Posts Tagged ‘mini’

The SNES Mini Fills a Nostalgia Gap

OK, wow.

When the Super Nintendo Entertainment System Classic Edition (a mouthful known as the SNES Mini overseas) launched on the last day of September this year, its tiny unassuming shell represented more of a curiosity for me than anything else. Or so I thought. After all, I had owned an NES mini for a brief moment last year, almost purely because it was extremely rare and enveloped in Nintendo hype. I did not, however, play it for very long. The SNES counterpart’s announcement provided a more appealing range of prospective games, to be sure, but even as I placed my preorder there was that nagging voice in the back of my head – “There are so many other new games out. You will barely touch this thing.”

Since its release a week ago, almost every second of my limited home gaming time has been done on the candy-coloured Super Nintendo controller.

My history with the SNES and its games has been more scrapbook than portfolio. I’ll tell anyone who’ll listen that I’m old enough to have grown up with the SNES, but due to spending the first decade of my life in South Africa (living, it must be said, a very fortunate childhood), my introduction to home console games came with the Nintendo 64 in 1999, a year after moving to Australia. When I started this blog almost six years ago the entirety of my Super Nintendo gaming history could be summed up with three portable conversions – the Game Boy Color version of Donkey Kong Country, the Game Boy Advance treatment of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, and fleetingly the GBA port of Yoshi’s Island. Countless nostalgia-tinted SNES tales told by friends over the years painted the picture in my mind’s eye of a true gaming juggernaut, as did similar recounts from gaming personalities all over the internet, but the means and motivation to play Super Nintendo games just didn’t exist for me until the release of the Wii U Virtual Console in 2013.

I can almost pinpoint the exact week my perspective changed, because as luck would have it I posted something on this very site about my first-up thoughts on Super Mario World and Super Metroid upon the launch of the Virtual Console service. Later that year I put several hours into the first-ever official release of Earthbound in Australia – thanks to that same Virtual Console – and over the ensuing years purchased a copy of Chrono Trigger on DS, flirted with a buggy ROM of the GBA version of Final Fantasy VI, discovered the joy of five-player local Super Bomberman shenanigans, played the DS remake of Kirby Super Star and, just last year, delved into Mega Man X. Each new-old experience increased my opinion of the SNES’ remarkable library and so even though I never actually held one of the console’s official controllers until last year’s EB Expo (yes, for real), I was unknowingly priming myself to be utterly ambushed by a product like the SNES Classic Edition.

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Best of 2016: Top 10 K-Pop Albums

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One of the symptoms of the churning waters of 2016 in K-Pop was the comparative evaporation of full album releases from big players in the industry. Whereas every previous year I’ve done this countdown has brought a reliable salvo of well-polished, high-variety SM releases – usually led by f(x) – and a breakout LP or two with strong devotion to a decidedly non-Korean concept – think IU’s Modern Times or Wonder Girls’ REBOOT – 2016 had neither. If your first thought is that this might translate to a bloodbath of competitive mini-albums, you’d be right, as hedging bets seemed to be the name of the game for the big Korean entertainment companies this year. Luckily there were still some real gems spread throughout the year for fans of longer form K-Pop, and you can find my favourites below.

For the purposes of this list a mini-album is a release between four and seven tracks long, while a full album holds eight or more.

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VR BEST OF 2016 DISCLAIMER
This list represents my opinion only. I am not asserting any kind of superiority or self-importance by presenting it as I have. My opinion is not fact. Music is a very personal thing and if you actually agree with me 100%, that’s strange. Fun, but strange. Respectful disagreement is very welcome.

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5. The Velvet – Red Velvet

I’m just such a sucker for clearly defined concepts when it comes to albums of any kind, so Red Velvet’s The Velvet was always going to have a bit of a leg-up in a crowded year for quality K-Pop minis. As a follow-up to last year’s energetic, off-kilter The Red, the idea behind The Velvet is to show off the softer, more conventional side to the quintet that is in theory build into the group’s very identity. And for the most part, it pulls the idea off, with only the robotic rhythm of Cool Hot Sweet Love there to indicate that this is even the same people who did The Red. While some may find the lower tempo and less experimental flavour a bit boring, if the 90s warble of lead track One of These Nights is any indication of the kind of song we’ll get in the future from this half of the Red Velvet discography, I’m in. And that’s before I mention Rose Scent Breeze, the most glorious instance of cheesy, karaoke-friendly ballad goodness I’ve heard in a long time. I have screamed out the chorus of this song on late drives home more times than I care to admit.

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Best of 2015: Top 10 K-Pop Albums

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Another year, another dual-pronged countdown for the uncommon – and much appreciated – K-Pop album fan. If you’re reading this you’re probably either looking for some recommendations to expand your music horizons, or you are in very, very deep with Korean pop music. Sometimes the flashy K-Pop surface singles aren’t what you feel like listening to, and you want to see what weird and wonderful B-sides/album compositions are out there in the K-Pop world.

Well the good news is that 2015 was just as good a year for Korean albums as it was for the MV tracks, and I’m here to give you my opinion on some of the better ones. This time around, you might actually be able to listen to these in full, because 2015 wasn’t just a big year for K-Pop albums in terms of quality, but in terms of accessibility.

That’s right, the advent of Apple Music back in June was a pretty sizeable game-changer for album fans living outside of Korea. Due to the California giant’s insane worldwide reach, most K-Pop releases make it onto iTunes, and that phenomenon translates to Apple Music streaming availability almost one-to-one. So if you have a membership you can now browse the delights and the duds of K-Pop’s longer form to your heart’s content. For real.

As usual the list is split into two top fives – one for Mini Albums (your EPs, basically) and one for Full Albums, which qualify when they contain eight or more tracks (like LPs, yo). Also, there are a couple of albums that would have made this list – Big Bang’s MADE and iKon’s Welcome Back – had their labels not insisted these releases “aren’t complete yet”. So I gave them the benefit of the doubt for next year.

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VR BEST OF 2015 DISCLAIMER
This list represents my opinion only. I am not asserting any kind of superiority or self-importance by presenting it as I have. My opinion is not fact. If you actually agree with me 100%, that’s weird. Cool, but definitely weird. Respectful disagreement is most welcome.
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5. Pink Funky – MAMAMOO

MAMAMOO’s early momentum continued in 2015 with a huge number of individual member collaborations, MV releases and infectiously energetic live performances, and they backed it all up with a strong mini-album that can sit nicely next to their incredible debut EP. The songs plug into MAMAMOO’s duelling styles with panache, leading off with brazen brass loops and Moonbyul hip-hop on Freaking Shoes, sailing through squeaky synths on Um Oh Ah Yeh , syncing up with their flagship retro concept on No No No and then hitting it out of the park on the Sunday afternoon jam Self Camera. Even the comparatively generic ballad A Little Bit and the hook-lite Esna vehicle Ahh Oop! are improved by rounding out this fun sophomore effort.


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Best of 2014: Top 10 K-Pop Albums

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I’m not going to lie – this is a list I do mostly for my own amusement, as I know that K-Pop fans who actually devote the time to listening to albums are kind of scarce. And yet, if you’re reading this, then you are either one of those rare people, or you’re at least curious. In any case, please make yourself at home, sit back and relax as I present to you my ten favourite major album releases in Korean pop music over the course of 2014. In my humble opinion there was a decent amount of good stuff to be found this year.

The list is split into two top fives – one for Mini Albums (essentially EPs) and one for Full Albums, which qualify when they contain eight or more tracks.

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VR BEST OF 2014 DISCLAIMER
This list represents my opinion only. I am not asserting any kind of superiority or self-importance by presenting it as I have. My opinion is not fact. If you actually agree with me 100%, that’s spooky. Respectful disagreement is most welcome.
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5. Holler – TaeTiSeo

I’m sure it isn’t an original expression of opinion to say that the only thing holding up the overall quality of Girls Generation’s non-Japanese album output over the last several years is the work of TaeTiSeo, also known as “What happens when you distill a nine-member group down to its three best / most complementary voices”. Indeed the second album from the SNSD sub-unit is a strong sophomore effort that only falls short of their 2012 debut Twinkle by virtue of having one less track. Holler sees Taeyeon, Tiffany and Seohyun harmonise their way around a handful of vocal showcase songs that push their range and certainly do no harm to the future prospects of these three superstars of Korean pop. The mid-tempo ballads are there, as expected, but Holler also ratchets up the tempo more than Twinkle did, resulting in the highly enjoyable StayEyes and Adrenaline, not to mention a general ‘all seasons’ feel.


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VR Zelda Month: Top 10 Pseudo-Dungeons

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The word “dungeon” means something quite different to a Zelda fan than it does to a player of most any other RPG/action adventure franchise. To the latter, a dungeon might consist of any decently sized enclosed area where enemies are fought and/or puzzles are solved. For a Zelda fan though, a “dungeon” is one of a handful of self-contained areas separate from the game overworld with an obtainable navigational device or two hidden within it, as well as an item that directly furthers the progress of whatever Link happens to be exploring it. It finishes with a boss and that boss relinquishes a heart container. Such is the Zelda dungeon equation.

Other decently sized enclosed areas where enemies are fought and/or puzzles are solved do exist in Zelda games as well, though. Some are entirely optional, others required to move along in the story. The word “mini-dungeon” is often thrown around to describe such places, but I’ve gone for the slightly less used “pseudo-dungeon” for the purposes of this list because some of these entries are actually larger/longer than the average regular dungeon. These are my ten most memorable.

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VR ZELDA MONTH DISCLAIMER
This list represents my opinion only. I am not asserting any kind of superiority or self-importance by presenting it as I have. My opinion is not fact. If you actually agree with me 100%, that’s scary. Respectful disagreement is welcome.
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10. Cave of Ordeals – Twilight Princess

The Cave of Ordeals is the most regularly used defense against the well worn “Twilight Princess is too easy” argument among Zelda fans. Consisting of 50 floors of increasingly more difficult enemies, the desert-bound pit is certainly not for the faint of heart visually speaking and it isn’t exactly a cakewalk either. The grimy cave, found in the TP version of the Gerudo Desert, throws waves of already encountered enemies at you in groups. Even notoriously tough opponents such as Darknuts, who usually only appear by themselves elsewhere in the game, are allowed to gang up on you here. The cave only grants an opportunity for rest and recovery once every ten floors, so it isn’t a bad idea to bring a few potions with you when you attempt the challenge.
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VR Zelda Month: Top 10 Sidequests

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This is the stuff that makes a Zelda game for me. The setting of a Zelda world is little more than a string of dungeons without an overworld to link them all together in a meaningful way, and that overworld is little more than a lifeless husk without people to interact with and things to do within it. If some of those things are optional (and preferably fun), that adds immeasurably to the richness of the world. In my book, one of the worst things a Zelda game can do is make you dread finishing a dungeon because it will just mean heading back to a vacant overworld. Thankfully, not too many of them do.

No self-contained minigames or optional dungeons are eligible for this list, because I’ve given them each their own lists. Because it’s kind of difficult to find icons and official artwork that depict sidequests, I’ve turned to Deviantart for this article’s images. All artists are credited on their respective pictures.

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VR ZELDA MONTH DISCLAIMER
This list represents my opinion only. I am not asserting any kind of superiority or self-importance by presenting it as I have. My opinion is not fact. If you actually agree with me 100%, that’s scary. Respectful disagreement is welcome.
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10. Tingle Island Statues – The Wind Waker

Credit to Aviarei

For all the positive changes that the upcoming Wii U remaster The Wind Waker HD is making to the game, which according to plenty of reviewers makes the experience better than it ever was, there is one small feature that has been cut out entirely: the Tingle Tuner. While this GBA connectivity-focused item was little more than an odd looking souvenir for most of the original Gamecube players of The Wind Waker, for me it was an integral and memorable part of gameplay.

This is because it essentially turned all five of the game’s dungeons (and some of its overworld islands) into co-op levels. If you had a friend (or, in my case, a sister) who was willing to hold a Game Boy Advance and play as Tingle to feed you hints, map information and overpriced items for use in a pinch, the game took on another layer of fun. What’s more, each dungeon hid an otherwise completely unattainable treasure chest containing a golden Tingle Statue, which only appeared when attacked with a GBA-spawned Tingle Bomb. Each statue would appear on Tingle Island with a hint leading to a hidden 100 Rupee treasure chest that could respawn. When I finally get to play The Wind Waker HD next month, I have no doubt that this is what I will miss most.
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VR Zelda Month: Top 10 Minigames

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Much like the Final Fantasy series, The Legend of Zelda has offered up some pretty memorable minigames over the years. Though there has never been anything quite approaching the scale of the Golden Saucer or Blitzball on offer, each of the titles provides a handful of ways to break up the regular pattern of dungeons and enemy slaying, and usually for some kind of worthwhile reward. These are my favourites, not counting enemy fighting trials.

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VR ZELDA MONTH DISCLAIMER
This list represents my opinion only. I am not asserting any kind of superiority or self-importance by presenting it as I have. My opinion is not fact. If you actually agree with me 100%, that’s scary. Respectful disagreement is welcome.
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10. Trendy Game – Link’s Awakening

There is just nothing like a good old fashioned crane arm game, particularly if the grand prize is a Yoshi doll. When the game – and yes, that prize – shows up in a Zelda game no less, you best believe that game is gonna be played until those unforgiving pincers close around that doll’s soft green head. Best. Believe. I suppose the other prizes are cool too, but having that doll achieves much more than just the fulfilment of a weird cross-franchise Nintendo dream. It happens to be the key to one of the lengthiest and most memorable sidequests in Zelda history.
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