Path of Exile Playthrough: Into the Woods…

Greetings Exiles and welcome to another edition of “Games with Coffee!” It’s that time of month again, where I delve back into the dangerous world of Wraeclast. This time, I’m trying to figure out how to unblock the road connecting Lioneye’s Watch to the rest of the mainland, barred thanks to the mysterious Piety… Thankfully, the residents in The Forest Encampment in The Western Forest may have some ideas for me to accomplish that task, but it wouldn’t come cheap; they’ve been having issues with the local bandits, among other things, which require my specific skillset to solve! Let’s dig in:

Master of the Hunt, Tora

I ran into a new Master while exploring my new surroundings and exterminating the local fauna. Her name: Tora, and she is an expert markswoman with a bow and arrow on hand. Naturally, she specializes in creating hunting bows and quivers; perfect for those who favour ranged melee attacks.

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New Master! Woo!

The task she set me on was straightforward: kill the creature inside a den that’s causing havoc on the uncorrupted areas of the forest’s ecosystem. She handed over a magical tracker that I used to find and enter the monster’s lair. Upon entering the Reeking Den, I was accosted by a swarm of serpents, with their mother, a Mutated Adder, calling the shots. Area of Effect spells and skills are the best to deploy in this case!

Defeated Mutated Adder

Check out the spoils! I even got a level up!

As per usual, defeating it gained me some reputation with Tora, and access to her stash back in the Encampment.

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Aw yeah!

Slaying the Great White Beast

Next up, I received a quest from a resident named Yeena to find and slay a White Beast in a cavern to the east. Seems like the poor thing has been treated roughly and has now been causing quite a bit of trouble for the residents at the Encampment. While it was important that its pain be eased for the sake of the villagers, it was also a good thing this came up – Rukhi was looking for a bit of a challenge after the last fight!

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My girl here needs to get stronger…

Entering the sprawling, maze-like lair, I encountered large, bearish monsters, one of which dropped a Silver Coin!

Look, another Silver Coin!

It’s prophecy time when I get back to camp!

Moving on, I soon found myself face to face with the beast. The fight didn’t disappoint: it had high HP and great strength, but it was still no match for Rukhi’s magic! Single target, elemental trap and chaining skills are quite effective for this fight. I even got a chance to test out my new Vaal Detonate Dead Skill Gem – it packs a wallop!

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After returning to camp and informing Yeena of the beast’s passing, she rewards you with a choice of several items, including a Quicksilver Flask! I definitely took that one.

Pro tip: keep some of your flasks, especially if they’re the same size. Trade in three of the same size and you’ll get the next size up! This is highly useful for when you have bunch of flasks in your stash that you want to get rid of – you free up space and get a better flask at the same time! Win-win!

Dealing with the Bandits?

At last, it was time for me to start the much-discussed “Dealing with the Bandits” quest, one of the main quests for Act 2. An old man named Eramir was the guy to talk to for starting this quest. He tasked me to eliminate the three Bandit Lords in the forest: Bandit Lords Oak, Alira and Kraityn. However, I learned that I could also join forces with one of the bandits and take out the other two. Joining forces with one of the Bandit Lords yields a reward based on one of the three central attributes (Strength, Intelligence and Dexterity).

Oak represents Strength and his reward grants life regeneration and physical attack and defense ups. Alira represents Intelligence and her reward grants Mana regeneration, increased resistances and a higher chance to land critical strikes. Finally, Kraityn represents Dexterity and his reward grants increases attack and cast speed, movement speed and evasion. If all three are killed, Eramir will grant you two passive points.

It’s a difficult choice to make, all things considered. Each reward has its pros and cons, but I’ve decided… To leave this as a cliffhanger and let you know what I decided to do in the next playthrough post! Haha!


Currency Watch: Silver Coins

I touched on Silver Coins before, used to generate prophecies from Navali, but did you know you can seal the prophecy and trade that sealed prophecy to another player? If you have a spare Silver Coin, which is an uncommon drop from monsters, crates or Strongboxes, you can use it to seal the prophecy and turn it into an item. This makes for a great bartering tool with players to get some advanced equipment, skills or valuable currencies, like Chaos or Divine Orbs in return for an amazing prophecy! Give it a try when you get the chance!

Looking for Silver Coins or other items? Be sure to check the PoE Items store on the Playerauctions.com website! They have a wide variety of items to choose from at a reasonable cost, and all transactions are safe and secure.

Also, be sure to check some of my other posts on the Playerauctions.com blog – I have a guest post or three you can check out!

Until next time, Exiles, this has been Ryan from “Games with Coffee, wishing you good fortune on the battlefield and, as always, reminding you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing!

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Final Fantasy VII: How the Game and its Protagonist Changed My Life Forever

Good morning and welcome to another edition of “Games with Coffee!” May the delicious brew in your favourite mug give you +1 in both your wakefulness and energy stats!

Today’s topic is a very special one for me: 20 years ago, on September 7, 1997, Final Fantasy VII was released in North America. I don’t need to explain how much of an influence this game had on its release; from graphics, to story, to cinematics and gameplay, you can argue that this installment revolutionized and popularized the RPG genre for years to come.

For me though, my love affair with this game and the series started roughly two months after its release. November, in the year 1997 was when I rented and first played Final Fantasy VII. I still remember it like it was yesterday…

(Oh, by the way, MAJOR spoilers for the plot of Final Fantasy VII)


The neighbourhood where I grew up in was still in development in 1997, with the suburban sprawl ever creeping up northward into the farmlands. In the year before, a brand new strip mall opened up, which was a ten minute walk from my home. It had the usual stuff, like a grocery store, a dollar store, some fast food joints and other small retailers, but what made it different was an independent video rental store called “Ambassador Video,” where an enormous selection of movies, music and video games were available to rent. Now, this video store was replaced by a sports bar sometime in the early-2000’s, but at the time, it was THE place to be at for a kid.

On a cold Friday night in November 1997, my parents let my brother and I rent a video game as a reward for doing well in school that week. The two of us argued for a few minutes about which game we were going to take home, before settling on Final Fantasy VII. The moment we got home, we booted it up and were blown away at how amazing it looked.

The first thing about FFVII that differentiated it from games that I played previously was how it started. No tutorial level, no sitting down with the King and him explaining your quest and no cheerful, happy environment. I was instead thrust into the action in a dark, gritty metropolis, my character jumping off of a train and beating down soldiers armed with machine guns with his giant sword. Following a man with a gun for an arm up the stairs leading to the surface, the spiky-haired individual spoke to a group of three people, huddled in front of a large metal door. The one in the headband asked for his name. His response, in a cool, collected tone:

“…Cloud.”

And it was all it took for ten year old me to declare that he was the coolest dude in the universe.

Image result for cloud strife

Seriously, spiky hair, giant-ass sword AND badass demeanor? Triple threat right there, folks (Image from Final Fantasy Wiki)

 


Cloud was the kind of guy I wanted to grow up to be. He was strong, cool and calm under pressure. He was so confidant in himself, even when things were going downhill for him and the gang and he was also determined to find and defeat Sephiroth, his hero turned mortal enemy. There were days during the dark times I was being bullied and made fun of for being so different, that I thought, “Man, I wish I could be like Cloud… He wouldn’t have put up with this.” But my perception of the hero changed after I experienced, what I believed were, the two most pivotal points in the game.

Here’s a question to throw at you guys: Do you remember where you were when you played through Aerith’s death? I was sitting in the living room with my brother on a summer night, our parents were out at a party and he and I were going through the City of the Ancients, hunting down Aerith. When Cloud and the gang caught up with her, I thought “Yeah, this is good, everything is good!” I didn’t expect what happened next.

Suddenly, we saw Cloud draw his sword and I started to freak out a little bit. Here he was, spazzing out, slowly approaching the flower girl with sword in hand and no matter what I did with the controls, I couldn’t get Cloud to stop. The same thing happened at the Temple of the Ancients, but I thought it was a one-off (or two-off?) deal. It took a while to understand, but after Sephiroth murdered Aerith in cold blood, I realized the hero that I idolized wasn’t who I thought he was. He did nothing, couldn’t do anything because, like JENOVA said to him after the battle; he’s a puppet controlled by Sephiroth.

Fun fact: I died immediately at the hands of JENOVA: LIFE. I had the controller in my hand but couldn’t do a damn thing about anything; Aerith was gone, Cloud was no hero, Sephiroth was winning and I didn’t understand it. I actually stopped playing for a week until I mustered up the courage to redo that dreadful event, beat the boss, watch the impromptu funeral and continue on to the next bombshell: that Cloud really wasn’t “Cloud” after all; his memories of all of the defining moments of his past, including the incident five years ago and him being a SOLDIER, were are all screwed up.

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And after that reveal, he went and gave his mortal enemy the key to their destruction. Dick move, Cloud.

Cloud redeemed himself in my eyes after Tifa, his childhood friend, dug up the truth of the events that occurred five years ago, while she and Cloud were both in the Lifestream. The reason why Cloud wanted to be in SOLDIER, was to be noticed by others, particularly by her. He was always alone, had no friends growing up and was always picked on for being different. He thought himself weak, that he could never belong because he never liked his fellow peers and was always looking to prove himself both to the villagers, who looked down on him, and to Tifa, whom he harboured a major crush for. In essence, the true Cloud was exactly like me; I was also alone, had very little friends growing up, was weak, disliked the people around me and was picked on for being so weird and different. Because of that, I felt that I related to him more than any other character in any story I’ve read or video game I’ve played.

In truth, Cloud never made it into SOLDIER – he was just an infantryman, a weakling, in his own words. But that same “weakling” took on and fought off the greatest and most powerful swordsman the world had ever seen, was subjected to brutal experiments that included having alien matter injected into his body, suffered a major identity crisis thanks to said alien matter, was poisoned twice (the first during the experiments, the second after giving Sephiroth the Black Materia) AND through all of that, he regained his sanity, defeated his nemesis (for the second time, I might add) and saved the world with his companions. I realized then that Cloud Strife wasn’t cool because he was strong and tough, he was cool because he survived the ordeals of his past and rose above it. It showed that I could do the same; that I could rise above the teasing about how odd I was and my own weakness and be better.


When I first rented the game, consoles like the Playstation never had those fancy, internal hard drive storage to save our games on; we had to rely on old-school storage devices called “Memory Cards,” which were bought separately from the console. My parents wouldn’t have known that a Memory Card was required to save the games; they thought it would be saved directly on the console itself. So, during the course of the seven day rental period, I played the beginning part of Final Fantasy VII over and over again. When I died and got Game Over, I didn’t mind because I got to experience the awesomeness of Cloud and the gang once more from the very start. The farthest I ever got without a Memory Card was rescuing Aerith (Aeris?) and seeing the horror of a headless Jenova in the Shinra Building and it took me a whole day to get to that point, after dying and restarting several times.

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This headless thing, along with the spooky “Who Are You?” theme playing during this sequence, freaked me right the hell out as a kid. It still does to this day… Scary… (Image from Final Fantasy Wiki)

My dad finally asked me on the last day before the rental period was up why I kept starting from the beginning after noticing the “Continue” option on the title screen and I told him I can’t save the game because I had no Memory Card!

And so my mom went to the store that very same day and bought me my very first Memory Card.

After several months of on and off renting, we finally got a copy of the game for ourselves, which we picked up at a flea market. Too bad though that we bought a lemon of a game; the third disc was so heavily scratched that the game would end up being unplayable at some points. To top it all off, my little brother was kind of an idiot and sold off our “Chocobo Lure” Materia by accident late in our adventure and saved the game, meaning no Gold Chocobo to pick up Knights of the Round and no easy way to defeat the Ruby and Emerald Weapons. I still pick on him to this day about it.

In fact, the music of Final Fantasy, particularly VII, was one of the main reasons my brother and I became close to one another. Back then, we were always at each other’s throats; he was the favourite and I was the oddball, so we didn’t get along well. Over time though, thanks to a growing love of RPG’s, the music behind them and both of us being exposed to band class (we’re both kind of musically inclined), we bonded. About five or six years ago, I took him to the Final Fantasy: Distant Worlds concert in downtown Toronto and it’s one of the my most cherished memories.

If you read my previous post, you’ll know that I’m writing a fanfic using the FF VII plot as its backbone, which I’ve been working on for the last ten plus years. It’s an ongoing love letter to the game, to be honest. On top of that, I picked up two collectible figures: one of Cloud with the hardy-Daytona bike, before he modified it to the Fenrir, and another of Cloud in his Advent Children outfit.

20 years later, the story of Final Fantasy VII, its complex cast of characters, its themes of life and overcoming your past and its music are still a reflection of who I am as a person. Despite playing the other games in the Final Fantasy series over the years, VII was still the game that had the most impact. I can count on both hands the number of times my wife has rolled her eyes at me whenever I talk about Cloud or Final Fantasy in general – she knows all too well about my obsession with the series. I definitely think that this game has been an incredibly positive influence on me, and with the upcoming remake being released soon, I can’t wait to dive back in and experience it all over again.


And that’s it for today’s edition! Any fond memories of Final Fantasy VII or any other installments of the series? Let me know in the comments below! Stay tuned for the next edition, where I’m back to Path of Exile, along with hardware and gaming reviews, just in time for the holidays!

With that, this has been Ryan from “Games with Coffee,” reminding you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing!

“The Quest:” Practicing Writing Through Fanfiction and Using NaNoWriMo as Motivation to Write!

Good morning and welcome to another edition of “Games with Coffee!” How is everyone today?

As you may or may not know, November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo): the annual event where writers from all over write a minimum 50,000 word novel in one month. It’s a pretty big deal, since it motivates people to get off of their butts and start writing, instead of thinking about writing something, but not doing anything about it.

Why am I mentioning this? Well, one of my goals in my Quest to be a better person this year was to improve my writing with the determination to fulfill one of my biggest life goals; to write and publish my own original story. While I’ve made a lot of progress on it this year by building a world, a loose timeline of events, some character development and a plot structure, I’m probably a year or two away from starting to put it all together. A lot of my progress was possible thanks to all the practice I’ve done writing fanfiction, which (as I may have mentioned this once or twice in previous posts) I’ve been doing ever since I was a kid. The biggest problem I have, however, is the fact that I’ve been unable to properly finish a story that I’ve started, whether it was an original story or fanfiction. Most times, I’d start, only to give up after the first few sentences and scrap the story. Other times though, I got pretty far into it, but my endings were terrible. However, there’s one story right now that I’m determined on finishing: a fanfic that crosses the universes of Final Fantasy VII and Sonic the Hedgehog, which I’m using mostly as a practice board for the real thing when I get to it.

Now, the operative thought you may have here may be; “A crossover fanfic!? What in hell’s name are you talking about?!” But seriously, here me out for a second; it may not be as far-fetched as you think!


Ten years ago, I got bored with studying advanced mechanical dynamics for my engineering degree, so I started writing character comparisons between the personalities of Sonic the Hedgehog and Zack Fair and Miles “Tails” Prower and Cloud Strife (from the Sonic the Hedgehog and Final Fantasy VII games respectively) after noticing similarities between them. As I delved deeper, I noticed a lot of things in both games/series somewhat coincided with one another. Examples include:

  • FF VII’s ‘Materia’ system consists of the five common types of Materia (Green, Red, Blue, Purple and Yellow), along with the rare White and Black Materia, which makes seven. Know seven other multicolored gems that fit that profile? Chaos Emeralds.
  • Robotnik’s (Eggman’s) desire for world conquest is analogous to Shinra’s naked ambition for world domination. Both achieve this through scientific means; genetic, robotic or otherwise.
  • In the Sonic comic series published by Archie Comics, several issues speak of a gold-silver substance called “The Source of All,” which is a form of spirit energy used to create life in the Sonic universe and which also has a link to the Chaos Emeralds and Power Rings in that canon. A similar link exists between the Lifestream, Mako and Materia in FF VII.
  • Finally, in the Sonic Archie Comic canon, prior to the start of the war between the Freedom Fighters and Robotnik, the Power Rings, created by an object called a “Ring Forge,” allowed the Mobian race to rapidly move from a primitive, medieval age to a hyper-advanced golden age. The same can be said about the Shinra Company’s discovery of Mako and the subsequent construction of Midgar leading to an age of advancement and prosperity thanks to cheap energy.

Using what I’ve found, I expanded on the initial comparison and eventually created an alternate Sonic universe, combining the story elements from the games and the Archie Sonic comic book universe canon with Final Fantasy VII’s plot as its backbone. I published portions of the first installment (out of six or seven!) on the Fanfiction.net website (My pen name’s Zonic Warrior-STH) – one of the largest sources of online fanfiction.

Six years later, I started rewriting the story, partially due to some harsh, yet constructive criticism, partially due to paying attention to how other author’s structure their stories and mostly because I hated how the original sounded. I mean, I read it out loud once and I cringed at how terrible it sounded…

So, for the rewrite, I decided to change my approach to writing. I started taking notes on what to write in terms of narrative and character dialogue relative to the backbone of the plot. I did even more research into FF VII’s plot and the world encompassing both the Sonic games and comics and continued to note things that sort of matched between the two and things that would need to be modified to fit the narrative that I wanted to portray. I studied both action and dramatic scenes in movies, TV shows and other games and wrote what it would look like in a book. And finally, using those same mediums, I tried to interpret how the dialogue and narrative would play out in scenes and how to describe in detail the present setting and character’s body language to better form an image in a reader’s mind. These strategies proved valuable both for developing the fanfic and eventually my original writing; in fact, just this June, I finished all the rough notes for the fanfic, which would make finishing this thing much easier, while I use note-taking apps like Google Keep, on a day-to-day basis to jot down and organize my plot, dialogue and action scenes for my own personal work.


I’m determined to finish this thing, more as a way to prove to myself that I can actually and properly finish a story. That’s why I’m using NaNoWriMo as motivation to finishing it. By scheduling time every day in November to write a few hundred, even a thousand words, I’ll be much more closer to finishing this thing than any other point before.

So far, as of writing… I haven’t gotten too much done, sadly; I barely hit 20% of the goal. But there’s still just under half a month left – I got time and resources (Thanks Google Docs!) on my side! And even if I don’t make 50,000, I would have done more now than I have in the past, which is something I can be proud of.

If you want to take a peek at my writing style or get a better idea of what the story’s about, check it out here. Bear in mind that I’ll be revising the hell out whatever you’ll be reading when I finish writing the whole thing, but still, let me know what you think. I’m always open to constructive criticism.

Stay tuned for the next edition, because I’m not done with November just yet! This month will mark twenty years that I first played Final Fantasy VII, the game that made a HUGE influence in my life. That will likely show up at the end of the month. Also coming up soon, I’m going to talk about some hardware I picked up a while ago, how to use a gaming mouse for work purposes and two more Espresso Shot Reviews!

This has been Ryan from Games with Coffee, getting back to work on writing this beast of a story and always reminding you, dear reader, to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing!

Espresso Shot Review: Golden Axe

Good morning, and welcome to another edition of “Games with Coffee.” It’s Espresso Shot Review time! Today, I’m looking at Golden Axe for the Sega Genesis – a game I’ve never even played before, surprisingly enough. I was introduced to it from a guest review on The Well-Red Mage’s blog and I decided to look into it myself. How did it fare in my eyes? Read on and find out!


Introduction

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Golden Axe is a side-scrolling, beat-em-up/ hack-and-slash action game. First introduced in 1989 in arcades, it was ported to the Sega Genesis (or Megadrive) and Master System of that same year. It’s been a part of several compilation titles, such as the SEGA Smash Pack and Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection and is presently part of the SEGA Forever collection of free, mobile titles available on iOS and Android.

Story

Taking place in the Conan the Barbarian-inspired land of Yuria, Golden Axe tells the story of three warriors who are tasked to save the King of the realm, his daughter and the titular Golden Axe from the Death Adder – A powerful warlord who threatens to kill the royal family and break the axe unless the people in the kingdom acknowledge him as their ruler. Each warrior however has their own motivations for defeating the Death Adder beyond saving the king and his daughter; Ax-Battler, the barbarian who wields a sword and Earth magic, seeks vengeance for his mother’s death. Gilius Thunderhead, an axe-wielding dwarf from the mines who uses Thunder magic wants the Adder’s head after his twin brother was killed by his henchmen. Finally, Tyris Flare, an Amazon warrior who specializes in longswords and Fire magic, will stop at nothing to pay back the Death Adder for the death of her parents.

It’s a pretty simple story that’s common for this era of gaming, but its nice to see that the characters also have their own reasons for fighting; it makes them look less one-dimensional and allows the player to empathize to their situation.

One complaint I have is that the in-game story doesn’t exactly match what’s listed in the instruction manual. In game, each character mentions that their friend, Alex, died in battle and that they will avenge him while saving the land. I would much rather have the game narrative to stick to the “avenging the death of loved ones,” plot instead of avenging some random dude named Alex.

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Who is this “Alex” you speak of, Battler? Aren’t you supposed to be avenging your mother?

Gameplay

Controls are simple in Golden Axe. The directional buttons move the character, the A button activates magic, the B button makes the character attack and the C button is the jump button. In addition, there are several moves that can be useful as you traverse the game. You can hit an enemy multiple times by mashing the B button, but it leaves you open from behind. If you’re in close while rapidly tapping B, you’ll pick up and throw the enemy, good for giving you some space when you’re surrounded. Double tapping left or right makes the character break into a run; hitting B while running initiates a dash attack, useful for getting the drop on an enemy. You can also use aerial attacks by jumping and hitting B while in midair. Doing a jump attack while running yields a more powerful attack that can one-shot or severely damage enemies, but it’s a bit tricky to pull off. Finally, you can use a powerful reversal attack by hitting B and C together, but it’s  hard to connect and leaves you open if you don’t.

In terms of gameplay, Ax-Battler is the most balanced in terms of strength, movement and magic, Gilius has great strength and speed but lacks in magic and Tyris’ strength lies in her magic, but lacks in physical strength and reach compared to the other two.

Each character’s magic meter has a different maximum level. Gilius maxes out at three, Ax-Battler maxes at four and Tyris maxes at six. Each level corresponds to the strength of the magic used, so, while it’s easy to max out Gilius’ magic, his strongest spell is much weaker compared to Tyris’ strongest spell. an awesome fire-breathing dragon used when her magic meter is at level six. To use magic, you’ll need to collect blue pots, which are only dropped by bag-carrying Thieves. You’ll have to smack them a few times to get the pots. You’ll sometimes run into these guys as you progress through each level, but at the end of each level you’ll enter a bonus round where you battle with at least one Blue Thief and sometimes a Green Thief who drops meat, which restores one bar of your character’s health.

Golden Axe (W) (REV 00) [!]_012

Hey! Give those back!

There are seven types of enemies, including boss characters, to be wary of, from henchmen who use maces and clubs to axe-wielding Amazonian women, skeletons who use swords and shields, giants wielding hammers and powerful, armoured knights. You can easily tell the difference in how strong they are based on their colour pallet.

They might not seem like much at first glance, but it’s advised to avoid being surrounded, because even the weakest of enemies can overpower you when they’re coming in from both sides, which happened to me quite often and resulted in me losing a lot of life. I would have liked the reversal attack to be easier to connect so I could get out of those jams without being overwhelmed. I also found that the enemies were a bit bland at times and I would have liked to see some more variety. I compare this to the TMNT 2: the Arcade Game port for the NES, where there were a TON of different flavours of enemies to fight against. I do like how the giants wielding hammers laugh at you when you’re knocked down.

Golden Axe (W) (REV 00) [!]_002

Quit laughing at me, you bastard…

Boss fights either pit you against a gauntlet of enemies, or you fight against the Death Adder himself at the very end. What’s interesting is that for the home console version of the game, they added two extra levels and a new final boss – the Death Bringer, mentor to the Death Adder.

Another feature that made the game interesting is the use of creatures as steeds. Enemies usually ride these, but they can be easily knocked off with a well-placed kick. There are two types of rideable creatures – a Chicken Legs who attacks by swiping its tail or a Dragon who can either spit fireballs or breathe a jet of fire that incinerates your foes. The creatures are really fun to use, but if you are dismounted more than three times, it runs away. A minor annoyance, but it’s fair; the creatures would have made it all to easy to beat the game.

Speaking of which, the difficulty is not too bad compared to other beat-em-ups, which is a good thing because it allows for anyone to pick up and play it without becoming too frustrated. It’s also pretty short, at about eight levels, meaning it won’t take more than a few hours to fully complete it.

Visuals

While the graphics are dated, for a game that’s almost 30 years old, they aren’t that bad looking. The playable character sprites have a fair amount of detail in them and their animations are pretty fluid.

I do like the environments, they really elicit a medieval-fantasy like feel.  I also like how there’s a day to night transition right before a boss fight, it makes the game feel more alive and the stakes more dire.

Golden Axe (W) (REV 00) [!]_005.jpg

Sunset Showdown!

In stage 4, your battles take place on the back of a giant eagle, which I though was pretty cool! Though, I had to wonder, “How does a pathway exist on an eagle?” Also, “Why are there skeletons burrowed in this poor eagle’s back?”  It somewhat didn’t make sense, but hey, who am I to complain?

Golden Axe (W) (REV 00) [!]_006

That must take some serious pruning to maintain…

I didn’t like how some of the enemies looked; again, they looked a bit bland, but from the animation standpoint, at least they didn’t move as blocky as they looked.

Sound

I found the music and sound effects to be a bit on the tinny side, but still enjoyable nonetheless. Stage 1’s music really set the tone for the game – it gave off an “I’m storming your stronghold and taking you down, if it’s the last thing I do!” kind of feel, which was pretty rad.

The death screams were somewhat hilarious, but they started to grate on me a little bit, especially after hearing my character die again and again (Beat-em ups aren’t my specialty). It didn’t stop me from enjoying the game though!

Replayability

With three characters to play as and each differing in magic, reach and speed, there are some opportunities to replay the game. The story doesn’t change for each character however – it’s still the same.

On top of the arcade mode, which you can play with two people, there is a Beginner mode, consisting of the first three stages with easier enemies, perfect for those who are either new to the series or need a refresher on how to play. Also, there is The Duel mode, where each round pits you against different types of enemies and the goal is to survive for twelve rounds. Each duel is also timed – if you don’t win in the allotted time, you lose one bar of energy.

It’s quite challenging, considering the fact that you can’t use magic at all in this mode; you’ll have to focus on weapon skills if you are to succeed. If you’re playing with two players in The Duel mode, you fight against each other instead.

Conclusion

Golden Axe’s cast of characters, use of powerful magic and rideable creatures help make the game stand out over many others in the genre. But the low variety in opponents and their blandness, coupled with the fact that it’s easy to become surrounded and a lack of a proper reversal technique hurt it in the long run. Nevertheless, it’s still a fun game to pick up and play, especially for two people!

3.5 out of 5

3.5 out of 5

Beginner’s Mindset, Failing Forward and Starting Over: How They Relate To Gaming and Real Life

Good morning and welcome to another edition of “Games with Coffee!” May today reflect the contents of your mug: filled to the brim with hot, delicious goodness!

Today, I’m going to talk about having a beginner’s mindset, failing forward and starting over. I want to talk about these because several situations have happened at my (now former) place of employment that I could have avoided if I took those three things seriously. Don’t worry though, I do have a new job lined up and I talk about it in this post.

I also feel that it’s important for mature, distinguished gamers to keep these three things in mind, whether you’re crushing it in the office, in front of the TV/PC/Handheld, etc. or wherever you are. With that said, let’s get started.


Beginner’s Mindset

Whether it’s in real life or video games, being an expert at something feels amazing. If you’re not careful though, it can really get to your head. You might either stop learning from or listening to others who are willing to teach you because you consider yourself such an expert at things, and that can cause lots of problems. I say this because that’s what happened to me at my old job. I thought I was the best at what I do, but it took two bad summers, several little mistakes that grew into huge problems and flat out pride to cut me down to size. I’m kinda glad that it happened, to be perfectly honest, because it got me to rethink what I really wanted to do with my engineering career and, after speaking with friends, family and career specialists, I’ve left my old job and am starting in a new, totally different direction in my career. I wanted to go into this new opportunity with a different mindset than I had previously; I already knew I was no expert, so I’m going to do the opposite – I’ll adopt a beginner’s mindset.

I learned about the beginner’s mindset idea after listening to an audiobook about Mindfulness by Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of the Mindfulness movement. Beginner’s mindset is one of the several behaviours he explains helps a person become more mindful of their surroundings and it was his explanation of it that inspired me to adopt it for myself.

Having a beginner’s mindset doesn’t mean to forget all that you know; it means to let go of the notion that you’re an almighty expert and to accept the fact that there’s always something more to learn in your field by listening and learning from those who are either more experienced, or from those who have a completely different perspective on the subject you’re learning about. Being an expert is good for several things but it limits your mind and makes you think that you know everything when you don’t. To have a beginner’s mindset is to embrace learning as an ongoing thing.

This doesn’t have to be limited to real life – it also applies to gaming as well. Take for example fighting and racing games; you can always try out new tactics you’ve learned from other players in versus mode and understand your character’s or opponent’s moves  better through the practice mode. In racing games you can shave off your best time and understand the track mechanics in Time Attack/Time Trial mode, or even go through the tutorial modes to brush up on and explore driving techniques you’d never think of using before.

On top of that, having a beginner’s mindset also means continually going back to basics, which can encompass many things, such as reviewing proper communication protocols between clients and colleagues, relearning how to take effective notes and regurgitating them when the situation calls for them and ensuring that checks and balances are in place to catch mistakes. In gaming, it can also mean going through basic controls and movesets, reviewing basic strategy, understanding strengths and weaknesses of things like weapons, armour or elements, playing through the tutorial levels a couple of times as a refresher or even re-reading the game’s instruction manual. Those are but a few examples; there are many more situations that can apply here.

You might be saying now, “What’s the point in all this?” Well, I look at it this way: Sometimes, after a situation in game, at work or home, or wherever has long happened, I’ll come across something so basic and obvious that I overlooked earlier and I think “Man, if I had paid attention to this basic thing earlier, I could’ve avoided that messed-up situation I encountered at home/work/in the game I’m playing. But now that I’ve reviewed it and better understand how to apply it, I’ll be ready for when that same or similar situation happens next time!” Reviewing the basics while maintaining a beginner’s mindset is something that I encourage everyone to do, whether it’s in the real world or in video games. It may help to raise your awareness of things that you may have overlooked.

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Listen to ROB64! Always practice the basics!

Sometimes though, all your best efforts will result in failure, but it’s never a bad thing. If there’s two things I learned after leaving at my last job, it’s that you should never be afraid of failure and that it’s never too late to start over.

Failing Forward and Starting Over

In a job interview I had recently, one of the questions my interviewer asked me was if I would be OK with starting over. This question was a follow up after they asked me what kinds of mistakes I made at work, whether recent or not.

Here, I sort of panicked. Job Interview 101 made me think: “What mistakes do I mention that won’t make me look bad but were negligible compared to the overall completion of the project?” So I started with something that happened some time ago in one of my first positions in my career. The fact that I don’t remember what I said now was a testament to how lame my initial answer was. So, in a moment of honesty, and trusting my instincts (Thanks Peppy), I revealed that I recently (like in the last two months) made a major design error which required me to go to the construction site, review how much work was already done with the incorrect design, return to the office to correct it and resend it back to the mechanical contractors to fix, causing a huge inconvenience for everyone involved and an resulting back charge to our company for the extra work. When the follow up was asked, I took no time in answering yes, that I would be willing to start over and relearn everything if it meant that I would succeed in my new role.

I pondered over those two questions after reading the offer letter in my inbox. To honestly admit some of my greatest mistakes was a difficult thing for me to do. I imagine it’s the same for many people but for me it’s nearly crippling; I tend to beat myself up, agonize and criticize myself over my mistakes and failures, to the point where it sometimes becomes destructive to my self-esteem, causing me to make further mistakes. It’s become a real problem for me which I’m slowly working to get better on with the help of some coaching and self reflection and learning how to really let go of my fear of failure.

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Me, running from my failures. (Image from Giphy)

Admitting my failures out loud, even to a potential employer, ended up being therapeutic for me and it allowed me to really examine what I’ve done and come up with a way to make sure these mistakes don’t repeat themselves. Even as I speak, I’m coming up with new ways to identify and learn from my mistakes, whether it’s through building checklists and logs or (my favourite option) performing a post mortem/lessons learned report to review what went well and what didn’t, along with ways to change my thinking whenever I do fail. What really surprised me was that after I mentioned that blunder in the interview, I still ended up getting the job. It felt like I was given a second chance to prove myself, even though it’s with a new company rather than the current one I’m was in before now.

With this in mind, along with a beginner’s mindset, I’m also going into this new opportunity with the notion to fail forward. That means reviewing the failures I’ve made and will continue making along the way in a nonjudgmental way, give myself the opportunity to learn from them, why they happened and reduce the likelihood of a repeat happening.

“But how does this all relate to gaming?” you ask, as you roll your eyes at my boring work story. Well, in platforming games, like Super Mario Bros. or Sonic the Hedgehog, you always have extra lives to use in case you die mid-level. However, if you really think about the mechanics of platformers and about how tricky they can be at times, when you lose a life, it gives you an opportunity to review and learn from your mistake. You can either perfect your timing, adjust the height and length of your jump to that difficult platform, or save that power-up for before you meet that tough enemy on your run instead of after, to name a few examples. In RPG’s, like Final Fantasy, you have the Save Point; a restore point where you can return if you lose your fight. It’s a great opportunity to either retool your characters’ weapons, armour or magic or refine your battle strategy when everything goes south and your characters fall in battle. Video games essentially teach a person to fail forward; make the failure, analyze and understand why it happened, try again with a new solution and repeat until success is found.

In real life though, you don’t always get extra lives or Save Points to retry from, but you’ll still get the opportunity to learn from your failures. Failing doesn’t mean that your less of a person or that you’re not good at what your doing (which were things that I had to come to terms with), it just means that you’re learning the right things for the next time that scenario comes forward again. As someone once told me, you got to fail your way toward success, and these days, I feel like video games do a good job in teaching that, I just never paid attention. Either way the moral of the story is: Fail forward and fail often.

Sometimes though, you can fail so hard at a job, in a relationship or in a game, that you’d think to yourself, “Man, I’d love to do that over again… I would have approached it differently/said something that fixed things, etc..”  There have been many times where I wished that I could start over and approach things from a different perspective.

In gaming, we have the reset button; used to either start from a save point or from the very beginning.  Resetting a game allows us an opportunity to choose a different approach to an in-game situation vs. the choice made prior to the reset. For instance, you can do that side-quest differently and receive an alternative reward that may be better than the one you first got, you could use a different strategy to take on a tough boss, take a different path that may be an easier way through than the one you were on before, or even choose a different response to an NPC you spoke to earlier to elicit easier or more favorable conditions for your journey.

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If at first you don’t succeed, reset and try again. (Image from Giphy)

Life, unfortunately, doesn’t really give a person a reset button to fix their current situation, but it’s the lessons you learn in those situations that you can apply when you do decide to start over, whether it’s in the same, or in a different direction altogether.


So, there you have it. Have you adopted a beginner’s mindset? Ever struggled with failure? Started over somewhere? Let me know in the comments below!

Stay tuned for the next edition, because I’m doing an Espresso Shot Review on the game, Golden Axe! Also coming up, I’ll be talking about a fanfiction that I’ve been writing and using the NaNoWriMo challenge to motivate me into finishing it, how using a gaming mouse at work may lead to increased efficiency and a brand-new gaming keyboard that I picked up from Amazon to replace my laptop’s faulty one.

Until next time, this has been Ryan from “Games with Coffee,” reminding you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing! 

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this post are of my own and neither reflect the views of company I am currently employed for, nor the views of my former place of employment. 

Path of Exile Play-Through: Finally at Act 2!

Good morning and welcome to another edition of “Games with Coffee!”

After a long time, I finally got a chance to continue playing Path of Exile. Long story short, I’ve made it to Act 2! It’s about time I got here, but I’ll tell you, it wasn’t easy.

Today, I’ll talk about Merveil, the final boss of Act 1, reaching The Forest Encampment in Act 2 and a few items and currencies that I found interesting.

The Vengeful Siren, Merveil

After clearing The Ship’s Graveyard, I entered the caverns where Merveil, a siren who spelt the doom of many a sailor, dwelled. According to the townfolk, the only way to get through to the Western Forest (at this point blocked off thanks to Piety…) is from Merveil’s lair at the very end of the caverns. Defeating her would open a new path and take care of a serious thorn in the side of many exiles living in Lioneye’s Watch. Like killing two birds with one stone!

Getting to Merveil isn’t easy though; throughout the cavern, I ran into tons of enemies dealing cold damage. Thankfully, I equipped a Sapphire Ring to increase my cold resistances; otherwise, I’d have had a tough time going through here. If that was enough, I also had to contend with Merveil’s daughters – powerful siren enemies each wielding a different element. One of those daughters was encased in ice, thanks to a currency item called the “Whispering Essence of Contempt.” I’ll talk about that one later.

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Jeez Louise, look at those buffs…

Once I finally reached the end of the cavern, I opened a portal scroll back to town so I could dump a few items from my inventory into my stash. I talked to Nessa and, hearing that I was going to take on Merveil, gave me a free skill gem to help me out! Nice! She gave me a choice between Ice Nova, Firestorm and Arc, among others. If you’re using a Witch and don’t have the Firestorm spell, get it – it’s very useful, especially if you add a Chance to Ignite support on it! I already had Firestorm in my possession, so I took Arc instead.

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Sweet! New Skills!

Returning to the cavern, I made sure that I was ready – my equipment and gems were set, my flasks were full and my fingers were hovering over all of my spells, totems and traps. I was good to go.

The fight against Merveil happens in two stages. In the first stage, she’s all over the place, throwing ethereal blades around and causing all kinds of chaos. My advice would be to stay away and pummel her with ranged attacks. If you got good armour and melee skills, then get up close and personal with her, but since my witch lacks in the defense department, I stuck to my spells; Firestorm, combined with Fireball and Fire Traps made for an effective strategy.

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Ehh… Did I come at a bad time? Seems like she’s got some love issues…

The real fight started after I finished off her first form. Transforming into Merveil the Twisted, she let loose with punishing cyclones and sent minions to chip away at my health. I have to say, if it wasn’t for my Devouring Totem skill that I picked up in a Jeweller’s Strongbox sometime ago, I probably would have been dead. In the end, dodging the cyclones, using area of effect skills combined with support gems and being persistent are all the advice I can give to defeat her. Beyond that, you may want to grind and gain a level or two if you’re still struggling.

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I love the smell of napalm in the morning!

Defeating her opens the exit to the Western Forest and the start of Act 2! I traveled northward, taking on hordes of Blood Apes before reaching the next town, The Forest Encampment, where I mingled with the residents, gaining important quests to further my adventure. I’ll talk about these in the next post.

Item/Currency Spotlight

I mentioned that one of Merveil’s daughters was trapped in ice before I took her on and defeated her. Her imprisonment was caused by a currency called an Essence, introduced in the Essence League some time ago.

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Essences are no joke: check out the first image of this post and you’ll see why.

Essences power up monsters, giving them several buffs and making them much tougher to defeat in battle. When you do defeat an enemy empowered by the Essence, they leave it behind for you to use. The Essence I obtained, the “Whispering Essence of Contempt,” transforms a normal weapon or armour into a magic item and bestows a given property (namely, additional physical damage) to the item. I haven’t found much use for it as of yet (since all my equipment is either magic or rare), but it could be useful if you obtain it early, when there’s not many rare items to find yet.

I do want to talk about Totems really quickly: these are useful skill gems to have. A totem skill creates an effigy that aids you in battle either by providing a buff or special effect while it’s active or by using a skill for you. If you find a “Devouring Totem” skill, I highly recommend using it – you’ll be consistently surrounded by groups and the totem will help restore health as you mow down the crowds.


Looking for some of the aforementioned items? Be sure to check out the Path of Exile Items store at Playerauctions.com: they have a wide selection at a reasonable cost, and all transactions are safe and secure.

Hope you enjoyed today’s play-through post! Stay tuned for the next play-through coming up real soon!

For now, this has been Ryan from “Games with Coffee,” wishing you Exiles good fortune on the battlefield and reminding you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing!

 

A Quick List of Great, Halloween-inspired Video Game Tunes!

Good morning boils and ghouls and welcome to another edition of “Games with Coffee.” Happy Halloween!

Whether you’re going to a costume party, handing out candy or trick-or-treating yourself, it always helps to have some tunes prepared to get you into the right mood. With that, I thought I’d share a quick list of Halloween inspired video game tunes to set your day off right! Let’s get into it!


Silent Hill – Main Theme

I’ll be honest – I’ve never played Silent Hill. (Don’t judge me!). Horror games aren’t really my thing, but I love playing the main theme for the game come Halloween time. It hits all the right notes; it’s creepy and eerie and makes me think “Oh man, I’m gonna wet myself if I enter this town, aren’t I?” … Not that I do, I’m a lot more braver than that, but still…

Final Fantasy VII – The Nightmare’s Beginning (Vincent’s Theme)

Ah, Vincent, you morbid, tortured immortal. What I like about this theme for Halloween is that it makes me think of ghost stories. After all, Vincent’s backstory is something out of an urban legend itself – He falls in love with a woman named Lucrecia, a scientist who was part of a team studying a recently discovered ancient life form. However, when he professes his love for her, he is ultimately spurned when she says she has feelings for her colleague, Hojo, a twisted mad scientist with delusions of grandeur. Hojo injects the woman’s fetus with the life form’s cells, mutating her child into the terror known later as Sephiroth, greatly angering Vincent. When he tries to stop the madness, Hojo shoots and modifies him, granting him immortality and the ability to transform into hideous monsters. Now, to this day, he haunts the Shinra Manor in Nibelheim, agonized at the fact that he could not save the one he loves and yearning for a chance at revenge.

You gotta admit, it does make for a great campfire story? As an added bonus to make things excessively creepy, check out this highly experimental, guitar-driven remix of the theme:

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night – Dracula’s Castle

Literally anything from Castlevania will work to get into the Halloween spirit! I chose this one because it’s one of my favourite themes from one of my favourite games in the series. If you’re looking for something more retro inspired, how about the original “Vampire Killer” theme from the original Castlevania?

If that doesn’t get you into the mood to prepare for little undead monsters asking for treats, I dunno what will?

Kingdom Hearts – This is Halloween

You can’t have Halloween without the Halloween Town theme from the Kingdom Hearts series (originally from The Nightmare Before Christmas)! This is my go-to to get into the Halloween spirit; it’s the perfect, spooky track to put on as the kiddies go door-to-door for candy!


So that’s it, what do you think? Got anymore scary scores, twisted tunes or fearful features to recommend? Let me know in the comments below!

This has been Ryan from “Games with Coffee,” reminding you that whatever you’re doing this Halloween, stay safe, carry a stake or two and some garlic, don’t OD too much on candy and, as always, Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing.

My Top 20 Favourite Remixes from OverClocked Remix!

Hello and welcome to another edition of “Games with Coffee!” May your days be as bountiful as the coffee brewing in your carafe.

Today, (after a LONG while…) were seugeing back to the world of video game music: I’m going to share with you my top 20 remixes from my go-to VGM site, OCRemix! This is actually the second part of a three part series about the site and it’s music and it’s remixers, but enough with the tangents, let’s get ready to listen to some dope tunes!


20. Swingin’ with Death from Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance by Nase.

Starting from the top, is a remix of the introductory area (Successor of Fate) from the GameBoy Advanced game, Castelvania: Harmony of Dissonance. This mix starts with an epic, sweeping, orchestral opening before doing a full 180 into some sweet sexy funk! The horn at the beginning is probably the weakest point of the mix, but it’s so groovy it can be well overlooked. My favourite part of this song is at 1.36: the lo-fi sounds send my spine tingling.

19. Sparkle from Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia by Joshua Morse.

Josh here is one of my favourite remixers; in fact one of his other mixes is on this list as well! This is another sexy, jazzy track from the Castlevania series, this time from the last and probably the greatest of the portable Castlevania’s on the Nintendo DS: Order of Ecclesia. The source tune (Emerald Mists) was already good to begin with (first heard in Ruvas Forest), but Josh slows it down and adds his signature sound to make this a very chill track. The accordion that pops in at 0.53 gives off that Eastern European feeling, which really fits in well with the game’s narrative.

18. Captain of the Skies from Final Fantasy VII by ZackParrish

Final Fantasy VII holds an incredibly special place in my heart, which will be the subject in a future post. The setting, the story, the music and especially it’s beloved cast of characters have moved and inspired me in ways I could never have imagined. This mix, an orchestral version of Cid’s Theme, really moved me when I first listened to it. It really speaks to Cid’s character as a pilot whose dream was to go into outer space. 1:41 is my favourite part of the mix; it builds up to the last bit of the song which then gives off a reflective sort of mood, mirroring Cid’s anguish of seeing his dreams shattered. It’s a very well done track.

17. Voices Broken from F-Zero by JJT

And now for something completely different: Mute City a la Indie Rock. This is a raw, gritty take on the source that goes hard with a crunchy e-guitar followed by a smoother lead with a slick drum accompaniment. It’s quite edgy and quite awesome.

16. A Fistful of Nickels from Final Fantasy VI by Jeff Ball, Jillian Aversa, XPRTNovice and zircon.

Shadow’s Theme done in the style of an epic Western. He was one of my favourite’s from Final Fantasy VI’s massive character roster, so I was thrilled at the treatment this song gives him. The whistling makes me jealous – I wish I could whistle like that! (And I’m actually pretty good at it myself, so that’s saying something). Everything, from Jillian’s vocals, to the choice of instruments to the arrangement itself, works really well, which is why it’s a favourite of mine.

15. Wet Dreams from Castlevania: Symphony of the Night by ktriton

You’re probably thinking by now, “What’s with all these jazzy Castlevania tunes?” Well, I personally think that Castlevania and jazz somehow go really good together. This one’s just as funky as the other two mentioned above, but it’s a bit more haunting than the other two Castlevania mixes I featured in this list. Nevertheless, the acoustic guitar and the electric piano give off a lot of warmth and it’s what I love the most about this mix: it gives off a “Chilin’ out in the Great Hall of my castle,” kind of feel.

14. Prancing Dad from Final Fantasy VI by Prince uf Darkness

Two words here: My God. Besides the crazy explicit lyrics (that blend into the background so well that you kinda have to strain to hear), this is an absolutely epic rendition of the final battle against Kefka in Final Fantasy VI. Oh, and did I mention it clocks in at almost 12 minutes?! It even mixes in the legendary One Winged Angel from Final Fantasy VII in a transition so seamless that you really have to pay attention to hear where Dancing Mad stops and where One Winged Angel begins! This mix is absolutely nuts and would definitely fit with Kefka’s insane personality.

13. Fading Entity from Final Fantasy VII by bLiNd and Leifo

This is damn good trance music, nuff said. bLiNd is a legend for his trance stuff (Seriously, his stuff is SO good, check it out!) and Leifo’s guitar solo midway through the song is just wicked. Sticking that solo in there, I think, prevents the mix from being to repetitive, which was a good move on their part. Also, shifting the timing from 3/4 to 4/4 turns this haunting song, played in the area where gaming’s most tragic moment occurs, into a rave-worthy track.

12. Fiesta Amongst The Trees from Ristar by the Southwest Afro-Cuban Jazz Ensemble

This is a fantastic jazz track that gives off a great tropical vibe! Really fits in well with Ristar’s fun environment. This jazz band was really playful and chill with the arrangement, while not deviating too much from the original source. Recommended for those who love the beach, hot weather and cold drinks!

11. Funky Mario Circuit (Radio Edit) from Super Mario Kart by The OneUps

(ANOTHER funky track? You’re probably thinking “What’s with this guy?” by now, aren’t you?)

Here from the band, The OneUps, is a great remix of Mario Circuit from Super Mario Kart for the SNES. Everything in this mix works; from the guitar, the bass to the beat, this will get one in a racing mood! Just… Watch out for the cops when you’re on the road when this is on.

10. Blue Skies from Final Fantasy XIII by bLiNd and Ashleigh Coryell

Now this, this is an excellent Drum n’ Bass/Dubstep track using the “Will to Fight” source from Final Fantasy XIII. Fun fact: bLiNd did this track for his beloved wife as a birthday present and the lyrics speak of a promise for the future. The dubstep drop at 2:13 doesn’t feel overbearing, rather it shakes things up to prevent the arrangement from being too boring and Ashleigh’s vocals are on point. I listen to this, and I instantly think of Lightning’s struggle to change her and her sister’s fates. It’s well worth a listen!

9. Dieselbrainage from Super Metroid by Mazedude

OH SNAP. This is a dark and dirty DnB mix of the final battle music against Mother Brain from Super Metroid. What’s interesting about the source tune is that it’s performed in 7/4 time, a unique register in the music world. Mazedude pulls out all the stops on this remix. The main beat is dark and evil-sounding and the sick drum loop along with that chunky mechanical bass really helps to differentiate it from the source tune. The break at 1:57 is a hilarious nod to Samus’ main theme before jumping right back into the insanity with a hysterical, mocking laugh, as if Mother Brain itself is telling you, “You’re doomed!” An absolutely awesome track.

8. Chaotic 5 from Knuckles’ Chaotix by OverClocked Assembled

A slick rap arrangement featuring the cast of Knuckles and his Chaotix? Sign me the hell up! The source sampled from the game is one of my favourites from the obscure 32X game, but what gets me excited is the incredibly clever lyrics and the flow in which they’re delivered in. Another fun fact: this track was inspired by another rap arrangement of Knuckles’ theme from Sonic Adventure 2, done 12 years ago (which, while dated, is also amazing!) Very clean, very chill and way past cool, it’s a solid favourite!

7. Graveyard Theory from Sonic Adventure 2 by Zone Runners

This is a great tune to play for Halloween! By my favourite trio of remixers, (SirJ, halc and DiGi Valentine), this is an upgraded version of the original “A Ghost Pumpkin Soup,” from Sonic Adventure 2. The first part contains the verses from the original song before the ZR spits out some all new vernacular in the next two thirds that really fits well with the Halloween vibe. If you’re looking for some good nerd rap music for your next Halloween party, this is a great candidate.

6. Running to the Beat from Sonic CD by Arceace

When it comes to Sonic the Hedgehog, the music is always top-notch. When it’s remixed into 90’s style techno electronica, it’s even better! Mixing the US version of the special stage music from Sonic CD, this track is literally my workout jam. With a great rhythm and a smooth beat, this is best played for when you need to go hard on your run or push for that one extra rep. Well recommended for the gym-rat!

5. Baal Bhaagna from Shantae: Risky’s Revenge by Jake Kauffman

One word: Badass. This is a sick, Bollywood-inspired mix of “She’s Got Moves,” from the awesome Shantae series! Channeling some serious A.R. Rahman (famous Bollywood artist, songwriter and composer), it reminds me of either a chase or a fight scene in one of those really over-the-top Bollywood action movies (most likely starring Salman Khan and shot with LOTS of slo-mo). It’s South Asian inspired elements pair well with the kickin’ beat. My favourite part is at 1:23; it gives me chills! This is up there in my top 10, maybe five favourite remixes; I really urge you to listen to it!

4. Marble Dash from Sonic the Hedgehog by Joshua Morse

This is one of JM’s first submissions to OCR; a remix of my all-time favorite Zone from the Sonic series, Marble Zone. It’s a feel-good, jazzy and groovy rendition of the source tune. It’s playful, bouncy and the bassline is so good! I’ve had this song on my playlists since I was back in high school and all throughout my university years and it’s really helped to keep me positive during that period, so it holds a special place in my heart because of that.

3. Big Band Battlefield from Super Mario 64 by The University of Toronto 10 O’Clock Big Band.

The first level of the iconic game, Super Mario 64, done in swinging, big band style! I love this rendition of Bom-Omb Battlefield, it makes me feel like I’m in a swing club back in the 1920’s. I also dig four things about this mix: one, that, due to it being a live recording, it feels really authentic. You even hear a guy ordering a pint of Amsterdam midway through the song! Second, it’s by the students at U of T, right in the heart of downtown Toronto, where I was born. And third and fourth? The sick baritone saxophone solo starting at 1:46 and the subsequent, over the top drum solo at 3:36. Both are ridiculous!

2. stratification from Chrono Trigger by melody

I actually mentioned this mix before in my first post about OCRemix, but I feel the need to repeat myself: this mix is a Goddamned LEGEND! The electric guitar is so sublime and it fits the source tune from the game so well. The soft choir that enters around 1:23 adds to the already amazing atmosphere of the track and compliments the absolute shreddage of the aforementioned guitar. It’s so good!

1. Triforce Majeure from The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past by Disco Dan

Out of all the mixes on this list, this is without a doubt my absolute favorite, hence why it’s in the number one spot! By combining a robust orchestra with slick electronica (these are two of my favourite things!), busting through Hyrule Castle and rescuing Princess Zelda never sounded so good! This was labeled an instant classic in 2004, and it’s hard to see why not: the build up leading to the main beat is tense and atmospheric, before dropping the beat just after the first minute and introducing that hardcore brass section twenty seconds afterwards. Things get intense at the 2:40 mark, where the orchestra shines the strongest. The beat itself is just so good and so catchy, you can’t help but tap your toes to it. The arpeggios starting right at the 2:15 mark are TIGHT! And the section starting at 3:25 building up to the epic climax gives me chills. Overall, if you’re curious to see a perfect example of remixing done right, this is the one you should listen to.


And there you have it! I’ve aggregated the videos above onto a playlist in my brand new Youtube channel! If you like what you’ve listened to, or if you want me to recommend more awesome tracks, let me know!

Stay tuned for the next edition, where I continue my playthrough for Path of Exile; I’ve finally reached Act 2! And I’ve got a LOT of content to catch up with, so keep your eyes peeled this whole week – there’s a flood coming!

This has been Ryan from Games with Coffee, reminding you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing!

Espresso Shot Review: Sonic Mania

Good morning and welcome to another edition of “Games with Coffee!” Today, I’m introducing a brand-new segment I call “Espresso Shot Reviews.” Put simply, I’ll be reviewing games both old and new and will give my personal opinions on them, as well as a rating out of five. Each review will be short (less than 1000 words), but packed with intensity and detail. It’s like an espresso shot, hence the name.

Today’s review will be on Sonic Mania, released on August 15, 2017 for PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch and August 29, 2017 for PC. I’ll be going over the story, gameplay, graphics, music and replayability (or replay value).


Developed by Christian “Taxman” Whitehead in partnership with PagodaWest Games and Headcannon and published by SEGA, Sonic Mania is a 2-D sprite art, physics-based platformer. It’s a tribute to the old-school, 16-bit Sonic the Hedgehog games of yore and was released in celebration of Sonic’s 25th anniversary.

Sonic Mania - Title

Story

Hot off the heels from Sonic 3 & Knuckles, Dr. Eggman and five of his Egg-Robo’s have returned to Angel Island and extracted a strange gem called the Phantom Ruby. When Sonic and Tails catch up to the mad doctor, the gem’s dimension-warping effect sends both heroes, along with Knuckles, to Green Hill Zone. The gem also had an effect on the Egg-Robo’s; transforming them into the much tougher Hard-Boiled Heavies. The heroes must now travel through twelve zones spanning multiple dimensions, retrieve both the Phantom Ruby and the Chaos Emeralds and defeat Eggman and the Heavies before they conquer the world.

Gameplay

Gameplay-wise, Sonic Mania plays exactly like the originals. Each level (Zone) is divided into two huge Acts chock-full of quarter pipes, loops, ramps, springs and other things to help Sonic and company get around. Obstacles abound; from Badniks to spikes and traps, to bottomless pits and crushing objects, there are plenty of things to be wary of.

The twelve zones consist of eight popular zones from the first four Classic Sonic (Sonic 1-3 & Sonic CD) games and four new zones introduced to the series. The first Act of each classic zone is a combination of that zone’s original first and second Acts, while the second Act remixes elements from the original zone with features from other classic levels and adds new elements to spice things up.

The four new zones are inspired by some of the series’s most iconic levels. They also presents a theme derived from SEGA’s history as a publisher. Examples include the Streets of Rage aesthetic combined with Casino/Carnival Night Zone elements in Studiopolis Zone and the Shinobi-inspired second act of Press Garden, which also brings forward elements from Ice Cap and Mushroom Hill Zones.

Each act contains multiple paths to traverse through, encouraging the player to either find the fastest path through each level or explore to find Large Rings – entrances to a special stage where a Chaos Emerald can be earned.

Large Ring

While I enjoyed the selection of classic zones, I would’ve liked to see more new zones added to balance things between old and new.

Bosses are encountered at the end of each act and require different strategies to win. Most fights were fun but I felt a few bosses, such as the ones in Hydrocity Acts 1 and 2 and Studiopolis’ Act 1 boss, were a bit tedious, while Mirage Saloon’s Act 1 boss was just too easy. My favourite boss fight was Metallic Madness’ Act 2 boss – the miniature theme was extremely creative.

Metallic Madness Act 2 - Boss

In addition to the basic moveset (run, spin attack, spin dash and jump), the three characters also have their own special moves and properties. New to Sonic’s arsenal is the Drop Dash – used in midair to drop down into a spin dash. It’s useful for gaining momentum after a jump, or to strike a Badnik that can’t be jumped on without losing your momentum. Tails’ flying ability makes a comeback, with Sonic able to command Tails to fly him up to new areas and Knuckles keeps his gliding, climbing and wall breaking abilities. He doesn’t jump as high as the other two, however.

Rings are essential for survival – you lose a life if you’re not holding any in your possession. Collecting 100 rings nets an extra life. Power ups include the elemental shields from Sonic 3 and the Hyper Ring from the obscure Knuckles’ Chaotix game, along with staple items, like the Power Sneakers and Invincibility.

Graphics and Art

What I enjoyed the most about Sonic Mania is how animated everything looks, thanks to the game running at 60fps. From how fluid each of the player characters moved, to the little details in the environments and the colours in each zone, the game’s high-quality pixel art exudes plenty of charm. I noticed no slowdowns or lag when I was playing it on the Switch.

I especially loved the art direction for the new zones. Studiopolis and Press Garden stand out the most for me, because of how breathtaking the visuals look between Acts 1 and 2.

Music

Music has always been a strong point for the Sonic series. The music was done by Tee Lopes, who I think did a really good job remixing the classic zone tunes. The audio for the new zones are catchy and upbeat until you hit the last zone, which threw me off a bit due to its brooding and serious tone.

Chemical Plant Act 2, Press Garden Act 2, Studiopolis Act 1, Stardust Speedway Act 1 and Mirage Saloon Act 1 as Knuckles are my favourites to listen to:

The boss tunes are also great earworms; the boss theme for the Hard-Boiled Heavies, along with the Eggman Boss theme (Ruby Delusions), are some of the best boss themes in the series.

Replayability

There are lots of replay options available after beating the game. You can try your hand at Time Attack mode, or settle differences with friends through Competition mode.

In-game, hitting star posts with more than 25 rings in possession opens a portal to the Blue Spheres minigame from Sonic 3. Beating the stage earns a medal, which unlocks a variety of new playing modes, including the use of Sonic’s old Insta-shield, Debug Mode or the &Knuckles mode, which adds the echidna as a partner character.

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For a special surprise, finish the game as Knuckles & Knuckles. It’s hilarious!

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While there could have been more original zones and less tedious/more challenging boss fights, Sonic Mania nevertheless celebrates the best of the character to great effect. It’s a perfect example of how enduring Sonic is after 25 years and how he’s still going strong.

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4.5/5


How’d I do? Let me know in the comments below! Coming up on “Games with Coffee,” I’m back in Wraeclast with more Path of Exile, and I’ll be sharing my favourite remixes from OverClocked Remix! Stay tuned!

With that, this has been Ryan, reminding you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing! See ya!

Path of Exile Play-Through: So Close, Yet Still So Far

Good evening and welcome to another edition of “Games with Coffee!”

I need to admit something right now: Playing Path of Exile has given a new appreciation for MMORPG’s. The story’s engaging, the gameplay is challenging and there’s always some kind of new loot or new quest that I’m stumbling on every time I start it up! And I’m still only on the first Act of the game…

Today, I’ll be sharing more info on some valuable quests, items, currencies and other little things I’ve discovered on my latest play-through, which WOULD have gotten me to Act 2, if it wasn’t for a certain individual whom I think will be a thorn in my side for the remainder of my adventure…

Piety Blocked the Way Forward!

Curse you Piety!

Passive Skills and “The Fall of Oriath” Expansion

Grinding Gear Games released their latest expansion for Path of Exile called “The Fall of Oriath.” This new expansion adds a new Act to the story, along with new items and other things. The major thing that they changed in this expansion is the Passive Skill tree – they’ve revamped and remapped all of the nodes, resulting in players having to re-allocate their skill points, myself included.

While it was a bit of a bother, it was actually a blessing in disguise. I focused my points on doing more damage and having more life and I noticed a total change in how my witch, Rhuki, dished out the hurt. It was pretty awesome.

Prophecies

As I ascended “The Climb,” I ran into an interesting woman stuck in a cage. Her name is Navali – a soothsayer capable of delivering prophecies for the low, low cost of one Silver Coin.

Prophecies

Rescuing her from her prison and speaking to her in town allows the use of prophecies that can change your character’s future and cause all sorts of interesting effects! I gave her the one coin I found prior to meeting her and thus gained a prophecy that I would run into Haku, the Forsaken Armourmaster, and will complete a task for him. Soon enough, I ran into the Master deep in the Lower Prison area!

Haku.PNG

Well, isn’t this a coincidence? *wink wink*

Once again, he asked me to bring him a Karui spirit from a haunted cell within the prison. Once again, I entered the cell, obliterated the boss protecting the spirit and delivered it to him, gaining me a huge boost in reputation thanks to the prophecy!

I ended up finding a second Silver Coin after slaying a ton of monsters in the Prison and traded it in to get a prophecy where I’d earn a TON of loot from an enemy! Entering The Ship Graveyard, I spotted and vanquished the prophesized enemy yielding said promised loot.

Prophecy Fulfilled!

JACKPOT BABY!

Coincidentally when the monster full of loot appeared, I bumped into another Forsaken Master: Elreon the Loremaster.

The Loremaster

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A wild Forsaken Master appeared!

Eleron is something of a holy man; religion and relics are his modus operandi. The goal was to protect Eleron’s relic by defeating waves of enemies. As you can see above, I stood on their corpses, triumphant!

By keeping the relic safe, the Loremaster will sell and craft unique items in town, similar to Haku. His speciality is crafting amulets and rings.

Trial of Ascendancy – What Are Those?

Back in the Lower Prison, I had an opportunity to enter the first of many Trials of Ascendency. These trials are required to enter The Lord’s Labyrinth later in the game, which, when completed, allows the opportunity to ascend to a new class! Each trial acts as a practice arena for what Exiles should expect when entering the full Labyrinth. The first Trial deals with spike traps – not only do you have to be careful around them but you also have to consider timing, since the only way to get out of the trial is to go back to the start on foot.

Tips and Currency Watch

Here are a few tips and some items and currencies to keep an eye out for when you’re trying not to die:

  • Find some gear that increases the rarity of drops. These really help when you’re trying to find new, rare gear either for yourself or to trade with vendors or players.
  • Open as many chests, barrels and boxes as you can see. You may find some crafting orbs if you’re lucky!
  • Jeweller’s Orbs: These are uncommon crafting orbs that can randomly change the number of sockets on an item. Save these for when you get a great quality weapon or armour; the higher the quality and the greater the item level, the better the chances that you’ll get more sockets!
  • Divination Cards: Trading in multiples of a single card will yield crafting orbs or other items! Keep your eyes peeled for them!

Looking for some of the aforementioned items? Be sure to check out the Path of Exile Items store at Playerauctions.com: they have a wide selection at a reasonable cost, and all transactions are safe and secure.

Hope you enjoyed today’s play-through post! Stay tuned for the next play-through later in October! For now, this has been Ryan from “Games with Coffee,” wishing you Exiles good fortune on the battlefield and reminding you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing!