Monday, August 30, 2010

7 Best Video Game Influenced Rap Tracks

Note: This article was originally published as part of my time as an Associated Content Featured Contributor to the Video Games Section. Associated Content was later bought by Yahoo! and renamed Yahoo! Voices. Yahoo Voices shut down in July of 2014. This article is being republished here on The Code, backdated to its original date of publication to remain as a record of my writing.

Whether it's rappers taking part in Madden NFL and fighting game tournaments, or Snoop Dogg launching his own Hip Hop Gaming League in 2006, the art and entertainment of rap music and video games have had an interdependent relationship for decades. Today, we look at the top six rap tracks about or influenced by video games.

7. "Human Video Game"
Artist: DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince feat. Ready C.
Album: He's The DJ, I'm The Rapper

Fresh off the success of Rock The House, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince's follow-up album is mostly remembered for the hit single "Parents Just Don't Understand". However, the last track, "Human Video Game" features Will Smith rapping about how he was a video game addict that spent so much time there patrons "thought that I worked there, and asked me for change". He talks about how his favorite game was Donkey Kong, and how he struck up a friendship with beat-boxing master Ready C. This rap tells how Will Smith and Ready C became friends when Ready C demonstrated how he could imitate all the music and sound effects from the game.

Sample lyrics:
"Ever since I was younger, I was into video games/ Tron or whatever, it didn't matter the name/ Thousands of my dollars have been poured/ Into all types of games, tryin' to get the high score!"

6. "Final Battle"
Artist: Random feat. Loose
Album: Mega Ran

Random is a rapper and producer who has worked with rap and hip-hop luminaries like Talib Kweli, Common, and Immortal Technique. Random is also a huge Mega Man fan, as evidenced by the the release of the album Mega Ran, in which every track samples from a Mega Man game. In "Final Battle", Loose and Random rap over a beat sampled from Mega Man 6. "Final Battle" narrates the struggles of the Mega Ran character with parallels to the Mega Man character, leading into the final track of the album about growing up.

5. "Little Weapon:
Artist: Lupe Fiasco
Album: The Cool

Lupe Fiasco has a reputation for complex, layered rhymes and equally complex lyrical content. "Little Weapon" is no different as it examines the culture of violence that surrounds kids, from child soldiers in Africa to inner-city high school kids. Then Lupe flips the script, showing that something that sounds so sad and oppressive in some parts of the world serves as entertainment in other parts of the world, comparing the violence of war to the violence of video games.

Sample lyrics:
"Imagine if I had to console/ the family of those I slay on game consoles/ ... Press B for the bombs/ press pause for your moms/ make the room silent/ she don't approve of violent games"

4. "It Is Pitch Dark"
Artist: MC Frontalot
Album: Secrets From The Future

Damian Hess, more famously known as MC Frontalot, coined the term "nerdcore" for the style of rap focused on traditionally nerdy subjects like computers or science fiction. So it might not surprise you to learn that MC Frontalot is a fan of interactive text adventures like the classic Infocom game "Zork". The track "It Is Pitch Dark" directly references the horrible monster from Zork, as well as the conventions inherent in text-based adventure games in general.

Sample lyrics:
"You are likely to be eaten by a grue/ If this predicament seems particularly cruel/ Consider whose fault it could be:/ not a torch or a match in your inventory."

3. "Gaming On Ya"
Artist: People Under The Stairs
Album: Fun DMC

People Under The Stairs are part of the west coast underground hip hop scene. They describe themselves as "party rappers" with a sound that is distinctly old-school, so it's appropriate that the track "Gaming On Ya" is chock full of lyrics that not only name drop classic arcade games, but also extensively sample sound effects and tunes from arcade games and NES classics for the track's beat-bed.

Sample lyrics:
"They call me Chubby Cherub/ They kickin' it old school/ She passed me some mushrooms/ Heard she likes Bad Dudes/ We stopped at Burger Time an' snuk into the bathroom"

2. "NES"
Artist: YTCracker
Album: N.E.S.: Nerdrap Entertainment System

YTCracker is the self-proclaimed "original digital gangster" of nerdcore rap, having rapped about his exploits as a former hacker since '96. When he released the album Nerdrap Entertainment System for free in 2007, it took the Internet by storm. While every track has remixed versions of NES music, the track "NES" has the most overt video game references.

Sample lyrics:
"Jump on the cannon/ the brick's where I'm landin '/ gotta get the triforce, gotta beat Gannon / They called him The Wizard in California / Power glove on my wrist just had to warn ya"

1. "Protoculture"
Artist: Del Tha Funkee Homosapien feat. Khaos Unique
Album: Both Sides of the Brain

Del Tha Funkee Homosapien and Khaos Unique rap over a sampled beat from Morrigan's stage in the Capcom fighting game Darkstalkers, but the video game connection doesn't stop there. They recount their lifelong love of video games, from the Collecovision and NES consoles in the 80s to the rise of 16 bit video games, first person shooters, 32-bit consoles, and even importing video games from Japan. "Protoculture" is a love letter to a lifetime of video game enthusiasm, and name checks everything from failed marketing efforts at SEGA to console RPGs like Xenogears and racing games like Daytona USA and SEGA Rally.

Sample lyrics:
"To anyone who knew me better/ Know I chose Saturn first cause it's 2-D heaven/ Bernie Stolar dropped the ball with the RAM cartridge/ X-men Vs. Street Fighter could've expanded the market!" 

Monday, August 23, 2010

Top 9 Easiest Boss Fights Ever (Retro Repost)

Note: This article was originally published as part of my time as an Associated Content Featured Contributor to the Video Games Section. Associated Content was later bought by Yahoo! and renamed Yahoo! Voices. Yahoo Voices shut down in July of 2014. This article is being republished here on The Code, backdated to its original date of publication to remain as a record of my writing.

In most video games, boss fights are used as a level's penultimate challenge. A challenging boss fight will give the player's reflexes and gray matter a good workout. A difficult boss fight will make you feel like you
 are climbing the rungs of the ladder of progress. The following nine boss fights, however, feel more like speed bumps. Read on for the ten easiest boss fights in video game history.

9. Mysterio
Game: Spider-Man 2 

Spider-Man faces a bevy of colorful and intimidating villains in Spider-Man 2. Mysterio makes a grand entrance-- or, as grand as you can be while holding up a convenience store. His metallic voice and outlandish costume recall classic science-fiction B movies, and while he dramatically declares his intent to destroy Spider-Man, you see his life bar fill up one, twice, and then three times. You'd be forgiven for assuming the battle might take a few tries.

However, just one swift punch will send Mysterio flying across the room, down to zero health-- and down for the count. He even begs you not to hit him again.

8. Old King Coal
Game: Banjo-Tooie

Some boss fights can be easier if you know what patterns to avoid, or the right weapon to use. The fight against Old King Coal takes this to new heights. If you stand on any of the half dozen or so large black coal platforms, his area-of-attack power to superheat the ground will not affect you. His erratic and random dashing attacks will always just barely miss you. And if you have any Ice Eggs handy, they will do a whopping 5 points of damage against him, more than even the powerful Grenade Eggs, reducing Old King Coal to dust in no time flat.

7. Chloe Walsh
Game: No More Heroes 2

Chloe Walsh seems like she'd be a challenge at first glance. She can spit poison acid, scream to unleash a sonic wave and even shoot laser beams from her eyes. However, these attacks are clearly telegraphed, easy to avoid altogether, and do very little damage. Her total health is so low that you can defeat Chloe in about 50 seconds. On the hardest difficulty mode in the game.

6. Lanmola's Shadow
Game: Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening 

Lanmola's Shadow is the second-to-last form that the final boss Nightmare takes in Link's Awakening. In the Lanmola's Shadow form, the boss becomes a very fast enemy that zips around the small room that Link is trapped in, and if you use Link's trusty sword, you will spend a sizable amount of time dodging out of the way and then waiting for just the right moment to swipe at its weak point with your sword. If you use any other weapon you have, though-- a Bomb, a swing of the Magic Rod, one hit from the Hookshot, or even a love tap from the humble Boomerang-- this form can be defeated in a single hit.

5. Flash Man
Game: Mega Man 2 

Flash Man has the power to stop time, but if you have the Metal Blades, this boss won't even have a chance to blink. Once you get the Metal Blade power up in Mega, the Blue Bomber can cut swathes of destruction, reducing regular enemies and mid-bosses in the various stages to a bucket of bolts easily. However, the Metal Blades also make fighting the boss Flash Man a joke. If you start the battle with the Metal Blades, you can simply enter the boss battle room, fire them in straight line and defeat Flash Man without having to take a single step.

4. Cloud N. Candy
Game: Yoshi's Story 

This boss is a large smiling cloud that takes up a quarter of the screen. His offense consists of a single weak hop that gives you plenty of time to dodge or slip under. And Cloud N. Candy isn't even good enough to be defeated by the normal method of throwing a baker's dozen worth of eggs at the boss. No, instead the way you beat this boss is by licking it to death, watching it get smaller and smaller. If you somehow bump into him and take damage, don't worry-- every single lick of Cloud N. Candy heals you!

Of course, as much as a walk in the park those previous six bosses were, they did offer a modicum of challenge. They were capable of dealing damage. At least the bosses you've read about so far could theoretically defeat the player. These final three have earned their spots because there is absolutely, positively no way that you can lose to them at all.

3. Bob The Goldfish
Game: Earthworm Jim 

Normally, when you bump into a boss or touch it in any way, you will lose health. In some games, any contact with the enemy results in instant death. But when facing off against Bob the Goldfish, bumping into him is the key to defeating him. You win the "fight" against Bob by making Earthworm Jim run into the table Bob the Goldfish's bowl is standing on, sending the goldfish's bowl careening off the table and shattering on the floor. And if you just stand there and do nothing? Bob is content to just stay in his bowl. He's a goldfish, after all.

2. Golem Overlord
Game: Chrono Trigger

This spiky, demonic-looking boss talks a good game. He start a 5 second countdown to a powerful attack... that he never executes. Why? Because he's afraid of heights. That's right, this boss will stop attacking you to
 tell you he's afraid of heights, so you can whack at him like he was a really ugly piƱata until he dies. In fact, the Golem Overlord will never lay a hand on the party for the rest of the battle. And if by some twist of fate you have not managed to inflict enough damage to defeat him after a certain number of rounds, the Golem Lord will harmlessly self-destruct.

That's right, the Golem Overlord will actually defeat HIMSELF.

And while these previous two video game bosses were both incredibly easy and impossible to be defeated by, there's only one boss in the history of video games whose ease of defeat and inability to defeat you actually cheapened the impact of the game's story. The easiest boss battle in video games history goes to...

1. Sephiroth
Game: Final Fantasy VII 

The very last time Cloud faces Sephiroth, a battle that is mano-a-mano, Sephiroth is just a human. Cloud is fully healed with his Ultimate Limit Break, Omnislash, already enabled. It would certainly make sense that Cloud could vanquish in one hit his hated rival by using his ultimate attack. In fact, it makes this symbolic battle a little dramatic and poignant. Or, at least it would be if it wasn't also true that any attack you made at all would finish Sephiroth in one hit. The simple low level fire spell. A simple swipe of the sword. And if you just sit there and let Sephiroth attack you? Cloud will automatically launch a counter-attack, even if he doesn't normally have that ability. 

No matter what you do, Sephiroth cannot defeat you, and will fall in a single hit. This takes what could have been a more dramatically satisfying battle and robs it of its essential climax. It also makes the final appearance of Sephiroth in Final Fantasy VII the easiest boss battle in history. 

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

7 Hardest Video Game Boss Fights

Note: This article was originally published as part of my time as an Associated Content Featured Contributor to the Video Games Section. Associated Content was later bought by Yahoo! and renamed Yahoo! Voices. Yahoo Voices shut down in July of 2014. This article is being republished here on The Code, backdated to its original date of publication to remain as a record of my writing.

All that stands between your hero and the ending credits of a video game is the final boss. All of the reflexes you've honed, the tricks you've learned, the strategies you've practiced elsewhere in the game come down to
 one final battle. Not all final boss fights are created equal, though. Here's a look at the seven hardest boss fights the history of video games have to offer.

7. Ultimecia
Game: Final Fantasy VIII
System: Sony Playstation 

Final Fantasy VIII is a game that has been a point of contention with some Final Fantasy fans. Fans complain about the final boss as the game's true villain not being introduced until very late in the story. Fans complain the characters and their angst. Many fans even complain about the magic Junction system. However, all of these elements combine to make Ultimecia a formidable final boss. First of all, the final boss is actually three fights in a row as she phases between past, present and future. She seems like a pushover in her first form. She becomes a bit tougher in the second phase, stealing the hero's innermost thoughts to summon a very strong beast to fight the party before merging with it herself. But but the last phase of the battle becomes hair-pullingly difficult . Why? Ultimecia takes the Junction system that is also used to to boost the stats of your heroes and strips them away. Forever. That's right, the final boss permanently de-buffs your characters. Should one of your characters die, then they sucked away into a time void and can't be brought back. Talk about a game over.

Game: Double Dragon
System: Arcade 

This final boss fight in Double Dragon stacks the deck against you. Willy has a lot of health, and moves faster than any of the other enemies in the game. While you are stuck with punches and kicks, Willy uses a machine gun. While that sounds a little unfair, at least you have the advantage of pumping quarter after quarter into the game until you defeat him, right? Wrong. As soon as you get to Willy, you can only pay for three more continues. If you can't beat the final boss in under three continues, then you get an automatic game over and have to start the game all over again from the beginning.

5. The Origin
Game: Radiant Silvergun
System: Sega Saturn

Radiant Silvergun is considered by many shoot-em-up fans as the pinnacle of the genre. But for all of the unique elements that made Radiant Silvergun a stand-out space shooter, it was the game's final boss that made this game unique. Instead of a two dimensional alien boss that fills up half the screen as would be expected for a top-down shooter from Japan, Radiant Silvergun's boss is a giant 3 dimensional robot that runs around the screen along a flight path. This boss fight flips the script by now making you have to think in three dimensions while the screen is filled with so many bullets that you run a very real risk of blundering into a stray bullet if you so much as blink.

4.Mike Tyson
Game: Mike Tyson's Punch-Out
System: NES 

Just getting to Mike Tyson is a challenge. The boxers get progressively difficult as you advance through three circuits. Mike Tyson is leagues ahead of every boxer that you face before him. For the first minute and a half of the first round he will do nothing but throw jabs that, if they land, will knock you down in just one hit. What's worse is that his punches can't be blocked; a block still counts as a hit and down you'll go. His punches can only be dodged. Also, unlike every other boxer in the game, Mike Tyson has no one-hit weakness. You'll have to slowly chip away at his stamina, and hope you don't get knocked out.

3. The Boss
Game: Metal Gear Solid 3
System: Playstation 2

The final boss fight with Metal Gear Solid 3's The Boss serves as an endcap to not just the emotional arc of the story, but also requires the player to draw on every skill in stealth, camouflage, close quarters fighting, and gun play. The fight takes place in a rolling field full of white flowers that make absolute mastery of camouflage a must for having a chance at winning. And you can't just button-mash your way through any close quarters combat, because The Boss is Snake's equal and can easily counter most of the hand-to-hand action you throw her way. Also, you have to take her down in ten minutes, or the carpet bombing that's been called in will obliterate you, leading to a game over.

2. Last Boss
Contra Hard Corps
Sega Genesis

Contra Hard Corps was one of the few games that was actually made more difficult for its North American release. While the Japanese version gave the player a 3-hit life bar, the US version has one hit kills. The
 Japanese version gave the player unlimited continues. The US version only gave the player five. This game's final boss has several forms it transforms into, each more bizarre-looking and difficult than the last. It starts as a humanoid that hovers in the upper right corner, tosses a dozen deadly energy balls per second, then shifts to the left hand corner of the screen and does the same. When it lands, it can shoot energy beams half the length of the screen, and can dash across the the screen in a blink of an eye. After you defeat this form, it transforms into a two headed creature that can shoot fireballs and energy blasts from either mouth. The neck can extended the entire length of the screen and with a shake of the head, will also raining energy balls that will fall from above, scattered in the 1/4 of the screen you can move in. Beat this form and it tranforms once again, this time into a whirling ball of skulls and alien faces that can expand to fill most of the screen, leaving only the extreme lower right and left corners safe, having to shoot the "core" in the middle, with space to do so for a split second. Hope you have enough continues saved up.

1.Mushihimesama Futari
"Spiritual Larsa"
Arcade/X-Box 360

They say a picture can be worth a thousand words, but in the game Mushihimesama Futari , only a video can truly express how well deserved the final boss demonstrates the genre of "bullet hell":

Featuring a final boss fight that requires razor-sharp reflexes, Spiritual Larsa will unleash wave after waves of bullets that fill the screen like rain. The only safe spaces for the ship are mere pixels wide, and those safe zones last for but a split second. Mushihimesama Futari truly deserves the title of hardest final boss fight.

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