After the last few 3DO porn games, I thought this time around, I would cover a title with the least imaginative title possible. This is another “classic” by Vivid Interactive. The “Interactive” part is only one of the biggest lies this piece of software will tell. Sex is similar to Blonde Justice, in that it merely a movie in the 3DO format, meaning that I’m once again reviewing a porn I just finished watching.
Like Blonde Justice, Sex is a series of clips bereft of context. This fever dream of ugly men pawing at B-Movie actresses with all the grace of a sedated bear trying to catch a fish in a lake that’s completely frozen over. Scenes change at such a rapid fire pace, it’s impossible to comprehend what’s happening at a base level. Woe be to any idiot who tried masturbating to this. The “action” is absolutely no different from the kind of stuff you could find if you stayed up late enough to catch some softcore film on HBO or Cinemax. All of this set to what I can best describe as the most “buying avocados at the grocery store” music you have ever heard.
You’ve probably already figured this out, but I need to make this point very clear: this is a movie called Sex. There is absolutely zero sex present within it. Yeah sure, there’s sexual content, but that’s not sex; you don’t just take your top off and rub your stomach a little bit and then bam, it’s over. That’s no ding-dangs going into any hoo-hahs. Or any holes, for that matter. Hell, there’s no ding-dangs or hoo-hahs to begin with! It’s as if everyone involved with this production were bisected at the waist.
bro if you were any further away from that chick’s crotch, you would be in a different zip code
Let’s take a moment to think about all the other 3DO porn games I’ve look at real quick:
Neurodancer- it is a cyberpunk-themed titled where topless women indeed dance. Okay.
Blonde Justice- there was at least one (1) blonde in it, and the murderous stalker got killed at the end, which is a kind of justice. Okay.
Virtual Photo Studio- there was a whole picture taking mechanic, and you weren’t literally interacting with the women, so it is a virtual experience. Okay.
Sex- no sex, unless you count a dude rubbing a girl’s underwear covered ass with an ice cube, and you shouldn’t.
People will bring up the entire career of Peter Molyneux, or the launch of No Man’s Sky as the biggest falsehoods in gaming. No. No, the biggest lie in the history of games is this extremely unsexy piece of shit on the 3DO called “Sex” that is COMPLETELY LACKING IN ANY TYPE OF SEX.
THERE IS NO SEX IN “SEX”
I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to think that maybe this whole 3DO thing was a great big rip off. The games weren’t all that great, it cost too much, and the porn was immediately outclassed by literally anything you could already buy at a shop/through mail order or find abandoned in the woods. This was the 90s, you could watch people pee on each other for like twenty bucks and all you needed was a VCR. If you want to watch half-assed tit-grabbing between two actors with no chemistry, hey, feel free to drop $700 on a video game console and an additional $60 for this garbage. I reckon being a Tier-1 simp on some girl’s Twitch is more worth your time, probably. Anything has to be better than five disparate scenes where the most you’re getting is a pair of titties and anywhere from half to three-quarters of an ass.
this was funny at least
Anyways, here’s the part where I post some spicy pics in case anyone got here from Google’s image search, which is surprisingly still useful in finding actual web sites with stuff you want to see on them. This one has some seriously slim pickings.
2021 was a pretty good year for the dungeon crawler. Aside from Wizardry, there was stuff like the extremely stylish Undernauts: Labyrinth of Yomi, the not-as-deep-but-still-unique Live In Dungeon, and this game: Dungeon Encounters.
This was a real surprise of a game that suddenly appeared and vanished from collective memory just as quickly. It’s an RPG by Square-Enix that got fuck all in terms of any kind of advertising or promotion; Song Summoner for the iPod got more exposure. For some of you, this piece may very well be the first time you’re hearing about Dungeon Encounters. The game simply appeared, and didn’t have the privilege of being buried under the constant news of Final Fantasy XIV, Final Fantasy VII Remake, or that Avengers game nobody gives a fuck about. But, if there’s anyone who will champion an unloved dungeon crawler, it would be me.
One of the main selling points of Dungeon Encounters is that it is a game directed and put together by Hiroyuki Ito, the man responsible for Final Fantasy’s Active Time Battle system. He also directed Final Fantasy VI, IX, and XII, but this is not nearly as important as creating the ATB. Dungeon Encounters is all about the ATB. I’ve never met Hiroyuki Ito, or read any interviews he’s done, but based on this game, he comes across as the kind of guy who would like Wizardry more if there wasn’t so much fucking plot in the way.
Dungeon Encounters is a game distilled down to its essence. If there’s a plot, it means nothing. You can’t even create your own party; you are simply given a list of pre-made characters whose bios are a couple sentences long. Honestly, it feels like this base level of personality was done as a compromise for what little marketability this game has. Otherwise, they exist as blank slates with no mechanic difference between them. Every character, regardless of appearance, can equip the same weapons, the same armor, the same magic. You pick four characters from a list, then send them out into the dungeons: a stained paper-map with blank squares for you to fill out. Battles are static avatars making sound effects at each other over a still background image. That’s it. That’s the whole game.
As I’ve said before, there are two things that make a dungeon crawler good: the slow, yet rewarding progression through a tough environment, and creating a party to go through said tough environment. Dungeon Encounters only contains 50% of what makes a good dungeon crawler, yet that doesn’t take away from how good this game is. This extremely lo-fi RPG that manages to be completely addicting; needing to fill out the next floor, then the next floor, then the next floor, then it’s three in the morning and where did the time go? It’s literally a game about watching numbers go up, and it is somehow utterly compelling.
What really hits that pleasure center of my brain is not just its mechanics, not just this addicting need to explore and increase numbers. No, Dungeon Encounters’ art assets feel like an absolute afterthought, with Panther men fighting alongside stereotypical wizards, a high schooler magically appearing in this world, a robot, and a how-are-you-not-being-sued version of Totoro. The characters you are given all look like they come from different, non-existent games. Growing up in a poor family, I didn’t really get to play with the same toys a lot of other kids did. My action figure collection came from garage sales and extremely discounted variant figures nobody wanted, like Arctic Commando Spider-Man or some shit. I was lucky to even have the toys, so forget about ever having those elaborate playsets I would always see in commercials, where Batman would shoot a Nerf dart at a pile of precariously stacked cups that his enemies would always happen to be standing on. So instead, I would have to get creative, with paper towel tubes, those little tables that come with your pizza, the side of my bed that had a wooden frame, and that one rug with all the buildings and roads on it.
Because I had such a disparate collection, my imagination would have to work overtime. I had to come up with a context for Wolverine teaming up with a bootleg Transformer, an extremely tall Robin (as in Batman’s sidekick Robin), and a three-inch Mega Man I got for five bucks to fight a Ninja Turtles Foot Solider, another Robin that I designated as the evil Robin (I really liked Robin as a kid, proving that I have never been the alpha in any relationship I’ve ever had), a bootleg He-Man, and a random Star Wars character I was given as a gift. This was how I had to play as a kid.
Dungeon Encounters gives me that same vibe. I’m given all these random pieces to move around fighting other pieces on a paper map. There’s no overarching plot, so you have to come up with your own. Playing Dungeon Encounters is like playing with toys when you’re a poor kid. Much like a kid with no money, the game feels like it was made on an extremely small budget, and yet it’s all the better for it. And also like a kid playing with toys, Square-Enix’s marketing department responded to the game’s completion with a “that’s nice, dear” before going back to watching TV. This is a game that requires an imagination, which is a nice change in a sea of games that think for you. Another thing that popped into my head while writing this is that Dungeon Encounters does come across as an inverse Wizardry. Wizardry gives you its plot and tells you to make the characters within it, while Dungeon Encounters gives you characters and tells you to make the plot.
I guess that’s really the best way to explain a game like Dungeon Encounters: like a mismatched toy collection. It doesn’t look as impressive as the rich kid toy box full of every single G.I Joe, but you’ll probably end up having a lot more fun with a caramel-colored Batman and a dollar store “Transmorpher.”
I do not like Bethesda. I’ve made this clear on multiple occasions. I hated Oblivion and its dogshit writing. I hated Skyrim and its dogshit writing. I hate how so many of their games promise you this experience of free-roaming roleplaying, then proceed to funnel you down a linear path that sucks and punishes you for doing any sort of morally ambiguous act. I hate their ugly characters with terrible voice acting with names that read like someone trying to satirize Dragonforce lyrics and no reason to give a fuck about any of them. Most importantly, I hate how they completely ruined Fallout. Hell, given the current state of Fallout 76, it’s not much of a stretch to say that they fucking killed it. A shitty company full of dudes who still quote Monty Python and the Holy Grail run by Donald Trump’s brother that makes boring ass RPGs that are inexplicably popular and I still can’t forget that weird documentary where Todd Howard more or less admitted that he says “Kneel Before Todd” to underpaid sex workers. Fuck Bethesda! They might not be as evil a company as say, Riot Games, but still, fuck them anyway!
All that being said, I have spent the last few days doing my rare “see what all the hype about Morrowind is” run. After many, many years, I’m actually, Dear God, enjoying myself.
Morrowind is the game that I am frequently told that if you hate Bethesda games (and I do), you will like this one. Every time, I install the game, make a character, then immediately stop playing and uninstall. It’s a game where your character moves with all the urgency of a rock formation, and where hitting a rat is a feeble impossibility. That fucking battle system, where you swing your weapon directly into an enemy’s face, and nothing happens. You swing it again. Still nothing. You and the Mudcrab you ran into are swinging at the air over and over until one of you magically walks into that air.
You slowly walk and fail to stab something directly in front of you for minutes at a time, and your main objective in the world is “go find some dude.” Captivating. This is supposed to be “The Good One.”
This most recent attempt, I did something a little different: I actually did some reading. I had to know why Morrowind had to be like that. Yeah hey, turns out that there’s a whole bunch of math and shit that’s never explained to you! Your stats, which raise as you do stuff, Final Fantasy 2 style, don’t dictate how good you are with a weapon and the percentage of critical hits, like I had assumed. No, having a 30 in Short Blade means that I have a 30% chance of hitting something! So I either have to grind on weak enemies that can’t possibly kill me even if I tried, or wander the world looking for teachers to help me raise my particular skills. You’re meant to do that latter, as it’s actually not the worst way to incentivize exploring the game world that you are in. Morrowind is a game that does not quest markers (something I actually really like), or special labels on NPC’s, so you have to explore, talk to everyone, and remember to double-check your journal when you need to make a return trip. Normally, I would have more patience for a game like this, but remember: this is a game that already has two strikes against it for being made by the people who murdered Fallout, so I have to admit that my initial attempt at playing this ten years ago wasn’t something I approached with an open mind.
Not that I’m suddenly going to say that Morrowind’s combat is good, because it’s not. Just because I understand it doesn’t mean that it’s great. The fact that it’s in real time, and the subsequent feedback of swinging a weapon and missing feels like shit. With other RPG’s, there’s enough done visually for your brain to understand why an attack did or did not land; putting up a shield, or dodging to the side. Morrowind doesn’t have this. It has the Bart and Lisa Hockey fight I posted above.
Luckily, Morrowind is not a game about combat. Rather, it is a game about exploration. Actually shutting the fuck up and wandering around is great. The character models are absolute dogshit garbage in a game that came out the same year as Resident Evil on the Gamecube, but the environments are fantastic. The world of Morrowind is very distinct, very alien, something lacking in Oblivion and Skyrim. The thing is, despite how utterly strange the world is, it still comes across as a place where people live. Balmora actually has its own districts of shops, homes, and bureaucracy; it’s not a weird jumbled mess like a lot of RPG towns can be. Other places, like Vivec, Perigrad, and even the starting town of Seyda Neen have this sense of mysticism and wonder to them. Each different from one other on a visual standpoint, with these very distinct buildings, and riding the Silt Strider (a large flea-like creature that acts as a form of public transportation) from port to port really drives home this feeling of not being on Not-Earth like Morrowind’s sequels. That counts for a lot with me.
I’m still fairly early into the game, so I can’t really speak about my experiences beyond a few areas outside of the Bitter Coast, but it hasn’t been super terrible. Starting as a prisoner on a ship, before being pardoned in exchange for working for the government, finding a murdered tax collector, discovering his murderer, killing said murderer and simply moving into his house afterwards. That’s pretty fun, actually; who doesn’t want 500 bucks and a free house with no rent? Exploring caves and mines in the nearby area, being targeted by an assassin’s guild for reasons you don’t understand. Joining the Mages Guild, and helping its leader fuck with an underling he doesn’t like so you can become better at casting spells. I can only imagine how things will go once I’m done running in place to increase my movement speed and hacking at thieves or rats so my knife isn’t completely useless.
It’s a bit of shameful admission to myself that I’m liking a Bethesda game, but I am. I cannot fucking believe that I am actually enjoying my time with Morrowind now, but I have to believe it. Granted, Morrowind is good, but it’s not the best RPG I’ve ever played; not even the best one I’ve played this month. I would still much rather lose myself in the worlds of Wizardry, of Planescape Torment, of Vampire the Masquerade, of any From Software title, of, you know, FALLOUT. But I’m glad that I’m finally starting to “get” Morrowind, and I think I’ll be playing more of this in the coming weeks and months.
After waiting for seems like an eternity, Wizardry: The Five Ordeals has finally arrived. Naturally, as America’s Most Important Wizardry fan, I snagged a copy.
The titular Five Ordeals in question are five different campaigns that follow the traditional Wizardry rules: create a party, go into a dungeon, solve the mystery of said dungeon, which always means kill the big bad guy at the end, then transfer that party to the next campaign and do it all over. In and of itself, The Five Ordeals is more than worth the cost of thirty big ones. But there’s even more. See, this is a rerelease of a 2006 Japan-only PC game. The selling point of the original game was a scenario editor, which allowed you to create your own Wizardry campaigns. Now, unfortunately, the scenario editor is not yet implemented in the Steam version, so I can’t mess around with that and see how good it is. But to tide everyone over until then, a large number of fan-made campaigns from the original have been included. 59 to be exact. You combine that with the five main ordeals, and that is a whopping 64 different stories to play through. Granted, a number of them remain in Japanese, but there are a handful in varying degrees of English.
Right. I should point out that, as an early access game, the localization is not complete. The UI and the combat are in English, but any story beats require you to be able to read Japanese for a majority of the campaigns, including the official ones. The game is still entirely playable, but you may feel like you’re missing out on some things.
So, as such, I have not been playing any of the official chapters. Rather, I’ve spent the past week messing around with a couple of fan scenarios, settling on “Fate of Accursed Beings.”
As a veteran of many fan-content driven games, I have to tread carefully through this minefield. There’s a lot of would-be designers that like to pump out absolute garbage; I’m still trying to forget the dark days of LittleBigPlanet. Given that the scenarios for Wizardry’s Steam port were hand-picked by the devs, that doesn’t seem to be much of an issue. And it is absolutely not an issue with Fate of Accursed Beings. If anything, these feel just as good, if not moreso, than many commercial releases of Wizardry.
Like any good Wizardry, Fate of Accursed Beings encourages you to take it slow. Make a bit of progress mapping out your environment, fight a couple monsters, run back to town to heal and buy/sell equipment, then go back in to make a little more progress. Each time, you get a little stronger, and you begin to recognize the layout of the dungeon. It’s clearing these small milestones that make Wizardry so rewarding. Yes, Wizardry can be difficult, if you run headfirst into everything with a level 1 party, expecting to clear each floor in a single trip. If you keep a cool head, and play cautiously, that level of challenge goes down more and more (it never fully goes away). Slowly chipping away at this wall until it comes crumbling down is half of what makes dungeon crawlers so good. The other half of course being in creating your party.
I’m currently on the fourth floor of the first dungeon (this scenario has two). Currently, there are a number of closed gates that I’m trying to find a switch for, to no avail. So I keep going down, further and further, to see if that switch can be found. Opening up these gates will allow me easier access to the elevator on the first floor, shortening the amount of time I spend on runs, until I can get to the wizard that’s causing all the problems down here.
Something about this game that I was worried would no be included, due to weird legal issues popping up earlier in the year, were the wireframe dungeons. There’s a weird fucking part of my brain that needs that extremely lo-fi visual aesthetic, and I’m glad it’s here. Not that the hand drawn environments are bad or anything, but I need wireframes. We also get the excellent monster designs from Jun Suemi, who is the best at creating a sense of wonder and majesty with her depictions of medieval fantasy.
She’s just a really fucking good artist:
The Five Ordeals is as worthy a successor to the Story of Llygamin crown as it can get. I get that same feeling playing this for a week than I have playing the Super Famicom compilation all these years. A perfect game to play, late at night, trudging your way through a black and white dungeon, watching numbers go up. All that’s left is to wait for that full localization and that editing tool. An editing tool that will bless the entire world with the gift of ENDLESS WIZARDRY.
If this takes off, I might have to add another recurring segment to the site where I play more fan-made scenarios. Another recurring segment that I will forget to do regularly after a few months, Laugh Out Loud.
That PC-Engine Mini I ordered finally arrived last Friday. Obviously, I’ve spent all week playing with it, getting used to holding a rectangular controller again, and generally thinking that this thing is really fucking cool.
I’ve also spent the past week trying to think of how to do a write up of it. I didn’t want to do a bit by bit run down of every game on the system as 1) I’ve already written about some of them and 2) that’s what everyone who owns a PC-Engine Mini has done.
3) I uh already streamed a bunch of games already:
oh hell yeah
So no, I won’t be doing the standard review for this. I’ll instead say that again, the PC-Engine Mini is really cool. The collection of games on it is very “Ramona-centric” I’ll say. Most of the classic Compile shooters, Gradius 1 and 2, Genpei Fucking Toumaden (among a couple other Namco classics), Parasol Stars, and Rondo of Blood. I never, ever thought that I would see a rerelease of Genpei Toumaden again, and yet here it is, on my big-ass TV. That’s awesome.
There are a few notable exceptions, for better and for worse. I was surprised at a lack of Valis, given how big a deal that series was for the CD-ROM add-on. Also, given the number of Namco games on here, there’s no Tower of Druaga, itself a big arcade hit with a great PC-Engine remake. While Bomberman ’93 and ’94 are utterly fantastic, I would have liked to see the original Bomberman included, if only for historical reasons. I mean, if The Kung Fu could be on there, why not? Another problem is the inclusion of shit like Appare! Gateball and the horrible port of Ninja Gaiden, a game where the background scrolls in the wrong direction.
On the plus side?
NO FUCKING KEITH COURAGE
Good! It’s about time the world finally comes to an agreement that Keith Courage fucking sucks. Terrible, wretched game.
only thing that’s missing here is my old bottle of vicodin
One more complaint about the games: JJ and Jeff, but no Kato and Ken.
Those complaints aside, I have had so much fun with this little box. I realize that I spent over a hundred bucks in order to play games that I’ve already been playing for free the last twenty years, but it was worth it. While I am a huge proponent of emulation, and getting a hold of games any way possible, I still felt a desire of ownership for this one particular console. Granted, this isn’t the real PC-Engine, with its HuCards and CD-ROMS, but it’s a reasonable enough facsimile. There are PC-Engine games on my TV, with no frameskipping, so I’m seeing every frame, despite what emulators tell me when there’s an obvious frame skip happening. There’s no input lag, or at least no noticeable input lag when compared to running these games in Magic Engine or Mednafen (it’s about the same across the board). It’s Christmas, and this is the best gift I got, materialism-wise.
Long story short: the PC-Engine Mini rules, and I’m glad I was able to find one.
Over the course of my life, I have developed and honed many skills. One particular skill I am absolutely, 100% lacking in is anything involving leadership. This is why I tend to work alone, or work with someone if they’re the one in charge. The multitasking and management is something I cannot wrap my head around. As such, I am completely unfit to be a politician or a cult leader (but I repeat myself).
Despite this, I still like to occasionally load up games that firmly put me in a leadership role. Stellaris, Sword of the Samurai (the best DOS game of all time), Sim City, A-Train, Mount and Blade, and Romance of the Three Kingdoms. I never get very far in any of these games, because I can’t manage for shit (except for Sword of the Samurai, which I can actually finish somehow). Maybe it’s out of some desire to improve this weak point I have? It’s not like they’re relaxing games to chill out to, what with all the war, financial disasters, natural disasters, and such.
I’ve spent the past couple days starting a new file in Romance of the Three Kingdoms X. ROTKX is one of those games I picked up on a whim one day, back when buying PS2 games wasn’t seemingly part of a money-laundering scheme. This would have been right when the PS3 was either on its way out, or had just debuted in horrific fashion, and when the prices on PS2 games had been slashed to shit. There had never been a better time to get invested in a Playstation 2, other than maybe when, you know, the system was at its peak. But hey, I was broke or homeless during most of the system’s life, and didn’t get mine until 2004. Anyways, during this time of stores wanting to clear out their inventory, people like me made out like bandits. I got ROTKX because it was different than the other stuff I had been picking up. And if it sucked? Who cares, it was like fifteen bucks.
Romance of the Three Kingdoms is a series that I had tried into before. Being so thoroughly entrenched in emulation, I had definitely tried out the first few games, to no avail: I was simply way too fucking stupid to Get It. This game, though, was either simple enough, or I had simply matured as a person, and got it pretty fucking quick.
This particular series of games is based on an extremely sensationalized historical novel that I somehow had the time and patience to read as a teenager. Boy howdy, there are parts of that book that are fucked up. The book itself is based on historical records from a period of major political upheaval in China. A lot of civil unrest, and various leaders plotting and scheming to unite the entire land under their rule. The kind of shit that makes for a good TV game. The rest of the world knows about this story from the Dynasty Warriors series, which is spun-off from the ROTK games.
I bring up the novel because this game has something I really appreciate: the “Fictional” mode. Rather than follow events as closely as possible to its source material (or at inasmuch as it can if you’re playing as a character that did not actually unify China), this mode plays a little more fast and loose with things. Some things, like Liu Bei swearing an oath of brotherhood with Guan Yu and Zhang Fei are still present, as are events kicking off with the Yellow Turban Rebellion. My current game began with me, playing as Guan Yu, following Liu Bei into battle against the Yellow Turbans. Liu Bei, Tactical Genius, thought charging a well-stocked rebel army with only a few hundred troops was a good idea. I guess it makes sense: the ROTK novel makes Liu Bei out to be an absolute sociopath who relies on everyone else to think for him. Guan Yu got captured, was given an opportunity to join the Yellow Turbans, which I accepted so as to avoid public execution (you will always be executed if you say no), and that’s where I’m at now. Years in, the Yellow Turbans are still around, and are even taking over other lands, as opposed to being quickly destroyed by the combined efforts of the Royal Court.
Normally, these games place you firmly within the position of leader. You pick a character, and you run their particular territory, expanding more and more until you run it all. X however, changes things up. You don’t have to be a leader. This is great, because as I opened this post with, I am a terrible leader. I can spend the rest of Guan Yu’s life serving under this group. Maybe the Yellow Turbans get overthrown, or lose all their major territories, and I’m offered a job by a former enemy. I can serve long enough to earn enough money and influence to go rogue, and form my own kingdom. I can retire from office, and spend all my time wandering from town to town, helping regular people in need. I have this freedom to run a kingdom before I inevitably fuck it up, but I also have the freedom to become a renowned folk hero of the downtrodden. I can be known as a fearsome warrior who has never lost a duel, or a peace-loving intellectual master debater. The scope can be so massive, but then you can hone in and focus and the smallest of details: a person’s life. Given how fucked up a lot of the characters in this actually are, and how the events are essentially a series of brutal wars, maybe retreating from that life to do good things is the right course of action. It should be noted that this is one of the only games in the series to let you do this; the sequels went right back to leader-only roles.
Of all the off-beat PS2 games I bought “just because,” Romance of the Three Kingdoms X is among the best of that group. In a lot of ways, it really does feel like the PS2 was built off of its “weird” games. For every major title, like a Final Fantasy or a Metal Gear, you would have dozens of these unloved games full of heart. And yes, before anyone thinks to correct me, I am fully aware that Romance of the Three Kingdoms is a megahit in Asian territories. But like with Hydlide and Druaga, it’s an unloved bastard of a game over here in America. It has a reputation of being utterly inscrutable. I will tell you, as a Major Dumb Ass, that it really isn’t. I can’t run a country for shit, but that’s more to do with my own personal failings, rather than a lack of detailed instructions. I would say to at least take a quick look at the game and see if it’s for you. If not, hey, you can always wander the land, choosing to rule yourself, instead.
Been pretty hard to try and write things as of late. I mean, hey, a whole week’s worth of some of the most transphobic bull shit I’ve seen since 2015, in a year that has already been some of the transphobic bull shit I’ve seen since 2015, has left me in a bad mood. This is a year where I saw some poor trans girl get doxxed for the heinous crime of going on social media and saying, “whoa, this new Evangelion movie looks pretty cool!” You think nothing would be worse or at least stupider than that, and then life finds a way to let you down more. I won’t say anything more on the subject (at least not until the internet annoys me into saying something again), but what happened to Isabel Fall was a bunch of bull shit, and I think it’s fucked up that the people who fucked her life up are portraying themselves as the real victims, and one of them is straight up capitalizing on her work. I will never change my mind on this. It sucks to see people I had a degree of respect for, either out of fear of losing an audience, or because they turned out to be stupid in the end, jumping onto the side of this #NotYourShield-esque ID-Pol defense going on, but whatever. Fuck them, too.
So, because of all this, it’s been hard to write. Like I said last time, I have some drafts in my folder, but every time I go to work on them, I think “eh, I’m not feeling this right now” and then I don’t finish them. Instead, I’ve thrown myself back to my other work. I’ve been drawing and programming a bit more than I have been. There’s some cool stuff I put together, but I’m not quite ready to show it off publicly just yet. You’ll have to wait until the end of December. I will however, post one image as a preview:
it’s a sumo wrestler. no i do not know why the gif does not animate well. aseprite’s export thing is being weird lately.
That’s all I’ve been doing this week: drawing 8-bit sprites and listening to Japanese Hardcore music. Haven’t really played too many games or watched anything outside of the usual AEW shows. I’ve been moody and boring, really. It’s Saturday night, maybe I should give myself a break? I’ll illegally download a PS2 game and write about it in a couple days, how does that sound?
Whatever, have this picture of a lewd maid I stole from Tumblr. I enjoy maid outfits from an aesthetic point of view. However, I also like them in the sexual sense.
Again, that’s the cool thing about having my own personally curated and maintained space: I can post whatever the fuck I want. No takes, no discourse, no bull shit. I can post my thoughts on games, an*me, sports entertainment, post some spicy pics, some good songs, whatever. Then I can go to my RSS reader and see more game opinions from people who aren’t jerks, and also more spicy pics. More people should do this.
I’m kind of in a mood, so I wasn’t feeling up to doing another essay this week. I have a few things in the drafts folder that will be done fairly quick. Instead, I think I’ll use this space to I don’t know, talk about life, I guess?
After hemming and hawwing over it for a while, I’ve decided that I’m quitting sex work. Not because I’m ashamed of it, or because I got fucked over by the industry or anyone within it. Sure, the pay kind of sucked, but I suppose you can apply that to any other job in the world. No, I quit because I was sick and tired of the clientele. Working a phone sex line, you would imagine that you would be taking calls from horny dudes who wanted someone to moan and talk dirty in their ears; perfectly normal, understandable stuff. For a time, that was true. For the last couple months, shit has gotten dark. Disturbed men calling me at weird hours, telling me about their sexual fantasies involving children and animals. Telling me about wanting to watch their own daughters be gangbanged by a large group of Black men. Of course, they didn’t say “Black men,” they used a much different word that I’m not going to repeat. I don’t like being up until four in the morning, lying awake and feeling like shit over hearing some fucked up, depraved stuff for nearly an hour at a time. Hearing the absolute hate and venom in their voices, I can’t imagine that at least one of these assholes isn’t on Facebook, posting boomer memes about people like me in public bathrooms. Every week, some poor TGirl gets labeled a monster by the world at large, all over the stupidest shit: posting too many selfies, making a sex joke, being too popular, having self-confidence, you fucking name it. All the while, men like this can operate no fucking problem. It’s disgusting, and it has actively been affecting my mental well-being in extremely negative ways. Doesn’t help that Niteflirt does an extremely good job of making sure that nobody’s contact info is ever made public, so it’s not like I can report to them to some authority, who will then proceed to do absolutely nothing about it.
So I’m quitting. Financially speaking, this is certainly a terrible decision. In the long run, I think it will be better for me.
I suppose I quit just in time because, oh hell yeah, extremely fucked up transmisogyny is back in the news! Nothing I look forward to more than an ever-present reminder that me wanting to go the rest of my life playing games or watching an*me or pro wrestling in peace, except as a girl now, is way too much to ask of people who have absolutely nothing better going on in their lives other than to constantly load themselves up with hate like they’re a prejudiced Hummer.
Before I really get into this, I need to say one thing: Neon Yang is a talentless, opportunistic, transphobic piece of fucking trash. If that’s a sticking point for you, feel free to stick it up your ass. Also, please imagine that I am giving you The Finger as you read this.
This no-good motherfucker, this garbage excuse for a human being teams up with both the head of a Sci-Fi authors guild and a literal millionaire, and they all use their platforms to hound and harass a brand new trans author into a psych ward, causing her to detransition and disappear from public life. I’ve read a lot of great fiction from a lot of great misfits, and I’m saying that Isabel Fall’s short story was legitimately the best work I read in 2020. Now she’s gone, somewhere where the world can’t get her. Her defining work now only exists as a PDF file passed from person to person like it’s fucking contraband. To know what happened to Isabel, and what has happened before and after her, is infuriating. It always happens, some fucking sociopath gets into a jealousy-fueled rage and uses the underlying hate in society to unperson a person. Yeah, I’ve been around that block two or three times.
Seeing Yang gleefully take part in what was essentially a witch hunt over some manufactured “harm” that was done by a well-written science fiction story about the co-opting of gender and sexuality by the military; a story so “harmful” that it was universally praised and beloved by every trans woman who isn’t a moron, then pop up in some sci-fi anthology about…the co-opting of gender and sexuality by the military. Irony is fucking dead. Really, what can you do about it? It’s not like you can do sweet wrestling moves through your computer, or click a button to stop this thing from happening. All you can do is sit there and be mad about it. All you can do is talk shit for a couple hours, while these ghouls laugh at you, and their alt-right cheerleaders on the sidelines slap their thighs and yell out “TRIGGERED! TRIGGERED!” to nobody in particular. It sucks. And it sucks that being upset is wrong, because something something privilege something something marginalized people cannot be shitty towards other marginalized people something something I got all my politics from Tumblr.
Just…sick and tired of seeing so many girls being told to roll over and take it because some bootlicking fuck on a bad web site might subtweet you. Fighting back is Problematic now because it’s an act of male violence and Yang isn’t the spitting image of Mitt Romney. You know, I get cut off in traffic, I honk my horn, yell “HEY FUCK YOU ASSHOLE!” and maybe give the finger. I don’t pull over and mentally rank privilege, before ultimately deciding that I must have deserved it somehow. Some hack writer helping to whip up a braying mob of other shitheads to ruin a woman’s life, solely to take their place and do a much shittier job of it is, in my eyes, starting shit. Someone starts some shit, I will say some back. That’s that. Anyone who tries to tell me that this is an evil thing and “YOU’RE JUST AS BAD AS THEY ARE!!!!!!!” can fuck off.
It’s funny how a few posts ago, I was focusing on trying to be positive and happier in the coming year than I have been in this one. Well, that didn’t really work out, did it?
I’m 35 years old, yet I feel like this old grump. This curmudgeonly fuck that has a growing hatred of the way things are going. I’ve been writing about the hypocrisy of cis people and their bitch ass collaborators. Still writing about it! I’ve been writing about social media perpetuating the further erosion of communication and freedom that the internet once had, now being reduced to a husk of commercialism. So sick of the “hot take clout chasing nft armchair psychiatrist callout why media is bad and you’re stupid for liking it (run time 7:46:29) fleet spaces thread ya’ll quote dunk change my mind wholesome smol bun anime is a slur literally 30 year old media caused trump” culture. I hate what the internet has become. I feel so bad for all the kids that won’t be able to grow up and be able to discover themselves the way that I did, instead stuck with the bland, corporate mandated system of “engagements.” Not super related to my last two points, but fuck it, I’m still in a mood.
Not everything has been frustrating and soul-rending, at least. I did use the last of my Niteflirt earnings to buy myself a PC-Engine Mini. So now after twenty years, I can finally say that I own one. Kind of. Some people say that nostalgia is for those escaping their pain, so I guess it was a hell of a coincidence that this all came to a head while I spend money to relive my teen years in a more official capacity. You bet your ass I’ll be talking about this bad boy when it gets here. Whatever helps keep me indoors while another COVID strain spreads, and keeps me from having to talk to people I wouldn’t piss on if they were on fire. This Summer, I was planning on going Full Weaboo. I think in 2022, I will go full-on Hikkikomori. Have fun with your discourse and your barely-disguised transmisogyny, I have games to play.
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.
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.
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.