mailbag #2

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these. Mostly due to a lack of questions. I know folks like to leave comments or ask me stuff on social media or in my Twitch chat, so the old mailbag gets neglected as a result. However, I’m still trying to reestablish Old World Internet things like this, a way of building a rapport with an audience, rather than posting into a void with others responding into another void.

Got a few questions here, so I will go ahead and answer them! Cool! My rule is to wait until I get five questions, but I had some good ones with long answers, so I stopped at three this time. By all means, feel free to ask stuff over here! Doesn’t even have to be about games! It could be anything, really: an*me, sports entertainment, anything that you think I would be able to answer with something other than absolute confusion.

From: Lariria

Message:
You’ve been playing Fallout 3, a game you despise. How come?

It’s the result of one of those nights of me discussing games with some friends over Discord. I’ve also been playing a lot of Shin Megami Tensei V, and I had been asked what personally appeals to me in regards to the overall plot and themes of the series.

I said, “The thing about going down the neutral path, or becoming a True Demon in Megaten, it’s like fucking, uh, like how there’s all those endings in Fallout New Vegas, right? But we all know that the only ending that matters is the one where you take control of the Yes Man and declare the Vegas Strip as a territory independent of the varying factions looking to re-implement old world ideologies that led to the world being a bombed out hellhole. It’s not ideal, but it’s fucking better than all that other shit.” My point of reference was Fallout, which is unusual, because it’s not one I see made all too often. That was how I explained myself.

This talk led to me wanting to load up a Fallout game. First, I did some New Vegas, because of course I would. The thing is, is that I’ve played New Vegas to death. You have played New Vegas to death. Everyone has played New Vegas to death. We know that game inside and out. We know all the characters, all the dialogue. We know all the words to “Big Iron.” We all know that patrolling the Mojave almost makes you wish a nuclear winter. I wanted to do something different, and load up the other best Fallout: Fallout 2. I haven’t played this game in about eight years, so I was looking forward to going on a trip down memory lane. Fallout 2 is still amazing, having replayed it. These extremely well-written RPGs with solid mechanics. They really don’t make them like this all too often these days. I’m sure I will have another post on this in the near future.

Then I started thinking about Fallout 3, a real low point not just in the series, but for games as a whole, I feel. I haven’t played Fallout 3 since 2009, so I wanted to refresh myself, at least as much as you can “refresh” yourself with a terrible game. I wanted to remind myself just how badly Bethesda fucked things up. Yeah, it’s still bad. The writing is still garbage, the roleplaying element is still a joke that railroads you into playing the “right” way, the combat is still extremely rough and gives me a greater appreciation for how much Obsidian was able to salvage what they could from it for New Vegas. Fallout 3 really does feel like an insult to anyone who has played the originals, like me. The morally ambiguous, pointed critique at capitalism and American exceptionalism now becoming post-apocalyptic Star Wars; the Brotherhood of Steel are the good guys (rather than weird technofacists that only exist for you to steal shit from) and the Enclave are the bad guys and did you see Liberty Prime wow cool robot. The moral shades of gray you were presented with in the past now a firm black and white.

In Fallout 1, for example, you find the water chip you’ve been sent to look for in a vault full of Ghouls. Now, you can straight up steal it, which will kill the Ghouls inside, or you can fix their water pump and get the chip for doing so, which will keep them alive, but the water is still irradiated and will eventually turn the Ghouls into Feral Ghouls. The Fallout water chips are designed to break after a certain length of time, so there’s a commentary on artificial scarcity and planned obsolescence there. But also, a bleak point about the aftermath of a war that leaves people reducing others’ quality of life in order to improve their own, because the means to unite aren’t there, or at least not there yet. The game doesn’t beat this point over your head, Spec-Ops style, so it’s up to you as a player and your sense of morality and empathy to sit and think about what you’re doing.

Fallout 3, meanwhile, has a town built around an undetonated nuclear bomb. You can either disarm it, or blow it up. The choice reduced to literally pressing some buttons, or committing a genocide.

New Vegas has a town called “Novac.” Novac is built off of an abandoned motel, and the name comes from the remaining letters on a No Vacancy sign. It makes sense, and it’s a bit clever. People in a post-apocalypse don’t have a fucking clue what a vacancy is; they don’t even know who Elvis Presley is, so they see a sign that says Novac, and assume that it must have been the name of a town. Novac is a small detail that adds to the setting and to the world building.

Fallout 3 has a town called “Minefield.” It is called this because someone planted a number of armed land mines around it. Great.

I needed to replay Fallout 3 to remind myself that good games really are a form of magic. I needed to feel some despair that absolute shit can be considered acclaimed. To mourn Fallout as a series, because there is no way anyone other than Bethesda will ever work on one again. To see how much, yet how little, games (at least AAA ones) have changed in the time since its initial release. Fallout 3 is terrible, but it’s the kind of infuriating awful that needs to be experienced.

There’s so much more I can go on about, but this answer is already running pretty long, so I’ll end it here.

From: Ian Morris

Message:
i kind of miss licensed tie-in games some of them were fun and some were just fun to make fun of, did you enjoy any games that were mainly tie-ins to stuff besides game?

I think the obvious one off the top of my head is Goldeneye 007 on the Nintendo 64. Additionally, WCW/nWo Revenge, also on Nintendo 64.

But a real “Hidden Gem” so to speak would be the Sega Mega Drive version of True Lies, based on the action/comedy film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and everyone’s favorite Vega main, Jamie Lee Curtis.

I’m bringing this one up because of how surprising it is. It was made by Beam Software, a company known for two things: making absolute dogshit, and somehow also making Shadowrun for Super Famicom. True Lies should not be as good as it is, and yet, here is this fun top-down shooter with Doom-like key hunting and lots of blood and Tom Arnold managing to be funny despite the severe handicap of being Tom Arnold. Granted, the difficulty shoots through the roof a few stages in, and some of the larger levels can be a slog to navigate and find all the keys and doors for, but True Lies still manages to be this surprising good at best, above average at worst, game. Check it out.

From: Ian Morris

Message:
has there been a game that you feel needs to be remade that got left out of the trend of remakes and remasters?

King’s Field. Pick any one of the four From Software made, maybe all four. I think this is the old grump in me, but I am weary of constantly seeing this series only ever being referred to as “Dark Souls, before there was Dark Souls.” I love Dark Souls, but fuck me, not everything needs to be compared to it! Especially not a series that predates it by over a decade, and was influential on Dark Souls’ development. King’s Field is, to my knowledge, the second ever fully 3D game, at least on console (the first being Riverhill Soft’s Dr. Hauzer on the 3DO). That’s kind of an important, notable thing! Give it some dual analog controls, and the option to switch back and forth between the old graphics and whatever new ones FromSoft cook up, and you should be all set. King’s Field still rules, and I would like a new generation of players to be able to enjoy it.

Blue Skies during the Dreariest NiGHTS

There’s this weird aspect of my personality that I’m not sure if any normal person has, but I’ll describe it anyway: associating doing or enjoying something during a specific time of year. Like, I like to listen to certain music, or watch certain movies, or play certain games, or go out to certain place at a time of year arbitrarily designated by the pleasure centers in my brain. For example, it’s Fall, heading towards the Winter. It’s cold, windy, raining or snowing. The sun goes down at 3 PM. This is the time where my music playlist is almost exclusively the dreamiest of Dream Pop, the gaziest of Shoegaze, and the spaciest of uh, Spacy shit. It’s the kind of music you can vibe to while wearing more layers of clothing and constantly underneath a blanket when you aren’t up and moving around.

I do this with games too. Strangely enough, this is the period of time that I most associate with Sega. Mostly Sonic Team, but I might as well lump in the whole company because I have a few notable inclusions. This very specific time in Sega’s life: the twilight of their days as a first-party developer, is something that I am utterly obsessed with when the temperature outside begins to drop. Ironic, given how most of these games are set during the sunniest days of Summer. Now, I’m sure one of you out there is saying, “well, you probably feel this way because Sega consoles tended to come out during that time of year to capitalize on the holiday shopping season.” Or maybe pointing out how several of the games I’ll be talking about (and some that I won’t) take place at the end of the year, or even have their own holiday-themed expansions. That’s probably true, but I prefer liking these games and their aesthetics during this time due to feeling warm and fuzzy, and not your “facts,” okay?

The period of time in Sega’s existence; that Saturn era, before the days of the Dreamcast, and the end of an era, where all these games had themes and message of hope. Characters doing the right thing because it was the right thing to do. Characters being friends and shown having lives outside of whatever adventure the player would take them on. Games with worlds that you could conceivably chill out in.

Basically, stuff that is like a playable version of those gallery drawings from Sonic Jam:

There’s something cute about Sega characters just hanging out. And hey, maybe it turns out that I like playing these cute games during a time where culture pressures you to spend time with your family. I don’t, and never really did honestly, have much of a family to speak of. In recent years, I’ve supplanted “family” with “close friends.” What do we do? We laugh, we joke, we have fun, we spend time being happy together, regardless of what life might throw our way. I don’t want to say that playing these games feels “cozy,” because the internet ruined that term, so I will say “warm” instead. These are games that, no matter how outlandish they might get, give me that same feeling of loving your friends.

500 words in, I should probably actually start talking about some of these games. I’ll start with Sonic R. Now, I am not for a second going to pretend that Sonic R is any good, because it’s not; it’s a barely playable disaster where the simple act of moving in a straight line is an impossibility. It took Travelers Tales a while before they started making good games. Now, having just trashed the game, I’m not bringing up Sonic R because I enjoy playing it (I don’t). I like looking at Sonic R. I like listening to Sonic R. I like the idea of Sonic and his friends having a foot race for the sake of having a foot race, even if Sonic has a distinct advantage over the rest of his friends (in theory anyway, since all of the characters control like shit, regardless of acceleration). A Sonic game with incredibly low stakes, where everyone involved is having a fun time in these gorgeous environments and listening to some amazing EDM is by no means a bad idea. It’s just too fucking bad that the part where you have to actually play Sonic R is dreadful.

(Some of the amazing music I mentioned.)

All that being said, I still like to load the game up and give it a quick Grand Prix or two before I switch over to one of the other games I’ll be talking about. Despite all of its problems, I still love knowing that a game where a bunch of friends play together exists on my Sega Saturn.

Sonic R is essentially, a game about children playing (yeah, there’s Robotnik in there, but who cares, he’s always a non-issue). It’s cute. Now we’re going from children playing, to children struggling with their own insecurities.

NiGHTS Into Dreams (stylized as found) is a rightfully beloved Sonic Team release. Most people react to it with confusion, wondering just what the fuck exactly NiGHTS is. I imagine the expectation the world had for it, as I had going in, was that it was another platformer. It’s not. It’s this unusual, genre-defying game about flying around while collecting as many points as quickly as you can. If anything, NiGHTS uses that “gotta go fast” concept more than Sonic ever has.

NiGHTS is also a game about two kids, Eliot and Claris, who are struggling with their own G-Rated issues. Eliot wants to become a star Basketball player, but gets absolutely wrecked by a rival team, while Claris wants to become a singer, despite suffering from severe stage fright. While all this is happening, a creature known as Wizeman is plotting to take over the dream world, which will have consequences for the real world, and it just so happens that Eliot and Claris have the ability to stop Wizeman. In doing this, both of them overcome their shortcomings and realize their dreams of shooting hoops and singing. It’s cliched; “the power was inside you all along, and all you had to do was believe” is something that you’ve seen in just about any kid’s movie made since the 1970s. But there’s something to how NiGHTS pulls this off. You’ve heard the term “Disney Magic” before, right? I’m going to coin the term “Sega Magic” here. That company had many talented teams of great artists, great musicians, great programmers, and two or three madmen that were capable of directing them into some of the most timeless works in the history of the medium, despite the repeated incompetence of the suits at the top.

Like, fuck me, this is a game about teens overcoming mild adversity in a cutesy video game that’s rated E for Everyone. Yet there’s this part of me, without fail, that has a bit of an emotional reaction every single time I reach the end. That final level, where the two teens no longer need to use NiGHTS as their androgynous avatar anymore, and are capable of flight and the ability to stop the Nightmaren on their own. The song that kicks in as soon as you take to the skies, flying around this clock tower full of ascending balloons and falling stars, the entire game leading up to this point, is incredible.

You make it to Wizeman, and you defeat him, realizing your true potential. Eliot lands that slam dunk. Claris sings her heart out, impressing an entire casting crew. Then there’s that extra ending you get upon finishing the game with both characters, where they meet up in real life. It’s all very sweet and genuine; this wasn’t just something made to be pushed out the door so Sega could recoup their staggering losses during this period. NiGHTS Into Dreams very much feels like it was made with love, by people who gave something of a fuck.

And then it happens: that credits music kicks in. NiGHTS is a very short game that you can probably run through faster than actually reading this post, but it leaves a mark on you in that brief time. I am an adult in my 30s, and this ending still gets me emotional. Dude, I am literally crying while writing about this right now!

Maybe if you’re a normal member of society, NiGHTS is nothing more than a cute way to pass an hour. But maybe for people like me, who deal with insecurities and self-doubt, who oftentimes feel like their best is never good enough, it hits different. The fact that this game has two protagonists to illustrate that, holy fuck, you are not alone, hits different.

For all the emotional weight that NiGHTS has, there is one more trick up its sleeve to turn me into a blubbering mess that will try to power through the rest of this piece despite my inevitable ugly crying.

I’ve mentioned before that my familial relationships are non-existent. As such, Christmas was never a fun time. That holiday merriment quickly degenerating into drunken fighting, people throwing shit, then everyone screaming at me (or worse) because I was small and didn’t have the resources or knowledge to become emancipated. You combine that with my own cynicism about capitalism and religion, and I fucking hated Christmas. I still kind of do, honestly. The dumbfuck racists continuing to lose their minds over “Happy Holidays” because giving the most half-assed recognition to Jewish people is a step too far, I guess. The endless conveyor belt of identical Christmas movies on the Hallmark Channel where two affluent white people fall in love thanks to the spirit of the season. The constant push to Buy Shit. My ideal Christmas, and one that I successfully managed to have last year, is one where you get together with the people you truly love, and you reflect on the year that was. All the good, all the bad, and all the things you want to do in the next one.

Christmas NiGHTS Into Dreams is a small expansion to NiGHTS. The story to this one is that everyone is way too fucking busy and way too fucking stressed out on Christmas. People are pushing each other to get that popular gift that’s in limited supply due to artificial scarcity. Just an excess of good old American Spending. So Eliot and Claris take a short trip through the dream world again, and when they return, everyone has finally chilled the fuck out.

Christmas NiGHTS is even shorter than the original game, only having one level, but it manages to make yet another mark on you emotionally. It has a simple message: just be fucking nice to each other.

Sonic R is the gaming representation of an afternoon playing with your friends, which is why I didn’t have nearly as much to say about that, and NiGHTS is a representation of something that can be applied every day, not just the holidays: be fucking cool, dude. Love one another. Maybe it’s the literal decades of military-funded murder simulators and dudes with their heads up their asses trying to deconstruct the platformer genre, but it really doesn’t feel like games like get made anymore. It’s sad.

Now what if all these themes of togetherness and doing the right thing came together in a game where you fought fires instead of your insecurities? That’s where Burning Rangers comes in.

Sonic R, NiGHTS, and Burning Rangers are these bright, colorful games with great music and this sense of hope to them. Peace, love, non-violence, things that are lacking in a lot of games. I know I rag on the whole “wholesome” thing, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t love extremely positive stuff like this.

I love Burning Rangers because it’s this game with a very serious theme (firefighting), but playing the game itself, it is this fun, breezy adventure where everyone gets to go home at the end. You rescue people from industrial accidents, and the only enemies aside from nature are service robots gone haywire and out of control plants. Aside from hope, these are all games with well-defined heroes. The members of the Burning Rangers are a bunch of good people doing the right thing just because. Eliot and Claris are kids with dreams. Sonic and his friends fight Dr. Robotnik to prevent him from industrializing the world. They aren’t “heroes” in the sense of being cops or soldiers, where the level of heroics is subjective based on which side of the gun you’re on. No, Sonic Team decided, this gun will shoot water, and will be used to help people, rather than hurt them.

There’s something to this positivity in the face of the Saturn being an absolute sales failure internationally. I’m sure there were a lot of people at Sega shitting themselves, worried about the status of their jobs. Yet, here are these games that all say, “fuck adversity! Let’s face it head on together!” Burning Rangers was one of the final games released for the system. Everyone was hitching their hopes on the Dreamcast, sealing the Saturn’s fate for good. The final gasp of life from a dying console, full of hope, rather than regret. I have to respect that.

 

Decades have passed, and Sega has had its ups and downs in the subsequent time since. They no longer make home consoles, and Sonic Team has changed staff, becoming this directionless monster releasing terrible games. This Blue Skies aesthetic has all but disappeared in order to appeal to the nebulous concept known as the Modern Gamer. This magical era of the Saturn is a faded memory that fades further and further over time.

Then, as if willed into existence by fucked up weirdos like me, Sega decides to handle the publishing duties for a fan-made Sonic game.

Sonic Mania is a far too late answer to the question: What If The Saturn Had A Real Sonic Game? The enhanced color palette, the fluid animation, the “Sonic CD but better” music, it’s a spiritual Saturn game.

Mania is a game that Gets It. This is Sonic and his friends going on an adventure to stop a mad scientist from destroying nature. There’s no Shounen An*me bull shit that’s been the way of things since Sonic Adventure 2. Again, it’s colorful, the music is cheery, and the message is “stand together to face some fucked up shit.” Even more again, I love it.

This game also nails something I mentioned earlier better than the other games so far: having a game world that looks inhabitable. Not that you couldn’t live or work in the areas outside the race tracks in Sonic R, or that you couldn’t possibly inhabit the dream worlds of NiGHTS, or the futuristic locales of Burning Rangers, but they’re aren’t the same. Green Hill, Press Garden (act 2), Mirage Saloon, Studiopolis kind of, all have this “lived in” vibe. Like, this is a world that needs to be saved, and not just a series of obstacles for you to clear to get to the next zone. That’s awesome.

These are all games of friendship, light, love, and fun adventure in these areas that would be so cool to actually be able to visit. This shared aesthetic and themes played at this time of year is magical, and I felt the need to spend way too many fucking words trying to explain why I feel that way, hoping that I was successful in doing so. It makes me feel wistful for the Saturn, like maybe it wasn’t appreciated enough during its time. For the most part, that’s true, but then I have to remember the lack of software support outside of Japan (FUCK YOU BERNIE STOLAR), save data getting wiped out due to those watch batteries in the back that died as soon as you put them in the system, and that I would have been too young to be able to afford imports or to have the know-how to properly mod my system. It’s a shame. But at the very least, we’ll always have these games.

the year in review: 2021

hey, how about i post more unrelated images in long posts?

Once again, I begin a post with a confession: this is a second attempt at making a year-end retrospective. I’m doing this in November, rather than the end of December or beginning of January because I don’t think shit is going to change much in the next month and a half. I was also just generally moody and pissed off, so I decided to write a lot of shit down ahead of time. My original draft was pretty much a big list of every shitty thing that happened this year. 2021 sucked, to put it lightly, for numerous reasons. The problem is that I cleared 2,000 words before I managed to get past June, and that is way too fucking long. The thing is, I’ve been spending the last few months wallowing in negativity, which I hate. I hate being upset! I hate being angry! I hate feeling despair over shitty things! I hate being pessimistic and hopeless! Given the chance, I would much rather see the good in the world. I want to be honest about the fact that shit sucks, but try to find the good that happened this year.

Make no bones about it, I did not have a good year. Bad things happened in the world, bad things happened to my friends, and bad things happened to people I am at least empathetic towards. A community that I’m part of fractured in a pretty bad way. I’ve had a hard time making art this year, unlike last year, where I felt like a machine. Game development has been hard, barely being able to get a three-level demo out. A lack of output due a recurring instance of Bad Brain. I’ve been sick multiple times with different things. There was even a particularly nasty health scare that I’ve kept from everyone until writing it out right now. Luckily, it only turned out to be a bad reaction to a side effect from some medication I was on. Having anxiety while also having a sudden pain in your side and needing to urinate every two hours fills your head up with every worst case scenario possible.

A lot of shitheads felt emboldened for reasons that I do not care to figure out. It has felt like there’s been an even bigger trend of upholding bigotry, abuse, and assault. It has felt like talent or even being a decent human being is a hindrance. It sucks, and has caused a lot of bad mental health flare ups. Before I go into this post proper, I will simply say this: the Western Indie Game scene, whether it be as a critic at some fucking rag like Kotaku or Waypoint, or a developer enjoying that Itch.io front page, is straight up the most evil shit you can ever be a part of. My short run of covering local music events riddled with talentless jobbers with bassists in their 30’s who would openly brag about sleeping with underage fans was less soul-rending than this. More or less being blacklisted from the “Indie” scene is one of the best things that has ever happened to me, and it’s a shame that it took me this long to realize it. And it is also a shame that there are still some good people out there who are having to learn this the hard way; my heart goes out to Wren and Nathalie. Also fuck Dave Chapelle and fuck NFTs.

So yeah, I was not at my best in 2021. The most I was able to get done in any work sense was maintaining the streak of at least one blog post per week. I think to most of you, that’s good enough. In my eyes it’s not. I do apologize for not being able to get cool stuff out this year, especially to those of out there still supporting my criminally-neglected Patreon. To try and not be so hard on myself, at least I was writing consistently, even if the subject was “wow cool video game” over and over. My writing did get people thinking about stuff critically, and even convinced people to check out the stuff I was recommending. That’s awesome. Plus, at least being able to sit here and write about things I like was fun enough. I’ll try and keep the streak going throughout 2022, barring any sudden catastrophe.

Another area in my life where I felt like I was making an improvement was my fighting game prowess. Making it to level 10 in Guilty Gear Strive, with several trips to the Celestial Realm. Having who is essentially the Daigo Umehara of Vampire Savior tell me that I was one of the best players he had ever come across (despite me getting my ass kicked), was not something I simply brushed off. I haven’t been feeling super great these last few months, and being in a highly-competitive environment where everyone, even the very best, have their bad days, sometimes feels more like self-harm. Like I need to justify my brain saying all the bad, fucked up things about me. “Hey dumbass, you sure are getting your ass kicked a lot! Look at you, still falling for Millia’s mix-ups like a loser! Just like how you can’t do anything else right, and why everyone who has ever fucked with you and your friends are living their best lives, bitch!” I tried getting into Melty Blood Type Lumina while the onset of a Bad Brain Time™ was going on, and I didn’t handle myself well as a result; maybe I can try getting back into it later. But to know, and to sit back and try to be logical, that I am actually pretty fucking good, but also remember that I’m new. I’ve only been playing fighting games with any serious competitive ideas since 2020, maybe parts of 2019. Of course I’m going to have my weak spots, and I’m not suddenly going to be beating SonicFox with my eyes closed and pressing buttons with my feet.

okay, this image is actually related to the text

Maybe that’s the biggest takeaway of this year: that I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. Remembering that no matter how fucked the world at large might be, and how shitty things are for a lot of people I love, and that I still have a ways to go in improving myself, I still have good people in my life. There was a lot of cool shit that came out this year. I took a four hour break in the middle of writing this to watch Full Gear with a bunch of friends and had a great time. I’m not trying to be one of those toxic positivity assholes that pretend everything is cool all the time, I’m just trying to see the best in things because I don’t want to be swallowed up in that black hole of despair that I’ve seen so many others fall into. Some this year, even.

Shit sucks, and there’s not a whole lot I do about it; one person can’t change the world. I’m a chronically ill idiot with a shitty immune system who stays indoors because of a virus outside that will never be cured. I can’t fix things, but I can at least try to a better friend? Make things better for my own small group. Keep making things, whether it be a simple blog post, or actually getting some new art out finally, that people enjoy or are moved by the same way I am for others’ work. Admittedly, I’m writing all this from a place of guilt. I feel like shit about the fact that I’ve been dealing with all this negative emotion and indulging the more self-destructive side of me: talking shit, relitigating grudges, getting mad at myself way too easily and letting all those dark thoughts take over. Not that I can’t or shouldn’t be upset about things sucking ass, or that I can’t talk some shit when the time is right, but it can’t be all I feel.

I’ve managed to do a mostly good job of not spraying all my personal shit on here, instead constantly venting privately on Discord, or making the mistake of logging back onto social media, and that ain’t no fucking way to live. Hopefully, this year was a stumbling block. It’s weird, because this is a public post that (being generous here) a couple hundred people might read, but I am writing this for myself. Felt like I’ve spent this whole year suspended in thick gel, and it’s prevented me from being at my best. This is me making this shit public as a way of holding myself accountable that this shit needs to change. Striving to make 2022 a year where I get myself to the consistent level I was at in 2020, only better. Of course, having a chemical imbalance in my brain and having a lot of enemies won’t make that easy, but I have to give it a better effort than I did this year. That’s my goal. More good articles. More finished games. More sprite work. More sprite animation. More 3D modelling. More streams. More doing things that I like, with a lot less of the “oh fuck, is this good enough??????” anxiety that’s arrested me all this time.

If you’ve read this far, you didn’t have to. Also thanks, I guess.

Goddamn

If there is one thing anyone would have learned about me by now, is that I am a very easily impressed person. You pitch me a show or a game or a band with some ridiculous concept that makes me either laugh or say “that’s awesome,” and it gets points with me, even if it sucks. In this case, an an*me about rally racing. Yeah, that sounds pretty cool. Despite my proclamation last year to start watching real life rally racing, I uh, I forgot. As such, it’s a blind spot in my auto sports fandom. So hey, this will have to be a quick and dirty substitute. Anyways, what is this show called?

It is called: “Goddamn.”

Goddamn

Now, if you don’t think I am dropping everything I’m doing to watch a show called “Goddamn,” you clearly do not know a goddamn thing about me. Of course I’m going to watch this! The title is a swear word! That’s funny.

Goddamn is a two episode OVA that is itself based on a manga series that only ran for two years. It follows the exploits of Gen Todoroki, a rally driver who has exceptional behind the wheel. Exceptional talent that is only displayed when he isn’t crashing his car, which is all the time. Despite the somewhat minor issue of “not being able to finish a race,” Gen is still offered a spot on a hot new rally team. A young Nikita Mazepin takes notes. The crux of this OVA is his attempt at winning the Safari Rally Kenya Championship, despite sucking and his navigator hating his guts.

The thing about Goddamn’s art style is that it’s pretty inconsistent. Characters can be a bit iffy at times, and backgrounds are extremely flat and simplistic. However, the cars are detailed to such a degree that you would think someone on the animation team was jerking off to it. It’s clear that the budget was spent on making these vehicles as realistic as humanly possible. Probably because these are all actual cars being portrayed here. In fact, the car driven by Gen is a Ford Sierra Cosworth, which also goes a long towards explaining why Gen’s car becomes so thoroughly fucked up as the race progresses (Japanese manufacturers are notorious for not allowing their cars to be portrayed as damaged in any way, which is also why racing games like Gran Turismo don’t feature any real noticeable car damage. Western manufacturers are far more relaxed on this.).

needless to say, a bulk of this post will be screenshots of cars

Another thing about Goddamn is its pacing. On the plus side, something is always happening on-screen, with little in the way of filler (if any at all). A race, a character being introduced, seedy behind the scenes politics with the team owners, there is constant progression. The problem though, is that because this is only episodes, there’s no time for anything to rest. A lot of characters get introduced at once, and good fucking luck trying to remember any of their names. Some I had to go back and re-watch to learn, some I had to look up online, and a couple of them just so happened to have their names on the cars they drove, otherwise I’d have no idea who they were. With that, there is very, very little in the way of character development. This feels very much like a show for people who have already read the manga, rather than the usual purpose of an OVA to get people into a manga. 99% of anyone on-screen at any given time has a personality that begins and ends with “I like racing.”  So you end up with characters like “Joe” and “Arnold.” Though credit must be given to Gen’s navigator, who is named, no shit, Dick Van Dyke. Sadly, he is unrelated to the famous comedian/Amiga enthusiast. His character arc is “being very racist” then “okay the Japanese guy isn’t that bad” in short order.

No, really.

At the very least, because this is a show about racing, you can have two episodes dedicated to a single race and call it good, so that helps the extremely fast pace.

Because of this, I’m not doing the point-by-point synopsis; it’s a race where cars drive fast, and there’s drama because the main characters are trying to win the race. Despite the total lack of other plot development, it’s fun enough. It’s not a realistic take on racing; as Gen and his navigator Rov (figured I would introduce characters as suddenly as the OVA) drive down the face of a mountain without somehow dying or killing anyone else on the way down, and at one point drives head-first into a fucking collapsed tree to try and get another car’s rear out from under it. The kind of goofy shit that you can admire.

At least, you could admire it if the ending wasn’t a giant middle finger telling you that you just wasted an hour watching this fucking thing. Now, I get that sometimes, an OVA will end on a cliffhanger, sometimes even a real downer of an ending. For example, Berserk ended on what could be vastly undersold as a downer, but the proceeding episodes didn’t feel as though Guts was simply spinning his wheels. Goddamn’s ending sees the team getting 3rd place, then having to drop out of the rest of the season, as their parent company has withdrawn from the auto sports industry. In other words, everything that every character had worked so hard to do to get to this point has meant absolutely nothing. That just…sucks. I’m sure the manga is fine, but damn, this OVA is so pointless. Goddamn is an hour of looking at well drawn cars. That’s cool, I guess. But that’s really all this show had going for it, which is a shame, as I’m not sure there are any other series’ about Rally racing, and that’s a niche that can stand to be filled more. What a shame.

I can’t recommend that you see Goddamn. The art is mostly okay and the animation is fine, but the lack of any plot and that dogshit ending really ruin it. You can find it on YouTube. I’m not linking it, because you should find better uses of your time. Yeah, that’s…that’s it.

I’ll finish this by posting more screenshots of cars and blatant product placement to maintain a sense of realism despite a significant lack of it during the actual rally.

 

the pc-engine is god’s favorite console: part 4, anniversary edition

Today is the 34th anniversary of God’s favorite video game system, the PC-Engine. Seeing as how I’m kinda sorta known for my love of the console, I figured I’d do a write-up about it.

I should start this out with a confession: I’ve never owned an actual PC-Engine. Hell, I don’t even have a PC-Engine Mini. Nope, my entire experience of playing games on the system has been through emulation. I started with the shitty emulators with bad sound, before getting hooked up with a cracked version of Magic Engine. I still have that version around here; it was on my previous laptop, in fact. It’s also the only emulator that can run Wonder Momo without graphical issues, something that modern ones cannot do. It may be sacrilegious to some, but all I’ve ever known is pirating these old games and playing them with cheap USB pads, before making the switch to a six-button Sega Saturn controller when I was around 19 years old. As such, I didn’t spend hundreds of dollars on a CD-ROM add-on so much as installing DAEMON Tools and mounting ISO images. Someday, I would like to actually own one of these things, but they are hard to find, or at least hard to find at a price that I don’t have to knock over a bank to afford.

All that being said, the PC-Engine is still a wonderful gaming console, even if my experience with it is only at a software level. Over here in The States, we regard the system as an absolute failure. Sitting down, thinking about the list of games that stayed in Japan, and I can’t help but liken the PC-Engine to the Saturn. Both were awesome systems that did really well in Japan, and got absolutely cut off at the knees by bad management everywhere else. While we did end up getting stuff like an exceptional port of R-Type, we got Bomberman, we got Blazing Lasers, we got Valis somehow. But what didn’t we get? Gradius, for one. We didn’t get those great ports of Gradius 1 or 2. Fire Pro Wrestling was bafflingly left in Japan up until the release of the Game Boy Advance. A whole host of RPGs were left untouched, giving the PC-Engine a reputation of only being a home for shooters and high-octane action games. Not that that’s a bad thing, but having a bit of variety is good. Just because the genre wasn’t doing Final Fantasy VII numbers in the early 90s doesn’t mean that Far East of Eden or Jaseiken Necromancer couldn’t have moved some units.

Worst of all, there were two very specific games that didn’t come out over here that 100% should have. Games that I think would have at least kept the PC-Engine as a contender, if not outright successful for at least a little while longer. I’m talking about a surprisingly great port of Street Fighter II Champion Edition.

And I’m also talking about the biggest fuck-up of all: not bringing over Akumajou Dracula Chi no Rondo.

This is another one of those times where I get frustrated at the continued ineptitude of corporate suits. Did we need a stellar port of the hottest fighting game of the era? No, we needed Yo, Bro. Did we need what is arguably the greatest Castlevania? No, we needed Darkwing fucking Duck. What about Final Soldier? The New Zealand Story? Rainbow Islands? Metal Stoker? Lode Runner? The Tower of Druaga? Linda Cubed?

No. We got none of those. Instead, we got Johnny Turbo.

You want cool games? Fuck you! Have a shitty series of anti-Sega ads that suddenly pivoted into an overly long series of gay jokes aimed at a Turbo Technologies brand manager who sounds like an absolute nightmare to work with. Great.

I know I’m being negative here. But fuck me, it’s fucked to think about what could have been. Suit mismanagement aside, the PC-Engine was an awesome system. This cute little modular box loaded with some of the greatest games of the era. Thankfully, emulation and compilations allow us to sidestep the mistakes of the past, and enjoy the PC-Engine closer to how we should have in the first place. That’s what this all about, and what it has always been about: the games.

Getting back to my teenage days in Hu-Go! and Magic Engine. In addition to slowly and blindly leeching the contents of PlanetEmu’s Mega Drive collection, I would spend so many weekends going through the PC-Engine catalogue. All those shooters. A pretty good version of Space Harrier. Getting into Fire Pro for the first time. Enjoying the uniqueness of Photograph Boy, a game that can never be re-released due to its large amounts of gross racism. Falling in love with all those Namco games. Trying, and failing, to get into The Legendary Axe and Splatterhouse (sorry). It was a great time to be discovering and experiencing new games.

Much later in life, in my 20s, I actually pretty popular on Tumblr by playing and screenshotting and giffing various PC-Engine games. The “Good Old Days” of drinking loads of iced tea, eating lots of Asian cuisine, popping a Vicodin, and binging a bunch of ROMs while Friday Night Smackdown played on my TV a couple feet away, after spending the rest of the week drinking myself stupid every night at a whole host of terrible local concerts. It was a fun time, but I don’t necessarily miss it. That little white box seems to be a constant at various points of my life.

There’s something I’ve been dancing around for the last 800 words. I didn’t suddenly wake up one morning as a teen and decide to start playing the PC-Engine and its games. Rather, I had been introduced to it through a, I would say, relatively popular web site. Not a major one, but popular enough. It was one of those humor-based gaming web sites that were all the rage in the late 90s until the late-2000s. I’m taking great pains not to name the site, or the guy who ran it, for reasons that will be made clear soon enough.

When you’re about 16-17, and you come across something where the quality of writing is far beyond the usual “Menace Beach on NES is gay faggy shit for retards” fare, that kind of sticks with you. I read and reread and reread again every gaming article. When he put up his original fiction, I loved that shit too, because it was once again something that I wasn’t used to seeing at that age. The way that this guy would tell a story, or make you laugh, or would find a way to appeal to your nostalgia as he tore into things made from a distinct lack of effort. I don’t want to say that I idolized the guy, but I would be lying if I said that he wasn’t influential in the way I’ve written over the last fifteen years. That the way I consumed media hadn’t been influenced. The way that I appreciated and created art hadn’t been influenced. I very distinctly remember him messaging me on AIM back in 2007 to tell me how much he enjoyed something I wrote, which stuck with me for a long time.

Then the site vanished, along with the owner. Eventually, the mirror hosting his archives was deleted, too. Every so often, I would wonder what exactly the fuck happened. I wasn’t fretting over it every day like it was a missing person, but late at night, when I was bored and looking for something to do, I would think about that.

Anyways, I found out last year that the reason why he’s gone and any trace of his presence has been scrubbed from the internet is because he turned out to be an abusive piece of shit. Been over a year now, and I still haven’t truly gotten over that. I get that this is a tangential aside for a post about a retro video game system, but I feel like it’s important to bring up when talking about my memories and my experience with it. My introduction to something that, while it hasn’t been the most important thing in my life, is still something I really enjoy, was very nearly tainted. A console that I most associate with my beginnings as a writer and artist could have been fucking ruined forever by the delivery of some bad news. Cringe though it may sound, all these PC-Engine posts (among a few other write ups) I’ve made over the last year have been done as a way of reclaiming games and my nostalgia for my own peace of mind.

This long, rambling screed of bull shit that got very personal is my tribute to the PC-Engine. Any artist worth their salt (and I count game developers as artists), even if its only done secretly and quietly, loves to hear that their work has impacted someone in a positive way. I can’t imagine that any of the people who worked their asses off on these great games thought that in about 10-15 years, some lonely white kid half a world away was going to feel things and somehow grow as a person while playing them. But it fucking happened: I Felt Things. And while recently, my feelings that I feel are a bit complicated, at the end of the day, the PC-Engine is still God’s Favorite Console.

Star Breaker- Embracing A Shining Dream

10/23/2021

I’ve been away from home for the last two weeks for work reasons. I have another half a week to go. At this point, I’m clawing at the walls and losing my mind. While I have consumed a lot of media to try and pass the time, and getting pissed that time isn’t going fast enough, my brain is so fucking drained that honestly, I have no fucking clue what to write this week. But I’m still dedicated to making my one post per week.

posting random images because i can

I am dying to get back home. You see, because at least when I’m cooped up in my house due to a number of different reasons, mostly a shitty immune system and a never ending plague outside, I have all my stuff. My high-end PC, my art making tools, my game collection, my movie collection, an external hard drive with 15 years worth of old memories and programs, comfortable furniture that doesn’t make my back hurt, and so on. I won’t be bored and sore. I can sleep, cook, and straight up live. Here, all I have is a decent at best laptop and an inability to sit still without needing to get up and take a pain reliever. It sucks.

Watching some an*mes and playing the same games I’ve written about before is only fun for so long. This is one of those times where I’m really missing the days of the old internet. The days when you could lose hours reading other people’s web sites, or even find a forum full of discussion. But because everything is fucking Twitter and Wikia, that shit stops being fun real quick. Like, I don’t want to read Twitter! Fuck Twitter! Fuck the endless discourse and “hot takes” designed for clicks and the intentionally designed doomscrolling. Why yes, I would like to read about some washed-up celebrity talking shit about minorities! I would like to also read the thoughts of that celebrities idiot fans. Let me hear about some con artist fuckhead who nearly hurt a bunch of my friends doing really well in life! Awesome! Cool! How about a fucking personal web page by someone who really wanted to talk about a TV show they liked?

Anyways. I’m bored. I’m grumpy. My back hurts. I don’t really feel like doing any reviews or essays right now. Not sure when I went into that sort of mode, when this was meant to be me just posting shit for the sake of it to begin with. But nothing interesting is happening other than me being miserable, so you know, hey. Well, see you. Here’s a screenshot of a gay porno from like 2013 that I thought was really funny, because it involved a femboy named Kevin Nash.

don’t turn your back on the wolfpack

post-famicom famicom

Controversial statement: the Nintendo Famicom was a really good system. It had a lot of great games, and it really did a fantastic job of elevating the medium. All that being said, fuck the corporate suits, and their draconian bull shit that gave a lot of developers headaches, as well as depriving us of a potential early arms race between them and Sega during the Master System days.

But I’m not here to wax nostalgic about the old days. Rather, I’m here to talk about some games that came out decades after Nintendo had stopped supporting the system. There’s some weird thing that appeals to me about developers continuing to release games on consoles long abandoned; like the PC-Engine still getting games all the way up until 1999. It’s like the gaming equivalent of breaking curfew, only significantly less lame than I’m making it sound. I’ll be taking a look at some of these games here.

Pac-Man Championship Edition

This is exactly what you think it is: Pac-Man Championship Edition, but on a Nintendo. It was included as part of the Namco Museum Archive Volume 1 for Switch and PC. Cool thing is, the game itself is a ROM, and said ROM has been extracted and dumped onto the internet. So, this is not a game made to look like an NES game, but a full-fledged game that can be played both in emulators and on original hardware.

Pac-Man CE pretty much plays exactly as the original XBox 360 game: you run around, picking up dots and avoiding ghosts, getting as many points as you can before five minutes has passed. A simple concept that is also the most addicting fucking thing in the world. You don’t do a couple playthroughs of this. No, you fucking spend like an hour, trying to set a new high score until your eyes bleed. It’s a miracle I was able to put the game down long enough to write this post. I love it. Download that shit and watch your own productivity go to waste.

Despite the official branding and publication, Namco themselves have admitted that this is actually an enhanced and fixed version of a fan-made project. They do claim that they compensated the original creator for their work. Hopefully with money. Shout out to Coke774.

Touhou Rououmu

Touhou Rououmu is an 8-bit demake of Touhou 7- Perfect Cherry Blossom. For the zero of you out there wondering, Touhou 7 is my favorite entry in the series. As such, I’m loving this game, too.

Now, the idea of a bullet-hell STG on an 8-bit system sounds like an absolute nightmare. You would assume that having that many objects on screen would bring the system to its knees. If it isn’t the massive slowdown that would kill it, it would have to be the sprite flicker that makes things invisible on-screen, right?

Well, no. I’m not sure what technical magic (or Spell Card) was applied to this, but the usual NES technical problems are nowhere to be found here. Like, the game works! It runs pretty well, or at least as well as it can on the Famicom. Obviously, it won’t be as smooth as its original PC incarnation, but this port is perfectly fine.

It’s honestly pretty amazing how much heavy lifting this port does in bringing Touhou 7 to the Famicom. Far as I can tell, every feature is included: grazing, Supernatural Borders, all three playable characters and their alternate weapon set-ups, pre-fight dialogue with the bosses, every level, all of it. Looks fantastic, music is covered very well, plays almost as great as the original. It’s really cool.

I do have some complaints to make, though. Given that this is still an unfinished work in progress, I’m sure these will be fixed in upcoming updates. One, not being able to see your character’s hitbox while doing a Focus Shot. This is a problem for scrubs like me who still struggle to 1cc these games on Normal difficulty. Two, the first three levels are presented out of order. Not a serious problem there so much as a nitpick. Finally, I could not defeat the final boss. I ran into a bug where I deathbombed (for you non-Touhouheads, this is when you use a screen-clearing bomb right as you are about to be killed), only to respawn as an endless explosion that drained the boss’ health, but didn’t actually move on past the fight. Did get some cool glitched graphics, at least.

But hey, it’s still Touhou. It’s fun, cute as fuck, and twice as hard.

Mahou Shoujo Serena

Hachi machi, things are getting a little spicy here. So, confession time here: I actually bought a copy of this game a couple years back for 300 yen. I was intrigued by the idea of a horny Famicom game. Well, a deviant one, anyway; Bubble Bath Babes cornered the “boring, badly drawn titties” market long ago.

The thing about Mahou Shoujo Serena is that there is a lot of text. Most of this game is in fact a whole lot of text. Unfortunately, my Japanese literacy is still “fuck-all,” so all of this is lost on me.

The rest of the game is me, as this guy in the black hat, running from the witch shooting magic. One hit and it’s back to the title screen. After a few minutes of endless running, it’s back to more plot.

Except that this plot is a lot sexier.

Between running segments, you come back to this tied up girl, who I am assuming I’m whipping every so often. I’m assuming this because parts of her clothes rip off with red marks underneath them. Repeat this three times, then the game ends.

I…look, I know that there’s a lot of context that I’m missing here due to the language barrier. You’re probably thinking, “Ramona, did you seriously spend 300 yen on bondage porn that you can’t even read?” Yes, I did. This is because I make wise decisions.

Joking aside, I don’t hate this. I mean, if you’re already going behind Nintendo’s back and making unlicensed games, you might as well make ones that defy their family-friendly image, too. Quick disclaimer here: because of this language barrier, I have to only assume (and pray) that the BDSM stuff is on the up-and-up, and I hope that I didn’t just spend ten minutes tying up a 3000-year old demon or whatever.

Neo Heiankyo Alien

When I did my big Heiankyo Alien piece last year, I forgot to include this one. As America’s #1 Heiankyo Alien Expert, it’s time to make up for that.

I would say that this game is more in line with the exemplary Game Boy Heiankyo Alien. You run around Japan, digging holes and burying aliens alive in them. This time, though, you’re a spaceman, rather than a cop. That’s always a plus. The game is great, but there’s not much here for me to say that I didn’t already write a year ago.

Or stream a year ago:

What I can talk about, is all this sick music that’s in here. A whole bunch of composers known for a lot of popular games took part in this project. What’s great about this game being well past the peak of the Famicom is that developers know how that system works inside and out; the music is chunky and goes hard. Like, goddamn guys, I’m only trapping aliens here!

While I don’t have much to add, as I’ve already talked about Heiankyo Alien (twice), the game still rules. I mean, it’s Heiankyo Alien. If you don’t love Heiankyo Alien: fuck you. It’s a short, but still very fun and captivating game while it lasts.

and hey, it has the original arcade game on here, too.

Return to Animal Crossing

My brain has been a bit fucked lately. I will not be going too far into it, as I’m not in the mood for KF posters or Kotaku writers (but I repeat myself) enjoying my issues. Just lots of anxiety for no reason, which has been interfering with my ability to work on cool stuff. Current events have not helped. Because of this, I’ve had to do things and try to calm myself down. Isolate myself in a low-stress environment, where I can relax and recharge my mental batteries as best I can.

One of the things I’ve been doing has been getting really into redecorating things on my Animal Crossing island. Now, I’m probably the only person on Earth still playing the game regularly; at worst, loading it up once a week. But lately, I’ve felt like changing things up in good old Jonestown. As it was, the island didn’t really have a lot of cool things to show off, and had more or less been completely overrun by flowers. On top of that, my house felt like a slapdash collection of items, and not a real home. I wanted to fix this.

I started in the basement. The Mancave. Seeing as the top and bottom floors are the biggest in the house, the plan was to turn this room into a chill lounge for all the party stuff. Enjoying some arcade games (I do plan on adding at least more fighting game cabinet), some Foosball, some Pool, or even some Pocket Racing. I will have to add a wall-mounted light so the race track is more visible.

Moving up one floor to the living room. Much more subdued than the brightly-colored vomit downstairs. The centerpiece here are two Luchadors and a model train station, because Lucha-Libre and trains rule. Got a record collection, two Switches, a big ass TV as decoration, and the cover of every Black Dresses album hanging on the wall. Need to either buy or find more DIY recipes for furniture that fits the “living room” aesthetic a little more, though.

The left wing is my Weaboo room. Shout out to Japan.

The right wing is still a mess (lol). Is it a bathroom? Is it the “Space” room? Why is there a bed chilling out by the door? This one needs a thorough redesign.

The back room is a faux-diner. I have a red and black checkerboard pattern for the floor because I don’t have a black and white one. But that’s not a big deal, since it matches the red furniture and the pink wall better, anyway. Must remember to get a second jukebox to complete the look.

The upstairs bedroom is this spacious area full of gay hearts. I will have to rearrange the couches and chairs to make more floorplan sense. Otherwise, I think this one is all set.

So that’s the house. I have also been hard at work making the outside look cool, too.

thought i would show my house exterior here, too

I’ve had a wrestling ring set up on the beach for some time now, because of course I would. Today, I decided to customize and add to that ring a little bit more.

Got a camera, a time keepers bell, and some palm tree lamps for when it gets dark. And yes, I did recreate the old WCW Bash at the Beach logo by hand. I will have to get some more steel chairs for the audience; I’m aping the style of mid to late-90s WCW, not 2001 WCW.

Moving on, I’ve spruced up the area outside the two shops in town. Aside from putting in some stone paths, I added a big fountain in the middle, and a big stone table with four stone stools for hanging around. I have some street lights coming in the mail, so I will be brightening up this area. I’ll be brightening up areas around town, as well, but definitely want to light this up more.

At the top of the island is a small outdoor cafe area. You’re probably thinking: why did I make this, when The Roost is being added to the game in November? Because shut up bitch, that’s why. Currently trying to grow some purple Hyacinths, so that they can be used to craft Hyacinth lamps, and serve as both decoration and a light source on all the tables. That would be cool.

Now, we’re going to travel back in time, to last night. Right next to this cafe is this makeshift campsite/stargazing spot. The plan is to add more space-themed items. Only problem is that I mostly play this game during the day, so I’ve missed out on a lot of opportunities to get items from shooting stars. I’ll have to fix that pretty soon. Should also consider connecting these two spots with some paths.

That’s all I have to show for now. Redesigning Jonestown is still very much a work in progress. I’d like to make another post once I have more to show off. In the meantime, if you would like to visit, I did upload this town to the Dream Directory. Feel free to take a look.

Arcade Bootleg Hour

Bootleg culture is a wonderful thing. Something admirable about the cottage industry of cheaply made shit born from a Venn diagram of “things I saw on TV once” and “jokes your drunk, shirtless neighbor would laugh at.” There will come a day where I will finally give up, put on a denim jacket, a bootleg Simpsons shirt, and step into my shitty car with an “I Brake For Monster Booty” bumper sticker. That day will be funny as hell, in a cosmic sort of way.

I will take that shitty car, and drive it to some shithole arcade. At that shithole arcade that smells of cigarettes, sweat, and parental disappointment, I will play all of the classics. Sorry, I meant “classics.” Because it’s not just shirts and hats that get popular licenses haphazardly thrown onto them. To the surprise of nobody reading this, video games have been bootlegged out the ass since their inception, when people were straight up reselling Pong without giving money to either Ralph Baer or Nolan Bushnell (depending on who the courts tell you). I want to take a look at a selection of these cynically produced monsters that tried and (mostly) failed to fight the good fight against copyright law.

You’ve heard of Frogger before, right? Classic game about a frog crossing the street without getting violently murdered by cars. It was in an episode of Seinfeld.

Well, how about Frog?

Figured that I would start with the least inspired bootleg of all time. I mean, it’s called Frog. I’m sure this suckered a few greasy pizza joint owners into buying it. It’s not like now, where TV Games are a multi-billion dollar industry, even bigger than movies, according to literally every mainstream article written by an idiot. Back then, nobody had a fucking clue what these things were. They weren’t going to double check and make sure that they had an official Konami © 1981 product. Who cares? Put your quarters in the damn machine, and then either buy some pizza or get the fuck out!

Otherwise, this is literally just Frogger. Frogger is fine enough. There will eventually be some more bootlegs that get real weird with it. But hey, Frog!

This next bootleg is pretty special. It’s also a strange one, as it is not plagiarized from an already existing game. Rather, this is an original game, complete with its own mechanics. What makes this a bootleg is the prominently featured, unlicensed likeness of Doraemon.

This is “Dora-chan.”

Aside from a cursed title screen that makes me feel as if I will be killed in a week by a vengeful ghost, Dora-chan doesn’t follow any sort of average game conventions. You drive around in a tiny car, picking up dots and avoiding large animal heads that will either go about their business or tear ass at you full speed. This is not, however, a “dot game” like Pac-Man. The dots are only there for points, and endlessly spawn on the field. Your actual objective is to drive through a hole in the wall at the top of the screen, and ram right into a hapless Doraemon. The hole is, of course, constantly moving and shifting, so you have to avoid crashing like an idiot. There’s also a bonus level after each standard level where Doreamon shoots a single heart at a moving line of animals at the top of the screen. You can shoot any animal you want, but it looks like you get the most points from hitting another Doraemon.

Now, to say that Dora-chan feels like an unfinished, disorganized mess would be absolutely, 100% true. Like a lone programmer was testing out an idea for a game, and then his rough draft was put on a PCB board and sent out to all sorts of unscrupulous arcade owners who didn’t give a fuck. Dora-chan is a game in the loosest sense of the term, but it doesn’t matter, because that’s what makes it awesome. This fever dream disaster that looks like a game that someone on the internet made up, but is very real. The developers, Craul Denshi, would later change their name to Alpha Denshi, and make games like Magician Lord and World Heroes for the Neo-Geo. Insert a tired, unfunny joke about upgrading from bootlegging to merely ripping off here.

Dora-chan was not only popular enough to see legal action brought against it, but to be referenced in other games, as well. In Namco’s hilariously titled Tinkle Pit, if you type “Alpha” into the high score table, the game will change the name to “DORACHAN.”

The whole concept of a bootleg Doraemon was popular enough to make an appearance in Street Fighter III: Third Strike. Clearly, Dora-chan had an effect on more than a few people.

Now, are you familiar with Irem’s mega smash hit, Moon Patrol? Of course you are! We all know that the history of Irem’s shooting games begins and ends with Moon Patrol and nothing else!

Now what do you know about…

…Moon Rangor?

This is it, right here. The thing about bootlegs that’s so interesting and lovable: that distinct lack of effort. Some dude hacked together this logo in the hopes that it would hoodwink an unsuspecting arcade/laundromat owner, then realized that “shit, this is hard” after ten minutes, leaving us with what you see here. Go ahead, say Moon Rangor out loud to yourself; I like to stress the second half of Rangor, like Moon Rain-Joor. I can only hope that some kids sat around the playground in the early-mid 80s, talking about their new favorite game, Moon Rangor.

Moon Rangor is another bootleg that doesn’t do anything different. It’s merely a way to cash in on Irem’s games without Irem getting any money from it. The game itself is fine, too.

There are so many more bootlegs to cover. I’ll probably do more of these posts if people are interested. But before I end this and hit “publish,” there is one more bootleg. As far as I am concerned, it is the bootleg. Everyone knows about Donkey Kong, right? Seminal Nintendo game that launched a thousand IP’s. However, for as much as you may have liked Donkey Kong, you have never truly- truly lived a day in your life until you have played Monkey Donkey.

Monkey Donkey is what happens when you, as an individual, well and truly embraces the mediocre. It is Bootleg Simpsons in arcade game format. Liquor stores don’t have arcade machines, but if they did, they would all be carrying Monkey Donkey. You go in for some cheap cigars and those tiny “sampler” bottles of rum, wearing your “Bart Simpson but now he’s Black” shirt, a hat for either the local rock radio station or a restaurant called Big Cock McGraw’s Fuck Shack, and you throw a few quarters into Monkey Donkey before you leave to a good night’s meal of a TV dinner and a M.A.S.H rerun.

This grumpy motherfucker is constantly changing colors and taunting you. See, in the original Donkey Kong, he says, “how high can you get” punctuation as found. Donkey Kong is merely challenging you, while Monkey Donkey is stating the fact that the best you’re going to do is try, bitch. Try me, you stupid motherfucker. That’s what Monkey Donkey thinks.

Unlike the other bootlegs here, this one is totally fucked up. There’s the changing colors, the music is missing several instruments and is now a series of high-pitched beeps, the collision detection is wonky, and Monkey Donkey’s animations don’t match up to his actions, leading to him launching barrels out of his ass at high speeds. Monkey Donkey is bootleg to the core: it looks like a name brand at first glance, but the lack of craftsmanship rears its head if you look a little bit deeper. It’s incredible. Oh, and I almost forgot: Jumpman lets out a “hi-yaah!” every time he jumps. Mario can’t do that.

he also turns a frightening shade of red when he gets killed by pies

As I already said, Monkey Donkey is the bootleg. The bootleg to which I judge all others. A fucked up facsimile that reminds you of its seedy nature at every opportunity. This is my preferred way of playing Donkey Kong, to be honest. Why isn’t Billy Mitchell cheating his way to a high score in this one? Fuck.

monkey donkey breaks his fucking neck and dies when you win!

In any event, bootlegs rule. Fuck The Man.

the end of wizardry

It’s September, which means one thing: the 40th anniversary of Wizardry! I love Wizardry, and you love Wizardry. If you don’t love Wizardry, go fuck yourself.

Now, there is my post on the first game that was sort of popular for a bit. In that time since, I have begun making my way towards other Wizardry games, like its sequels, spin-offs, and legally distinct stand-alone titles. Before I write about more of those, I thought I would finish off the first game.

The party made it all the way to the 10th and final floor of the dungeon. This is where the real shit starts; the most brutal of enemies and the best gear are found here. Even though floor 10 is essentially a straight line, progress grinds to a halt here. Every fight is a coin flip to whether you live or die, and you constantly need to warp back to town to rest up, or to sell the loads of shitty gear you’ve acquired while trying to find the good stuff.

Unfortunately, something happened. Genji, our lovable Hobbit thief who wanted so badly to be a Ninja, was killed. Dahlia, our priest, who at this point was capable of raising the dead, failed to do so, causing his body to turn to ash. The party then brought Genji’s ashes back to the temple, where the many other priests there could hopefully bring him back. They failed as well, his ashes evaporating into the ether. Genji caught the heinous ailment that is “permadeath.” Because I forgot to hit reset before the game could auto-save want to maintain the spirit of this narrative, the party went back to the tavern to recruit another thief who was a Hobbit who also was trying to become a ninja who also happened to have a Japanese name. His name is Sho.

Like I said, this is when the real shit happens. Floors 1 through 9 were merely a test for the final floor. Master Ninjas, Vampires, a whole group of Murphy’s Ghosts (which um…aren’t actually much of a threat at all), Fire Giants, Earth Giants, Ice Giants, and the worst enemy of them all: Poison Giants. Poison Giants fuck off. They will kill your ass deader than dead before you even hit the ground; fuck your speed stat, fuck your defense, fuck all that shit. You see these assholes, you either run or you die from instant Tiltowait spam. Tiltowait of course, being the most powerful magic attack in the whole game, which also attacks everyone on the opposing team.

there is also flack. we all remember him from the an*me adaptation.

Because every fight is guaranteed to drop items afterwards, Rosa the Bishop proved invaluable here. Bishops are what Final Fantasy based their Red Mages on. They can learn both Sorcery and Miracles, as opposed to Magicians and Priests being restricted to one class of magic. The downside to this is that Bishops level up much slower than everyone else, meaning that it will take much longer to get them the highest level magic than a dedicated class. However, the one thing a Bishop can do that nobody else can do is identify unknown items. Without a Bishop, you have to go all the way back to town and pay an exhoribant fee to the item shop to have them identify it for you. Having a Bishop saves me time and money, which ultimately doesn’t matter by this point, as everyone in my party already has about six figures worth of gold to their names a piece, but it’s the principle of the thing.

Anyways, during this slog on the 10th floor, they found a knife. Upon inspecting the knife, it was discovered that it was not just any weapon, but the much sought after Thieves Knife! When a Thief uses this knife, they instantly become a Ninja! Aside from a natural buff to Armor Class achieved by taking off all of their armor, Ninjas have one very useful skill that will make the rest of this adventure less of a hassle:

Decapitation.

A Ninja has a chance to instantly kill an enemy in a single attack. ANY enemy. Nothing is safe from a naked Hobbit with a working knowledge of the anatomy of every race and creature in the world. Specifically, knowing how to remove a head from them.

now i know why the ninja was naked in this picture (source: https://twitter.com/nishi_katsu/status/893512897891934208)

After multiple trips back and forth, killing monsters capable of wiping out entire armies if they so chose, and selling off unneeded weapons to a salivating arms dealer, the party found themselves at the entrance of Werdna’s room.

Here it is, the ultimate test. Werdna, the wizard who plans on using the magical amulet to take over the kingdom of Llygamin, is behind this door. The man who has control over all the monsters of this dungeon, who has built the many traps and maddening labrynths that have killed so many adventurers before. This will not be an easy fight. The party steels themselves one final time, and opens the door.

Werdna is not only a powerful magician in his own right, but he is also flanked by the Lord of Vampires, and several Vampire minions. He was ready for this. The door closes behind the party, sealing the fate of one of these two groups. The toughest battle of these adventurers’ lives is underway, and there is no guarantee that a single one of them will make it back home.

And then…

…oh.

Well.

Werdna is dead. Two casts of Tiltowait from Serena the Magician was enough to wipe out both the Vampire Lord, and his minions. All that’s left now is to pick up the amulet, and use it to teleport back home.

That’s it. That is the end of Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord! It was, and is still, an incredible game. Even 40 goddamn years later, it more than holds up as the pinnacle of the RPG genre. There is a damn good reason why every RPG you have ever played was influenced by this.

Hold on a second, Masanobu Endoh produced this? Endoh worked at Namco, where he would create games like Xevious and…

…The Tower of Druaga.

Fuck dude, all of my gaming worlds are colliding. That’s awesome!

But in any case, Wizardry is now over. Happy 40th to a great series, and I hope whoever is currently holding the rights to it quits being a bunch of dickheads, and fucking stops doing whatever they’re doing that’s keeping Wizardry: The Five Ordeals from getting rereleased. That game was supposed to come out back in fucking June! Come on!

The End of Wizardry.

Or is it? There are still two expansion for me to play! Time to export my characters, I guess.