space invaders

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

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

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

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

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

SPACE INVADERS (SG-1000)

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

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

what the fuck is this

SIMPLE 1500 SERIES VOLUME 73- THE INVADERS (PLAYSTATION)

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

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

SPACE INVADERS ANNIVERSARY (PLAYSTATION 2)

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

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

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

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

SPACE INVADERS POCKET COLLECTION (PSP)

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

SPACE INVADERS (GAME BOY)

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

UNLESS

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

SPACE INVADERS DX (ARCADE)

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

OMAKE

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

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

michigan

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

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

Michigan is really bad.

Which is why Michigan is also fucking awesome.

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

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

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

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

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


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

 

new years 2021

posting random images to break up the amount of text

Hello. I took a week off for the holidays, but now I’m back. Just wanted to do a big year in review post this time. I’ll get back to games soon enough; look forward to me talking about the PS2 game “Michigan.”

2020 was a strange, complicated year. It was terrible for numerous reasons both big and small. Yet, on a personal level, was also really good? Feel like breaking all of it down to try and make some sense of things.

Let’s start with all the bad shit. A killer virus that ravaged the world’s population and, as far as the US is concerned, will still be a major problem for some time to come. The continued escalation of police and politicians abusing their authority, mostly at the expense of the marginalized. Watching, over and over, as so many amazingly talented trans artists were harassed to hell and back, ultimately driven out of public life; the fact that we see the name “Isabel Fall” as a cautionary tale of what happens when Keeping It Real Goes Wrong instead of an awesome new author to keep an eye out for continues to disgust me. Having to hear about something called “Blaseball” for months on end. Just terrible, horrible shit all around.

On a games-related level, because this is a gaming blog kind of, there was a lot of shit to deal with there, too. I admit that I let the Cyberpunk bullshit get under my skin and ruin my mood, but I think it’s at least a little bit understandable? It was an overhyped piece of shit that barely worked, exploited its employees to an unacceptable degree, appealed directly to the worst kind of people imaginable through its advertising, punched down on people of color and trans women, cast cops and billionaires in a heroic light, to the point of literally featuring Elon Musk as a character. Oh yeah, and it had a scene that was designed to literally give you a seizure. And, as I had predicted, games writers were willing to cast aside any semblance of dignity to try and wring out any degree of enjoyment they could get out of it, at the expense of literally every leftist belief they purport to have. Then you had another game: some shitty looking horror game walking sim made by an idiot who thinks you’re a privileged white dude for wanting games to be less buggy, transphobic, not made in toxic working conditions, or not literally try to kill you via a series of flashing lights, and his co-dev, who came into my blog’s comments section back in 2017 and made thinly-veiled threats about my “friends and family” while one of my closest friends just so happened to be her roommate at the time. Having to see that bullshit on everyone’s Game of the Year list was an exercise in biting my tongue and not wanting to put a hole in the fucking wall. You’ll find me playing Cyberpunk before I put down the three bucks or whatever for “what if Silent Hill sucked and had graphics that looked like the Harry Potter Playstation games?”

On a personal level, I was having mobility issues for a while. I’ve had issues with my knees for several years now, and I probably have a 50/50 shot of catching Neuropathy when I’m older, a condition where the nerves in my legs will slowly die, taking away my ability to walk without assistance, if even at all. Having my dog and my grandfather die pretty close to one another sucked too. I’ve never had much of a family, biologically speaking, and as time goes on, it gets smaller and smaller. Spent a lot of time these last several months thinking about mortality.

Oh yeah, and some dickhead took the name “Slimegirl” and decided to be a sex pest with it. Given that that’s the name of the title character in the game I’ve been working on, and that the plot was an allegory for the way trans people are treated like absolute dog shit by society, labeled predators for the slightest thing, it’s probably a bad idea to continue that path when there’s an actual “Slimegirl” (in quotes because fuck that guy, Slimegirl is my creation) who is allegedly being a predator for real.

But what about the good stuff? 2020 wasn’t all hiding from a respiratory illness, death, video game grudges, and continuing to be blamed for everything that’s ever gone wrong in cis people’s lives.

First, holy fuck, my art got a lot better. I’ve been looking at stuff I’ve been making over years, even 2019, and comparing it to 2020, and it’s like night and day.

Like, look at that. That sucks. This was from 2018.

So was this.

And this.

I think you get the point. I was not making good stuff.

Let’s look at 2020.

Much better. I guess if the creator of Space Funeral is hitting “like” on some of these, I must be on the right track.

2020 was the first time since 2008 where I started making poetry. I was honestly surprised that it took off the way it did. Didn’t imagine anyone would actually like it; maybe some pity clicks. But no, it turned out to be well received!

If it sound like I’m bragging here, well…I am! I am absolutely going to brag about myself in this post. This was a year where I improved drastically as a person. I, with a few missteps here and there, got a better hold of my Bipolar mood swings and PTSD-fueled meltdowns. I’m continuing to win my battle against addiction. I got better at art. I got better at fighting games, holding my own with and even beating tournament winners. I got better at streaming, back when I was still doing that (working/grieving/being sick/Twitch technical issues took the wind of those sails). I got into the sport of auto racing, and went for a ride on the emotional rollercoaster of F1’s 2020 season, in addition to looking into IMSA, IndyCar, Super Formula and Super GT. I had a really fucking good birthday. Managed to mostly keep a weekly update on this blog. Lots of great music and games came out. I met a whole bunch of new friends that I’m really grateful for. Got back in touch with older friends that I was a bit worried about, but I’m glad that things aren’t as catastrophic as they were in 2015 and The Band is back together. Even with all the fucked up shit that went down in 2020, I can’t bring myself to say that it was a bad year, when a lot of good things happened.

2020 was the transition point. A year where I took steps in becoming something great. When you grow up constantly being told that you are worthless and will never amount to anything, you tend to spend your adulthood proving everyone wrong and become something. I’m going to go ahead and predict that 2021 will be the year where I actually become something. Hopefully, you all will, too.

Happy New Year!