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All posts by Mandi Odoerfer

X-Men arcade 1992

The X-Men Arcade Game Got Me to Eat a Lot of Bad Pizza

When I was a kid, it wasn’t food or ambiance that determined my choice of restaurant. All that mattered to me was getting the chance to play arcade games. Tabletop arcade games made Pizza Hut one of my favorite eateries, and I’d happily dine anywhere that let me play Turtles in Time. But there was one game that took precedence over any other: the 1992 X-Men arcade game. The X-Men arcade game was the most glorious thing I had ever experienced. It had room for six players, which meant that my friends and I could all play together. It had not one, but two playable female characters. The soundtrack was rockin’. There were awesome comic-inspired levels. Magneto called your character an “X-Chicken.”…
Nintendo Power Awards

Gaming Magazines and the Lost Art of the Letters Section

When I was a kid, gaming magazines were my life. I devoured issues of Nintendo Power, Game Players, and EGM. I couldn’t wait to read the latest reviews, check out tantalizing previews, and get tips on how to beat my favorite games. These days, I can get the information those magazines delivered in less than an hour. When a big announcement is made, I know about it within minutes. I write my own reviews, and any questions I have can be answered with a quick trip to Google. I can learn just about anything in an instant, and I love it. I’d never willingly return to that slow drip of information. Still, there’s one aspect of old school games journalism I sorely miss: the letters page. You could argue that a comment section provides the same thing, but you’d be wrong.…
secret of mana dark lich

The Dark Lich Battle Theme From Secret of Mana Gives Me Vertigo

I’ve never beaten Secret of Mana. This isn’t due to lack of interest, or because I couldn’t finish it before it had to go back to Blockbuster. It’s because the Dark Lich Battle theme makes me physically ill. It has all the components of a good boss theme. It instantly makes you uneasy, and things only get more intense as the song progresses. But for some reason, the song makes me feel sick. I get dizzy and lightheaded the second it kicks in, and I get more nauseous the longer I listen to it. I’ve never been able to go more than a few minutes without shutting it off, and I feel awful even after the song stops. I realize now that I could have just turned the volume down, but as a kid, that never occurred to me.…
final fantasy ix necron

Great Video Games Need Good Boss Music

You’ve spent hours fighting your way through dungeons. You’ve won countless battles, and foiled many an evil plot. At last, you’ve reached your final destination. Everything you’ve done has been building towards this moment. And then some lame-o music kicks in and totally ruins the mood. Ideally, a boss theme should make you feel like the ultimate badass. The best boss themes leave me feeling pumped long after I’ve put the game down. The right music makes a fight more epic, and makes your characters feel more powerful. But a weak piece of boss music can be incredibly anticlimactic, even if the fight itself is pretty good. For me, the primary example of this has always been Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne.…
kirby spider

The Kirby Games Are Unintentionally Horrifying

One of the first games I got for my Game Boy was Kirby’s Dream Land. I spent many a happy hour collecting Twinkle Stars, sucking up enemies, and enjoying its chipper tunes. But none of those things were what made me want to play Dream Land. I wanted it because I thought the game looked super creepy. Looking back, the Kirby’s Dream Land cover really isn’t the scary masterpiece that I thought it was. Yeah, Kirby looks like a ghost, and yeah, Whispy Woods looks a little eerie, but there’s nothing about it that’s particularly spooky. Still, I think little me was on to something. Intentional or not, there’s something very sinister about the Kirby series. For starters, there are Kirby’s abilities, which get more horrifying the more you think about them.…
cocoron milk sea

Weird Games Are Good for You (and Good for Gaming)

No one fully understands why we like the things we do. Even the most beautifully crafted games have their detractors, and even bug-laden pieces of crap have fans. Sometimes, we love or loathe something for reasons that have little to do with its quality. But while the tastes of gamers aren’t an exact science, developers can make safe bets. It doesn’t matter what you think of Call of Duty, Madden, or even Pokémon. There are fans that will gobble up each new entry in the franchise. Certain IPs have reliable mainstream appeal, and will sell even if the game doesn’t live up to expectations. In an ideal world, the success of these games would give their studios the freedom to experiment.…
Ace Attorney and the Tetris Effect

Jamais Vu vs. The Tetris Effect: What Makes Games Memorable?

I like to think I have a pretty good memory. I can recite scenes from Final Fantasy VI verbatim, and I know all the words to “Shoop.” But when I replay games, I almost always encounter a scene I can’t recall. I’ll remember everything that came before it, and everything that follows, but that one moment will feel completely new to me. There’s a term for this. It’s called jamais vu, and while it’s commonly associated with brain fatigue, you can experience it when you’re feeling perfectly alert. Sometimes there’s a logical explanation — like being distracted the first time you you viewed a scene — and sometimes it occurs for no reason at all. Your memories of that scene were simply buried in the depths of your brain.…
Video Game Instruction Manuals

The Decline of the Video Game Instruction Manual

Once upon a time, tearing into a new video game instruction manual was a thrill for me. Even when I had the game itself in hand, the manual held a special allure. Manuals helped me decide what to name my characters, gave me a feel for a game’s controls, and provided a convenient place for me to take notes. Nowadays, manuals have lost their luster. The manuals I poured through as a kid were full of unique art and interesting information, but modern manuals are pretty bare bones. Many manuals are devoid of color, and most don’t feature any information you won’t learn in the tutorial. If it wasn’t for the Internet, they’d still be a useful reference, but as is, they don’t hold much value.…
Corpse Party

Why Simplistic Graphics Make Horror Games Better

There’s a little song that creeps into my head when I’m trying to fall asleep. The words aren’t in English, but I understand them all the same. A sweet, childish voice sings sweetly about the entrails of your dead friend. Kids singing creepily is as overused as horror tropes get. It’s the kind of thing that makes me shake my head when I see it in a movie trailer. So why do I find it so chilling here? That’s because it’s from Corpse Party, a 16-bit survival horror game for the PSP. Created with RPG Maker, the game’s graphics are as basic as it gets. While there are character portraits and event CGs, the game forces you to rely on your imagination as you explore a haunted, body-filled school. Games and movies have never been able to frighten me the way stories do.…
Super Mario Bros 2 Sleep

Don’t Sleep, There Are Video Games

The days when I could routinely pull all-nighters are far behind me. When it gets late, a switch goes off that reminds me I need to go to bed at a reasonable time. Barring setbacks, I get the seven hours a night you’d expect of a boring, responsible adult. There’s only one thing that can consistently distract me from my self imposed bedtime: video games. When I’m focused on a good game, I lose all sense of time, and hours slip away in an instant. I’ve told myself “just a few more minutes” until I’ve looked at the clock and realized I had to be up in 3 hours. These all-night gaming sessions sometimes leave me feeling predictably awful, but on other occasions, I’ve woken up feeling great.…
Claymation Mario

Old Video Game Magazines Are an Incredible Time Capsule

Thanks to the Internet and my pack rat tendencies, I have a sizable collection of old video game magazines. I’ve wasted countless hours re-reading the Nintendo Power letters page or admiring old Game Players layouts. The nostalgia factor is part of the appeal, as is my interest in gaming journalism, but what really fascinates me about these magazines is the way they let me see the past. There are things about  remember the video games of my youth with perfect clarity. I vividly recall flipping over tickets at Toys R Us, hoping that the games I could afford looked like something special. I remember being completely stuck in Final Fantasy VI and hoping the next issue of Nintendo Power would come to my rescue (it totally did).…
Harvest Moon Dating Sim

Harvest Moon Turned Me into a Dating Sim Addict

I still vividly remember the day I discovered Harvest Moon. While flipping through the latest issue of Nintendo Power, I came across a game that was unlike anything else I’d ever seen. In retrospect, I’m not sure why Harvest Moon captured my imagination so completely. I’d never had any great love for farming or a burning desire to raise livestock. But somehow, I knew I had to play it, and a lifelong addiction was born. I had a surprising amount of fun growing crops, but where Harvest Moon really got me hooked was its dating sim aspects. Back then, I hadn’t played anything like it, and I obsessed over finding the perfect gift for each girl. During my first playthrough, it took me ages to get married, but by the second time around, I had it down to a science.…
Final Fantasy VI Mobile

Final Fantasy VI Mobile Is Terrible; Stop Pretending Otherwise

It wasn’t at all surprising to see Final Fantasy VI‘s mobile release described as garbage. Final Fantasy VI is considered to be one of the greatest games of all time, gamers have a tendency to be negative, and the game does indeed look like fresh garbage. What was shocking was that many insisted that the awful new graphics were an improvement. Worse, they claimed the only reason anyone would prefer the original was nostalgia. Everyone has their own tastes, and I’m sure some people like MS Paint chic. Still, it seems ludicrous to state that the bargain-basement version of FFVI is the superior one, especially when anyone willing to spend five minutes in the App store can find a better looking game for free.…
Mario, Pac-Man

Falling Down the Nostalgia Rabbit Hole

Recently, I’ve been thinking  lot about the girly video games I played growing up, including Purple Moon’s Rockett series. I’ve been reading about the games on Wikipedia, looking for used copies on eBay, and trying to find out if the series ever revealed Rockett’s middle name. This is a common pattern for me. Something will remind me of The Incredible Machine or Logical Journey of the Zoombinis, and suddenly it’s all I can think about. It doesn’t matter if the game was good or if I remember much about it at all. It’s stuck in my head like an earworm, and I’m doomed to be fixated on it for at least a few days. Sometimes I get sucked into the nostalgia vortex without being reminded of anything in particular.…
Style Savvy

My Secret, Shameful Love Affair with Girly Games

There are exactly zero people in my life that would refer to me as a girly girl. It’s not that I eschew things that are feminine — I’m wearing both makeup and the color pink as I type this — it’s that I don’t have a natural inclination toward stereotypical “girly” things. I own less than five pairs of shoes, I can’t figure out how to do things like apply nail polish or eyeliner, I don’t know how people wear scarves with their outfits and make it look good, and I genuinely can’t remember the last time I wore jewelry. Obviously, none of this is a big deal. The truly stereotypical people I meet are few and far between, and I’m pretty content with my level of girliness.…
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Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy
The 3D Platformer: How 1996 Witnessed the Birth of a Genre
Pokemon Nintendo Power
Nintendo Power Predicted a “Pokémon Trade War” in 1998