Monday, July 27, 2009

DS Games That Should Not Be Overlooked

This list is essentially some recommendations I have for the Nintendo DS. I wanted to compile a list of worthwhile titles that are original to the DS (so no ports or remakes like Final Fantasy IV, Chrono Trigger, Broken Sword, etc), and not obvious popular titles that everyone is already playing (like the Castlevania Trilogy, New Super Mario Bros., GTA: Chinatown Wars, etc).

Instead I focused on some great games that many people might overlook for various reasons. Perhaps because the game looks like it was intended more for children, or the game was not promoted well and fell under the radar, or simply because they weren't willing to take a chance on an unusual or different game. Whatever the case, here are five games you should be playing on the bus.

5. Ninjatown
As we all know, the best way to improve something is to add ninjas. And in that regard this game is a success. Falling into the genre of tower defense games, this title stands out for it's funny characters and addictive play. The game is simply a series of levels in which you must protect Ninjatown from swarms of enemies lead by the evil Mr. Demon. The invading hordes follow set paths and it's your job to construct ninjas huts along the path to engage the enemy. It starts simply enough, but the difficulty quickly escalates as new enemies emerge and you have more and more options for ninja huts and upgrades. It's all about managing your resources and time, while utilizing the strengths of your ninjas.

Someone glancing at the box art in a store might assume the game developed by Fisher Price and aimed at 4 year-olds, but there is enough challenge and fun here for any gamer. It's among the best of its genre, and a perfect game to play in short bursts. Plus, what's not to like about business ninjas putting the smack down with a cellphone?

4. Picross DS
The DS system has a lot to offer in the realm of puzzle games, but that's its strength and more suited to gaming on the go. It's the reason there are dozens of sudoku and crossword games, and all the first person shooters are crap. Before I move on, I have to say that the whole sudoku craze is pissing me off. I cannot understand their popularity. I am what you could affectionately call a "puzzle nerd" and I can't stand them. They're not fun or rewarding in the least.

Where was I? Oh yeah. If we group all the puzzle titles that originated as pen and paper puzzles, then Picross is the best by leaps and bounds. This puzzle (also known as Nanograms or Paint by Numbers) is all about using logic to figure out which blocks to fill in on a grid to ultimately create an image. What used to take forever with a pencil, is simpler and more fun on the DS with a touch screen. The game eases you into the rules and offers hundreds of grids to complete with various difficulties (from simple objects to portraits). It's addictive as hell, and I honestly think anyone, even someone who never does puzzles, could pick it up and enjoy.

3. Retro Game Challenge
The game's title is quite vague and one might think it's just another collection of old games, but it's actually much more ingenious. It's based on a Japanese television show called GameCenter CX which is about a guy being forced to play through old video games for our amusement. In RGC you must play through a series of original games and complete challenges in order to unlock more games. Each game is designed with retro graphics and sound, so you feel as if it could have originally been released for the NES.

The games are fun, and reminiscent of actual hits like Galaga, Ninja Gaiden, Dragon Quest, and Megaman, and they are also tough in the way NES games were. But you get access to each game's instruction manual for help, as well as a fictional gaming magazine that supplies you with hints and cheat codes. Basically the whole thing feels like a nostalgia experiment or an alternate universe of some sort. It's a unique title and gets extra points for being a way to relive our childhood. There are even some times when the games in the game don't work and you have to blow on the imaginary cartridges. Now that's bizarre and awesome.

2. Professor Layton and the Curious Village
Sorry to hit you with another puzzle title, but like I said, they just fit for the system. The game is half adventure and half puzzle collection and you play as the genius Professor Layton who travels to St. Mystere with his assistant, Luke, to find a golden apple and unravel the secrets of the strange town. Every location and nearly every conversation leads to a riddle or puzzle of some sort. The puzzles range in difficulty, but luckily there is a forgiving hint system and most you won't have to complete to progress the story.

What makes the game so great, besides the puzzles, is its style. The characters and world are like a fusion of Tin Tin, Studio Ghibli, and a less hideous Les Triplettes de Belleville. The story plays out with fully animated cut scenes and voice acting that are charming and entertaining. I just love the Japanese/European vibe, and the music fits perfectly as well.

As of right now there is only one Professor Layton game released in North America, with a sequel coming in August, yet Japan already has 3 titles with 3 more slated for the coming year, and a full length animated film in the works. Hopefully that gives you an idea of how popular this series is quickly becoming.

1. Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime
This game is so unbelievably weird, I just don't know how it came to be, or how it ended up being so fun. The game is all about a slime named Rocket (the mascot of the Dragon Quest series) fighting an evil platypus mob (the Plob) with a giant battle tank (the Schleiman Tank) to save his fellow slimes and restore order to Slimenia's capital city (Boingburg). The game is basically the epitome of quirkiness, and its weird characters, self-aware humour, game related puns, and overall absorbing presentation warms the cockles of my video game heart.

As Rocket you explore various levels defeating enemies, collecting any and all items, and rescuing other slimes who have been kidnapped. The game is deceptively simple, and while it seems too easy and cute at first, the game picks up quickly with the introduction of your battle tank and then the real fun begins. With your tank you must face off against enemy tanks - many with great names like Chrono Twigger and The Enforker - and destroy them by managing your cannons inside. It's your job to collect the ammo from around your tank and feed it into your two cannons to deflect incoming shots or damage the enemy tank. The ammo itself comes from a customizable "deck" of things you collect around the levels (anything from sticks to sickles). Later in the game you can begin fusing items and making more powerful ammo like bastard swords, goddess statues, explosives, shields, and much more. On top of that you can recruit a crew of other slimes, and even defeated enemies, to work in your tank during battles to help load the cannons, infiltrate the enemy tank, or protect your own tank from invaders. Throw in some more customizable features, tank upgrades and you got yourself some gaming crack.

This is easily one of my favourite games from previous years, and I've played through it three times. The game delivers an excellent experience all around; the characters are likable, the action is intense and rewarding, the story is funny and appealing, and the game play is inventive. If you ever had the urge to play a game where you could fire statues at an enemy tank, get inside, hit a cat in the face with a sword, then race to the heart of the tank and destroy it with a boomerang ... this is the game for you.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Foods I Miss From My Childhood

In preparing for this short list, I put together a sort of all-encompassing list. I was incredibly stringent on my choices, only choosing items that I ate on a regular basis and truly craved as a kid and not just items that everyone remembers, but I rarely ate or drank, like Crystal Pepsi or Nintendo Cereal. Even then I came up with enough for three lists. From that list I picked five that represented a good smattering of foods that I would eat as a youngster, and yearn to enjoy even now.

So without further ado, here's the list!

5. Super Mario Bros. Shapes Kraft Dinner

Introduced in 1937, Kraft Dinner became instantly popular as it was a quick and easy meal to make that was like, or at least advertised as, a nutritious home-cooked meal. During World War II its popularity rose immensely because of shortages of meat, milk and eggs.

It has become the brunt of many a Canadian joke over the years, but I will not deny my love for KD. This is one of those foods that you can find in just about any Canadian's cupboards at any time, and especially mine. I always have a box or two on standby, should the mood arise.

Back around 1975 Kraft began trying out different shaped noodles, such as the spiral noodle. In 1988 we saw the emergence of the wheel-shaped KD, which in a lot of ways was the precursor to the KD I'm about to talk about.

With the 80s and 90s bursting forth with all sorts of different foods marketed towards children, Kraft wouldn't be outdone, as they introduced noodles shaped like different cartoon characters such as Scooby Doo, The Flintstones and Bugs Bunny (pictured above as I couldn't find an image for the Super Mario KD). I think there may have been a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles variant as well, but I may be mistaken. The one that caught my attention when I was a kid, however, was Super Mario Bros. Kraft Dinner.

Why SMB? I can't specifically tell you. You see, all of these different shape Kraft Dinner's tasted exactly the same! There was no difference. I remember them being different from the regular KD formula. The noodles always seemed firmer than the regular noodles. Also, and this may just be jumbled up memories on my part, I think the cheese sauce was a little different as well. Probably not, though.

I think the reason I wanted them so much was because I wasn't a big KD fan when I was a kid. I had a major hate on for any cheese that wasn't mozzarella on pizza back then (thank you TMNT), and even to this day I'm not a big cheese fan. The trick of making the KD look like different cartoon heroes from my childhood completely worked on me, and I wanted to eat SMB KD like a mad man (mad boy?).

I think the allure of Super Mario Bros. KD was the fact that I rarely saw food that was Nintendo-related. I'm not sure if this KD was an off-shoot of the Saturday morning cartoons based around the Super Mario World or not, but that didn't matter. To date I'd seen, and very briefly I may add, Nintendo Cereal, as well as Pac-Man Cereral, and that was pretty much it as far as video game food was concerned. Whatever it was, if there was food out there that was based on a Nintendo game that I loved, I just ate that shit up, quite literally.

Click here for a glorious 80s/90s commercial!

4. Snow White Cream Soda

Here's one that I can imagine very few people have ever had, or remember. In fact, I tried to search for any kind of advertisements I could find for this particular brand of cream soda, and of course found very little. I was shocked, however, to actually find an image of several cans, one of which is actually Snow White Cream Soda. It's on the top right of the image. I know it's grainy, but it'll have to do.

There isn't too much I can say about this except that it was by far the best cream soda I've ever had, and I actually still to this day, drink cream soda on occasion, no matter how girly that pink stuff is!

I actually find cream soda in general to be a dying breed of pop. I generally only see Crush's pink variety these days, and occasionally Crush's clear version, which is the same as the pink stuff, just without the dye from what I can tell.

Whatever the case, Snow White destroyed them all. I think it came out in the 60s and virtually vanished from most places within the next 20 years, but in the late 80s, early 90s we could still get it at random corner stores in my neck of the woods, Nova Scotia. What made it so amazing? This stuff actually tasted like cream. All other cream sodas have a taste that is similar and distinguishes them, and I suppose you could call it cream-esque, but somehow this particular cream soda actually tasted like something I would call cream and it felt smooth going down. I dunno if it was more syrup than carbonation and I may never know, but although it was clearly pop, Snow White Cream Soda tasted and felt like you were truly tasting a cream-themed soda for the first time.

3. McDonald's Pizza

When I started thinking of items for this list I did whatever I could do avoid short-lived fads. This included variations of Coke or Pepsi, random candy and all sorts of different stuff. There are two reasons that McPizza (I don't think they ever marketed it as McPizza, but I'm calling it that for ease) makes it on here, despite being so incredibly temporary on McDonald's menu.

For one thing, how can a child of the 80s/90s make a list about forgotten foods without incorporating McDonald's? I mean, these guys had the best commercials, ads and foods that any kid craved like crack cocaine. I mean, they marketed the shit with a damned clown!

Secondly, and more importantly, when I was a kid and McPizza was available, I ate nothing else at McDonald's. I couldn't get enough of this stuff. I remember it now as being very saucy, and the sauce, although having no discernible veggies in it, being very chunky. The cheese was sparse, and I think mostly was like a parmesan and the pepperonis were few and far between, and heavily spiced. I believe I remember the crust as being crunchy but practically non-existent.

I grew up in a town where pizza is practically a religion, with all kinds of people finding themselves in different denominations based on pizzeria. So why would I find such a generic form of this glorious food so amazing? Well, that goes back to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. They made pizza a world-wide phenomenon in the 90s. Like I said, in my hometown pizza is a big thing, so with that and the old TMNT cartoon pimping the pizza out like mad, I couldn't get enough of the stuff. So combine my love for pizza, TMNT and any child's lust for McDonald's and you have an insane winning combination.

So, why didn't the stuff last? Well, pizza isn't that quick to cook. Although I go to different pizza places today that can have you a pizza ready in about 7 minutes (Little Caesars may be shit, but it's cheap and quick) back then people went to McDonald's for fast food. That means order and receive. The pizza, however, took longer to prepare. Also, I would get personal pizza combos when I went, but I don't think the idea of ordering pizza from McDonald's like a Pizza Hut or something like that really took off. It's a shame, because I truly remember enjoying the stuff.

This is a very grainy commercial for McDonald's Pizza, but it is actually from a Nova Scotian station, ATV!

2. Lipton Alligator/Big Foot Soup

When I made this list I knew that it would be hard to find some documentation for a few of these items. In fact I was fully prepared to find nothing to substantiate my claims that Snow White Cream Soda ever existed. I did not, however, expect to have a hard time finding at least some pictures of Lipton Alligator or Big Foot Soups! I could find nothing in the form of a picture or a video about the delicious dry-packaged goodness that these soups embodied, but I will soldier on.

Like most of the items on this list, I find it hard to truly explain the exact flavours or consistencies of the foods I'm writing about. I'm sort of banking on the fact that maybe the readers of this list remember what I'm talking about as well, or that I can describe something in comparison to what they taste like. For this one, it may be tricky.

First you'd have to know Lipton Chicken Noodle Soup (which I'm certain you do - it's pictured above as I couldn't find an image for Lipton Alligator/Bigfoot Soup), or Cup-A-Soup. Much like Kraft Dinner, this is soup that consists of dried noodles and a dried soup stock (in KD's case, cheese powder) that can be boiled in water to make the meal. To this day I still eat Lipton Soup on a regular basis, although I'm moreover a Campbell's soup man. The one soup that Lipton made when I was a kid that I couldn't get enough of was Alligator Soup.

Really all it was was chicken noodle soup with noodles shaped like little alligators. I distinctly recall it tasting different, though. The noodles, first off, much like the KD shapes, were always firmer, no matter how much you boiled them. They could almost be downright chewy. The broth, although yellow an clearly chicken based, seemed different to me, and I recall there being a lot of some kind of green floaty in the mix. Possibly some kind of dried green onion? I really don't know. It came in the standard Lipton soup box, only instead of red (for chicken noodle) it was green. I don't recall the Bigfoot soup as much, but I know it also existed. It was exactly the same, I think, only with foot shaped noodles as opposed to alligators. I always leaned on the alligator side, as I recall, so I rarely ate the Bigfoot variety.

There's a noodle out now, it might be a Lipton Sidekick (which might make sense), but I can't recall which kind it is, that reminds me totally of Lipton Alligator Soup. It might be the chicken and broccoli version. I really can't remember right now, and probably should've looked into it, but it won't matter. If you haven't had it then you unfortunately don't know the glory within, and my musings here are lost on ye.

1. Hostess Barbecue Chips

The mother of all my childhood snack foods, this list could not have been compiled without speaking about the greatest potato chip ever invented, the Hostess BBQ (I'm going to abbreviate barbecue to BBQ for ease) chip.

Hostess was the primary potato chip seller in Canada for many years. Although chips made up a very small wing of the Hostess foods company, their chips were easily the most popular throughout the Canadas and began many of the conventions you see today with potato chips, such as different colours on the bags to identify the different flavours (most of which are used by all the company's existing now). They also created the chip flavours that are popular today such as sour cream and onion, dill pickle and ketchup. They even tried some fruit flavoured chips, like grape and orange and cherry, which flopped instantly. Actually they created the flavours I mentioned above directly after their fruit-flavoured line fell.

Unfortunately big business came into town and destroyed that which I held most dear. Hostess was purchased by Frito Lay in the early 90s. They then began selling their different brands such as Doritos, Ruffles and Cheetos. Doritos would replace Hostess's Mexitos rather quickly, but their other brands could not take down the mighty Hostess giant. It wasn't until the mid-90s when Frito Lay began marketing their Lay's potato chips with huge hockey stars like Mark Messier and Eric Lindros. In time Hostess was considered a sort of "low end" chip, in comparison to Lay's new line and over time was re-branded and replaced with Lay's.

If Lay's had adopted the Hostess flavours I don't think this would have bothered me as much as it did, but that was not the case. Their flavours seemed dulled. There wasn't enough on the chips. I didn't wince when I ate salt and vinegar. I didn't need to wash my hands for an hour after a brawl with a bag of ketchup. Most importantly, BBQ no longer meant hot and spicy. No, now it meant sweet, like a barbecue sauce. To say it hurt my very soul would be an understatement.

Hostess BBQ chips were the perfect blend of hot and not too spicy. When Lay's took over, they adopted a sweet barbecue flavour and so did most of the other chip companies in an attempt to combat the giant. Hostess chips would live for a very short time afterwards, usually coming out as specialty items for a short period, and I would always take this as a chance to relive their deliciousness, however I would have to sate my voraciousness for a truly BBQ flavoured chip with the likes of Humpty Dumpty (my now reigning fave, which could also be slowly dying) and some different "no-name" varieties. After a time, Lay's released a "Hot Barbecue" flavour, but it wasn't even close to the same. I find it too salty and I can only eat a handful at a time.

You want to know what upsets me most about this whole thing? Not that Hostess was taken over and removed from the market. Not that Lay's made a crappy chip, and just about everyone else in the market followed suit. The thing that stings the very most is that, apparently, HOSTESS CHIPS STILL EXIST.

Yes, in researching for this article I came across some news that startled my very core. That image you see at the top of this article is the current brand of Hostess chips. And look! There's BBQ!

Although they were beaten, they were not completely killed, and apparently they are still sold at select Price Chopper and Food Basics low-end grocery stores. For all these years, I could have been eating Hostess BBQ chips, and I was raped of that chance! I can remember the last time I had a bag. Cole and I went to rent our favourite video game, which we had at this point mastered, Final Fantasy 3 (it was 3 to us, damnit!). In the video store we grabbed our customary bottles of Coke and went to the chip isles to find that there was a mysterious, limited time offering of Hostess BBQ chips. Much to our excitement we got to not only enjoy one of our favourite rentals from the SNES, but also got to have our fave chips and pop combo one last time (at least for me).

So, I can tell you that I am now on the hunt for Hostess BBQ chips, and nothing will stop me, short of a lack of Price Choppers in my geographical region. I will taste these astonishing chips from my childhood once more!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Hardest Hitters of the Nineties

In a sport that's all about contact, often featuring very large men zooming around at high speeds, filled with adrenaline and aggression, there have been some very big hits. And almost anyone good enough to play hockey at a high level knows a thing or two about delivering a check. Sometimes we're even blessed with witnessing a player known more for skill and finesse or perhaps a smaller, less physical type or both, absolutely crashing into an opponent and laying him out flat. But to consistently dish out quality hits of devastating intensity for an entire decade is still a rare feat indeed in the best league in the world. Many players who were absolute terrors physically in their younger days just can't keep that kind of play going as they go into their thirties. Here are the best of the nineties, with as little bias as I can manage.

5. Jeff Beukeboom. Edmonton Oilers, New York Rangers
Purely a defensive defensemen, Beukeboom was anything but a flashy player with 25 points in 1988 being a career high. He did somehow score 8 goals in 1994 but with Boomer, it was all about the hits. A nasty customer to play against, he regularly topped 100 penalty minutes in a season and had over 200 twice. A great defensive player, he often matched up against the opposing team's top offensive players and on the plus/minus, Beukeboom was only a minus player twice in his entire career (his last 2 years on a very weak Rangers team).

He hit his stride paired up as the defensive conscience with the offensively talented Brian Leetch in New York. Leetch carried the puck and made the plays while Beukeboom broke up plays and laid guys out. At 6'5, 220, he was certainly well-equipped to knock people down. But we all know size isn't everything and Beukeboom's success as a hitter was mostly due to his uncanny ability to anticipate the play so he could position himself properly. And in the nineties, few did it better.

Signature hit: I'm really not sure but here's a nice one of him blind-siding a Winnipeg Jet.

4. Cam Neely. Boston Bruins

The only forward on this list, Neely hit just as hard in the nineties as he did in the eighties. I've already given you some info on him on my power forwards list so I'll try not to repeat it here. He had a very unique reputation as he was feared as a scoring threat as well as a hitter. I'm not saying he never threw an elbow or took a few too many steps once in awhile but most of the time, his hits were absolutely clean and as perfectly executed as can be. It wasn't uncommon for one of his checks to either lead directly to a goal for his team or a huge shift in the momentum of the game. The fact is Neely absolutely exploded into opponents once he had them lined up.

At 6'1, 190, he was only an average sized player, really, but he was as strong as they come and was an expert in transferring all his force into his shoulder for a collision. And like Beukeboom, Neely could finish what he started. If a recipient of a hit or one of his teammates didn't care for it and went after him, Neely was more than willing to drop the gloves and throw down.

Signature hit: Chelios manages to stay in his feet for this one but I still love it.

3. Rob Blake. Los Angeles Kings
Blake had a lot more offensive pop than either Beukeboom or Kasparaitis, scoring over forty points most seasons and usually more than 10 goals. He even has two seasons with over 20 goals (a rare thing for defenseman) and has six seasons with 50 points or more to his name. But he could also hit. How well? Well, in the early nineties some bus line in LA used to use his picture in their ads, indicating getting hit by Blake was like crossing paths with a train or bus or something. I dunno. But it's true. I can remember him pounding away at my Leafs during the 1993 Western Conference finals and while his scoring has slowed down with age he's still a pretty fearsome hitter. The hip check was his bread and butter and there are very few in the game today who can do it like Blake did.

Signature hit:
Probably doesn't have one but I greatly enjoy this one where he pastes Yan Bulis.

2. Darius Kasparaitis. New York Islanders, Pittsburgh Penguins
In the same mold as Beukeboom, Kaspar's strength definitely wasn't putting up points (only ever reached 20 in one season) and it wasn't his job either. In the early nineties, not too many European players were known for playing with a snarl and most of those that were, like Esa Tikkanen, were basically agitators who got under the skin of their opponents by playing on the edge, but never dominating them physically. But physical domination was what Kasparaitus was all about and he quickly established a reputation as a devastating hitter. He was only 5'11 but a solid 209 pounds and he knew how to use all of it, often slamming larger players to the ice or crushing them against the boards and glass.

It wasn't easy to hit a guy like Mario Lemieux, who was such a mixture of grace and power (6'4, 225 pounds), but Kasparaitus was so good at it that the Penguins eventually made a trade to acquire him. He continued his physical style there, now often protecting Mario rather than making life miserable for him as he used to. Anti-Euro fans have accused this guy of being dirty and looking to hit guys when their heads are down but come on! Everyone knows that if you catch a guy with his head down, he's fair game. That's the way it is. Kaspar was also a master of the old-fashioned hip check and would send guys flying through the air when he caught them with it. But he was just as good with a normal shoulder check; just ask Eric Lindros.

Signature hit: It has to be this one on Little Baby Eric, a much bigger player at 6'5, 235. Lindros missed 18 games after this hit and it was really the beginning of the many concussions that would basically trash his career. But there are a ton of great Kaspar hits to be found on youtube. Check them out.

1. Scott Stevens. Washington Capitals, St. Louis Blues, New Jersey Devils
I truly hate this guy but must admit that he is at least arguably the best hitter the game has ever seen. In his youth he was a linebacker in football and that's not surprising in the slightest. A star in junior hockey and thusly, a high draft pick, Stevens stepped right into the NHL as an eighteen year old and made an impact right away. Playing for the Washington Captitals, he made "an impact" on whomever he played against. And back in those days he was an offensive force as well. After scoring 25 as a rookie, he always had at least 40 and topped 60 four times! And throughout it all he absolutely punished opponents. There isn't any kind of body check that he wasn't a master of, whether it was a hip check, crashing along the boards or a big open-ice hit - he could do it all. If you played against Stevens, you either kept your head up or suffered dire consequences.

He played one season for the Blues but then there was this whole, um, thing involving the Blues, the Devils and Brendan Shanahan that I don't feel like going into here. All you need to know is Stevens wound up on the Devils and that's where he played the rest of his career, becoming captain in short order. Some of his most famous hits actually came towards the end of his career, after the nineties (Francis, Lindros, Willis, Kariya) but he still did his share of damage during that decade as well. Barely a game went by where he didn't deliver at least one crushing hit and it's absolutely true that he sometimes completely took over games with his physical play. I'll always hate his guts but can only respect his amazing ability to check like almost no other player before or since.

Signature hit: Truly, he has several and maybe the most infamous is the one on Lindros in the 2000 playoffs but this assault on Slava Kozlov in the 1995 Stanley Cup final (en route to his first of 3 Cups) will do nicely for the purposes of this list. Don't ask me how the guy managed to get up after this one. Teammate Scott Niedermayer was lucky to get out of the way. In the aftermath, with the Detroit bench all screaming at him, Stevens pointed at them and said "You're next."

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Michael Jackson's Oddest Transformations

I have to apologize for doing a list like this at a time when the Internet is practically overflowing with Michael Jackson related stuff, but it was an idea for a list I've had for a while, and now seems like the right time.

I listened to Michael's music a lot growing up, and I consider myself a fan. I enjoy his songs, his performances, and think he was a phenomenal talent (As if you haven't heard that before). For as long as I've been alive I could count on Michael Jackson to deliver some awesome songs, but also some completely random entertainment. I would say that not a single aspect of his life was normal, but I don't mean that in a negative way. He was a one of a kind performer, a unique celebrity, and one of the strangest eccentric personalities we'll probably ever see in our lifetime. I just can't help but like a guy who will throw millions of dollars into a music video to make it a one of a kind experience. The man didn't know how to make a short video, but at least we can agree it was never boring.

So, here goes a list of the strangest transformations I can think of from his career. And, no, I'm not referring to his real life physical transformations. Just the ones from his music videos and short films.

5. A Panther (Black or White)
In the original version of the Black or White video, there was a 4 minute segment where Michael leaves the studio as a panther, transforms into a human, does some complicated dance moves, and then transforms back in a panther. This part was censored for most of its airings due to excessive crotch-grabbing and Michael randomly vandalizing a vehicle and some windows. Later on some racist graffiti was digitally added to the glass to make the window-smashing more agreeable.

Seems a bit weird to me that people would have problems with that. Crotch-grabbing is Michael Jackson's trademark, and do we really need to digitally add an explanation for his vandalism? No one bothered to explain why he had turned into a Goddamn panther! Also, sorry there's no picture. I couldn't find one, but you know what a panther looks like.

4. A Dancing Skeleton (Ghosts)
Remember that crazy music video where Robbie Williams dances in front of a bunch of girls, peels off all of his skin and muscles, and then dances around as a skeleton? Well Michael Jackson had done that old routine 4 years prior in the completely insane 35 minute music video Ghosts.

In the video he contorts his face is a bunch of frightening ways, then ends up pulling his face off like a mask. Later in the video he does the who shebang and dances around as a CG skeleton. The whole production is pretty inexplicable and pointless, but as I said before, I have to give him credit for getting the biggest names in special effects on board for this Halloween special of a music video.

3. A Biker Rabbit (Speed Demon)
As I know this video is only from the movie Moonwalker, and I used to watch it as a kid on beta video. I remember feeling very confused and sort of frightened by the characters, but still being oddly mesmerized.

In the video Michael is chased around by some grotesque claymation characters who are apparently crazed fans. In order to outwit them he dresses up as -and turns into - a giant biker rabbit ... thing. I don't know. He rides around on a motorcycle at high speeds and morphs into various celebrities like Tina Turner, Sylvester Stallone, and even Pee-wee Herman. It honestly didn't make a lick of sense then, and it doesn't make a bit of sense now.

2. A Zombie with Moves (Thriller)
I really do love the video for Thriller. In the past I thought it was ridiculous, but it's grown on me. I almost added the werewolf transformation from Thriller to this list but then I thought about it some more. Sure, Michael transforms into a werewolf (or maybe it was a werecat), but he just chases the girl around and attacks her. That's exactly what you'd expect a monster to do.

But this is a list of the weirdest transformations, and what's weirder that someone suddenly becoming a zombie and then instead of munching down on some braaaaaiiiiinss, they break into a cool choreographed dance with all the other zombies? As a lover of zombies, that scene is pure entertainment gold, and just another example of Michael delivering the unexpected.

1. The Amazing Colossal Mecha Man (Moonwalker)
Another fantastical transformation from the Moonwalker movie. In the final (and arguably only) story of the movie, we have Michael playing a gangster who is trying to save some kids from an evil drug lord called Mr. Big, played by Joe Pesci. Mr. Big and his henchmen chase Michael all over the city. Little do they know that when in tough spot, Michael can wish upon a shooting start and become ... a giant robot!

What is Michael's oddest transformation? How about becoming a Transformer!! In the movie we see his character change into a futuristic car, a giant laser-shooting robot, and then a spaceship. He even blows up Joe Pesci. What more do you want?

As far as musical stars go, Michael is larger than life in every way. With videos and movies like Moonwalker we can see that he is always willing to go the extra mile to do something new and unusual; changing into animals, monsters, machines, and more. It's best not to ask why, but simply sit back and be entertained.