy spreads like wildfire following the visitors’ arrival, discussing plans of renaming Earth to Smekland (to honor Captain Smek) and forcing the entire American population into one state.
If there’s someone who has a lot to tell about their experience, it’s Tip. First of all, her mother just isn’t herself lately. Maybe it has something to do with that strange glowing mole on the back of her neck. Then there’s a friendly visitor who becomes Tip’s friend, dubbing itself “J.Lo”. (I’m dead serious.) But the invasion quickly gives way to a cross-country adventure as J.Lo, Tip, and her cat Pig travel to find Tip’s mom at the Happy Mouse Kingdom. Along the way, they make friends including Chief Shouting Bear, Vicki Lightbody, and the Brotherhood Organized against Oppressive Boov (BOOB). The trio is going to need all the gas in their hovercar if they’re gonna cook up a plan to save the country, maybe even the world.
I think I came across this when I was looking for a good science-fiction book to feast my eyes on. The premise seemed promising and I quickly found myself wanting to read it. My English teacher had the book in his class library, and I found myself plowing through the book a little bit each day during our equivalent of study hall. I was more than elated finding the book at our school library, and days later I’d read the book cover to cover. All the time, all the hours I spent reading this story was definitely worth it. This is the best science fiction book I’ve read since Maximum Ride, and I can tell you why.
- An exquisite sense of humor – Smekday has the freshest gags I’ve heard in a while, and it’s a good reality check compared to the book’s sci-fi intensity. Rex has a gift for proper comic timing that will leave the reader thoroughly amused.
- It’s part-graphic novel – Smekday tells us of the history of the Boov and the Nimrogs (plus other educational nuggets) via comics. It’s a nice art shift that goes beyond the pictures and newspaper clippings.
- GIRL POWER! – Tip is a very empowering character that’s strong and sassy, and knows when and how to speak her mind. She’s like the Spice Girls smashed altogether into a little girl. Boys will hardly feel alienated with the BOOB as well.
- Additional pictures to deepen the experience – Polaroids taken by Tip, newspaper clippings, Tip’s drawings, all of these show up in the book and add some sort of depth to the story so you know what’s happening.
- A really shocking ending – Trust me, you will not see it coming even if you read all the exposition and context there is to read.
- Vivid writing and dialogue – Through Tip’s eyes, it feels like you’re actually there. It’s always fun to picture what’s happening in your mind, from the little things to the more climactic events. Rex has the ability to turn a good laugh into a shocking tragedy with just a few sentences, and this shows as the book nears to its unexpected conclusion.
- Lovable characters – J.Lo has been an adored character by lots of those who read the book. I mean, it’s hard not to love an alien who’s willing to make a car be able to fly, and then later unknowingly eat a urinal cake. Tip’s characterization is more evident since, well, she’s the one telling the story.
- A unique structure – The book is split into thirds. Two thirds are written in essay form, and the third is the longest part of the novel as Tip convinces herself to come flat-out and finish what she started. “Odd”, I believe, is the wrong adjective to use. Well, when’s the last time you read a book like that?
- The community loves it – Many people call Smekday one of their favorite books they’ve ever read, and they give away five-star scores like candy. And this book deserves it, since…well, I’ve already gone into detail. Check out snippets of some Goodreads community reviews:
“…loved the cat, loved Gratuity, loved everything about this book.” – Kaethe
“…Adam Rex’s delicious banquet of pop cultureskewers dipped in saucy social commentary and served alongside a heaping helping of warm, filling comfort food…” – Stephen
“Adam Rex rules.” – Ceridwen
“Pretty much my favorite children’s book of the past few years…” – Paul
“…one of the funniest, constantly entertaining books I’ve read in a long time…” – Chris
Not convinced? Tip and J.Lo have a couple reasons of their own.
“BOOB is an…acronym.” […] “Brotherhood Organized against Oppressive Boov. It stands for that.”
“Shouldn’t it be B-O-A-O-B, then?”
“We really wanted it to be BOOB,” said Marcos, and at the younger boys giggled again. (126)
“Waitaminute,” I said. “BOOB?”
“It’s the name of our club,” said boy number two.
“Are you guys from Florida or something?”
“No,” said Beardo. “Why?”
Both boys shouted over each other.
“It stands for–”
“Backyard telescope Ob…Observation of–”
“Of Occupations by Boov!”
“I don’t know why I ask,” I said, “but shouldn’t your acronym be like, BTOOB or something?”
“BOOB sounds better,” they said.
Boys. Honestly. (225)
The True Meaning of Smekday is a gem among sci-fi books, with vivid writing and fast-paced action, all boiled down to a dramatic finale. Easily one of the best novels I’ve ever read. I hope I’ll see a story like Smekday in the not-too-distant future, if not a direct sequel. I’ll even accept a spiritual successor. But this is not the last I’ll see from Adam Rex. It’s like an alien-infused Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy for kids. Yeah, it’s that good. Not only that, but there’s going to be a movie based off of the book. The name? Home (formerly Happy Smekday!). You’d think that maybe it would be called The True Meaning of Smekday, or even Smekday, but they settled with Home. You’ll never guess who’s playing the two main roles. Rihanna and Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory. (It took me way too long to realize they’re just doing voices.) The movie doesn’t arrive until next November.
FINAL SCORE: ★★★★★
If you liked The True Meaning of Smekday, check out:
- Cosmic by Frank C. Boyce
- Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword by Barry Deutsch
- Aliens on Vacation by Clete B. Smith
- Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke
I hope you had as much fun reading this as I did writing this! Well, you know the algorithm–tune in, well, whenever for more awesomeness courtesy of Sammwak! Be sure to Like this post, and if you’re new don’t forget to abduct that subscribe button! You can also find Sammwak on Google+ where you can get more news and stuff there!
This is where I usually put my video of the week, but I know that you probably don’t know that I have a YouTube channel. Check out my crap-res gaming videos of me playing games on old Nintendo consoles with the power of emulators. I don’t intend for these to catch fire very quickly, but they’re just out there. I think I got the mic working on this one. The computer fan’s a pain in the behind, and I can’t afford to shut it up, so try to bear with it.
In 2000, EA Sports Big was born to honor the unrealistic genre that is “extreme sports”, and to test it out they created the SSX (Snowboard Supercross) series, a saga of critically acclaimed extreme snowboarding games. The series debuted as a PS2 exclusive, but eventually grew to adapt to the original Xbox and the GameCube, among other consoles. SSX Tricky, the second in the series, was one of my all-time favorite PS2 games growing up. I was nothing less than ecstatic in 2010 when I found news about a new SSX in the works. My elation was replaced with horror when I realized that the series was taking an unexpected detour into an abyss shrouded with darkness and ambiguity. However, EA Sports brought the game back on track, and the final result is the new SSX, the most realistic game the series–maybe even the genre–has ever seen.
“Defy reality. Own the planet.”
Famous biker Zoe Payne, snowboarding legend Mac Fraser, and surfing icon Tane Mumea (he’s new) have co-founded Team SSX. Instead of Snowboard Supercross, the letters stand for Snowboarding, Surfing, and Motocross, birthed by the three best riders snow, sea, and dirt have ever known. They’ve searched the planet to make a team of the nine best riders on Earth. However, member Griff Simmons (from SSX 3) has ditched the team, and most of the team funds have followed. Turning to their fans for help, Team SSX plans to raise funds with the power of live-streaming by conquering the nine deadliest descents in the world! Unfortunately, Griff plans on defeating the descents first, sparking a race across the globe to see who will “own the planet” first. The game’s ravishing visuals make each descent much more lifelike and much more deadly. Here are the nine mountains you plan on defeating:
- Mount Robson, USA – The reason Robson represents America as a deadly descent is its merciless array of trees that have been strewn around the course. Well-timed jumps and maneuvers are key to making it to the bottom with as little damage as possible. Gear will be needed to take on this descent, as it gives you a layer of protection if you run into any trees.
- Fitz Roy, South America – The reason Fitz Roy represents Patagonia as a deadly descent is the enemy that is gravity. It will be impossible to clear a jump without a wingsuit, as it will be needed to give you some air before landing. However, your wingsuit isn’t too sturdy, so you have to make a quick landing before lining up your next jump.
- Mount Belukha East, Russia – The reason Belukha represents Siberia as a deadly descent is its endless supply of ice that can get up to six feet thick; it’s just as unforgiving as it sounds and looks, but luckily you’ll have a pair of ice axes to aid you on your path. You’ll also be iceboarding on the side of a cliff, so it’s best to stay as near to the mountainside as possible.
- Mount McKinley/Denali, USA – The reason McKinley (known in the game as Denali) also represents America as a deadly descent is its ever-so-exciting avalanche that you have to outrun all the way to the bottom of the course while avoiding crevasses and not sticking too close to the avalanche. Boost is key to outrunning the snowy beast, as it will give you a distance advantage as well as a time advantage.
- Mount Slaughter, Antarctica – According to the game, no snowboarding trip around the world would be complete without a stop at the coldest and most desolate place on Earth. Obviously, your main enemy is the piercing cold in an area where the sunshine is everyone’s best bud. Luckily, you will be equipped with a solar panel while also keeping an eye out for any light patches that can regenerate your health, because shade and tunnels are your worst enemy.
- Mount Everest, Himalayas – The tallest mountain on Earth is also one of the most dangerous descents you’ll be conquering. As in real life, up in the mountains thin air is a killer, so you’ll be provided with an oxygen tank consisting of the freshest gas your mates could find. Even then, you’re not very safe, as your oxygen is–wait for it–limited. You’ll have to get out there as quick as possible before you run out of oxygen. When you start to see blackness around the corners of your TV, that means you’re gonna black out in a couple of seconds–a perfect opportunity to use some of that good O2.
- Mount Blanco, Alps – No, not that small hill in Texas, an actual mountain where your one enemy is rocks. But not in avalanche form–just plain rocks. You can easily jump over the rocks and make small movements to avoid them, but don’t overdo it–you might run into the side of the canyon. I recommend you use armor to increase your survival chances, and around here speed literally kills, so I suggest taking it as slow as possible.
- Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania – (Ah, Tanzania. My true non-American home.) “But, Sam! Kilimanjaro’s a volcano, not a mountain!” Exactly, my dear reader. You’re actually going to be riding inside the volcano, but don’t fear eruptions; I just hope you’re not afraid of the dark, because that is your main enemy for this descent. Luckily, you’ll be provided with a headlamp to provide some light, but don’t be planning on tricking a lot–where your head goes, the lamp goes. So if you’re in the middle of a gnarly tweak, you might not notice that menacing wall in front of you.
- Mount Aoraki/Mount Cook, New Zealand – You’ve fought through trees, rocks, and darkness, but that’s just the tip of this game’s iceberg (sorry). Because this time your enemy is–the notorious whiteout. The granddaddy of all snowstorms and blizzards. You won’t be able to see your trembling hand in front of your terrified face without pulse goggles, but all they do is help you see through snow. They won’t help you differentiate safe terrain from lethal chasms, so keep an eye out for flares that will help you down the mountain and avoid taking bad jumps. (These flares can also give you some Tricky meter boost. Why they give you some boost, I don’t know.)
The game starts by automatically launching you into story mode, as you are unable to go anywhere else. You can either use the button controls or the right-stick controls, and both work quite well. A majority of Tricky‘s best mechanics return in this game: tweaking your tricks as well as the famous Tricky meter. Land tricks to boost your meter, and if you want to you can deplete it by using it as a speed boost. If you land enough tricks you are temporarily put into Tricky mode. Tricks get Über makeovers, are worth more points, and earn you letters once landed. Once you earn your Y you don’t receive infinite boost and the ability to perform as many Über tricks as you want–you get into Super Tricky mode, allowing you to perform even crazier tricks as well as the granddaddy of them all–the signature trick.
Old school gamers can change the controls to “classic” in the game settings, although I have no clue what difference it makes since it’s been years since I’ve played Tricky. When you get far enough in story mode, you can unlock two modes: one of them being Explore, where you can free-ride. While in that mode, you can buy people for 10,000 to 50,000 credits. Credits are the game’s currency, earned by competing in events–whether you win or lose, you’re still probably gonna walk away with a couple thousand. Speaking of which, you can also get geo-tags via completing select events or by buying them. You can place them in spots while rewinding, and they’re worth varying amounts of XP and credits. A player has exactly a day to obtain the geo-tag before its lifespan runs out.
At each descent, you compete in two events as descent training before the real deal: Race It (qualify in the top three to advance) and Trick It (try to earn more points than your opponents). Each mode delivers a new strategy to the tables; in races, you need to find the fastest routes, but you need to locate big air in trick runs. Then there’s Survive It, where it all comes down to. Each descent features a number of paths, hidden obstacles, and dangerous chasms, so elite precision is mandatory to getting the best scores on the more challenging descents–or you know, just surviving. But this game is only for people who know what they’re doing and what they’re up against; the AI is
punishing challenging, and death traps are just waiting for you to run into them.
The one other thing I hate about the game is its lack of traditional simultaneous multiplayer. Yes, SSX is a single-player experience, and that sucks! The closest thing to multiplayer in this game is Global Events, a challenge series open to every player across the globe, or just you and your friends. EA has challenges going nonstop, and you can just come to try and beat a high score or a time. While you’re racing, people may just show up alongside you and turn this into a simultaneous event. There are some custom events where you can invite just your friends, which is probably the closest Global Events get to “multiplayer.” Besides GE, RiderNet (SSX’s AutoLog) keeps track of your progress and informs you on what hijinks your buds are up to.
But what’s a sports game without a stellar soundtrack? (I’ve played FIFA for 4 years; I should know.) SSX‘s music includes Foster the People, The Naked and Famous, Flux Pavilion, Camo & Krooked, DJ Shadow, and the three bosses of dubstep: Nero, Noisia, and Skrillex. Too bad the only time your characters speak are if they’re in the middle of a gnarly trick or bailing.
Once you get far enough in story mode, you can unlock two modes, one of them being Explore. If you press a certain button to select the track you want to ride in Explore, you can go into free-ride mode, where you can simply cruise your way down without a Tricky meter to distract you. But you can still do Über tricks; a blue flash on the screen means you’ve hit Tricky, and an orange means you’ve hit Super. In the game, you can earn badges and achievements while ‘boarding a track, and you can use RiderNet to check out your goods and remember just how great you are at this game. If you’re not doing story mode, checking out Global Events or RiderNet, or exploring, you might be checking out the DLC.
Electronic Arts has announced DLC characters that are already on the market: real-life pro snowboarder Travis Rice, and our old pal Eddie! The bro with the ‘fro appears in his own DLC pack, Mt. Eddie, which also brings the exuberant and colorful feels of Tricky to the new SSX. If it didn’t feel nostalgic enough, classic skins have been added for characters like Elise and Moby! Could it get any better than that? Oh, but it doesn’t stop there: the pack features the return of 7 characters in their original appearances. To be specific, Elise, Eddie, Kaori, Mac, Moby, Psymon, and Zoe. As in Tricky, each ‘boarder comes with alternate outfits and their own board. For just $5.99, you can give your SSX experience a nostalgic retro makeover.
For PS3 players, Mount Fuji is automatically installed into the game, allowing you to snow-surf down another mountain. I wouldn’t look at it as a descent, though. Luckily, Xbox 360 users won’t be left out in the cold (sorry again)–Mt. Fuji comes in the Mt. Fuji & Friends DLC pack, which comes with Eddie and Travis, as well character-specific Ultimate level snowboards that’ll make that high score more visible with perks for Eddie, Zoe, Mac, Kaori, and Elise. There’s also a bonus Geo-Tag. Xbox.com describes the pack as a “mountain of content”, and why not buy it? It’s absolutely free!
In the end, SSX is an extraordinary and over-the-top snowboarding game that brings some new and some old to the table, using its gorgeous visuals and challenging gameplay as a great filter.
FINAL SCORE: ★★★★
IF YOU LIKED THAT, CHECK OUT:
(Click on the pictures to be transported to their GameStop articles!)
(What do you want to see from me, I’m not a big snowboarding gamer!)
Well, that was quite the doozy! Be sure to tune in next Friday at 1:00 PM ET for more awesomeness courtesy of Sammwak! Oh, and have a rad summer while it lasts!
Video of the Week: “Honest Commercials” by nigahiga. It’s been out for just nine days and it’s already passed 1.5 million hits and been featured on the Smosh Pit. Tune in and see what you’ve been missing.
The nostalgic gremlin inside me is at it again, so I’ve decide to sate him with this week’s post: a glimpse at what my childhood was like. I never quite open up to my readers quite like this, and over 100,000 of you have bothered to show up at my site to read my posts, and sixteen of you have made it a weekly basis! So consider this a big thank you to everyone who’s been supporting me. Now, don’t expect this to be a tell-all about myself–I still shall keep personal information at bay.
But in 2008, my horizon changed completely thanks to three shows: Total Drama Island, Chowder, and Flapjack. Yes, if it wasn’t for these shows, I probably never would’ve become the Cartoon Network fan I am today. And you can assure yourself that I just ate the next two Total Drama seasons up, because I did. Then there’s Disney Channel. I fondly remember watching Kim Possible, The Emperor’s New School, The Replacements, Suite Life of Zack & Cody, Jonas, the list goes on.
Another favored horror series of mine back in the day is the Chillers saga by Johnathan Rand. Now, Rand is working on two Chillers series: Michigan Chillers and American Chillers. As the titles imply, events within a Michigan Chillers book take place in the good ole Great Lakes State. But American Chillers books can happen anywhere in the fifty states. These books, to be honest, were awfully similar to Goosebumps, but they have covered more subjects that are common in horror literature: werewolves, aliens, zombies, ghosts, vampires, the list goes on. But then the new Chillers came and vacuums are coming to life and crickets are gaining a craving for human meat. But who am I to complain and criticize, old Chillers was the shiz back in the day. Heck, it gave me the inspiration to become a horror author–I’m not saying I am a horror author, I’m still working on it.
Never would I find a series quite like Captain Underpants, where a vile school principal could turn into a superhero who wore nothing but underwear and a cape. But the book I remember the fondest would probably be the third one–that’s where the game changed completely! But as a blogger, I shan’t spoil it for you. This series may have also given me the inspiration to become a comic writer, which is how many people remembered me by. I have to devote a lot of my childhood to Pilkey on this one.
- Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel – A 2-time Newbery Honor-winning children’s book series starring a frog and a toad whose friendship take them on many adventures. Easy-to-read vocabulary, imaginative illustrations, and a great moral made this series an instant classic for me.
- Franklin by Paulette Bourgeois and Brenda Clark – A classic children’s book series starring a group of anthropomorphic animals, but the spotlight is on a young turtle boy named Franklin. See as he learns the virtues of friendship and love as he goes through countless scenarios: a bad day, a thunderstorm, the first day of schol, etc.
- Ready, Freddy! by Abby Klein and John McKinley – First grade is nothing short of a jungle for Freddy Thresher, first grader and amateur shark enthusiast. Read along as he deals with Max the bully, the talent show, show-and-tell competition, homework problems, bedroom horrors, and more. The series has almost 30 installments, so if you like the first book (Tooth Trouble) you can mow down the rest.
- Junie B. Jones by Barbara Park and Denise Brunkus – 90s kids may remember this one, but I remember it from my elementary school days. It stars a kindergartner named Junie B Jones as she embarks on school misadventures from facing the “stupid smelly bus” to facing the monster living under her bed. Eventually she 1-ups to first grade, where she remains to this day.
- Magic Tree House by Mary Pope Osborne and Sal Murdocca – Jack and Annie are siblings that live in the fictional Frog Creek, PA. They have a tree house that can magically whisk them into any time or place, from the prehistoric era to San-Fran in the middle of that gnarly quake. They are also assisted on their missions by Morgan le Fay. Like Junie B Jones, the series 1-ups and goes from “Morgan Missions” to “Merlin Missions”, where they remain to this day.
Another great game I had was SSX Tricky, the first and greatest sports game I’ve ever played. My version of the game concept was simple: once you have some big air, Über Trick out to score as many points as you can before landing. When you’re not tricking out, you might be racing against competitive AI or helping upgrade your characters, unlocking boards, costumes, etc. I know the game like the back of my hand, and so do my siblings, who are equally good at it. (I think this game was the one thing we could bond over besides TV shows.) The game also had the best soundtrack:
I might as well recall another game that, while not as legendary as these other two games, was definitely a decent time-killer: Tony Hawk’s Project 8. I can just recall the game’s lenient physics that could allow you to perform a perfect half-pipe transfer or do a clean ollie over a fence. When I wasn’t skating, I sure as heck was bailing or unsuccessfully trying to perform rad tricks. The soundtrack for the game wasn’t half bad, but there’s only two songs I remember fondly: “Gone Daddy Gone” (Gnarls Barkley) and “Smack” (Ugly Duckling).
Oh, and one last thing. I also remember playing lots of music games back in the day: I had the Guitar Hero/Guitar Hero II dual pack, so I had two times the rock-star goodness in one 2-disc case. We also had the first two Rock Band games–no, not in a dual pack. Luckily, our Guitar Hero guitars worked with the game, and the only thing that was new were the drums and mic. Oh yeah, then there was that time where I may have broken the drum pad, but luckily lots of people face the same problem.
Oh, TMI? Sorry about that, I just had a lot to say. Oh yeah, and Lilly from Hannah Montana was in it OKAY I’M DONE! Then Spy Kids 3 came out, and that was an awesome movie too with the video game universe, but then Spy Kids 4 came out. Yeah, we don’t talk about that movie, it’s hard to even call it a Spy Kids movie. That’s why I look at the series as a trilogy with an extremely bad movie. Oh, and there was also Sharkboy and Lavagirl with the gosh-awful VFX, but the chance of it winning kids over is 9:1.
I think that’s all I have to say about my childhood! Hungry for more nostalgia? Check out The 90s Are All That on TeenNick every night from 11:00 pm to 1:00 am ET! (I was not paid to say that.) Besides that, tune in next Friday for more awesomeness courtesy of Sammwak!
Video of the Week: “(Parody) Everything Wrong With Equestria Girls in 7 Minutes or Less” by LittleshyFiM. It’s a hilarious parody of CinemaSins, so I recommend you check them out too. Am I the only one who didn’t know this movie existed until now?!
Nintendo has revolutionized modern gaming in many ways, and this world would be very different without them. They began in fall 1889, founded by Fusajiro Yamauchi, originally a card company. As time went by, they evolved into a game company that has made a market value of over $85 billion! The American part of the company also owns the Seattle Mariners MLB team (imagine that), but that’s not the point. Nintendo has become gradually better with every new console releases, evolving from giant cartridges to comfortably small discs, and their skills in the industry have made them a three-time gaming generation winner by sales standings. One of their unsuccessful years was the fifth generation, which they lost to the PlayStation. However, the Nintendo 64 was still a 3D trailblazer for tons of series, and I’m here to count down the top ten creamiest creams of the crop.
#10. Pokemon Stadium (2000)
When Nintendo started the Pokemon saga with Red and Blue in 1998, they became established as heroes in the industry of RPGs. By the time they released Gold and Silver they also experimented with the Nintendo 64’s 3D specialties. The game was intended to be for the Nintendo 64DD, but transferred into cartridge format when the add-on became a commercial letdown. There is no linear plot to the game–you must win Cups and complete the Gym Leader Castle to progress in the game. The game also made good use of the console’s Transfer Pak to transfer Pokemon from past titles.
#9. Conker’s Bad Fur Day (2001)
Few gamers remember Conker’s Pocket Tales, which was a Game Boy Color exclusive that starred a lighthearted red squirrel named Conker that would appeal to young audiences. This family-friendly rodent went through one of gaming history’s most shocking transformations into a greedy guzzler. After a night of binge drinking, he is attempting to return home to his girlfriend while avoiding the Panther King, who wants Conker as a replacement for his missing table leg. The game was controversial for its language and inappropriate humor, but eventually gained a cult following despite being a commercial disappointment at the end of the console’s life cycle. But never will I forget hearing that giant pile of crap sing opera.
#8. GoldenEye 007 (1997)
GoldenEye is known for probably nothing but being the first Pierce Brosnan Bond movie, maybe being a great financial success, getting nominated for a couple BAFTAs. But it was the game made for it that not only made it ten times more popular, but made the Nintendo 64 a real force to be reckoned with. In the game you played as Bond and tried to stop this bad guy from using a satellite weapon against London to cause a worldwide financial meltdown. But no one really cared about the campaign, did they? All that mattered was the multiplayer. The game allowed one to three of your buddies to play with you in different types of deathmatch games, and I can tell you’re already remembering the memories of you mercilessly murdering your friend with the Golden Gun. Let’s face it, nothing beat the Golden Gun.
#7. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater (1999)
Tony Hawk is known for many things: he did the first successful 900, he founded the Boom Boom Huck Jam exhibition/tour, he started a foundation to build skate parks in underprivileged areas, but everything really changed when Pro Skater first came out. This showed that Hawk wasn’t really playing around, and it’s still to this day one of the most influential skateboarding games in existence. You could skate and trick like nobody’s business and collect letters to make the word “SKATE” all while in an ambience of punk music. I also loved playing as Kareem Campbell; why, I think it was the hoodie. I was the best at Kareem, and I played no one but Kareem (ok, maybe Reynolds).
#6. Star Fox 64 (1997)
Star Fox began as a Super Nintendo exclusive in 1993, which spawned a sequel (also for the SNES) that could practically taste completion before being left in the dust as Shigeru Miyamoto decided to experiment with the Nintendo 64. The game turned into a 3D rail shooter starring Fox McCloud, leader of the Star Fox team, as he and his crew (Peppy Hare, Falco Lombardi, and Slippy Toad) embark on intergalactic adventures to destroy a disembodied ape head named Andross. The game was famous for popularizing the Rumble Pak, a removable add-on that provided lifelike vibrations to the controller. It also spawned some of gaming history’s most classic phrases, such as “Do a barrel roll!” and “Can’t let you do that, Star Fox!”
#5. Mario Kart 64 (1997)
Mario and his friends first got into racing with Super Mario Kart, which is credited as a pioneer of the kart racing subgenre and helping Mario branch out its gaming styles to establish it as the most bestselling game franchise in history. When new opportunity formed in the shape of the Nintendo 64, Mario Kart went in full-force. Not only was 3D CG graphics one of the big differences (allowing changes in elevation and such), but its multiplayer allowed up to four racers at a time. There were also four different modes to play in: grand prix (compete against the CPU for different cups), time trial (race a track and try to set a record), versus (race against your friend or friends), and battle (kickin’ it old school with balloons). It was the first N64 game I ever played, and it’s still among the best I’ve ever played. Never will I forget traveling down Rainbow Road.
#4. Super Smash Bros. (1999)
Take all of your favorite Nintendo heroes and put them together in a take-no-prisoners crossover beat em’ up, and that’s basically Super Smash Bros for you. The game starred Mario, Kirby, Fox, Pikachu, Link, and so many more famous characters. Every aspect of the game was a blast: you could slow down the speed of training, play bonus rounds
that were impossible, or you could play a single-player campaign mode to face the Master Glove. You could also play campaign to unlock characters like Luigi and Jigglypuff. I essentially got good at Kirby, but I really started picking up combos for Mario. SSB was also famous for debuting the ever-so-notorious “Falcon Punch”, the unbeatable move. It also branched out into a series that included the GameCube’s most bestselling game, one of the best Wii games ever, and an upcoming something-something for the Wii U and 3DS.
#3. Super Mario 64 (1996)
Yeah, I really roasted this game, didn’t I? You’d expect me to put it at, like, #2. But I guess I didn’t enjoy it as much as many critics and gamers did. Anyway, this game alongside LoZ: Ocarina of Time basically paved the way into the 3D generation, and that’s one of the reasons why it is critically lauded even to this day. The game’s story is simple on the outside, but complex at the core: you play as Mario, and you must recover 120 Power Stars to stop Bowser, free Peach, and get a cake. This game had everything–helpful camera angles, stellar control schemes, and one of our generation’s greatest video game soundtracks.
#2. Diddy Kong Racing (1997)
Picture this: it’s Christmas 1997. You find a gift under the yule tree that’s just for you, and you open it with trembling hands. You let out a squeal when you see what’s inside–a brand new copy of Diddy Kong Racing. You are among the hundreds of thousands of people that ordered the game a week or two before Christmas, and you have helped the game to setting a Guinness record for being the fastest-selling game of the time. Now let’s talk turkey: the game did have a story, but no one really paid attention to it. All you did was race levels and beat bosses of different “domains” to race Wizpig, the game’s final boss. There were also side missions such as racing levels while picking up silver coins, and another mode where you could race tracks backwards. If you weren’t up to the challenge, you could play tracks on your own or with up to three buddies. What puts DKR so high up on the list is that its bouncy soundtrack and unique racing environments just form an aura that attracts you to it. At least, that’s how I felt when I played it back in the day.
#1. Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1998)
Guys…guys, I’m sorry. I wasted your time and ended up picking the same game as hundreds of other lists to be at the top spot. But this game just gave me a feeling few games ever give me: the feeling of euphoria. The feeling that makes me say, “This game is unlike the rest, this game is a real gem.” At first I was skeptical about the game, seeing all its perfect scores and its Guinness records. But when I visited my friend’s house and plugged it in, I was mesmerized by the environment. Opening chests with that grand jingle or smashing pots to collect rupees was just as amazing as people had described it. Of course, the game was accompanied by a revolutionary soundtrack that made everything all the better, and I have to end on this note: Ocarina of Time is, and will be, arguably the single greatest video game of our generation. I know, that sounded really corny.
- Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask (2000)
- Killer Instinct Gold (1996)
- Donkey Kong 64 (1999)
- Banjo Kazooie (1998)
- Perfect Dark (2000)
- Mario Golf (1999)
- Mario Tennis (2000)
- Resident Evil 2 (1999)
- 1080° Snowboarding (1998)
- Mortal Kombat 4 (1998)
Well, that’s all for this month folks! Be sure to tune in next Friday for more awesomeness courtesy of Sammwak!
Channel of the Week: This week’s honor goes to videogamedunkey, a one-man gaming channel full of hysterical play-throughs and hilarious reviews. The channel has been up since fall 2010 and has over 470,000 subs and 132.8 million hits! Check out some of his best videos and try not to laugh. (Warning: Some strong language throughout)
Hey guys it’s Sam, and welcome to the this long-overdue game review! You like my new layout? Of course you do, cuz if not I’ll have to suspend your subscription.
Sega is mainly famous for one series and one series only–Sonic the Hedgehog. Becoming the breakout series that popularized the Sega Genesis, Sonic’s fame on the Genesis in 1991 quickly propelled him into such fame that Sega humbly honored him as the company mascot. Over 20 years later, Sonic’s gotten his gloved hands on countless consoles, but recently he’s been struck with a curse. And any gamer that’s played any Sonic game from Sonic 2006 to now would easily see that curse. Y’see, when Sonic 2006 came out it was universally panned by critics. When Sonic Unleashed came out two years later, it received an average outlook with most critics siding against one another. The 2-part Sonic 4 series received equally mixed says from critics, but Sonic Colors seemed to very gradually balance the scales a bit more. And that, folks, is what lead us all the way up to this point in the curse. Can this game be enough to break Sonic’s curse, or will his future crumble faster than he can run?
As Sonic’s thirteenth console game (and his fifth within his curse), Sonic Generations had big shoes to fill. Not only did it have to balance the curse, it had to also stand out as an actually good game. And there’s one reason how Generations could just pull it off–it’s a game partially created to celebrate the Blue Blur’s twentieth anniver–sorry, “birthday”. And Sega’s decided to make that official by having Tails, Knuckles, Amy, Cream, and more of Sonic’s comrades throw him a surprise birthday party complete with a cake decorated with Sonic’s trademark insignia. Needless to say, Sonic is touched and humbled by his friends’ work, but before he can celebrate with his buddies the party is crashed by the mysterious Time Eater. Not only does it butt in on the celebration, but it vacuums everyone of Sonic’s friends throw different “time holes” to scatter them through different time periods in Sonic history.
After getting knocked out cold by the Eater, Sonic awakens in the strange “White Space” dimension where colorless and lifeless time and space winds up. Sonic manages to rescue his closest ally Tails and as they journey to save the rest of their friends they suddenly discover the younger Genesis-era versions of themselves, known respectively as “Classic Sonic” and “Classic Tails”. As the two generations of Tails come to one term that the Time Eater is using his actions to hurt time and space itself, both generations of Sonic race through time to discover and save their friends. The game’s 20-year time cycle is split into three eras: the Classic era (Sonic, Sonic 2, Sonic & Knuckles), the Dreamcast era (Sonic Adventure 1-3), and the Modern era (Sonic Heroes, Sonic Colors, Sonic 2006). Classic Sonic plays his game in a 2D side-scroller perspective, but his Modern equivalent prefers a 3D Unleashed-like perspective with more space.
PRESENTATION: Now, Sonic Generations is indeed one of the most innovative and unique platformers I’ve played since New Super Mario Bros Wii–but that doesn’t make it the best. Sure, the game had lots of impressive virtues–its visual perspective between Classic and Modern Sonic was a piece of stellar eye candy, classic levels like Green Hill Zone and Chemical Plant felt rejuvenated and redone, the soundtrack felt joyfully nostalgic, and it served as a great homage towards old-school Sonic gamers as well as a fresh and new installment for new-school Sonic gamers. Now, there were however lots of problems with the game that keep it just inches away from perfection. Modern Sonic’s gameplay was almost the selfsame of the good levels in Unleashed, and often the same Sonic’s 3D perspective would randomly change to 2D for no reason. The abstract, vibrant, and rather psychedelic feel of the game’s vibes felt unfamiliar and rather uncalled for. To add on, beating bosses weren’t very exhilarating and were rather monotonous experiences in my book, and several challenges aren’t even fun. Especially that one where Knuckles digs for coins. Off by a centimeter, and you get nothing. (8.5/10)
VISUALS: Sonic’s classic era is brought back into motion with picturesque visuals that capture the essence of old-school levels in both Classic perspective and Modern perspective. However, frame rate issues sometimes pop up unexpectedly–maybe the skill shop might freeze or whatnot–and the game’s abstract interface is disquieting and perturbing. (9/10)
SOUND: The game’s score is a three-disc romp of nostalgic remixes, and there’s great voice acting and spot-on sound effects. (10/10)
GAMEPLAY: Two Sonics are definitely better than one, which provides two equally immersive sides of Generations to dive into. The different perspectives totally shake up the playing field and make the game more interesting to play in. However, Modern Sonic gameplay is ripped straight from Unleashed, and perspectives often changed without warning. The arcade challenges are good ways to blow off steam, but can get really boring after a while. Especially that one where Knuckles digs for coins. Off by a centimeter and you get nothing. Also, the first boss fight I ever played–which was obviously against the Death Egg–felt generic and repetitive, and soon I was becoming bored and didn’t really care whether or not I won the fight. (8.5/10)
EXTRAS: When you aren’t playing levels or fighting bosses, you can unwind with arcade challenges or check out the Skill Shop. The shop is run by Omochao from Sonic Adventure, and it’s where you can purchase perks like extra lives and start boosts using points you receive after each level. It was a very helpful feat within the game, but felt rather awkward when you could suddenly unleash your goods on a level. Luckily, the game allows you to purchase the Genesis (and controller) so you can play the original Sonic! (8/10)
LASTING APPEAL: In the end, Sonic Generations is a blast in terms of visuals, gameplay, and potential, bringing back nostalgic memories with small but noticeable holes in them. This should be a great experience for Sonic diehards and newcomers alike. I think the Sonic curse has finally been broken, cuz this is the best game for the Blue Blur in a long time. (8.5/10)
FINAL SCORE: I give Sonic Generations 8 1/2 Classic Sonics out of 10, as well as my Sammwak Editor’s Choice Award. Since 8.5 divided by 10 is 85%, I also give Sonic Generations a B.
Well, that’s all for this week! Have a swagnificent summer and be sure to tune in for more awesomeness courtesy of Sammwak!
Video of the Week: Think of every famous pop song from last year. Now mash them together into one epic medley. That’s pretty much how you describe Daniel Kim’s Pop Danthology 2012. It’s a combo of over fifty pop songs from 2012, using vocals from one song and instrumentals from another, all of these sounds mixing together. He put up the video last December and it has over 33 million hits! Luckily, Kim provided annotations for the vocals and instrumentals of each song, so you aren’t confused. Well, what are you waiting for? Listen to this eargasmic jam!