compilations

Let me begin this with a, I don’t know, a confession: I originally wanted to do a post on Space Invaders, and why I love Space Invaders and why that little game is incredibly important to me. But something happened yesterday that took my attention, and I felt like it was important enough to talk about instead.

Yesterday, I spent $4 on this bundle of games. I mostly got it just so I would have The King of Fighters XIV in my collection, if I ever got the hankering to play it and not have to drop sixty big ones on it. One of the other games in the bundle was the SNK 40th Anniversary Collection. I was a bit curious about it, if only because I had been informed that Ikari Warriors and Guerrilla War had a new control set up to deal with the fact that, because of their unique “twist-joystick” controls, were pretty much impossible to emulate without being a real pain. I’ll spare you a big review and say that, at least on PC, the controls are fucking shit. Characters spin at the lightest touch, sometimes not being able to face certain directions, or straight up stop moving for no reason. Guerrilla War is already hard enough without having to fight the controls, too. Let me Hail The Heros Of The Glorious Revolution, dammit!

But that wasn’t the worst thing about it. Though this complaint is more directed at game compilations in general. Even if the games themselves are ported well, the most you get in terms of extras are usually some concept art and a sound test. Fucking nothing else. For things that are supposed be celebrations of classic games, there’s not much of a party going on. Doesn’t matter if it’s SNK, or all those terrible Sega compilations that have come out over the years (though shout out to M2; their Switch ports are amazing), they fail to fill the hole left by the greatest retro game compilation ever made. Something that nobody, even the company that actually made it, has managed to surpass or even match in twenty years.

I’m talking about the Namco Museum Collection on the Playstation.

What made these five compilations so sick was that you didn’t just get all these classic arcade games on one disc. No, you also got these entire 3D virtual “exhibits” that showed off various aspects of the games in question. Yeah, you got your artwork and advertisements, but you also got scans of rare merchandise that’s no longer available, pictures of the PCB boards, breakdowns of scoring systems or game mechanics. Later entries had Japan-only promo videos. All of these things were shown off in a very cutesy, low-polygon style, rather than a cold menu that felt tacked on.

Now, just as something of a disclaimer: I don’t want to throw around the “L” word. Contrary to popular belief, there’s no such thing as a “Lazy Developer.” Limited budgets, time constraints, publisher meddling, Konami losing the fucking finished source code for Silent Hill, can all lead to a disappointing or even outright terrible end result. Namco clearly had the time, money, and vision to put these five discs together, and I’m incredibly grateful for it.

I won’t do a big breakdown of each of these, as they mostly follow the same format: a handful of old arcade games, each reprogrammed for the Playstation (so these aren’t emulated ports, for better or for worse), and each with their own cute exhibit and personalized “game room” housing the arcade cabinet, all of which are done in that amazing PSX-quality that still holds up today.

Volume 4, though, is my favorite. This is when Namco decided to get weird with it. They had already put various versions of Pac-Man, Galaga, Pole Position, Xevious, and all these other games out there. So with volume 4, you get off-beat and even outright bizarre shit. Ordyne, a relatively obscure shooter that was Namco’s attempt at combining Fantasy Zone with Gradius. Pac-Land, not a bad or even all that strange a game; it served as a direct influence for Super Mario Brothers, but when you think “Pac-Man,” you don’t think “Pac-Man taking a leisurely stroll down the street, putting a fairy in his hat, then running home, now with the power to levitate.” Assault, a top-down shooter where you control both the left and right treads of your tank with the d-pad and face buttons, respectively (continuing with my trend of comparing these games to other games, Assault is like a mechanical predecessor to Katamari Damacy). Assault Plus, which is an updated Assault that’s actually hidden in this compilation. The Return of Ishtar is an action-RPG where you control two characters at once, which is less awkward than Assault, somehow.

Then there is the crown jewel of Namco Museum Volume 4: Genpei Toumaden.

Genpei Toumaden, if I were to describe the game to you, would sound pretty normal. You are a samurai, brought back from the dead, to save Japan from various creatures in Japanese folklore, as well as Japanese historical figures. You move left-to-right, you run, jump, and swing your sword at things. Playing it, though? Genpei Toumaden is a fucking dissociative nightmare in video game form. The music is weird. The graphics are creepy (and surprisingly detailed for the 80s). Level design is haphazard at best, with alternate paths with no real on-screen indication of what you did or where you’re going. Some levels even have Minamoto-no-Yoritomo, the game’s antagonist, appear in the background, larger than the mountains in the level, and try to smash you with a paper fan. I don’t want to sound like one of those “they must have been on drugs when they made this!” assholes, because fuck them, but this is still a strange game, even in English.

Keep in mind, despite me maybe making this game sound appealing, it plays like fucking shit, and it’s hard as balls on top of that. I have never been able to finish it in all the years I’ve tried. At the end of the day, it’s an 80’s arcade game, and it wants your money. So it’s not an overlooked gem, but I’m still endlessly fascinated by the game and its existence.

Plus, the exhibit is really cool, with a couple of hidden things for you to find by looking around carefully.

But I do kind of want to mention the other exhibits. Mostly Ordyne and Pac-Land.

Ordyne’s is cute. It’s made to resemble a fast-food restaurant in the style of Ordyne’s in-game shop. And if you look carefully, you may notice on the menu that smiles are always free!

Pac-Land? It’s just Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man chilling out on a beach with the Pac-Land fairy, a cocktail arcade cabinet, and a boombox playing a really peaceful remix of the Pac-Land theme.

It is the most chill thing. It is, as the kid’s say, aesthetic as fuck. Seeing this one scene in an old issue of Tips & Tricks way back when made me want this game so fucking bad. Kind of a weird tic I have, but I find hub worlds to be the most peaceful, calming in video games. This probably dates all the way back to playing Chrono Trigger and making it to the End of Time. The Playstation really added to that, as my concept of a calming space in a game got really generous, to the point of including the Library from Echo Night, or this one very particular part of the map in Bushido Blade, in addition to normal shit like the town in Mega Man Legends or Brave Fencer Musashi. I was a very weird kid. Either way, Namco Museum, especially the later entries, are like crack for my weird brain. I can walk around these miniature dioramas of a video game, looking at things, even interacting with them in some cases. The games themselves are almost secondary, even though most of them are absolute classics worthy of the price on their own.

It’s just too fucking bad that Namco Museum Encore lacked pretty all of this cool stuff, which is even worse when you consider that that compilation included goddamn Rolling Thunder. Or that subsequent Namco Museums on other consoles, even the Switch, don’t have the virtual museum. The Switch one includes, again, Rolling Fucking Thunder The Best Arcade Game Namco Has Ever Made, and Splatterhouse. Splatterhouse! I’m not even a big fan of that game, but a digital exhibit for it would be amazing! You could even have it be less of a museum piece and more of a haunted house! But no. Unfortunately, we are no longer allowed to have nice things.

Honorable mention for the second best classics compilation goes to Sonic Jam on the Sega Saturn. It’s second best because the ports/emulation/whatever fucking suck, and the games sound and run worse than the original Genesis games. But at least it has those really cool animated movies, commercials, the Sonic timeline, and Sonic World.

You could run around, picking up rings, launching off of springs, hitching a ride on Tails, doing small time trials (pick up X number of rings in this amount of time, etc), and finding codes and secrets for the actual Sonic games on the collection. It’s really cool, but I wish it wasn’t this excellent accoutrement for what is ultimately a big let down of a compilation.

In any case, Namco Museum. It is bar none the best compilation of games you could possibly play, so long as you stick to the initial five volumes.

nyla

Wrestling was on last night. I was sitting down in front of my tv, eagerly anticipating one match: the rematch between Nyla Rose and Riho. You may remember back in October when I got mad as hell at Nyla’s loss, because she didn’t just lose, but she lost via stupidity, which I thought was bullshit. On top of that, hot take: I don’t think Riho is any good. She has a terrible look, like a child pageant contestant walked down the wrong hallway and wound up in a wrestling ring, and her look of constant confusion doesn’t help. She botches all the time, maybe not on the level of Sin Cara at his peak, but she’s definitely not a smooth wrestler. She even fucked up the finish of the women’s four-way match in a spot with Hikaru Shida who is 1) really good and 2) speaks Japanese, just like Riho, so you can’t blame it on the language barrier. Riho has go-away heat with me. I understand that I’m in the minority on that, but that’s how I feel. Her and Britt Baker I cannot stand. All these great women on the AEW roster, and the faces of it are a 98-pounder who looks like a child and sucks in the ring, and the other looks like she would rather be in NXT and murdering promos in ways Ken Patera could only dream of.

Anyways. Rematch. Nyla won.

I literally screamed so loud that my neighbors had to come and check on me. I was in a Discord call, getting ready to record a new episode of Book of Megadrive, and I’m sure I killed my co-hosts hearing. I was so fucking pumped, dude. The match was great, and Nyla carried Riho to her best match in AEW.

This was an historic moment. A transgender woman of color won a title in a major American wrestling company. That’s fucking cool as shit. WWE will never do this. They would rather find a way to bury Baron Corbin alive with both world titles in his hands than let a trans person even get a whiff of the belt’s leather.

I realized not too long ago that I don’t like to talk about trans shit anymore. Talking about the feelings of powerlessness and misery don’t help me so much as they help shitheads “allies” jerk off to my inspiration porn. The only people I want jerking off to me are the dudes who call my phone sex line (or, you know, people I’m dating). Representation matters if you’re a child, but I’m 33 years old, that ship has long since sailed for me. That being said, holy fucking shit dude a trans woman won the title!

It’s a feel-good moment for someone like myself. To rub it in the face of every clown online telling me that Nyla isn’t ready, brother, as though Britt Baker is ready with her meandering promos where she spends more time talking about Tony Schiavone working at Starbucks instead of, you know, the wrestlers she is actively feuding with. It’s good to know that we don’t all have to suffer for our art. Every “successful” trans artist I know is flat broke and is only a star’s misalignment away from trying to kill themselves. I don’t know what Nyla’s contract gives her, or how big her payday was for working that episode of Dynamite, but it was certainly more than a $25 pittance from a guy who wants to look at her feet. I consider professional wrestling to be an art, and I consider art to be emotionally, but not financially, fulfilling. That Nyla gets to have both of those is fucking great. She absolutely deserves it.

Now to keep my fingers crossed that AEW doesn’t then proceed to book Nyla with a Rey Mysterio-level title reign. Nobody wants that.

monster hunter

When I haven’t been working on various art/game projects, I’ve found myself becoming addicted all over again to Monster Hunter. Specifically, the Switch port of Monster Hunter Generations that I picked up about a month ago.

Now obviously, this is not my first rodeo. I’ve been playing these games since the PSP days, when I got a copy of Freedom Unite at my old job. I played it for a bit, had no idea what I was doing, and put it away in my PSP case, going back to Mega Man Powered Up and that version of Final Fantasy VII on the Playstation Store. A few years later, I would get back into the game. Sort of. You see, this was before the days of fan wikis being so widespread, or YouTube tutorials that broke down every aspect of a game about five minutes after it comes out. I had no fucking clue how to play Monster Hunter. I ran around with a Long Sword, wildly swinging at things, wondering why evasive rolling didn’t work literally the same as in Demon’s Souls.

Cool thing here, while I’ve long since lost the old blog posts I made about MonHun, I still have the screenshots I took on my old PSP memory stick. Let’s take a look at them!

So, because I had in my head that this game was no different from Demon’s Souls. This included not giving a fuck about the armor I wore, to the point of going out and literally fighting in my underwear. If you are new to Monster Hunter: DO NOT DO THIS! You need those full armor sets so you can get the abilities they have. Another thing I didn’t bother with that you should do: UPGRADE YOUR ARMOR! You need that defense boost, too!

And I would eventually wise up but putting on a full set of armor. Just not uh, a full matching set.

kut-ku, velociprey, and bullfango armor does not work together

Needless to say, I had a hell of a time getting through a number of hunts. I didn’t know how armor worked. I didn’t know that eating before a hunt would give you stat boosts. I didn’t even know that hitting monsters with paintballs would mark them on your map! I didn’t know about hiring Felynes to help me in fights! I was a dumb fucking noob, for sure.

But what fucked me up the most? Hunting the Khezu.

This Eldritch looking worm thing kicked my ass so many times. I failed so many hunts. Keep in mind, this was before Monster Hunter had online play included. In this game, it was either local, or you learned how to get good. Well, slight correction: you could play online, through a third-party app on the Playstation 3 that was Japan-only (until the end of the system’s life anyway), and when you got on, you would find more people interested in playing Final Fantasy Dissidia than anything else. Bleh.

i eventually got one

As a result of my ineptitude, and the Khezu killing me a bunch, it ended up becoming (no pun intended) my white whale. In subsequent games, I would gun for Khezus as soon as I could, hunt them, then wear armor and carry weapons made from their parts.

Monster Hunter 4 on 3DS was the next game I played after MHFU, and this is exactly what I did. I even did the same when Red Khezus started to appear, with my hunter dressed head to toe in a bright pink rubber suit.

Quick tangent here: this will probably get me some heat, but can I just admit to thinking that the 3DS was not a good system? Like, it had great games that I spent a lot of time with (MonHun, Resident Evil, Animal Crossing, Megami Tensei), and it had a few neat features, but I feel like the system was plagued by too many games that tried to push the system to its limits, and did not succeed. I mean, I’ve never gotten very far in Pokemon Moon, because the battles are slow as shit, running at 5 FPS, because I didn’t go out and drop another $150 on a slightly better 3DS. Not nearly as fondly remembered by me compared to the previous generation’s DS and PSP. Plus for a system so reliant on online connectivity, it probably would’ve helped if it weren’t complete shit that lagged and disconnected if the wind was too strong that day.

As far as the original MH Generations went, I liked it, but I think by then I was so burnt out on MH4, and the awkward touch screen controls, and the bad internet, that I ended up not getting very far in it. Then I didn’t touch the series again until World came out. And World is amazing. A great game. But I feel like, in its desire to make the quality of life changes that it did, it kind of moved away from the spirit of Monster Hunter. It’s smooth, moves really quickly, and handles a lot of the pre-hunt prep for you. I find myself preferring the original slow, methodical pace, where getting ready for a hunt is just as important as the hunt itself. I like doing a little flex every time I heal. I like having to go from section to section on the map, instead of following the Dead Space line straight to the monster.

So I guess it’s a good thing I picked up MH Generations on Switch when it was on sale. It’s scratching all those itches. And holy shit, it really shows just how much better these games are on consoles, instead of hunched over, squinting at a handheld screen, with your hand in an awkward claw position to navigate both yourself and the camera. The online is actually not that bad, given the system it’s on. It is like night and day considering how much better Generations is on Switch than on 3DS, which ties back to my point about developers trying to make the 3DS do things it was clearly not meant to do.

what a difference seven years makes

I admit, I have been hooked on this game probably every day since I bought it. There’s always one more thing to do; one more part to collect to make a new weapon or piece of armor, or one more quest to finish to raise my Hunter Rank, or one more something. It is so fun.

My current problem is the amount of choice. I can’t decide on a weapon to stick with! Right now I’m bouncing back and forth between Hammers and Light Bowguns. Do I try out Dual Blades? Sword and Shield? Go back to Long Sword? They’re all so great, with their own pros and cons. Except for Insect Glaive. Fuck the Insect Glaive. Zoe’s shitty rapist ex (yeah, I know, I know, which one?) was always going on about how great that thing was when we all used to play MH4 together, so he killed that weapon for me. For all I know, it could be the best weapon, that suits my playing style to a T, but I don’t care. It’s ruined for me. But everything else? Reduces me to the most indecisive bitch on the planet.

The main reason I made this post, aside from waxing nostalgic about the PSP again, was to let/remind people how fucking good old-school Monster Hunter is. I informed one of the Discord groups I’m in that Generations was $20 a while back, and was met with “old Monster Hunter sounds like a nightmare!” Yeah, World is great, but there’s so much more satisfying weight and heft to the old games. What I’m saying is, if you’re my friend, you should be playing this with me. I’m tired of idiot randos knocking me out of combos while I’m trying to swing a hammer at a monster’s head. And plus, World doesn’t have Khezus in it, and that’s bullshit.

always wearing the khezu gear