space invaders

Something that I’ve mentioned here and there in passing, but have never done an entire post about (until now anyway) is how much I fucking love Space Invaders. I’ve struggled for literally years to try and explain what it is about that game that’s so important to me. Not just because it’s a great, timeless classic that spans generations; a lot of games fit that description.

I’ve written about this one particular time in my life multiple times (see examples: Mega Man 9, No More Heroes), probably because it was a more formative time than I had previously thought; having a bad job with weird hours that kept me from being social. It’s hard to go out drinking with twenty-somethings when you have to be up at five the next day. So as a result, I would come home, tired as fuck, and just sit at my computer until bedtime. One of the first things I did when I got this job was going out and buying a new, “better” computer; a 2006 eMachines is still better than the 1999 eMachines my parents got for me as a teenager. And one of the things I did on that computer was download and play whatever MAME ROMs had interesting enough titles off of PlanetEmu (which is still alive and kicking, God Bless). I had (have) this thing for the aesthetic of old arcade games. That pre-1993 era of coin-ops.

In my weird ass brain, this old arcade style is something I find massively pleasing. Bright foreground colors to offset the solid black background. Rough, tiny sprites that manage to be detailed enough for your imagination to fill in the gaps. The loud sounds designed to reverberate through an entire arcade and get your attention. There are a number of games that fit this mold perfectly. Listing them all here would read like a passage from Ready Player One, so I won’t do that. But what I will do is say that, as far as I’m concerned, Space Invaders is the definition of the arcade aesthetic. The kind of game to keep your attention while you freeze your ass off in a shitty apartment while reading LiveJournal posts.

This is one of those posts that’s kind of weird to write. Mostly because you can’t really review Space Invaders. Everyone has played this game. Your mom has played this game. It’s on every system known to man. You can play it on your calculator, or on your watch, or in your web browser. The invader designs are so ubiquitous to the point of complete annoyance; every shitty “Gamer Aesthetic” account has to have at least a hundred pictures of these things painted on a building by some two-bit Banksy wannabe. What can I say, Space Invaders is good? No shit! It rules! It’s a timeless classic! It is literally perfect. It’s probably the most popular video game in the world, and I am utterly obsessed with it. This hypnotic, zen-like piece of art. It’s comfort food for the Depressed Gamer.

I guess I’ve already made my point about why I like Space Invaders so much, as best I can, anyway. Think maybe I’ll pad the rest of this post out with some notable versions/collections.

SPACE INVADERS (SG-1000)

The Sega SG-1000 was…it was something. A woefully underpowered console that made the mistake of coming out the exact same day as the Nintendo Famicom, which ultimately and immediately crushed it. But it did have some nice games on it, one of which being a really good port of Space Invaders. It’s easy to overlook now, but back then, having a home port of an arcade game that looked even remotely like the original game was nothing short of a miracle, which the SG-1000 managed to accomplish.

I mean, it’s not 100% accurate, but it has nice colors, you can recognize the graphics, and the screen resolution ends up working out well. Which is more than can be said for whatever the fuck the Famicom ended up shitting out.

what the fuck is this

SIMPLE 1500 SERIES VOLUME 73- THE INVADERS (PLAYSTATION)

This is a compilation pack. It contains all four version of the original Invaders (black and white, cellophane overlay, upright cabinet with the mirror reflecting the game background at you, and color). Also has a VS mode, where you fight another player/CPU to send as many invaders to their side until they lose, a Time Attack, and a 3D mode (pictured above), which is a neat gimmick, if nothing else.

There were two other compilations on the Playstation, but they aren’t as good, because they don’t have as much stuff. Play this one.

SPACE INVADERS ANNIVERSARY (PLAYSTATION 2)

Admittedly, this is pretty much the same as the previous compilation, except that this has Space Invaders Part 2. Well, there’s the aesthetic, where all of the games are played through a virtual game center. It’s interesting because the games are played directly on the machines themselves, without loading up a different screen. It’s a neat effect.

Oh, right, one more thing: you can play different background music from other Taito games! As someone who fucking loves Taito music, this rules. Just wish that there were more songs. For fucks’ sake, the ISO is less than 40 megs, I think you could have fit a few more tracks onto the DVD, guys.

Play this one, too. The PS2 collection is great.

why can’t i go into the space invaders bathroom?

SPACE INVADERS POCKET COLLECTION (PSP)

This collection is…okay. It has all four versions of Space Invaders, includes Part 2, Return of the Invaders, Majestic Twelve, and Space Invaders ’95. Won’t be covering those, as I’m trying to focus specifically on the original game here. Rest assured, they’re all fucking great. The selection and variety is great. The problem though, is that the screen resolution is really small, and cannot be adjusted for the PSP’s wide screen. Now, playing this in an emulator, this isn’t a problem. But if you’re playing on an actual PSP, like I was, it’s hard as shit to see things sometimes. That being said, it’s a big collection of games that you can play on the go, so it gets a mention here.

SPACE INVADERS (GAME BOY)

This is Space Invaders. Space Invaders on Game Boy. That’s about it.

UNLESS

Unless you plug the game into a Super Game Boy, in which case it then turns into Space Invaders: The Original Game! Granted, you could buy the compilation as a stand-alone SNES cartridge, and it was missing content from the arcade game, but whatever. Shit like this is awesome.

SPACE INVADERS DX (ARCADE)

This was the game the SNES port was based off of. An arcade game that was, again, a compilation, and had a versus mode. However, it also included a “parody” mode. This was really just more Space Invaders, but the graphics were replaced by characters from other Taito games. That’s fun.

OMAKE

I ordered these Space Invaders headphones from Japan around 12 years ago. I remember the sound quality on them being pretty okay. However, the cheap plastic used to put the whole thing together? Not so much. The electrical tape I put on to try and fix them wasn’t as sturdy as I had hoped, so I haven’t used them since then. Thought I would post about it here because why the fuck not.

Anyways. That’s Space Invaders. I love it, and it owns.

michigan

In my quest to play as many Grasshopper Manufacture games as possible, I finally found myself a copy of Michigan. It’s a game I’ve been wanting to play for a long time, and in recent months, there have been a number of posts that have made playing it more of a priority. Kimimi’s blog had a good post on it, as well as some posts on the Select Button forums. They were not high on the game, which, in a weird way, made me want to play it even more. I had taken into consideration the shitty treatment of women, and the extremely haphazard, terrible writing it had. But there was still that bit of hope in my brain for something special. I went in expecting something like a video game version of the movie Nightcrawler; being a heartless bastard, filming abject human misery for the entertainment of the masses.

Let me get a few things out of the way now that I’ve played it: Michigan is most certainly not Nightcrawler in video game format. To be perfectly honest, the game is actually really terrible! The writing is just as atrocious as you’ve heard; nothing is explained, and the plot barely makes sense. Suda51 did not serve as this game’s writer, and it shows (he’s credited as “Original Idea,” so he was probably a beta tester), because even other GHM games that use surrealist imagery and are intentionally left vague for the purposes of player interpretation (or in Killer7’s case, released unfinished), they still make some degree of sense; everything still feels grounded and sensible, even when the world is full of weird sci-fi and paranormal shit. And on top of that, there’s no message behind any of the way-too-fucking-tame “carnage,” which is absolutely inexcusable for any media involving the sensationalist nature of the news. The game itself is buggy as shit. Its Europe-only localisation added in several bugs not present in the Japanese version; animations don’t work properly, there’s a missing level, at least one of the scoring mechanics doesn’t work, only one of the secret unlockable modes is actually accessible (more on that later), and there’s a fight scene that is straight up unplayable, which will lead to the reporter you’re working with to face an otherwise avoidable death. Oh, and despite being called “Michigan,” the game takes place in Chicago.

Michigan is really bad.

Which is why Michigan is also fucking awesome.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s badly written, buggy, sexist trash. But it’s so spectacular in its fuck-ups that the needle breaks and shoots all the way back around to being great. So Bad, It’s Good.

I streamed this game on Discord the day after Christmas to my friends Hazel and Violet. I’m showing them this 2-3 hour piece of barely-interactable entertainment where I’m an unnamed cameraman tasked with filming some mysterious evacuation order, which turns into a series of monster appearances and attacks, which turns into the aftermath of a viral outbreak by a mad scientists, which turns into something involving the military and the TV station you work for, which turns into…nothing. The ending and the post-credit sequence only add more questions than answers to a game that barely answers anything. But that doesn’t matter. The fun came from all of us laughing at the horrible voice acting, with the notable exception of Jean-Pierre Brisco, played by none other than musician/announcer from Street Fighter Alpha 3, Greg Irwin.

The fun came from Michigan’s attempts at melodrama, completely undercut by me filming upskirt shots of the reporter I was working with, in order to increase my “Erotic” score. But even that’s broken, because shooting butts and vag’s doesn’t do shit, since you only get points for filming their knees. I guess there’s a whole viewing audience that can only get hard from seeing a young woman’s kneecaps.

The fun comes from unlocking secrets, finding out they don’t work, and instead take you to a debug level where one of the reporters is on a stripper pole doing the most unsexy dance routine I’ve seen since that time I went to a strip club back in 2005 and the DJ put on Green Day’s “Wake Me Up When September Ends,” all while Brisco rants and raves about some bullshit. I imagine this was designed to be sexy, but is instead fucking hilarious in its nonsense.

The fun comes from talking about how much better Michigan could have been. The entire concept of a seedy paparazzi-level news crew filming a bunch of cool body horror shit should have been much better. It’s not like there’s a lack of moments that are genuinely chilling, but they’re so few and far between that I ended up goofing off with the camera to entertain myself and my friends. The biggest sin Michigan commits is being boring. Boredom is the worst thing any video game can be, doubly so for something that is otherwise very unique like this.


Michigan feels like a game concept whipped up by a horny teenager, who gave up his thought process mid-way through because the porn he downloaded off KaZaa finally finished. As it is, this is probably the worst Grasshopper game that isn’t Killer Is Dead, and is really only worth looking at to make fun of and contemplate a better game. Again, it’s so bad that it’s good, but it’s still bad.

 

no more heroes

Alright, time to bring the mood in here way the fuck back up. Let’s get back to talking about old games.

Before I got sick a couple weeks back, I was playing and enjoying the Switch re-releases of No More Heroes 1 and 2. Well, playing and enjoying the first one, at least. The second one, uh, well, that’s a post for another time. My plan for this post is a bit off the beaten path. I want to bookend this with the review. And here’s the first part of the review: this port rules. It was done by the same team responsible for that really great PC port of Killer7. It feels as good to play as it did when I bought it back in 2007. It’s a goddamn steal at only $20.

I mostly want to talk about No More Heroes itself. Specifically, what it meant to me. How important it was to a very confused idiot in their early-20s, looking for their place in the world. The best place to start talking about No More Heroes is to start by talking about Killer7.

2005 was a weird, shitty year. I had just graduated high school, and within a week, was homeless. There was a length of time I lived in a run-down van, or crashed on a friend’s couch. My dinner was cans of Vienna sausages and orange soda I scavenged from my old house. I passed the time after work reading books I got from the local library, listening to the radio, or looking at back issues of Game Informer I had from the Gamestop membership I had at the time. With that last thing, I guess it was out of some desire for normalcy? Wanting to go back to having a good time playing games, and not sweating in a shitty car in the middle of the Summer.

A game that I saw in these magazines was Killer7. It got middling, if not outright negative reviews. Not like that mattered; lots of great games get terrible scores (see example: Godhand). A game where you played as a group of assassins, that were all one guy’s split personality, and one of them is a Luchador? Shit, that’s so on-brand for me! At the time, I was a big Quentin Tarantino fan. Vulgar assassins in an M for Mature title? Wrestling? A game that was aggressively lo-fi, where the characters and environment had extremely low polygon counts? Yeah, this was my kind of game. As cringe as it may sound, I swore to my 18-year-old self that, as soon as I had a place to live, I would buy Killer7. Just as a way to mark the fact that I had improved my life to a certain degree.

Very long story short, I eventually did do that. Got a shitty little apartment in a bad neighborhood, and a copy of Killer7. A copy of Killer7 on the PS2. Never ever play the PS2 version. Play that shit on the Gamecube, or spend $20 and get it on Steam. I fucking loved Killer7. Played it, over and over. Analyzed and over-analyzed every piece of dialogue and camera angle. Killer7 was a game that I connected with on a level that I really hadn’t with any other game. Looking back, it wasn’t like it really did anything different. Yeah, it had a message and it said things and it committed the sin of being political, but this wasn’t really anything new. I’ve talked about Final Fantasy VII and Resident Evil also having Something To Say. Hell, this was the PS2 era, and I had definitely played Metal Gear, a series that despite its flaws, absolutely Says Things. I guess while these games were all great and still hold up in terms of politics, they were still these big-budget, 100+ dev team projects that told their stories with major bombast. Killer7 was different in that it was small. It was dirty. It didn’t give a fuck about convention. It confidently did its thing, and was gracious enough to let you ride along.

This haphazard, unfinished, surreal game about electoral politics and terrorism and religion and the fucking Power Rangers dominated the second half of my year. I didn’t know anything about Grasshopper Manufacture or Suda51 prior to this. Wasn’t like any of their games had come out over here until now. And, funny enough, despite being a PC Gamer Magazine published expert on Fire Pro Wrestling, I didn’t actually play the entries that Suda had a hand in. I had spent my teen years with the sequel that looked better and had a more robust Create-A-Wrestler. But after finishing Killer7, Grasshopper became my favorite developer, even though there was only one game I owned and was able to play, due to availability and language barrier.

Fast forwarding a few years. I’m now a manager at the local Target. Running the electronics department. Selling TVs, DVDs, video games, cameras, that sort of thing. It was an okay job in retrospect. Probably because I made more money than I do now. Dealing with passive-aggressive upper management and entitled shithead customers (sorry, “Guests”) after having woken up at 5 in the morning was the worst of it. It was an alright, if somewhat mediocre life I was living. Work all day, come home and play games or search the internet for some sort of an identity until I passed out and did it all again the next day.

This was right when Nintendo had announced its newest system, the Wii. I did not care for the Wii. It didn’t look interesting. I was skeptical of the motion control concept; I didn’t give a fuck about being able to virtually bowl with my grandmother. There was a PS2 and an XBox 360 hooked up to my TV, which did and would provide me years of entertainment. Didn’t want a Wii. Didn’t need one.

This indifference would turn into outright hate soon enough. Having to run the electronics department at a large American retail chain during a holiday season when Nintendo is intentionally not making enough Wii consoles to meet demand, meaning that I got to spend a lot of days getting yelled at by every piece of shit in the state of Colorado who absolutely, positively needed to bowl with their grandma right fucking now. I hated people. I hated this company. I hated their service rep who was a total douchebag who always had some rude sarcastic quip to make at my expense, and because he didn’t actually work there, I couldn’t fire him or at least tell him to knock off the bullshit. I hated coming to work in the freezing cold at the crack of dawn just so I could field a bunch of assholes who wanted a shitty gaming system with a shitty name and all the shitty plastic accessories that literally did nothing (hey look, a fake tennis racket you can put on the end of your remote before you shot-put it through your TV like a fucking idiot!). I hated having to listen to the promotional videos for the Wii that played on the store TVs at all hours of the day. The start of Nintendo’s marketing strategy of “get a complete charisma vacuum to stand in a white void and blandly recite the features of whatever bullshit we’re selling” began here. Eight to ten hours a day, having to listen to this fucking Wine Mom who probably voted for Trump years later tell me that the Nintendo Wii would revolutionize game-ing like nev-er be-fore, like she’s Smithers computer. Hel-lo Gamers, you are quite GOOD at TURNING me ON. Calling your analog thumbstick a “nunchuck,” give me a fucking break. I came home cold and miserable and wanting nothing more than to be away from the world. So fucking over this shit, and over Nintendo, too. They were causing me all sorts of stress.

Then Grasshopper Manufacture said they were making a new game for the Wii.

The next day, I went back to that store and bought the one Wii we somehow had in stock on my lunch break.

I think that really speaks to just how much of an impact Killer7 left on me. That I was willing to buy a video game system that I hated, all for a game that didn’t even have a name yet, and with no guarantee that it was even coming out in America, solely due to how much I loved a previous game made by the same developer. Now, while I would eventually go on to actually like the Wii, at this time, it was a very reluctant purchase.

To say that I was obsessively devouring any incoming info on the game would be an understatement. The blog I maintained at the time had me constantly going on about how excited I was for a new Grasshopper game, in between posts about how much I hated my job and the Nintendo Wii, even though I owned one. Going to the official website every night like it was the Smash Bros Dojo (which I would also later do), and looking at the postage stamp sized screenshots and Japanese text I couldn’t read. I wanted No More Fucking Heroes in my life.

a screenshot i saved from the original nmh site

This shot of Travis Touchdown sitting in his chair watching a music video was something that captivated me. I hadn’t played Lumines at the time, so I had no idea what the fuck a “Genki Rockets” even was.

more shots from the official site

This music video. This song. When I watched it, something in my brain clicked. This girl living in outer space, singing songs about wanting to live on Earth. This lonely girl. In space. The final frontier.

Lonely Frontier

It all makes sense now.

Thanks Suda, for introducing me to Genki Rockets.

No More Heroes was like seeing Joe Namath’s hair, in that it opened my eyes to a new reality. For the first time in a long time, I was inspired again. Inspired to create. The cutthroat world of mid-level corporate management had made me soft. I lost my edge, the thing that gives me the power to write and draw and put together works that bring out your emotions. And keep in mind, the game still wasn’t even out yet. For all I could have known, it could have been dogshit! I had the disastrous Japanese launch in the back of my mind, where literally nobody showed up to buy a copy. In the end, the only sale made and autograph given was to a press photographer, who clearly only got the game out of pity. He probably never played it. He probably gave it to some second-hand shop in Akihabara.

Eventually, February came. I went out and I bought that fucking video game on Day One. I burst through my apartment door and I yelled out into the void NOBODY FUCKING BOTHER ME I GOT SHIT TO DO!! I put that disc into that Wii, knowing that I was about to play a masterpiece. And guess what? I was fucking right!

I know that I’m nearly two thousand words into this piece, but here it is folks:

THE PART WHERE I ACTUALLY START TALKING ABOUT NO MORE HEROES

No More Heroes is awesome. It was a significant departure for Grasshopper who, at the point, had done visual novels, visual novels with puzzle solving, or visual novels with on-rails shooting. This was an open-world action game focused around combat. It, like other GhM games, had loads of personality. The protagonist, Travis Touchdown, is this absolute dorkus malorkus who thinks he’s the kind of badass he obsesses over when consuming way too much anime, video games, or pro wrestling, as opposed to the confident if unlikable detectives and assassins or previous games. What keeps Travis in common with other GhM protagonists is that his one skill other than the consumption of media is his ability to kill.

I’ll not be doing the usual plot synopsis, as this is a Suda51 game, where everything is surreal and trying to make sense of things is its own meta-game. Instead, I’ll be focusing more on its commentary and other things that make it great.

The city of Santa Destroy, where No More Heroes is set, is a dull looking, desolate, frankly boring place. The buildings are all various shades of white and gray, surrounded by pavement and desert. The only signs of life are your objectives and points of interest. The video store or “bar plastic model,” for example, are brightly lit and have some sort of eye-catching design to separate them from the rest of the generic buildings. It’s funny how this would have been a parody of open-world games in 2007. But when you look at the amount of bloated, soulless, AAA games here at the end of 2020, where their worlds are way too fucking big and not especially satisfying to explore, the commentary becomes even more pointed. If there’s no point to this giant, sprawling city, why waste the players’ time? To check off a bullet point on the back of the box?

Think about the side jobs in this game. Lawn mowing. Coconut collecting. Pumping gas. Not too far removed from Grand Theft Auto’s side jobs of taxi driving and pizza delivery (or Rockstar’s Bully actually having a lawn mowing side job), right? Pretty boring! Why is my super cool sociopath main character doing shit like this? No More Heroes really has you sit down and think about things like this.

Another reading is that, because Travis is this greasy otaku loser who sucks, Santa Destroy is portrayed from his point of view. He only cares about renting movies or buying new clothes before he goes to kill someone. Everything else? Fades into the background. While I’m not one to take credit for things, I was the first person to make this connection, so all your favorite games essayists owe me a “thank you.” You’re welcome.

yeah baby, this was definitely a game made in 2007

The big point of this game, the boss battles, are incredible. Each assassin has their own unique look, their own unique fighting style and level gimmick. Most of them begin their fights with the resigned sense of finality. They are waiting to die. To die on their own terms, in a fight that pushes them to their absolute limit. Travis is, for most of the game, oblivious to this. Travis wants to be number one, because he wants to have sex with the woman who brought him into the world of assassination, and probably also because it would be the first time he’s ever been the best at something. Even the bosses that don’t have as much screen time still matter, and are all as much integral to No More Heroes as Travis himself.

I’m actively avoiding spoiling the game, so I apologize for not going super in-depth with the analysis here. The game may have been released in 2007, but the re-releases are still pretty new, and I’m trying to get you, the reader, to play the games if you haven’t done so already. But just know that No More Heroes has more things to say. Things to say about nerd culture, revenge, competition, video games in general. Stuff that, outside of a reference to Duke Nukem Forever, still holds up very well today. And it does so in a way that is raw, dirty, uncomfortable, confident. That “messy” fiction we all clamor for. It doesn’t care what Geoff Keighley thinks, it cares what you think. Thank God Suda51 isn’t a trans woman, the world would have killed her twenty years ago.

there was a time when we all thought that game was never coming out

No More Heroes dominated my life the moment I bought it until I 100% completed every difficulty. Got every ability, every weapon upgrade, every t-shirt, every luchador mask, every last belt. This was a game on a whole other level than what I had seen before. The reason why I started getting off my ass and actually learning various artistic skills was due to the time I spent with this game. Depending on how you feel, you have No More Heroes to thank or to blame for that. You have Suda51 and Grasshopper Manufacture to thank or to blame for that.

Replaying the games on Switch, though, did cause me to notice a couple of things that are missing from the original. “Heavenly Star” used to play in every store, and various cutscenes. In the Japanese version, you could watch the music video on Travis’ TV. The Switch version has replaced this song with various tracks from No More Heroes 2. Before every boss fight, you would get a phone call, and the audio would play from the speaker on the Wii remote, so you would have to hold it to your ear to listen. Now the audio plays on-screen, like everything else.

I’ve been contemplating these minor removals for a few weeks now. I’m torn. Does a lack of Genki Rockets and a Wii remote gimmick make the game an actively worse experience, or am I just sad that it’s not 2008 anymore? This entire post is an overly-long dedication to my nostalgia, and to what made me Me. Something that began as a curiosity for when I was no longer living in a van has evolved to this font of creativity and personality that you see today. The anticipation alone served as the inspiration for the name of this web site! Sitting here and writing this, I’m reminded of that time. Dark mornings. Cold weather. The best shoegaze I’ve ever fucking heard. My growing obsession with outer space. I used to come home from work, and divide my time between NMH and Noctis. Now I’m coming home from work and dividing my time between No More Heroes and Elite Dangerous; some thing never change, or at least don’t change much. Reminded of the time I spent discovering myself. Not the scared, abused child that I was, but the fashionable, take-no-shit adult that earns your respect. A part of that lies entirely on this game, and the time I spent on the system it was on (see: my love/hate relationship with Mega Man 9), that I didn’t even want in the first place. It’s been well over a decade since No More Heroes rocked my world. Maybe some punk kid will get inspired by it all over it again on the Switch.

Goddamn this game rules.

hey i’m going to talk about cyberpunk

Hey, it’s been a while since I’ve done one of these “I’m mad about a thing” rant posts. Something in my brain broke back in August, where I realized that my appeal to empathy or reason ultimately went nowhere, and I was much happier talking about retro games and cars, so these kind of posts stopped. But fuck it, I’m fucking annoyed about some shit. Also, I caught a cold last week, and I haven’t had the energy to do anything worth posting about, unless you’re all dying to hear my stories of passing out in my chair while watching Tekken match videos on YouTube after I took some cough syrup.

Fucking Cyberpunk. I have had zero goddamn interest in this game since it was announced. I didn’t give a fuck about The Witcher, a game starring what is probably the whitest man in the history of video games, and I certainly didn’t give a fuck about anything else made by the same company. It’s been clear that CD Projekt Red is pretty openly hostile to People Like Me. That, and the whole massive exploitation of their employees. But mostly being the same kind of boring assholes posting lol trannie shit that we were already rolling our collective eyes at in 2014. Who cares? There are better games worthy of my time and my money. I could spend $60 on it now, or even better, wait and get No More Heroes 3 or Resident Evil 8. At worst, those games will still be more interesting and profound than Cyberpunk’s best moments.

It’s going to come out. It’s already received glowing reviews, probably because the coyote physics are really dope or whatever. It’ll have a legion of idiots sending death threats on the game’s behalf if you so much as imply that maybe it isn’t that great.

And I guess that’s my problem. Not so much the game itself; it’s no different than any other soulless AAA horseshit with cynical marketing designed to establish a parasocial relationship with the audience. Taking away the trans shit, there’s not much a leap between this and Red Dead Redemption 2, The Last of Us 2, or Ghosts of Tsushima. Same shit, different day. It’s this limp reaction from games outlets that’s getting me here. At risk of using a controversial term here, these fucking virtue signaling platitudes of “oh, well, crunch is bad, and stuff” or “transphobia? not cool, man!” then giving out these Gamepro exploding heads after spending six months to a full year providing breathless preview coverage.

Now the real point of this whole post: I know for a fact that several of these writers will hem and haw over the game, who have also used their platforms to tell people not to support me. I don’t mean me in the sense of small independent creators, or even trans people in general (though that’s pretty firmly implied), I mean specifically games writers screaming DO NOT GIVE RAMONA YOUR TIME OR MONEY. DO NOT SUPPORT THIS DUMB BITCH.

And boy if that ain’t the most sinister shit! Please bear with me here, because I’m about to open up that stable door and pull out that dead horse and beat it some more. This is year five. I’m still the subject of poorly-written call out posts and nonsensical conspiracy theories that make me out to be part of some underground cabal of mean trannies that hurt the feelings of your favorite personalities after they called us all a bunch of pedophiles based on something a neo-nazi told them. I’m kinda sorta extremely fucking over it, dude. Over the constant berserker barrage of stupid fucking reasons to hate me based entirely on video game articles I didn’t write, Twitter posts I never made, or somehow being ultra-close best friends with someone I’ve never spoken to in my life that went on to become a right-wing grifter. You got all these clowns at Kotaku, or Waypoint, or Polygon calling us all a bunch of bigots while they themselves do shit like write articles loaded with glowing praise for a bunch of rapists or make YouTube videos playing Final Fantasy with a guy that hangs around Proud Boy supporters.

At least hate me because of something I did, you know? Maybe you don’t like my personality? You think my art sucks? Not a fan of my streams? Maybe I beat you too badly in a round of Tekken 7? Probably not enough reason to tell potentially hundreds of thousands of people that the Antichrist is actually some no-name trans artist with a couple hundred followers, but at least you sound less like Woke Infowars.

pictured: me and the girls plotting to get black women fired from kotaku, apparently

I’m not the only one in this position; there are others who have been fired from their jobs, had their PayPals shut down, or even lost their homes. By comparison, I’ve gotten off (lol) pretty easily. But hey, this is my blog, where I put down my thoughts and my feelings, so I will be selfish and talk about myself. My opinion is that it’s a bunch of bullshit that, in the eyes of Big Gaming, giving me five bucks because you liked something I made? You may as well have given that money to Hitler himself. Giving $60-$90 to a major corporation that commits gross violations of labor and is run by reactionary bigots? That’s Socialism, baby!

Once a week, there’s some new discourse topic that calls trans people a bunch of degenerate sex rapists. There’s always some “main character” that’s done something so immensely fucked up like, “made a dick joke,” “accidentally got really popular,” “follows a guy who follows a guy who follows a guy who follows a guy who follows a guy who follows a guy’s cousin who said the r-word on LiveJournal back in 2006,” or some other reason that’s extremely petty and most certainly made up. All it takes is someone waking up on the wrong side of the bed to turn a human being into a punching bag for both sides of the political divide. It owns, living in this perpetually gaslit society where you are subject to constant harassment and abuse, are called a liar and a neo-nazi for pointing this out, and then get accused of molesting at least thirty children by the time I finish this sentence. Hell, someone with too much time on their hands will probably screencap segments of this very post, try to scrub any context, and do exactly what I just said would happen.

Take all of this into consideration, and look at what’s coming out in three days. Cyberpunk 2077. A game that you have been told, by multiple trans people, is really shitty towards us. There will be so many critics who will be twisting themselves into a pretzel to try and justify the purchase of and playing of the game, if they haven’t done so already. So many people trying to tie some heroic tale to “buying a video game.” We have to support the poor, overworked developers! NEWSFLASH! The developers have already been paid! Oh, but there was a promise that they would all receive a 10% bonus for the rest of the year based on sales? IT’S DECEMBER! The only thing you’re doing is swimming through massive amounts of cognitive dissonance because you don’t want to say out loud that you don’t want a bunch of whiny SJW transgenders getting in the way of you enjoying what looks to be the most boring looking pile of garbage, but now with Keanu Reeves. I would have much more respect for that entire industry if they would just be honest. Either say that you don’t give a fuck, or just straight up admit that yeah, you hate the trannies. We already know that you do. No amount of obnoxious memes of Sonic the Hedgehog saying that there’s no ethical consumption under capitalism will absolve you.

It’s hard to look at all of this swirling tornado of shit, and not take it personally to some degree. That a bunch of alt-right boardroom execs with shit-eating grins are more worthy of support than I am. This constant biting of my tongue every time something like this happens is exhausting. Having to swallow my pride whenever a friend says that they’ll simply pirate the game, or wait for it to go on sale first. Like there’s a fucking time limit and budget for how much our feelings are worth. Like there’s an embargo on the concept of allyship. Can’t believe Hatsune Miku made an entire futuristic FPS by herself.

So yeah, fuck Cyberpunk. Fuck this whole toxic dinosaur that is games culture. Consider leaving us the fuck alone, instead of stalking our social media, trying to run our best and brightest out of public life, and rubbing it in our faces that you really love a shitty video game that treats us all like an absolute joke. Leave me to the niche that I fill that you think is so clearly below you, even though most of you critics out there couldn’t handle my jock on my worst day. I have cough syrup to drink, fighting games to get better at, and an unexplored world of old media to analyze.

11/24/2020

I took the last couple of weeks off for what should be obvious reasons. Wasn’t exactly feeling like sitting down and talking about my consumption of media when there were more important things going on. This will be more of a general “this is how I’ve spent my time” post rather than a focused write-up.

I’ve mostly been taking it easy. The weather is getting colder here in Colorado. It’s a time of the sun setting earlier, cold wind numbing your entire face, listening and re-listening to your Shoegaze collection, and trying to avoid showing any degree of pleasure or happiness while everyone else is affected by seasonal depression; sorry, but I really fucking love Fall. That also means that this is the best time to spend my days bundled up in a blanket, avoiding the miasma outside as much as possible. And what do you do when you’re all wrapped up? You either watch a movie or play a long-ass RPG. Living the gimmick here, I’m going to talk about an RPG.

Been playing some Hyperdimension Neptunia. It’s that time of year where I feel the need to consume as much cutesy anime shit with a moderately-sized budget as possible. I have a weird “seasonal” taste in my media. Does it have magical girls screeching and making weird faces while fighting monsters before they have to get back to class? Give me that shit. Inject it directly into my veins like it’s a popular new designer drug. I have to balance myself with adorable things, as much as I do with gory blood shit or fast cars.

Hyperdimension Neptunia is a game where a bunch of anthropomorphic video game console fight each other in a war that never ends. The main character, Neptune (named after the unreleased Sega Neptune) gets hit in the head, and falls to fake video game earth, losing her memory, and then hijinks ensue. That’s really all you need to know. The rest of the game is fighting game references, dialogue full of memes, and grinding a ton so you can fight the next boss. But you know what? That’s all I need. Neptunia is a very simple game. An issue with a lot of RPGs of this particular era is that they are way too fucking long, with very little happening. I remember playing Persona 4 several years ago and wondering when this prologue chapter would end and I could actually do stuff with my controller; that shit went on for what felt like hours, and probably was. I don’t have that problem. Dialogue windows in this game are not especially long. There’s a ton of small sidequests and a bunch of extra dungeons to explore, but it’s all active. You’re constantly doing something in the game. The combat? It’s not pressing “Fight” on a menu, there’s a whole combo system at work. There’s this constant interactivity, which is great, because it means that even when I’m turning my brain off to get experience or money, I’m not bored out of my fucking skull while I’m doing it.

Something I was a bit wary of when I loaded the game was the degree of horniness present. I mean, these girls do look pretty young, and a lot of games like this love to do the whole “she’s actually a 3000 year old demon” bullshit. And…it’s surprisingly tame? Like, there are definitely some characters with some big mondo tits, but at least they’re adults. It’s not like my nightmare experience of playing Blue Reflection on PS4, where the developers thought giving its 14-year-old protagonist jiggle physics was a great idea, in addition to providing lots of shower scenes and having her school uniform turn transparent in the rain so you get to see her underwear. Fuck Blue Reflection, I don’t give a fuck how good its music is. Hyperdimension Neptunia is more like, at worst, I would be put on an FBI list, as opposed to wondering if there are armed agents literally outside my door.

Anyway, the game fucking owns. I plan on playing more of this, and maybe even trying out its sequels when I’m done.

 

I’ve also been spending a bit of time getting back into Tekken 7, now that season 4 has arrived. Taking a look at all of the changes that have occurred, trying to get back to the rank I was on PS4, but on the PC version. How am I doing with that?

Think I’m doing fine.

I’m either playing with randos, or playing with my friend Hazel. Things have been really fun, and I’ve also noticed that I’ve gotten a lot less frustrated when losing. Every match is a learning opportunity, win or lose. If I get completely destroyed 3-0, well hey, that means I should learn to adapt to my opponent, or even hit up training mode if I need to. Losing causes me to laugh more than seethe, which is great. Like, yeah, I do take getting better at fighting games seriously, but they’re still games. It’s not a matter or life or death if I fucked up an input, or dropped a combo like a freaking dope, or if I’m faced with an unfamiliar match-up I don’t know what to do with. Fighting games are great.

So I think that’s a good place to wrap up this pos-

NO WAIT! FUCK! WHAT THE FUCK!? MY WORLDS! MY WORLDS ARE COLLIDING!

Video games rule.

Maybe I’ll do another post this week. Something more dedicated. Just needed to shake the rust off with this one.

3DO-Face #2: Blonde Justice (NSFW)

Last time I did one of these, I was very let down. I wasn’t expecting the first porn game I played on the 3DO to be so…pathetic. Playing Neurodancer, I sat there and thought to myself, “well, it can’t possibly get any worse than this.”

It’s going to get worse. This is Blonde Justice.

Let me start by getting this out of the way: Blonde Justice is not an actual game. It is simply a piece of software for the 3DO. It’s like putting a DVD in your PS2 and pressing the start button to pause and play. So this will just be a review of a porno I watched, which depending on your thoughts on sex work, my writing, or me as a person, will either be a new low or a new high.

There is a plot to this movie. I think. I mean, I watched every second of it, and tried like hell to pay attention. The problem is that you can’t actually hear any of the dialogue, as everyone is drowned out by the terrible Cinemax music. In my attempt at groping for some sort of video game analogy, it’s like a late-90s Capcom game in terms of its audio leveling. What I managed to gather was something about a strip club? One of the girls is being stalked? Said stalker wears a nearly-transparent stocking over his head that does not hide his identity in the slightest? There’s maybe a minute of dialogue before the “action” happens.

You got all these people I don’t care about spouting all this bull shit for about thirty seconds, before this sudden, jarring jump-cut to women dancing in front of a green screen for several minutes, before going back to thirty seconds of incoherent dialogue. Rinse and repeat until the end.

And these green screens are something. These Battlefield: Earth angles. Dancing in front of people looking away from the girls. A cityscape. All kinds of shit.

Oh, and real quick aside here: if anyone knows what the name of this arcade game this girl is dancing in front of is, please let me know in the comments section. Might be a good one to check out the next time I do a racing game round-up.

I apologize in advance here, because this will be a shorter entry than I’m used to. There’s not much to say. There’s a disjointed story broken up by this surreal concept of eroticism. Wordless, emotionless, frictionless seduction set to b-roll footage pilfered from a production library. Blonde Justice is like porn made by incomplete robots who had never even heard the word “sex” before, let alone put together anything remotely horny. Like Vivid Video invested in a machine learning algorithm.

You know, Neurodancer sucked. It was sad, pathetic horseshit where the interactivity was a cynical joke. But here’s the thing: Neurodancer had nudity. Yeah, that’s right, Blonde Justice, a pornographic movie, is lacking nudity. That is such a monumental fuck-up that I can’t even begin to criticize in any meaningful way. All I can do is wildly move my hands and do some exasperated yell-stutter asking nobody in particular HOW DO YOU MAKE A PORNO WHERE NOBODY GETS NAKED!? Oh, it’s suggestive, sure, but this isn’t supposed to be some bullshit you catch on one of the premium movie channels on a Saturday night. This was a product that cost money; probably a lot, and was published by an actual porn company. Some horny sucker spent part of the their paycheck on this bullshit, when they could’ve just jerked off to Chun-Li’s Spinning Bird Kick in Super Turbo, because as terrible as that is, you are getting the same level of titillation.

even the lesbian sex part goes out of its way to not show anything

If you make it all the way to the end, and if you look really carefully, you might see a boob or two. They’re on screen for all of half a second, and I to rewind multiple times just to get these screenshots, but they are there. I guess as some retroactive gotcha to prove it could be horny. So here you go, Vivid, a quick retraction: Blonde Justice is a porn movie completely lacking in nudity, except for two very quick scenes.

hot damn, boys. pull out the kleenex and poppers.

That’s Blonde Justice. It was bad. It was a waste of my time. A little TMI, but I went through this shitshow completely flaccid throughout. I’m starting to think that maybe adult entertainment on the 3DO was a bad idea. Go subscribe to someone’s OnlyFans or something instead of this. Jesus.

I need to start playing games I like, so I can finally have a blog post where I’m not so damned negative

who is this for?

EDIT: in my research (yeah, yeah, I know), I discovered that the lead actress was on the cover of that horrible Blink-182 album.

rising zan: the samurai gunman

Confession: I spent all week trying to think of a topic to write a blog post about. Something that didn’t involve retro video games or fast cars. I wanted a nice change of pace. It’s now Tuesday, and I couldn’t think of shit. I am a one-trick pony. Here’s a post about a retro video game.

I recently joined a small retro games group on Discord. It’s mostly a chill group where people in my particular age bracket talk about cool games and things that affect our particular age bracket, without all these damn Zoomers running around talking about Fortnite dances or the iPhone or, God Forbid, Blaseball. One of the things this server does is we hold a vote for a particular old game to play, then we talk about it on a particular channel. You’ve undoubtedly put two and two together and figured out that Rising Zan: The Samurai Gunman was the winner of the vote.

Rising Zan is a little bit different than previous games we’ve played, as I actually own this one. Wasn’t just something I loaded up in Retroarch and messed with for a bit. There’s a bit of a story to it, so allow me to tell you all about it.

This was back in 2004. I was 17, and my Junior year of high school had just let out for the Summer. One of those situations where I was trying to find some part-time work, as I needed money to buy things and to maybe save up and finally get the hell out of the shitty neighborhood I was living in. The problem was that all of the local businesses had no openings available, so if I wanted to make money, I would have to do odd jobs on the side.

One job in particular was to build a shed for a disabled neighbor. He was a one-legged diabetic who had just lost his leg a month prior, but was still pounding down shitty cheap beers like it was water. It was me, and another guy in the neighborhood: a recently out-of-work construction worker. Back in the day, this was code for being such a tremendous fuck-up that you got fired for being too drunk at a job where everyone else is already two bottles of Yukon Jack in before they finish building your bathroom. He was a friendly drunk, at least.

This job fucking sucked. I would have to wake up at six in the morning, and work in 100 degree weather until six at night. I was so badly sunburned, I had to spend the next month sitting and sleeping with a homemade “cold press,” a wet hand towel wrapped around an ice pack, constantly pressed against the back of my neck. I was in so much pain I could barely do anything other than attempt to work. I actually caught heat stroke from this gig! It’s mostly faded over the years, but I can still sometimes see the scar on my left palm from where I was nearly drilled through my hand. Oh, and in addition to building a tool shed, I would also have to drive this guy to the local Home Depot, where he would go into the bathroom and bathe himself using the sink. This despite living in a house with running water, and having people around to assist him in getting in and out of a bathtub. Did I mention this job sucked? I very well could have conceivably died doing this shit.

We eventually got the job done. The guy I was working with got a few hundred bucks. He was also gifted a new set of tools and a new grill.

What was my payment? Just barely enough to cover the cost of this game. Not even enough to cover the sales tax!

I got angry all over again writing this. You see, in my memories, I could have sworn that I was paid at least $20, which is already bullshit enough. But look at that image above. I was wrong! I misremembered just how badly I was exploited!

NINE NINETY NINE

This piece of fucking shit took a 17-year old, worked that literal child nearly to death, twelve hours a day, then paid next to nothing while giving someone else thousands of dollars in goods! I moved out of that hellhole the next Summer. I have never seen or spoken to anyone who lived there since then. Fuck them. Knowing that guy’s diet of Budweiser, he’s probably long dead by now anyway. Good fucking riddance.

Anyways. This was supposed to be a write-up about a video game, right? I remember really liking this game a lot when I was younger. Thought it was charming, goofy fun. I have to assume that this was the result of me nearly losing my goddamn life, so any form of entertainment would have been the greatest thing I’ve ever seen.

Rising Zan fucking sucks.

Having replayed Zan, I don’t know what exactly I found so appealing about it. The controls are absolute dogshit, where inputting commands is a fool’s game. Zan moves with all the grace of a dehydrated teenager who should probably be in a hospital bed. The difficulty is already set to “unfair,” with enemies taking somewhere between 20 and a million hits to kill, and not being able to play it properly doesn’t help. Oh, and the hilarious, wacky dialogue is a bunch of South Park references.

And there’s a lot of “wacky” humor to be found, because that is all this game has. If this were made in the modern era, this would be called “stream-bait.” A game specifically made to be shown on Twitch because of how weird it is. Hey, a wild west gunslinger uses a samurai sword! He rescues cowboys in their underwear! He calls himself the “Super Ultra Sexy Hero!” You earn “Sexy Points” while fighting! It has a ludicrous theme song!

(ripped this from the disc myself, since the quality on YouTube is terrible)

It really ticks a lot of boxes on the “Weird Japan” checklist. I really wish it would stop, too, as I have used way too many quotation marks on individual words for this post.

You run around, fighting enemies at 15 frames per second, using a sword and a gun. Sounds like a slower Devil May Cry, I know, but DMC at least made sure that its game was actually good first. Eventually, you’ll meet a boss that speaks a version of fake Japanese that I would accuse of being racist had Rising Zan not actually been developed by a Japanese developer. Then you fight the boss, and also fight the camera.

playing rising zan, having the time of my life with a boss fight. the boss is just out of frame, fighting too.

It’s bad. It’s clunky as shit, even for its time. By the time Zan hit the market, Metal Gear Solid had already changed the world. Ape Escape was going hog-wild. There was already three Resident Evil titles. Megaman Legends was being quietly appreciated by the right people, with a sequel right around the corner. I owned most of these other games already! Action games on the Playstation were already at their best. I’m sitting here, a full-grown adult in 2020, wondering what I saw in this game. Was I really so easily entertained? Modern Me gave up after the second level, where I had to chase down an exploding enemy before it could blow up a building. Of course, along the way, enemies teleport in and cut off sections of the level until you kill them. This wouldn’t be a problem, except that I have spent a lot of time driving it into your head that the game controls like ass, runs terribly, and you can’t even see half the enemies because the camera actively works against you. After about five failures, I said fuck this and went back to playing Tenchu. If I’m going to play a weird, clunky game riddled with technical problems, it might as well be a good one.

the back cover tries way too hard. at least it’s not shadow tower with its “THIS GAME WILL LITERALLY RAPE YOU!” bullet point.

Rising Zan is a bad game. And it’s the kind of bad that’s not even the kind of bad that’s interesting. It may as well be something like Tai’Fu for people who still think tentacle porn and used panty vending machines are the height of comedy. It’s badly made, with mediocre design, and trying way too hard to have a quirky personality. It was not worth nearly dying over.

And I still have no fucking idea how to not get a “weak” finish.

gran turismo sport

I finally got myself a copy of Gran Turismo Sport a couple days ago. Mostly because it was cheap and I’m seemingly hellbent on playing as many racing games as possible these days. People who followed me back before a database failure deleted every post I made on here from 2008-2013 will remember that I fucking love Gran Turismo 6. It, along with Super Hang-On, is one of those sim type racing games that I loved even before I loved the sport it was based on. GT6 is very much a Pokemon For Adults, in the sense that you collect all these sports cars, race them, then leave them to sit in a box for eternity as you seek to acquire more of them. This is why I didn’t immediately jump on GT Sport, as it significantly cut back on the number of cars in an effort to focus on the actual racing aspect, to the point of having their courses officially sanctioned by the FIA. As I didn’t care enough about the sport side, I looked at it like buying a new Pokemon game, and only getting like 25 creatures to catch in a series that conditions you to find at least 250.

Anyways. I’ve spent the past 2 days pouring over this game. I hate to say it, but I find myself bouncing off of it pretty quick, finding GT6 much more preferable.

GT Sport does a really good job of sucking you in, aside from a really shitty intro that focuses on showing off a bunch of weird looking nerds playing the game instead of cars going fast while a Daiki Kasho jam blasts your eardrums out. But once you actually start the game, you immediately notice how fucking gorgeous the graphics are; and they fucking better be, considering the game is almost 100 gigs in size (sidebar: video games are TOO FUCKING BIG these days!). It’s pretty as hell, the soundtrack is full of the Daiki Kasho classics the series is known for, and the driving feels great. Despite cutting down on the number of cars, I was still able to buy my two favorite Nissan’s: the 300ZX and the 240Z (or at least, a close equivalent in the GReddy Fugu Z), in addition to a number of Mitsubishi Lancers, which are also really cool.

I cannot stress enough how satisfying it is to drive these machines around. And on top of all this, there’s a pretty great livery editor, which let’s me import my own custom textures. Finally, there is a Slimegirl Racing Team.

Yes, I will have a second Slimegirl game finished someday. Making video games is hard, okay?

There’s all this cool shit that looks and plays great. The soundtrack tries to make up for the fact that the PS4 sucks and won’t let you put your own music on the hard drive like you could with the PS3. But then there’s a problem. You don’t notice it at first, but the further you make it in the game, the more pronounced it becomes.

A big thing that GT Sport has is the involvement of Lewis Hamilton. There’s an entire Time Trial DLC where you have to beat his best times, lots of in-game promotion of him, and then a timeline of his life and career up to 2019. Obviously, this in and of itself is fine; the history of sports games is tied to athlete endorsements, Hamilton is on the verge of being the best driver of all time, and he’s apparently a big fan of the series. It only makes sense to bring him on-board.

No, what’s weird about this is that periods of his life are posted in relative terms to events in world history. Some of it is fairly normal, like the release of movies and popular albums. Then it starts to relate his career more and more to a bunch of conservative shit. Trump, Brexit, Space X, tech-bro stuff, the Pope. A few cursory mentions of Obama, Malala Yousafzai, and Usain Bolt, sure, but it’s still mostly old racist white dudes. At no point is any of Hamilton’s activism mentioned. “Black Lives Matter” does not appear a single time. No environmental activism. Nothing. All you know is that Lewis Hamilton won a bunch of races, and Windows 10 came out and revolutionized the world.

Yes, these are all important world events, true. But it does feel uncomfortable relating all of this to the life of a proud Black activist, you know? Why not relate his accomplishments to examples of Black excellence? Maybe mention more than three athletes? Strides made in equal rights? Anything better than “evil man succeeds at thing?”

Then this reactionary attitude spills over into the actual racing. In order to actually take part in the “Sport” part of GT Sport, you have to attend a “Racing Etiquette” class where some instructional videos tell how not to drive like an asshole. No running people off the course, no ramming other cars like it’s Burnout, no unsportsmanlike conduct. That sort of thing. Obviously, nobody who plays this game follows any of these rules. It’s to be expected that a bunch of clownshoes will play dirty in their quest for a podium. That’s not a surprise to me. But then you play the offline campaign, and the fucking AI drivers start pulling shit on you, too. They’ll gladly run you into the dirt. I had to restart a race about four times because the CPU cars were too busy trying to kill each other, which made driving impossible. You don’t get penalized offline, either. Feel free to hit them back. Drive over a curb if you want, who gives a fuck? The online penalties are a joke, too! In real racing, you do an illegal overtake, you have to give up your position and let the other driver pass you. In real racing, you intentionally cause all sorts of safety hazards, you can be suspended for several races, and have points taken off your license. In GT Sport, the most you get is a 2-4 second penalty added to your time at the end, which won’t mean much if the guy you forced into a wall is now in last place.

My attempt at online racing has left me firmly in the middle of the pack, getting 5th or 6th in a 12-person race. Trying to play the right way at least raises my “Sportsmanship” rating, and I was willing to at least accept that. But now I can’t, knowing that the offline game is just as chaotic. The reason I’m calling GT Sport a conservative game is because it puts forward all these rules, expects you to follow them, then proceeds to immediately and blatantly break them in front of you, as Conservatives do. Unlike real racing, there’s no team, there’s no Constructors Championship. Everything is a solo effort. Anything below 3rd place is irrelevant. In other words, all I’m doing is losing and all I have to show for it is a meaningless number going up, with no real points to my name. The game is conservative because trying to follow the rules, showing decorum and respectability and all that shit, will make you a loser. You either look like a loser and complain about unfair it all is as you keep losing, or you start to play dirty like everyone else. That sucks. Racing has politics, yes, but I’m not interested in being the Nancy Pelosi of Motorsport, you know?

It’s a shame. Gran Turismo Sport was a game I was expecting to spend years with (or at least until Sony kills the servers and tells you to buy a PS5, idiot). Maybe I’m approaching this game from the wrong mindset; wanting a regular Gran Turismo, and instead getting this weird yet gorgeous thing that expects you to be an asshole that has to cheat to win. Not a fan. I prefer my skill-based competitive games to be based around skill.

I guess I’ll turn the PS3 back on and load up GT6.

daiki kasho- all my life

ramona does what nintendon’t

It’s been kind of a shit week. Away from home again for work (though I won’t have to do this bullshit again for some time, and money is money). My body is hurting again. People are being generally terrible in my direction and it makes my brain feel bad. I will spare you all a moody, “I’m mad at stuff” post that I was originally going to write. Instead, I will simply refuse to let the bad times get me down, and write about things that are cool.

Realizing over these last few months that I pretty much only give a fuck about retro games, fast cars, or retro games about fast cars. I’ve talked about the PC Engine being God’s favorite console. Brought up my love of the original Playstation and the Game Boy. But my actual, all-time, no bullshit favorite system is the Sega Genesis. Or the much better sounding Mega Drive everywhere else in the world. I want to talk about that system today.

I guess to be more specific, I want to talk about the early days of that system. Some of the games that came out at the dawn of the systems life, as it tried to find an identity in a time where Nintendo and NEC were the big boys. There’s this aesthetic that’s hard to explain in this era; this transitional period from the 80s to the 90s that I really like. It’s weird, and it’s probably only in my head, like people who long for the “old days” of non-existent bullshit like the Andy Griffith Show, except my nostalgia is a little less racist.

Anyways. Here’s some stuff I’ve been playing to pass the time until I’m finally back home where all my stuff and a comfortable bed is.

Kujaku Oh 2/Mystic Defender

Let’s start this out with a real banger. Mystic Defender (not to be confused with Mystic Fighter, which is among the worst games on the system) fucking fucks. This is one of those Mega Drive games with that look: this dark, murky, “late night” graphic design that would just as easily be home in a campy exploitation film you watch with your friends on a Saturday night. You run around, shooting psychic Hadoukens at monks and giant bugs. It’s cool as hell.

I’m playing the Japanese version of the game. 1) I think the character sprite looks cooler in this one. 2) It removes the evil SJW censorship, in that humans no longer have a blue skin tone, despite exploding and melting the exact same way. The late 80s had a strange concept of morality.

In any case, this now means that I can be the Ultimate Edgelord and set babies on fire.

Check out what happens when you shoot them.

Such a wonderful game for an immature idiot like me. It’s short, but fun, a term that will be used to describe many games in this post.

fuck this level though. this shit sucks and the platforming is bad.

Rambo III- Dedicated to the brave Mujahadeen fighters of Afghanistan

I suppose it’s appropriate to talk about this one, given today’s news of John Rambo being the latest character in Mortal Kombat 11, a game that I actually really enjoy despite everything. It might also mark the first time there’s ever been a good Rambo game, if only by proxy.

Really, that’s kind of the fucked up thing here. Like, how do you manage to fuck up making a good game about Rambo? It is literally based on a movie about a guy running around and shooting things. It was the 80s! Reactionary power fantasies were all the rage! The thing about games, especially during this time, was their ability to take creative license with the properties they were based on. And yet Sega couldn’t make this boring piece of shit interesting. Hell, Rambo itself is the result of creative license. Sylvester Stallone saw this tale of a tortured, murderous Vietnam veteran and said “Wow! Cool robot!” decades before the guy who created that meme was even born. Seriously, read the book and be mind-boggled over how Hollywood took that dark tale and managed to wring out several sequels, games, a cartoon, toys, and all types of shit that shows just how little studio execs have changed in regards to being stupid as fuck and not being immune to military propaganda. Also the game is bad. Mostly because it is so boring! You shoot some generic probably Russians, and then navigate a bunch of big, boring ass mazes until you turn the game off, all the while feeling like you just opened up a Vietnamese child’s Shoeshine box. Johnny, I want to go home. I want to go home, Johnny.

looks like sega were the ones with weapons of mass destruction all along!

There would be better shooters on the system. Better games blindly influenced by media made by dudes who just finished jerking off to a picture of Reagan. Play those instead.

Oh, and the iconic “Rambo Knife” is completely fucking useless in-game. Way to go, Sega.

Revenge of Shinobi

Shit, I didn’t mean to be so negative and long-winded on that last one. Revenge of Shinobi is a bit uh, complicated. There’s a lot to like about the game, and it is a certified classic. But fuck me, dude, there’s a lot of shit to hate in here, too. For one thing, this game is way too fucking hard. And not in the good way. Enemies attack you from off-screen. There’s a lot of blind jumps to make, often times with an enemy off-screen ready to attack you as soon as you make that landing. When (not if) you get hit, you go flying backwards. Pray there’s no bottomless pit behind you. Level 2 is particularly egregious here, especially as it’s hard as shit to see anything, given the enemies match the background.

But then everything else is great! Audio/Visual wise? It still looks great now. And of course, like everyone else who has ever written about Revenge of Shinobi, I’m legally obligated to bring up Yuzo Koshiro’s incredible soundtrack. Yes, it is as great as any piece of music you will hear, in games or otherwise. “China Town” is a particular favorite of mine.

The other thing I’m required by law to bring up is the game’s flagrant disregard for copyright law, something that warms my cold leftist heart.

The game rules, but I do wish it wasn’t such a pain in the ass to play sometimes. If you’re going to play it, play REVISION 00, as that one doesn’t have the SJW Censorship that is “slightly altering sprites so as to not look like copyrighted things.”

Super Fucking Hang-On

Ah yeah baby, I saved the best for last. Fuck what you’ve heard, Super Hang-On owns. For one thing, the racing is actually fun. Given that this came out in a time where ports of or attempts at replicating Super Scaler arcade games were a goddamn joke, this is nothing short of a miracle. Sure, it’s not nearly as fast as its arcade counterpart, but that don’t matter. What the console port has is “Original Mode.”

Original Mode is where the real meat of the game is. You don’t just race; you race, and then buy better bike parts when you win. You have rivals to beat, sponsors to impress, mechanics to fire when your muffler fucking falls off again for no discernable reason what the fuck. It’s surprisingly compelling, even now in this post-GT, post-Forza world, where this sort of thing is de rigueur. Obviously, an arcade port from 1989 is not going to feature the most detailed realism, but again, this doesn’t matter.

holy shit look at that guy

It’s funny, I had mentioned that I thought Satoru Nakajima F-1 Super License was among the best racing games on the system. It still is, mind you, but I had completely forgotten about this game when I had written that. What makes that funny is that I’ve liked Super Hang-On since I was a kid, long before I had any interest in motor sport. I wasn’t super into it the way I would have been with Sonic or Streets of Rage, but it was a fun little game to throw in every so often. I spent pretty much an entire night this week playing the Original Mode, making it to the final track, trying to save my money for the best possible parts, instead of having to repair broken ones I already had.

I think this balancing act of upgrade vs forced repairs is what does it for me. Obviously, this is not on the level of R: Racing Evolution’s sports manga take on the sport, but there was clearly an attempt to add some sort of drama to the game. Managing finances and building up a support team, all while dealing with some shit-talking asshole who thinks they’re better than you. I think once again, Nakajima comes in second here, and Super Hang-On is the best racer on the Genesis.

Owns.

r: racing evolution

I’m back to give the people what they want: me talking about racing games! Yeah, I’m as shocked as you that these are as well-liked as they are; I was expecting a bunch of nerds pushing up their glasses and asking me how the latest “Sportsball” went after the first post. Anyways, this game in particular is big enough that it gets its own post, rather than as part of an ADHD-like post where I write a bunch of shit down. Let’s take a look at R: Racing Evolution.

As you no doubt already gathered by the title screen, R: Racing Evolution is a Namco racer. Designed to be a more realistic take on the Ridge Racer series. So no drifting on every turn and making sweet jumps on anything that isn’t a Rally car. Real world sponsors. Real world cars. Honda and Ford replace Assoluto and Age Solo. Think of it as Namco’s take on Gran Turismo. Namco’s take on Gran Turismo, but now asking one very important question:

What if Gran Turismo was horny?

Like, really horny?

Also: what if it was kind of gay and riddled with the kind of lesbian tension people who like Stephen Universe lose their shit over?

Well, that’s R: Racing Evolution.

Okay, so the titties are big and the main characters are primed for their own Archive Of Our Own category. What about the rest of the game? Does it own? Is it sick? The answer to that is yeah, dude.

Like I said, this is a realistic sim, unlike Ridge Racer’s off-the-wall, drift every corner style of driving. The courses can be tough; good lord can the courses be tough. The game doesn’t hold your hand, either: know how to drive going in, or get the fuck out. Hmm, okay, maybe it doesn’t demand that level of perfection out of you, but neither will it take it easy on you.

Something that’s pretty cool about R is that there’s more to it than Stock car racing. You get Rally racing, Classic Car (Privateer) racing, Prototype challenges, and even Drag racing. A lot of variety that’s good for taking someone like me, only really familiar with one type of auto sport, and turning me on (lol) to a whole host of other methods of making car go fast vroom vroom. I might want to consider looking up some Rally races on YouTube later. And the reason why that’s cool is that one of the reasons (I’ll get to the other one later) it took me nearly 34 years to appreciate, let alone enjoy, racing was because it looked so boring. All left turns for about a million laps. Between playing this game and sitting down to watch the 2020 Indy 500, I can easily understand why racing on a ring can be exciting to someone the same way watching a race on a varied track with lots of hard turns is for me. There’s a lot of strategy that goes into it: intentionally driving slower than normal, not breaking out of the pack, so as to stay within the slipstream of other cars around you, allowing you to speed right the fuck up as the race gets closer to the end. That’s pretty cool.

That’s the mechanical side. R:RE is a fun ass racer that feels good to play. But what makes it memorable and makes it stand out amongst the other racing games of the era is its story mode. It’s fucking great. The game suddenly goes all “sports manga” on you, and focuses less on realism, and more on the drama on and off the track.

BREAK TIME

 

The main character is an EMT with big titties who gets recruited to a racing team after taking one of their drivers to the hospital via sick racing moves. I’ll spare you all a big synopsis, but know that it involves all of the different racing modes and competing for championships. Along the way, shit gets all fucked up. Like fuck dude, there’s implications that your team is owned by the mob, and that people who try to leave don’t do so alive. But much like the game itself, I will have to drop this plot point after one sentence. Kind of a big problem here: a lot of stuff is not resolved. Whether there was a rush put on the game, or if there were plans to expand on the story in a sequel that never came, I don’t know. But it’s a shame you only get glimpses or the really out-there elements.

The parts of R’s story that stick with you are the in-game radio conversations. It goes above and beyond the standard team radio you hear in real racing. Now, you have the pit crew having full conversations in your ear. You can hear your opponents talk shit about you, or conversely, freak the fuck out as you start to overtake them. Everything feels more competitive, even more personal at times, as a result.

Maybe I’m just a sucker for this sort of thing, but I love it. The whole thing comes across as an extension of what Ridge Racer 4 was trying in its Grand Prix mode.

Actually, hold on. Is it cool if I go way the fuck off-topic and talk about how sick Ridge Racer 4 is for a moment? It’ll all tie back into this piece about R: Resident Evil.

R4 was the first racing game I played for any real length of time. I was in middle school at the time, didn’t care much for cars, but I was a young mark and easily susceptible to hype for upcoming Playstation games. I had a shit time around cars as a kid. Growing up with alcoholics driving you everywhere while drunk. Trying to learn how to drive when you’re older as they scream at you for going 26 in a 25. The closest thing to a racing fan club is the derelict house across the street where White Trash drink cheap beer and get into fist fights. I did not like vehicles. They were loud, they broke all the time, and I went about 18 years never having a single good experience inside of one (before someone makes a joke about virginity and teenage sex, I didn’t fuck in cars. I fucked in strangers bedrooms at parties thrown by rich kids that I knew from school). I mentioned before that I’m still prone to anxiety attacks behind the wheel. Well, now you know why. But Ridge Racer 4, in its infinitely cool, stylish way, showed me that there was another side to cars. That they could be fun, that they could be part of the most interesting sport in the world. I liked the game a lot, but ultimately, I filed it away as “video games are video games, and real life is a shitshow where everyone yells way too much.” And besides, racing is just cheap redneck shit where you load up on Bud Lite, make out with your sister at the track, and get home in time for your klan rally, right? In my mid-30s, I’m regretting all the time I spent ignoring the sport, but you can understand my thought process.

Anyways. While working on my own game development, I’ve been rolling around the idea of a racing game in my head. Influenced by R4’s story mode, I wanted to make something that could appeal to someone in my position: a game about cars for someone who has bad experiences with them. More dialogue during races, rivalries played out during and between races, all types of cool shit like that. Then I played R: Racing Evolution, and realized Namco themselves beat me to the punch 17 years ago.

This is what I wanted out of a racing game, and I got it. A game that could make a non-fan understand why someone would love the sport so much. Something to help you visualize the beauty of the track, and the skill that the drivers navigate it with. Which is why I’m giving my highest possible recommendation for you to play it; it runs really fucking well in Dolphin. The game owns bones. And it has big titties in it, and really, who can hate that?