the end of wizardry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Decapitation.

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

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

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

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

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

And then…

…oh.

Well.

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

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

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

…The Tower of Druaga.

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

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

The End of Wizardry.

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

pop and chips

Some months back, I found out about a Japan-only game console that up until that point, I had never even heard of. I tend to pride myself, for lack of a better term, on knowing all about little-known systems. But it’s cool; I love to find out about new stuff.

The way I had found out about the system was how I find out about anything: mindlessly searching the internet for weeb shit. Thanks to the YouTube channel Retro Game BAR Gateau for all the good retro game videos, as well as videos of the guy’s sweet set-up. I have legitimately not had a drink in three years, but I would bend the rules of sobriety a little to kick back with something hard in a place like this:

Anyways. The system in question is the Epoch Super Cassette Vision. It only lasted a few years, and had around 30 games for it in total. In the short time I’ve known about the SCV, I have loved this little thing. Really, it only failed for the same reasons Sega’s SG-1000 did: the Nintendo Famicom was much more powerful on a tech level, and commanded a lot of market space. It wasn’t a failure because it sucked.

With all that said, I want to talk about one game in particular: Pop and Chips. Pop and Chips is the cutest game on the SCV by a mile. You could make the argument that the not as lewd as it sounds Milky Princess is cuter, but it also relies heavily on being fluent in Japanese, and I’m not yet.

Pop and Chips follows in line with a lot of other games in the “cute animal rescues smaller cute animals from nebulous bad guys” genre. It’s comparable to stuff like Flicky, Chack n’ Pop, or the also hilariously titled Nuts and Milk. You are what appears to be a sentient gacha capsule kicking boxes open to rescue the smaller gacha capsules that fly out of them. You have to deal with cool looking bean-guys in sunglasses and an even bigger bean with a crown that causes the screen to shake. There’s next to nothing about this game in the English-speaking world, so I have to make wild guesses as to what I’m seeing.

these guys look like minions, here

There’s also the ladders. If a ladder is hanging onto those rods, you can kick those left and right. Normally, you can use that to reach places (you know, like you would using a ladder). You can also violently murder enemies with them. Kick a ladder right into someone’s face, Joey Mercury style. Kick a ladder while an enemy is climbing it, and watch them fall face-first on the ground, because they are fucking dead now. Again, this fits perfectly into its genre of cute yet gruesome if you give it mild scrutiny. Kicking ladders, dropping solid blocks on people’s heads, do all sorts of sick murders in your quest to rescue baby gacha capsules. You can also hit them with a bug net, but that power-up lasts all of like two seconds, meaning that murder is truly the only way. That’s awesome.

Really, that’s all there is to Pop and Chips, but it still rules. Cute, simple, and fun as fuck. I mean, hey, it was 1985, and it was on a system with pretty restrictive hardware. “Basic” does not, or at least should not, mean “bad.” The type of simple game we don’t really get a whole lot of anymore. What a shame.

Besides, even if you get bored of attaining a new high score, there is a level editor included so you can make all the dumb shit you want. It’s kind of like Lode Runner that way. Lode Runner for people too stupid for Lode Runner, aka me.

Don’t get me wrong, I still like the newer games that come out today. But fuck me, dude, I really would like to see a return to this style. It’s been too long since the heyday of cartoon animals killing things in a cute way.

God Bless Pop and Chips, and God Bless the Super Cassette Vision.

Mega Man Powered Up

With this being the final day of PSP Month, I thought that it would be appropriate to close it out with the game that started it all. Mega Man Powered Up is the reason why I bought a PSP all those years ago. As I mentioned at the beginning of the month, I didn’t care about the PSP, as I had been told so many times that it sucked, and that I should stick with the Nintendo DS if I was absolutely hard up for handheld gaming.

I don’t remember where exactly I had read about this game. It was another one of those nights where I was up all night on the internet, trying to find something after a hard day’s work. What that something was, I didn’t and still don’t know. Probably the same thing I’m looking for now. Existentialism and loneliness aside, I found some review or blog post about this game, and it caught my attention immediately. First of all, I fucking love Mega Man, something that I’m sure is obvious by now. Second, this is a remake of the first game, a game that after ten sequels and numerous spin-offs, is still really good. Not only is this a remake, but it’s a remake where you can play as the bosses? A remake that includes a level editor that lets you upload and download those levels? Sign me the fuck up!

Whichever team was in charge of doing this remake knew what they were doing. They knew what they were doing with the art style, if nothing else. The thing about Mega Man is that Mega Man is adorable. It’s a series about cute robots blowing each other up with guns, yes, but doing it in a cute way. They could have easily taken the taller, leaner Mega Man 8 Mega Man and slapped some polygons to him, like Mega Man 11 did to mixed results. No, they knew that the best Mega Man is the short little boy in his ridiculous blue get-up very obviously influenced by Astro Boy, and we got a cute 3D representation of that. Mega Man Powered Up is a cute game about cute robots jumping around and being cute. Everything, from the little Blue Guy, to all of the Robot Masters, to the standard enemies, right down to the platforms you jump on and off of, has that wonderful candy-coated sweetness to it that more games need.

The actual game itself is exactly what it’s advertised as; it is a remake of Mega Man 1, but with some more stuff. The levels have been redesigned to be less annoying (shout out to Guts Man), there are two new bosses to fight, returning bosses have new patterns and attacks, all types of cool stuff. You can also choose to play the original levels, though those also use the new graphics, and thankfully removed that weird inertia the Mega Man had whenever he stopped running. Those are nice to have, but the new designs are so good, that it wouldn’t be such a big loss if the old levels weren’t included; not like there aren’t several different avenues to play the original game.

Being able to play a version of Mega Man on the go that isn’t compromised in any way with several quality of life changes is enough of novelty to justify buying a PSP for it. The addition of all the extra characters; all the bosses, with their unique weapons and abilities, as well as Roll and Protoman, who themselves are unique on their own, that’s also awesome. If you’re reading this, then there’s a pretty good chance that you know what Mega Man is. Either you love him, or his games are too hard for you. This is a Mega Man game, and it’s a really fucking good one. The only real shame here is that Capcom didn’t give any of the other games this treatment. Go long enough to at least give us Mega Man 2: Even More Powered Up. But whatever, at least we got this one, which gives me another excuse to listen to another redone version of Elec Man’s theme, one of my favorite pieces of Mega Man music, mostly because it is blatantly ripped off of Journey’s “Faithfully.”

 

Now, before I get into the real meat of this game, I have to bring up the one big issue that it has. Something that any other company would have looked at, said “holy SHIT!” and immediately scrapped and pretended they never saw.

Oil Man.

One of the new bosses added to this game is Oil Man. I don’t think I have to point out what exactly is wrong with his design; it’s pretty fucking obvious. But maybe this was an accident? It’s not like his look had to be altered in the US release or any-

OH MY FUCKING GOD

Yeah…yeah…this game, this great, awesome, cute game also has a character that looks like a horrible racial stereotype, complete with doing a little dance at the beginning of his fight. As much as I’d like to charitably describe this as an accident, this is Capcom, the same company that thought releasing Resident Evil 5 was a good idea, and has had several artists come out as extremely anti-Black in recent years. So who the fuck knows? It is very unfortunate, and I thought it was worth bringing up when I’m otherwise blasting metaphorical rope over this game.

Shitty racial imagery aside, the real meat of MMPU is the level editor. A good level editor, at that. The levels that I made in it all those years ago are terrible garbage, but working on them made those soul-draining shifts at my job all the more bearable. It’s simple enough for a complete idiot to use (see example: me), and is as much fun to make your own stages as playing the actual game, if not moreso. Put down some platforms, place some enemies on them, make it so that you only have access to Cutman’s weapon, whatever. Since the only limit to the number of stages you can have is the amount of space on your Memory Stick, you could conceivably make the equivalent of your own fan-game. Granted, you are still limited to the MM1 weapons and characters, but you can still make it work.

Unfortunately, due to Wi-Fi adapters changing how they connect to the internet, I cannot get my PSP online anymore. However, last time I checked, not only are the servers for MMPU still online, people are still uploading stages! As recently as 2019, people were still making their own creations in Mega Man’s level editor. That’s awesome, and shows that there’s still a tremendous community hard at work. Yes, there is that fan-made Mega Maker, which is fantastic by the way, but there is still something to be said about MMPU’s staying power.

Maybe I’m alone in this line of thinking, but I consider handheld games to be more of an intimate experience than ones on console, or even most PC games. Probably because you have to physically hold the entire system, and play the game on a screen too small for other eyes to see, but it does feel like more of a personal experience. With this, you get reminded that there’s nobody to impress here. You play through the game for you. You make the levels for you. You can make all the levels you want, you don’t have to upload them. There’s no quality control on your Memory Stick, fill it up with trash that’s only fun to you. Ultimately, I think that’s the lasting appeal of not only Mega Man, but of the PSP itself. Simply you, and a tiny, glowing screen, having a personal experience. In my weird opinion, I think this is why RPG’s and Visual Novels and Wizardry-likes ended up working so well on the system. Going through a chapter on the bus, grinding out a few dungeon floors during a lunch break, putting a level together in bed before going to sleep. There’s this intangible warm and fuzzy feeling I get from handheld games. Mega Man is just as important to this as any of those.

Mega Man Powered Up is, one very specific character aside, a game that I can’t gush about enough. Going through this game, and all these other games, I’m glad that I made the spur of the moment decision to cover the PSP for the whole month. It’s a hell of a system. Before I wrap up this post and this month, I think I’ll take a moment to list some other lesser known, good ass games I did not get around to writing about; maybe next year:

  • Rengoku: The Tower of Purgatory and Rengoku 2: The Stairway to Heaven
  • Ys: The Oath in Felghana
  • Space Invaders Extreme
  • Every Extend Extra
  • Brandish: The Dark Revenant
  • I Am An Air Traffic Controller- Tokyo Airport Hero
  • Thexder Neo
  • Konami’s other STG compilations (Parodius, Salamander, and Twinbee)

Elminage Original

It’s no secret by now that I’m a big mark for Wizardry, and games very similar to Wizardry. The concept of creating a cast of characters, then sending them into this dark, cold endurance test of fighting monsters and navigating traps is a winning one. Even when the world has come to an end, and we’re all fighting over basic necessities via motorsport deathmatches, driving around in really sick Rat Fink style hot rods, I’ll still be ending my days hunched over a computer, navigating a fictional dungeon. At least until I’m bludgeoned to death by some leather fetishist when he finds out that I have the last Snickers bar in North America.

Dungeon Crawlers are addicting. For me, anyway. I would imagine that the hours I pour into these games is similar to those with an addiction to MMOs, only I don’t have the excuse of being in a social environment, sticking with the solo, lonely nature of looking at numbers and taking notes. But let’s not psychoanalyze my mindset based only on my taste in games

Elminage Original is one of these attention-grabbing Dungeon Crawlers. Elminage as a series is something that “gets” the magic of Wizardry far better than a lot of similar games. This makes sense, given that the developers, Starfish, actually made a bunch of post Sir-Tech Wizardry games, most notably Wizardry Empire on the Game Boy Color. Unfortunately, this is only one of the two Elminage titles that left Japan; Elminage Gothic being the other one.

EO is very much in line with Wizardry 1 through 3: make characters, go into dungeons, fight monsters, find magical artifacts, repeat. And like the old-school games it’s influenced by, it does all of this with very little story behind it. You finish the first floor, go back to the king, he tells you to go find some magic rings, and then suddenly the world is now open to you. The world, of course, being more dungeons. Regular dungeons. Forest dungeons. Underwater dungeons. Each of these dungeons with multiple floors. Multiple floors made up of maze-like corridors and traps. Lots of cold, dangerous hell holes full of cool-looking monsters hell-bent on killing the blank slates you’ve created. This may sound repetitive, and it probably is if you’re like, normal or something. But if you’re like me, a complete freak, this kind of shit is right up your alley.

hachi machi

Yes, crawling through dungeons is awesome, and I love doing it. But what makes this, and really, what makes a lot of dungeon crawlers so appealing to me is the fact that this is a genre that encourages you to make your experience your own. You are given a barebones template, and told to fill in the blanks. True Role Playing. You make your characters, but it doesn’t have to stop at a name and some attribute settings. Elminage gives you a start and an end, and allows you to mentally draw the line linking them. Why is your knight risking his life? Is your evil-alignment thief only in it for the money? Why is there a maid on your team (yes, one of the selectable classes is “Maid.” That’s awesome.), and who, if anyone, does she serve? What made your magician want to start learning alchemy? Later Elminage games gave you a spot to write out entire character bios if you so chose. Your imagination is as integral to the game as much as Starfish’s design is. Even the graphics presented in-game don’t actually animate; they are merely still sprite images. Two features that are included, that I intentionally did not use, are the ability to import your own images for character portraits, as well as import your own music to replace the game’s soundtrack. I chose not to use custom faces, opting to use their respective class icons, because I wanted to illustrate to you, the reader, how important it is to imagine things. Yes, I am certainly more than capable of making my own art assets, but isn’t it better if I tell you about my Werebeast who fights with her bare hands? Isn’t it better for you to hear about a Fairy Maid and a middle-aged Hobbit Ninja-in-Training, than to see it? Let you build up your own image and idea of my adventures, the way I did for others when I would read about their playthroughs of Wizardry way back when. I feel like this is something that’s been missing from games for a very, very long time, and I would love to see a return to it.

Elminage Original has its issues: difficulty can be uneven, causing you to go from a pushover battle with some slimes and rats, to getting murdered by three rows of magicians hitting you with status effects and lightning. The localization is a bit fucked in parts, such as the original unpatched release mislabeling four different races, which made character creation a pain, and what text is left can be weird. Dwon stairs, for example.

mods, please change my title to “the wiped-out adventure person”

Oh, and the wall textures for forested areas look like absolute shit.

Other than that, Elminage is fantastic. It would get better sequels, but if you want to sit down with your PSP and enjoy a classic-style RPG with an even more classic 20×20 map layout that demands you to get good immediately, and you can’t read Japanese, this is where it’s at. Load up Elminage Original, and make that experience your own. Tell your own story.

Dissidia 012 Duodecim Final Fantasy

When I began PSP month, I made mention of how this little system had kept me sane during a particularly bad time in California. Santa Clarita, to be specific. This would been back in 2012, and I was visiting some relatives, shortly before they succumbed to the ravages of age. This was not a vacation, obviously, and a number of other things had happened that I will spare you the details of drove a permanent wedge between myself and the rest of what little family I had left. It was stressful, it was a nightmare at times, and worst of all, it was boring.

If you’ve never been to Santa Clarita, there is fucking nothing to do there. At least nothing to do outside of developing a tolerance for needle drugs. And if you are from/currently live there, I am so fucking sorry that your city sucks. The highlights of my trip were being taken an hour out to Ventura Pier, where I then proceeded to freeze my ass off in the ridiculously high speed winds there that day, and then going back to Santa Clarita, to a Taco Bell with only two people on staff during lunch hour, and the burritos I ordered had somehow become two soft tacos that had nothing but lettuce in them. The phone reception was terrible, so I couldn’t exactly use the internet; back when I was still rocking the Blackberry. Really, the only two things I could do was either wait until the evening for the Lakers games to come on, or play my PSP.

I only had the time and the packing room to bring a few games with me. One of those games was the one that this post is about: Dissidia 012 Duodecim Final Fantasy. I had just purchased a copy of the game a day before my flight, so I didn’t have a whole lot of time to play before then, so this was a must to bring. On retrospect, I’m not entirely sure why I got the game. I had spent a lot of time, probably too much, on the first Dissidia, and didn’t care much for it. Dissidia 1 was something I got because I needed something new to play on my break at work (this was back when modding a PSP was an extremely complicated process of needing a certain model system, specific games, and having to do shit with the battery. Not like the very idiot proof “put some shit on a memory stick and press X” that I would use later on.), and because the concept of a Final Fantasy fighting game is a good one. While I did not like Dissidia, I still got the sequel, because it had more characters; literally the “she has a new hat” justification for me buying something.

Something that needs to be made clear: like the first game, Dissidia 012 is fucking terrible. A truly wretched, unplayable, bewildering experience. This is not something you play because you want to have a good time. This is something you play because you are a dumb, horny idiot that wants to look at Kuja’s package while listening to a nice remix of FF6’s “The Decisive Battle.”

hachi machi

No, I was not enjoying myself in any traditional sense during my time in Santa Clarita and Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy. No internet. No good TV. Not a whole lot of privacy. Nothing to do in a go-nowhere place with no transportation. I spent nearly a month hunched over this little silver gadget, ogling femboys with launch-era PS2 amounts of polygons, trying to solve the bizarre moon logic that the game itself runs on. This was my entertainment.

Actually trying to figure out how this game works is a struggle all its own. It’s like a designer passed out while watching Advent Children, had a fucked up dream, then made a game about it. Final Fantasy characters floating around, trying to land slow moving attacks that have zero impact, until one of them finally hits the other. You have to do Bravery Attacks, which are slow and do no damage, in order to do some actual damage with your HP Attacks, which are even slower. Every fight is two of your favorite Final Fantasy characters hitting the air, and if the other character gets in the way of that air, it’s their own fault.

pictured: a typical dissidia match

The thing about Dissidia is that, unlike literally every other fighting game ever made, you have to unlock your move set via leveling up. Moves, and also basic innate abilities. It’s like having to earn a Hadouken in Street Fighter, or the double jump in Guilty Gear. It sucks. Dissidia gives you a lot of numbers and meters and systems and all types of shit to complicate the concept of a 1-on-1 fighting game, but then you stop and wonder about all the stuff that’s missing. Combos? Normals? Spacing? Nothing.

There’s a story mode, too. A story mode that I have never finished. I can only take a bunch of people standing around with phoned-in voice lines talking about bull shit that doesn’t make any sense for so long. I was starved for entertainment during my time in California, but even I had my limits.

Dissidia sucks. Full stop. It looks great, and sounds great, but then there’s nothing else beyond that. In any other circumstance, I would tell you to stay far away from it. But having played it in the situation that I did, I can’t. Dissidia is this weird fever dream of game that doesn’t make any sense, plays like shit, where the appeal ends after staring at Kuja’s junk for a week, and yet, it’s worth playing. The PSP was home to some great games. It was also home to a lot of bizarre stuff you couldn’t really find anywhere else. Dissidia is this fascinating thing that no AAA company would ever release today; the third game on PS4 was much more reigned in. It’s full of bad, half-baked ideas that don’t come together, the actual fighting part feels terrible to play, and often times seems like every negative stereotype of 2000-2010s Japanese games in one package, and I love it. 10/10.

The last two days of my stay, I went to a mall and got myself a copy of Ys: The Oath in Felghana. Much better game. So long and good riddance, Santa Clarita.

Gradius Portable Collection

There’s a lot to be said about Konami in 2021. A lot of bad things to be said. Their shitty, abusive work environment. The complete shitcanning of Kojima Productions. Turning the beloved Pro Evolution Soccer series into a cynical gambling den. Turning the beloved everything else they’ve ever made into a cynical gambling den. Strong-arming the Japanese insurance industry. It’s clear that Konami is and was run by evil clowns, and that the amazing games they published were made in spite of them, rather than because of them.

Among these games were a large host of shooters. A whole bunch of all-timers that, even in the era of Touhou and Danmaku, are as amazing today as they were in the 80s and 90s. It’s the 2000s, the PSP is doing well in your home country, and nostalgia is always a good way to make a buck. You run to M2, the undisputed kings of porting retro games, and throw a bunch of money at them to make your shit look good again. Specifically, Gradius. Yes, there were also collections made for Parodius, Twinbee, and Salamander, but I’m focusing on Konami’s flagship STG today. I love to fly around in the Vic Viper.

Anyways. This compilation has five games: Gradius, Gradius 2, Gradius 3, Gradius 4, and Gradius Gaiden. Now, these are not straight ports of the games. Rather, these are all reprogrammed versions of the arcade originals, now given support for the PSP’s widescreen resolution, and not the roughly 4:3 that they originally had. You now also have the option of giving your ship a smaller hit box, which in some ways feels extremely perverse, but is still welcome. Despite the improvements of being able to see more of the screen and being harder to hit, these games are still really hard and demanding, which I love. Gradius is still a series about pattern recognition and being able to react accordingly.

 

Gradius 1

Admittedly, a major reason why I wanted to cover these games is because I very recently 1cc’d the original Gradius, 100% indisputable this time; last time I did it, I was on Vicodin after a dentists’ appointment, and therefore was in no position to confirm that I actually did it.

and once again, i 1cc’d after fucking up a couple times, and finishing the last level without all the cool power-ups.

Gradius still rules. It’s as good in 2021 as it was in 1985. It is a game about flying through a dangerous warzone where everything is trying its damnedest to kill you (and they most definitely will your first time around). It’s about pattern recognition; knowing when and where the enemy will strike. It’s about having the right weapon for the job (I will firmly place myself in the camp of “the Double Shot isn’t actually a terrible weapon, jerks!”). You have to learn all of this pretty quick, as dying will absolutely fuck you. Losing a life causes you to lose all your power-ups, and can leave you way too slow and under-powered to handle whatever lies ahead. Now, it is possible to finish the game like this, as I’ve done, but it’s not ideal, it is however, really cool to finish the game with only a pea shooter and maybe one speed up.

no really, this gets hard pretty quickly

Now, because this is based on the original arcade release, this collection does not include the extra level added in the PC-Engine port of Gradius. That sucks, as I actually really liked that level. This is an extremely minor nitpick in the grand scheme of things, though. I mean, this collection is worth it for this one enhanced version of the original Gradius alone.

 

Gradius 2

Gradius 2? It also still rules. It takes everything about the first game, and makes it bigger, badder, and also a bit harder. Now you get multiple weapon loadouts to use, all of which are viable and versatile for an entire run. I still tend to use the original loadout, as I am an old boomer fuddy-duddy, but I do have a soft spot for the Photon Torpedo-Ripple Laser combo.

On an audio/visual level alone, Gradius 2 might actually be the best in the entire series. It starts off with you flying around a series of burning planets, shooting at giant fire dragons, all set to this killer song, “Burning Heat.” It’s a hell of a memorable way to open your video game.

When I said the game was a bit harder, I meant it. The first game got tough on stage 3. This one gets tough on stage 2, arguably the first boss, even. It’s these obvious rip-offs of the Facehuggers from Alien that get me the most. They are pretty hard to hit, they come from enemy spawners that are surrounded by turrets, and if you fuck up here and lose your power ups, it’s almost a guarantee that YOU SHALL NEVER RETURN ALIVE.

I’m still working on getting that 1cc for this one. I can make it up to stage 4 without continuing, but after that? Forget it. Game’s awesome.

 

Gradius 3

Fuck Gradius 3. It’s awful, and is the worst game in the series by a mile. Doesn’t matter if it’s the arcade game, or the even worse SNES port that ran at like 2 FPS, it sucks. All it does is take all the things you liked about the first two Gradius games, and replaced it with way too fucking bullets on screen, and enemies that take way too much damage to kill. Skip it.

 

Gradius 4

Admittedly, I have very little experience with this one. This might actually only be the second or third time I’ve played Gradius 4. As such, I don’t really have much to say about it. It seems pretty cool. I like the T-1000 melting effect on the dragons on the first stage. No kidding, I’m actually quite fond of the font that the power-up bar has; looks like the interact menu in a particularly seedy PC-98 game with lots of big titties and exploding heads.

My big complaint about this one is that a lot of it feels a bit desperate. Like, I know that a number of years had passed between the release of Gradius 3 and 4, but there’s a lot that comes across as Konami going for that Nostalgia Pop. Remember the giant crystals that broke and became smaller and more dangerous? Remember the shitty bubbles in Gradius 3? Remember shooting the core? There are a lot of callbacks that probably didn’t need to be made, as Gradius 4 could have stood as its own game without feeling like a Best Of. Not a terrible game, but there are better ones.

Oh, and that announcer is terrible. Dude sounds like a cross between the fat kid from Mission Hill, and someone who has made a three hour YouTube video on character balance in Super Smash Brothers.

 

Gradius Gaiden

A-AURORA BOREALIS!? AT THIS TIME OF DAY? AT THIS TIME OF YEAR? IN THIS PART OF THE COUNTRY? LOCALIZED ENTIRELY ON YOUR PSP?

Speaking of better games, the final one on this collection is Gradius Gaiden. Gaiden kicks fucking ass. This really does feel like Gradius for a new generation (that generation being a hardware generation, as this was on the Sony Playstation). It’s frenetic. It’s intense. It’s fun. Most importantly, it’s still Gradius, but it stands on its own, which Gradius 4 really didn’t.

Other cool things: multiple ships to choose from (though I still stuck with the Vic Viper), and being able to customize your power bar. You want that extra firepower early? Sure, go ahead and put your Options at the front. Gradius Gaiden gives you so much room to tailor your experience, then tells you, “alright bitch, now it’s time to play the game. Get good, asshole!” There’s very much the spirit of the first two Gradius’ (Gradiuses?) at play here. Incredible game.

One callback that I do like is the junkyard level, where the wreckage of Gradius 1 bosses shake loose from the floors and ceilings to mount a mostly-feeble offense against you.

 

Omake

This game is not on the Gradius collection. It is actually a part of the Salamander compilation. I guess there weren’t enough Salamander games to justify a compilation without a couple extras.

Anyways, this is an enhanced port of Gradius 2 for MSX. The MSX game is far, far more different than the original, being more of its own offshoot, really. What makes this special is that the slowdown and choppiness have been removed. The MSX was not a system  known for smooth scrolling or intense action; one of the reasons why Metal Gear was a game about avoiding enemies, rather than taking on an entire army. This one is surprisingly really cool, too. Maybe not on the level of the big arcade boys, but still leagues ahead of Gradius 3.

Thought I would write about the Gradius Collection because 1) Gradius rules and 2) because I don’t think too many people know about this one, or if they did, would have assumed it was a half-assed emulation job. It’s not! It’s an improved experience that matches, and even surpasses the originals. Definitely one of those must-haves for the PSP.

Except for Gradius 3. Go fuck yourself, Gradius 3.

Knights in the Nightmare

A thing to note about the PSP is that it was the home to a lot of SRPG’s. Strategy Role-Playing Game for the newbies. This seems weird, as this is a genre known for having long, back and forth battles that would not normally make it friendly for a handheld format. Funny thing is, for the most part, these kind of games actually worked on the PSP, having a smaller amount of units on a map, or quick battles, and something to speed up the process. Provided you installed the fan patch to fix the magic and summons slowing the game down to a crawl, Final Fantasy Tactics was a fun way to spend a commute.

Knights in the Nightmare is one of these games. This is a game that takes its format and makes the most of it. It’s fast paced, it’s hectic with shit flying all over the screen. Knights is this freak of nature; a tactical RPG and a bullet hell shooter. I understand that this does not make any sense.

KitN is a game by one of my favorite overlooked developers: Sting. Not be confused with the legendary pro wrestler, or the guy that was in a band with my illegitimate father. Sting is a company that makes stuff that goes off the beaten path; they are responsible for the greatest roguelike ever made in Baroque, for example. They also apparently worked on the Wonderswan port of Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord, meaning that I need to start up a new Wizardry playthrough sometime. Knights continues this Sting tradition of being different, and also being awesome.

dude, you…you can’t say that…

Battles don’t play out the way they do in other SRPG’s. Your units are fixed in place (with the exception of two unit types, that only move when using certain attacks), can only face and attack in two directions. Enemies don’t actually do damage to your units, instead focusing on attack you, The Player, specifically. This is where the bullet hell comes in, as the real main character is you, represented by the cursor, and enemies fire projectiles that your cursor needs to dodge. Getting hit takes away not life, but time. Right, forgot to mention that these battles take places over the course of timed rounds, and you have to complete a battle before the final round is over. And to win battles, you can’t just blindly kill every enemy; you have to kill them in a way that fills a tic-tac-toe grid, and you can select enemies that fill that specific part of that grid via a between rounds roulette wheel.

This sounds confusing, admittedly. But it’s to this game’s credit that it becomes second-nature pretty quick. KitN presents you with a lot of numbers and menus, yet it never feels overwhelming, allowing you to get back into those fast-paced, snappy battles. On a mechanical level alone, Knights in the Nightmare is extremely cool, unique, and worth playing. The PSP version (this also got a DS release) also includes a small extra campaign if you have save data from Yggdra Union.

I’m spending all this time talking about how the game plays and its uniqueness because, again, this is a game by Sting, and this unorthodox style carries over into its plot. Much like their best game, Baroque (will never not take time to say Baroque is awesome), Knights in the Nightmare is also a nihilistic, somber story about the shitty side of humanity and the world coming to an end. Your “cursor” is actually the soul of an assassinated king. Due to said king being preordained as having the power to defend humanity against gods and demons, he can’t truly die, and now rules over an army of dead soldiers in an attempt to restore some semblance of order in a world that has quickly gone to shit since your murder, thanks to your killer also summoning a powerful demon. From the testimony of various soldiers and generals, you were a wise, caring leader that’s worth fighting for, even in death…then you experience the story from the perspectives of those outside of your kingdom and realize that, actually, you were a racist, genocidal monster that did everything he could to hold down other non-human races in poverty and unlivable conditions.Your undeath will also involve you resuming your duties, literally wiping out entire villages and tribes on your way to taking out this god that wants to end humanity. Needless to say, this is a game that has a little bit of moral ambiguity to it. You’re a bad guy doing a good thing for bad reasons, and a lot of people are going to get killed along the way.

This story is told through a series of disjointed, out of order flashbacks. Scenes of a knight’s life moments before their death. The torturous transformation of your son into a werewolf, and his eventual death at your hands. Your assassin unwittingly making his own daughter into a sacrifice. All the political intrigue of the various kingdoms. Then, after it’s all over, you find out that this is a story being told by the Grim Reaper himself, questioning humanity’s constant conflict and willingness to kill one another. I dare say that Knights in the Nightmare may have a touch of “The Politics.” Now, I will maintain that Sting’s best narrative effort was, again, Baroque, but Knights still does some cool stuff that can make you feel very uncomfortable at times. This is a game with multiple endings, and none of them are particularly happy ones.

When I thought about dedicating an entire month to the PSP, I didn’t want to simply do write ups of its best games, like Metal Gear and Monster Hunter; you can find those anywhere. I wanted instead to focus on stuff that’s less known, but still immensely interesting. Knights in the Nightmare is cool, it’s fun, it’s sad, it’s weird, it’s fucked up. I love it, and I hope that you’ll play it yourself and love it, too.

Racing Game Roundup, Handheld Edition

Another month, another upcoming Gran Prix, it’s time to play some racers and talk about them on the internet! This particular entry will follow a theme that I will expand upon in an upcoming post.

Gran Turismo PSP

I’m still torn on how I feel about this one. Obviously, you’re not doing a 1:1 recreation of a console GT on a new handheld. It would be ridiculous to expect nearly a thousand cars, loads of tracks, more than four cars racing on said tracks at a time, and all the various bells and whistles that you associate with Gran Turismo when the PSP is still so new.

Then I did a few seconds of research and found out that this came out in fucking 2009. 2009, and Polyphony Digital thought that it would be a good idea to release something so bare-bones. You get a small amount of cars available at a time, in two lap races on a small amount of tracks, and that’s about it. No license challenges, no ranked challenges, nothing. Just pick a car and drive. And while I can respect that simplicity, and totally understand why things would be so stripped down for a game that you’re mostly going to be playing during bus/train rides or during a break at work, there’s not really much of a reason to come back after a while. Due to the random nature of buying cars; you can only buy from about 4-5 dealerships at a time, and they’re randomly determined after finishing a race, unlocking shit is a lot more tedious than it needs to be.

Despite all this, it’s still Gran Turismo. It still plays well. I can still drive a 240z at Suzuka and Monaco. I can’t completely hate it, but I can feel a bit let down by it.

 

Ridge Racer PSP

Until I sat down and played this, I only knew about this version of Ridge Racer from one thing: that disastrous Sony E3 presentation. You know, the one that spawned a series of extremely unfunny memes? Giant Enemy Crabs lol and all that bull shit? “Jokes” that were so fucking bad that it caused me to feel at least a twinge of sympathy for Sony. Like, congrats Gamers, you are all so annoying and terrible at telling jokes that you made a massive corporation that released a $700 console and openly thought it was “too cheap” look like the good guys. Fucking assholes. Anyways, I ignored Ridge Racer as a result of this.

If you needed any further proof that gamers ruin everything, it’s this, because Ridge Racer on the PSP is fucking awesome.

Holy shit, this game rules. It is essentially a Ridge Racer Nostalgia Fest, in that you drive through tracks from previous games, and listen to music from previous games, as well. So you can tear through Wonder Hill from Ridge Racer 4 while listening to that really cool Genpei Toumaden remix from Ridge Racer 5. Or listen to music from the first game while driving on the beach track from Ridge Racer Revolution. All while using the new nitrous boost system that would later be used in 6 and 7. It’s cool, and extremely fun.

I do need to take this time to mention how good this game looks. Ridge Racer came out in 2004, once again proving that Namco’s artists are some of the absolute best in the entire industry. Great stuff.

Ridge Racer is a fun as fuck racer with a lot of shit in it. Also, the loading screen is a playable version of Rally-X.

 

Pimp My Ride

Oh yes. I saw this, and knew that I had to play it. This is the kind of low effort garbage I adore. Now, it’s been about a million years since I have seen an episode of Pimp My Ride, but I do remember that it was a show where people with shitty cars would beg popular Hip-Hop artist Xzibit for help, to which he would send the car to a garage, where a team of experts would then put a bunch of shit on said car that made it look even worse in the end. You know, like “yo man, we put an aquarium in the roof towards the back seat, so when you’re failing to once again convince your girl to try anal, you can take a gander at this Flounder.” Shit like that. I was not a fan of the show, but my friends were, so I ended up having to watch a lot of episodes.

Pimp My Ride The Video Game is a shitty open-world driving game. The first half is you driving around, picking up cash icons and crashing into other cars to get money. You can also do some extremely low effort mini-games, like dancing and honking your horn at a crowd of onlookers.

You do this until you get a certain amount of money. Once you do, then comes the second half: Pimping a Ride. Credit where it’s due, the developers actually got Xzibit to do a phoned-in voice over here. The X to the Z sends you back out into Pimp City (yes, really) to make stops at various Pimp Stations with loading screens are full of “Pimp Hints” between them to Pimp out some poor fuckers’ car. I’ve heard the word “Pimp” so many times that the word has lost all meaning; it may as well be its own Smurf language at this point. This Pimping game is really Pimpy and can seriously Pimp my Pimp, and if you don’t like it, Pimp off.

Now, the idea of competing to customize a better car could make for a good game. That is not the case here. Predictably, the game plays and controls like absolute Pimp. This is not a game made by an A-Team with a lot of money behind it, and it shows. But at least it’s Pimp in an interesting way. The kind of game you play and laugh at for a little while, before scrambling to put the Gran Turismo or Ridge Racer UMD into your system. It Pimps, but there are games out there that Pimp more.

nice interior

metal black

In the past, I have described my love for old Namco arcade games. With good reason, they all rule. However, Namco is not the undisputed king of the arcade. Right next to them, there is Taito competing for that title, going hand-to-hand, blow-for-blow.

Taito’s biggest strength was more than simply making a good game, but making a wide-range of them, all different in their own way. Taito gave us Space Invaders, but then they also gave us stuff like Bubble Bobble, The Ninja Warriors, and Darius. Taito didn’t just make different types of games that were all great, but they were also not afraid to get real weird with it; so many games, popular or otherwise, loaded with surrealism and really artistic themes. Sure, there was also trend-chasing bull shit like Thunder Fox and Chase HQ, but let’s not talk about those.

This game, Metal Black, is this wonderful, challenging, fun, thought-provoking piece of work that I feel like talking about today.

The story of Metal Black is that aliens from Jupiter have violently taken over the Earth, leaving humanity at the brink of extinction. The world’s military have managed to reverse engineer one of Jupiter’s weapons and implant that power into a fighter jet. However, the UN has refused to let the jet be used in combat, as it will lead to an all-out war that Earth will absolutely not win. In response, you, the player, goes rogue and steals the fighter, going on a suicide mission to save what remains of Earth.

Metal Black came out in 1991, that magical time before video games got all political. The first level, Earth, has become a sand-blasted wasteland due to climate disaster and unending war long before Jupiter came along, with the only remaining vestige of humanity being an electronic advertisement billboard. Oh, and the boss of this level is named “Apartheid.”

Something that Taito was very good at, was establishing a mood. They were great at making cutesy, colorful shit. However, they were just as good at making really dark, depressing, unsettling post-apocalyptic games. This is the same company that made a game about killer robots overthrowing the United States, which had since devolved into a full dictatorship, rather than the implied one we have now. Metal Black is a fucking dark game. It has that opening stage on Earth, what with all the death and destruction I pointed out earlier. Just you, on this one-man operation for the sake of a dead planet, complete with this incredibly atmospheric track by Zuntata, probably the best in-house band gaming has ever had:

The rest of the game, admittedly, is not as atmospheric as the first level. However, finally reaching space is when the shit starts getting weird. No longer is Metal Black focused on a dying world. It is instead focused on the most surreal, dreamlike depiction of space that very few games have ever had. Fighting a large, snake-like creature that hatches from a fake moon, set to a backdrop of brightly-colored constellations. Flying through an abandoned, destroyed space station surrounded by what looks to be large molecules; the kind found in a human body. Navigating an uneven series of stalagmites and shifting rocks, then being assaulted by a large battleship that quickly sheds its manmade machinery to reveal the alien life form underneath. Cruising on a Gradius-inspired alien planet, before having a rematch against “Apartheid” in an asteroid field. Then finally, going to Jupiter, before fighting what I can assume is the leader, while you are bombarded with digitized images of cavemen, war, and devastation. Needless to say, it’s all very cool.

I do need to make special mention of the loud, scary death cry that every boss makes when killed, followed by the screen exploding with a rotating map of Earth superimposed over it.

Needless to say, Metal Black absolutely shines in the audio visual department. Its style is so thoroughly beyond being cool. So many modern games, built with million dollar budgets and a team of over 100 different rapists, and so many of them cannot make something as aesthetically solid as an arcade shooter from 1991. Do you want to try telling me that Assassin’s Creed looks better than this?

Actually playing Metal Black is also pretty interesting. Unlike most shooters of the era, there’s no selection of weapons or power-ups to pick up. You get one weapon for the entire game, and it gets stronger as you pick up “Newalones,” the energy source that powers Jupiter’s weapons, and Taito’s attempt at pronouncing the word “Neurons.” The more Newalones you get, the better your bullets. Newalones also let you use your super beam, and of course, the more power, the better that is, too. Your ship moves slowly, and never gets faster. To make up for it, your bullets, especially once you’re hit power level 4, are bigger than your ship, meaning that a lot of encounters can be survived by jamming on the fire button. This does not make the game easy, mind you. Metal Black is still a really fucking hard game. There are only six level, and once you hit level three, you need to be ready to be attacked on all sides. Shit will come at you from the front, behind, above, below, often two or more directions at once. Metal Black is not impossible, though, it a challenging game; the kind that you practice and memorize over and over until you can get that much desired 1cc. Unfortunately, I’m not quite there yet; still working on memorizing the best routes.

Metal Black is a simple, pared down game, mechanics-wise. Yet, the very small move set actually works really well in this case. There has never been a time where I thought that maybe there should be a homing laser, or a downward-sloping bomb, or anything like that. Every level is designed around this lack of options, and is a better game for it. Plus, thematically speaking, it would make sense that an untested, experimental weapon thrown together by a devastated world would not exactly be loaded to capacity with guns.

What I appreciate the most about Metal Black is that, yeah, it’s a cool looking shooter that’s fun to play. But it does all of this, and has this dark, post-apocalypse story that’s surprisingly cool for its time, and tells it almost wordlessly. There’s an opening cinematic crawl, then some ending text, and nothing else. It’s up to you as the player to piece everything together by looking at the environments and see what is happening, the epitome of show, don’t tell. Despite being a visual medium, doing this in video games is actually a lot harder than you would think, so I’m impressed every time Taito pulls it off.

Like here, let’s take a look at the ending. You defeat the final boss, effectively saving the Earth, right?

Oh.

No, the Earth is split into two after the war is over, literally this time. Then you float in space wondering if everything that’s happened is a dream. Now, if you get a game over on stage 6, there is a bad ending where the Earth’s military coup’s the UN, sending mass produced Black Fly’s to Jupiter, where they will probably also be killed. That one’s interesting, if only because of a badly translated line that makes is seem like the aliens can blend into Earth’s society, They Live style. I honestly think that this is one of the few times where the overplayed “you were dead all along” theory actually applies. I think that the main character was killed during his fight on Earth, probably before he even hijacked the first Black Fly, and the rest of the game is in fact a dream. The opening does sort of imply the whole “dying in the fighter hangar:”

I’m pointing all this out because I think there’s a tendency to take retro games like this for granted. We, as a general rule, tend to look at shooters as these mindless diversions where you mow down aliens and unnamed enemy armies. The most thought you put into them is in the bullet patterns and enemy spawn points. Not putting thought into this surrealist take on war and humanity’s place in the universe. In 1991. Yet, here I am, doing exactly that. It’s very cool. Metal Black is very cool. A shame that Taito’s current place in the industry is nothing more than a third wheel in the Square-Enix merger, because in their day, they were kings.

3DO-Face #3: Penthouse Interactive- Virtual Photo Shoot vol 1 & Virtua Photo Studio (NSFW)

It’s been a while, since I’ve done one of these. Been too long since I wrote about an explicitly horny game, rather than the implied kind like Final Fight. Let’s get busy.

Penthouse magazine was the in-between of porn mags. It was more hardcore than Playboy, and less antisemitic than Hustler. One of those mythical publications that could be found in the woods, or under the bed of a parent or older sibling. Penthouse was a magazine I definitely uh, read a lot. At least until the emergence of peer-to-peer software like Kazaa gave us all a world of digital erotica right at our sweaty, dirty, perverted fingertips.

But I must ignore the convenience that the internet has given us perverts, and put myself back into the metaphorical shoes of a hypothetical horny 3DO owner. Like Vivid Video, Penthouse also had their own development studio. Looking around, there was an entire series of Penthouse Virtual Photo Shoot games for PC and Macintosh, so if you’re down for some grainy, pixellated nudity, be sure to break out the virtual machines. Volume 1 is the only one released for the 3DO, and as far as I can tell, only released in Japan. And there was definitely time and effort put into a Japanese localization; most of the text (what little there is) is in Japanese, and the game features a Japanese dub, so you will hear three very non-Asian women speaking fluent Japanese no problem.

 

I ended up going with Tiffany, as I couldn’t figure out what she was wearing on her head.

Turned out that this was an Egyptian-themed shoot, back when this was still considered okay. Also back when porn had an actual set.

The whole point of the game is that you select from a series of FMV clips, then click the camera icon on the bottom at the right time. Any pictures you take can be looked at later for your own uses. That’s it, that’s all there is to it. I probably should have used inverted commas when I said “game,” as there’s no reward for taking pictures well, nor is there any penalty for doing it badly. The whole interactive element seems to be tacked on; it easily could have been another series of FMVs like Blonde Justice was.

However, unlike Blonde Justice, or even Neurodancer, Penthouse actually accomplishes what it sets out to do. It’s porn on the 3DO that doesn’t take way too fucking long to get to the sexy parts, and actually features nudity. I’m making a lot of assumptions about 1) the kind of person to own a 3DO and 2) the kind of person to own porn on it, but I feel like this is perfectly acceptable for the horny games enthusiast. There are attractive women who take their clothes off, and you don’t have to play a boring mini-game or watch a shit movie to get to this point. It’s what you need if you don’t feel like turning off the console and switching over to some hardcore stuff on your VCR. I guess. Crank one out to three different women with an easily ignored game element.

Posting a small gallery here for any stragglers who somehow got here through Google. Hi, please consider reading the rest of this site after you’re done doing you know what.

Before I forget, the real reward to this whole game is to hear from a Japanese dubbed Bob Guccione, a man whose love of piss far exceeds my own. That is pretty fucking funny, honestly.

 

I’m going to switch gears here a bit, as there is another game very similar to Penthouse Virtual Photo Shoot that I feel I should talk about. The game in question is…

 

Virtua Photo Studio (Sega Saturn)

First of all, yes, this was published by fucking Acclaim. I assume that their Japanese branch was tired of pumping out shitty licensed games, and decided to try their hand at Sega Saturn titty games. As I said, this is very similar to Penthouse Virtual Photo Shoot, but with one major difference:

This game fucking owns. Specifically, because of this guy:

This guy, I don’t know who he is, probably the producer, is full of personality. You do well at taking pictures, or if you fuck it all up royally, he will let you know.

What I like about this game is that it is an actual game. It’s also really fucking hard! There is no fucking around here; you better be good at taking those pictures, or you will never see these ladies naked.

what’s up with all these porn games only ever having three women to choose from?

You pick your girl, then it’s time to take pictures. Of course, after you are warned by your producer not to fuck it up.

These girls will start doing their pose routines, and you have to snap photos at the right time. And you have to time this right, as they will go through the motions like they have other shit to do. No do overs, no requesting that maybe they slow the fuck down for a couple seconds. Do it right, and do it right now.

Do well enough, as I did, and then things get spicy. Now this is where you can pick outfits.

Then you take pictures again, and it is surprisingly difficult to snap a good shot of a woman as she gets them out. You have to be quick on the trigger.

a little something for the algorithm

There are also segments where the model will want to take a break, and you have to answer a series of her questions, I assume to keep her at ease and make her comfortable. Don’t think you can go through Virtua Photo Studio acting like Terry Richardson. I would have gotten screenshots of this, but it never came up during all the times I played this for the post, and the last time I played this was on my old PC that’s probably on a garbage boat about to be dumped into international waters.

But who gives a fuck about any of that? I appreciate a fine set of big himmer-hommers as much as the next pervert, but I’m all about that excitable man who yells at you between shoots.

Two horny games that aren’t particularly terrible. I’d still recommend the Saturn game, just because it has more personality. You know, if you ever think to yourself, “jeez, I’m tired of playing Fighters Megamix and Elevator Action Returns all the time. Time for horny photography game!” maybe give this one a shot.