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?

the pc-engine is god’s favorite console

I am not currently home at the moment. I’m spending a week out because of job reasons, so instead of sitting in front of my high-end Gamer PC, I’m struggling to run PC-Engine ROMs while trying to have more than one internet tab open on a shitty laptop from 2014. This thing struggles even looking at the menu for Retroarch, and Bizhawk stutters like a motherfucker, so I had to travel back in time and play these games on my old cracked version of Magic Engine. Remember that emulator? I still think it has the best UI.

Something that I said before when I complained about F1 games was that, despite those games being decent to shitty, the PC-Engine is still very much God’s Favorite Video Game Entertainment System. Trying to think of what the system’s best game is is impossible, so I won’t be doing that. Instead, I will be writing about a bunch of its games that made an impression on me.

Parasol Stars: giving beer to children.

Parasol Stars fucking rules. Is it the best game on the PC-Engine? No. Does that matter? Again, no. It’s a cute little game where you play a fat kid that picks things up with his parasol, then shooting said things at other things. You pick up fruits and alcohol and crowns and money and all types of brightly colored shit. There’s all these obtuse scoring mechanics and hidden items you need to get in order to actually finish the game.

When I was still a hot shot on Tumblr (a term I use derisively), I spent a lot of time talking about PC-Engine games, and this was one of the more talked about ones. The reason for this was that every Friday, I would get fucked up on about one or two vicodin (I weigh about 130, drugs don’t have to work very hard to take effect on me), make some ramen and iced tea, watch wrestling, and then play this game. That was my night for about a year. Sounds kind of sad when I describe it out loud like this, but it was a fun time. I got to be a home-body, doing things I liked, and then there was a cute video game that pleased my addled brain with its bright colors. And no, I don’t take pills for fun anymore. Don’t drink, don’t pop shit. Doesn’t make Parasol Stars any less good, though.

VERDICT: this game rules. Check it out.

Genpei Toumaden: why no, nobody knows what the fuck this game is about

I very briefly brought up Genpei Toumaden when I wrote about the Namco Museum Collection. But I didn’t really go too in-depth on it.

Let me reiterate what I said then: this game is weird. It’s another one of those games that manages to make perfect sense, yet also makes no sense whatsoever. You play as an undead Samurai, based on a real life samurai named Taira no Kagekiyo, who goes across Japan, fighting other real-life samurai and daimyo who are all also now creepy-looking undead creatures. It’s a side-scrolling action game with a unique, creepy visual style. Makes sense so far, right?

Then the perspective changes, and the sprites are bigger, and your character does that really ugly thing where a character has individual body parts that animate that never looks good.

Then there are levels that are top-down. In these, you fight enemies that spawn from gourds and puddles of water. Then at the end, you choose a torii gate to enter, that will take you on one of the many different paths the game has.

So far, this makes sense. On a mechanical, actually-playing-a-game level, this is extremely normal, maybe even by the numbers. But when you apply this to a game with an unusual and outright creepy art style (on the Genpei Toumaden episode of Game Center CX, even Arino was weirded out by some of the levels), abrasive music and voice samples, and an extremely haphazard sense of level design, it’s really out there.

Then you fall down a pit. In most games, this results in a lost life, or a full-on game over. Here? No.

Instead, you fall back down into Hell. You fight a few enemies, then make your way to the end. There, you meet Enma Daiō, the king of Hell, and he presents you with a series of boxes. Pick the right box, and you go right back to the surface like nothing ever happened.

Pick the wrong box?

Game Over! Play More Serious!

I realize that I’m probably making this game sound really interesting. That being said, let me make this perfectly clear: Genpei Toumaden is a bad game. The controls are terrible, enemies come at you from all angles faster than you can react, you bounce from one end of the screen to the other if you get hit, it’s possible to fuck yourself into an unwinnable situation in the first level. This was an arcade quarter-muncher that, for better or for worse, was almost perfectly translated to a console. It’s bad, yes. But you still absolutely need to play it. Genpei Toumaden is something that needs to be experienced; it feels like outsider art, at times.

VERDICT: I’m shrugging my shoulders and shaking my head at the same time.

Deep Blue: it’s a game about fish

This is another weird one. Deep Blue is a side-scrolling shooter where you are a fish that shoots at other fish. What makes this weird is that you are the only fish in the ocean that shoots. The other fish are all realistic looking, and are content to swim at you as fast as possible.

you don’t even look like a real fish!

I don’t have nearly as much to say about this as I did Genpei Toumaden, but the spirit is the same here. It makes sense, from a game perspective, but then gets weird when you stop and think about the concept, and then actually play the game. Aside from the player sprite, everything is as realistically depicted as the PC-Engine would allow. You slowly swim from one end to the other, with this background music that manages to sound both calm and like the soundtrack to a dissociative episode. Even on a system loaded with shooters, good and bad, Deep Blue still manages to stick out amongst the crowd.

VERDICT: not especially good or fun, but another PC-Engine game worth looking at from an experimental perspective.

That’s it for this entry. Spent way too many words on Genpei Toumaden. The PC-Engine had a number of amazing games. But even its bad games had something to offer. This is why the system was fucking amazing, and certainly deserved better than what it got here in North America.

Parasol Stars legitimately rules, though.

racing roundup (tentative title?)

People seem to like it when I talk about racing games so I played some more for the blog woo hoo let’s goooooooooo!!!

First up is Nakajima Satoru Kanshuu F-1 Hero MD. For those unaware, Satoru Nakajima is a former driver and teammate to Ayrton Senna, known for uh…being a teammate to Ayrton Senna. But, you know, that’s good enough to get you six games with your name on them. And at least one of them is good! But not this one, though.

the main menu is presented by a group of seemingly bored women looking at something off screen. a good sign.

It’s an attempt at a Super Scaler game on the Mega Drive. Driving from a cockpit view, attempting to navigate courses with terrible draw distance. I could just barely get through a practice race, as the controls are really bad. No matter what your car’s setting are, you will go over the chicane when you want to reorient yourself on the track, and understeer every single sharp turn. Doesn’t help matters when you hit something (and you will), your car will (realistically) immediately stop dead in its tracks, back in first gear going zero kilometers per hour. It is barely playable.

and you only get half a screen to work with

To the game’s credit, at least its barely-concealed use of real-life teams and drivers did make me laugh. Big fan of Alain Prest and Nigel Mansol, here. Off-topic, but I was very glad to hear that Sebastian Vettel finally got the fuck out of Farreri; they were really fucking him over for too long.

a genetic clone of satoru nakajima made from circus peanuts gives you advice before the race

Much like Nakajima himself, his game is vastly outclassed by Ayrton Senna. It fucking sucks.

A funny thing here is that this actually left Japan. Here, it was known as Ferrari Grand Prix Challenge. Forget for a moment that Nakajima never actually drove for Ferrari- sorry, Farreri. Another funny thing: the Western version is actually much worse. AI cars all but vanish the moment a race starts, leaving you behind to sit there and slowly eat shit like a loser.

Also, what the fuck is this menu screen:

 

The next game is Nakajima Satoru Kanshuu F1 Grand Prix. This one is much better. Another top-down racer, only the controls are pretty good this time around. You can actually finish races, possibly even get a podium!

You can see in the screenshot above that it’s a very simple looking game. Very serviceable sprite work with a relatively unobtrusive HUD. But it works. After all, in a genre like racing, you need to be able to see the road in front of you. Another great thing you may have noticed is that the faster you go, the further to the bottom of the screen your car is, allowing you more time to see upcoming turns or other cars in your way. It seems like such a silly thing to get excited over, but holy fuck dude, I went off when I saw this. Finally, a developer that gets it! Varie Corporation had a meeting, and they said “we want to make a racing game, possibly even a good one.” and then proceeded to almost do that. What keeps it from being the best game on this post are the controls still being a little too touchy, and the view, even with the shifting viewpoint, is too zoomed-in for my liking. Other than that, the game is perfectly acceptable. A solid F1 game.

Something really cool is the use of photorealistic graphics for things like Nakajima, or even the pit crew working on your car. Hey, at least I appreciated it!

 

Last game for this entry is the best one. Nakajima Satoru Kanshuu F1 Super License. It’s more or less the same as Gran Prix, but with the issues I had with that game fixed. The handling is really good, and the viewpoint is far more zoomed out. There’s finally a top-down racer that’s playable.

The biggest complaint I can throw at the game is the AI cars not giving a fuck and trying to collide into you. Strangely, though, this isn’t that bad. You spin out for a second, but then immediately pick up speed, something that F1 Hero got hilariously wrong. Granted, it’s not a realistic situation for a game that’s meant to be a simulation, but sometimes you have to make concessions in the name of making something good, rather than real.

Now look at this fucking menu. This kicks ass. The look of a man who is dead serious about his racing. And he doesn’t give you some ho-hum POINT OF ADVICE. No, he provides you with NAKAJIMA’S EYE, motherfucker!

It’s great. You have this super serious racing pro telling you how to take turn 7 and to look for the gaps your opponents leave. But then there’s this sudden shift in graphical style, and you get these anime babes informing you of your grid position and the upcoming Grand Prix.

hey baby, want to make MY pole position?

hachi machi

This is the game, right here. Not only is Super License the best F1 game on the Mega Drive, it might very well be the best racing game on the system. I will have to investigate this further.

There are three more Nakajima games to play, but I will save those for another time. One of them is on Super Famicom, F1 Hero ’94, and given the other F1 Hero, I’m not super confident about it. The other two are on Game Boy. Much as I love the Game Boy, the idea of playing a racing game on it fills me with a primordial fear. Like opening the door to a murder scene, or going underwater in Final Fantasy VII. Racing is fun, and getting into the sport is probably the best decision I’ve made all year.

B.B Queens- SPEED OF LOVE

densha de go! 64

You may remember a few months ago when I wrote about my newfound love of watching trains. Sadly, I haven’t been able to really continue enjoying this new, um, hobby? It’s not because my interest faded or anything, it’s because “Train Cruise” hasn’t had any new episodes! Whether it’s because of the YouTube channel I’m subscribed to not updating, or, more likely, because someone at NHK was like, “holy shit! Having a bunch of loud foreigners walking around Japan and touching things in the middle of a pandemic is a really bad idea!” Unfortunately, because the Japanese government is almost as shitty as ours at dealing with this thing, it could be a very long time before I get to watch more relaxing train action. As a consolation, there have been a few episodes of Japan Railway Journal. But as I said last time, the show fucking sucks without Russell Totten as the host.

With this sad news in mind, I started playing Densha de Go! I needed something in my life that involved Japanese trains, and my dumb ass bimbo brain cannot comprehend the otherwise excellent “Take The A-Train” series (Artdink rules).

I need to let you all know something: Densha de Go! is really, really, really fucking hard. All those remarks you hear thrown at stuff like Dark Souls? Forget it. Trying to hit the brakes and stopping at the exact right moment to drop off and pick up passengers is the stuff of nightmares. It’s extremely stressful managing time tables, being able to match speed limits in a matter of seconds, and making sure you aren’t jostling a train full of kids and Salarymen all over the place. Don’t go into this expecting something really chill; you’re here to do a job, and you’re here to do it well, since Japan’s entire economic workforce is literally relying on you.

That being said, Densha de Go! might be hard as fuck, yes, but it’s also amazing. Not just in terms of how it plays, but the overall aesthetic. The things about Japanese railroads that I enjoy so much are fully represented here. Things like the vast countryside, or the roofs of houses peeking over the station walls. Traveling over rivers and forests. Watching the sun set over the mountains. You might be focused on the rails and the job at hand, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy the sights, you know? Just you, your thoughts, and the sounds of the train.

So, I suppose in a roundabout way, I got what I was looking for. Maybe not the relaxing activity I expected, yet still maintained a zen-like quality to it. Due to the difficulty, you will be running the same tracks over and over, memorizing layouts and signage. More opportunities to admire the environment; really appreciate that jagged, low-poly style mixed with sharp texture work. I know that this series began life in the arcade, but it’s incredible how much cozier the games feel when played at home. Maybe listen to some City-Pop while playing it if you’re feeling jaunty. Toshiki Kadomatsu is really good.

I’m playing the Nintendo 64 version, as it’s the only one in English. The games aren’t overly Japanese-intensive, but it helps in learning when to brake or when a speed limit is lifted. There’s a patch right here.

Densha de Go! is a game that demands perfection out of you. But, if you stick with it and become a better driver, you’ll find a unique little game that’s worth firing up on a boring late night to help liven up the mood.

3DOFace #1: neurodancer

The 3DO. It existed. It didn’t do well (I mean, obviously). Bad marketing in an oversaturated market, a confusing distribution system, and a price tag of Way Too Much Fucking Money, it was doomed as soon as it left the starting gate.

But to its credit, the 3DO had some good games. It had some games that at least tried to be good (Immercenary, what could have been). Kenji Eno loved the system, and when Kenji Eno speaks, wise men listen.

Another line of praise for the 3DO is that, among its many genres it covered in its software library, it had one that no other system of the time had: Pornography! Hell yeah, motherfucker! Imagine, you’re playing Star Control 2, or Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo, when The Mood strikes. The internet isn’t quite what it is today back in 1994. Maybe you don’t feel like fumbling around trying to get your VCR set up, or looking around for your back issues of Penthouse. You need to crank one out right fucking now, but there is too much work involved. Then you remember that, in addition to an arcade-perfect Super Turbo and Samurai Shodown, you bought some Adult Entertainment for your Real Panasonic 3DO Interactive Multiplayer! For $700 (plus an additional $60 per game), you could own a video game system where you can look at a pair of massive himmer-hommers.

Neurodancer is one of these pieces of software. And oh man, is it a piece of something, too.

I’m not a person to discount something simply because it’s pornographic in nature. As an actual sex worker, that would be immensely stupid and hypocritical of me. Even if I wasn’t, I’ve played way too many hours of House Party (how’s it goin’ dude?), and have no place to judge. Being a pervert, I’m totally okay with video games merging with porn. It’s not sad or pathetic to own or play porno games.

Unless it’s Neurodancer.

Neurodancer gives you a first impression of actually having a unique concept and atmosphere. As the title no doubt gave away, this is set in the far, dystopic, cyberpunk future. And as the title also no doubt gave away, it’s supposed to be a take on Neuromancer, but with titties, instead of #StillWithHer Neoliberalism and tranny jokes so tired that even 4chan would roll their collective eyes (suck my ass, William Gibson). You would expect way too many neon lights and mega corporations and xenophobic paranoia about the Japanese becoming the leaders of world industry, but now there is sex too. You would expect these things, yes. You would also be wrong!

The synopsis of Neurodancer is that you, the main character, are some sort of horny hacker. You’re two months behind on rent, facing eviction and/or your knees getting broken. What do you do in this situation? You sit in your dingy, nearly pitch black apartment and send your slow moving unmanned drone out into a series of identical hallways, breaking into terminals for credits (money), so you can watch cam shows on your holographic TV.

Let me take a moment to put that into perspective, before I get into the parts where women take their clothes off. You are in debt. Zero dollars (sorry, credits) to your name. And to reiterate here, your solution is to hunt for loose change so you can look at porn. That’s like an addict combing through the carpet for a loose pill. You clearly have a problem, and the game is not finished with highlighting your sad existence just yet.

Here’s the interactivity: slowly (and I do mean slowly) trudging through a hallway, occasionally turning so you find a terminal. Hacking? Pressing a button, then pressing a button again before the Cyber-Police bust you for being jacked in (lol) for too long. Time your button presses right, and you get more credits.

(Now this is the part where I tell you that I’m posting nudity from here on out. Maybe don’t read this post with your mom in the room.)

Your reward for doing this, and your entire reason for continuing to exist, is to watch a girl dance and eventually get naked.

When I said that they “eventually” get naked, I wasn’t kidding. Those clothes are nearly bonded to their bodies.

hey, at least you can zoom in and out with the shoulder buttons!

Something you may have noticed in these screenshots is that number going down in the lower right. That’s your money, and it goes down by 100 every time you interact with the women. See, they dance, then suddenly stop, you have to pay them to continue. All with no guarantee that an article of clothing will be removed. I have no idea what the Credits-Dollars exchange rate is, but I have to imagine that this is (pardon me for referencing current events) a Bella Thorne level rip-off. Keep in mind, there is no “full” nudity to Neurodancer. Yeah, you’ll see some titties, and about half of a bare ass, but that’s it. Maybe Trip Hawkins drew the line at seeing someone’s spread asshole on his gaming console.

600 credits gets you some titties
700? part of a butt! oohh baby!

I’m not bringing all this up as a complaint. I knew going in that the 3DO’s adult library would be the most mediocre of mid-90s softcore bullshit. But this all does bring up the overall pathetic nature of Neurodancer’s protagonist. Not paying rent in some shitty apartment, probably not taking care of themselves either, all to spend hundreds of dollars for something that looks like the old Desktop Stripper that was advertised on seemingly every sketchy website twenty years ago. In our current dystopic cyberpunk future, pretty much any fetish you have can be catered to for about $20 on ManyVids. I guess sex workers of the future realize their worth a lot better than we do.

One more thing, mid-90s FMV was definitely not up to the task. The thickest thing on these girls’ bodies are their pixels.

Through all of this, I haven’t gotten to the worst part. The interactive segment! When the girl of your choice finally gets nude, or nude enough I guess, another screen opens up, and you can actually touch them. Probably. I think.

What’s so weird and fucked up about this is that you think you might be able to do something like cop a feel or give a light smack on the ass or something. Fuck that. You’re here to really please a woman. It’s possible that I’ve been doing it wrong over the course of my adulthood, but I’m not entirely sure that success in the bedroom involves stroking a woman’s hair or rubbing her behind the ear like a fucking cat.

think i’m joking here?

That’s Neurodancer. Blow hundreds, if not thousands, of points of cyber-currency to watch a naked woman dance. Then, when you finally get a chance to actually touch her, you instead limply drag the back of your knuckles all over her. It’s like a sadder version of Hoverhands. Here’s your reminder, over a thousand words later, that this was designed for you to masturbate to.

If you think I’m going back and getting screenshots for the other two dancers, you’re out of your fucking mind. This sucked. I’d be so pissed off if I spent actual money on this, rather than grabbing the ROM off Internet Archive. I plan on continuing the 3DO-Face series; hopefully the other sex-based games on here are at least funny or interesting.

Let me finish this off (lol again) by laughing at the terrible intro. This bullshit here is some prime “Cinemax on Saturday night” material.

“yep, that sure is a woman getting naked on my computer screen! time to put my hands behind my head in a ludicrous, exasperated fashion!”

lattice 200ec7

Some time ago, while chilling out in the Snesploration Podcast Discord server, as one does, I was streaming some Playstation games because we were all bored. Then the sometimes-host and also co-host of Hinge Problems, and overall Good Guy Rudie said, “hey Ramona, play Lattice!” My reaction was probably a lot like yours. “What the fuck is Lattice?” He said nothing. He only sent me a link to a lonely Google Drive folder that said RATTICE.ZIP.

The reasons why Rudie wanted me to play Lattice so bad was because he wanted to see if I could decipher what the game was. He couldn’t figure it out. Nobody else he showed the game to could figure it out. Now it was my turn to be confused.

It’s no wonder he wanted to show me this game. It’s fucking weird. Lattice manages to be both a game in an easily described sub-genre, and also a game that defies explanation. You fly down a series of tubes and rails, you shoot things, you pick up power-ups, you avoid obstacles, seems reasonable at first. It doesn’t sound any different from something like Tempest 2000, or even other PSX games like N20 or Internal Section.

Then you start to notice the changes pretty quickly. It’s not a straightforward shooter, you have to find keys by riding different sides of the rails you’re on. Every so often, an enemy will randomly appear and freeze you in place until you remember to use the “free-look” button to aim and shoot at it. The levels look linear, but are actually mazes. Confession: I have not been able to finish level 3 because the maze got way too confusing for me to figure out.

While this is all happening, keep in mind that you’re flying along at over 100 mph. Enemies and obstacles are oblong geometric shapes. There’s a constant flashing of lights and explosions. Things pop out at you immediately, giving you about half a second to react. Trying to navigate a wireframe map that you can only see a small part of. This fast, surreal game with a pounding EDM soundtrack. This is not your usual “trippy” game. After a point, it stops feeling like a game. After a point, it feels like the game equivalent of dissociating at 3 A.M. The feeling of your brain proceeding to shit itself and lose control of its cognitive reasoning. Everything is faster. Everything is brighter. The Fight Or Flight reflex is kicking in, but your body won’t respond. Nothing makes any fucking sense anymore.

And after all this, it hits me: this not your normal “weird” Japanese game. You know, the kind where if you could actually understand the language, you could decipher things pretty quickly, and the “mystery” becomes a “curiosity.” The slow, dawning horror of remembering that Rudie can speak, hear, read, and write Japanese fluently. He lives and works in Japan. Any mysterious video game that you or I can’t understand is most likely mundane for him. Rudie sent me a copy of this game because he couldn’t figure it out. It had to be sent to me, the resident Weirdo. The person who has lived and died by these one-shot Playstation games made and forgotten about before some of the people reading this post were even born. My brain is burning and patches of white are forming around my peripheral vision and the guy who speaks the language and understands the culture is confused and nothing means anything anymore.

Lattice is the one and only game made by nousite, inc. (capitalization as found). They still exist; you can “like” them on Facebook, even. nousite, inc. made this game, then dropped game development, moving into web design and then into app development for mobile devices. This only creates more questions than it answers.

It’s Lattice.

animal crossing

Sorry for a lack of updates these past few weeks. A whole lot of shit went down. The five year anniversary of a shitty, transphobic harassment campaign that completely fucked my reputation up, and ruined the lives of my friends. Some IRL issues popping up with estranged family members. An endless news cycle of doom. Generally having mental problems. A lot of things. I guess fate decided that I was overdue for a breakdown. As such, I wasn’t really in the mood for things. Didn’t want to write a bunch of super angry stuff on here; I’d like to think that part of this site is over, but I also wasn’t in the mood to sit down and write super positive things. But now I am! So here we go.

Like seemingly everyone else on Earth right now, I’ve been playing a lot of the new Animal Crossing. I was pumped for New Horizons. I played the shit out of Wild World, until my DS started giving me problems. And then I played the shit out of New Leaf, until my 3DS’ analog nub started giving me problems. Nintendo’s handhelds used to be so much more durable. Anyways. I’ve been playing New Horizons, and loving the shit out of it. But this post is not meant to be a review of the game (REVIEW: it’s really good). Rather, this is more of a loose diary/showing off designs/an excuse to make another music playlist.

So, this is me. Standing here in my living room, with my TV, my tarot set, my Nintendo Switch, a painting of Slimegirl, and the covers of every Black Dresses album. I have other rooms, but they’re not really worth showing off at the moment. Too small, not enough cool shit in them.

Oh, and the Space Invaders shirt was made by me. I’ll be posting all of my designs later.

A cool things about New Horizons is that, holy fuck, other people actually play this fucking game online now. Wild World? Forget it. New Leaf? You had to perform arcane rituals to get other people into your town. New Horizons? Pretty sure I’ve seen my friends running around more than the neighbors who actually live here.

This is me at my friends Gabi’s house. She’s the one with the Nintendo 64 hat, and I’m the one with the dumb expression on my face. This was how her shit looked almost a month ago, I should go back and get some shots of how good her island looks now.

And here I am with my other good friend, Charlotte. We were running around and fishing at 3 A.M. Why were we fishing at three in the morning? Well, mind your fucking business, that’s why!

I put this cool zen garden in front of my house. I like how rain actually causes the rocks to get darker. Good job, Nintendo!

My neighbors say things. Often cute things. And sorry, Keaton, but I sleep in a big bed with my wife.

They also like to hang around the town square and sing, or do yoga, or even aimlessly Naruto-run.

I attempted to give myself ICP face paint, but it doesn’t work. As such, I take it back FUCK THIS GAME!!!!!!!!!! WOOP WOOP!

So that’s been the last month or so of Animal Crossing. I’d like to do more of these in the future. These have just been random screencaps I’ve taken. Next time, I might even have a structure or theme for these!

But in the meantime, here’s my custom designs:

Now the big part of this post: music! I’ve been wanting to make a playlist of songs that fit the whole concept of living on an island. Good weather, good friends, good times. That sort of thing. I was originally going to have 24 songs on here, one for each hour of the day, but uhhhh no. I cut it down to 12 tracks: 6 to represent the day time, and 6 more for night.