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

birthday post

My birthday was on Saturday. I’m 34, which means that I am now officially Too Old For This Shit. Be nice to me, or go to hell. Anyways, here’s how my day went.

I began my morning by watching some TV, while drinking my morning coffee and checking out the results of the Italian Grand Prix qualifying round. First of all, holy shit @ Lewis Hamilton setting the fastest lap time in F1 history, even after the FIA put his car at a handicap because he was winning too much. And shout out to Pierre Gasly breaking the status quo and winning the race itself today after all the shit he’s been through.

But back to my TV. I don’t watch a lot of it. Dynamite every week, and maybe some reruns of Bar Rescue. But I was flipping through the channels anyways, and what did I find?

MOTHERFUCKING TRAIN CRUISE

Granted, it was a rerun from last Summer, but still. Train Cruise on my big ass TV. And to top it all off, it’s not an episode that I was able to find online (I double-checked before I started writing this). Between the races and this, I was feeling pretty good about the way the day was going to go.

I also wanted to check out my Animal Crossing town before I left the house. I wanted to see what was in store for the Birthday Bitch.

It was a sweet little party with a cake and a pinata. But I wanted to walk around, and see what the rest of the town was doing that day.

K.K Slider holds a special concert for you! That’s cool! And as this happens, various villagers leave these sweet messages for you.

Very nice.

Now it was time to leave. The plan for the day was that I was going to go to this sort of new mall (rebuilt after getting fucked the fuck up in a hail storm) with my mother. I was going to get her to buy me the new Tony Hawk, and then we would have pizza, and then I would go home. I didn’t plan on being out all day, 1) mostly due to COVID; hell, I felt bad just being out there for non-essential reasons in the first place and 2) it reached 100 degrees outside, and it was way too fucking hot.

So of course I ended up getting Tony Hawk as a gift. I also bought myself a couple pairs of pants.

If I ever decide that I want to cosplay Leo Kliesen, I’ve got half the outfit ready to go. We can pretend that the stripes are the right color.

My thoughts on the Tony Hawk remasters are that they fucking own. Something I don’t talk about much, because the topic doesn’t come up, is that Tony Hawk 2 is one of my absolute favorite PSX games, and probably one of my favorite games ever. I was also a bit wary, not going to lie, because this would have been the third PSX game getting remade for the PS4 that I was getting, after Resident Evil 2 and Final Fantasy VII. Great news, unlike those two games, Tony Hawk 2 was not fucked with. It is exactly what it claims to be: Tony Hawk 1 and 2 with some extra stuff. Extra music, extra skaters, all sorts of cool new shit added to the custom skater and custom park modes.

I’ve finished all the Tony Hawk 2 levels (because of course). I’ll eventually make my way over to the first game, even with the downhill levels that nobody except for Hawk himself actually likes.

A neat thing about this game is that the custom skater option lets you make an exceptionally non-passing trans skater. This is not a complaint; I think it’s great that you can have women with masculine features, or men with feminine ones. I felt it was going against the spirit of skateboarding if I made myself look like some smoking hot model, instead of a grungy transsexual who doesn’t give a fuck.

I also bought myself a copy of F1 2020 on PC, because of course. It’s another awesome racing game with a fun new team management mode. The character creation isn’t as robust as Tony Hawk’s, but hey, being able to customize my livery and team uniforms is cool too.

Sad news: the pizza place we were planning on going to was closed. Instead, I ordered some noodles from a local Chinese place, and that was my dinner. Ate that, and some cake, while watching AEW All Out. All Out was a really fun show, aside from Matt Sydal fucking up his Shooting Star Press literally the minute he debuted, and Matt Hardy’s really scary concussion.

A really fun day, overall. Got some cool stuff. People were really nice to me, both on and offline. The racing was good. The wrestling was good. On top of all this, guess what? I’m now two whole years sober, motherfucker! Not a single drop of alcohol has touched me. Admittedly, it’s been hard as fuck, especially when you got assholes out there really testing my patience and willpower as of late. But I held strong, and pulled through. I have to remind myself of the good things I have in life, and fight the urge to go off on people who caused/continue to press old traumas. The best revenge is living well. Their bullshit shouldn’t be my business anymore. I don’t work in their industry. I’m not in their social circles. I should stop giving a fuck. As I said, I’m now too old for it. Be nice to me, or go to hell.

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.